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Positive Connections With Aging Parents For The Holidays: Mistakes To Avoid


Although this is supposed to be a “wonderful time of the year”, it’s not always so. It can turn sour for some families when they are together. Old habits trigger disputes. Simmering conflicts explode. Aging parents can get cranky and difficult. Not everyone is aware of how their own actions create disconnection rather than a sense of togetherness. We all have these blind spots in our self awareness. And there are a few essentials that give you a much better chance of experiencing a good sense of connection with family at the gatherings many have during this season. If your older relatives are a problem, consider raising your own awareness of what does and does not work at events where you will be with them and others.

Mistakes Sure To Create Disconnection

  1. Bringing up the past. No matter how much you were offended by something the other person said or did some time ago, there is no benefit to raising it again on the holidays. Just go with the moment. All of you are together, and you can show up as peaceful or as one who wants to create a fight. You have that choice.
  2. Being critical and complaining. Whatever it is that may be bothering you, it’s hard to see any group benefit in complaining to anyone else about it. The most egocentric ones love to talk about themselves. Let them. No need to try to change them—that’s how they are.
  3. Talking politics. In a country with a lot of division on political issues, bringing up the latest fractures in our population’s thinking on any charged issue is sure to lead to arguments. You’re not going to convince anyone you’re right, so let it be and stick to non-controversial things.

Ways To Create A Stronger Sense Of Connection In Your Family

  1. Just keeping things light and sharing anything good can go a long way to creating connection. Ask questions of others. Be respectful and curious. Don’t pressure anyone about anything.
  2. Silence is golden. No matter what anyone says, remember that you don’t have to respond. Stay out of brewing arguments starting between any others there. Piling on someone who is not behaving in a reasonable way helps no one. It is sure to make things worse even if the other one is wrong and you’re right. Try changing the subject.
  3. Give compliments to someone who did anything you appreciate. Thanking anyone who contributed work, food, cleaning up or anything for the gathering is a simple, positive way to make the one complimented feel connected to you.
  4. If your aging parent is hard to be around because of poor hearing, memory problems, or behavior issues, don’t point them out. Just let it be. Let Mom repeat the story she just told a minute ago. So what? Accommodate the hearing loss. Just offer patience. That works very well.
  5. If any member of your family is alone, has lost a loved one recently, or is struggling in some way, offer a kind word. Invite them to tell you what’s going on. Listen. Don’t try to fix anything or give unsolicited advice. Simply pay attention and let the other know you are concerned. “That must be hard for you” is a perfectly appropriate response.

Perhaps if we all could show up with things that work and eliminate the common mistakes, every holiday gathering will go a lot better. I came from a large family that did had its share of unpleasant holiday hassling. Oh that in a younger day I knew what I know now! Experience has its advantages and life lessons can be used anytime, most especially when we show leadership in family get-togethers.

That leader can be you.

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