Aging Parents’ Secrets: Can We Know them?

You’ll see this comment below Saturday’s post.
“What a great article, it’s so true- seniors avoid telling their children important things for fear of the reaction. It would be great to get some tips on how to have these conversations with our aging parents, and yet still respect their independence and dignity.”  

I’ve heard people say it’s often easier to “share feelings with strangers.” Trying to personalize this I immediately thought of being on an airplane, sitting next to a complete stranger and sharing a conversation containing thoughts and feelings that could never have been shared with someone who knew anything about me or anyone who knew me.  Have you experienced this?

There’s a degree of safety in anonymity and there’s a degree of safety on a plane.  There’s also objective listening on the part of both participants, who know nothing about each other so if there’s a judgment to be made, there’s nothing personal attached–nor can anyone come back later to say “I told you so” (or “not to” or whatever).

Can this translate into a conversation of shared secrets with aging parents? We share secrets with parents when we’re kids; but it doesn’t seem to be prevalent the other way around, does it?

So the question is, can we create a safe climate in which aging parents feel as safe sharing secrets with us, as they might on an airplane with a stranger?

And here’s what I see as the problem: With a complete stranger, trust isn’t an issue since no ones knows who we are and we’ve chosen what we want them to know about us.  If we owned Harry Potter’s wand, we could make the relationship with our aging parents disappear…and come back as new. But we can’t, so how do we develop that trust? Must it be nurtured decades back? Is now too late?

I have some thoughts which I wanted to bounce off Senior Advisor, psychiatrist, Dr. Bud, but he’s unavailable for a few days. In the meantime, feel free to contribute thoughts, and I’ll be back Saturday–hopefully with a few good tips……so don’t go away for long.

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