Helping Our Parents On Their Road to Self Acceptance

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This is one responsibility we really don’t want to think about, yet we know will eventually come to fruition. Most of our lives have been intertwined with out parents after leaving the nest . Our parents tend to symbolize the bond and love in our families, as well as the connection to the past. We find it hard to remember details such as our parents’ age without doing the math in our head or on paper. It’s generally easier to do so by referencing their age  in connection to a birth or significant event of one of our children or their grandchildren. We also notice  physical and mental changes in our parents over time; not as mentally sharp, grayer hair and smaller physical structures.

My parents are in their mid 80’s and the aforementioned changes seem to be more and more pronounced each time I venture home for a visit. I have to admit that it really bothered me at first but have since put it into perspective by knowing that they are happy, have no regrets and able to live at home with part of the family around them. Quality of life is the key at this stage. It’s about going through the final stage of generativity or self-actualization as stated by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Abraham Maslow, in the 1950’s was one of the founding developers of several humanistic approaches to the study of human behavior, including the hierarchy of needs. It is portrayed as a pyramid of needs, starting with the basic or survival up through self-actualization, which is the highest level humans can reach.  This is the level we strive for throughout our lives, with no guarantees that we will reach it. The levels in the hierarchy of needs is a static entity, as we go in and out of each level throughout out lives. One can be at a higher level such as love and understanding, then secondary to whatever crises humans might go through, fall back to lower levels, when those needs are no longer met. Once stabilized, one can again achieve the higher levels.

The level of generativity or self-actualization, is the top-level of Maslow’s pyramid of human needs that we hope our parents will reach. This is the level of acceptance of their lives and what they have and haven’t done. There is a self peace attached to this level. Again, there aren’t any guarantees. We all need to have a conversation with our parents as to their wishes in their final time on this earth. This is not an easy thing to do as it really opens us up to our own mortality, yet is so very  important for our parents in helping them reach their inner peace, when they can finally relinquish this control.

We need to self realize that this is a normal part of the aging process and one that we ourselves will have to face someday. Including our own children in this process or parts of, will teach them about the normal process of aging and human fragility, if so inclined. It’s important that we treat this phase for our parents with dignity, which they so deserve.

 

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