Did you ever find being a supportive adult child is quite a hard task to master?Did your parents ever reacted because they felt you do not care enough for them? Though you have done almost everything to show concern still, did you felt an increasing distance is brewing with your parents as they are aging? Such communication gap often makes room for Conflict and grudges between adult children and aged parents .A clear dissatisfaction brews between expectation and reality. Who is at fault should never be the issue. It would rather be how to resolve the conflict with aged parents.
A study of The Cerontological Society of America , in 1999 shows
6 types of conflicts exist between aged parents and adult child.
(1) Conflict due to communication and interaction style
(2) Difference in habits and lifestyle choices
(3) Difference in values regarding child-rearing practices
(4) Different point of view in regard of -politics, religion, and ideology
(5) Conflict due to work habits and orientations
(6) Changes in household standards or maintenance over generation.
29% parents 23% children refused to agree that they had any issue with each other. They stated having a harmonious relationship instead.
Conflict with aged parents type 1: Communication and Interaction Style
When there is conflict in way of expressing feeling for each other within a family network it can be termed as conflict of communication and interaction Style. In the study this conflict was categorized in three subtypes
- Style of communication
Children say parents may lose the rational behavior pattern over years. Many external factors can also be liable as many adult children complain parent fails to rationally communicate feelings. Some complained about being abandoned or feeling of deprivation.
Parents complained about -not being contacted; not being included in the family of their adult children.
- Communication being overly critical
Critical treatment from parents’ side was another common issue. Many children felt their parents seldom appreciate, being very negative, less being content with children’s behavior.
- Regarding actual content of the communication
This was the major sector of complain for both side. It covered-lack of truthfulness, verbal abuse, less effort to make relation with extended family members, lack of effort from children to meet parents. Also disagreement because of divorce on remarriage of parents was reported frequently. Such structural disruption makes more room for dissatisfaction and discontent.
Conflict Type 2: Habits and Lifestyle Choices
Second largest category of responses indicating conflict is- differences in personal habits and lifestyle. It reflects a sure generation gap as this field comprise of the differences in choices of how both choose to live, make major life decisions.
In the study,most parents 38% said they disagreed with the way children choose to live, have relation within or outside marriage, health habits, eating habits, drinking habit, lesbian issue, screen time habits, spending habits etc.
Adult children sometime fear about the financial dependency parents may face in old age due to their lack of saving habit or excessive spending habit ,they also complained about parents self pitying, alcoholism or negligence about own physical and mental health.
Conflict Type 3: Child-rearing practices and Values
How parents choose to rear children in past and how children choose to rear their children now is a big issue of conflict with aged parents.Aged parents disagree on the level of freedom in general being given to grand children. They disagree on various issues ranging from health habits to sex life freedom given to grand children.
Adult children reported grudge regarding parents rearing style, unequal behavior forbeared from childhood.
They also reported complain on aged parents over bearing them in parenting grandchildren. Complain regarding inequality among sibling’s children were also reported. Some adult children reduce interaction with aged parents in order to reduce such dominance, creating more conflicts in other fields.
Conflict Type 4: Religion, Politics, and Ideology
In this field both parents and children made serious allegation.Some adult Children complain of their parents being racist, not frank, egoistic , confused, not careful about making political remark knowing children believe otherwise.
While many parents seemed afraid of adult child violating basic religious values, not performing religious action as to parent’s expectation-taking a debt, abortion, visiting church, doing annual service all kind of value related practices have been mentioned at least once if not more. In general not being in line with the values they were once brought up with. Difference in sector of moral value also includes.
Conflict Type 5: Work Habits and Orientation
In this field parents complains ranges from –children being workaholic to not working at all. Parents having a view of work environment of earlier generation failed to match with adult children’s reality. Such incoherence created dissatisfaction.
Children with different line (creative/unconventional) of ambition complained their parent’s lack of understanding of their spirit.
Conflict Type 6: Household Standards or Maintenance
Conflict with aged parents raise in this category-when adult children never leaves parent house, come back after a broken relationship, and come for a long vacation. Here complain exists in lack or nonexistent sharing of chores, rearing of grandchildren by passing to grandparents, poor culinary skill of adult children, diminishing capacity of aged parent to perform chores. All these created differences in multiple cases.
Resolving the conflict
No two people can live happily ever after, even not a parent and child. Difference are bound to exist .How two party empathy with each can make a big difference in the prevailing conflicting situation.
One extreme way is to cease relation or communication. This in long run is devastating for both. 5 easy ways to address Conflict with aged parents, from my experience and research are here-
- Identify the problem-
I am daddy’s girl, always more open to my father. My mother though more sensitive and emotional; was never in line with my thought style. With passing years, I was sharing more detail with my father and less with mother, without realizing it created dissatisfaction. Her attitude towards me became more indifferent over time and a time came, I could sense there was a big wall around her.Well I am still trying to get that wall down but glad that finally I could identify her grudge.
My observation is,Parents can not keep their grudge for unless you keep doing same thing on and on. So it is not very difficult to find out what is the route of conflict.Once you analyze your err of relationship you may easily find a way out. Chances exist there is no big issue, in such case no need to over analyze.
- Find a way, kick away the ego-
Ego exists most, in case of our relationship with the dearest ones. If you are at the adult child end you have to let go of it and show concern. History suggests parents are more tolerant when dealing with a conflict with adult child. So you can make the first step if they are not making it. Even if you know that they are wrong you can choose to be right. You can choose to be more sensible and communicate your view.
If it’s a problem like difference in opinion in raising your child you can give insight in your favor, also you can hear their logic and determine if it works. If flexibility is not the solution, things can get better by offering them something of their interest. Plan a vacation together, offer tickets to their favorite talk show or anything of their interest. Sometime diversion can be good way channel out the stress. Also if the understanding is strong, some major difference will not distress the relation.
- Be silent when words may harm more
I am a great fan of Everybody loves Raymond.I loved the way Raymond cared about everyone’s feeling and failed to be blunt.Well his inability have not always lead to success in resolving conflict,however researchers believe times come when words do more harm than silence. When things get out of hand and situation heats up; your best choice remain in being silent .No matter how hurt you may feel you can choose to not hurt them. This will help you from being labeled as negative and intolerant. Later on they may realize and open up more about their reasons behind impatience. With parent it is not a sprint it is more of a marathon so save the words for another less heated up conversation.
- Give them the power
Parents have always been in charge. With age when they grow dependent on you they may not be able take the situation easily. Bossing your way may cause them feel more aged or disabled than they really are.
Give them as much power as you can. Of course your convenience is important, do as much as you can without making a big trouble for yourself .Like -If they are picky at gift receiver, in case of buying a gift for them take them with you to choose. When visiting a restaurant choose according to their choice. When planning a visit try to suit with their routine.
- Be a part of their health care regime
At this age you have to know about your parent’s health situation, if any other sibling is not actively doing it. So make time to visit the health care provider of your parents. Learn about the unfamiliar cognitive disfunctionalities. Check if they are taking medication properly at least over phone. It is very likely that physical hurdle that they go through make them more irritable and less tolerant.
Of all the relationship parent child relation is the most sacred one. Because of this symbol of pure love we often feel hesitant to express our problems with the parent or vice versa. However in order to keep this love unscathed we need to know more about such conflicts and learn to show more empathy and tolerance.