Dear Abby: “My Kids Never Call or Visit Me” – Your Adult Children Do Not Owe You Friendship and Won’t Visit You When You Are Elderly: Readjust Your Expectations, Parents
If you’re a childfree person, you know you’ve heard pro-parenthood people, usually parents themselves, ask a million times, “But who is going to take care of you when you get older?”
From what I’ve heard of people who work in nursing homes, the adult children of elderly people in nursing homes seldom to never go to visit them.
When I used to periodically visit my grandmother in a nursing home, as myself and other family would be sitting in the lobby waiting for a nurse to wheel my grandmother out to visit, other seniors would wheel up to myself or one of my aunts and start to cry.
These seniors would cry (I mean literally cry, with tears running down their faces), and they’d say, “I don’t like it here, I want to go home.”
The vibe is that these elderly people hated being in the nursing home (which is understandable; I felt so bad for these people), but they were apparently not getting many visits (if any at all) from their family members.
When one of my Aunts got into her 80s (by that time, her spouse had been dead for around ten or more years), she was living alone, her memory was going – she eventually had to move in with one of her adult sons.
But prior to that, for years and years, that Aunt was on her own. She’d phone my Dad (her brother in law) any time she needed help.
My Dad ended up doing things like driving that particular Aunt of mine to the hospital at 2:00 in the morning when she fell and broke a rib. She called him and asked him for help with that.
My Dad went to her home on another occasion to fix a leaking toilet. My Dad also mowed her lawn for her a few times.
My Aunt’s own own adult son, who lived much closer to her than my father did, was not stepping up to the plate. He only came into the picture when there was no other choice.
His Mom (my Aunt) eventually got fairly bad dementia, or whatever problem (her recall became terrible) – she also became more and more physically frail, and it became glaringly obvious she could no longer live alone.
Only then did the adult son step up and let her live in his house, something he should’ve done years prior.
Before that, my Dad, who was up there in age himself, was driving to her house, which was like a 40 minute commute each way, to run errands for her, drive her to doctor’s appointments, etc, whenever she’d phone for help.
In reading up on books and web pages on abuse and codependency, I kept seeing one boundary violation by parents who have this bogus expectation that their adult children owe them friendship – to keep them occupied when they’re lonely.
This is doubly true if the parent in question is widowed (the other spouse died), or if they’re in a lonely, loveless marriage.
These types of parents (usually the mother) actually expects that their adult children (usually a daughter) to wait on them hand and foot, eat lunch with them daily, to phone them daily to chit chat – to be their buddy, their confidant and their pal to keep loneliness at bay.
And that is not a fair or reasonable expectation for a parent to have. Psychologists write about this in their books, it’s not merely me informing you of this.
I also read an entire book about emotional incest by a psychologist, and, according to this book, a lot of parents actually begin looking to a young child of theirs to meet their emotional needs and their need for companionship and/or identity or purpose when their kid is a baby, toddler, pre-teen, or teen!
This sort of thing does not always start in the kid’s adulthood, in other words. For some kids, it begins when they’re a baby or small child.
If the parent leans on the child in that manner, according to the psychologist who treats the now-adult patients who were leaned on by a parent when they were a kid, it will create all sorts of problems for the child when he or she grows up.
If you’re a parent, you need to realize that it’s not your child’s responsibility or duty to provide you with companionship, regardless of your child’s age.
If you are lonely or bored, you need to get out of the house and make friends with people YOUR OWN AGE.
You should never, ever rely on a child of yours (whatever their age) to meet your need for friendship, nor should you share personal details with them, like divorce stress, or whatever.
Your child is not your mini-therapist at any age. Talk to an adult friend about your adult problems. Making friends as an adult is not easy, but you will be messing up your kid if you start sharing “adult” details and problems with them, especially if they are young.
Anyway, having children is NOT a guarantee that the children will regularly stay in touch with you as you age.
(Link): Dear Abby: My Kids Never Call or Visit Me
by Dear Abby
January 29, 2023
I am an active widower with five grown children. Although three of them live in the same city and two live in a city nearby, I haven’t heard from or seen them as often over the past few years as I would like.
I realized recently that I miss their company and I’d like them to call or see me more often.
I understand they have their own lives, but I don’t think I’m asking too much.
I’d like them to understand that a “pill” won’t cure me of loneliness, as they suggest when I tell them I am slowing down. Their answer is to tell me to see a doctor.
I can’t talk to them about increasing our visits and communication because I was raised with the idea that you automatically respect your elders and parents shouldn’t have to ask their children to visit them or call to ask how they are doing more than every few months.
I thought perhaps reading this in your column might remind them not to wait until it is too late.
Have you any suggestions on how to encourage my children to involve me more in their lives?
— LONELY IN COLORADO
You don’t have a communication problem. Your “children” have gotten the message. Rid yourself of the idea that your children should call you out of obligation.
If you want more contact, pick up the phone and call them.
Also, you should be socializing with contemporaries.
Your problem may be too much time on your hands.
If you are able-bodied, fill some of that time by volunteering in your community. It’s a terrific way to meet people who may be more than willing to include you in their activities.
— end —
Abby nailed it. I think the letter writer sounds entitled, and woefully misinformed about parenthood. It is not your adult children’s duty to keep you company because you’re bored or lonely.
If you’re an adult your loneliness, boredom, and happiness are YOUR responsibilities to deal with, not your children’s, nor someone else’s.
I used to have a friend, who is around 8 or 9 years older than me, who, every time her husband was sent off for months at a time overseas (for career related purposes), would start e-mailing me more often than usual, or posting to a forum we both visited, to wail, sob, and bitch and moan to me (and anyone else who would listen) about how lonely she was.
(She was in her mid to late 40s at that time.)
This friend never put any effort into making friends, though. Her daily routine was to sit on the sofa in her den playing around on Facebook when she wasn’t complaining to me about being lonely and lacking friends.
I spent the first year of that just empathizing with that friend, telling her I was sorry she felt lonely, but when she was STILL complaining about being lonely over a year later, I began asking her what she was doing to remedy the situation, what steps had she taken to make friends?
I asked her if she tried signing up for community college courses, joining a local church, or volunteering at an animal shelter? Anything?
And she had not tried a thing.
She later made it known that she didn’t want my advice or suggestions, she just wanted pity from me and from others.
If you are really miserable from having some kind of a problem, getting pity and empathy from other people will only get you so far.
Receiving empathy when you have a problem is a temporary “band-aid” on a gun shot wound, and it won’t ultimately solve anything: you need to solve these problems for yourself. Nobody else is going to do this for you.
And you shouldn’t belabor your friends and family by complaining about the same problem repeatedly for weeks, months to years, because you will wear those friends down.
You have to take responsibility for your life, happiness, and choices at some point and not keep trying to plop them down on others,
hoping for someone else to fix them for you,
or looking for that drug-like fix of someone’s pity,
when you rattle on and on about your problems in life and that trusted friend you always e-mail, text, or phone responds by giving you that non-judgmental emotional support you crave the way crack addicts crave another hit of crack cocaine.
Relevant information from a book that I shared in an older post:
Via Darlene Lancer, MFT, book: Codependency for Dummies:
… You discover that your actions create your happiness. (p 205)
Try new behavior.
…Instead of obsessing, take a positive action toward solving the problem, which may be as simple as getting more information.
… Do something physical. Take a walk, put on music, sing, dance, make a meal, play a sport or with a pet, or do anything that changes your mental state. Passive activities, like movies or television, may not engage you enough to shift you for very long. (p 207)
Cheering someone up occasionally or giving him or her more attention is not codependent.
A benefit of a good marriage [or friendship] is that spouses [or friends] nurture one another when one is troubled, but it’s support, not codependent caretaking, and it’s reciprocal.
In contrast, when you consistently try to change others’ moods or solve their problems, you’re becoming their caretaker based upon the erroneous belief that you can control what’s causing their pain.
You’re assuming responsibilities that are theirs, not yours. (p. 193)
Even if you stay at home, instead of feeling angry and sorry for yourself, use the time to enjoy a hobby, catch up on reading, or make a special meal. Take charge of your life rather than feel like a victim. (p. 209)
(Link): Help! I Think I Made a Terrible Mistake When Helping My Elderly Neighbor (The Codependency, People Pleasing Trap)
(Link): Is It Just Me, Or Is Making Friends in Middle Age Hard for Everyone? (Letter to Ask Amy)
(Link): To Forgive Or Not To Forgive Your Abuser – The Unintended Fallout: Possible Emotional Abuse or Exploitation Of Your Codependent Friend or Family Member
(Link): Woman Allegedly Drowns 93-Year-Old Grandmother in Kitchen Sink, Bathtub to Dodge Nursing Home Bills
(Link): Why Do We Feel So Lonely (via USA Today)
(Link): Lonely People’s Brains Work Differently
(Link): Why Lonely People Stay Lonely
(Link): Man Accused of Dismembering, ‘Boiling’ Parents Who Cut Him Off Financially
(Link): Pennsylvania Woman Accused of Murdering Her Elderly Parents and Dismembering Them with an Electric Chainsaw – The Nuclear Family Doesn’t Fix Society or Make People More Ethical
(Link): Why Women Are Tired: The Price of Unpaid Emotional Labor by C. Hutchison
(Link): Emma the Ex Friend, Part 2 (I Won’t Play the Codependent or Rescuer Anymore – Some Life Lessons Learned)
(Link): When You’re Married and Lonely by J. Slattery
(Link): Settling Vs Being Lonely (letter to advice columnist)
(Link): How To Deal With Chronic Complainers, by Guy Winch, Ph.D.
(Link): Woman Says Why She’s Rejecting These ‘Lonely, Single Men’ – also: Male Entitlement In and Out of the Church, Men Who Won’t Take Personal Responsibility for Their Singleness
(Link): Elder / Senior Abuse and Neglect – Christians need to stop worshipping youth – there are other needy groups out there
(Link): Number of ‘Lonely, Single’ Men is on the Rise as Women with Higher Dating Standards Look for Partners Who are ‘Emotionally Available, Good Communicators, and Share Similar Values’, Says Psychologist