Retirement is when you reap what you have been sowing all these years. Only this is about family and not about money.
Far too often I have interviewed individuals approaching retirement and their biggest concern is that they have spent so much time and energy on their career and planning for their financial future that they have neglected to nurture one of their most valuable assets. Family.
How Healthy is Your Family?
If you are married, do you have a good relationship with your spouse? If you are a parent, are you close to your children emotionally? How about their spouses or partners? Do you find time to be a routine part of the lives of your grandchildren? Look laterally. What about your own brothers, sisters, and cousins?
Do you stay connected with them? What about family members who live far away? What effort do you make to stay in touch with them? As you take this assessment, it is likely that you will discover that there are a few members of your family who you are very close to, and there will be others to whom you have not spoken in years.
Do not worry.
It really is never too late to pick up the threads of that family relationship and improve just about all of your relationships.
Ways to Improve Family Function
Start first with your own children. Make a point of spending time with each of them individually. Most young people today are smart enough to see that a lot of money or compensating “toys” really do not take the place of you in their lives. The truth of all research is that absentee parenting is no effective. By being a parent who fails to adequately nurture your children, you will have a similar payback later in life.
They will then fail to nurture you. By their early teens, your children will have pretty well established their relationship with you, and unless you take the time and energy required to fix it, this will be your relationship from now on. The truth is, without effort, your family relationship problems will only continue.
Habits are difficult to break and strained relationships take on the nature of habitual behaviour. By attempting various tactics, you will help to change such behaviour and improve family relationships all around. Sadly, when people lose their spouse, is when they find their circle of friends has suddenly diminished rapidly. That is why it is vital that each member of a couple make friends that are only theirs.
Making and maintaining separate friendships is a vital skill for your happiness later in life. It is possible that this can create problems if you have never discussed it with your spouse, but if you start now, then it will be natural to continue with such relationships. In talking with elderly people who have lost a spouse, they give two bits of advice.
- When one partner of a couple dies, the remaining partner will rely almost solely on single friends for love and support, rather than on friends who are still couples.
- One good way to keep a marriage alive is to keep it new and exciting. By having friends that are not couples, you will learn to maintain a relationship on your own. Many couple friendships are the result of the effort of only one spouse, not both.
Friends from our youth, our childhood, know us in ways only our family will, and sometimes even better than our family. Such friends are truly golden, and keeping those friendships alive and active require some effort. It is even possible that you have had such friendships, and have allowed them to lapse.
This is not always your fault. Life gets very busy, and with the demands of work and raising a family, there is little time to nurture such old friendships. The beauty of such friendships is that they really take very little to rekindle. You will very likely be surprised to see just how easy it is to reconnect with an old friend.
Send a note, pick up the phone, or even send an email. Make a list of a number of your old friends and make it a priority to get back in touch. Find out where they are in their lives. They are likely looking to rekindle friendships for the very reasons you are.
The truth about making friends is that we are truly adept at making friends early in our lives, but much past the age of 40, we have many good reasons to avoid that particular skill. We are busy with work, with our children, and even with our spouse. As stated in the previous section, reconnecting with old friends is a terrific idea, but it is one that is limited by its very nature. Once you have contacted all your old friends, you are at a dead-end. It is time for you to remember the true art of making new friends. This is a skill that needs to be nurtured or possibly even re-learned, if it has been a while since you have made a new friend.
They can have fur, feathers, or scales, but our pets are a source of companionship and love. Most people who live with animals after retirement are often healthier, less stressed, and happier than those who do not. The daily feeding requirement is often enough to keep an elderly person from focusing only on their own problems. Having a dog, especially, will keep an elderly person much more active as a dog typically requires a daily walk. My mother fell and badly broke her dominant arm.
She had help the first couple of weeks walking her dog, but once all that help left, she found that the dog still needed a daily walk, and it was up to her to provide it. Once she started walking again, she regained a lot of her confidence that she thought was gone while she had become dependent on her help. Her recovery time was literally cut in half because she had an animal that depended on her.