No matter the size or makeup of your family, retirement gives you an opportunity to connect or reconnect with your relatives. Life after work provides more time to enrich these relationships. On the flip side, too much togetherness or having to deal with a difficult relative may create challenges or stress if not handled appropriately. Keep the lines of communication open. Set personal boundaries and respect those set by others.
Each person in your household should be encouraged to talk openly about their thoughts and feelings and to share concerns. Being tight-lipped and concealing your views and attitudes can create tension or cause someone to withdraw. The longer it goes on, the more intense the negative feelings become. Prick these balloons with a sense of humour. If you don't know how to laugh at yourself, then learn. Too often, people make a big deal of issues which, when put in perspective, are not that important.
Whether or not your spouse/partner works outside the home, they have well-established daily routines, social contacts and recreational activities. Your partner probably hopes that things will not be too drastically disturbed when you stop working and decide to stay at home full-time.
Be particularly careful of making unwelcome suggestions or changing your home life, roles, duties and processes without consulting with your partner. If your spouse/partner has already retired, do not expect to accompany them everywhere they currently go. Each person’s desire for personal time with friends should be respected.
If you haven’t demonstrated your love and affection over the past few years, learn to do it now while you’ve got the time. Love in later years is different from the love in your earlier years. At its best it's more tolerant, less threatening, more enduring, less ego-tripping, more caring and less defensive. It transcends and yet blends together all the failures and successes, the problems, the good times and the hopes for the future. Sadly, later-in-life or “grey” divorces are on the rise as more couples find they are no longer living happily ever after. Divorcing just before, or during retirement, has significant financial consequences and emotional challenges. Reach out to family and friends for support. Work with a financial planner to assess your situation as assets will likely be divided 50/50.
If you have children, relationships with them at this stage in your life are far removed from the parent/child relationship of their younger years. The relationship now is one of adults, each with their own aspirations and sets of responsibilities and values. Treat them as adults and they will respect and love you.
What about grandchildren? No matter what sage advice they might receive, grandparents, at most opportunities, will spoil the little darlings rotten, and then with a smile turn them back to their parents. By all means, love your grandchildren. They are extensions of you. When it comes to behaviour, sure, you can spoil them a little, but do support their parents' standards. To do otherwise will only confuse them.
If you live in a multi-generation household you may play a greater role in their care. Or, your grandchild may live with you full-time, in what is known as skip-generation parenting. Set personal boundaries and don’t be afraid to ask for support to proactively deal with emotional or financial challenges that may come with these types of situations.
What about our relatives? The relationship with your immediate families, including your in-laws, can be very close or very distant. This relationship is a product of what has occurred over the years. People may see relatives only at occasional family get-togethers, weddings and funerals. Relatives may live in another province or country. With additional time on your hands and opportunity to travel, you might want to renew earlier relationships with those of your family whose company you enjoyed. Cementing these relationships can be rewarding, as long as the relationship is based on a desire to be together rather than a family obligation.