Adult children often see themselves as “problem-solvers,” especially when it comes to aging parents. Here are some tips for avoiding common relationship traps associated with caring for aging parents. Often, the impulse is to rush in and protect, but this also has the effect of unduly focusing on a parent’s weaknesses, rather than their enduring strengths and abilities. Mental health professionals will tell you that too much loving protection by adult children can be a threat to parents’ sense of self-worth. For parents struggling to maintain independence, this type of overprotection may be the last thing they need.
Often, our anxiety to help comes from long-standing conflicts within the family dynamics: We tend to remember our parents as strong figures from childhood. Knowing how to guide them is hard even in the best of circumstances. We may also lack the time and the attention to consider problems from our parent’s perspective. Constantly imposing our frame of reference on the situation can cause resentment even though your intentions were pure.
Since being too submissive or being too assertive can backfire, a good rule of thumb is to let your parent’s make their own choices—assuming they’re of sound mind. Let them develop their own ideas and solutions, while you are little more than a double-check the accuracy of their decisions and the situation as currently constituted. Most people rebel against forced dependency. Your good intentions could end up being counterproductive for everyone.