As we age, the growing responsibilities, shifting expectations and changing nature of relationships, means that communication has become more important than ever. Whether you have an aging parent or you are one of their caregivers, the process of having a difficult conversation with aging parents can be challenging. While it can feel like trying to scale a cliff face blindfolded, if handled well, these conversations can be very beneficial and even set you on the right track towards healthy self-care as well as creating good memories together.
Explain Why the Conversation is Important
Before you initiate a difficult conversation, it’s important to explain why you feel it’s necessary. It can be as simple as telling your parent, “I feel like we need to talk about this and I would like your advice and help understanding it better”. When we have conversations with our loved ones, we often assume that they already have the information we need to make decisions. We assume that they’re aware of the same facts we are, have the same feelings we do and are able to put themselves in our shoes. But more often than not, we assume things that aren’t true and it’s important to be on the same page right from the get-go.
Reflect on the Why
Before you initiate a difficult conversation, it’s important to pause. Pause, to actually take a few deep breaths and to calm yourself down. You’ll find that this will remind you of the reason why you feel like you need to initiate this conversation with your parents. It’s also important to work on your own state of mind. It’s nearly impossible to be “objective” especially when having difficult and emotional conversations but simply being aware of your feelings about the matter beforehand can help you.
Set a Time When You’ll Talk to Your Parent
If the conversation you have is about a recurring issue, it can be helpful to set a timing. This can be as simple as setting a specific time every week when you talk about the issue to set boundaries. You are essentially saying “we can talk about these things during these specific times and we cannot talk about them beyond these times.” You can even use a countdown timer to make this setting more effective and it can help nudge you that you don’t want to keep going on and on with your parents about assisted living, for example. After all, the efficacy of your message is lost if you keep harping about the same topic all the time.
Ask Your Parent How They Feel About the Conversation
The last thing that you need to keep in mind is that conversations are a two-way street. If your parents don’t feel like having a certains conversation, that should be respected. When matters of health are concerned, it can be difficult watching your parents refuse your advice or help. In such cases, maybe it’s time to take a step back and realize that while your message is important, perhaps the medium through which you’re conveying it isn’t ideal. Perhaps you could ask your sibling or your parents’ peer to talk with them instead.