Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to have a great relationship with your older parents.

My parents, circa 1960

Of course you love your parents. But at times, maintaining the bond between parent and adult child can be as challenging as that between parent and teenager. Some of you already have a great relationship with your older parents. You stay in regular contact with them, both you and your parents are forgiving of each one’s shortcomings and you and your parents can talk about your lives, hopes, and dreams. However, some of us have to work on this; to build the relationship. Sometimes the generational gap seems enormous. You can’t find any common ground. They don’t understand what you do for a living. They don’t seem interested in your life.

Focus on their interests

Instead of talking about yourself, focus on them. Be a good listener, encourage them to talk about themselves. Find out what they like and are interested in. Most people like to talk about what interests them. Focus the conversation then around those areas that you can share with them. It might be the outdoors, cooking, and sports. At any age, sharing a common task or activity, and the stories it encourages, is a great way to build closeness. Out of all of their interests, there should be one or two things that you can make a constant part of your relationship with them. This will give you a safe area of conversation that you can always go to.

Photo: kreyten

Find something to teach each other.

Another way to find commonality is to have them teach you something. Recognize that they have years of experience and allow them to share it with you. It might be baking or some sort of handy work. A good way is to find something that they have done and you admire and ask them to teach you how to do it. Return the favor. Teach them something about the new technology. Help them set up and run a computer on the Internet or help them get all of the benefits out of their cell phone. A great idea is to help your parents preserve their memories on through digitizing their photos. Help them create a family tree through one of either online or software genealogy methods. The finished product will not only be a testament to a renewed closeness between you, but also provides a wonderful legacy for you.

Keep in contact with cards

Even if you near your parents, send them a greeting card on a regular basis. Make it a real card, not an e-card which comes across as impersonal. They will treasure a card that can hold in their hands and keep and show to others. Let them know about the news in your life, though keep technology, business, or work jargon out. As above, focus on topics of mutual interest: talk about the things you have done or plan to do together. You can thank them for a particular lesson or the overall support you get from them. Express your appreciation for all your parents have done for you. Make it personal. When sending a card, take the time to choose one with a picture or design that you know will appeal. Use a system that allows you to import a picture that means something to both of you.

Ultimately it is to your advantage to work on developing a healthy relationship with your older parents. Pleasant interactions with them can add a wonderful dimension to your life.

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