Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving Love to Your Parents in the Way They Understand.

Role reversal - parenting the parent, an emotional time for both the adult child and the parent says "A Place for Mom". Parents feel embarrassed and frustrated as they find they cannot do things for themselves; adult children show a sense of loss watching their mom or dad deteriorate.

"Clearly, the role reversal that comes with with aging and caregiving strains the parent-child relationship and puts it on difficult and unfamiliar turf. Because the relationship between you and your parent has changed dramatically, you may need to explore new ways of expressing love and receiving love that are appropriate to you and your parent’s current position and transformed roles."

(picture from A Place for Mom) The website cites a book by psychologist Dr. Gary Chapman written in 1995, 'The Five Languages of Love'. There is something he calls the 'Love Language' that each person has - a way of giving and showing love. He says with relationships changing you may need to find new ways to show love to your parents. He asks adult children to think back to their childhood to see how their parents expressed love to them, to see how to express that love back. I wish I thought about this more when mom was around - I would get so caught up in all the day-to-day stuff with her situation and my own family and what they needed, I'm sure I could have showed her more love than I did. Although I knew she knew I loved her by the way she talked to other people about what I was doing for her, I could have 'said' more to her about how I felt rather than assuming she knew BECAUSE I was doing what I was doing.

Back to Dr. Chapman and his theory:
1) Words of Affirmation - some elderly parents need to constantly hear "I love you". So spread compliments and 'I love you' when you can, 'words of approval and affirmation'.
2) Quality time - spend some time when they can have your undivided attention, turn off phones, pagers TVs. Spend some time going to lunch or dinner, go shopping, or just sit and talk.
3) Giving and Receiving Gifts - he is not talking about accumulating 'things' but sharing things - sending articles that someone might be interested in, sending flowers, making sure you remember a birthday or anniversary or just because. Mom would sometimes get excited if I found something she used all the time on sale and bought her a few of them!!
4) Acts of Service - this is from the parent who used to do things around the house or favors for people. We all know caregiving is an act of service but maybe a spouse can fix something around the house or yard, change the oil in a car, mow the lawn.
5) Physical touch - maybe mom or dad was a hugger. Hug or hold hands, walk arm-in-arm. Again, something else I should have done more of.

Think back and see how your parents acted and maybe by acting accordingly, it might help your changing relationship. I know the times we did share a hug, it was like a physical release, a slowing down of what we were doing, a "it's all going to be Ok" (even though things were going downhill). Even at the end (mom was not talking, eyes closed - like a coma state), before leaving the nursing home, I would give her a kiss, say 'I love you. It will all be Ok if you want to go'. Her body and face would relax a little. I think it was her way of saying back 'thank you, love you too'.


  1. This is such a moving and important post!
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions.

    1. Thank you so much. Hope someone else can identify - maybe it will be helpful.

  2. Thank you for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such a perfect
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  3. This is a very heart-felt article. Time is moving so fast. And we don't want to waste it, every single second of it. Every day, we always think that we are not getting any younger so we do things that we need to do, things that we want. What we don't usually realize is that our parents are also getting old each day. So, if our parents are still around, let's not forget to tell them, and show them how much we appreciate and love them. We don't want to wait for the time that they already forget our names before we do these things for them. Let them know how much we love them, and never forget to thank them, as well. Thanks for sharing!

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