In the first two parts of this series, I’ve given you several tips on how to approach the difficult and often uncomfortable conversations regarding the future of your aging parents.
We’ve gone over using humor, telling stories and how to really look into your true intentions. Today I have a few more tips for you and then hopefully next time the thought pops into your head that you really do need to talk to mom about some of the things that the future inevitable holds – you’ll have a variety of ways you can get the conversation started.
This is hard
Don’t get upset if you approach a difficult subject, use humor, tell good stories and then dad still won’t talk to you about it. It might not work the first time. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. This is important stuff with serious consequences and it is worth the effort.
Understand that for some families these conversations are very challenging and show yourself some compassion for the effort.
Lay it out there. Tell your parents that you know they are not happy talking about these things, that you are also not thrilled with the topic of conversation, but its too important to not discuss and that you are not going to give up. That you are not going to give up because you care enough about them to keep trying.
Sometimes it’s a generational thing
As much as we all like to think of ourselves as individuals, it is true that different generations have traits that are generally true across the board. They tend to have different priorities and different patterns of communication.
A Baby Boomer, for example, really did grow up in a different world then their parents did. Baby Boomers grew up as a generation interested in personal growth and changing the world – their parents, often referred to as The Greatest Generation, grew up much more traditionally where certain things were just not done and certain things were just not talked about.
You can just imagine the communication challenges that would bring about.
Going along with checking your intentions, if you truly have your parents best interest in mind, then it would be well worth the effort to think for a minute about how they view the world, and adjust your communication efforts to help the conversation along.
But it’s just a table
This is a hard one. The emotions that people wrap into their “stuff” can be overwhelming. (More on that in a future article.)
The attachment to “stuff” can literally be the difference in whether or not some people are able to move forward into different stages of their lives, or not.
As I’ve written about before, the biggest generational difference in the attachment to stuff is between the Greatest Generation and the Millennials (basically between grandparents and grandchildren).
Don’t just brush off your parent’s emotional investment in their stuff . They worked harder to get it then we ever will and they spent more time taking care of it. Acknowledge the challenge and the emotions. Dismissing the things someone else finds important is condescending and counterproductive.
This is where a lot of arguments seem to start. Well here is the trick to arguments….if one side doesn’t engage then there really is no fight to be had.
Help your parents chose what to keep if they are downsizing. Use the time to remember family events and celebrate them. There are compassionate ways to go about this process. Make the effort.
As with many challenges there are experts out there to help when you really do find yourself at an impasse. There are social workers who specialize in helping family through transitions that come with aging, move managers that help with downsizing and one of my favorites – legacy experts who help you capture and memorialize family stories.
A lot of resistance to having the conversations about aging is because so much of it is focused on loss and what is being given up. These specialists can all help the focus be on what is being honored and looked forward to. A perception change that can make all the difference!