Why is the nearly normal family shocked by their aging parent’s crisis- even after all their friends complain about it? After a life time of seeing their parents as the indomitable during their often indulged, 50’s and 60’s childhoods, baby boomer children, are stunned and dazed when their now aging parents are no longer that John Wayne father figure who can root out every bad guy depending only on his gun and horse.
When Dad or Mom need to ask for support following to loss of health in old age, their adult children are thrown into crisis. This crisis has been labeled a filial crisis by pioneering social worker Margaret Blenkner. She was a breaker of new ground in the social sciences was the first director of the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland and introduced the concept of the filial crisis. This crisis, she theorized, happened when the adult child realized that their parents were not invulnerable. Like the Twin towers crumbing after America ‘s 911, these adult children saw their impregnable parents start to disintegrate and with it the supportive bulwarks of financial, economic and emotional support, even in their children mid-life.
This filial crisis is in essence a new developmental phase in life, the loss of your parent’s independence and their dependence on you. However, Blenkner’s research and ideas are little known outside the field of aging or even within it. Unlike other major developmental chapter like becoming a mother or father, parenting a teenager or marrying, the developmental phase of beginning to take responsibility for your parent is not part of the wider popular culture.
What To Expect When You ‘re Expecting . flies off the shelves and is a joy to readers. A Bittersweet Season, Caring for Our Parents and Ourselves- is not greeted with joy- it is just what it says about parent care- bittersweet.