I recently had the opportunity to help my parents work through some significant life decisions. As I have taken some time to reflect on that experience, I identified five tips that could be beneficial to anyone helping a parent or an older adult make a decision.
- Don’t wait to be asked – It could be tempting to stay out of their business until you are invited to get involved. This can be delicate but offering to provide input or perspective early in the decision-making process is often better than needing to clean up after the fact.
- Ask lots of questions – You can only be truly helpful when you fully understand what the other person needs or wants. If you try to swoop in with all the answers without taking the time to explore the other person’s perspective, your efforts might be viewed as controlling and not received well.
- Provide resources – Instead of coming with answers, bringing helpful resources to them is sometimes a better approach. Introduce them to experts that can help them with the decision. Keep in mind, an expert will likely be able to provide better advice than you and again will ease the perception that you are trying to control the situation.
- Simplify their decision – When possible, help them narrow their decision down to two viable options. If a decision can be simplified to two good options, then no matter which option they choose they will likely land in a good spot.
- Let the final decision up to them – Most people don’t want to be told want to do. By surrounding them with information, context, expert input, and letting them make their own decision, your efforts have the best chance of being helpful and seen in a positive light.
Decision making by itself can be stressful without introducing the parent/adult child dynamic. My overarching encouragement for both parents and children is to be gracious and sensitive to each other while working through an impactful decision. Remember, making a prudent choice is the end goal for everyone involved.
We always enjoy hearing your stories and experiences. Feel free to share any experience you have with making decisions that involve a parent/child dynamic.