Partnering, not Parenting

Two women reading together

Successful Aging Part 2: Partnering, not Parenting

Remember your days of youth -or as a new(er) parent yourself- when you cringed at your parent’s “guidance” or “suggestions” or flat out unsolicited advice? While those rules, words of wisdom or demands may have served you in the long term (or maybe not), think about how you felt in the moment; perhaps you felt annoyed, frustrated, pigeon holed or maybe even trapped? Those same feelings can arise with parents if you take a “parental” role in conversations for what they may need to maintain independence and quality of life with age. We are all aging, and reaching a particular decade of life does not mean your sense of dignity, worth or life experience is not applicable to life decisions. So when you decide to start having conversations with your parents/family, start from the perspective of adults having a conversation with adults, not parent-child. Your parents are still your parents.

Instead, you want to become a PARTNER with your aging parent. Keep perspective in mind:

You are in charge.
You make the rules.
You set the agenda.
Negotiation is not necessary.
Your values are what matter.
You have a common goal.
You have a mutual interest.
You figure out how to collaborate for a common purpose.
You share what’s important to you, but you also listen to understand the values, goals and needs of your partner.

Your parents have likely heard the phrase  “parenting your parent” so it’s not surprising there may be a natural suspicion of your attempts to broach subjects they deem personal or private. It’s your job as a partner to reassure them that you want to be on the same team.  You want to be a partner in their best future. Your goal is to collaborate with them to make sure that their needs, beliefs, and values are upheld. Reassure them, that as children of aging parents, you are never attempting to switch roles.

Remember the “M” for motivation in the T.E.M.P.O approach? Make sure your own intentions are clear, and that will set the bar for TRUST. The goal is not manipulation or subtle coercion; You intend to make every action worthy of trust. When you hold that intention in your mind and heart, it will make a difference in how you listen, and how you can organically move from point A to point B.

Written by Anne McDonald, MSW, LICSW
CenterLife Counseling

Anne McDonald

As a clinical social worker, I help clients discover their own power to create self-transformation, and as your therapist, I see myself as a tool to help you discover your own power to create change. Our work together will result in a customized “tool box” of self-management skills to equip you when life throws you a curve ball.  Let’s start discovering your true potential, so you can keep creating your best life story.  I look forward to working with you.


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