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Spending Time with Family…Balancing “How Much” and “How To”

July 23, 2013
“Staff Tips and Strategies” and a drawing of a family in green

Senior Services Department

How much time do you want to spend with your children and grandchildren? And what would you prefer to do when you get together? Are their expectations different from yours?

Balancing your expectations of family time with your children’s can be challenging. Even when all of you have the best of intentions, differences over spending time together can be awkward and sometimes unintentionally hurtful. At JSSA, trained professionals have helped many seniors find support and learn to communicate effectively when conflicting expectations strain family relationships.

How to Spend the Time

A friend of mine recently shared a story with me that illustrates how a relationship can be influenced when family members disagree about how they want to spend their time together. My friend’s mother was in town for a few months and she was excited about arranging to see her and showing off how much her teenage sons, avid basketball players, had grown. However, during basketball season, the family’s time was limited.

My friend suggested her mother join the family at an upcoming game and then join them for dinner afterward. She knew the boys would love to have their grandmother see them in action. To my friend, this sounded like fun.

But it didn’t sound like fun to her mother. Although her mother loved her grandsons, she was not interested in watching a loud basketball game in a hot gym. Indeed, she felt slighted. How could her daughter not understand what she wanted? She wanted one-on-one time with her family, not time that was shared with a crowd.

How Much Time to Spend

Unrecognized and conflicting expectations also caused tensions within a family who helped their mother move in nearby. The mother had needed and wanted to move and was happy that the family agreed. She loved her new home, had made friends, and was connecting well to her new community. For her, seeing the family more often was the most important reason she had moved. More than anything else, the mother wanted to see her children daily and perhaps share a meal with them.

Her children and grandchildren also wanted to spend more time with her. However, for the children, “more time” meant weekly visits and sharing all special occasions. When their conflicting ideas surfaced, all of them felt stressed, wondering whether the move had been wise.

Communication is vital to good relationships, especially within a family. And good communication is the answer to improving relationships when differing expectations become painful. JSSA counselors are skilled in guiding people through these kinds of situations. We listen carefully and offer support by helping to find ways to communicate so that bruised feelings may heal and family relationships can thrive.

If you would like JSSA’s help in dealing with a family situation I would be happy to put you in touch with one of my colleagues in our Senior Services Department. They can arrange to meet with you in your home or in our offices.