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When visiting your parents make the time worthwhile...
Posted: 3/17/2014 4:45 PM by
You check your calendar. Here it is, the day that you plan each month to visit Mom and Dad. Immediately a buzzer goes off in your stomach and you realize that you dread this monthly visit. But why? Simple. You have guilt because you do not visit enough, because you don’t stay long enough, and because you don’t want to face the fact that the visit is awkward and boring.
This is normal. In each of our busy lives it is difficult to carve a day, or even half a day, for a visit. Also, Mom and Dad aren’t the vital, productive loved ones that you knew all your life. They are frail, slow and not as conversant. However, you must accept the guilt, and eliminate the stomachache.
Here are tips to make your visit to see your Mom and Dad not only bearable, but also pleasurable!
Listen, talk, and listen more
Your parents have had rich, colorful lives. Sit down, hold their hand, look them in the eyes and listen. Remember your loved one may be isolated and not have an audience. Therefore, plan a few probing questions that will start off the conversation.
What about those awkward moments? You are with the parents you have known all your life and you don’t know what to say. Of course, the chit-chat that was so easy before is different now. Expect your parents to speak more slowly, to pause when they are gathering a thought, and to be less expressive. With this anticipation you will not be inpatient or, worse, complete their sentences. Instead when that awkward moment arises, reminisce. Bring a few old pictures and share them with joy. Ask your loved one to tell you about the wonderful past. Play the “I remember” game. You talk about a special time and ask them for a response.
Expect to have your buttons pushed
Your parents are older and may not have the filters they had in the past. In other words, your parents may be more blunt and say things they might have sugar-coated in the past. So go into the visit with the knowledge that you may have some emotional sensitivity. Don’t look to your parents for emotional fulfillment as this visit is for their emotional fulfillment, not yours. Expect those old, painful buttons to be pushed.
Give them an arrival time
Schedule your visits ahead of time. This does not mean that you need to have a set time each week or month, but you need to give your parents a heads-up in advance. Allowing them to know ahead of time will allow them to clean the house, put on a special outfit, or prepare a snack. The elderly do not like surprises and would prefer to be advised in advance.
Feel the joy they feel
Don’t minimize the importance of this visit. To aged parents a visit from a son/daughter is the greatest sense of happiness. No matter how compromised they may be physically or mentally, no other past-time is more enjoyable than sitting and talking to their children. Keep this in mind when you visit, for it will help you understand their excitement to see you.
Sunday afternoon drive
Perhaps you are too young, but your parents will remember a Sunday afternoon drive. If your parents are unable to drive, or no longer feel confident for longer trips, take them out for a leisurely drive. Stop at the grocery store and put together some sandwiches that you know that they like and add a few cookies or chips. Go to a park that has comfortable chairs and a table. Be mindful not to make the lunch lengthy as your parents will get tired quickly.
If your parent is a church goer, accompany him/her to church. This will mean the world to them and will be a heartwarming way to spend a few hours.
One of the things we most need in life is the one thing we most readily put aside when with our elderly parents…fun!
Bring along a Frank Sinatra CD or load a Duke Ellington on your phone and be silly. You can wear a funny hat and bring one for your parents. Encourage them to get up and dance or just twist and turn in their sears. I promise they will love the tunes and the exercise. It’s a “win-win” for you and your parents.
Play a game
Your parents know a good card game or board game from their younger days. Both were popular means of entertainment years ago before the electronic age took over. Pinochle, Crazy Eights, and various forms of Rummy were all popular in the day. Cribbage, Scrabble, Chess, Dominoes, and Dice can also be fun for the old and young alike. Checkers is “tried and true” – so is bingo. Your parents will have fun as they put those bingo markers down. You can play for pennies or a dollar to make it even more competitive.
If your Mom tells you a story that might not be accurate, make a joke. If your Dad loses your keys, tell him, “It’s okay; I can fly home.” When your Mom says you don’t visit enough, just laugh and say “Mom I do need to do the laundry and take out the dog!” Making light humor is making sense. Even tell a joke or two. Have in your mind a few simple jokes, such as “knock, knock, who’s there”, they will laugh out loud and you will find that you laugh just as hard.
Perhaps your parents push your buttons, move slowly, and complain. Put that aside and remember they brought you great happiness, taught you important lessons, and nurtured you. Change your tone, your demeanor, and body language. They made mistakes – that is part of being human. Keep a keen eye on what is important. They are your parents. Be loving.
We promise if you take a few tidbits from our list, your visit to your parents will be bearable and, hopefully, enjoyable. If you relax and let yourself be playful, your parents will beam with a smile you have not seen for years. You may even be happy when that date comes up on your calendar. Perhaps you will not cringe, you will jump for joy.