Our Aging Families

Our Aging Families

Encouraging New Conversations between Parents and Adult Children

By Ron Taffel

September/October 2022

Over the last 30 years, interactions between adult children and their aging parents have been changing in ways that have brought about a fundamental shift in what they want from therapy, and need from each other. As adult children craft their own lives—experiencing new vulnerability as they grapple with the hard demands of work, love, and having or not having kids—their parents are experiencing a parallel process of vulnerability and change. They’re growing older, and must wrestle with the challenges that aging brings, including a shifting sense of identity and sometimes physical and cognitive decline.

This phenomenon might seem timeworn, but these days, adult children are having kids significantly later than generations past. This, of course, means that their parents are older by the time this parallel process occurs. So when elder parents and adult children, alone or together, come to us for therapy, they often feel a sense of urgency that their time for healing family rifts is running out.

In March 2020, that anxiety went into overdrive. I’ve spent decades as a director of a large psychotherapy institute in New York City and a private practitioner working with parents and children, and I’ve never seen such a sudden shift in family dynamics as when the pandemic hit. When lockdowns and the specter of illness exposed already existing fault lines and threw our relationships and communities into disarray, it made us think harder about our connections and…

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Topic: Aging

Tags: Aging | Older people

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