The relationship between children and parents is a constantly shifting conundrum. When kids are small, parents are the center of their universe, responsible for, well…their very existence. As kids grow up and become more self-sufficient, the needle on the spectrum of responsibilities is continuously sliding, altering the balance of power.
Now that there are only adults in the room, you, the former dependent, are stepping up to look out for the needs of your empty-nester parents. But just because grown children want to be involved in their parent’s decisions, it does not mean those parents are going to be enthusiastic about accepting their input. You call it caring. They call it meddling. It is tricky terrain and navigating it successfully requires dusting off your best communication skills.
For example, you can clearly see that aging in place in the family home is not in your parents’ best long-term interests. The house is essentially a monument to your childhood that has outlived its purpose. But, where you see wasted space, stairs, never-ending repairs, and piles of maintenance bills, Mom and Dad see a treasure trove of memories, and all that is familiar. Rightsizing feels like a giant leap out of their comfort zone. How can you gently persuade them it is actually a springboard to a carefree, exciting, new chapter filled with unlimited opportunities for social, intellectual, emotional and physical growth?
5 tips to Help Convince Parents to Move
Open the Communication Lines Early
It’s never too early to get the rightsizing conversational ball rolling. Though your parents are not currently facing an urgent need to move, the transition will be smoother if you start exploring options well before it’s really time to call the moving van. You might start by telling them how much you love their house and acknowledge that selling it will be an emotional undertaking for the whole family. Rather than approaching the move as a hard sell, ease into it by taking joyful walks down memory lane together and letting them know you understand their feelings.
Do Your Homework
Don’t broach the problem without presenting a solution. As soon as you bring up your concerns about your parents continuing forward in their house, be armed with plenty of information about the 55+ active adult communities in your area. With their permission, schedule a tour or two and investigate options as a family.
Be Honest About Your Concerns
Be concerned, not controlling. Most parents are uncomfortable with their children worrying about them and resent having opinions forced on them. Express your fears and concerns about their living situation in a loving way and stress your desire for them to experience the next chapter of their lives in an environment that is not only safe and comfortable but enriching and fun.
Ultimately, your parents will have to come to their own decision about rightsizing. But your research and positive attitude will go a long way toward tipping the scales. If your parents refuse to discuss the issue with you, fall back and regroup. It may be helpful to bring in a third party like a realtor, financial advisor, or a peer who has already embarked on the active adult adventure.
Be Part of the Solution
Rightsizing is a process that entails more than just signing on the dotted line. The prospect of wading through the flotsam and jetsam of a lifetime, organizing finances, packing boxes, and setting up a new household can be daunting. Let your parents know you will support them and be a part of their relocation experience every step of the way. Reassure them they are not going into exile and you will be just as much a part of their lives as you’ve always been.
That said, be prepared. Once your parents have decided to take the plunge, you may have a problem getting on their busy social calendar. Turnabout is fair play, right?