Having Difficult Conversations with Your Kids

The end of financial support. Financial support for children has shifted over the years. The boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) was used to their financial dependency or support from parents ending with their first job, whether that was after high school or college. Today, many adult children receive financial support from their parents for longer periods and may have become used to that help. The rub comes when parents retire and move to a fixed income. Often, something needs to change.

Babysitting. Having grandchildren is an enormously gratifying experience for most boomers. Many are delighted with the opportunity to help rear the next generation. But not everyone. Some prefer not to babysit at all, and others prefer to set limits on the time spent providing child care, especially if it hampers their own plans. Putting off travel because of babysitting responsibilities is one example that gives rise to the need for a serious conversation with adult children.

Time to move out. According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly 40 percent of adult children (ages 18
to 34) live with their parents. The challenge comes when the retirees consider moving to a different area or downsizing their living quarters. There can also be conflict over lifestyle patterns (e.g., hours that grown children keep, neatness, use of family resources, or assumptions that “Mom will do my laundry.”), leading to the need for a parent/adult child heart-to-heart talk.

Questions about inheritance. Whether or not the next generation will receive an inheritance is tricky. On the one hand, an adult child needs to know a parent’s financial situation if the child will be the executor of the parent’s will and if the parent is experiencing diminished mental capacity. On the other hand, these conversations are personal, and situations vary greatly. Each individual or couple needs to thoughtfully decide the nature and degree of when the heirs need to know the parent’s (or parents’) financial situation and its potential future impact.

All of the situations described above are common ones. As you approach retirement, it is important to raise these issues with your children if they apply to you. But engaging in these conversations may be difficult. If you keep in mind the fundamentals listed below, you might find that you can make the difficult conversations less difficult.

  • Give the conversation importance. Tell your child (or children) in advance that there is something important you want to discuss. Set up the conversation by scheduling a time that works for both you and your adult child (or children).
  • Allow time to plan for implementation. If your adult child needs to set up child care for your grandchildren or needs to make new living arrangements because he or she is moving out of your home, this means making alternative arrangements that can’t be completed overnight.
  • Be honest. Tell your child why this important and what you want to happen. Treat the conversation as a discussion between two adults.
  • Provide time to respond and genuinely listen to what your child has to say. Resolving the situation may take more than one meeting, so give your adult child time to think about a potential solution to the issue.

Above all else, for any of the situations described here, try to approach the conversation as calmly and lovingly as possible. The issue needs to be addressed, but with patience and understanding.

Have more questions about how to make these kind of decisions for your retirement years? Join us for a special seminar on October 18th on "7 Things you Need to Know to Have an Intentional Retirement."