Getting Along

Susan Schwartz
Workshop focuses on parents
and their adult children

Mostly we try our best. We plod along, doing our best to be fair good loving friends and parents, daughters and sons. And much of the time, our best is good enough.

Still, most relationships could stand to be better A new workshop sponsored by the Junior League of Montreal, is intended to help baby-boomers make their relationships with their parents work better

It's being offered by the Contactivity Centre for Seniors, "but it's the middle generation were after;" said executive director Mary Stark. The goal is to improve the relationship for both sides. Certainly we know of instances where communication is difficult, where either a parent is too dependent, perhaps, or too independent, unwilling to acknowledge that she needs help."

Psychotherapist Frances Kucharsky who will lead the workshop, told of a woman in her late70's she met in a course she gave. The woman, an artist and of a fiercely independent sort who had raised a son alone after a divorce, was angry and terrified; she was losing her sight.

"In the course of the time, she learned to receive, to become dependent, which was the greatest gift. To give up control meant she had to reveal to her son how much she needed him, and he was able to respond in a loving way'

The woman had to stop driving and start using public transit She had new experiences, was gratified by the kindness of strangers. We don't choose suffering, but we can learn tremendously through difficulty" Kucharsky says .

The workshop is intended to help adult children understand what their I parents might be going through, and the most appropriate ways to communicate, Stark explained, to find ways of circumventing old patterns of conflict, help parents deal with their fears of loss and set loving limits.

It will also deal with navigating the health care system and, if there's interest, address such potentially sticky topics as driving competence, concerns about safety in the home and emerging memory problems.

As people age, they cross into unfamiliar terrain.  For some, there is a loss of strength and status, which makes them unhappy. Others cope better. Like any passage, it's a combination of frightening and liberating and healing. "We put away some of the layers and masks and can discover ourselves in the process' Kucharsky said.

Most of us assume certain roles or behaviors when we're young and they tend to stay with us. Maybe we put everyone else first and don't consider our own needs. Some of us consider our needs first and, sometimes, exclusively. And some of us take everything upon ourselves, as in "Don't worry: I'll take care of it"  These roles don't leave us until we challenge them Kucharsky said, and challenging them is not easy

Often, she said, we confuse the idea of autonomy with self-centeredness, believing, wrongly that listening to our own voice means depriving others. "If you are tired of being called on, you can set limits. Say 'I will come three times a week, but not whenever you call.

The task and challenge is to be loving, giving and autonomous at the same time. The autonomous person is making the choice to love. One who is rule-bound is acting out of the need for approval," she said.

It's also important for adult children to learn to deal with their parents' grief and sadness. Kucharsky recalls an older woman whose husband had died. Her children said she needed to get on with her life, but she was immersed in her grief thinking of her husband, dreaming of him. It's what she had to do, she said.

She needed to integrate and honour and dream. We often have a hard time dealing with grief, mourning, and rites of passage. It is tempting to impose our own discomfort on others," she said. "It is important to accept that there are life passages. We need to be more accepting of the process."

SUSAN SCHWARTZ
The Gazette   MONTREAL         
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