As children, we looked to our parents to meet nearly every need. Our parents instinctively provided love, support and guidance as they raised us to become independent adults. Now, as our parents age, there may come a time when we adult children evolve into the role of a “parent” to our parents. Parenting a parent presents unique challenges, so here are a few tips to help navigate this new role:
1. Understand your parent’s specific needs
Do they need help with medication management? Do they need guidance with their budget? Do they require hands-on assistance with activities of daily living such as brushing their teeth, taking a bath, or making dinner? Understanding their specific needs helps adult children to act in a supportive role, while still maintaining their dignity.
2. Customize a Plan to Help Your Parent
Each senior has a unique situation. Your parent may only need help managing their finances, and this is all of the guidance and support that they need. As much as possible, allow them to maintain a sense of control, while still getting necessary help.
3. Acknowledge Their Need for Independence
Parenting a parent is an ongoing challenge and the key to a successful transition from adult child to senior caregiver is to preserve and protect your parent’s dignity. Try to refrain from using a condescending tone or treating them in a childlike manner. Instead, ask for their input in decisions, while still providing them guidance as needed. This will make the role reversal easier for the both of you.
4. Practice Gentle Assertiveness
Remember, this is your parent and now you are assuming the role of their parent. When addressing difficult topics, be respectful but assertive. It will take time for both of you to adjust to the shift in the dynamic. This is most important when dealing with safety concerns, such as driving or living alone.
5. Focus on the positive
It is easy to get lost in the duties of your new role, but always remember to enjoy the time you have with your loved one.Over time, relationships and roles evolve. Be patient with yourself and your parent as you embrace this new dynamic. Never forget all of the valuable life lessons that your parents shared with you, therefore make it your goal to parent them in a similar way.