Ten Tips to Help Seniors Communicate with Their Boomer Children:
Be assertive . . . There will be situations where people talk to you in ways that are inappropriate. You may be patronized, put down or abused, even by family members. Assertiveness involves figuring out what you need in a specific situation, stating that clearly and definitively so that the other person can't fail to understand. Then don't allow the conversation to be sidetracked onto other issues.
. . . Not aggressive. Aggressive communication includes negative personal attacks on the other person as well as insults. Even if they make you feel good, these attacks are unlikely to be helpful and will probably just reinforce someone else's negative perception of you. When the focus becomes the other person, you've lost the ability to talk about what you want to talk about.
Be selective. Pick your battles. In some circumstances it may be easier to walk away or go along with something. You can't fight every battle or you'll exhaust yourself and alienate those around you. Save the assertive behavior for the situations where it is most important; that will also make it more effective.
Optimize your energy. Look for the places and times in which you are most effective in getting what you need out of conversations; plan to have important conversations at those places and times. If you're more on your toes in the mornings, then arrange for meetings at that time so that you're likely to get the most out of them.
Compensate for weaknesses. If you are having trouble hearing, or if it seems like people around you are not speaking clearly, get a hearing test and don't feel embarrassed if you need a hearing aid. Some hearing loss is a normal part of aging, and can be very effectively dealt with. The same applies to other things: if you forget important things that you wanted to talk about with someone (whether a family member or your physician), get into the habit of keeping lists or notes to remind you.
Seek independence, avoid dependence. Seek social contact where people encourage you to do things yourself and where they challenge you mentally or physically. Avoid spending lots of time in situations where everything is done for you. Even if people are doing this out of love or respect, spending too much time in situations where you are passive is bad for you. It can literally be bad for your health to be waited on all the time. If you need help to remain independent, seek out resources such as the Home Instead Senior Care network.
Raise the issue. Often there are issues that everyone knows are out there. Consider what your child might want to know, and if you have the opportunity to raise the issue, do it. A child may find it difficult to talk about a will. It's relatively straightforward, though, for you to mention to your child that you have one and it's all in order. If the topic is a difficult one, it is often helpful to "set the stage" by prefacing a conversation with "I want to talk to you about something . . ."
Defend without defensiveness. Your child may come to you with what seems to be an accusation -- perhaps it seems like your child is saying that you're not safe to drive anymore. Think about how to defend against this without defensiveness. Conflict and anger rarely change minds, but frank and constructive discussions can. Offer to take a driving test or a defensive driving course to demonstrate your competence. If a child is suggesting taking away your car keys, consider offering a compromise (you won't drive at night; you'll reduce your driving). Looking for places where you are comfortable meeting someone halfway will increase your chances of getting your own way on the issues most important to you.
Look for points of agreement. Even if you disagree with 90 percent of what someone is saying, don't forget to point out where you do agree: common ground is a good starting point for resolving problems. Talking about where you agree also demonstrates that you've listened carefully to what the other person is saying.
Listen and put yourself in the other person's shoes. When children come to you with an issue, it's normally 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 feelings you had for your parents when you were younger, and think about the trouble you might have had in raising difficult issues with them. Your child is feeling that same anxiety, so even if you disagree, look for ways to express your appreciation for their motivation. "I know you're saying this because you care about me." Expressing gratitude, caring, love and appreciation demonstrates your desire to maintain a positive relationship, no matter what the outcome of the current conversation.