Bonding Tips Understanding Needs

The 5 Love Languages of our senior parents

You may be familiar with the renowned book of Dr. Gary Chapman, “The Five Love Languages”, when you first got into a relationship or preparing to get married with our chosen one. But the concept of love languages goes beyond a romantic relationship. Discovering your love languages not just empowers you to ask for love in the ways you enjoy receiving it but also encourages you to question how the people you care about prefer to receive love and appreciation from you. It is definitely applicable to all kind of relationships as having this deeper understanding of yourself and your loved ones can help to take your relationships to the next level.

A particular challenging relationship that this concept can help to renew the energy is that of the ageing parents and adult children. As seniors age, their physical and mental challenges and limitations increase. Their adult children may sometime find it challenging to keep up with the relationship as they too are facing new phases of life. By applying the love languages to the relationship with your ageing loved one, you can be sure to discover transformation to your relationships!

Help your seniors discover their love languages

The first step is to discover their love languages. You can get some clues by thinking back on how they showed you love both now and as you were growing up. Were they affectionate or verbally encouraging? Did they make an effort to spend time with you, help you, or give you gifts to make you feel special?

Or you can also help them take a quiz on the 5 Love Languages website. Walk them through the questions and as they share their answers, you can get your answers too!

5 love languages for senior parent

How can the 5 love languages be applied to loving our senior parents?

1. Acts of Service

If your parent’s love language is Acts of Service, they would appreciate the ways you help them out, big or small. Very often, they may not feel comfortable asking for help, so taking the initiative to help them can mean a lot to them! Start by asking yourself, “what could I do that would make their life a little bit easier or happier?”. Observe their daily routine, what bothers them the most? Can you help them to remove those roadblocks? For example, helping them to pay bills online or organizing their medicine box. “Let me do that for you” is the magic phrase for this love language.

5 love languages for senior parent act of service

2. Words of Affirmation

Seniors whose love language is Words of Affirmation would feel most valued when you express your heartfelt feelings in words. Be generous with your kind and encouraging words to let them know you care for them and sincerely acknowledge or praise them for something they are good at – for example thanking them for preparing a nice meal and telling them how much you like their cooking. If saying “I love you” is awkward for you, try writing it down on a post-it note and paste it on their fridge or bathroom mirror. Writing a loving letter for them as a surprise can also be very meaningful.

Find out how Simi app can help you deliver those love messages without verbally telling them.

5 love languages for senior parent word of affirmation

3. Quality Time

Most seniors would appreciate quality time together. Seniors with Quality Time as their main love language would appreciate this even more. Giving them your undivided attention is how you show love to them. You could spend time to do activities together – such as cooking, making crafts, doing chores, grocery shopping, or even just stay at home to chit chat. They would know you spared your time out of your busy schedule to accompany them and that’s all they need to feel loved.

5 love languages for senior parent quality time

4. Physical Touch

As someone ages, loving and gentle physical touch gets rarer, which can be challenging for seniors who speak this love language. Holding your parent’s hand, hugging them, or simply sitting close to them to make them feel your presence can really make a difference. At times, you can also help to comb their hair, cut their fingernails, apply massaging lotion, or do some simple facial care. These would be warmly welcomed as signs of love and care.

5 love languages for senior parent physical touch

5. Receiving Gifts

For seniors whose love language is Receiving Gifts, it means they appreciate the thought behind the gifts. Be it a gift you bought or handmade, they would feel your love for them from the fact that you thought of them. It is even more valuable when you put effort into knowing their needs and preferences. A sweet surprise during special days can mean a lot to them.

5 love languages for senior parent receiving gifts

In summary, most people relate to all of the love languages but stronger in a few of them. Knowing your own and your loved ones’ love languages can help with daily interactions and showing affection to each other. Very often, someone shows their love through the love languages they most related to because they are familiar with it and they yearn for it. So, observe, reflect, and start speaking the same love languages with your senior parents.

Bonding Tips Understanding Needs

Back to basic: Simple ways to get to know our parents better

Are you confident in knowing your parents well – from their habits to their needs and wants? Are you sure that your knowledge of them is still up-to-date?

Growing up, it seems like there were more opportunities for our parents to know our habits and preferences rather than the other way round. We have been more vocal in expressing ourselves too. As a kid, most of us would naturally ask for things we want and sometimes, throw tantrums if we don’t get them. I remember I disliked herbal soup so much that I would cry and refuse to eat dinner. I got scolding by my mom, of course. But the next time she cooks herbal soup, she will make sure she cooks my favourite dish as well. Our parents observed our behaviours and learned to be better parents. They made sure to consider our favourite colour when picking our school bag; they tried to watch cartoons with us so that they know who we are talking about; they picked out onions from our dish so that we can eat happily.

When we become teenagers, our parents would be even more attentive in observing us so that they can tune in the right frequency as us. And they never stop doing that even as we became adults. They tried to learn our jargons and slangs so that they can join in our conversations more easily; they learned the meaning of emojis so that they don’t embarrass us; they wanted to find out who are our classmates and colleagues so that they can link our stories and gossips.

But this often does not turn into a reverse cycle where we grow up doing the same thing for our ageing parents. Most of us will only repeat the process for the next generation when we become parents.

Have you ever made an effort to observe your parents?

The needs to observe our parents in order to “serve” them better probably do not surface until we realised our parents need special attention from us due to their deteriorating health. But, we shouldn’t wait until that moment to start learning to do these. Even when our parents are well and healthy, it could mean so much to them if we pay as much attention to their needs as they did for us when we were younger.

What are their favourites – food, fruits, colours, places to visit, activity to pass time…? Have those changed over time? Are there conditions or constraints that we should be aware of that inhibit them from enjoying their favourites?

What about their preferences of styles? Type of clothing materials they prefer? Shoe type – sandals, flip-flops, open-toe…? The furniture at home? The little things they use in their daily life, such as a toothbrush?

Have we ever wondered, why do they always wear the same old shirt instead the new ones we bought for them? Why do they always like to eat salty or sweet food even though we have advised them multiple times of the risk?

Why are they so stubborn?

Sometimes, we got so frustrated that we chose to give up in trying to change them for good. But we failed to recognise that they chose to wear the same clothes because it’s more comfortable; they added more salt or sugar because their tastebuds are not as sensitive as before.

Observe to Understand

If it took our parents years to understand us, we must make efforts and time to understand them too. One practice that I learned is to simply observe their daily lives. Then, ask relevant questions.

A few years ago, I visited my parents and spent 10 days with them. My two main observations had helped me to engage them better.

  1. They are curious about new innovations, photos on the phone, news and happenings around us. This can be a good conversation topic to keep them updated and engaged.
  2. They have fixed routines and activities every day, e.g. time to watch the news, to water plants, to top up medicine box, etc. Catching them at those timings can help us share some quality time together.

I leveraged those observations as our conversation starters. To do so, I use two basic communication technics to engage them – Ask & Listen and Show & Tell.

Ask & Listen

Essentially, everyone wants their voices to be heard. With age, our voice gets more credibility and becomes louder. What we say becomes more significant within our circles. However, it will hit a plateau and go down. But the desire to be heard do not go down as significantly until we choose to accept it. This could potentially lead a senior to isolation as they no longer feel their voice is of significance to be heard by anyone anymore.

our voice significance and desire to be heard varies by age
An illustrative chart to show our desire to be heard as we age and how significant our voice is to others.

We definitely do not want our parents to feel that way someday. So, it is important to give them the stage to voice out their thoughts and needs safely. We can start by asking them questions related to our observations of their daily activities and habits. For example, knowing that my dad likes to follow the news on China, I can educate myself briefly on some current affairs or knowing some key names and ask him for opinions. More importantly, we have to give them full attention when listening. Do practice active listening and don’t insist if they are not in the mood to speak.

Show & Tell

If we are clueless about the topics our parents would be interested to talk about, we can be the ones doing the talking. We can do some guesswork and show them interesting pictures or videos (e.g. funny cat videos, cool gadget, old photos) and tell them stories about it. It is a trial and error, and we may not get their interest right from the first time. If they do not seem interested, move on. If they do seem interested, let them explore further and let them share their stories as well. For my dad and me, it was the Google Map that worked. When I was young, he always liked to show me the physical map book. He was fascinated by Google Map where he can scroll and zoom to anywhere. The next time we speak of a new place, he would ask to see it on Google Map! For my mom and me, it’s the photos of people on my phone. I would tell her their names and some stories (or even gossips) and that can take very far.

Go Now Go Further

As we grow up and enter into new phases of life, we leave our parents’ nest and set up our own. Distances can make it harder to bond. It will take a greater effort to race against their age to know them better and give them the best they deserve, just like how they cherished the moment with us as we grow up.

Make efforts to call them at a regular timing, try to exceed call duration each time, list out new topics to engage them, gossip with them, change their phone ringtone to your voice… I’m sure there are many other ways to enhance our relationships with our parents! Share your best practices with us!

Originally posted on Project Somebody Blog on June 2, 2019 by the same author.

Bonding Tips

40 Small Talk Prompts to Get to Know Your Grandparents Better

Let’s overcome the awkward silence. I know how hard it is when it’s just you and your old folks in the room. Especially when you are only meeting them a few times per year, during the festive seasons. You try to pass the time by checking your phone and while they stare at you thinking to themselves, “young people these days are just about their phone.”

So, here are some questions to break the ice and to make the time spent together more meaningful.

Jiak Simi?

simi small talk prompt jiak simi cat eating fish

“Jiak” means to eat in Hokkien, and “simi” means what. “Jiak simi” is asking someone “what to eat?” or “what are you eating?”. Food is generally an easy topic to start with and you can go very far with it. Who doesn’t eat, right? So take this opportunity to find out all about food with your grandparents. The conversation should be two-way, so do share your answers as well.

  1. Favourite food?
  2. Cook, eat, or wash?
  3. Signature dish? Describe how to cook it.
  4. Food you miss the most right now?
  5. A food place that you would give an award under your name (e.g. Michelin Star)?
  6. Most exotic food you have tried?
  7. Favourite mom’s dish?
  8. Types of food that you dislike?
  9. Food that you will sell in your restaurant (if you are to open one)?
  10. Food that you won’t get bored eating?

Kua Simi?

simi small talk prompt kua simi cat with sparkling eyes

“Kua” means to watch in Hokkien. Similar to “jiak simi”, “kua simi” is asking someone “what to watch?” or “what are you watching?”. Please be mindful not to say “kua simi kua” as it could sound quite rude.

  1. Nostalgic places you would like to visit again?
  2. Most exotic/peculiar place you have been to?
  3. Places you would like to visit with your family?
  4. Favourite show?
  5. Show you are watching now? / Last watched show?
  6. TV, Youtube, or Netflix?
  7. Recommend a book?
  8. The most memorable event you have seen?
  9. A person you would like to meet right now?
  10. Something you won’t throw away?

Zor Simi?

simi small talk prompt zor simi cat lying down

“Zor” means to do something in Hokkien. So, “zor simi” means “what are you doing?” or “what to do?”. It would be interesting to find out the daily routine and special interest of your grandparents, even during their childhood.

  1. Hobby?
  2. Sports you can / like to play?
  3. Activities you always do at home? Why?
  4. The first thing to do in the morning? Why?
  5. Funny things you have done?
  6. Activities you wish you could / would like to do?
  7. Activities you would like to do with your family?
  8. House chores you dislike the most?
  9. A masterclass you can teach others?
  10. A business you would like to create?

Gong Simi?

simi small talk prompts gong simi cat talking

“Gong” means to say something in Hokkien and “gong simi?” means “what are you talking?” or “what say you?”. When coming to storytelling, grandparents usually are not shy to share their wealth of experience! It’s a good opportunity to discover more about them.

  1. Share a childhood story?
  2. Share about your day in dialect? (Good opportunity to learn the dialect from your grandparents!)
  3. Tell a folklore story?
  4. 3 words your friends would describe you?
  5. Tell a joke?
  6. Proudest achievement?
  7. Person you’re most thankful for?
  8. Describe your hometown?
  9. What’s your dream?
  10. What does happiness mean to you?

Try out the Simi small talk prompts with your families and friends!

These prompts are only to help you get started with the conversation. To make the conversation meaningful, have a balanced two-way sharing. It’s all about getting to know each other better and that’s how bonding works!

Share with us in the comment which is your favourite prompt!

Bonding Tips

5 simple actions to make your grandparents happy

National Grandparents Day is not a very common celebration across the world. Singapore started celebrating Grandparents’ Day in 1979, a year after the U.S. started. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in November. For this year, it will fall on 22 November.

So what is the significance of celebrating Grandparents Day? It is to celebrate the bonding of grandparents and grandchildren. In today’s society, not many grandparents are staying under the same roof as their grandchildren. This makes it harder for them to spend time together and bond. If children don’t grow up interacting with their grandparents, it gets tougher for the two different generations to engage in meaningful conversations. Thus, it’s important to have Grandparents Day to remind us to care for our grandparents and to educate our children the same.

Here are 5 simple actions that you can do to make your grandparents happier! These are practical tips to spice up the upcoming Grandparents Day and for daily interactions.

Give them a surprise phone call just to chit chat with them.

It doesn’t matter if the first call was just the standard Q&A’s and with some awkward silences. Try again another day, by preparing some key topics to chat about – questions to ask them, current affairs, world news, personal stories… The conversation will get more natural over time.

Ask them for the best food recommendations

They will never be shy when talking about the best food in town. Get them to describe their favourite food as detailed as possible and they will be craving for it. Then, surprise them by buying the food from the place they recommended. Enjoy a good meal together!

Help to organize their places

It can get tough for seniors to keep their places neat and clean the whole time. Sometimes, they may start hoarding to an unhealthy level. It is good to organize their places together with them by making sure that they will be familiar with the changes. Do look out for their daily household items that are broken or in unhygienic condition. Replace those items and inform them accordingly.

Perform a simple magic trick or share a funny video

A magic trick, a joke, or a funny video – either of these will always help to break the ice. After having a good laugh, you can also teach them how to do the trick and let them try. Take some videos and watch them together to have another good round of laughing.

You can also take nice selfies together and try on funny filters. Help them to set their favourite photo as their phone background image.

Play some oldies songs

Make some guesses of the oldies songs that they may recognize and play them in the background. If they find the tune familiar, they might sing along! Find out more about their favourite songs and play for them. Learn a few verses and sing together.

Little things like those above can really brighten their days and help to bring your relationships closer. Intergenerational engagements have proven to help reduce loneliness among seniors and promote their emotional well-being. This is even more effective when the engagement is with close kins.

At Simi, we provide daily tips and topics to inspire different generations to interact with each other. Follow us on Facebook for more insights.