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De-Mystifying “Vicky-D\’s”

  • “My
    mother expects me to take care of her, even though I have a husband,
    children, and a job. But she\’s SO grateful when my brother
    calls once a month!”
  • “When
    I ask my parents about their health they freak out and shut down!”
  • “All
    I did was mentioned to my father that I\’d like to help him
    with the finances and suddenly the conversation took a dark turn.
    Now he won\’t even speak to me!”
  • “Taking
    care of the house is overwhelming my mother but she won\’t
    even talk about getting help or Moving.”

Sound familiar?
Frustrating? If so, you\’re not alone. A lot of adult children
want to help their parents or other aging loved ones but when they
try to have a conversation, even though they\’re using the
same words, for some reason the words don\’t seem to have the
same meaning.

In fact, one
client put it perfectly when he said: “You know that book
Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus? Well, men may
be from Mars and women may be from Venus but sometimes I think my
parents are from an alternate universe!”

not from an alternate universe, of course. They\’re “Vicky-D\’s”
and they\’re from an opposite generation!

is a Vicky-D?

When referring
to seniors collectively, a commonly used term is “Depression-Era
Generation” because the Great Depression had a deep and profound
impact on them. But as hard as it may be to imagine, seniors who
are today in their early- to mid-80\’s, were actually born
at the end of the Victorian Era. When the Great Depression hit,
it didn\’t replace their Victorian attitudes, it only added
to them – creating “Vicky-D\’s”.

But it was their
Victorian upbringing that shaped their core beliefs and attitudes
– and with which family members are struggling the hardest

Female/Male Roles Defined Them

  • The Victorian
    Era was a time of very strictly defined and very “traditional”
    female/male roles. The women were homemakers and mothers –
    the care providers. The family and home was their domain and their
    identity. The men were the breadwinners and professionals and
    earning and managing the money was their identity.

    As a result, today Vicky-D women may be relieved to give up handling
    the finances, but most will resist having someone in their home
    to cook or clean, will fiercely resist moving, and will generally
    have a harder time settling in when they do move. Conversely,
    Vicky-D men may be less resistant to moving but most will strongly
    resist giving up handling the finances.

Roles Set Up Family Expectations

  • Vicky-D\’s
    are very proud and may not ask for help or admit they need it.
    In a time of need, they simply expect their daughters
    (and daughters-in-law) to take of them. Problems arise not because
    daughters aren\’t willing to help (never mind the
    fact that they have their own family and jobs) but because they\’re
    rarely asked for their help and their efforts are seldom
    acknowledged. (It\’s what they\’re “supposed”
    to do.) But when there are “business” decisions to
    be made, Vicky-D\’s will turn to their sons.

Ask, Don\’t Tell

  • Vicky-D\’s
    were raised never to talk about personal things (especially money
    or health) with anyone, (not even professionals or their own children)
    and not to question authority (especially professionals like doctors).
    As a result, Vicky-D\’s may not provide “personal”
    information, won\’t ask questions, and may be embarrassed
    by their children who to talk openly and freely about very personal
    things and rarely hesitate to challenge authority. Ultimately,
    if it confuses, scares, or embarrasses them – they just
    won\’t do it!

Now that you
understand some of the reasons why Vicky-D\’s are the way they

  • Look for
    opportunities to have conversations with Vicky-D\’s. The
    more you practice, the easier it will be to anticipate and avoid
    words that have been “flash points” with the Vicky-D\’s
    in your life.
  • Respect
    and accept their generational attitudes. You may have to change
    your own behavior to get them to change theirs but it will be
    worth it as you find yourself able to positively influence their
Barbara E. Friesner Generational Coach

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.

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