Term Paper: Human Life, Family

Pages: 12 (3954 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … human life, family is on of the most prominent and lasting relationships we will have. This is also why the idea of systems theory has been particularly applied to create what is now known as family systems theory. According to this theory, everybody has specific family connections that can be graphically presented. In other words, a diagram might represent the different family members, with arrows suggesting the specific connections, as in parent to child, aunt to nephew, siblings to each other, and so on. Regardless of the specific nature of these relationships, it remains true that human beings need relationships and family connections not only for physical and financial benefit, but also for emotional and mental well-being.

When one applies this idea to aging, the one main truth is change. Family and social relationships change with age. Concomitantly, although this is not something anyone can change, the way in which change and age are managed within the family and social relationship setup can dictate the level of well-being experienced throughout middle and old age.

When considering the life span, there is little surprise in the fact that change is part and parcel of age, especially concerning the parent-child relationship. As young children, for example, our main concern is getting through school without having our parents too disappointed in us. As young adults, we are concerned about getting a job. More complicated even than this is navigating through the mine field of relationships as we settle down and start families. Life complicates even more as we try to live both our lives while trying to help our children cope with theirs.

By this trajectory, one might assume that old age is probably the most complicated time in human life. Such an assessment would not be far wrong, especially when viewed from the care giving (and receiving) perspective, in which aging parents often fulfill multiple care giving roles while also increasingly being in need of getting some sort of care.

As parents become grandparents, further change is experienced as roles change. Greater longevity means that older generations are available for much longer than the case was in the past. One thing that this means is that parents who have become grandparents cold also experience a period of "second parenthood." In other words, many children make use of their support to care for young children. In situations in which children are very young, adult children may leave their offspring with their parents during work hours or when they go out for a night. In other words, grandparents provide care for their young children in lieu of more expensive options like formal childcare or baby sitters. Indeed, about 1 in 5 preschool children receive regular child care from their grandparents (Connidis, 2010). Many of these are cases in which grandmothers provide child care services for working mothers.

The effect of this on the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is extremely important from a variety of perspectives. Those grandparents who have retired, for example, have the opportunity to continue feeling that they are playing an important role in the lives of their children. Further, the care giving role provides a platform for grandparents and grandchildren to build a loving relationship, which could result in a reciprocal care giving relationship later in life. By association, grandparents who have frequent contact with their grandchildren can also cultivate a platform upon which to teach grandchildren the importance of both giving and receiving care within the family circle.

Older parents who remain able bodied may also experience a need to remain part of their adult children's lives (Fountain, 2013). This could cause some frustration for both parties, where children have their own schedules and lives, while parents may feel excluded, neglected, or even unloved. To handle this, Fountain suggests that adult children, and indeed society in general, need to be very sensitive about the needs of their elderly parents in this regard. Firm boundaries can be established with sufficient sensitivity to create a better platform of continued interaction between adult children and their older parents. Once care giving becomes necessary for older parents, the relationship established in this way will then create a sound platform for a sensitive and caring relationship on the parts of both older people and their children.

Interestingly, it is also an increasing phenomenon that older adults whose years have not yet placed them in need of care often act as support providers for their grown children. In such cases, children may return home or remain in their parental home for a variety of reasons. It is more common for adult children to return home after leaving, thereby "refilling the empty nest" (Connidis, 2010), than it is to delay leaving home. Some reasons for this phenomenon include unemployment and divorce as reasons for returning home, and higher education as a reason for leaving. This creates a situation in which older, able-bodied adults act as continuing care givers to their children for longer than the conventional social expectation. Children who have never married are also more likely to return to the parental home than those who have been married and divorced or those who are married.

On the other hand, increased longevity may also mean increased debilitation and an increased need for care. Age-related changes such as general physical decline and chronic disease are unpleasant in more cases than not. These contribute to a loss of personal control, which could affect the mental health of the older person (Hollis-Sawyer, personal communication, 3/20/2013). It could lead to late-life depression in the older person, and could also affect his or her care givers in various ways. In a relationship where the child becomes the care giver, for example, the offspring might experience a sense of helplessness and loss when observing age-related changes in an older parent who has previously been a constant care giver to the child. It is a kind of change that needs to be managed and negotiated carefully in order to ensure the optimal outcome for all parties involved.

Older persons may be in need of counselling regarding an increased sense of need and helplessness, while care givers within the family may also experience frustrations related to their new roles. Heffernan (2007) makes some specific recommendations for those with parents in need of care. The most important of these is not only open communication, but also the need for acceptance. Aging is a part of life, and a natural transition as the years progress. Accepting this by on the part of both aging parents and their children will make the transition somewhat easier.

In a more general sense, Stibich (2007) also suggests that aging is an easier process when it includes a continued sense of being needed. This does not need to be exclusive to family relationships. Indeed, the sense of being needed by both family and friends contributes to physical and emotional well-being, especially in older age. As the aging process progresses, the assumption by most people is that fewer functions and necessities can be continued. However, thee ironic truth is that the recognition of more such functions contributes to an individual's sense of physical and emotional health.

Even in cases where an older person does not have children or a living spouse, as circle of friends can prove vital to continued effective living. In other words, even changing trajectories of relationships, whether these are familial or not, are vital to the human sense of well-being. In fact, all relationships become even more important as we mature, since these continue to connect us with our own sense of humanity. For an older person, this means that his or her humanity continues to be important to others. For people in such relationships, life continues to have meaning on the basis of continued meaning in human relationships.

3.

As mentioned, aging changes our roles and relationships in life. In addition to the birth of children and grandchildren, as well as changes within external relationships, the relationship within a household can change with life changes such as marriage, old age, and age-related conditions. Retirement, for example, can create new roles for the partners in a relationships. The retired person no longer needs to work outside the house as breadwinner. On the other hand, this can also create stress on the relationship should the pension provision not be sufficient to ensure a level of living that is comfortable. This could create the necessity for both partners to take part-time work. This can change the dynamic of the couple, who now face new conditions and challenges that must be overcome together. For many, overcoming such challenges strengthens the bond.

Others, however, find that it creates extra tension that the marriage cannot necessarily survive. One of the partners, for example, might experience resentment that comes with the idea of having to rely on the other for survival. In other words, where a man has worked his entire life to care for his family, older age may bring… [END OF PREVIEW]

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