Parenthesis: Caring for seniors? Keep a positive atmosphere for kids at homehttps://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/blog/parenthesis-caring-for-elderly-positive-atmosphere-home-kids-5502763/

Parenthesis: Caring for seniors? Keep a positive atmosphere for kids at home

Children are very susceptible to changes in environment, body language and tone of voice. If you try to sweep things under the carpet, it will only confuse them further. They have their own fears that will get amplified if they are not addressed. While you don’t need to get into unnecessary and complicated details, you do need to give them the gist of the situation.

caring old age children
Talk to your children about the complications. (Source: Getty Images)

A few years ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my in-laws moved in with us and our three children who were all under the age of four  years. After multiple visits to doctors, we slowly learnt the ins and outs of the disease and began to comprehend the changes it would bring to our lives.

Dealing with a loved one who is unwell is never easy and can affect even the strongest of family units in a myriad of ways. As primary caregivers living in the same household, it can take a toll on relationships and the environment within the house. It’s hard to see your parents unwell and the vulnerability of being unable to help them combined with the stress of work and daily issues can sometimes be too much to handle. As children are very sensitive to environment, they will pick up the slightest bit of tension in the house and will be affected by it. And while most of us would like to live in a bubble and hope that nothing like this ever happens to us, unfortunately, illness and death are a part of life.

So, if you are caring for or likely to care for ailing parents, here’s what you can do as a parent to help ensure that you maintain a healthy atmosphere at home.

  • Talk to your children. Let them know what’s going on. Children are very susceptible to changes in environment, body language and tone of voice. If you try to sweep things under the carpet, it will only confuse them further. They have their own fears that will get amplified if they are not addressed. While you don’t need to get into unnecessary and complicated details, you do need to give them the gist of the situation. Even a child as young as two or three years old, will understand that ‘Dadi’ is not well and needs rest. Take the time to explain how Dadi is feeling based on the age of your child. The older your child, the more details you can give. “Dadi’s back hurts when she bends down.” “Dadi’s hands shake when she carries things.”

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  • Ask them if they have any questions and answer them as truthfully as you can. Will Dadi get better? We hope so. The doctors are working very hard to ensure that Dadi gets better. But the medicines will take time to work. Is it painful? The doctors have given her medicines that help reduce the pain.

  • Ask for help. Whenever possible, take all the help you can get. If it’s financially feasible for the family, hire help. If not, take support from friends and family. Don’t try and be superhuman and do it all yourself. It will take a toll on you and your children.

  • Carve out time for yourself. Exercise, get some fresh air, meet friends. Get some ‘me time’. Do whatever you need to recharge your batteries. Get rid of any guilt that you may have while doing so. You can’t pour tea from an empty teapot. So prioritise your needs.

  • Spend time with your spouse. Support each other, communicate and ensure that you stay connected. The additional responsibility can strain even a healthy marriage and children are sensitive to the changes in the relationship between their parents. If you find yourselves on edge and snapping at each other all the time, talk about it. Discuss your individual needs and ensure that they are being met.

    Also Read: Parenthesis: Does your child want to order in regularly? Here’s how to deal with it

  • Be aware of your emotions. Your children are not your emotional crutch. While communicating with your children, make sure you are not sharing your anxieties and worries with them. Find someone to talk to, if not a friend or a family member, then reach out to a professional. Caring for an unwell loved one can be emotionally draining and needs to be addressed.

  • Take the time to ‘be normal’ and enjoy a normal life with your children as a nuclear unit. Go for a movie or a picnic. Get out of the house and get involved in daily, fun activities. It’s important for the children to feel that their parents aren’t weighed down by their responsibilities and can make the time to have a little fun.

  • Encourage your children to spend time with their grandparent. Evaluate their medical needs and find ways that allow them to do so. My father-in-law couldn’t read them stories but would love to listen to music. And that quickly became an activity that they shared with their grandfather. Almost every evening, we would have a music session at home, with the kids dancing and their grandfather watching, listening and tapping his foot to music.

  • Be positive. As much as possible, stay in the moment. Identify daily moments of joy and be grateful for the time that you have left with your loved ones. You can’t change the circumstances but you can change how you react to the situation. Seize every moment of laughter and love and hold on to it. We get so caught up in logistics, the unfairness of the situation and the stress of it all, that we fail to stop and appreciate the little moments. And there will be many. Celebrate the good moments and make lasting memories while dealing with the realities of the situation.

  • Don’t ever forget that you are a role model. How you handle the situation, whether you step up to the plate or fall apart, accept with grace or turn bitter, be positive or constantly complain, these are all life lessons for your children. Down the road, it will influence how they view and deal with adversity.

Unfortunately, we lost my father-in-law a year ago but in hindsight, we gained so much. The experience taught them to be kind, caring and considerate. My children learnt to love, laugh and deal with the realities of life in the most positive way. So, while troubles may come your way, always remember that your job as parents is not just to shield and protect but also to demonstrate how to make the best of a bad situation.