Words carry weight. Helping isn’t helping if it doesn’t help. Fear, frustration and worry can bring an unwanted edge to our conversations.
And we all know that if anyone disagrees with us, it’s just because they don’t really understand…
And so it goes.
Something else to think about: If in a conversation, you’re the only one talking, it’s less a conversation than it is a lecture.
So why all this discussion about conversation? A couple reasons come to mind: various holidays are on the horizon, and these tend to bring family members together and as we move through life stages (think aging), looking ahead could appear a bit different than it has in the past.
Another reason is that we tend to think about “having a conversation” in light of what we want to say. (see above).
In the first scenario, the adult kids may be living out of the area and only able to come “home” during special events and/or holidays. It could be quite a while in-between seeing how Mom and Dad are doing.
Keeping our eyes and ears open during these visits can be revelatory. Now, what I’m definitely not suggesting is a covert ops visit in which every movement and utterance comes under examination. What I am suggesting is what you already do in these incidences — see how they’re doing.
Maybe Dad is noticeably using the couch, counter tops and chair backs more to steady himself than before. It’s sometimes called “furniture walking”, and can slowly develop over time. We’re people. We adapt. So does Dad.
This is truly minor example, but let’s look at how we approach it.
Dad, you’re falling apart. At your age, you really need to be more careful. A lot of people your age need to use walkers or something. You need to get one before you really hurt yourself.
I know — you can just feel the warm fuzzies flowing. While the caring concern is probably there, what comes across is that Dad’s a bit of an idiot since he doesn’t realize this. There are times, however, when something could really be helpful, but if presented like an attack, well…
Dad, are you OK? It looks like you might be a little unsteady. Have you seen those quad canes (or whatever)? What do you think about something like that?
An opening for conversation, not defense. An opportunity to hear what Dad has to say, and the spoken agreement that Dad’s opinion (and choice) matters.
There’s a word for this type of communication. It’s called conversation and it really does make a difference.
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