Although it goes by at the same pace it always has, as we age, time feels more fleeting. That’s why, when it comes to your aging parents, it’s important to take the necessary time to really understand them, not as your parents, but as the person they are and the person they have become.
Although many adult children know their parents very well – their dislikes and likes, their friends and their political views – most of us don’t know much about our parents before us. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing our parents only as a parent. Yet, anyone who is a parent knows that parenting doesn’t define a person, though it is an important role. Odds are there’s a lot about yourself that your own children don’t know, so it stands to reason that there is a lot about your parents that you don’t know.
Benefits of Getting to Know Your Parents Better
But why should you take the opportunity to get to know your aging parent on a deeper level? Well, time is one factor – you may not have the chance to do so again. Time’s not the only motivator, though. Knowing your parent well will help you share their story with your children and grandchildren, which is a wonderful way to honor your parent when they are gone.
Feel-good reasons are strong incentives to take the time to get to know your parents, but there are practical motivations too. If your parent develops Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or a form of mental illness, then knowing them on a deeper level will be helpful to you as their caregiver. Even if you’re not caring for your aging parent yourself, passing information about them on to their caregivers can make a world of difference in the quality of their day-to-day living.
According to the article “10 Stimulating Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients,” “keeping aging loved ones active in hobbies and interests that gave them pleasure in the past is important after a disease diagnosis.”
In the case of disease, it’s important to have some context about your parents when trying to keep them active. For example, if your parent doesn’t like crafts then you won’t be very successful trying to stimulate them with crocheting. On the other hand, just because you’ve never seen your parent knit doesn’t mean that they don’t know how – it could be an activity they did in their youth. That’s why it’s important to try to learn more about your parents while you have the opportunity to.
Tips to Better Understand Your Aging Parents
The following list suggests some tips for questions that you could ask your parents to learn more about them, their interests and past.
Remember to try to keep questions open-ended so that you can start some really interesting conversations:
- Are there any family secrets or stories that you’ve never shared (but want to)?
- Did you ever have a job that you didn’t keep for long?
- Did you ever have a pen pal?
- Did you ever learn anything surprising about your parents?
- Did you travel a lot before you had a family? What are the places in the world you really loved visiting? Where do you wish you could go? What would you like to see?
- Do you have any regrets in life?
- How did you spend your free time as a child?
- Is there anything you accomplished that really surprised you?
- Was there ever a time in your life when you and/or your family really struggled?
- What are some of your happiest memories?
- What are you most proud of?
- What are your earliest memories?
- What clothing or other fads did you love (or think were silly)?
- What subjects did you enjoy in school? Did you like school as a child?
- What things do you wish you had known about your parents?
- What was the best date you ever went on like?
- What was your first job?
- What world events had the most impact on you and our family?
- Who was your mentor or role model?
- Who were your childhood friends. Do you/did you keep in touch with any of them?
The more you know and understand about your parents, the easier it will be to care for them as they age, the closer you’ll feel, and the more equipped you’ll be to share their story when they’re no longer here to share it themselves.
What tips do you have to better understand your aging parents? We’d love to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.