My dad is very lonely since my mum went into aged care and seems to have given up. He won’t wash, doesn’t eat well and is constantly on the phone to my sister and I complaining about how we never visit. This isn’t true as we take turns having him over at the weekend and each try to get to see him at least once a week. What can we do to make him see he’s being unfair?
A. It’s always frustrating to know that you're doing your very best to support someone and they never seem satisfied with your efforts. The trouble is, the more you try to defend your behaviour, the more he will complain. That’s because defensiveness actually weakens our position. Instead of trying to explain how much you are doing for your dad, try validating how he’s feeling. When he complains about how you never visit, try saying something like: I know you’re lonely Dad. It must be so hard now Mum’s not at home. He will probably say that he’d be less lonely if you came to visit more often, but resist the urge to point out that you and your sister are doing all that you can. Instead, you could respond by saying: You must wish we were around there every day. Hopefully, when he feels that you are hearing how lonely he is, he might be able to acknowledge your efforts. We are all better at seeing someone else’s point of view if our feelings are validated first. By all means remind him that you and your sister are seeing him as much as you can, but only after he has heard you acknowledging how he is feeling.
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