Remember those awkward conversations with your parents about "the birds and the bees"? Back in the days when you felt cornered by your parents who nervously attempted to discuss the uncomfortable topic of sex, babies and body parts during that equally awkward stage of pre-pubescent adolescence?
The memories of my mother, Nonnie, attempting to start the conversation of explaining just how a baby is conceived and born immediately brings back the mountains of goose bumps, chills, and that overall feeling of dread I had during those "talks"...even now as a mature adult with grown children!
Then, think about awkward "pick up lines" and those unrehearsed first words that come out of your mouth when you meet a perfect stranger attempting to strike up a conversation.
There is a lot of anxiety inherent in these types of conversation starters.
Talking to your parents about the end of life merits a place in the top three subjects for starting an uncomfortable conversation.
Here are some communication starter tips that might help when discussing end of life:
- Just go ahead. Get started. If you are 40 or you have a parent who is 70, do it now.
- Don't start the conversation during a holiday party or family celebration. Choose your timing wisely.
- The sooner you begin, the more comfortable you will be, and the more information you will exchange.
- Forget talking like you are talking to a child. These are your parents and full grown adults! Treat them accordingly.
- Know that they will want to maximize their independence (ie. driving!)
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. You don't have all the answers and neither do they.
- Don't jump to conclusions. Don't assume.
- This is an ongoing conversation, so get ready for the long ride.
- Talk to your parents while they still can have input.
- Don't be surprised if they are actually relieved that someone wants to help them.
- Be gentle and honest. Parents have feelings too.
- Think about and discuss the options.
- Think about and discuss the "what ifs".
- Share how you feel.
- Help them retain control where feasible.
- Educate yourself.
- Respect your own time, energy and limitations.
- Encourage small changes.
- Formulate your own plan to share with them.
- Discuss long term health care measures.
- Ask about and document their final wishes.
- Make the conversation non-confrontational.
- Talk about and compare the "Pros and Cons".
- Humor can work well in some conversations.
Here's an attempt at using humor to start a conversation about planning a funeral: "Let's put the FUN in FUNeral"
Those awkward, often avoided, "birds and bees" type conversations quite frankly should begin long before there is a life threatening illness, a loss of cognitive skills, or death.
Once again, I highly recommend checking out The Conversation Project. It's all about having the conversation!
By the way, read this article! "The talk you didn't have with your parents could cost you".
What topic do you want, or need, to discuss with your parents now? Share your topic with me in the comments below- please!