4 ways you're breaking your aging parents' hearts, and you may not realize it

Nobody wants to hurt their aging parents, but you may be doing exactly that. Check this list to see if you are breaking your parent's hearts.

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  • Growing old isn't all that bad, especially when your children and grandchildren care about you. But if they don't, then it becomes a painful process. Elderly folks can deal with a broken bone much easier than they can deal with a broken heart.

  • If you are fortunate enough to still have your parents around, here are 4 things you may unknowingly be doing that breaks their hearts:

  • 1. You don't keep your promises

  • When you say you will come and visit, and you don't show up; that's painful.

  • It says loud and clear that your parents are way down the list of your priorities. They get that things can come up to change plans, but when it's suddenly a hair appointment, shopping, lunch with a friend, or a pretend-something-important just because you're not in the mood to visit with them, that hurts. They can tell when you're purposely avoiding them.

  • Do you have any idea how important your visit is to your parents? They plan for it. They can't wait to see you again. Sometimes they change appointments just to be with you, so when you change at the last minute, they feel sad that they rearranged things to be there for you when it really didn't matter to you.

  • Sometimes you don't show up at all. That's the worst. To just sit and wait, hoping the door will open any minute with you shouting, "Hi, mom!" — like we said: that's painful.

  • 2. You don't tell them what's going on in your life

  • From the day you were born, they cared about what you were doing. That's why they were at your recital, game, gave you a birthday party, or any number of other things that made your life happy. Even if they didn't do that as much as you wish they had, they still cared and were there for the important events of your life.

  • What you are doing now matters to them just as much as it did then. They love you and want to know what you're up to. When something good happens, let them know. That could be as simple as letting them know about a new recipe you tried and really liked. Or as important as a job promotion or, even better, that your child is expecting and will present them with a great grandchild.

  • Or it may be news that's hard to share, like a diagnosis of a serious illness. Don't spare them the news by thinking they can't handle it. They can. In fact, they want to know. They can, and then add their prayers to yours.

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  • They can also be a sounding board when you feel down about it, or any other problem. They are good listeners, because they care. They can also offer their help, if they are able. Even if they can't help, let them know what's going on.

  • 3. You don't care about what's going on in their lives

  • When your mom starts to tell you about her ailing back do you think, "Oh, no. Here we go again."

  • Just like you, she needs a listening ear from someone who really cares. You're not expected to solve the problem. Just listen and let her have this outlet to say how she's feeling. Sometimes that's more healing than anything else.

  • That applies as well with the activities your parents are involved in. When was the last time you said, "Hey, dad, tell me what you've been doing." Or "How'd that project go that you were working on?" Then listen to him.

  • Parents want to share their lives with you. They want you to care about the things they care about- at least a little bit. Be excited with them when something good happens to them. Be sad with them when they are feeling down. Listening is a great gift you can give them.

  • 4. You don't offer to help them

  • There are a few things you can do to help out your aging parents. It's hard for elderly folks to admit that they can't do what they used to do. But they must.

  • When you visit, look around the house and the yard and see if there is something you can do. Maybe mom is wishing she could repaint the bathroom, but simply can't do it herself. You can help that happen. Open your eyes to their needs and do what you can reasonably do.

  • A few days ago we looked out the window and saw our elderly neighbor's daughter and her husband shoveling the snow from his walk and driveway. We noticed them coming by often and doing little things to help him out. Our neighbor is nearly 90 years old and needs this help. They also help him with their mother, who has Alzheimer's. Sometimes they sit with her, so he can get away for a few hours. They care, and it means the world to him.

  • An inspired religious leader, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, said, "As you lose yourself in the service of others, you discover your own life and your own happiness." When this service is for your own loved ones, your happiness is multiplied even more, and so is theirs.

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  • Evaluate your actions

  • Take a look at the above ways parents' hearts can be broken, and then decide what you can do to be more loving and concerned about your own parents. It will reap blessings far beyond today. When they are no longer on this earth, you can feel a peaceful joy, knowing you loved and cared for them the best you could. That's a gift they, and you, can take to heaven.

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Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.

Website: http://garyjoylundberg.com

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