Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Family ties in adulthood

As we get older, our relationships with our families change. When we’re small, we’re surgically attached to our parents. During our teenage years, we strike out alone, but then when adulthood comes around we start to rebuild our relationships with our parents as not only parents but people when we start to see into the world beyond ourselves and have lives and families of our own. Family relationships aren’t always easy to navigate and negotiate.

Your Parents
As you get older it can be hard to accept that your parents are getting older too. As children we’re selfish, absorbed in our own little worlds, and in this particular relationship that can linger when we grow up. If we're lucky enough to have a good relationship with our family, we assume our parents will always be there to provide love, guidance, and support, so the first moments when you start to notice some frailty and signs of old age creeping in can be a huge shock to the system.

It’s important to make the most of your parents while they’re relatively hale and hearty. Spending time with them is something that you should make room for and not just in the role of grandparents to your children if you have kids. Your own relationship with them is important and must be maintained. Going for lunch with your mom or taking your father to a game or concert.

Your Grandparents
If you’re lucky enough to have your grandparents in your life as an adult, you probably already know how lucky you are to still have them around. As you get older, your grandparents do as well, and you might notice that taking care of them is starting to stress your parents out. Looking after elderly relatives is on the rise, and it can create a huge sense of worry for people of baby boomer age.

Take the weight off your parents’ shoulders whenever you can. Take dinner over to your grandparents, do a little light cleaning or errand running, check in on them. Take photos of your friends and family to show your grandparents, introduce your pets to them, read them excerpts from the newspaper, talk to them about current events, teach them some technology. Maybe suggest that they spend some time at their local senior center - they can form new friendships, play cards, and have an array of new activities available to them.

Your In-Laws
One of the big relationship building exercises of your adult life is commingling your ways with another family's - your in-law's. Being thrown into a brand new family can be fun and loving but can also be difficult and stressful - figuring out how this family operates, your place in it, how to negotiate another family’s Christmas traditions. As always, you have to give and take a little. Sometimes in-laws can be an issue - we clash with people in our own families, of course we will clash with people in our partner's family -  but they can also be the source of a huge amount of joy. Being accepted into a whole new family can be a beautiful thing - your sister in law might become your new best friend, your mother in law might be the greatest grandma in the world to your kids. But it’s important to communicate and to make sure that your partner is on your side if there's not a metaphorical seat at the table for you in their family.

Your Siblings
Of all your family, your siblings are the ones who have been there your whole life and will be there for the rest of your life. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get on well with them - the saying goes that you can’t pick your family, and sometimes you might look across at your brother or sister and wonder how on earth you grew up in the same house. You didn’t choose the relationship but you can choose how you react to it. If your personalities clash, remember that it's okay to keep some space between you.

Your Extended Family
With busy lives and schedules it can be hard to keep in touch with your extended family in adulthood. Simple gestures are a great way of letting people know that you care about them. As always, if there are members of your extended family who you don’t get along with and who you dislike, you don’t have to stay in contact with them. Politeness is great if you have to spend time together, but remember that you don’t have to maintain relationships with people who are toxic just because you’re related to each other. That's why our adult family is, to me, our true family - made up of both people we're related to and people we choose to be related to. Framily.

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