Advice-giving, Aging Parents & Adult Children

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My parents and me.

Advice-giving can trip up the elder parent – adult child relationship and even cause painful divisions between parent and child.

My mother will ask me a question and the answer is fairly straightforward, but then I’ll keep on answering, advising, really. At other times, I offer unsolicited advice about one thing or another. Usually my mother listens, but it’s not uncommon for her to give me the aggravated look that she used when I was five years old and not following her directions. It’s miraculous that my parents, while momentarily irritated with me, are quick to forgive and, yes, even offer me their own advice. We trust one another, and that’s key.

I know that I should be better about offering too much advice, but it’s hard.

A thoughtful article, The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice, posted at Krista Tippett’s On Being website, has encouraged me to think about the advice I so effortlessly offer my mom. In his essay, On Being columnist Parker J. Palmer writes that people who need support find it considerably more helpful when we concentrate on listening and asking questions and give advice only when a person insists that we give it. I need to get better at asking questions.

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Elder Perspectives on Life and Love for Younger Generations

book-cover-305x450Those of us lucky enough to have aging parents who live long and remain nominally healthy are often struck by the wisdom we hear as they ruminate about relationships and love in the past. To really understand what they are getting at we must toss away any notions that our parents are merely clinging to the “good old days” and instead gaze through a prism that acknowledges their wise and long-term perspective.

Karl Pillemer, Ph.D. writes, “What elders have that young people don’t is something special: the view from the end. For them it’s no longer a mystery as to how everything will turn out — it’s already happened.”

Dr. Pillemer is the author of 30 Lessons for Loving. I wrote a short Valentine’s Day post, Elder’s Share Wisdom About Love, sharing a Next Avenue review of the book, and was intrigued. I bought the book and posted it here on this blog as my current read. Now I’ve read the book and have more to say.

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