Articles for Parents

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    How to Care for Independent Aging Parents

    If you're in the midst of raising children or grandchildren, managing a career and caring for an aging parent or relative, you are not alone. In fact, a 2012 Pew Research report found that about half of all U.S. adults in their 40s or 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child.

    When our parents have strong desires to remain independent and we have strong desires to care for them, it can be a real challenge.

    “I always like to focus on the things that are necessary for aging parents to stay as independent as possible,” says Amy Boulware, (LAP, MSW) Geriatric and Special Needs care manager for Chambliss Law. “The desire to remain independent is so strong, sometimes parents are willing to go to great lengths to keep up the appearance they are doing well on their own. I call this ‘malicious independence.’ They know they aren’t doing well, but they keep it from their family members. The sad thing is, often, they have already lost their independence because they are isolating themselves and not getting to do the things they enjoy doing.”

    Getting older and more fragile is a hard thing to deal with, but things do happen as we age. Boulware believes the goal of providing good care to our parents is to avoid making decisions in the midst of a crisis.

    “If we can help parents think about the things that are becoming more difficult for them such as going to the grocery store, cooking or keeping the house clean, then we can develop a plan to remove some of the burdens and help them stay as independent as possible,” Boulware says. 

    “Most people do estate planning, but few think about doing elder care planning,” Boulware shares. “Inevitably, something happens and then you are thrown into making quick decisions.”

    So, how do you have that hard conversation? Boulware suggests that you begin the process by asking questions like:

    • What are the things that are important to you as you age?
    • How can we work together to help you have quality care later in life? What does that look like for you? 
    • What can you afford?
    • What are the lifelong behaviors or details that make you tick that would be very important to know? For example, do you have a nightly routine, always have a certain snack, use something to help you sleep at night, etc.? There may be routines and rituals that you know nothing about that if discontinued, could cause agitation, fear or frustration for your parent. 
    • Who would you like to designate to make decisions should you become unable to do so? When do you think would be a good time to take care of that? 
    • If we see you struggling, how would you like us to handle that?

    If you try to have the conversation and your parents won’t let you, seek help from a trustworthy third party.

    This conversation in particular is often one we put off because it’s just plain uncomfortable and nobody wants to think about the end of life. Mapping out a plan ahead of time can pave the way for smoother transitions in the future. It can also strengthen your family relationships because the choices your parents make are truly theirs and it will be easier to honor them by following through with their wishes.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 5, 2019.

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    Aging Parents and Broken Families

    “In 2010, the first Baby Boomers turned 65. By 2030, 20 percent of America’s population will be over 65. As the Baby Boom generation moves into later life, the proportion of American elders who are divorced is skyrocketing," says researcher and author Elizabeth Marquardt. "The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2015, 46 percent of boomers will live in divorced or unmarried households. These trends raise concerns for Baby Boomers as they age - and challenges for their grown children - as they become caregivers for their aging parents.”

    Marquardt and Amy Ziettlow are co-researchers in a 3-year project funded by the Lilly Endowment to investigate aging, death and dying in an era of high family fragmentation.

    Marquardt and Ziettlow are asking Gen Xers about things like:

    • How does your generation care for parents who may live far apart?

    • Is there an obligation to care for stepparents?

    • How do you grieve the loss of a parent when you have grieved the loss at the time of the divorce?

    • How do you honor your father and mother when a parent abandons their child?

    During an interview, one man said, "My parent’s cold war lasted until my dad died. Then my mom wanted me to mourn the loss of my dad with her. I had already mourned the loss of my father."

    “Married parents will do their best to protect their kids from the worst of a dying parents’ illness,” Marquardt says. “Fragmented families don’t have that luxury. In fact, many of the people interviewed talked about stepparents who don’t communicate anymore once the biological parent has passed away. Family change is not the only stressor. Longer life span, smaller family size and rapid economic changes have a ripple effect on family breakdown.

    “We have never thought forward to the impact of divorce on an aging nation,” Marquardt says. “Marriage used to be ‘until death do us part.’ Now it is ‘until it doesn’t feel good anymore.’ There are people who will die a lonely death due to family fragmentation. Leaders are asking who will be taking care of the old people.”

    Marquardt and Ziettlow have found there is a lot of hope with Generation X.

    “There is something about telling your story,” Marquardt says. “Out of sharing tears, raw memories and family craziness there is a hope that seems to emerge. They take a deep breath and at the end seem to feel a sense of relief.”

    Many of those interviewed said they agreed to do it because they wanted to honor their parent.

    “The golden rule doesn’t say, 'Do unto others as they have done to you,'” Marquardt says. “Of the Gen Xers we have interviewed, many say their only hope is to rise above what has happened to them and to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

    Who will be there to take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself?

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    6 Things for Parents to Remember About Sports

    Many young people get excited about the beginning of the sports season.

    Youth sports can be a wonderful thing. Learning how to take instruction, be a team player, build basic motor skills, win and lose with grace and have fun in the process are a valuable part of a child's growth and development.

    Any participant in youth sports, however, also knows there is a downside — and most of the time it isn't the teammates - it's "that parent."

    You know the one. The overzealous parent who believes his or her child is on the way to stardom; the parent who is living his or her dream vicariously through the child; and the parent who believes he or she is a much better coach or referee than the current ones. There are also the parents who believe that the child's performance on the field is a direct reflection of themselves.

    In order to help keep things in perspective, many teams have parents sign behavior contracts which specifically define bad parental form and the consequences for such actions. One park in Buffalo Grove, Illinois tried to instill a bit of humor about the situation by posting "appropriate adult behavior" signs throughout the park. The signs reminded all that:

    • This is a game being played by children.

    • Winning or losing every game of the season will not impact which college they attend or their future income potential.

    • Referees, umpires and officials are human and make mistakes, just like everyone else. No one shouts at you in front of other people when you make a mistake, so please don't yell at them. We do not have video replay, so we will go with their calls.

    • It is highly unlikely that college recruiters or professional scouts are watching these games, so let's keep it all about having fun and being pressure-free.

    There are approximately 17,000 professional athletes in the United States. With the current population around 300 million, each child has a 0.00565 percent chance of becoming a professional athlete. So instead of heaping on the pressure, let children enjoy the experience regardless of how well they actually play the game.

    As adults, every parent present at a game is modeling something for the children. Here are a few things to remember as you head out to the field:

    • Be a great role model. Model good sportsmanship. Avoid being negative. Never berate children or coaches for a mistake made on the field. It is humiliating and embarrassing for everyone.

    • Avoid coaching from the sidelines. Most of the coaches are doing their best.

    • Know your child's goals. Too many parents bring their own goals versus their child's goals to the game.

    • The goal is to have fun. Teach children how to be a good winner and a good loser. It will serve them well throughout life.

    • Avoid player-bashing and being critical. Would you want someone trashing your child?

    • Learn the difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence in action is a beautiful thing to watch. Arrogance can rip a team apart or keep them from coming together in the first place.

    Positive parental attitudes and actions can help children take away powerful life experiences and lessons from the field that will help them be stronger and more confident people.

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    10 Traps for First-Time Parents

    It's your first child. Naturally, you're going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the "perfect" parent. Since your child doesn't come with an owner's manual, you'll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what's appropriate and what to expect from your child.

    Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There's a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.

    “Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”

    Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:

    • A critical eye. Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.

    • Overcommitment. Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.

    • Not enough Vitamin N. First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.

    • Lack of Vitamin E. One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.

    • Playing the competition game. Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.

    • Overexcitement. As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.

    • Over-discipline. As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.

    • Under-discipline. The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.

    • Letting other people raise your child. It is too easy to give into your parents' or in-laws' advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.

    • Allowing your child to be the center of the universe. Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.

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    Young Adults Living with Their Parents

    Do you remember your young adult years? You know, the times when you ate Ramen noodles and searched for spare change beneath the couch cushions and between the car seats because you were a starving student or just starting a new job.

    There is nothing like knowing you are just barely making it - but still surviving - on your own. Looking back, you may realize those hard years helped you appreciate what you now have.

    The landscape looks vastly different than it did twenty years ago.

    According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, more 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents. Researchers speculate this is fueled in large part by the number of people choosing to put off marriage.

    If you think back to your teenage years, most teens couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Even if they didn't have a job, they were determined to prove they could make it independently. So why are so many young adults choosing to live at home these days?

    In The Many Reasons More Young Adults Are Living with their Parents, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a weekly columnist for the New York Post whose writing leans toward higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture, raises this question: Are parents doing enough to equip their children to leave the nest?

    She surmises that young Americans may be living in their parent’s basement in part because they don’t have the economic or social tools to set out on their own. In a desire to protect and love their children and to shield them from experiencing potential problems in the world, parents may be unintentionally creating more obstacles for them.

    This raises some important questions for parents to consider as they prepare their children to leave the nest.

    • Are you teaching your teens how to develop networks or do you encourage them to rely solely on your networks? Guiding them through the process of building their own network is a powerful step toward independence.

    • Do you allow your child to fail and learn from their mistakes?  Or, do you take care of the consequences so they don’t have to experience the pain? Figuring out how to move forward in spite of failure builds confidence.

    • Does your teen understand the definition of and the value of a good work ethic?  Employers constantly lament many young people's understanding of punctuality or being respectful and motivated to do a good job.

    • Have you encouraged your teen to find a job without doing it for them?  It's important to teach your teen how to look someone in the eye and put their cellphone away. Help them learn how to dress appropriately and what questions an interviewer may ask. These things are far more helpful for your teen in the long run than if you pick up the phone and make a call for them.

    Except for special circumstances such as disability, emergencies or providing care to parents, is allowing adult children to live at home really the best thing for them? Part of launching into adulthood is learning how to navigate challenges and celebrate accomplishments. As hard as it may be, encourage them to learn the meaning of perseverance, relentless pursuit and independence.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here