Help With Family Visits

Posted by on Dec 16, 2010 in Family Relationships |

Some of us look forward to visiting our aging parents or our adult children – others not so much. We may live nearby, seeing each other often, but some of us make only occasional visits.

For occasional visitors, it’s an opportunity see, hear, touch and sense what’s happening with our loved ones. The result can be joy and relief, or it can be growing concern and frustration.

Visits can get weighed down with tradition and habits. Some of these are welcome, others leave us feeling that we have not progressed in our relationships or in dealing with matters important to the family. If you feel frustrated, consider these causes and some ways of dealing with them:

What keeps some families “stuck”?

  • Denial and avoidance. These traits are part of human nature. Showing compassion towards others AND ourselves can keep emotions in check.
  • Old hurts, entrenched behaviours, and fear of conflict. Recognizing our “family drama” is the first step towards re-writing our story.
  • Overwhelming size or number of concerns. Breaking the problems into manageable parts and setting priorities can help.
  • Feeling powerless. Lack of confidence, skills or support may make you feel like giving in or giving up.

What you can do:

  • Inform yourself and others of the facts, issues and options. Whether it’s a health, financial, caregiving or lifestyle concern, sharing new information can be a neutral – even welcome – first step.
  • Prepare others for talking about important matters. Give advance notice of what’s on your mind – to your aging parent or your adult child.
  • Resolve to say or do something different this time. Using the same old approach and expecting different results just sets you up for frustration.
  • Build trust first. Try to show that you understand another person’s values, needs and fears, before advancing your own opinions and agenda.
  • Look for shared solutions that consider everyone’s interests. Taking too strong a position, whether you are the parent or adult child, may affect the well-being of another family member.
  • Set realistic objectives and take small steps. Major life changes are a process, not an event. Quick and simple just doesn’t apply.
  • Close any discussions by trying to get agreement on next steps.
  • Keep things in perspective. Limit the time and energy you devote to your concerns. Relax and enjoy the holiday.

Once the visit is over, reflect on and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Persist, gently and consistently, keeping everyone involved and engaged in the process.


Vol. 6, No. 12, © ElderWise 2010
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.




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