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When holiday gatherings turn into tough conversations

Holidays bring with them many feelings - some people fight the urge to turn on Christmas music in September while others cringe at the first holiday display in retail stores. While traditions and emotions may vary, one common theme around the holidays is family.

Perhaps the siblings you shared rooms with growing up have spread out across the country. Or maybe it was you who left the area. But every year, you all return home to spend the holidays together. You know your parents are getting older, so you all make it a point to be there.

You look forward to your visits every year. It's a time to catch up and make new memories with your own family. While you all do everything you can to keep the visits pleasant (which is no small feat for any family), it's so very rare that you all find yourselves together, face to face. This is why it would be wise to use this opportunity to have some important conversations.

While you or your siblings might bemoan the idea of turning happy holidays into serious discussions, how often do you get the chance to sit together and talk in person? There are big issues that most families face at one point or another.

What plans do your parents have for the future?

You all came back to your childhood home - a place filled with memories and keepsakes from long ago days. While nostalgic, the multiple staircases necessary to access key parts of the home may no longer be practical for your parents. How long do they plan to stay? If this is where they want to stay forever, what steps are necessary in order to make the space habitable as they age?

Are there current concerns that need to be addressed?

Is mom's driving becoming worrisome? Is dad not following the diet necessary to control his diabetes? Any time children have to step in and take control of a situation, it can feel like a role reversal - and that can feel uncomfortable. But when you and your siblings are together and can support each other, it decreases the burden on any one of you having to do it alone.

Time for you all to get on the same page

Maybe the conversation you need to have this holiday season is with your siblings. Perhaps you all need to get together, get on the same page, and discuss a course of action that includes your parents and honors their wishes. Whether there are disagreements on where mom and dad should live or who should be footing what bills, it's a time to discuss this in person rather than via text or email.

The serious stuff

Thinking about your parents passing away may not be how you want to spend a time of festivity. But knowing what they want - their wishes - is something that will bring peace to everyone. Do they have a living will (officially known as an advance health care directive)? What do they want to happen if they are no longer able to make their own decisions about their health care? Do they have a last will and testament? All of these points of discussion may be challenging to have, but they will be ones you regret not having.

No matter how you plan to spend your holidays, make the most of your time with those you love.

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