There is no doubt that your parents have survived frightening world events, whether that was World War II, the war in Vietnam, nuclear threat, illness, poverty, civil unrest, or all of the above. However, the use of the word “unprecedented” regarding what is happening now is not an exaggeration. And they may not understand it all or what they should do, not because they are not wise, but because the news has been confusing to interpret. As of March 23rd, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States was only 33,404 cases across the United States with 400 confirmed deaths from the virus. And this does not sound like that many considering that the population of the United States is around 329 million, or seem to warrant the kind of lock-in that we need in order to stop the spread. So, if your parents are seeing these numbers, they may not be taking the need to stay home seriously.
When we first became aware of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, there were several TV pundits and other authority figures saying that the virus was just another version of the flu. We have learned a lot more about the seriousness of COVID-19 in the past few days, and the current advice is for people to stay home in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread.
It seems, though, that many people of the older generation may have stepped away from the news, often in the name of not giving in to panic and stress. If your parents continue to meet friends for lunch, go to work, and attend crowded events, you may be looking for support on how to get them to stay home.
By the time you get this, they may have no choice but to stay home, as some states are already doing formal lock-down/quarantine “shelter in place” mandates. Hawaii is currently on lock-down until at least April 30th. But, if your parents live somewhere without any shelter in place mandate, here is how I recommend you speak with them now.
Here is how to talk to your parents
1. Listen to them and determine the concerns they have.
Get curious about what they have heard, what they are frustrated about, and what they are skeptical about. Take note that many people are frustrated with lines at the grocery store, toilet paper hoarding, and the hysteria of the crowds around them. Your parents may not want to feel like they are one of “those people.” Assure them that taking some precautions, especially staying home, is completely reasonable and can be done in a non-panicked way. Make sure to repeat back their concerns to them and make them feel heard and believed rather than heaping all of your own fears onto them. Also, get real with them about their needs. Consider that your mom may be concerned about getting her hair and nails done, and while this may not be a big deal to you, it likely is to her. Consider how you can support her to make alternative arrangements during this time, or reassure her that she looks beautiful even without her regular hair appointment on the books.
2. Emphasize the risk in practical terms.
Share articles and news with them that state the facts, soberly, like this one. Your parents might already have a good understanding of how viruses spread in general. They may already know the basics of how important it is for them to wash their hands. But if they don’t already know, talk to them about *why* physical distancing is important, really to save the lives of people beyond themselves, if they don’t feel personally at risk.
3. Show them you are taking it seriously.
You may want to show them this video created by Max Brooks, son of legendary comedian Mel Brooks. He created a PSA to convince younger people to be cognizant of how they might spread the virus to people who are the most vulnerable to it. It presents the situation in a succinct, somewhat lighthearted way. It may also help your parents see that many people out there care about them and want to keep them safe. Since they may be younger than Mel Brooks’ 92 years, it also might make them feel a responsibility to protect people in even more of a vulnerable position than themselves as well.
Remember, your parents have been through a lot over their lifetime. Speak to them with your own vulnerability about your care for them, and your fears for them, using “I” statements such as “I am worried that you will get sick and I will not be able to get to you” or “I am afraid that I will not be able to help you if you need it” instead of saying things like “you are making the wrong decision” or “how could you still be going out?”
Speak to your parents as you wish they would speak to you. Model the way for them, even if they have not modeled the way for you in the past. Now is the time for us all to step up as leaders and remember we are all in this together.
In my next article, I will share some ideas regarding personal financial and legal steps you can take to get your (and your parents) affairs in order, while we are all sheltering at home. If you have questions about that before then, please contact me. I am here to help.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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