Over the many years I counseled, this question provided simple, but very good guidance for parents dealing with difficult teenagers. I’ve found it’s equally helpful with parents. (Indeed, to be honest, I’ve found it’s helpful in dealing with almost any situation.)
“Empowering Parents” and ‘Keeping Them Safe” (preventing threat to life and limb) are goals and as such are repetitive themes in this blog. As I was reading Tuesday’s post, it was perfectly clear that parents have pride, fear losing independence, and resent being lectured to. It was also clear that adult children may live with a constantly unsettled feeling that can rise to “crazed” unless we have the tools to give us confidence.
So this brings us to our goals for ourselves. And this is where the advice given on the airplane (“First place the [oxygen] mask over your nose and mouth and then assist others) comes in. Many have said we become “parents to our parents.” That clearly isn’t empowering. Indeed it puts additional responsibilities on us and creates additional stress for us, assuming parents are still competent. If they’re not, of course, we must step in and that is the time we, legitimately in my opinion, may become parents our parents.
Until then, towards our goal of empowering, we have opportunities to uphold and support parents’ pride…in their ability to handle things, in their wisdom, in their appearance, in their accomplishments. We can no doubt add to the list.
When parents get old and especially when they live alone, pride may be one of the few things they have left. Indeed the compliments that are so much a part of normal every day life may be hard to come by. Supporting parental pride when legitimate, (they’ll know if we’re faking!), contributes to self-esteem and makes people feel good. Obviously when parents feel good about themselves, we, as caring children, feel good and isn’t that a good goal for ourselves!