Elder Mediation, Families & Difficult Conversations
For the first time ever, Canadians who are 65+ outnumber children 14 and under. As our population ages, families are facing changes and challenges as living requirements are adjusted. Conversations become more necessary and sometimes more emotionally charged.
You no doubt have your own communication style, feelings about topics that should be discussed, and which should be private, as well as strong feelings about personal and professional relationships.
The “difficult” part of the conversation can be the topic, the timing, or maybe even the person!
If we’re talking about families we know that there is family history, unique family dynamics, possible high conflict personalities, power imbalances, unmet expectations, unacknowledged emotions and family roles to manage during these difficult conversations.
Let’s face it, families can find it challenging to communicate at the best of times and certain topics make it that much harder. Some of the harder ones to talk about, even with family and friends are:
• Financials with respect to assets and how to use them
• Living arrangements including staying in or selling the home, living with family or moving to a care facility
• Power of Attorneys who don’t agree on the care of a loved one
• End of life discussions
• Day-day care concerns
• Caregiver support and sharing that amongst family and support people
As a mediator I’ve listed below some things to help you plan and manage those difficult conversations.
Think about what you are trying to achieve
1. Are you really clear on what you need to say and why you want them to know?
2. You know your family; how are they going to hear what you have to say?
3. Are you clear on what you want as a result?
4. Do you want feedback from other family members or are you just informing them?
5. Is it an emotionally charged topic, and if so, how should you plan and prepare for having the conversation?
Make sure the timing is right, or at least appropriate
1. When and where should you have this conversation?
2. Are you being proactive or reactive in sharing this information?
3. Are you in the right frame of mind to have a difficult conversation?
4. Have you prepared and are you prepared for the response?
5. Is this a time sensitive issue that needs to be addressed in a specific time period?
Acknowledge different perspectives
1. While this may not be a difficult conversation for you, it may be challenging for your spouse, children or siblings, have you considered the impact to them?
2. What are your assumptions about the people you need to share with or want support from?
3. What buttons could be pushed during this conversation?
4. How will you handle attitude, negativity or criticism?
5. How will you ensure that you clearly have your voice heard and your needs met?
The reality is that most people face conflict each day and more often than not people are uncomfortable with it. Change is often seen as negative or a conflict. People don’t like change, it’s usually out of our control, we fear the unknown, it’s makes us anxious, we fear failure and change can come with grief and loss. It may be loss of a partner, independence, health, dreams or freedom.
Sometimes you need a neutral third party to help you manage some of the more difficult conversations. Mediation is a great process to get the family together to help resolve a concern or conflict. Everyone has a voice, everyone is treated equally, and all members participate in the solutions or at least in the decision of how to move forward. Click for more information.
I see more and more families having proactive conversations about their needs, wants and wishes. I see more families having these difficult conversations instead of shying away from them or defining them as private.
Remember- the most direct route to not having your expectations met is to not tell anyone what they are.
Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA, Cert.EM
Owner of Families First Mediation