Contributed by Vee Cecil, wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
Your relationship with your parents is easily one of the most important in your life. As you progress into adulthood, this relationship will inevitably change and evolve as you outgrow the need for constant guidance. This can make it difficult for adult children to create (or maintain) a connection with a parent. Here are five tips to make bonding with an aging parent a positive experience for everyone:
Go to events your parent will enjoy. Think back on the kinds of events your parent enjoyed going to while you were growing up. Maybe your dad was really into car shows, or your mother lived for Saturday nights at the theater. Arrange for tickets and transportation and make sure you express your excitement to go to the event together. It’s important that your parent knows you look forward to sharing the experience, even if the event itself wouldn’t have been your first choice.
Don’t avoid talking about sources of tension. Whether you got along well with your parent growing up or had a strained relationship, the transition into the adult child/elderly parent relationship often comes with some tension, and that’s okay. The important thing is to tackle your issues constructively. Work together to find a solution, make compromises and accommodate each other as much as you can. Sometimes just trying to understand and accept each other’s point of view can contribute greatly to a more harmonious relationship.
Talk to your parent as a friend. Even if it’s new territory for your relationship, open up and confide in your parent. Express your feelings and wishes about your life and the future, and listen to their own. Offer a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on and a supportive attitude that will make your parent eager to share. Adulthood has probably led you to have more in common with your loved one than you realize, but you may never know until you break the mold of the common child-parent conversation.
Never underestimate the power of laughter. Keeping your sense of humor can be the ultimate tool when bonding with a parent. It’s a great way to take the pressure off and keep it light while finding common ground. Telling a joke, watching a funny movie or even laughing at Jimmy Kimmel’s latest video challenge can be a relaxing way to spend time together.
Make sure you aren’t your parent’s only social outlet. Maybe you don’t live as close to your parent as you’d like, or maybe your children are growing up and you simply don’t have as much time to devote to visits and phone calls. The fact is: it’s unrealistic to think that you alone can provide your loved one with a healthy social life. So get him involved! Encourage him to volunteer at a local school or animal shelter. Many local museums and libraries host senior programs that can be a wonderful way to meet new people. Staying social will keep your parent more physically active in addition to broadening his friend circle.
Whether you’re looking to improve your current relationship or maintain the positive one you already have, connecting with an elderly parent can be tricky. Remember that creating a bond doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything — or even anything at all — but rather it’s about accepting and appreciating one another.