Are you thinking about the future of your health and wondering how to talk with your kids about it?
Have you lived with an illness for many years at this point? Are you facing a new diagnosis? Do you feel like things are changing for you?
Wherever you’re at, you might be thinking: What will the future hold for my health? What will my care look like? What role do my kids play in this part of my life?
These are all important questions!
Figuring out the answers and talking with your kids is essential. We also know it can be hard, no matter the relationship!
- you’re unsure what to talk to your kids about
- you’ve tried, but the conversation hasn’t gone anywhere
- you don’t know how to bring it up.
That’s why we’re sharing 7 steps to make this conversation easier and less stressful.
Importantly, this may not be a one-and-done conversation but the start of ongoing discussions. So let’s go!
1. Write down what you want to focus on
You probably have lots of things running through your mind. Take a moment to organize your thoughts. What do you want to share? Preparing for this portion may mean spending some time doing our Advance Care Planning Challenge, visiting with an EpioneMD coach, or reviewing your recent Advance Directives with your healthcare provider.
- I want to talk to them about being my healthcare agent
- I want them to know what’s currently happening with my health
- I want them to know what kind of care I want as I get older
- I want them to know the kind of care that’s important to me at end of life
2. What’s your ‘why’?
Why do you want to talk about these often uncomfortable topics now? Perhaps your reason comes from a place of compassion and concern or worry and fear; whatever your reason, it’s valid—recognizing your “why” is motivation to keep moving forward.
3. Tell your kids you want to talk
Reach out to your kids and let them know you’d like to find a time to talk about your health and the future. Letting them know your ‘why’ may also affirm the importance of this conversation for them and you.
Try: “You’re a really important part of my life, and as I make decisions about my healthcare, I want to make sure you know what’s happening with me. Can we talk?”
Try: “We’ve talked about how hard it is to see my friends struggling in the hospital and it’s got me thinking a lot about my own care. I need to talk with you about what kind of care I’d want in some of those situations. Can we find time to talk about it?”
4. Put it on the calendar.
This may seem obvious, but setting up an actual time and place (and putting it on the calendar) is an essential next step to ensure the conversation gets going.
5. Start the Conversation
Start the conversation by acknowledging how hard and emotional it is to talk about this stuff. Then set some sort of agenda.
Try: “Talking about these things feels really hard. I worry about upsetting you or making it seem I’m not hopeful about the future. PAUSE. Even though it’s hard, I’m glad we’re doing it. I hope to talk about what’s important to me.”
6. Give Space
Sometimes just opening the conversation allows space for your kids to share how they’re feeling and what they’ve been thinking about too. Give them space to share what’s been on their mind and try not to interrupt (I know that can be hard!)
Focus on one or two of the items on your agenda to start. This is a conversation you want to be able to continue over time, so don’t feel like you have to cover everything over one cup of coffee.
Try: “While I hope I’m healthy for a long time. I want to talk about if I end up in a place where I can’t live at home anymore. It would be essential for me to ____. I would want you to be able to _____. “
These conversations are complicated, emotional, and uncomfortable, but here’s a starting point. If you’re stuck preparing for the conversation or it keeps hitting a wall, sign up for a FREE discovery call to learn how we can help facilitate a conversation.
Now I want to hear from you!
How did it feel to start a conversation with your parents?
Let me know in the comments below!
And yes, you can email it and share it this post with a friend!
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Caitlin Baran M.D. is a Palliative Care physician and Coach with EpioneMD. She completed completed her fellowship in Hospice & Palliative Medicine at the Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care program. She has worked at academic centers including Massachusetts General Hospital and was an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Caitlin works to understand who people are and align healthcare choices with their values.