11/7/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A frustrated millennial seeks advice on how to bridge the growing gap between them and their elderly parents. Advice columnist Amy Dickinson shares insight on maintaining a relationship with aging parents in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

I’m a grown millennial. My parents are aging. Unfortunately, I don’t have much in common with them.

I live nearby and they want me to visit them every week.

They’re disorganized and I like to be organized. They don’t plan for the future, and live day by day. They are always in debt, while I am frugal. The list goes on and on. 

We have different hobbies and religions, too.

It’s tough. They are over 70 and I’m dreading the caregiving years.

I can’t be the only person in this situation. How should grown children deal with parents with whom they have little in common?


Dear Anonymous:

If you are a parent, I hope my insight will help you to reframe your reaction; if you’re not – my thoughts might help to inform the way you see this issue.

The reason I raise this is because the experience of raising children can lend a useful perspective to the bookend experience of providing care to elders.

father and son sitting together, discussing how to maintain a relationship with aging parent

Those helpless infant and baby years, the trying toddler era, holding hands at the crosswalks, anxious nights, trips to the ER, soccer games, birthdays, holidays … these are all times when most parents give their all – even if their all is limited.

And if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to interact full time with someone with whom you have nothing in common – I suggest that you spend four or five years raising a teenager.

Given the level at which your parents function, they may have done a less-than stellar job meeting the standards most parents work so hard to reach, but – not to put too fine a point on it – you are alive. High functioning. They obviously care about you (and I assume that you care about them).

Here’s how adults in functioning families should deal with their aging parents: with compassion and patience.

Here’s how adults do deal with aging parents: with some frustration. Prepare yourself for some anxious nights, trips to the ER, holding hands at the crosswalks, etc.

It is vital that you take good care of yourself, too. 

Related: Family Conflicts over Elderly Parents

This includes establishing boundaries, understanding that you will not be able to control or change them, and practicing the all-important level of compassionate detachment where you are able to enjoy some of your time with them, despite your differences in temperament and lifestyle.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from maintaining a relationship with aging parents to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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Amy Dickinson