Posts Tagged "conflict"

The “Not-So-Empty” Nest

Posted by on Feb 24, 2021 in Family Relationships |

 Today, adult children are living with their boomer parents longer than previous generations did.  There are also “boomerang kids”, who return to the family home after some time on their own.  Why is this happening? How do you learn to manage with a household full of adults?   First, some statistics: In 1981, only 28% of Canadians aged 20 to 29 were living in the family home. By 2001, that figure was up to 41%. In the 1970’s, the median age at first marriage was 21 years for women and 23 for men. Now, it’s 26 for women and 28 for men. For many young adults, living with parents at home is not their ideal life plan. Often, it’s a result of  financial necessity. With increases in the cost of living and post-secondary education, some young Canadians cannot afford to live on their own.  For others, the loss of a relationship, pregnancy, or change in career may result in staying in or return to the parental home.   It’s not all bad news, though. The majority of kids appreciate their parents’ help. Parents with adult children at home report more satisfaction with time spent together than parents who don’t live with their adult kids. However, these parents can feel more frustration and experience less personal time and space than those living on their own.  Money disagreements can increase for married couples with adult children living at home. Boomers nearing retirement may need to work longer to support the family if adult children are back at home. And those who are also caring for aging parents know first-hand the meaning of “sandwich generation” Adult families who live together successfully report three factors that help keep conflict to a minimum: 1. Firm rules about shared use of cars, electronics, living spaces and privacy in general. 2. Where possible, adult children pay rent. If not, they are responsible for some household duties or other contributions to the family. 3. Timelines are discussed. If schooling is part of the picture, there is a plan to finish and move out.  Others may also discuss where stay-at-home kids will be in six months or a year. Sometimes adult children can ease the sandwich generation squeeze by helping aging grandparents - driving them to appointments, helping with errands and household maintenance, or even just doing a regular check-in.   Although this trend marks a shift in family dynamics, it need not be a change for the worse, or signal that parents will be fighting over curfew with a 27-year-old.  But taking out the garbage could be another matter.   Sources: Parents with adult children living at home: Canadian Social Trends Spring 2006, The Stats Can Daily from March 21, 2021   Vol.2, No.24; © ElderWise Inc. 2006   You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s “go to” place for midlife and older adults seeking information and support on health, housing and relationships.  Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.  ...

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Help With Family Visits

Posted by on Dec 16, 2021 in Family Relationships |

Some of us look forward to visiting our aging parents or our adult children - others not so much. We may live nearby, seeing each other often, but some of us make only occasional visits. For occasional visitors, it’s an opportunity see, hear, touch and sense what’s happening with our loved ones. The result can be joy and relief, or it can be growing concern and frustration. Visits can get weighed down with tradition and habits. Some of these are welcome, others leave us feeling that we have not progressed in our relationships or in dealing with matters important to the family. If you feel frustrated, consider these causes and some ways of dealing with them: What keeps some families “stuck”? Denial and avoidance. These traits are part of human nature. Showing compassion towards others AND ourselves can keep emotions in check. Old hurts, entrenched behaviours, and fear of conflict. Recognizing our “family drama” is the first step towards re-writing our story. Overwhelming size or number of concerns. Breaking the problems into manageable parts and setting priorities can help. Feeling powerless. Lack of confidence, skills or support may make you feel like giving in or giving up. What you can do: Inform yourself and others of the facts, issues and options. Whether it’s a health, financial, caregiving or lifestyle concern, sharing new information can be a neutral – even welcome – first step. Prepare others for talking about important matters. Give advance notice of what’s on your mind – to your aging parent or your adult child. Resolve to say or do something different this time. Using the same old approach and expecting different results just sets you up for frustration. Build trust first. Try to show that you understand another person’s values, needs and fears, before advancing your own opinions and agenda. Look for shared solutions that consider everyone’s interests. Taking too strong a position, whether you are the parent or adult child, may affect the well-being of another family member. Set realistic objectives and take small steps. Major life changes are a process, not an event. Quick and simple just doesn’t apply. Close any discussions by trying to get agreement on next steps. Keep things in perspective. Limit the time and energy you devote to your concerns. Relax and enjoy the holiday. Once the visit is over, reflect on and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Persist, gently and consistently, keeping everyone involved and engaged in the process.   Vol. 6, No. 12, © ElderWise 2010 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.  ...

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Aging Parents and Sibling Rivalry

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Family Relationships |

When an aging parent is thrown into a crisis, siblings have the chance torally around each other and use their strengths to cope with the crisis in a way that serves everyone’s best interests. But old rivalry, competition and established role relationships and scripts can heighten conflict and crisis. How can brothers and sisters put aside these patterns when they are forced together to help their aging parents?  First, recognize and accept differences. You and your siblings do not necessarily share values, beliefs, and experiences; in fact, you may come from different generations! If you are an “early boomer” born between 1946 -1950, you are close to retirement and likely addressing some of your own aging issues. If your youngest sibling was born 15 years later in the early 60’s, you two may not have much in common. This “late boomer” is still involved in work and career and raising children. Next, respect the differences. This is easier said than done, but necessary for working together for a common family goal. This process requires internal work - to abandon judgment and criticism of someone whose views are different from yours. Then, really listen. Possibly the most important communication skill is to become an “active listener.” It takes work, but listening to others can help you to find common ground.  Here are five tips on being a better listene  Listen at least as much as you talk. Ideally, listen more than you speak. Try to understand (if not agree with) the other’s point of view.o  Ask for clarification if you do not understand o  Give positive -  or at least neutral - feedback on their ideas Suspend judgment and assumptions while listening. Listen for the feelings that lie beneath the words. Avoid the temptation to become sarcastic or critical. Active listening requires intention as well as attention! Each person must truly want what’s best for everyone, not just to advance his or her own agenda.  Involving an impartial outside party, such as a trusted family friend, advisor, or counsellor, can help interrupt these patterns. The presence of an impartial third party in the room is often enough, in itself, to change the tone of family conversations. A skilled third party can also be helpful in framing or re-framing the issues, monitoring for good listening skills, and helping all family members discover and remove the blocks to effective conversations.   Vol. 5, No. 4 © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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When Aging Parents Won’t Accept Help

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Family Relationships, Sensitive Conversations |

Even families who have good relationships with each other face challenges and uncertainty when the needs of aging parents change. One of the common issues is aging parents who appear to refuse help. It causes frustration in adult children and anxiety in the aging parent. An impasse can easily result. Several new dynamics emerge. You become aware of your own emotions - worry, sadness, anger. If you have siblings, you wonder what roles each of you will play to support each other and your parents. You may feel anxious because family relationships have been strained in the past.   Most families face one or more of four common challenges:  WHAT IF MY PARENTS WON’T ACCEPT MY HELP? Initial discussions can be difficult, especially if your parents do not see the need for help, or are unwilling to accept help because they don’t want to be a burden.  People need to feel that their relationships are two-way. If you can find ways to show your parents that they are giving you something in return for your assistance, they may be more inclined to accept your help. Your parents may worry that getting help means a loss of independence. Try to discuss this topic when it is a “future possibility.” Ask your parents how they want to handle future needs for support. You may need to obtain more information about services available in your parent’s community so that your parent is making an informed choice.  Some people refuse help because of mental or emotional problems or disorders. If your parent has addictions to alcohol or drugs, he/she may not willingly accept your advice. If your parent has a long-standing mental health disorder, they may rebuke advice for treatment. If you are caught in one of these distressing situations, you might find help by accessing a local seniors’ centre, local health organizations, or professional counseling. It’s important to involve others in these discussions. When someone else notes the need for help and confirms what you have been saying, your parents may be more inclined to agree. They may listen more closely to their peers or prefer to have friends help out rather than ask you to do so. Ultimately, you must respect a parent’s decision even if you do not agree with it. Unless there is a major risk to others, or your parent is not competent to make decisions because of a medical diagnosis, your parent has the right to choose. Adapted from: Your Aging Parents (2ed.), p.62 These situations have the potential to push a family further apart, but they can also bring it closer together. Managing our own feelings and reactions, respecting and accepting other viewpoints, and communicating effectively are the keys to surviving these challenges.   Vol. 6, No. 3, © ElderWise Publishing 2010. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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