Carlton’s residents love sharing the wisdom they have gained through years of experience and do so regularly through Elder Wisdom Circle, an online community which connects advice-seekers with insightful and thoughtful seniors who offer their advice on a range of topics. We recently polled our Facebook audience about which resident activity we should spotlight and the winner was “Resident Advice” having received 58% of the votes.
We hope you’ll enjoy our Ask The Elders series and the first letter comes to us from an adult child who is fed up with the constant attention she has been receiving from her controlling parents:
How do I convince my parents to back off a bit? They have always been pretty overbearing but have been treating me like a child lately because I have recently become disabled at the age of 36. I want to be as independent as possible but they are always telling me what I should and should not be doing.
My parents get angry if I don’t call them daily and, if they had their way, I’d check-in with them multiple times a day. When I do call, they insist on keeping me on the phone for about an hour each time although we run out of things to talk about fairly quickly. I’ve lived in the same town as them for nearly a decade and know that they are accessible and available should I need help.
I just don’t have the time of the energy to keep this up anymore and would appreciate any advice you can offer in terms of managing the difficult relationship with my overprotective parents. — Disgruntled Daughter
Thank you for letting us into your life and for the opportunity to advise you on the challenges you’ve been facing with your parents. We’ve learned from our years of experience that parent/child relationships often become more complex as situations change and dependency shifts. Even as some of our children are quickly approaching retirement, it has been hard to give up control and to allow them to live their own lives. This is because we deeply care our children and want what we feel is best for them as is likely the case with your parents.
Of course, there is definitely a fine line between “caring” and “controlling” and we recommend having an in-person conversation with both of your parents in which you recognize that they care for you and ask that they respect your request to regain control of your own life. It is also important to remind your parents that you love them and that having more personal space will allow you the opportunity to learn and grow and will likely result in a more balanced parent/child relationship in the long run. We suggest that you explain to your parents that you are trying to handle things for yourself so that you are better prepared to manage your life in the years to come in case things change and they are no longer available to assist you.
We wonder if perhaps your parents’ laser focus on your life is because they have nothing else going on in their lives at the moment. If that is the case, you may want to kindly suggest that they check-in with other relatives, take up a hobby or volunteer within the community to shift the focus from you.
Another way to help shift their focus would be to schedule weekly or biweekly phone calls with them so they do not feel completely detached from you while relieving the burden of them constantly contacting you. You can set expectations in advance by letting your parents know that you will only be available during the scheduled time frame and that you will not take their calls, for the time being, outside of the scheduled time. If they have things they’d like to discuss with your outside of the schedule time you can suggest that they make a note so they remember to bring it up during your scheduled call.
Overall, we feel your parents want what they feel what is best for you and just need to be reminded that the best way to show their love for you at this moment in your life is to back off and give you the space you so desperately need. Let them know that they should not panic and that you appreciate their concern but that you really need some time for yourself. Tell your parents if they can’t respect the boundaries you are setting you will need to take a longer “time out” and that cutting off communication with them is not in anyone’s best interest. Another option would be to seek the advice of a family therapist and you can get free referrals through the mental health services department in your county.
We wish you all the best in building a healthier relationship with your parents and appreciate your trusting us with your concern. Thank you for helping us to reflect upon our own relationships with our adult children and for the reminder to be cautious and caring in how we treat them. — Carlton Elder Advice Panel
Contact Carlton with your question or conundrum and your submission may be selected to go before our panel of thoughtful seniors who will offer the kind of guidance and wisdom that can only be gained from years of experience.