How Seniors Improve Family Communication
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Carmen and I found families were the most important resource in helping seniors, especially in their last years. The quality and quantity of support often depend on the effectiveness of family communication. We also found that most families could improve family communication. Family communication is one of the five master techniques of CarePlanIt. Understanding how seniors improve family communication can help.
In fact, “Family Communication” is used by Super Agers. It’s a master technique. Here’s what we cover in that Section:
The topics above help seniors improve family communication. We highly encourage you to study these Sections.
What We Cover In This Article
In this article, Carmen and I cover a basic theory of family communication. We’re doing this to give you an idea of the diversity of how our parents, parent their children. How that parenting style permeates through an adult’s life varies. However, you will probably see some patterns that you can use to improve your adult communication with your parents and with your adult children if you’re a parent. We also take some pop psychology liberties below and suggest how your parents might respond to you as an adult child seeking to participate in their senior lives.
Improving Family Communication With Family Communication Patterns Theory
The Definition Of The Terms
Understanding the concepts associated with Family Communication Patterns Theory can help seniors improve family communication.
The high end of this dimension involves a climate where family members are encouraged to participate in unrestrained interactions about various topics. In these families, the members are capable of having open conversations. They can discuss and explore topics freely.
Conversely, the low-end of this dimension involves fewer interactions and discussions about a limited number of topics. There is also less of an exchange of demons, feelings, and activities.
This dimension of family communication refers to the degree to which family communication stresses a climate of homogeneity of attitudes, beliefs, and values. Families falling on the high-end of this dimension are characterized by uniformity of beliefs, conflict, and avoidance.
In these families, the family is viewed traditionally. Parents make decisions, and define the family’s values. These families don’t support open conversations. Conversely, at the low end of this dimension, is the opposite. Family members have equal decision-making authority and belief systems are varied.
This definition of family communication style is characterized by being high in conformity and low on conversion. Families following the protective style don’t value open conversation. Also, they’re oriented toward conformity. These are the families where you hear a lot of “Because I said so.” The parents expect their children to obey. In addition, they don’t feel compelled to explain their rationale for decisions.
Conflict is usually low in these families. Children are encouraged to follow family norms. However, the family is ill-equipped to manage conflict. Generally, children from these families do not learn to trust their own decision-making abilities.
This definition of family communication style is high in conversion and low in conformity orientation. Unlike the protective style, parents in these families do not feel the need to make decisions for their children or control them. Children have an equal right to an opinion. These opinions are evaluated on their merits.
Pluralistic families are the life lessons families. Parents manage their children in ways that encourage and support life lessons. For example, these parents are likely to encourage their kids to spend time at camp or with other people. Their children learn from these experiences without having their parents direct or manage their lessons. They expect their children to develop through interactions with people outside the family.
In these families, decisions are made collectively. Everyone has equal input. These families are not afraid of disagreements. They engage in open conflict resolution. Also, they develop and hone conflict resolution strategies. Children from pluralistic families learn to be confident and independent decision-makers.
This definition of family style is high on both conversion and conformity orientation. These families follow a kind of modern corporate hierarchy philosophy. The employees (children) are allowed input and encouraged to try new things, but the boss has final decision-making powers. In other words, this parenting style encourages open conversations but conformity within the family unit.
Family members are encouraged to communicate freely about feelings, thoughts, and activities. However, at the same time, parents get the final say about important issues. These conflicting orientations lead to internal tensions. Like in a good company, the boss encourages employee exploration and participation, but in the end, the boss has the final say. caused by a desire to be open but also have control. Parents in these families spend a lot of time explaining their decisions, values, and beliefs. Equally important to the parent, their children learn to value conversation and often adopt the family value system. Families following this style try to avoid conflict. Conflict threatens the hierarchical structure in which the parents make choices for the family.
This definition of family style is low in both conformity and conversion orientation. Laissez-faire families value neither conversation nor conformity. Unlike the other theories, members of these families are characterized as “emotionally divorced” from each other. Discussions are minimal. Parents don’t have an interest or investment in the decisions made by their children. It’s a kind of free for all where everyone goes their own way.
Because it’s permissible for everyone to go their own way, conflicts are rare. However, children do not learn the value of conversation or how to interact with others. Children in these environments often question their ability to make decisions.
Pop Psychology Approach To How Families Interact At End Of Life
In this Section, we’re taking some pop psychology liberties and asking two questions about improving family communication.
To Drive, Or Not To Drive – Universal Scenario
To contextualize our pop psychology, we’ll use this scenario. The car insurance company has raised Mom and Dad’s insurance premium by 250%. Mom is seventy-eight and Dad is eighty-two. You’re their fifty-eight-year-old child Leroy. When you investigate the increase, you discover that they’ve both had accidents in the last 18 months. Also, when you visit you see lots of small dents in their car, and a hole in the garage made when they failed to stop. You think Mom and Dad should stop driving or curtail their trips. They disagree.
Family Communication Patterns Theory When We’re All Grown Up
Keep in mind that we’re taking lots of liberties here. However, we do want to make the point that the way we raised our kids, or the way our parent’s raised us can easily show up in our old age.
Protective When We’re All Grownup
This is the family lifestyle that emphasizes conformity and authority. Parents were in charge and they didn’t owe their kids any explanation. As adults, these parents may remain the same. Accepting help from children is difficult. Children are often eager to help. However, they often give up when their parents refuse the help.
To Drive Or Not To Drive
How seniors improve family communication under this scenario is tricky. With protective parents, the kids aren’t likely to convince their parents to stop firing. Likewise, the parents aren’t likely to want to stop. However, if the parents are kept in charge they may be willing to develop their own criteria for when they should stop.
Ask them to make a list determining when a seniors should have their firearms taken away. Then ask them to make a list for a car.
Pluralistic When We’re All Grownup
This is the family that embraced “life lessons.” Everyone listened and participated. Family members encourage and support learning and growth. If everyone remains the same, this is the lifestyle that’s open to the best family communication. The result is often the most support and cooperation among family members.
To Drive Or Not To Drive
With pluralistic parents improving family communication may not be needed. Everyone listens to everyone else. Everyone had an equal opinion and a chance to explain why their opinion was right. Odds are good that parents listen to their kids and that kids to their parents.
Get the issues on the table. Discuss them. You’re a member of the most rational and cooperative group.
Consensual When We’re All Grownup
This family communication dimension discussed lots of issues, but the parents made the decision in the end. When this group is all grown up it’s unlikely seniors will support any held that involves a role reveal. In other words, scenarios where the kids get to act like their parents.
To Drive Or Not To Drive
Parents will listen to their children. But they’re still the parent, and they make the final decision.
To improve family communication, a child should get a peer of their parents to discuss the issue. If you are a parent, make your own set of criteria for when you’ll give up driving.
Laissez-Faire When We’re All Grownup
This is the free for all family. Where everyone is on their own. Its unlikely parents will slow down their kids’ desire to tell them what to do. It’s equally unlikely that the kids will slow down trying to parent their parents.
To Drive Or Not To Drive
It’s hard to improve communication in these environments. Parents will likely drive until something catastrophic happens. Kids will predict that catastrophe is long overdue.
Children may have to anonymously report their parents to the DMV if things get too bad.
Other Resources On Improving Family Communication
Great research paper on Family Communication Patterns Theory here.
Another good article on Family Communication Patterns Theory here.