If you’ve become the primary one who’s POParenting your aging parents — caring for those who cared for you — your siblings can be a great source of support, creative ideas and much-needed respite.
POP Family Coaches with extensive experience working inter-generationally report the “lateral support” of siblings often proves to be immeasurably useful, re-igniting family connection and improving lives for all the generations. These experts report consistently: families who work together during the POPcycle (the last developmental phase of life) also experience: lowered stress; more fun together; fewer family struggles and lawsuits after their parents depart; less sense of alone-ness and more security.
However, as you’ve probably seen if you’ve sought any “volunteer assistance,” when you ask someone for their help, you may get more — or less — than you bargained for. Sometimes you get new and better ideas, even more success in your endeavors. When that happens, it’s unexpected and wonderful.
But on other occasions, you may be disappointed, get criticism or even find yourself in an unwanted debate. Especially while POParenting, you may find that you and your siblings are once again squabbling over unresolved early life family issues. “You always were Mom’s favorite… No wonder you want her to…”
Since everyone’s help is really needed to do the best job of POParenting, our experts suggest these 4 tried and true” tips to help you all be more effective and act more familially.
Aim to create TEAM POP, an entity that comes together to make wise, affordable decisions that are optimal for all involved. To do so:
1. Hold regular family meetings (best if in person or by Skype) and set up a distribution list to email updates-Keeping everyone regularly informed of developments, needs and results on a regular call, and if possible when you all can see each other, will help those at a geographic distance from feeling “out of the loop.” It will also encourage everyone’s participation and accountability in the process. To maintain family focus during the meetings and not stray off topic or get undesirably emotional: email proposed agendas and estimated length of the meetings in advance; set meetings when key family members (if not all TEAM members) can attend; make rational, not emotional, decisions only after obtaining research and other input. After decisions are made, have the team members volunteer for tasks with set deadlines and seek everyone’s “compliance” in keeping to those.
2. Figure out how to “share responsibilities”– Just because your siblings or even your children live at a distance doesn’t mean there aren’t many valuable, time-consuming tasks they can do that will contribute — helping you and your parents out. Relatives who live far away, especially those with skills or training, can handle many responsibilities long-distance these days. Taking care of finances, seeing to it that all is as desired legally, bill paying and dealing with Medicare issues are just a few of the many POParenting jobs that can be accomplished equally well “off site.” Often these jobs can be done more efficiently by a relative with the necessary skills, time or energy than by the primary POParent.
3. Practice Active (and Kind) Listening – Even if you may not want to hear their ideas about what’s best for your parents, even if you resent their “dropping in with new suggestions” after you’ve already tried and rejected those, listen actively and kindly. Part of what you can derive for yourself from POParenting is finally becoming the “grown-up” person you want to be. So use this opportunity to not get “ plugged in” to old sibling rivalries.
Take a long deep breath, okay three or four. Remember they’re trying to help, in their way. Remember they don’t always know how to express all the love and affection they’d like to show. Then after taking another deep breath, remind yourself to listen to what they feel is important — it may even be really good. Kindly let your family members know they’ve been heard and you appreciate their ideas. If you treat them respectfully, you will be better able to get their ongoing support even if you, as the “hands-on” caregiver, decide not to follow through on their recommendations. Not only that, but you’ll like the new and patient you.
4. Know when to get more help – Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can’t come to any agreements or collaborate with your siblings. Contentiousness is not good and may even put you, your siblings and/or your parents at risk.
Recognizing that your family could benefit from a more neutral and experienced professional’s help is a statement of maturity. In the end, a decision to get help may save not only your money but also the health and well-being of yourself and your aging parents. Fortunately, POP offers Certified Coaches across the nation who work “as needed” when your family is struggling with accomplishing any of these 4 tips. Your community has its own local helpers — mediators, family therapists and spiritual counselors.
When families do good POParenting together, they stay together. Getting help from trained professionals can be just what your family needs to turn your remarkable challenges into a journey of love.