Family dynamics can make or break relationships. They can be loving, supportive, and kind or they can be filled with anger; disruptive and cruel. Families can also play an important role, positive or negative, in the life of senior citizens as they age.
What is a family?
Families were created for a reason. If you believe in creation, you will know that as soon as God created the world, he created man and woman to be together. Children came soon after, creating the first family.
Family units have survived through the centuries for a reason. Although some people prefer to live alone, most feel the need to have someone in their life to love, honor, and cherish.
How Family Dynamics Can Affect Seniors
Being a part of the right family can be the most wonderful thing in the world. Family members who are raised on love and good values learn early to feel safe within their unit. In effect, they create their own little society that is a great place to belong. Their senior members feel safe and secure when family is close by.
Unfortunately, there are some families that are abusive, critical, judgemental, and stifling where conflict and negativity rule the day. These families do not feel safe to children or seniors.
Why supportive families are important to seniors
Supportive families rally around their loved one whenever they have a need. I know whenever anything happened in ours, the family quickly got together to help any way we could. Whether it was because of an accident, an illness, or a negative diagnosis, the family was there either in person or on the telephone.
On the converse side, every once in a while a family member who wants to be supportive ends up causing seniors to feel stifled or suffocated. While sometimes it’s because of the family members’ disapproval of the seniors’ decisions or behaviour, at other times it’s because they are trying too hard to help out.
Seniors need to feel a certain amount of independence. When others believe they can’t take care of themselves, there needs to be honest and loving conversation to make sure both parties are in agreement as to the amount of care the senior really needs.
They may be more able than you might think. Or, they may need a reality check as to how much they can do on their own.
Taking away their need for making their own decisions or being their own person sends a negative message that the aging senior can no longer take care of themselves. Make sure you don’t go that direction before it’s time.
Make no mistake about it
One of the biggest mistakes family members can make is to take away the feeling of independence their loved one has. They need to feel they are still viable in the world. They have lived their life and the last thing they want to see in most cases is someone else taking over.
It is a difficult adjustment for the senior to live an independent life and then suddenly feel like they are dependent on others. No matter how much they love their family and want to be around them, feeling dependent on them creates a whole new and uncomfortable dynamic.
- Try not to patronise your parent or manipulate them in any way.
- Set specific boundaries on how you or your other family members will treat your mom or dad.
- Talk to one another and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to how big of a role each person will play in caring and supporting your senior.
- Spend time with your loved one
- Enjoy what time you have together while you can
- Go on outings that they will enjoy
- Stay positive and supportive without giving lectures
- Share hobbies if possible
- Hold family get together once a week
- Take them for scenic drives
- Take them to places that bring back pleasant memories – i.e., an old homestead
- Take them to visit old friends or family members that can no longer get around
One thing aging seniors appreciate, especially if they can no longer drive, is visiting family and friends in person. Seniors who were active all their lives feel stifled when they can no longer attend family functions or visit friends they have known for decades.
Family dynamics are important. They play a major role in allowing people to live their own lives as well as continue to build warm and loving relationships with those who are coming into the family – either through marriage or birth.
Part of positive family dynamics include doing things for others that will bring a smile to their face and leave them with positive feelings at the end of the day. Spending time with your family will bring joy and wonderful memories that will last as long as you live.