by David Hibbard
Over these last several months, I’ve offered my perspective on what it’s like to once again share the same living space with your parent (or parents) after many years of being “on my own.” While every situation and personality dynamic is unique, for me it has been a blessing to be at the same address with my mom for the last 10 years.
The circumstances that bring parent and child back together later in life are different in virtually every family. Sometimes it’s by choice, other times out of necessity. Regardless, I subscribe to the theory that if everyone involved decides to make the situation work, it will. In these columns, I’ve talked about several keys I feel are important to cohabitating happily and successfully. To bring this series full circle, here’s a quick summary:
1) Jump in and take on some responsibilities: Your parent may be moving into your home, or you may be moving to theirs. Regardless, step up and take on some of the household chores and expenses. After all, you’re not a 10-year-old anymore, and your parents are a good bit older now. They likely can use your help with some things around the house. Figure out where and how you can help, then do so willingly. And by “help,” I mean not only with the actual “doing” of the work, but also helping pay for things when you can and should.
2) Communicate: Professional and personal relationships don’t get very far without good communication. It’s especially hard to live with someone and enjoy it if you don’t talk to one another! Keeping the lines of communication open with your parents when you live with them the second time around is an essential ingredient. Discuss your new living situation and establish some basic household ground rules. Talk about everyone’s likes and dislikes, and avoid doing those things that get under each other’s skin.
3) Respect the fact that they’ll always be your parents: There’s no getting around it — your mom will always be your mom. And in some ways, she’ll always act like it! Embrace this, though, and respect it. Give your parents the courtesy of knowing your schedule, where you’re going and when you’ll be home. Defer to their wishes on the little things. Be receptive to the pearls of wisdom they still have to pass along to you. While you may know much more now than you did 20 or 30 years ago, you still don’t know it all, right? I know I don’t! Yes, the parent-child relationship does change over the years, but there is some truth to the old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
4) Encourage your parents’ friendships with others: During the years you lived apart, you and your parents undoubtedly developed friendships with others in your own neighborhoods, workplaces and communities. As you begin to establish a new life living together, work hard to maintain the friends each of you already have. Get to know your parents’ friends and find opportunities to share time together with them. A strong network of friends and neighbors, I think, is especially important for our parents as they get older, and helps them stay connected and engaged with the wider world.
5) Help your parents be independent as long as possible: It’s human nature to want our independence, to do for ourselves and not rely on others. Of course, advancing age and declining health can ultimately dictate a less independent lifestyle for all of us at some point. If you’re living with your parents again, I think you have a wonderful opportunity to help them maintain that independence longer. Identify what they still like to do, and what they can still do without too much stress or strain. Take on some of the other household chores and tasks that are more difficult for them. If they need help managing their checkbook, bills and other finances, do that. Do the grocery shopping if that helps. In ways big and small, your help can give your parents more independence and relieve some of their fears and concerns.
Share your role reversal stories with contributing writer David Hibbard. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org