Happy, Children, Transitions

Happy, Children, Transitions

by Doyle Ranstrom on Feb 3, 2020

It was at the end of our session and my Naturopath asked me "Tell me four things that make you happy?"  Not what you do for others that make them happy or people do for you they think make you happy, but four things that make you genuinely happy.  

First of all, yes I work with a Naturopath and she is brilliant.  Second of all, I have thought about this question a lot.  For years I asked numerous clients when talking about retirement what they would enjoy doing during their retirement years.  So it was strange to be on the other end of this type of question.

Recently my wife and I were visiting some good friends of ours.  In reality, they love my wife and tolerate me. Anyway, they were telling us their children have been encouraging them to sell their rather large beautiful house which they love and move into a smaller house.  Professionally, over the years I have heard a lot of clients complain about their children encouraging the parents to make changes in their lives they do not want to make.  Personally, our children would never do so which makes us very fortunate as parents. 

Money is not an issue.  They both worked very hard, were very successful in their careers, and their children benefited from a very comfortable lifestyle growing up along with the college education they provided for each of them.  They could buy a smaller house, keep their current house and would be fine financially.  Most important, when they could fly first class, they fly Frontier, coach.  

Health is not an issue.  They both are avid outdoors people, hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.  He hiked 15 miles in the mountains when he turned 80 and she, in her late 70's recently completed hiking the 500 mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.    Of course, health can change at any time, but that is always true at any age. 

It seems to me that when children worry about their parents, it is generally in three areas.

  • Health, either one or both parent's health is deteriorating or they are worried it will happen.
  • Money, the kids are worried either the parents will run out of money, or spend their inheritance or a combination of both.  
  • Time, the kids are worried on or both parents will consume a lot of time as the kids have to deal with issues which include health forcing changes from being self-sufficient to assisted living, long-term care and/or memory car.  This is a legitimate concern as many individuals and couples are part of the sandwich generation, taking care of their kids and parents at the same time.  
    • For some families, it becomes almost a full-time job implementing a transition from independent to dependent living.  Part of this is simply the time needed to get rid of the parent's stuff.  Many people in my generation and the generation before me have a lot of stuff.  Most of it has no value, financial or sentimental.  It takes a lot of time to sort through all the stuff accumulated in a lifetime and either save, sell or throw.  One of the most important things parents can do for their children is get rid of most if not all their stuff.  

Going back to our friends, I would suggest the children ask their parents what would make them happy and then be quiet and listen to what the parents tell them understanding it may be different from what they want to hear. Then when this is over, the parents can ask the kids what are their concerns.  This takes place with the kids understanding they are welcome to their opinion but do not get a vote.  A trusted third party can often be helpful as a mediator in these types of meetings.

Its been my experience, if the children's concerns make sense and truly have the parent's best interests at heart, a plan can be worked out.  It does not mean immediate changes, but a least there is a plan.  When considering long-term options, I would suggest reading my blog "Guaranteeing Retirement".  Not for everyone, even most, but is a strategy that addresses a lot of questions and concerns which take place when parents go from healthy living to living with health issues.  

Circling back, if you really care about someone else, you ask them what will make them happy.  Not want makes you happy, or you think will make them happy, but actually what will make them happy.  It can be difficult, but anything important always is.  


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