I count myself fortunate to have a complete family, and plenty of contact with them in my early, formative years. As a full-fledged adult, I still have a reasonable amount of time being with them (at least a week’s worth within every month). As with any relationship, it’s not all smooth sailing, but given long years of being together, there is always the threat of feelings of contempt getting in the way.
In the case of adult children and parents, this is further magnified by the quirks and eccentricities of getting old. This is not always the case (some people actually become more pleasant with age), but I am writing from personal experience, and the folks, though I love them ever so dearly, can sometimes annoy or even frustrate me for one reason or another.
These feelings are valid and do deserve to be expressed now and then, but you can’t let them destroy your relationship. Your parents brought you into this world, and as much as you needed them back then for material and emotional sustenance, your elderly folks need your love, understanding, and presence in the twilight of their own lives.
From mine and my friends’ experiences, here are some ways to stay in touch with your folks while avoiding any smouldering tempers and hurt feelings:
Make Use of Technology
Current communications technology offers us so many ways of keeping in touch. While you shouldn’t take out physical proximity from your list of ways to communicate, you should save those up for special occasions and those moments where you really need to sit and talk face-to-face.
A text message or tweet a few times a day can’t hurt, and many people are in the habit of making or receiving a phone call or video conference from their parent at least once every few days. You get to exchange sentiments and ideas, and at the same time not get in each other’s way.
Since you are the younger and more tech-savvy one (I’m really hoping that’s the case), you should make the effort to set up your parents’ gadgets to make the experience easy for them. Get them a reliable but simple mobile phone with an appropriate usage plan, configure their computers and other devices so they can easily contact you (your name should always be on the speed-dial/start menu/contact list/etc.), and please be patient with them as they fumble around with the technology. Most of our parents weren’t born during the digital age, after all.
Short but Frequent Visits
I found that visiting them often but hanging out for way too long keeps things fresh, and you don’t end up getting on each other’s nerves. Like I mentioned before, I visit the parental units at least once a month; they certainly won’t be forgetting my face.
I know this might not be possible if you and your folks are geographically distant from each other (or you have a crazy work schedule), so you might have to make do with video conferences and other means of remote communications.
Do Stuff Together
Don’t get bored together with your loved ones. It won’t end well, I assure you. Find an activity that all of you can enjoy doing. They’re no spring chickens (maybe you’re not so fit yourself), so find an activity that’s light on the strenuous activity and heavy on the enjoyment.
This will also give you guys something to talk about. Most kids complain that their folks talk about the same old things (like those incessant, old TV show reruns), so this will definitely give them something new to talk about.
Have Periodic Sit-Downs
No, it’s not the work stoppage variety. These are nice, long talks over coffee (or alcohol) where you and your parents talk about stuff. I actually have separate sit-downs with each parent, as there are some things I am not comfortable discussing when the other one is present.
Use this time to air out any misgivings, smoothen out misunderstandings, talk about plans for the future, and talk a bit about the past as well. Chances are, they won’t be around a few decades down the line, so make certain that there are no things left unsaid, and that even as you part ways, your memories of them will be complete.
I hope these tips help you build an even stronger relationship with your venerable parents, and just in time for the Holidays, too! Live well and love your friends and family, readers!
About the Author
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and is currently preoccupied with preparing a grand family get-together for Christmas. She is still working on Word Baristas, the group blog with her friends.