The Corona crisis is causing many children to worry about their parents and grandparents. Even in families where the older generations are actually still fit and where until a few weeks ago you would not have thought that you would be concerned about their wellbeing, there are many questions. Among other things: what needs to be done and how do we as a family deal with this situation? We talked to a social psychologist about it.
Professor Kals, suddenly a lot of people worry about their older parents, even if they are actually healthy, how do you deal with this fear?
Fearing for the well-being and health of your own parents is first of all a positive sign – provided that it is not about pathological fears, but about those fears and concerns that many of us share and experience due to the current crisis situation. These fears have a signal effect and, if we recognize their actual origin, can even strengthen care and attachment to our own parents.
How do I know the origin of these fears if I am currently living in an exceptional situation?
To do this, we need to understand which judgments and assessments are behind the respective fears. These fears are to be thought of in the plural and can differ greatly between people – even within their own family or between siblings. Is it, for example, the fear that the parents are currently not well cared for or are lonely, that they are seriously ill and that we cannot help sufficiently in this case? It is important to recognize your own fears, to understand them and to reflect on them. This distinguishes emotional intelligence that helps in such emotional situations.
Children who live in a different city than their parents are particularly concerned with how they could help in an emergency, what they have to prepare, what they have to discuss with their parents? What can concrete action look like there?
This shows the importance of understanding the origin of fears and worries. Based on this understanding, I can take concrete measures. For example, if I am worried that my parents could become lonely, I should build more contact with them. Especially when there is a large spatial distance, all of the currently permitted media for exchange such as telephone, letters and the new social media are available. In fact, in times of crisis, there is an opportunity to grow and mature the relationship between adult children and their parents.
Should adult children talk openly about their fears to their parents and can they even be “forbidden” something, for example to go shopping?
I would be careful there, for me the topic of empathy comes into play. It is important to listen sincerely to the other person and to be willing to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in order to ultimately understand their worries and fears. This prohibits prohibition and creates space for honest communication, mutual understanding and personal rapprochement.