By Marianne Delorey
China has enacted a law to help contend with the demands of caring for an aging population. Children are now required by law to visit their parents “frequently” and to provide monetary support.
Also in the news from China, stories of children fleeing abusive homes, being sold into slavery, forced to carry drugs and otherwise being treated like property instead of people.
Many, if not most, parents are good, if not great. Not all are the Cleavers, but they do the best they can. They feed, clothe and educate their children. They provide a moral compass, a helping hand and take care of them when they are sick.
And, to be fair, most children do take an interest in their aging parents. They visit, take them to doctor’s appointments, balance the checkbook when eyesight becomes problematic and otherwise nurture those who nurtured them.
What of the exceptions pertaining to the China law? Would an abused child be forced to visit their abuser many years after they have finished therapy? Can exceptions be made if there are extenuating circumstances? Will children in bad situations have to divorce their parents in order to make the break clear?
What about monetary support? We get that China wants to get away from nursing home placements, but should a child be required to pay off gambling debts? What about multiple generations of support? With China’s one child policy, adult couples could theoretically be the sole support for four parents and several surviving grandparents. Is this what China’s law intended?
Let’s face facts — there are bad kids, too. Some parents want nothing to do with children that did not turn out well. Should they be forced to visit with them to fulfill the child’s legal obligations?
On the surface, this policy makes those of us in the elder field feel good. We have seen our share of sons who are still financially supported by their mothers; daughters who never come by; and nieces and nephews who only care about the elder’s will. But, I think this policy is flawed.
At some point, children need to grow up and take accountability for their lives. Whether they come from a bad home or not, they are expected to get a job, take care of themselves and be productive members of society.
The same is true for the elderly parents. At some point, they have to understand they are partially responsible for the children they raised. If those children did not turn out to like them, maybe there is a valid reason. No amount of nagging is going to make them want to come visit. No law should require children to provide comfort for parents that did not take care of them adequately.
In other words, you reap what you sow.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or firstname.lastname@example.org and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com