Do Children of Older Parents Suffer?

Do Children of Older Parents Suffer?

The Hardships and Rewards of Children Born to Older Parents

Increasingly more children are being born to parents in their forties.  In my previous article, I addressed the advantages and disadvantages of having children in your 40s.  (In case you missed it, you can click here to read it).This article will focus on the experiences of children who have older parents.  For many of these children, the emotional texture of their childhoods and their experiences in early adulthood are quite different from those of their peers whose parents are younger.

Advantages of Children with Older Parents

  • Feeling More Wanted

Children with older parents often take center-stage in their parents’ lives.  They receive a lot of attention from their parents and feel very loved and wanted.  Older parents are more likely to be settled professionally and are able to spend more time with their children.

  • Financial Advantages

Older parents are more likely to be financially secure and able to provide an economically stable life for their children (at least for those with a middle class background or higher).  Their children are exposed to a variety of educational opportunities and are able to travel; attend better, possibly private schools; and be involved extracurricular activities.

  • Emotional Privileges

Older parents seem to be more stable, relaxed, and less stressed-out by work or parenting issues.  They are less worried about their finances or their career, allowing them to be more present and relaxed with their children.  These children often grow-up in stable two-parent families.  The divorce rate among older parents is lower and these parents have more time to spend with their children.

Disadvantages:

  • Feeling Different From Peers

Children of older parents are aware that their parents are different- older than any other parents.  That often leaves them feeling self-conscious and embarrassed.  Some of these children are ashamed to bring their friends home to meet their parents, fearing they might be mistaken for grandparents.  They are also aware when their parents’ energy declines because they won’t participate in sports the way younger parents might.  The experience that a greater ”generation gap” separates them from their parents is common.  These children may also be aware that their parents are a bit more “old-fashioned” in their music and fashion taste.

  • Fear of Parents Dying

Children of older parents often fear that they will lose their parents much earlier than their peers will.  When they become aware of their parents’ age, they may want to spend as much time with their parents, and squeeze in as many experiences, as possible.  This can turn into a significant worry where a child may not want to leave home out of fear that his/her parents will die.

  • Responsible for Parents at Early Age:

As young adults, children of older parents are frequently faced with emotional, medical and financial responsibilities for their parents at much earlier ages than their peers.  They may be barely out of college when their parents are already on the verge of retirement or have declining health.  Instead of having their 20s and 30s to concentrate on jobs and marriages, they often have to assume a myriad of responsibilities for their parents, relatively early in life.

  • Not Enough Autonomy

Older parents often have small families and a lot of time to be with their children.  Greater parental attention may result in a tendency to overprotect and micromanage children.  Children may feel they do not have enough  autonomy.  While intellectually stimulating, older parents can  have  unrealistically high expectations of academic achievement.  Children may feel a great pressure to succeed and be high achievers.

  • What can you do to help your children as an older parent?

There is obviously nothing you can do about your age, but you can change your attitude and some of your behaviors.

If your child is concerned about your mortality, reassure him/her that you are doing everything in your power to take good care of yourself so that you can be around for a long time.  Spending time with other families with older parents will help all of you feel more accepted and normal.

You may also want to inform your child of the pros and cons of having an older parent.  An experienced therapist can help you figure out how to address concerns your child may have, as well as any concerns you have about being “old.”  Therapy can help you improve your confidence as a “parent” and not focus so much on the fact that you are an older parent.

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Dr.Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping mothers and those hoping to be mothers overcome stress, loss, and depression.  Her offices are located in Houston and the Woodlands, Texas.  Visit her website, www.DrIrena.com to get her free report, “Moms and Mom Wannabes: 10 Ways To Overcome Depression and Reclaim Your Sanity”.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • John wilson July 6, 2016, 7:02 am

    My mum was 46 and my father 47 when i was born. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. They divorced when i was eight and were both died in my early 20s. I missed out on having grandparents and never felt comfortable with my peers of the same age. It makes you feel like a social freak. Because they die earlier and often suffer health problems as mine did, you end up being a carer when you should be exploring the world and developing. In my view it is utter cruelty to have children in old age. Please don’t do it. They will never forgive you and it will screw them up for life.

  • Stolls September 22, 2016, 3:33 pm

    I had older parents, and they were great. My friends with older parents had the coolest parents. Yes, my parents died earlier, but they taught me to be a oroductive member of society and set up a group of relatives and friends I an phone or visit any time. They may be gone, but their love is still inside me. If you’re a good parent it doesn’t matter what age you are.

  • Joan Wilson September 27, 2016, 12:11 pm

    I wish my parent(s) had been older when I was born. I might have been spared the emotional, psychological and emotional abuse suffered in the care of a narcissistic mother who had me at 20. She was busy trying to have a man, she allowed them to do what they wanted with me. Not to mention the rampant drug abuse I was subjected to. I saw none of this disregard for children when she had two more in her late 30’s and early 40’s. I would have given my right arm to be the center of universe to my parent. Instead, I was treated like a burden! I am still damaged by the experience.

    I am now an older parent and I can’t imagine willfully harming my child or putting him in harms way. I do what I can to stay healthy, but no one knows for sure when they will die. There are parents who die in their 20’s and their are parents who live well into their 80’s and beyond. Parenting is about the love you give, not how old you are.

  • John May 28, 2017, 8:56 pm

    Literally none of what was mentioned in the Pros column is true. Had parents in their 40s when I was born, never came to one sports day or soccer game, constantly screamed, made us feel guilty about money concerns, father was an alcoholic and one would pit us against the other parent. Old people are useless and out of touch

  • Aisya Yezid September 15, 2017, 12:34 am

    My mom gave birth to me when she was 45 and my dad was 47. That 15 years ago. Now, they’re in their early sixty’s. I’m sometimes afraid. My mom keeps showing declining health as she’s the only one working for the family. My older siblings are WAY older than me, the eldest being 21 years older than me. I feel disconnected. I’m the only one left living with my parents, so I’m always with them. My mom… she sometimes comments when I mention university. She would say “Hm… I think I can make it when you get married,” that makes me wanna cry. Because it constantly reminds me of my mother’s mortality. By the time I finish university, my mom would be 70. I want my parents to be with until I grow old but that’s nearly impossible. My siblings are lucky that our parents are around for them until THEY have grandchildren. Heck, my niece is only 4 years younger than me, so I don’t think that wouldn’t be unachievable. Sigh… I just want to be with my parents for a long time. Especially Ma.

  • Kenya October 17, 2017, 8:08 pm

    I had a great childhood with both parents, teens years, and when I was 20 and 21. I lost my mom in 2013 from lung cancer and man-static brain cancer. I was 22. I had my last birthday with her. It was in a hospital she died 2 months later on the 7th of May. Have a older parent is a good thing. I do have older siblings and a sibling close to my age. I feel sad. I will never have a mom to help me guide me throughout my 20s. Now I am 26 I am coming around working on my accomplishment.

  • Mathew C Mcnabb November 13, 2017, 8:52 pm

    I’m 18 and my parents are both seventy. I was adopted, but my mother and father are extremely overprotective. I have no freedom to be with friends, decide whether or not I want to go to college at that moment, or work full-time. I love them dearly, but it’s extremely suffocating.

    • Irena November 17, 2017, 1:19 pm

      I hear you Mathew. You are right, as an 18 year old you need some autonomy. You may want to seek individual therapy to get some ideas how to talk tto your parents so that tthey can hear you.

      Best wishes.
      Dr.Irena

  • Katherine November 16, 2017, 7:31 pm

    I always think about how I’m going to be alone in this world in the future because my parents are going to die early…My dad was 53 and my mom was 41 when I was born. I’m 14 now and I’m so so so so scared for my future my dad is near his 70’ and my mom is near her 60’… Please help I don’t know what to do!!! My dad has a son(my stepbrother) and he’s in his 30’ and already has 2 kids. He has a family. He lives in Canada and I live in Europe. So I can’t even visit him. And my dad payed his schooling when he was younger. I don’t know what will happen to me! Will my dad have money for me to go to college?! Will I have a home, money, a job, I don’t know and I’m really scared of my future…

    help!

    • Irena November 17, 2017, 1:15 pm

      Katherine,
      I can understand your concerns. How courageous of you to voice your worries at your age. It may be best for you and your parents to seek family therapy where you can get help freely talking about your concerns. It is important for your parents to know how you feel.
      All the best
      Dr.Irena

  • Mike November 18, 2017, 10:54 pm

    My dad was 51 and my mom was in her early 40’s. I’m 17 right now. I was born into financial comfort. My parents were together but unhappy. My parents were divorced when I was about 8. My dad died when I was 16.

    I’m telling you the details however it’s all about the interpretation of your situation. I could say how tragic this all was and that’s why my life will suck. Or I can tell you how I actually feel which is my dad showed me the world. My dad showed what the world is about. I’ll be successful because of him. He is why I love life so much. I’ll pass the same lessons to my children. I’m happy to be born to older parents.

    • Irena December 18, 2017, 3:33 pm

      Mike, thank you for your comment. It is wonderful to hear that you had such a great father who helped have your love of life.

  • Mae November 22, 2017, 8:20 pm

    My twin sister and I were adopted by our aunt and uncle when we were five months old, but they are in their sixties now and we are only in our early twenties. But they shortly got a divorce not long after. Our birth mom (my uncles sister) is a horrible drunk and bipolar and many other embarrassing things and she is fifty-five now, but I do fear about my aunt and uncle passing away early.

    • Irena December 18, 2017, 3:32 pm

      I understand you fear of your aunt and uncle, your main support, dying

  • Cassie January 1, 2018, 7:54 am

    Both of my parents are in their late 50’s and I’m only 14. It often makes me upset when people mistake them for my grandparents, and it is especially embarrassing when this happens with people in school.
    I am also very worried about their health and that I may lose them earlier than others my age.
    Most of the pros at the top are false, except that they are very loving.
    I don’t really mind them being older as long as I am close to them anyway, but sometimes it is just very stressful.

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