We started this conversation a few days ago with, "Why are people having children later in life?" Today, we are answering another question from 1470 WMBD's Greg Batton,"What kind of psychological impact does having kids later in life have on those kids? Is there something older parents need to keep in mind?"
I posed several questions on this topic to psychologist Dr. Debbie Glasser from newsforparents.org.
Here's what she had to say:
How will having an older parent impact kids psychologically? What are the advantages/disadvantages of having a big gap between you and your parents?
Dr. Debbie Glasser: In general, the psychological impact of a parents' age is much less significant than the psychological impact of the quality of the parent-child relationship and overall family experiences. In other words, having older parents don't necessarily suggest that a child will have emotional issues. In fact, there are many advantages to having older parents. Often, they are more financially stable, mature and patient than their younger counterparts. However, there are real challenges for both older parents and their children. Older parents may not have the physical stamina to keep up with physically active kids. Also, kids may feel self-conscious about having older (i.e., "different") parents at their school meetings, soccer matches, and other get-togethers. They may also worry more about death and illness more often than their peers because of their parents' advanced age.
How does growing up without grandparents impact a child? Is there something older parents should keep in mind before it's too late?
Dr. Debbie Glasser: Grandparents can play such a significant and wonderful role in a child's life, it's hard to imagine life without them. However, when parents delay childbearing, this is a reality for some families. Certainly, whenever possible, the relationship between children and grandparents should be nurtured. If a child is born without grandparents, however, there are ways parents can introduce "surrogate" grandparents to bring many of the positive inter-generational experiences that can come from a grandma or grandpa. Aunts and uncles, family friends, siblings and other trusted adults can serve as grandparent figures in a child's life, bringing cherished experiences like: telling stories about parents when they were younger, cooking favorite recipes, and even traveling together. It's important for older parents to share stories about grandparents so their children can learn about their past and their family's history and heritage.
Will having older parents cause financial stress on young kids?
Dr. Debbie Glasser: Older parents are often more financially stable than younger ones because they've had more years of earning power and may have been in a position to accumulate savings. However, when adults are elderly, their earning power typically diminishes (after retirement) and they may have increased medical expenses. In this case, young adult children may be faced with caring for elderly parents before they're financially secure themselves. Parents at any age are encouraged to plan ahead for retirement and their advanced years, whenever possible.
Do you have any tips for older parents to prevent their kids from having negative thoughts about their parents being older?
Dr. Debbie Glasser: It's important for parents of all ages to recognize that parenting isn't about how old you are, it's about how well you connect with your child and support his or her development. It's about being attuned to your child's needs; providing love, support, stability, security and guidance; and maintaining an active and involved role in your child's life. There's not a magic age when these behaviors start - or end. It's a personal decision that will vary from family to family.
How should parents minimize negative thoughts?
Dr. Debbie Glasser: Strive to keep the lines of communication open so your kids can express questions and concerns. Keep a positive perspective about the many advantages you bring to the parenting relationship. Create a supportive network of family members and friends to share experiences that may be challenging for you (like frequent physical activity). And maintain a commitment to building a happy, loving, and meaningful relationship with your child. This, after all, is the most important thing any parent can do - at any age.
P.S. I am working on a post about how to find out how many eggs you have left. This question was brought up in the "Older Parents" post as well.