We Are Family
April 25, 2012
We Are Family
This blog started off talking about your parents and how you can interact with them to enhance your relationship and establish trust by showing love, concern, and connection. In some families that’s the circle. Other families involve additional siblings. Then there are the extended families with step-siblings and/or half-siblings. Family relationships can get complicated, but when dealing with aging parents the dynamics need to be simplified into loving, trusting, and collaborative relationships.
In order to maintain the highest level of trust among siblings of aging parents it is important they work together to understand the goals, remain informed, participate in discussions, and be engaged in the decision-making process.
Distance and age disparities are no longer a barrier to communication. Technology enables communication virtually anywhere in the world. Therapists, counselors, and advocates can assist in facilitating conversations across age gaps and provide support to those lacking communication with extended family members.
An essential first step in building relationships with siblings (natural or blended) is to reach out in an effort to encourage dialogue. Ease into this slowly and with care. Get to know them a little or reconnect before addressing the issues of aging parents. Spend a few phone calls, or Facebook sessions, catching up on news of their careers, children, hobbies, or travels. Let them know that you have an interest in them as individuals.
As the relationship with siblings gels get to know how they feel as part of the family. Are they involved with your joint parents? Are they on good terms with the other siblings? See if they are willing to be present at a family celebration or reunion. The obvious purpose is to build some common ground, and again, some trust and shared focus.
Not all families need to worry about building relationships between the siblings. For those lucky families who have strong ties and good communication, or close proximity, this is a no-brainer. They’ve probably pulled together to bring in the harvest, work in the family business, or planned family gatherings for years. But for families who have been split apart by distance or antagonism building these bridges is essential.
All of this is also predicated on the premise that there is no urgency to the relationship building. If the parents are in moderate to good health there is time to build these relationships and form a well-planned outline on how you will approach your parents about aging issues.
On the other hand, if a crisis has occurred then you may need to just make phone calls and pray hard that everyone will work together to come up with viable solutions to the issues at hand. Communicating to everyone that the primary focus is on the health, welfare, and autonomy of the parents is of utmost importance. Petty differences and old rivalries have no place during a crisis.
Do you have a story or some tips on how your family dealt with the issue discussed here?
Feel free to contact me, post a comment, or share a story. I appreciate your interaction!