By middle age, you would think that the stress-inducing periods of raising a child—the terrible twos, adolescence—would have passed. According to new research, however, even kids who have long left the nest and started families of their own can still cause their parents ample grief.
Stress caused by middle-aged kids, it turns out, seems to boil down to whether parents' and kids' ideas about their relationship align. Many older parents help their middle-aged kids out with grandkids or even household chores and cooking. Sometimes, however, the children ask for too much or too little, and this is where things go awry.
The researchers asked around 340 older parents how rewarding or stressful they found their involvement with their middle-aged kids and, also, tested the participants for signs of depression. When older parents were not as involved in their kids' lives as they wanted to be, the team found, they felt depressed. But older parents who felt their kids wre overly dependent also became depressed—when too much was asked of them.
"Our results suggest that depressive symptoms are more frequent when the level of reward a parent feels regarding giving is inconsistent with the amount of tangible support that he or she actually gives," the researcher said in a statement. To avoid causing any undue stress for your older parents, it might be helpful to have an honest chat about what level involvement they would and would not like to have in your life.