How to Have “The Talk”

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Sooner or later, you’ll need to have “the talk.” You’ll feel a yearning to simplify your life, and you’ll need to find a way to explain your feelings to your adult children.

You may want a new living environment that enables you to be more active and independent, and you’ll want your children to understand your needs and desires, now and for the rest of your life. But knowing when and how to talk about aging with your kids can be tricky.

The 70-40 rule* is a proven guide: If you’re 70—or they are 40—it’s time. The strategies below can help you navigate sensitive issues, such as selling the family home or seeking a change in living environments, to arrive at answers that make sense for you and your family.

Tips for Effective Communication with your Adult Children

Be assertive. Figure out what you need in a specific situation and state it clearly and definitively so the other person cannot fail to understand. Don’t allow the conversation to be sidetracked onto other issues.

Look for points of agreement: Even if you disagree with most of what someone is saying, look for common ground. Call out those places as good starting points for resolving problems.

Don’t be aggressive: Avoid personal attacks and insults.

Optimize your energy: Look for places and times in which you are most effective at getting what you need out of conversations.

Pick your battles: Save the assertive behavior for only the most important situations.

Listen and put yourself in your children’s shoes: If they’re coming to you, it’s most likely because they’re concerned and because they care. Even if you don’t like what they have to say, appreciate why they are saying it. Remember the feelings you had for your parents when you were younger and think about the trouble you might have had when raising difficult issues with them.

Compensate for weaknesses: If you’re having trouble hearing or it seems like people around you aren’t speaking clearly, get a hearing test and, if necessary, a hearing aid.

Seek independence: Seek contact with people who encourage you to do things for yourself and who challenge you mentally or physically.

Raise the issue: If there’s something you think your child might want to know, be the one to bring it up – even if it’s a difficult topic.

Defend without defensiveness: If your child sounds like she’s accusing you of something (“You’re not safe to drive anymore”), avoid the natural tendency to be angry and try to engage her in a frank, constructive discussion.



*Information summarized on this page comes from a variety of industry sources, including "The 70-40 Rule: A Guide to Conversation Starters for Seniors and Their Boomer Children"