If your parents are still able to share their stories now is the time to discover more about the past and what was important to them and their lifestyles. In his book, The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More, author Bruce Feiler contends “the single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” Research shows families stability during a crisis is strengthened when members have a sense of “being part of a larger family.”
How does one capture these stories? First and foremost patience is necessary. Allow parents time to process and understand your inquiries and the impact their stories will have on future generations. Allow memories to unravel on their own timeline. In your journey of revelations, seek to understand the following basic premises.
Understand Your Parents’ Background
Knowing the era of your parents’ formative years gives a general direction for inquiries about origin and background. Were they raised during the Great Depression? World War Two? Did they grow up during the turbulent era of war demonstrators and civil rights? Such backgrounds lay the foundation for more specific inquiries regarding the major influences of their lives. Here are a few suggested questions:
- What do they wish they had known about their own parents or grandparents?
- What are some earliest memories?
- What was school like and what did they enjoy most about classes?
- Who was their role model? How were they influenced?
- Describe their first date.
- What was their proudest moment as a child? As a teen?
- What was it like growing up in their part of the country?
- What are some fondest memories?
- What was their first job?
- How did they meet their spouse?
- What major events affected them the most? Why?
- Who were their childhood friends? Do they stay in touch with them?
- Are there any family stories or secrets they’ve never shared but would like to now? Is it still difficult to share these stories?
Understand Your Connection
Understanding your connection to the larger family is important for a number of reasons. Each of us are more than just a piece of the whole family unit. Questions about the past open long closed doors and promote understanding between family members. As with the earlier process of discovery, patience should be the guiding principle. Here are more suggested questions:
- When did you both decide to have children?
- How did my/our birth change the dynamics of the family? Were things harder or easier? How?
- What were your aspirations for me as a child?
- What were your favorite memories about my childhood?
- What were the most difficult times in my childhood?
- What activities were you involved in while I was a child?
- If you could go back and change one moment in my childhood, what would it be? Why?
- What was the most traumatic experience of my childhood in your eyes? Why?
- What would you most like me to know about your my grandparents?
- How could I best carry on the particular traditions of our family?
Understand Your Parents’ Needs
During this time of aging and transition, it is important to realize the changes taking place within your family. Certain restrictions may eventually appear and it is important to not impose limits until needed. Your parents still have a life to live and they need you to respect this.
Here are three major areas where understanding your parents’ needs may be difficult:
- Autonomy and Connections with Family – Your parents want and need a life of their own. They desire connections with the family but should also be allowed to lead their own lives. Avoid the role of being the smothering offspring who assumes the caretaker role too quickly.
- Independence with Help Available if Needed – Your parents want and need their independence. They also need to know our assistance is always available without judgment or control. As long as they are safe to do so encourage them to exercise and enjoy their independence.
- Freedom to Live without Judgments – Not remembering today’s date is not a reason for sidelong glances at spouses or other siblings and ensuing discussions about their mental capacity. Allow parents’ freedom to choose without you hovering. Activities may be done differently at your house but don’t rush to judge how routines operate at your parents’ home.
Understanding your aging parents may seem like a daunting task but time passes quickly. Now is the time to begin forging common ground and understanding your family history. At Bridge to Better Living® we understand the importance of getting to know our client’s past, present and future. Our consultants visit with each one to recognize their individual social, physical, mental and even financial components. Bridge to Better Living® wants to be sure the communities we tour with our clients are appropriate fits to every need.
To begin the process of searching for Senior Retirement Living options at no cost contact Bridge to Better Living®. We are always here for you.