I know what it’s like to be my parent’s parent — or rather my grandparent’s parent… specifically my Granny. She was there for me from the time I was born — loving, giving, teaching, and moulding me into the woman, wife and mother I am today.
So when she began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s Disease 8 years ago, I didn’t hesitate to take her in and care for her as lovingly as she had cared for me and my family.
The term coined for being your parent’s parent is ‘boomerang parenting’. A boomerang always goes back to the place from where it started.
Our parents, like a boomerang, come back to us after being ‘separated’ from us when we left home to raise our own families. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be a ‘boomerang parent’ in this day and age.
Reasons for becoming a ‘boomerang parent’
1. Financial issues
The state of the world economy has affected our lives in a number of ways — one of which is bringing multiple generations under one roof.
If this is your situation, your parent or parents will likely be dealing with feelings of embarrassment, injured pride and possibly even anger. These feelings will have to be addressed and handled respectfully.
You need to make sure your parents know that while they may not be able to pitch in financially, there are multiple ways they can contribute to your household.
For one thing, their ability to help with child care, household duties and simply enriching the lives of your children by building stronger relationships with them should be highlighted as a precious bonus for your family.
If your parents become chronically or terminally ill, it may become unsafe for them to remain living on their own. It may also be easier for you to have them in your home rather than you commuting back and forth to look after them.
If this is your situation, you may meet with some resistance. It is often difficult for your parents to give up their independence.
Be respectful and considerate of their feelings in this regard, and make every effort to make the transition as easy as possible.
One way to do so could be letting them bring as many of their personal possessions with them as possible — family keepsakes, a favourite chair, a television in their room — anything that will make them feel at home.
It is also important that your parent or parents have their own space. Don’t shove them into a room with your child.
Everyone in your family — including your parents — needs and deserves their own personal space.
If your parent is injured or confined to a wheelchair, it may be more challenging to care for them. | Image source: iStock
Parents who are aged have a tendency to fall and injure themselves. They may not require hospitalization, but they may not be able to care for themselves during the healing process.
If this is the case, bringing your parents to your home while they are recovering may be just a temporary arrangement.
While there will still be some necessary adjustments, these situations are usually not too problematic since everyone knows that they are only short-term.
If, however, the injuries have a permanent effect on your parents’ ability to care for themselves, you may need to make more permanent adjustments.
Why should you become a boomerang parent?
Becoming a boomerang parent is one big step. Make sure your reasons for doing so are clear. | Image source: iStock
Personally, the fact that this question is even being asked is sad to me. Your parents lovingly cared for you, sacrificing their own needs and desires at times to give you what you wanted and needed.
It wasn’t until the last 60-80 years that family members have become more geographically and relationally distanced from one another.
Prior to that time, the younger generation cared for the older generation without question. That’s just the way it was.
‘Giving back’ the love our parents gave us by doing the same things they used to do for us — caring for us and meeting our needs — seems only right.
Of course, there are some instances when being a boomerang parent won’t work, but we’ll discuss that later.
How to be a boomerang parent
Being a boomerang parent takes planning, preparation, and sacrifice. Most of all, it takes a lot of heart.
You have to want to care for your parents in order to be able to adequately do so. It won’t work any other way.
Oh, sure, you may go through the motions, but it won’t be a good situation.
Planning to be a boomerang parent includes looking at your schedule and answering questions like the ones below:
- Does someone need to be with your parent(s) at all times?
- Will you need to rearrange your house, possibly clearing out a room to make it theirs?
- Will you need to add safety features to your bathroom?
- What about an entrance ramp into your home?
- How will the additional people in your household impact your finances?
- Do you need to re-do your budget?
- What will your parent’s income bring to the additional expenses?
- If your parents are still capable of getting around by themselves, will they be bringing a car? Is there adequate parking?
Preparation is putting the plans you’ve made into action, plus…
- Having an open dialogue with your children about the changes taking place — the reasons behind them, the benefits, the sacrifices that need to be made, and how they will be impacted.
- Assuring your parents that they are welcome and that you are happy to have them in your home should be a priority. They are likely feeling apprehensive, so doing everything you can to ease their anxiety is important.
- Getting ready to make sacrifices. There are sacrifices to be made on everyone’s part. Oftentimes you and your children will be focused on the changes and sacrifices opening your home to your parents will bring to you.
Some of these sacrifices include privacy, having strangers in your home (if caregivers are needed), amending your home, free time and additional responsibilities.
If all these seem too much for you, think about the sacrifices your parents will be making, too — they’ll be giving up their independence, privacy, home and most of their belongings and their friends (if they’re relocating).
Remember, bringing the generations together under one roof requires everyone to be prepared to ‘give and take,’ as they say.
Reasons for not becoming a boomerang parent
Sometimes, becoming a boomerang parent is not the best idea for everyone involved. | Image source: iStock
There are times when it would be unwise to bring your parents into your home, as it might cause more harm than good — either to you, your children, or possibly even your parents.
Some of these reasons include:
- Your parents need more care than you can reasonably give them. No matter how willing you are to care for your parents, if they need health care and equipment that is beyond your ability to provide, it is better for you to seek the best possible care facility for them.
- Your parents have addictions or mental/emotional issues that can adversely affect your children and your family’s life. Tough love is sometimes necessary for parents, just as it is sometimes necessary for children. Remember, you have your children’s wellbeing to consider, too.
- You don’t have the financial means to do so. If adding the cost of caring for your parents will put a severe strain on your budget (and we’re not talking about giving up a few luxuries here), you may need to look for another solution.
- You and your parents are estranged from one another. While literally coming together may help bring you together, it might actually not… and things might get even worse. Thus, you need to make this decision as a family.
The benefits of being a ‘boomerang parent’
I could write a book on the benefits of having my own Granny in our home and in our lives. She has given us more than we could ever have imagined.
Having multiple generations under one roof provides a sense of belonging — it allows the youngest generation to learn about respecting and loving your elders, to form relationships with their grandparents, and to benefit from their wisdom.
In turn, the oldest generation will have the liveliness that comes with the younger people in their presence. They also don’t have to worry about being lonely and can be at peace, knowing that they are being cared for.
As for you, the ‘boomerang parent,’ you will have the peace and privilege of ‘giving back’ to your parent(s). Take it from someone who knows — it’s something you won’t regret!
Are you a ‘boomerang parent’? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment below!