You might be surprised to hear that conflicts and disagreements between aging parents and their children are actually quite common. Parents might make decisions that they perceive are the best for both parties, while their children will think otherwise. The situation will worsen if both parties are strong-willed and do not wish to back down. The thing is, conversations filled with negative emotions are never productive and will damage the relationship between older adults and their children. Here are some tips and tricks on how to have constructive discussions with aging parents, especially when it seems that the discussion is going nowhere and parties are resorting to yelling or other destructive behaviors.
Set a Right Time
Know that the right time and location are everything. By setting the right time to hold the discussion, you can control the situation and may even prevent disputes from occurring. Avoid having discussions when everyone is feeling stressed and irritable. If the discussion is of a sensitive topic, try bringing it up when your aging parents are relaxed and surrounded by close friends or family members. When everyone is content and at ease, they’re more likely to be open-minded to opposing views and take your considerations to heart.
Showing that you understand your loved ones’ concerns helps them to be aware that you’re listening and are not disregarding their situation. During the discussion, remember to let them speak and not to interrupt or talk over them. One way to be more empathetic is to learn or comprehend the reasons behind their concerns. This will allow you to put yourself in their shoes and be more compassionate in the discussion. You can also try to state your points of view calmly and speak with a tender tone in order to get their attention and motivate them to understand your concerns. At the end of the day, it’s crucial not to invalidate their feelings.
Be Prepared to be Persistent
For difficult conversations, it’s impossible to be solved in just one sitting. Be mentally prepared to raise the topic multiple times in a series of talks – so be patient. In order for the discussion to be productive and for everyone to come to an agreement, persistence is of utmost importance. Simply bombarding your aging parents with a load of information can undoubtedly overwhelm them, causing them to be more anxious and defensive over their opinions. As such, having a series of talks allows them to think clearly and make a better judgment.
Seek Help from a Third Party
At times, both parties can be biased, especially considering they are family members. If you feel that the discussion is going nowhere, seek help from a friend, neighbor, caregiver, or anyone who is willing to understand the issue and provide advice. There are even support groups that are hosted by counselors who can come up with solutions. A third party’s opinion can help to ensure that the relationship between the aging parents and their children does not break down, and can enable them to cooperate to find common ground.