Are you in a place in life where you find yourself having to parent your own parent? Claire gives you some tips on how to navigate this challenging — and common — situation. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants to break out of the pandemic rut she and her husband got into of ordering takeout and watching TV every night.
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Claire Bidwell-Smith 00:00
What happens when the roles are suddenly reversed, and you find yourself having to parent a parent? I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY, parenting our parents. This is an inevitability that almost all of us will face at some point or another. It was something I had to do in my mid-20s, when my father was in his early 80s, and facing the end of life. And let me tell you, now that I’m in my 40s, and a lot of my friends are starting to go through this, it honestly doesn’t sound any easier than it was in my 20s. That’s because it’s a truly difficult experience. Whether you’re caring for a parent who has a mental illness or decline, a long term illness or a terminal diagnosis, it’s just never easy. First of all, being a caregiver is always challenging. And second of all, the kind of role reversal that comes with caring for a parent is kind of a mindfuck. So here’s some things to think about. First, and this is usually one of my firsts have compassion for yourself and for them. Neither of you asked for this, and neither of you are probably very good at it. And that’s okay. You’re not supposed to be. While it’s true that most of us go through this at some point. That doesn’t mean there’s a blueprint for it. Not to mention that our society is just not that great at eldercare or recognizing how hard it is to be a caregiver. Caregiving is no joke. It can be exhausting, maddening, lonely, disheartening, financially stressful, practically stressful, and only sometimes rewarding. So get support. Join a caregiver support group, find a therapist, enlist the help of other family members if you can. Let your friends know you need some extra love and checking in on and ask everyone else around you to be patient and consider what you’re going through. Do your best to accept your new role and get organized. Sometimes it can help to think of it like a job, at least so that you can plan ahead and create routines and get all the necessary care in place. You’re also gonna have to do some mental and emotional work around accepting this new role. There can be some serious grieving to do when things change. Maybe your parent had a really active role in your life, and even the life of your kids and family. And they’re no longer capable of showing up for you in the ways they once did. There’s going to be a lot of sadness to wade through as you come to terms with and accept these changes. Don’t dismiss your grief though, let yourself move through and process all the emotions that come up. And remember that you can do two things at once. You can feel sad and scared by these changes, and you can still take on the tasks at hand. It can be really helpful to have someone like a friend or partner or therapist to help you process the feelings. And if you haven’t had a great relationship with your parent, or if they’re declined as some of their own doing due to say something like substance abuse, you’re also going to have to work through some resentment or anger. Whatever you do, don’t deny yourself these feelings. Make sure you surround yourself with support. You’re also probably gonna have to be a little assertive about these changes with your parent. It’s likely they’re not used to being parented by you and working out your new roles. It’s going to take some time, some patience and some forgiveness. Try to stay calm, stay consistent and polite as you assume your new role. Be firm, but gentle. Forgive them and yourself when things get tense or even escalate. With time, you’ll hopefully begin to get more comfortable in these roles. It’s important to recognize that older adults tend to resist a lot of these changes for several main reasons. They’re afraid of losing their independence. They’re fearful of being a burden on loved ones. And they’re also worried about being taken advantage of or relinquishing control over their lives. So instead of being insistent and telling your parent what to do, try asking them how they’d like to solve problems together. Find out what their priorities are, and try to recognize their values when making suggestions. Give them choices as often as possible, and try to consider what their underlying fears or needs might be. It’s honestly a lot like parenting a kid that takes insight, patience, self-compassion, and forgiveness. Lastly, don’t forget to start thinking about getting some practical things in place as well. financial documents, living wills, advanced care planning, and the emotional stuff to check out my episode with Amy Picard to hear about all the ways you can work on these things in a fun and helpful way. That’s beneficial for everyone. Also, check out the website parenting your parents.org and caregiving.com for some more really helpful resources. Good luck, all of you parents of parents out there. I know this isn’t easy. Be kind to yourselves.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 04:32
Today’s listener question is something I know I can relate to. And perhaps you can too. It’s about the pandemic which changed all of our lives in so many ways. I’ve gotten a couple of questions already about ways the pandemic is affecting us. And if you’ve got a question about it, I want to hear from you. Perhaps the new school year has you anxious about your kids, or you’re being asked to go back to the office and are trepidatious This is all so hard and I’m here to help. Email me a question at email@example.com or if fill out my online form at bit.ly/newdayask, you’ll find the link in the show notes. And email being to say, I feel like I’ve gotten into a rut because of the pandemic, my husband and I used to cook virtually every meal and do activities all the time. Now we ordered way too much and just kind of stay home and watch TV. What can we do to break these bad habits? I’m not saying I don’t ever want to get DoorDash or enjoy stranger things together, just less often. Hi, Anne, thanks for writing. I know this is a question a lot of us can relate to. We’re guilty of the same thing over here. And it’s something I have been trying to change as well. I suggest start by having a conversation with your husband. Is he noticing this as well? Is he feeling troubled by it? Having an honest discussion about how this pattern is feeling to both of you, it’s really important. It’s so easy to get stuck in ruts in life, but also in relationships. I’m curious what’s going on for each of you and your individual lives that might be contributing to this as well. When we’re not feeling inspired in life, maybe we don’t like our job or finances are tight, it can be really easy to just get kind of stuck in a low key pattern like the one you’re in. So kind of digging into the bigger picture with an honest conversation would be a great start. After that, come up with a plan together. Commit to making a few meals a week. Try to make it fun and cook your favorite things or try new recipes. You could even try one of those companies that deliver the recipes and ingredients to your house like HelloFresh or daily harvest. You could also invite friends and neighbors over for casual dinners and kind of just try to motivate yourself that way. After that, start keeping track of fun events in your community like concerts and festivals and look up bands you like see if they’re playing nearby anytime soon. Go for walks or hikes or have a game night. It’s not that you can’t still order in and watch Stranger Things just don’t do it every night. And obviously, if your husband isn’t on board for these changes, if he’s digging the way things are going, then maybe you need a few sessions with a couples therapist to talk things through. Or maybe you just need to take the initiative. Either you start cooking more meals and organizing outings. Or just start going out and doing things with your friends on your own. Chances are your husband will want to be included. Good luck, Anne, I’m gonna take some of this advice myself.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 07:18
I love it when your questions make me rethink something in my own life. I really appreciate getting to answer your questions twice a week now. On Wednesday. I’ve got a really interesting question about struggling with friendships as an adult, so make sure you’re subscribed to new day so that you never miss an episode.
NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.