“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19 ESV)
While we are busy running errands, working hard, and living our lives, our aging parents have little to fill their time and often spend their days alone.
Even though my mother-in-love lives with us, we are often busy jumping from task to task while she sits watching television or playing on her phone. She craves conversation. Whether it be a simple listing of every task she’s completed that day or another rehashing of a favorite time in life, she wants to engage with people.
Remaining mentally engaged can be difficult, especially when you can recite their stories word for word, but it is necessary to show love. Don’t half-listen and nod at the appropriate times. Hear what your parent is saying. Ask questions to dive deeper into the story and find new nuggets of information.
In addition to engaging with their stories, be intentional in the conversations you start with your aging parent. Don’t just talk to them, talk with them. Ask what they think about various situations and allow them to give their opinions and related stories. Ask for their advice, even if you don’t take it. It gives you a chance to learn from their wisdom gained with age, and makes them feel valued.
If you disagree with them, simply stick with, “Thank you for your advice, I’ll take it into consideration.” If they ask about it later, you can always respond with, “I gave it some thought and came up with an alternative solution, but I appreciate your willingness to help.”
This intentional act of setting aside frustration, hearing what is being said, and then getting involved communicates to your aging parent that they still have something to offer, and you value them.
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