There is a strange occurrence in the parent / child relationship when the parent begins to act more like the child and the child (now an adult) begins to act more like the parent. This can happen at almost any age, even when the child is still a child, but it most definitely happens as the parent ages. As the adult child, you eventually find yourself reversing roles with your parent and suddenly parenting him or her.
Perhaps your parent is refusing to take medication that would help them, driving when they can no longer see correctly, spending ridiculous amounts of money on late night TV ads, forgetting relatives or close friends, becoming angry for no apparent reason, and alienating themselves from others. When confronted about their struggles, your parent acts more like a two-year old that has been told “no” then an adult. Frustrated, you respond in a controlling manner which in turn is met with more frustration from your parent, tempers mount and unnecessary words are exchanged. But there is a better way and it begins with you.
Honor your parent. The reason this is one of the Ten Commandments is because this often becomes difficult to do at some point. Honoring your parents means showing them respect for the years they provided for you, listening to their point of view without condemnation, and lifting them up to a place of high esteem in your household. The difficulty comes when your parents have not or do not behave in a manner in which deserves honor. Yet we are commanded to show honor even when they do not deserve it. This is not about gaining the upper hand or manipulating control, rather it is a change in your heart and attitude as to how you will approach your parent.
Forgive your parent. Once you decide to have an attitude of honor towards your parent, choosing to forgive them for past behaviors becomes next in the process. At some point, your parent will no longer be able to clearly communicate, think thoroughly, or positively process the circumstances of their life. Past hurts can no longer be addressed simply because your parent is unable to fully comprehend all you are saying. Your choice is to harbor bitterness towards them for past behaviors or to forgive.
Love your parent. What? Of course you love your parent but do you love the person that they have become or do you love the person that they once were? Loving your parent unconditionally means accepting who they have become in light of who they once were and choosing to love them regardless of the outcome. They may act unloving but you can still make the choice to love them just as you hope that someone will do for you.
Parenting your parent can become difficult but if you remember to honor, forgive and love in spite of the circumstances and their behavior, you will find peace. While the role reversal may frustrate the old patterns of your relationship, use this opportunity to rebuild your relationship into a healthy one instead of the old dysfunctional patterns. In the end, you will be the one who benefits from the change in the relationship.
Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.