• Laurie Bell

Preventing those Family Feuds. . . .


Christmas is around the corner and I don’t know about you but I have seen a lot of people trying to simplify the entire experience. They are focusing on time spent with family and close friends, sometimes only buying for the children and basically pulling back on the consumer madness that used to grip so many of us.

You know there was a time when I used to buy presents for forty seven people.  I would be exhausted by the time Christmas rolled around.  

One thing I managed to learn along the way is that less is surely more, it’s not about the stuff, and gentle #memories of quality time with loved ones can sustain you through a whole lot of life’s challenges.  

I used to work in mental health support and crisis intervention and I’d see that people experience a lot of anxiety before the Holidays. They’d see these perfect, loving families on TV but their own, all too human, families sometimes failed to deliver in the “overflowing joy” department.

For some, family #gatherings can be a reminder of just how different we all are.  You know the expression that #family are friends that you don’t get to choose but now you are all together over the #Holidays with the realization that #change is definitely in the air.  

Mom isn’t doing as much as she used to and she is looking really, really tired.  Dad has a tough time staying focused and it is seems like they have set up camp on the main floor of their house. The stairs are definitely becoming a problem and you can tell that home maintenance has definitely taken a back seat this year.

Each of you may have a different opinion about what should be happening at this point.  One of your siblings may be struggling to take control of the situation and the rest of you may be feeling a bit bullied.

Another sibling may be in complete denial that there has been any change whatsoever.  Add in-laws and partners to the mix and it can get stressful for everyone involved, including the older adult(s) at the centre of it all.  

So I have a few thoughts on preventing some of those family feuds… .  

If it’s possible to take a step back, you can acknowledge that change is scary for everyone.  Few, at any age, embrace change and #gettingOlder means getting up close and personal with one’s own #mortality.  Adult children can find the thought of their parents getting older absolutely terrifying and really no one ever likes to feel that they are losing control… .

Older adults understandably want to maintain their autonomy.  Most people don’t look forward to a time when they’re taking advice from their kids… .

You can also acknowledge that everyone in the family has different strengths and abilities.  If Mom and Dad are open to accepting some help - and that’s key - maybe one person can take the lead with some #maintenance or perhaps someone else can help Mom and or Dad stay on top of the paperwork coming in.  If one person is living close to Mom and Dad perhaps their siblings who aren’t so close can help out by paying for services that make everyone’s life easier. Play to people’s strengths if you can instead of their weaknesses and try to divvy up responsibilities to reduce the arguments.

Of course #communication is a wonderful thing. Asking Mom what she in fact wants to do ahead of time is a lot better than trying to figure everything out during a time of crisis.  As I shared last month, having a Plan B is a good idea at any age – just in case life throws any of you a curve ball - or twelve.

Tough conversations can take a few attempts. There is no need to seem dictatorial. Just broach the subject and then try again in a few weeks or the next time you get together.  

Rome wasn’t built in a day and if there is any opening at all you might #respectfully suggest giving something a try without making any commitments.  That may involve trying some personal #support #services in the home, looking at some #accessibility products or perhaps it’s visiting a couple of retirement residences for lunch.  You can suggest that it is all part of thinking about a Plan B – so that Mom and/or Dad get what THEY want if circumstances shift down the road.

These things can all help but it my line of work I do recommend gifting experiences, consumables or services.  Make the memories that YOU create good ones without adding to the stuff that rarely makes the short list when there is a move on the horizon.  It really is all about the time you spend together and generating those smiles. 

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