Earlier this month, we began highlighting the growing need to support the relationships between adult children and their parents. Family dynamics in general can be difficult and complicated so we would like to share some helpful resources and strategies to help in one particular area: communication. Our dear friend, Dr. Ken Druck, recently wrote a blog post titled “4 Ways to Improve Family Communication” that we found very insightful.
Below is an abridged version, for the full article with more details and suggestions, please visit this link.
Overcome Corrosiveness with Understanding
The aging of our families presents as many opportunities as it does challenges.
For example, becoming the caregiver for an aging father or mother requires patience from both the adult child and the parent’s perspective. And, as older parents watch their sons or daughters balance demanding careers and demanding families, they may also need to summon more patience and understanding.
Realizing the limits on our finite time together on earth and the preciousness of family can us help to soften our hearts, become more forgiving and understanding and show greater affection. The loving, compassionate side of our nature is activated with this realization.
Watching our parents get older and struggle with challenges that aging can sometimes bring is not easy for anyone. People who claim they have not, at times, felt scared, helpless, frustrated, discouraged or sad in these situations are lying. Giving in to (or allowing) these kinds of feelings, and permitting the cold, hard side of our nature to prevail, is a formula for corrosive family conflicts, fragmentation and, ultimately, heartache.
Here are four ways to assure that you and your family get better as you get older:
Tip 1: Open the Channels of Family Communication (and Keep Them Open)
In almost any situation, being truthful, trustworthy, respectful, caring, empathetic and proactive (getting and staying ahead of the pain and conflict curves) successfully opens the lines of communication and love. Forthright communication and active listening affords family members the opportunity to talk through differences and reaffirm the common ground on which they stand.
Tip 2: Ask – Don’t Assume You Know
Since very few of us are mind readers, the best way to make sure that we and our family members will get better, smarter and easier to be with as we get older is to ask perceptive, open-ended questions. Listen. And learn. The human experience of feeling understood is the basis for so much peace, love and progress.
Tip 3: Learn to Forgive
Since misunderstandings, misgivings, differences, betrayals, grudges and disputes are inevitable in every family, learning how to talk things out and forgive one another is a valuable asset.
Tip 4: Make Clear Agreements
The need for new understandings and agreements is critical. Sometimes we say something (bring it up and air it out), and sometimes we don’t (avoid it and hold it in). Bringing things up in a calm, respectful manner and using non-accusatory language increases the chance that a much-needed conversation will result in some practical new agreements that benefit all sides.
As we and our families age, let’s resist the seduction of fear, jealousy and anger that result only in wasted time, lost affection, estrangement and loneliness. Instead, let’s rededicate ourselves to harvesting the opportunities for closeness, support, gratitude and understanding. Becoming the better version of ourselves ensures years of joy, deep connection and a legacy of love across generations.
Thank you Dr. Ken for allowing us to share your wisdom and proven strategies! These four simple tips will surely ease communications across generations where both adult children and their parents can enjoy their time together with positive, loving, and meaningful conversations.
Dr. Ken Druck is a leading mental health expert focused on the areas of civility, relationships, and aging. He writes regularly for the national press and is the author of several books including, Raising an Aging Parent, Courageous Aging, and The Real Rules of Life.