How To Talk To Your Parents and Get Them To Stay Home

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There’s 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’s happening now is not an exaggeration. And they may not understand it all or what they should do, not because they aren’t wise, but because the news has been confusing to interpret.

As of today, March 24, 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States was 44,183 across the United States with 544 confirmed deaths from the virus. These numbers are changing by the hour and exactly one week ago, there were only 7,043 confirmed cases and 95 confirmed deaths. While some may think this doesn’t sound like that many, or should warrant the kind of lock-in that we need in order to stop the spread, the numbers represent that the virus is spreading and growing rapidly. It is possible that if your parents are seeing these numbers, they may not be taking the need to stay home seriously.

This video from Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof, makes the case quite clearly about why we need to stay home, even if we aren’t afraid of getting sick ourselves.

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’ve 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, particularly for the next two weeks, 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 state’s are already doing formal lock-down/quarantine “shelter in place” mandates. But, if your parents live somewhere that’s not the case, here’s some suggestions on how to speak with them now.

  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 about 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’s 92 years, it also might make them feel a responsibility to protect people in even more of a vulnerable position than themselves as well.

These times are difficult and I recognize that these conversations are difficult as well. Last week I wrote on being clear about how your parent’s estate plan will impact you. If you missed it, you can read that here. If there is anything I can do for you and your family, please let me know. I look forward to connecting and serving you during these unprecedented times.  Please stay healthy and safe!