Adult Child and Elderly Parent

From Writers Helping Writers:

Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite—derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth—or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.

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The relationship between a child and their elderly parent can be riddled with challenges. Oftentimes, the child must care for the aging parent as their health needs rise and their ability to maintain independence declines. But the roles are sometimes reversed, with an elderly parent still needing to fill the parental role for their adult child. If existing conflict is a major factor in the relationship, dynamics such as neglect, resentment, and strife may preclude each party from meeting one another’s needs.

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Description:
The relationship between a child and their elderly parent can be riddled with challenges. Oftentimes, the child must care for the aging parent as their health needs rise and their ability to maintain independence declines. But the roles are sometimes reversed, with an elderly parent still needing to fill the parental role for their adult child. If existing conflict is a major factor in the relationship, dynamics such as neglect, resentment, and strife may preclude each party from meeting one another’s needs.Relationship Dynamics

Below are a wide range of dynamics that may accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict. 

An elderly parent and adult child who speak everyday (via phone, Skype, FaceTime, etc.) and offer mutual support

The younger party caring for their aging parent in the child’s home

An elderly parent who actively supports the child and their family (babysitting, driving them to the airport when they’re going out of town, helping out financially, etc.)

An amiable relationship that is distant or superficial

One party only reaching out to the other when they need help

One party being ignored or neglected by the other

Personality differences or past wounds making intimacy between the parties difficult

One party verbally or physically abusing the other

A codependent dynamic

One party tolerating the other for short periods of time until they can’t take being with them anymore

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

1 thought on “Adult Child and Elderly Parent”

  1. Interesting. And as an elderly parent of adult children (and grandchildren), I tend always to take the elderly parent’s “side” because that character actually knows what the other characters can only assume they know.

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