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Why don’t our old parents apologize?

When my Chinese mom felt bad about something she had done or said, she would serve up a giant bowl of rice with my favorite topping. That was her way of saying “sorry.” These actions are not uncommon in the Chinese culture, or among older generations. 

Different cultures and different generations have different ways of apologizing. It is similar to the five languages of love—the theory that there are five different ways that people show and accept emotional love, for example someone might show they love another by doing acts of kindness and another might need more physical contact to feel they are loved. There are many different ways of saying ‘sorry.’ It could come in the form of doing something nice, like cleaning or fixing a delicious meal or sharing a favorite treat. It could be a surprise outing or it could be nothing at all. 

Much of the older generation don’t apologize at all. They don’t want to admit to their children that they don’t always do right. Parents are often looked at by their children as if they can do no wrong and parents embrace that image. It is a hard thing to apologize to anyone, let alone your children. When the older generation of parents were children they were taught about hierarchy in family. They were taught to respect their elders, which means never to call them out when they might be doing something wrong. They were taught that the elders always knew best and therefore never expected an apology from them. That engrained belief makes it highly uncomfortable for the older generations to say “I am sorry” to their children. 

Despite a lack of verbally communicating their regrettable feelings, it does not mean they aren’t truly sorry. Many times these things come out in actions rather than words. Sometimes you just have to look at the relationship and the actions following. While no parents should get a free pass from their children if they have done wrong, it is all part of unconditional love and acceptance. As the child, you must learn to accept that different cultures and different generations respond differently. And, you need to look at your parents as a whole rather than just the parts of however they have wronged you. No one is perfect even if as children we sometimes expect our parents to be the keepers of knowledge and to do no wrong. 

How does your parent apologize, if any?

Ask Mabel: ‘I am dating a guy my friend has dated’

Letter from concerned client: I just started dating a guy that my friend used to date. They went on a couple dates and it didn’t go anywhere. Even though they had nothing serious, I am still afraid my friend will be mad when she finds out. What do I do? How do I approach this with her?

Mabel: I understand how this could be a daunting and scary conversation as you are worried it could damage your friendship. The best way to approach this situation is to tell her as soon as possible. If she were to find out thorough the grapevine she would think you were trying to hide it from her and it would be more hurtful. It is best if you open up to her. Have the conversation. Show her you value her friendship. It will make both of you feel better to talk it out, get it off your chest and give her a chance to tell you how she feels about it. Have the conversation face-to-face to make it as genuine and heart-felt as possible. Avoid doing it over the phone, and definitely do not do it through text message. Those ways of communicating won’t come off as meaningful to her. Approach the conversation as “I want to let you know because I value our friendship and didn’t want you to find out from anyone else.” Let her know that you do care about her feelings. She will likely appreciate your honesty, and if it does bother her she will be able to let you know. Having an open floor for conversation will ease tensions across the board and will help to avoid any damage to your friendship. 

Don’t Be Nice: Do This Instead

There is a difference between being nice and being genuinely kind. Being nice is on the surface. It is superficial, pleasing, and agreeable. It is making people happy around you but not necessarily meaning it. It is not authentic, not deep, and not always true. 

Being kind goes deeper

Rather than “being nice” as you have been told since you were a child, practice kindness. Being kind goes deeper. It is the practice of being compassionate and authentic. It is establishing healthy boundaries and truly meaning what you say, what you do. When we reach the point of just “being nice” we are damaging our relationships and creating unhealthy situations for ourselves. Running errands for a neighbor “just to be nice” or volunteering at an event “just to be nice” establishes unhealthy boundaries. 

When we, instead, do things out of deep-seeded kindness from within, it means we genuinely care about what we are doing. We have a vested interest in how things turn out and the people around us can see that. It means we aren’t just doing things because we feel like we have to, we are doing them because we really truly want to do them. We really want to bring the neighbor dinner, we really want to help with the shopping for the school event, we want to help a friend out with a project, or hold the door open for a stranger. 

Avoid teaching your children to “just be nice.” Instead, explain to them what it means to be kind and to establish healthy boundaries with that kindness. Teach them how it feels to truly be helpful and to want to do good things for others. In turn, you are teaching them to be genuine, to be truthful and to take care of themselves. You are not teaching them to overextend themselves for the mere purpose of “being nice.” You are teaching them to dig deep inside themselves and determine what they can do to be good people, not superficial or fake. 

It might feel like a thin line but chances are you can think of a few times in your life you have just been nice and differentiate between the times you truly meant what you were doing—those times you were being kind. 

How do you practice kindness?

Don’t post it if you wouldn’t say it your kids

Social media is fun (and dangerous). All your friends are on there and you can easily get into discussions or debates. You can catch up with people you have not seen in years, and keep tabs on people’s ever-evolving lives. You can post an opinion, thought, or daily happening in a matter of seconds and send it out into the inter-web. It may feel harmless. I mean sure you are sharing with friends, who are they going to tell? 

Nothing is really ‘private’ on the internet

Let’s not forget — this is the internet. Even though it is social media and your profile is set to private, nothing is really private once it has entered the realm of the web. A rule of thumb that I use with my clients is if you won’t say it in front of your kids, then don’t say it on social media. Saying the wrong thing could affect your career years later, and we all know our kids will probably find a way to view all of that stuff at some point. 

Just look at the examples in the news: 

1.) A university professor was fired for tweeting that Hurricane Harvey was karma for Texas, pointing out the GOP connection. 

2.) A 19-year-old daycare worker was fired after snap-chatting a photo of her making an obscene gesture towards one of the children while on the job. 

3.) A zoo employee was fired after tweeting a racist comment about patrons.

Then you have the stories where people didn’t just post obscene, racist, or offensive comments but rather photos. I have heard stories of people not getting their dream job because the employer found photos of them doing drugs or binge drinking on the internet. Similar stories have also been told with people who have posted risqué photos.

It might seem harmless, but once it is posted it is always there. It never leaves. You can never fully delete it. So, here is a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t want your child to hear it, see it, or repeat it then do not post it on social media. It could haunt you years later. 

The ​Sandwich Generation: 9 Emotional & Financial Stressors It Can Create for Women

It’s a Tuesday morning and you’re sitting at your desk. Your coffee is still hot, almost all of your emails from the previous day have been opened and you’re prepping for your afternoon meeting. Then, in a matter of minutes, a call from the school nurse comes through. Your child is sick and needs to be picked up immediately. As you coordinate those plans, the doctor’s office calls to remind you of your mother’s 2:30 pacemaker appointment for later that day, one that may have slipped your mind. If this scenario, in any variation of it, sounds familiar, you are in what researchers call the “Sandwich Generation.”

The Sandwich Generation can be defined as individuals aged 40 to 59 to who are responsible for raising children while caring for the needs of their parents. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that roughly one out of every eight Americans falls within this category. I’m all too familiar with helping individuals, particularly women, handle the day to day stresses of being a dual caregiver. As women stuck in the Sandwich Generation, the dueling lifestyles can create a number of psychological, emotional and financial stresses. Here are a few:

  • Though men can be in the Sandwich Generation, families are more likely to adopt the “efficiency mentality.” This is the belief that since women are already taking care of children, taking care of aging parents may not seem as big a burden to add on. This mentality grossly underestimates the resources and time necessary to handle both responsibilities.
  • One major factor that has played a role in the steady growth of the Sandwich Generation is that many couples are delaying the point at which they choose to start a family. This is in large part due to the ever-changing economic climate and student loan debt. Women are working to become more established in their careers and financially secure before starting a family.
  • Single mothers are increasingly becoming the dominant demographic of the Sandwich Generation in comparison to married mothers.
  • Advances in the medical field have increased life expectancy, allowing aging parents the ability to live longer and healthier lives. This means more resources are necessary to sustain living. Societal expectations of women caregivers in conjunction with the economy driving women to work have created emotionally and psychologically draining ‘round-the-clock lifestyles for women within the Sandwich Generation.
  • It is very common for women in the Sandwich Generation to experience feelings of depression, anxiety and other symptoms of emotional distress because of worries about outlook for elderly parents, themselves and their own children.
  • The needs of the caregiver within the Sandwich Generation often go unaddressed, creating personal issues in areas such as health and finance.
  • Despite the negatives, it is possible for the Sandwich Generation to meet the demands of child, parent and self. This comes through support networks, communication, prioritization and respite care.
  • A positive that comes from Sandwich Generation is the familial bond created – strengthening the bond between elderly parent and adult children. Grandchildren get to know their roots by being with their grandparents more.
  • Planning, organization and communication are three main skills that help those women within the Sandwich Generation to balance the constant needs of both children and parents.

Are you in the Sandwich Generation? Share your issues, knowledge, struggles and suggestions below. Mabel Yiu is a licensed marriage and family therapist with Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, Calif.