Hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets!

Self-care is Self-preservation

Episode 91

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, reflects on the thoughts shared during last week’s interview with Leslie McLeod.  She expands on the concepts Leslie shared regarding relationships within families and how they affect the caregiving journey.  Rayna sites several works to provide perspective on the various roles:

    • If you find yourself as the “hero”, feeling like you are the only one doing anything, let go and invite other family members to be a part of the season.
    • Watch for the “people pleaser” who is always willing to help but may not be taking care of themselves.
    • The “rebel” pops in and out and may step up, but then quickly moves on doing their own thing. It is best to draw them in and help them to realize they are an important part of the family and care team.
    • The role of bringing joy and spending time with your aging parent is a great fit for the “mascot or clown of the family”.
    • Shining a light on the value that the “quiet, withdrawn” family member brings can help them be a part of the team.
    • All you can do is invite members of the family and allow them to carry what they can.
    • Use the strength of the “switchboard” and let them be the one who gets the information out.
    • Wanting others to be happy is a trait of the “cheerleader.” They fill an important role throughout the caregiving season.
    • Do not rush the “thinker” and they will be able to research and provide logical conclusions.
    • The “rescuer” often tries to solve all the problems and carry the weight themselves.
    • There are strengths and weaknesses within each role. Allowing each person to grow and do what works best for them is the most helpful.
    • Do what you can to build bridges and find ways to support family members regardless of their role from the past.
    • Visit the show notes at aseasonofcaring.com/podcast and download a tip sheet on Navigating Relationships During Caregiving Season.


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Leslie McLeod: Allow grace, tons and tons of grace. For differences in handling emotion, like who’s handling the medical, who’s handling financial. When the out-of-towners come in, are they gonna, try to take over. Just know that everybody has their different strengths and weaknesses. Those are even going to fluctuate. But to just allow grace for yourself, you’re not going to do it perfectly, neither are they. But we can do it together and we can do it with love and grace.

[00:00:28] Rayna Neises (2): That was Leslie McCloud last week on A Season of Caring Podcast, episode number 90 sharing about family relationships and the dynamics of how they could impact us in our caring season. Welcome to A Seasonal Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and today we’re going to dig deeper into the roles that we have a tendency to play in our families, all of our lives.

[00:00:56] Thank you for joining me today. As Leslie talked about how important those sibling relationships are, I just really thought more about the different roles we have a tendency to fall into. They start from very early on and they can continue all the way to the end. But our goal is to become more aware of the roles that we might be playing, or our siblings might be playing. And allow ourselves the grace, as Leslie said, the grace to be ourselves, to have strengths and weaknesses and to do this thing together. Imperfectly! Allow ourselves to grow and change. I think we can fall into patterns of really expecting our siblings to behave exactly like they did when they were younger and we’ve grown, they’ve grown. We need to allow ourselves the grace to grow.

[00:01:54] So in this podcast, I’m going to talk more with you about the family dynamics that are involved in the roles that we often have while we’re growing up that can also impact our caregiving season. This is based on the work from Virginia Satir, Claudia Black and Sharon Wegschieder. And so they had some really interesting information about those common roles that children play in the family, and definitely can continue to impact our family dynamics as we grow up.

[00:02:27] So one of those roles is the Hero. And we probably immediately can think of that hero. They’re the ones that got the good grades in school. They’re very, goal-oriented, self-disciplined. Really from the very beginning to have a tendency, to just be able to please and do all the things that we think we should be doing, right. They often bear the burden though of making the family look good. They might even fall into the trap of believing the only thing that’s acceptable is to be perfect. And that is a really heavy weight to carry. So the hero, they often step into that primary caregiving role and they can be really, single-minded, very sacrificial and they can have maybe even the appearance of thinking that they’re perfect.

[00:03:16] Which obviously is really different to be the sibling of that perfect one, right? Relationships can be challenging because they have a tendency to really want things done their way. And really within the caregiving, it can be very difficult when the hero is there. In fact, if you find yourself being the hero in your family, you might not even realize that your siblings are stepping back because they feel like you will always take care of it and that you have such a high standard, they can’t meet your standard. They’re really not participating in the process of caring for your parents. So, if you find yourself feeling like you are the only one who’s doing anything, you might ask yourself some questions. What kind of conversations could you have with some of your family members to see if maybe you could let go of a few things and really invite them to be a part of the season, instead of taking care of everything yourselves.

[00:04:14] I know what it’s like to be one who just steps in and takes charge and there’s a lot of benefit in that. Like I said, strengths and weaknesses, right. But at the same time, that same skillset might be pushing others away who can be really helpful to you. Something to think about heroes.

[00:04:29] Our second family member might be the people pleaser. They’re in placater, they’re the one that tried to put people at ease, maybe always navigating things. They’re very caring and compassionate and sensitive. They might even, deny their own needs or be anxious because of the burden they put on themselves of trying to make everyone happy. This person is definitely going to be a great support. They really want to help. They have a tendency to be the worrier in the family and they can even borrow trouble by going down the path of what happens if things so. They can bring stress into the caregiving situation, although they really are just wanting to please, and they might feel really bowled over by the hero.

[00:05:14] So you might immediately think of someone in your family who’s that people pleaser, they might be the one who talks to this sibling and agrees with everything they say. And then they go over and talk to the other one, then agrees with everything they say there, they might change their mind a lot because they have a tendency to really feel like they just want everyone to be happy. They want to keep peace.

[00:05:34] So as a caregiver, they’re trying to create a good environment for everybody. They’re trying to keep everybody happy. But oftentimes that means that they aren’t considering their own needs and they can find themselves having health concerns of their own because they’re not taking care of their needs. They’re not even realizing they have needs sometimes. That people pleaser can be easy to get along with but they can also bring some stress along with them. So again, thinking of strengths and weaknesses, we really liked that person who can navigate between have good communication with everyone. We just want to make sure that they’re also taking care of themselves.

[00:06:12] The third family role might be that rebel and the rebel would be the one who seems to act out, maybe not following along in family values, maybe choosing different things for their life. They might be more in touch with their own feelings rather than other people’s feelings or even the role that they play in the family. They really might not even be aware that they’re playing a role in the family. They pop in and out and kind of just stepping up at times to help out, but then moving on doing their own thing and seeming as if they don’t care. That rebel in the family can have a really divisive personality at times, but often they are internalizing their own poor choices or their own friction within the family. They might even be proud of the fact that they’re the one who doesn’t step up, but overall, there’s a lot of pain inside of that rebellion because they don’t fit in. They might come in cause trouble and drop out so that can be really tricky. You might immediately think of someone in that role in your family again, just because that was their role growing up. It doesn’t mean they have to stay in that role. I think reaching out, asking questions, asking how they want to participate in this caregiving season. What can you do to help draw them in? Really thinking of ways to let them know that they’re an important part of the family. Even though they have some history that might’ve rubbed some people wrong or caused issues.

[00:07:47] Our next role is the mascot or the clown of the family. They have the uncanny ability to really have stress and bring the joy in life. There’s oftentimes something kind of missing. They have a tendency not to dig deep or not to really express their true feelings. They can bring a lot of laughter to the family when they’re healthy that’s a good thing. But when they’re not, they have a tendency not to commit, not to stay engaged or really be helpful in this caregiving season because they’re so uncomfortable in that role. Their strength is to bring joy, to bring laughter. We can all use that right? And our parents can definitely use that.

[00:08:26] So invite them to come into that role, but also ask what other roles they would like to play. How do they feel like they could fit into the caregiving plan? What things could they do? And it might be, they would be a great one to spend time. Not necessarily following through with tasks, but spending time bringing joy to your parents as they’re aging. This might be a person who won’t necessarily be the one to make the phone calls to the doctor, but they might be the one to take your parents to a movie or to just spend time with them cracking jokes and being themselves.

[00:09:00] The lost child is the last role that this group of researchers brought out and this is just really the quiet, withdrawn, possibly lonely or depressed member of the family. They wants most of all to be seen and loved and to be healthy and to allow herself to be visible. But oftentimes, she’s really kind of found herself lost within the crowd . Has a tendency to embrace that role and continue to try to be invisible and just kind of stay in the background, but helping her to discover what her true role is and how she can really participate within the family. What value that child brings to the family, helping to shine a light on that. We might find that that person functions differently away from the family. So, being aware of where they’re shining and other areas of their life might help you , to plug them in and really help them be a better part of the team.

[00:09:54] Every time I talk about this topic I like to reinforce, your parent has so many children. I don’t know how many children are in your family, but they have so many children in each of those children bring immense value to your parents’ life. There’s always going to be one person who steps up stronger as a caregiver in a family.

[00:10:18] I was blessed to have a great relationship with my sister and for us both step up in our own ways. And I think when we really allow each other to do that, that’s what you can find too. Maybe not everyone, but you might be surprised if you invite them to be a part of the team, give them a voice, ask them what they would like to do and allow them to use their strengths for the family team in caring for your aging parent. I really think it can go better then maybe we think it can. Now of course when you have a family member who is not healthy, has an addiction or other issues, mental health issues. These can be extremely challenging and these roles are not going to fit within that person.

[00:11:07] And I do understand that all you can do is invite and allow them to carry what they can carry. Many people with addictions and mental illness can’t carry any of this load and actually bring a lot of chaos to their family members as they come in and try to participate. So finding how to make those boundaries, how to honor their relationship, but not allow them to bring chaos each time they come. It’s a very, very difficult walk. And I had many caregivers that I’ve supported that have really struggled with this. The unhealth of their siblings brings sadness to their parents. And it also brings a burden because there’s that navigation of relationship, what do I expect of them?

[00:11:55] And what’s realistic for me to expect of them. Again, I really encourage those that I talked to, to offer an invitation, to understand the limitations of the person that they’re offering it to and allow them to make their choice. We know, we cannot control our loved ones and we cannot fix them. We cannot create a positive memories for our parents on their behalf. We really just have to allow them to make their choices and try to do the best that we can to offer the comfort and compassion and as Leslie said, grace, grace, grace, grace, tons and tons of grace.

[00:12:31] I also found some interesting information on interchange.com about family roles and how they impact caregiving. They had some different roles, so I just thought I’d throw those out there and see if they resonate maybe a little bit more with you. One of the roles they talked about was the switchboard and the switchboard operator, is that information center. They are the one who knows everything that’s going on in the family. And thank goodness for them, right? Realizing that they have a strength of being able to be the go-to person, understanding how they function within the family and really offering them that role. You need a communicator, Leslie, again, talked about having that person that disseminates the information to everybody in the same way at the same time. So use that strength of that switchboard and let them be the one who gets the information.

[00:13:19] Most families have a cheerleader and that cheerleader might be the silly one. The one that we talked about earlier, kind of mascot of the family, but the cheerleader gives support and encouragement to others. Usually balancing, taking care of their own means is a little bit harder for them because they have a tendency to really get tied up in other people and wanting them to be happy. So again, we might see some of those same characteristics as what we talked about it in the people pleaser, but I love the idea of that cheerleader because we can use that person definitely throughout this caregiving season.

[00:13:52] They also mentioned there’s a family thinker and this really resonated with me in realizing personality differences. That thinker, they’re going to provide logic, objective, systematic thinking in the situations. They are not going to handle being rushed. They are not going to like having decisions that need to be made quickly without all of the information. So they’re probably ones that you’re going to need to offer this is the diagnosis, let them do their research, let them come back and share the information that they found in their research so that we can use their strength. Their strength of really thinking through logical conclusions on maybe researching long-term care facilities or rehab locations, doctors, really allowing them to do the research calling, being the person who it makes those initial contacts, collects the information, then comes back, maybe shares that with a switchboard person and lets them disseminate it out, but really use that strength of the thinker and be aware that again, their weakness is going to be a lot of stress if you’re trying to rush them. So understanding that if there are situations that are really fluid and moving quickly, that’s going to cause a lot of stress for them. And they’re really going to have a difficult time with it.

[00:15:14] The last one that they mentioned is the rescuer. The rescuer, that might be the same as the hero. When we think about the heroes role, both of them are really taking on a lot. They’re caring for their family members. They’re worried about their emotions, are trying to solve all the problems and they’re carrying the weight all themselves. That rescuer can do a good job in that role but they probably need to stop and think about what their own needs are and make sure that they’re not neglecting themselves or even running over others throughout this season.

[00:15:47] So I hope that stopping to think about some of those roles within the family can be helpful to you. Keep in mind that each person could be really healthy within this role, or they can be a little unhealthy within this role. And so that can be really challenging when we start to realize that there are strengths and weaknesses within each of these roles and that we might find some people are functioning better within their role. It is bringing benefit to the family. Others might be functioning in a way that’s not bringing benefit to the family. But again, I think as Leslie said, we hear it over and over again, communication is the key. And I think allowing ourselves not too put someone in a hole and expect them to always function in one specific way, but rather allowing them to grow and to do what works best for them is really helpful in this season.

[00:16:43] Communication, learning to talk, learning, to listen, finding ways to be able to enjoy time together. My sister and I, during our caregiving season, we found that taking time out just for the two of us to go to lunch and spend time together, really helped us to connect on a very personal level so that we could know how the other person was doing. Really checking in with their emotional state. If there was anything they were feeling. Really burdened about or struggling with, and they were carrying it on their own. Just having that time set aside to have conversations, to check in, to see what we might need to do to support each other more or differently was invaluable for us in our time.

[00:17:27] My sister and I lived quite a distance away and before my dad’s illness, we really didn’t spend a lot of time together. And so I’m really thankful as I look back on my caregiving season, that we did invest in our relationship. We did build that relationship by spending time together with my dad and without my dad. So that now that he’s gone, we have a really special friendship. I am so thankful for her friendship and how it developed through this really difficult season of life. So I want to encourage you to do what you can, to be able to build bridges and find ways to support each other even if we have found that someone else’s family role has been really destructive or frustrating in the past. Offer them an opportunity to start a new, adopt, a new role, find a new way to get along together and really remember that each person is a treasurer to your parent. And no one can replace them. The heartache of having a child not be a part of a family is really undescribable especially as you’re walking your parent all the way home. The hole that person leaves in the family, will become more and more obvious and difficult for your parent. So finding a way to incorporate them that brings benefits, not chaos is really important.

[00:18:54] Thank you again for joining me today on A Season of Caring Podcast. I hope that you’ve found the thoughts on family roles and some ideas on understanding each other better, helpful. And I do hope that as you learn to navigate these difficult relationships, that you will take some time to really think about how to benefit from doing that. I do have a free resource for us to do. If you’ll visit us at a Season of Caring and this show notes page, you’ll be able to download a tip sheet on Navigating Relationships During this Caregiving Season. I think that you’ll find them really helpful, no matter who the person is. I think you can find a way to make a connection that will benefit everybody.

[00:19:36] And just a reminder A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers if you have financial medical or legal questions, be sure to consult your local professional and take heart in your season of caring.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, & Speaker, offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

Rayna Neises, ACC

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