Starting the Tough Conversation Is Easier Than You Think

The holidays bring families together; they are a time of togetherness to share stories and reminisce with loved ones, celebrate traditions and strengthen relationships. Often these family gatherings come with the recognition that too much time has passed – and a lot has changed. The holiday visit may spark awareness that your loved ones need additional help.

A visit to home offers a great opportunity for families to have important – and sometimes tough – conversations with their loved ones. Getting started with these conversations is easier than you may think. And taking the time to have the conversation will help lead to better outcomes. Here are five ways to successfully navigate these conversations.

  1. TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Pick a time when there are no distractions or other obligations, so you can focus entirely on the conversation and give it your undivided attention. For example, the middle of Thanksgiving dinner is likely not the right occasion for this discussion. A quiet moment during the holiday weekend when there is a lull in activity can present a wonderful opportunity to connect with your loved one on these issues.
  2. SHARE YOUR OBSERVATIONS, CONCERNS AND FEELINGS. Maybe you have noticed that your parent seems to be struggling to keep up the house, or there is a lack of food. It can be hard to address these topics, but your loved ones want to know that you care. If you notice a problem, you often need to stay persistent, empathetic and strong as you work with your loved ones to find the right solutions.
  3. EMPHASIZE YOUR ROLE AS AN ADVOCATE. Explicitly state that you want to fulfill their wishes and they can depend on you, and that you want to maintain their way of life and need their help to make the right decisions.
  4. LISTEN TO THEIR CONCERNS AND WISHES. Make a list of the apprehensions your loved one has to validate their concerns and help guide you in finding the most appropriate solution to problems based on their preferences. Also, gaining an understanding of the types of lifestyle the wish to maintain can help with planning and lead to positive outcomes.
  5. END THE CONVERSATION WITH A PLAN. This will ensure there are shared expectations around next steps. You also want to make sure you have an agreed-upon plan if your loved one can no longer make decisions or in the event in an emergency.