We’re all familiar with our buttons being pushed – can’t really avoid it if we interact with other human beings. When that happens we often go into reactive mode, with old beliefs kicking in to muddy the waters, and old behaviors showing up without our even thinking about it.
It’s a big part of how so many people simply feel stuck when it comes to their families – things may not be getting any worse, but they’re not getting any better, either.
I hear people all the time tell me how they are so mature, well respected, and rational with their friends, colleagues, spouses and children. But somehow as soon as they are with their parents and siblings, everything changes! They find themselves reverting back to behaviors, thoughts and feelings from childhood and adolescence. They even hear themselves uttering the same old words, as though their very speech had been hijacked by a younger version of themselves. It never feels good, but it just seems to be inevitable.
When we face our parents’ mortality, our world shifts. This may happen gradually, or it may occur as a result of a sudden crisis. Either way, you and your siblings have entered into a new arena. Like it or not, it’s a time when you must face yourself and each other with a new outlook and perspective.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Successfully Sharing Parent Care:
- It’s not about convincing anyone that you are different. Gandhi’s message expresses it best: “Be the change you want to see.” This means that you get to behave and communicate in ways that reflect who you are today, NOT who you were, nor who you think your siblings believe you to be based on the roles you had as children.
Note: If this feels challenging to you, and you hear that inner voice saying “yes, but what if they ____?” (fill in the blank with that thing they do that always sets you off), I strongly encourage you to take me up on the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with me by emailing me at Loren@BeingWellWithin. You’re sure to come away with some new ideas for changing this stuck pattern!
- Remember to FOCUS and ask, ”What is My Desired Outcome?” A desired outcome must be stated in terms of what you want, NOT what you don’t want, and it must be something over which you have control. What is the reason you are all coming together? Is it to figure out the best care plan for your parent(s)? Are your parents able to participate in the conversations? Is there agreement among you as to needs and goals? Is communication clear and direct, or is it time for an intervention?
- Be willing to discuss sensitive subjects with honesty, respect and compassion. Were there taboo subjects in your family growing up (money often being one of them), that now need to be addressed – whether you like it or not? Even in recognizing each other’s different situations and life circumstances, everyone needs to be included in the discussion so each member of the family has a voice.
If there is estrangement in the family, that needs to be addressed as well. Depending on the issues and reasons for the estrangement, is it time to have a discussion on forgiveness, letting go, and moving forward? Whether or not it’s reasonable to include all siblings in plans for your parents is at the very least a topic that needs to be addressed. You want to make sure as much as possible that there are no elephants in the living room!
- Now get to the heart of the matter: Discuss what needs have to be addressed for your parents, and how you can all best meet those needs. How will your parents’ needs be met? Who will handle finances if they are no longer able to do so? Who will provide daily care if needed – shopping, cooking, cleaning, doctor’s visits, etc.? Please be willing to acknowledge that care-giving can be, or may become later, a 24/7 job. It needs to be shared in whatever way is most respectful to everyone. This will look different for every family, and there is no single right way to handle it.
- Acknowledge that each of you has a different relationship with your parents. Each of you is different, and over the years your relationships with your parents have also been different. It is time to discuss how those differences can actually be helpful now. It’s time to acknowledge that each of you brings your own unique gifts to your relationship with each other and with your parents. Remember, “Who You Are Is Enough!”
The challenges you encounter as you face the care-giving responsibilities for your parents can be eased if you are willing to find new ways to work together, communicate, and respect who you are and who each of your siblings are.
Be sure to identify resources that can support and replenish you, and those that will teach you new approaches to old stuck points. Reach out for help, guidance and support when the going gets tough, so you do not have to go through this phase of your life feeling isolated and alone.
Again, if you think a complimentary one-on-one session with me may help pry loose what’s stuck, I’m here to help. Email me at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com, because you deserve to be free of the struggle!
Note: This is the fourth and last article in the series, Sibling Strife: Caring for Aging Parents.” You can read the previous articles in the series, starting with the first one, by clicking HERE.