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Elderly parents deserve adult children's respect

As a social worker and psychotherapist, I have observed the many betrayals of the commandment to "honor thy parents" and the pain that it has caused to innumerable mothers and fathers.

In this, the 21st century, do children heed this commandment when dealing with their elderly parents? This commandment is the only one that carries a reward with it. Honor thy father and thy mother so that thou shall live long on earth.

The reverse is inherent in the text of this "law." From grief and disparagement, emotional harm can cause depression, illness and ultimately death.

Our Bible scholars knew this long before modern psychology brought these findings to the forefront of knowledge. Ingratitude is not uncommon among mankind. Adult children choose to forget how many times parents have lost sleep tending to their offspring; how often they have given up pleasures and material goods to afford those things for the sake of the young ones; how they have struggled to create happiness for them; how they have interceded in their behalf to make life less painful; and how they would do almost anything to protect their progeny to keep even the slightest danger away.

Yet parents are mostly ignored and denigrated as they lose the ability to give lavishly to their children. Children have been known to be ashamed of their parents and their "old-fashioned ideas."

Elderly parents are excluded from places because "they would spoil the fun." They are, however, brought out as tokens for such celebrations as christenings, weddings and bar-mitzvahs, since it might be considered unseemly to not have them present and might throw a shadow on the celebrant and his kin.

On such occasions, after a perfunctory introduction and greeting and some compliments about their wonderful grandchildren, they are left to sit. If some other senior citizens are present, they are isolated with them regardless of their relationships with these folks.

In their daily lives they are mostly ignored or held responsible for the real or imaginary unhappiness or misfortunes of their adult children. It is not unusual for an adult offspring to dominate an older parent, make unwanted "suggestions" and take over the parent's life with veiled threats of withdrawal of affection to a parent who already feels less than emotionally strong.

There is the control-freak daughter who takes over any and all attempts to allow her parents to host celebrations, or the son who is too busy to stop in to see his parents because he has so much in his own life taking place. There is the "child" who does not think of incorporating his parent to join him in a vacation that the older person might also enjoy but feels too lonely or frail to do by himself.

There are many more situations in which older parents are belittled. Whenever a younger person accompanies an older one to a physician's visit, the older one, the primary patient, is addressed through the younger one when directives or explanations are given.

It must be remembered that there are many occurrences that take place not because of ill will on the part of adult children, but because they have not experienced old age.

Ursula Falk of Kenmore is dismayed to see so many adults failing to honor their elderly parents.

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