Our twenties are often a time to learn who we are, to try out our talents and gifting in the world, and to develop meaningful relationships. The focus is on moving forward and creating a life that makes you feel alive and getting to know yourself as an independent adult.
But while we move into the next life stage, so do our parents. As we age, so do our parents. Very few of us consider the impact of our parents aging on our young adulthood. How do we create an independent life and stay appropriately connected to our parents? How do we balance our goals with our parents’ needs?
Here are a few ideas on how to navigate early adulthood with our parents in mind.
We have all heard that we are to “honor our father and mother.” But what does it mean to honor our parents as adults? As our parents enter later life stages, they develop a desire to give to the younger generations in their family. One of the best ways to respect our parents is to listen to their stories and seek to learn from their experiences. As we enter adulthood, we are wise to learn from our parents who have lived it longer than we have. And in the process, we show respect for their life story.
While it’s important to learn what it means to be independent, there is plenty of room for overlap between generations. Instead of trying to fit our parents into our busy schedules, let’s consider including them in life events and occasions when we can. Chances are there is more overlap in our interests than readily meets the eye.
As we enter adulthood, we are wise to learn from our parents who have lived it longer than we have.
Depending on the age, life stage, and specific needs of our parents, some of us may be in more of a caretaking role than others. If you find yourself in a more involved caretaking role, it can become stressful as you try to balance your life and caring for your parents at the same time. The relationship may become strained if a parent adjusts to the ramifications of the aging process and the caretaker struggles to find the best care plan.
If you are a caretaker in this situation, it’s important to surround yourself with a deep, loving community that supports you while you offer support to your parents. Because you are giving so much time, energy, and emotion in a particular relationship, it is crucial to balance your relationships and connect with family and friends that are life-giving so you don’t become emotionally depleted.
Learn The Story
Caring for our parents can bring new and challenging dynamics to your relationship with them. You may find wounds you didn’t know were there or tried to move past. Or, you may find them reacting to their own wounds as you navigate their care.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to be aware of how our own story impacts the way we feel and act. It is also helpful to learn our parents’ story in order to have a context for their feelings and actions that may feel confusing. Creating space, asking questions, and being willing to listen while your parents share about their childhood and young adult years will help you to have more compassion on their actions that may frustrate you in the moment.
It is also helpful to learn our parents’ story in order to have a context for their feelings and actions that may feel confusing.
Navigating the beginning of our lives and considering the challenges of later stages our parents may face is difficult. Every situation is different, but no matter what challenges you may face, remember that your value is not based on how successful you are or the mistakes you make. Rather, your value is in who you are as a person. This time is precious, but it’s difficult, too.
No one is perfect. You won’t get it right all the time. But know that your best is enough as you negotiate the dynamics between generations in your family.
How have you seen family dynamics change as you get older? What has it taught you?
Image via Library of Congress
You have eloquently described the process of navigating this life challenge, with great advice and insight. Thank you for being a voice to it!
Thanks for this post, Nicole! It echoes what I think about balancing life with/near parents, and keeping them close to your heart 🙂