What To Do When You Become Your Parent's Parent

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Most baby boomers know someone who has had to take on the difficult role of parenting their parents? Are you one of them? If not, do you know someone who is? Or, are you concerned because it may happen to you?

Most people today already live in a state of overwhelm. Try to imagine what it would be like having to change your already overwhelmed life around because now you must be the parent to your parents. Not an easy task.

This is something most people do not plan for. I’m one of those people.

I spent 11 years parenting both of my parents at the same time. Within the last 2 years both my parents passed away.

Just to give you an idea about what you may face, here are some of the “What ifs” that we talked about.

• What if you find three gallons of Scotch hidden in your father’s closet? –- What do you do?
• What if your father says, “Who do you think you are? You can’t take my car away from me.” — What do you do?
• What if you aggravate your mother and she tells you never to come back to visit her. — What do you do?

There are myriads of examples when it comes to parenting a difficult parent. If you are in this situation or facing it, there are many ways to make this difficult time for you and your parents much easier and far less stressful.

There is no way for me to share everything we talked about and learned from that night but here are a few highlights that may benefit you.
1. CRITICAL KEY: Design a Successful Relationship with your parents. Try to involve others who also help with your parent’s care.
Remember, relationships are successful when fears are minimized and trust is maximized. That’s what makes the resistance go away. It is also what makes change much easier.

2. Be honest, be authentic and vulnerable. Be transparent. Come from your heart not your head.
3. Be curious. Ask very short open-ended “What” questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
4. Listen deeper. Ask another question about the answer you just heard.
5. Make it safe for your parent to be open. They will take risk if they feel you care deeply about them. This builds trust.
6. Validate their thoughts, fears and feelings. Don’t judge them. When you make judgments, they will not want to share the important information you’ll want or need to know.
7. Don’t be attached to the process. Focus on the outcome instead.
8. Be aware if what you’re doing is working. If not, try something else.
9. Give praise for progress — any progress. Acknowledge it. Affirm them. Say “Great job!” even for tiny steps.
10. Your parents will react based on the quality of the relationship. Make sure your relationship supports what you want your parent to do.
11. Don’t feel you need to do this alone. Ask for help and get support.
12. Know there is more than one way to see a situation. Having different perspectives offers more opportunities and options.

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