Practice setting limits. You need to understand the importance of gently saying “no” to some things, so you can set reasonable limits with your parents. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should set limits arbitrarily. Most of the time, it’s not a good idea to start telling family members that you’re going to stop saying, “I love you,” because you need to learn how to set limits. To this point, one of the big things you have to learn is how to recognize healthy boundaries.
You need to be able to say no, but kindly and gently. It takes planning ahead because most of us are “hard-wired” from birth to view our parents as personal authority figures. Daily phone calls. Weekly errands and grocery shopping. Trips to the mall. Endless home repairs and maintenance. Dinners with the family dinners. Bring the grandchildren over for a visit. Transportation to the doctor. Some parental demands are more important than others. It’s essential you evaluate each one in the context of the whole.
Collectively, these things can become an unreasonable burden, especially over time. Often, parents simply want to be included in the extended family, and feel accepted and valued. This is reasonable, but again, the primary problem for you can be one of frequency. Since they have fewer things to do, aging parents can easily lose sight of the extra effort required to accommodate them.
The pattern may start when your children are young. Since you have to arrange all the activities, it’s easy to schedule time with grandparents. But what happens when your children get involved in sports and other social activities? Guilt surfaces and often gets expressed in terms of whining, excuses, and promises that become increasingly difficult to keep.
Keeping Perspective for Everyone Involved
We’re all busy. However, our situation does not mitigate our parents’ need for companionship and family. When you’re getting unrelenting pressure, it’s hard to argue against these needs or offer alternate solutions—especially when you’re not prepared. Understand that you need to start planning to negotiate. Consider, too, that the quality of your interactions with parents can be viewed as equally, or more important than the quantity. A well-planned family get-together can be more memorable than one that is not planned at all.
Rather than regular Sunday visits, plan for a monthly adventure—a picnic excursion perhaps—or other activities that are engaging and fun. The importance is to make each event inclusive and special. You can even start a Family Outing idea board for next and photo album of previous months’ memories.
This changes the pattern from the status-quo to a new sense of participation, while creating vivid memories in the process. Even though this approach has merit, don’t be surprised if your parents don’t like the idea. So, it is important for you to set up a negotiating strategy. Weekly grocery shopping trips can become bi-weekly. Repairs can be done by a handyman. Thinking outside the box can help you set acceptable limits and create a higher quality of life for everyone.