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Honor Your Parent Instead of Parenting Your Parent

Honor Your Parent Instead of Parenting Your Parent

I often get asked how to parent a parent. Parents do not want a parent. Children do not want to parent a parent. But in reality, a role reversal does eventually happen. A physical event can trigger a very quick transition. A stroke causing paralysis can leave the parent without the ability to independently eat, toilet, walk or conduct other basic daily activities. Or, the slow and continual march of Alzheimer’s eats away at the cognitive functions until little is left. Let’s not think about how to parent a parent. Instead, let’s think about how to honor a parent. Here are a few tips:

Retain dignity. Your parent is worthy of respect regardless of his or her current physical or mental capacity. Do not speak in a demeaning or parental voice. You may need someone other than yourself to monitor your voice. Most people do not realize the tone or demeanor of one’s voice when speaking to another. Simple ways to retain dignity are appearances of dress and grooming. Keep your parent looking sharp even if nobody will see them during the day except you or the caregiver. Allow privacy as much as possible for bathing and toileting.

Have grace. In the case of dementia, your parent can no longer cognitively process as before and will deteriorate. A child can learn and grow, retain and improve. Your parent cannot. You can become extremely frustrated and overwhelmed at times. You have a choice to honor and love your parent in the worst of conditions, just as he or she loved you as a child. You can return the grace your parent once provided to you.

Take breaks. If you are the caregiver for your parent, then respite is key. You cannot honor your parent when you are burned out. Caregiving is hard, 24/7 relentless work. If you do not get a break, you will become frustrated, angry, and depressed. You are the most important person in the life of your parent, and you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your parent.

Do not put your parent in a place of embarrassment and failure. As a parent declines, you can purposely push them into failure, or you can understand their limitations and find a way for them to succeed. When my mother was 84 years old, she had a minor accident in a parking lot. Then, she had mild cognitive impairment. I asked to go for a ride along to check her driving reactions and abilities. She was more comfortable making a series of right turns rather than turning left on a very busy multilane street. She was already nervous. So instead of pushing her to a potential point of embarrassment or failure by requiring her to turn left on a busy street, we went her long way around the block. We went out to eat and then I drove home.

I loved my mom. I wanted to keep her and others safe. Thus, we needed to drive together. The time came quickly when she could no longer drive or live independently. As her dementia progressed, she spent seven years in an adult foster care home. She passed away on Christmas Day, 2022. I honored her by taking care of her affairs and ensuring she had great personal care.

The Gift of Gifts

The Gift of Gifts

I have given you some ideas about ways to communicate love to your partner apart from an actual physical gift. In this blog, let’s talk about physical gifts. I want to give you some ideas for gifts that don’t break the bank. The key? Picking out gifts that match the needs and desires of your partner.  Here are a few ideas:

  • A favorite treat – chocolate, beef jerky, etc. The important part? It is a TREAT!
  • Surprise your partner and order in a meal
  • Go to the dollar store and pick out gifts for several days 
  • Give them a gift card to his or her favorite restaurant 
  • Buy them a subscription for streaming music for a year
  • Give them a gift for each of the five senses: smell, touch, hear, see, taste
  • The BIG gift. Ok, this one might break the bank a bit. Should be a surprise, and maybe a treasure hunt to find? Technology? Jewelry? Tool? Sporting Equipment? Clothes?

I hope these have given you some ideas for gifts. Gift-giving is another love language for my wife. She loves to give gifts. She is the only person I know that will go to an open house for a merchant who wants to say thank you to us as loyal customers and bring a gift! At Easter, she loves Reeses Eggs. So, I always buy her an ample supply. I have found small gifts that make her life easier is a great idea, either for the car, yard, kitchen or house in general (these are NOT Mother’s Day or Birthday gifts!). Every now and then at Christmas, I love to surprise her with some diamonds. I can never go wrong with diamonds!

I wish you some amazing experiences as you consider gifts that make the heart of your partner soar!

The Gift of Serving

The Gift of Serving

These are gifts that often do not cost anything but can mean everything! For those with the Love Language of acts of service, serving them is one of the best ways to say, “I love you”.

Serving others means the most when you know what is meaningful for the person you are serving. Random acts of service are great as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Think of something your partner REALLY wants done. Then, do it!
  2. Wash and clean his or her car.
  3. Do a daily or weekly task that your partner normally does. Just remember if the task has some very specific steps, you may want to think about another one. When I tried this years ago, I washed a special sweater of my wife’s and put in the dryer on high. I did not get any points for that one!
  4. It’s Christmas. We put up Christmas lights. My wife loves them. I hate putting them up. I put them up anyway. She appreciates it.
  5. Think of something you can do together to make the work lighter. You get a task done and spend time together.
  6. This one takes more time. Set aside an entire day for the TO DO list. Let your partner know, or surprise them. When my wife is gone for travel, I often try to check off one major task on the TO DO list.
  7. Every day for 12 days give a massage. One can be a full body massage by a masseuse, others can be simply a foot massage.
  8. Cook dinner, if you normally do not cook dinner. 
  9. Get his or her coffee/tea ready in the morning.
  10. Grocery shop, if you normally do not do the shopping.
  11. Give him or her a day off. You do EVERYTHING she or he would normally do.
  12. After Christmas, work together to take down all the decorations. 

Hope these ideas will spur your imagination. Acts of service is the love language of my wife. I learned early in our marriage the importance and impact of doing things for her as well as recognizing her acts of service toward me (just as important!). 

Enjoy serving that important person in your life!

Holiday Family Fights

Holiday Family Fights

For some, getting through the stress of the holidays means trying to avoid the traditional family fight at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I remember my grandfather drinking too much, getting mad at my mom, she ends up crying, and him leaving early huffing and puffing out the door.  So much for a Happy Thanksgiving or a Merry Christmas!

As a mediator, I find avoiding family fights one of the top priorities for many during the holiday season.  Here are a few of the common fights:

  • The In-Law Fight. Marriage does instantly create family. Parents never accepted the partner of the child.  Children never accepted the new partner of a parent.
  • The Alcohol Induced Fight. Give anyone too much liquor and just watch the fireworks.
  • The Religion and Politics Fight. There is a reason why people stay away from these topics, especially after some alcohol.
  • The “You Never Amounted to Nothing” Diatribe. This is more of a rant than a fight. The result is just the same; victims and blood everywhere.  Alcohol always helps this one get started.
  • Last, but least, the “Why Can’t You be Like the Others” Fight. This fight ofter originates with parents focused on the misfit child. The whole family would be better if the misfit would just learn to conform or “get along.”

Now that I have described some of my favorite holiday family fights, what can you do about them? Here are a few strategies. If you are hosting the holiday gathering, you can make some ground rules. How about limiting the amount of alcohol consumption for a start?  Or, certain subjects or people are off limits for conversation.  In order to keep things more positive, how about digging out some old family photos or movies.  Many families have a great time reflecting on past events.  You could even ask each family to bring one of their favorite photos and explain why they selected it.  The point?  If you are the host, you control the environment.  You get a chance to possibly start some new traditions.

Now, if you are not hosting and attending the gathering at another family members home, here are some pointers.  Think about how to excuse yourselves if the family starts down the fight trail.    You can even have an agreed upon word or sentence that signals your spouse or family – time to leave.  If you are ready to confront some difficult family behavior, schedule a pre-holiday conversation to discuss the issue.  “We will not participate in conversations that quickly turn abusive.  If we come, and you raise issues that lead to escalating conflict, we will leave.  We would like to stay and enjoy the day.  How about we think about how to make this a good day for everyone?.”  Think about your words.  Try to describe the situation accurately without using inflammatory descriptors.  Many spouses and children do not feel safe at holiday gatherings.  Thus, they would rather stay home.

If you are ready to invest in a process to create peace for your family, we are here to help you on that journey. We offer a FREE 15-minute phone consultation to help you make the first step on the journey.

I hope this holiday brings you and your family peace, joy, love and hope.

The Magic of Words

The Magic of Words

Words have the power to build or destroy, help or hurt, and heal or wound. This Christmas, or any time of year, give the person you love some words to build, help, and heal. Below are some ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Day 1 – Hand written note describing a trait you most appreciate in your partner, family member or friend. Leave the note in a place he or she will discover.

Day 2 – Text a single word four different times in the day that describes him or her.

Day 3 – Post a fun* photo of the person on social media. She or he should think it is fun as well!

Day 4 – Write a hand written “Thank You” for something he or she did for you or continues to do for you.

Day 5 – Mail a card, either purchased or handmade. Write a personal note. Since the mail will arrive a day or two later, you will need to think of another “word” for this day.

Day 6 – Write a note or text why you respect him or her.

Day 7 – Text four times during the day, “I am proud of you ________”.

Day 8 – Share a photo of both of you on a special moment on social media with a comment.

Day 9 – Share another “Thank You”, either by hand written note or text

Day 10 – Describe how he or she has made you a better person.

Day 11 – Describe why you trust him or her.

Day 12 – Share your dreams for the future with him or her. This one could be a letter!

Can you do me a favor? Let me know how your partner, family member, or friend was impacted by the Magic of Words. Thanks!

How to Pick an Attorney

How to Pick an Attorney

The attorney selected for your case is critical to the outcome. If the other party retained a “bulldog,” aggressive attorney, the chances for mediation are slim. You will need to match the intensity of the aggressive, litigating attorney. This will be a VERY EXPENSIVE and DESTRUCTIVE process. I know very few people who enjoy the “win.” In fact, you can win the battle but lose the war.

As a mediator, I cultivate relationships with cooperative or collaborative attorneys. A cooperative attorney will fully represent you. He or she will also advise you about the cost, not only financially, but relationally about litigation. Cooperative attorneys can become agitated with one another, yet they keep the best interest of their clients in mind. I just settled a case involving two cooperative attorneys. A good mediator can help resolve issues between attorneys as well as the clients. There were moments in the case where I needed to help each attorney reflect on the current pathway and help problem-solve with creative options.

Collaborative attorneys are actually trained in collaborative practice. Thus, you need to ask if he or she has received training. Attorneys, clients, and mediators are all at the same table. A collaborative agreement is signed by all, defining the process and scope of work. Other professionals may be brought in as needed. As a client, you are fully represented, yet both attorneys are literally working for both clients seeking a peaceful and sustainable resolution. The process can still be expensive, yet less costly than litigation.

In mediation, I often need to send people to an attorney for a legal consultation. Mediation is based upon informed consent, thus understanding your legal rights is critical. Sometimes, clients wish to get an initial consultation before commencing mediation. Others will wait until several legal questions arise from the mediation process, then consult with an attorney for very precise counsel.

Therefore, when picking an attorney, you need to know WHY you need an attorney, HOW you will use the attorney, and WHAT you expect from your attorney. Genesis Mediation offers a FREE 15-minute consultation. We would be happy to help you understand how an attorney would interact on your case, and if needed, give you a number of attorneys to interview. And yes, you should interview several attorneys before selecting the one to represent you. We will be honest with you about if your case should be mediated or litigated and point you to the appropriate attorneys to match your need.