Aging Parents and Their Kids

Adult children and aging parents often have a different perspective on care and concern. One father complains of being badgered by his kids about his driving. Necessary? Depends on the perspective of the kids and their aging parents. One woman loves to see her kids but is not sure whether they come to visit or just to check up on her – is the house clean; is the refrigerator food up to date? She feels she is being assessed constantly. Does that mean great love and fondness and/or is the aging parent overly sensitive? Meaningful looks are observed when an elder parent has a brief lapse of memory, making for a very self-conscious feeling on the parent’s part. To some, it provides an excuse to see the adult children less often. For the question: “What are older parents wanting in relationships with their adult children?” Professor Mary Gallant and sociologist Glenna Spitze of State University of New York at Albany found that focus group participants express a strong desire for both autonomy and connection in relations with their adult children, leading to ambivalence about receiving assistance from them. They think of themselves as independent but want children’s help when needed. At the same time, they are annoyed by children’s overprotectiveness but appreciate the concern it expresses. One mother says her kids are always offering to do this, do that, and it just drives her crazy. It tells her they think she is not competent and as a result has stopped telling them when she really does have a problem. A variety of strategies can be used to deal with their ambivalent feelings, such as minimizing the help they receive, ignoring or resisting their children’s attempts to control. This is sometimes called parental stubbornness and advice to the children is to not make a parent feel defensive and not to pick arguments. Further advice is for older parents to speak up in describing feelings and stating their needs and to try to understand and address their children’s concerns. The concern both annoys the parent and makes the parent feel more loved but the end result is that they want to make this toast: “To my wonderful family…”For more information go to:


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