Most people love and appreciate their parents. We don’t doubt that. The problem is, parents can’t tell this unless you show it by the way you treat them. Sometimes adult children can bring heartache to their parents without realizing what they’re doing. We’ve boiled it down to 5 main ways this happens. If you are a parent of adult children, you may recognize some of these. If you’re the adult child, you may be in for an awakening. As parents age, their physical needs may change but their need for your love never does. Check to see if you’re doing any of these.
1. You don’t call them much.
Time just flits by, and you realize it’s been a month since you last called your parents to check on them or to share what’s happening in your life. You may be thinking, well, they can call me anytime they want. There’s no question; parents need to call their children, as well.
Here’s the thing, they don’t know your schedule, and they don’t want to interrupt you at the wrong time. Or they don’t want to trouble you with their problems. And yet, they want you to care. You need to take the initiative and call them, at least some of the time. Even just a short call to see how they are feeling. Ask them what they did that day then share what you are doing. Be sure to include some good news. Too often, the only news shared is the bad. Being in on at least part of your life will bring them more happiness than you can imagine. If they lay on a lot of unwanted advice, just say, “Thanks, Dad, I appreciate your concern. I was just thinking about you and wanted to know how you’re doing.” Don’t forget to say, “I love you.” That’s music to their hearts.
2. You ask them for money.
Some kids only call when they need money. Don’t do that. In fact, don’t ask them for money at all. You’re an adult and capable of providing for yourself and family. Your parents have worked hard for what they have, and they deserve to keep it for their needs. As their lives wind down they have no idea what expenses lie ahead. They need that retirement nest egg for the unknown. It’s comforting to them to have that security. We know some children who’ve bled their parents dry, and then when the day came and the parents needed the money to live on it was gone. That’s not fair. Don’t ask your parents for money. If you owe them for some you’ve already “borrowed,” pay it back as soon as you can. Lovingly help them protect what’s theirs. They need to be able to enjoy it in their later years.
3. You forget their birthdays.
Parents love to be remembered on their special day. It doesn’t have to be a fancy celebration, just a remembrance. You know how you feel when you receive a gift from them. They aren’t much different. They like it, too. Find out the things they enjoy. A young couple we know gives their parents a gift card to their favorite restaurant, and they thoroughly enjoy it. If you don’t have the money for a gift, you surely have the money for a card. Receiving a card in the mail from an out-of-town child brightens any parent’s day. A phone call is great, too. If you live nearby, drop by with a hug and good wishes. Let them know you’re thinking of them, and wish them a happy birthday. You might even add, “I’m sure glad you were born. I love you, Mom.” Some children invite the family over to celebrate a special birthday. Turning 70 is a lot more fun when you’re surrounded by those you love.
4. You don’t offer them your help.
You may be thinking, hey, I told Dad to let me know if there’s anything I can do for him, but he hasn’t told me of anything. He’s probably hesitating because he thinks you’re too busy, or he’s afraid you didn’t really mean it. How about suggesting something to him? Look around and see the needs. Older people are advised to stay off ladders because their balance is impaired, and it’s too risky. How about offering to come over, climb that ladder and clean out their rain gutters. A friend’s son recently did that for his parents, and they were extremely grateful for the help. A little help from you will go a long way in helping your parents feel loved.
5. You don’t include them in your family events.
They don’t need to be included in everything but for the main events, invite them. They want to be part of special occasions, such as holiday dinners, a baptism, a concert your child is in, weddings or a vacation. Let them enjoy being with you and your family when it fits. Sometimes just an invitation to Sunday dinner at your house will brighten their day. If they invite you and your family over for dinner, accept the invitation and show up.
Is this what you want?
Look at how you are treating your parents and ask yourself if this is the way you want your children to treat you when they’re grown. They are learning how by watching the way you treat your parents. It’s a lesson they won’t forget. If you’re not measuring up, it’s not too late. You can make a change this very day. Begin by picking up the phone and calling your parents right now.
(Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships. See their new .99 e-book "Wake-Up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know" on amazon.com. Their website is garyjoylundberg.com.)