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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: How do you Feel?

February 17, 2014

The title to this post contains a very interesting question. As children of aging parents there are all kinds of articles telling us how we should feel. From there the articles often go on to tell us how we should act. In essence thee is an expectation and many struggle to live up to it. Today I’d like you to put all of that aside and just answer the question.

How do you feel about your aging parents and their current situation?

  • Are you comfortable with their abilities to care for themselves for the time being?
  • Do you feel they have prepared well for their lives as seniors?
  • Are you worried for them financially?
  • Do you experience bouts of anger regarding their situation?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed by the things they are asking you to do for them?
  • Is the relationship between you and your aging parents strained or comfortable?
  • Have you spoken to your aging parents about their situation?
  • Do you feel responsible for keeping them safe and well cared for?

Most of us don’t take the time to deal with feelings around these issues. Adult children of aging parents have spoken to me a number of times about the guilt they feel for not doing enough, or for not meeting the expectations they’ve grown to feel others are placing on them.  What frequently amazes me though is that when I ask them how they FEEL they start rattling off what the other siblings think they should be doing or what the neighbor does for her aging parents.

I didn’t ask them about what they are doing; I always ask how they FEEL.

Why is it important to know how you feel about an situation?

Personally, I don’t believe that anyone can come up with a solid plan unless they have explored how they feel about the options. Not the options that society presents, or the options our siblings would like to see us develop, but rather how the individual FEELS in their gut, in their soul, and in their intellectual evaluation of the various options.

  • There is no handbook out there that says as an adult child of aging parents we must forsake our own lives to care for our parents.
  • Financially our parents made their decisions and we are not obligated to pick up the pieces of either good or bad judgments on their part.
  • On the other hand, our parents are not obligated to leave us an inheritance that will make life simpler for us when they are gone.
  • Watching a parent age can be an avenue of discovery for ourselves and the depth of our affection for them or it can be an experience of shame and despair.

Until you step up and actually recognize how you feel about the changes that are taking place and those that are going to come in the future you will be on an unmarked path and prone to irrational decisions that may at times appear to be contradictory.

My challenge to you for the next few weeks is to reflect on your feelings about the situation with your aging parents. Journal your feelings. Let it pour out of you without restraint. You don’t have to share this with anyone since this is an exercise in your own self recognition. Once you have recognized how you feel then start thinking of how you act. 

If you have questions or comments about this exercise in self recognition please leave me a comment. There are multiple ways to work through even the worst feelings. At best your commitment to love and cherish your parents will be strengthened. At worst you will learn something about yourself without judgment from anyone else.


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