What happens when parenting never ends?
For tens of millions of Baby Boomers, now passing through their 50s and into their 60s, this can be an especially rude awakening. America’s biggest generation is defined by individualism—assuming a birthright that includes moving away from home as quickly as possible. For decades, the American dream has been “making it on my own,” which meant spreading households as far as possible.
Right now, however, a huge number of American families are heading in the opposite direction. They’re reassembling themselves into multi-generational households. It’s not such a strange idea, after all. Families have lived this way in most global cultures for thousands of years.
In America, though, millions of men and women are doing this because they have no choice.
As a pastoral counselor, I’m particularly concerned about the men and women, right now, who are discovering their role as parents will never end. In fact, I’m writing a new resource book, sharing thoughtful advice for parents facing this daunting challenge.
What do I mean by “caring for”?
Mainly, I’m talking about parents of sons and daughters with a wide range of special needs. Some of these parents know from the moment of their children’s birth that their roles as hands-on parents will never end—and, in many cases, the children will never leave home.
This may be because of physical, emotional, mental or intellectual challenges—but, what all of these families share is the sometimes overwhelming truth that Mom and Dad will always have to care for the next generation.
There are lots of reasons this is happening. We were told at the National Memorial Day Concert in May, 2009, that 10,000 parents are now caring for a wounded child who has returned from one of our current war zones.
Other reasons? Sons and daughters may lose jobs and come home to stabilize financially. Sons and daughters may wind up addicted to drugs or alcohol and come home to Mom and Dad—fresh out of rehab (just happened to a pastor who’s a good friend of mine).
Each year, more than 1 million new Traumatic Brain Injuries occur—often involving adults who need extended care by their families.
Or, consider the huge number of older adults—grandparents—who now are Moms and Pops of a never-ending family. According to U.S. Census Data, 2.5 million children are in the care of grandparents. And, not all grandparents are as spry and active as the older folks we see on television: 30 percent of these grandparents who still are serving as caregivers—have their own disabilities.
Boomerang children may return home—and multigenerational families may form—for shorter periods, too, but they all have a deep imprint on the household.
I’d like to hear from you. You may be living in a household like this. Or, you probably know friends or relatives living in such a home. I want you to assist me with this new book—to make it as honest and helpful as possible.
All this week at Dr. Wayne Baker’s OurValues.org Web site, I’m serving as “guest writer” during Dr. Baker’s summer break. I’ll be publishing a series of 5 short, helpful articles about the values underlying this emerging issue. Please, read along and add your comments. I’ll be reading everything you have to say.
Also, you’re free to share these 5 OurValues.org articles with friends. Use them in your small group as discussion starters. If your group has interesting things to say about this—I’d like to hear about it.
This movement among American families is vast. The emerging needs are complex.
Beyond financial, medical and public-policy issues, there are crucial psychological and spiritual challenges looming around these men and women for whom parenting will never end.
I want to help. That’s why I’m talking with a broad array of experts—and I’m talking with a whole lot of men and women who are finding themselves caught in this situation.
How can we shoulder this challenge?
How can we prepare ourselves?
How can we find potential spiritual gifts in the process?
What values should guide us?
Come on! Check out OurValues.org this week!
Dr. Pratt also is the author of the book popularly known as “The James Bond Bible Study.” Visit his “James Bond” Web site as well.
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