younger family members
to take on information-gath-ering roles. Monitor speaking time
to break up old patterns and facilitate
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 29
You know the personalities in your family.
Target the communication style to those specific personalities. Pay attention to these aspects.
☞ Carefully plan family meetings. Do
what mediators do to help your communication system to be more effective. Pay attention
to timing and location, determine who should
participate, spell out the discussion topics and
invite expert advisers if needed.
☞ Fully explore intent with your parents. Be ready to gently but firmly discuss
your parents’ values: Are those values consistent with the younger generation? For example, how will your parents deal with blended
families or adopted children when the
younger generation may want all heirs—bio
and adopted—to be recognized by the estate?
☞ Learn new ways to make decisions.
Focus on allowing all family members to be
heard. Explore a consensus model instead of
voting, abdicating or dictating. With a con-
sensus, all family members feel that they can live with the final solution, even if it’s not everything they wanted.
Simple communications tools
There are several general strategies that
may come very naturally to you and could
help to move family conversations forward.
☞ Take a walk in the other person’s
shoes. Try to understand what’s going on for
all your family members.
☞ Separate the person from the problem. Conflict is a shared problem that you
can conquer together without placing blame.
☞ Remember optimism. Celebrate
small successes and build on them.
☞ Break bread together. Sharing a
meal can help reestablish bonds and open
☞ Regularize family meetings, phone
calls and emails. Keep everyone in the loop.
☞ Try a little humor. It’s not a funny
situation, but if you can avoid taking everything
so seriously, it will be easier to discuss issues.
Finally, always remember forgiveness.
Fixing communication problems is not easy,
especially when you’ve been hurt in the past
or you’re currently embroiled in your family
conflict. But by combining patience, open-mindedness and forgiveness, you will be on
your way to more productive conversations
and better decision-making. C
Rikk Larsen, co-author of Mom Always Liked
You Best: A Guide for Resolving Family Feuds,
Inheritance Battles and Eldercare Crises, practices elder and family mediation in the New
England area (
By Vickie Dellaquila
WE ALL DO IT to some degree. It may be
collecting certain items, storing thousands of
photos or saving all of our children’s schoolwork, but at some point in our lives we may
need to downsize and deal with those treasures. Tossing it all into the trash, an option
for some, would likely be emotionally devastating for most of us.
When to downsize
Downsizing may not be a choice. If you’ve
become an empty nester with more space than
you can handle or if you have health issues
that require a lifestyle change, you may be considering a move to a smaller home or a retirement community. You won’t be able to take all
your possessions with you. Going through the
process of downsizing yourself, if you are able
to, is a good idea because you make the choices
about what to do with your belongings. If you
wait until you are physically unable to do this,
the choices may have to be made for you.
Others choose to downsize just to simplify life. At any age, many life transitions
present good opportunities for downsizing.
For example, as your children go through
stages of their lives, you can let go of some of
the items that go with those changes. If your
child is in high school, trim away those piles
of elementary school papers that you haven’t
looked at in years. Likewise, job transitions
are also opportunities for recycling paperwork that went with your former job.
Physical and emotional toll
Expect downsizing to take time, and recognize that it will be both physically and
emotionally draining. You shouldn’t try to do
it by yourself. Be sure to line up the help of
relatives, friends or a professional organizer.
☞ Attics, basements and garages tend
to be collection areas for seldom-used things.
Be very careful, because accessing those areas
can be very strenuous.
☞ Downsizing involves making many
decisions—often a mentally exhausting process—about what you want to do with your
belongings. Then comes the real work. Items
to be sold, recycled, trashed or donated to
various charities need to be prepared, packed
and moved out for pickup or transporting.