Parenting the Parent

shutterstock_85266823_PRESSReversing roles with our parents is surreal. It is not easy to assist our parents as we witness their decline physically and mentally.  We find as parents age, the Mom who patiently taught us to cook or the Dad who taught us the no-fail way to parallel park are no longer the same. I recall my mother telling the story of my father being stationed in Korea. Knowing my father only by his framed picture, I greeted him with, “You’re not my Daddy!” when he returned from serving in the Korean War. If your parent is declining, you too may find yourself responding with a recalcitrant attitude. Our parents may not be whom we remember. When our loved ones are in pain or are unhappy with their circumstances, they lash out at those nearby. When receiving harsh words, remember God never promises us stress-free days. He does promise to come alongside providing hope and strength. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT).


Keep a positive attitude

Having the right attitude is essential in keeping frustration, despair and aggravation away. I am thankful for the uplifting words of Zechariah 4:6 reminding me all is accomplished not somehow, but triumphantly. “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (NLT). Human nature encourages us to think we get through life by taking an intellectual approach; beware, Satan (lower case “s” please) is trying to fool us. We are to give Satan no ground. We succeed because God ordains our days — no one else. When we depend upon God, not force our agenda, life falls into an easier rhythm. Remember God’s timetable is not our own and accomplishments may take longer. Being patient and persevering is a hard road in parenting a parent.

When traveling through the valleys of life, remember we can do all things when we ask for God’s help on a daily basis. We are not alone in the care taking; many times a support system is in effect from close friends and family members. Our thoughts and words come from within, and being right with God helps us to graciously be right with others. Keeping a Bible open where we see it multiple times each day and reading a verse or two is an effective way to guard our words and actions. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

May our stubborn hearts not rebel but cleave to the Word of God. Let us reap the benefits found in the solace of reading scripture, not stumbling without a plan of wisdom or discernment. Instead of dreading the day, forego complaining; refrain from saying things better left unsaid, and exchange despair for joy.


Take care of yourself

Getting more sleep enhances joy. Having an unexpected outing with a friend and be vigilant with eating habits. Sugar and caffeine cause sluggishness. Eating fruits and veggies helps to increase critical thinking skills. Often we get caught up in minor details, failing to see the big picture. There is much wisdom to be found from an impartial trained counselor or wise friend who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear! “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14 NLT).


Communicate and forgive

To parent a parent, communicate, forgive and have a financial plan before you need one. Communicate with your family keeping each other up to date on physical, financial and emotional issues. Pray for open communication to foster closeness, not building walls as you navigate the journey of elder care together. Watching the quick decline of our parents can be stressful and disorienting. In their minds, our parents can still do all they have done in the past. Appreciate limits and who God made each of us to be. “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer” (Job 14:5 NLT).

Forgiveness is a product of maturity. Learn not to respond to the age-old guilt trip of your elder parent saying, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” Responding with a loving comment, being positive and flexible and forgiving regardless are key factors in successfully parenting a parent. When we berate ourselves for past thoughts, words and actions, it increases tension within a family. No two families will handle a situation the same way due to socioeconomic, emotional, spiritual and educational experiences. Being merciful and forgiving deeply from the heart with an open mind enhances healing. “Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:37-38 NLT).


Show respect

The Silent Generation (born 1923-1944), Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Generation X (born 1965-80), and Millennials (born 1981-2000), need to make a concentrated effort to preserve unity by respecting each other. Agree to disagree at times and realize peace does not come from silence. Talk. Silence shoves difficulties under the rug making a breeding ground for resentment. Let us think before we speak and pray before a major decision is made. “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 NLT).

Discussing with our parents their viewpoint when they need further assistance helps them to see they are part of the changes that are occurring in their life. Purchasing Long Term Health policies before health declines is a step in the right direction. The Silent Generation does not like to reveal finances and the subject is best approached gently. No timing will be right and sharing thoughts and concerns is a mandate not an option.

Respect for our parents and offering to help out in the planning stages is payback for their many years of provision and nurturing. Look for the blessing, hidden as it may be. Parenting a parent is a disconcerting role reversal. Family dynamics change and we adapt, not somehow… but triumphantly!


Vickie Estler is a monthly speaker at MOM/Moms on a Mission at Rio Vista Community Church, For Lauderdale.  Ponder the “weekly 7” (a verse a day encouraging families) on her blog

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