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.
- 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.
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”.