SURVIVAL GUIDE - Children With Aging Relatives

Written by Betty Robertson

Have you ever been on a camping trip or a family hike? Anyone who goes on such adventures knows of the need to "be prepared" for an emergency. This means thinking through, "What will I do if..."

It also involves being prepared with useful items of equipment. A wilderness survival pack might include a first aid kit, compass, up-to-date map, pencil, a good knife, small flashlight, food and water.

The idea of survival includes more than being lost in the woods. Survival can mean handling a difficult situation such as grandparents who are showing signs of aging, a loved one who is ill or a relative who is sick and near death.

If you have an aging relative, you will need to have a special survival pack that includes a pencil, notebook, Bible, binoculars and thinking cap.

What are you feeling about your situation?

Dig out the pencil from your pack. Circle each emotion you are experiencing: anger, confusion, embarrassment, helplessness, loneliness, rejection, resentment, sadness, scaredness, worry.

Look in your survival bag for your thinking cap. Put it on. Try to figure out WHY you feel the way you do.

Are you angry because this has happened to your relative?

Are you confused because you do not understand what is happening?

Are you embarrassed about your loved one's behavior or because your friends don't understand what is happening and poke fun?

Do you feel helpless because you cannot fix the situation?

Are you lonely because the relative who used to spend so much time with you is now sick?

Are you feeling rejected because your loved one is having to spend so much time with someone else?

Does the resentment come from all the changes taking place?

Are you sad from the loss of a relationship that was important to you, or because things are not the way they used to be?

Do you feel scared about whether your loved one is going to die?

Are you worried about what will happen to your relative?

If you are experiencing any of these emotions, signal for help. Talk to a caring adult, such as your mom, dad, pastor, Sunday school teacher, family doctor or some other adult friend. These people can give you valuable information and answer questions you may have.

Communicate honestly about what you think. Discuss your difficult feelings. It is okay to share what you feel.

Get your notebook and pencil from your survival pack. Write out your feelings. This is called journalizing and is a private outlet for expressing yourself.

A journal can be told things that cannot be said to anyone. Write whatever you are thinking - your frustrations, fears and wishes. Jot down your thoughts every day.

Remember, your situation is not unusual. There are many children who have grandparents who need help with activities of daily living; relatives who can't always remember things; and loved ones who are very sick and may die soon.

Unpack the Bible you placed in your survival kit. Reading God's Word will help get you through this difficult time.

God cares about your feelings. He understands your problems. Talk to Him every day.

Perhaps you would like to write a letter to God. Get a piece of paper and pencil and find a quiet place to think and write.

Grab the binoculars from your survival pack. Look around.

What tasks can you do to help a parent or grandparent? Try to cheerfully handle these new responsibilities.

Make a list of things you can do to help.

Try to understand what is wrong with your loved one. Put your thinking cap on. Imagine what it would be like to be in his or her condition. How would you feel? How would you want people to respond to you?