How to Talk to Parents About Pre-planning

A 7 step guide to talking to parents about pre-planning. It might seem daunting, but with empathy and understanding, you can navigate this important conversation with parents with ease. Here are a few thoughtful steps to guide you:

1. Be practical, not sad:

Discussing the future, including end-of-life plans, can feel uncomfortable, but it's a practical step to ensure peace of mind for everyone. Framing the conversation as a way to honor their wishes and reduce uncertainty can make it less intimidating. Reassure your parents that this is about respect and preparedness, not morbidity. A pro tip is to structure it around life goals and a fun bucket list. Living life to the fullest instead of fearing death.

2. Choose the right moment:

Timing is crucial. Choose a moment when your parents or family are relaxed and there are minimal distractions. Whether it's during a quiet evening at home or a peaceful walk in the park, find a setting that feels comfortable for this sensitive conversation. Never try to corner your loved one to force them into talking about their death. 

3. Talk about funerals you went to:

Use shared experiences as a starting point. Reflect on funerals or memorials you've attended together and discuss what you appreciated about them. Ask your parents how they envision their own memorial. This can open up a more natural dialogue about their preferences and desires. A pro tip is to ask questions about their favorite songs, clothing, food, or activities. Take this time to reconnect with their likes and dislikes to create new joyful memories and feel more connected.

4. Involve them in the process:

Remember, this is about them. Involve your parents in every step of the planning process. Ask for their input and make it a collaborative effort. This not only ensures their wishes are respected but also helps them feel valued and heard. If multiple family members are involved, be sure to bring the focus back to whatever the parent would want, not what everyone else would want.  A pro tip is to ask a funeral director, spiritual advisor, or close friend to lead the conversation who will be the neutral party. 

5. Listen while they process the idea of death:

Give your parents the space to express their feelings and thoughts. They may need time to process the idea of planning for their own passing. Be patient and listen actively, providing reassurance and support as they navigate their emotions. This might take multiple days or even months to complete. A pro tip is to request a free planning guide from your funeral home and save the documents online.

6. Don't give up:

It’s easy to shy away from difficult topics, but this conversation is too important to postpone. Gently but firmly guide the discussion, emphasizing the importance of having these plans in place. Your persistence now will alleviate stress and confusion in the future. A pro tip is to give gentle reminders or plan special times to work on this task. A pro tip is to try planning lunches together, a calming fishing trip, camping, spa day, or pick a bucket list item to do after you completed all prearrangements.

7. Leave it in writing:

Once you’ve discussed and agreed upon their wishes, ensure everything is documented. Having a written plan provides clarity and can prevent potential misunderstandings or disputes later on. It’s a tangible way to honor their wishes and provide a lasting sense of security. Store all documents in a fireproof chest, online, and provide a copy to your funeral home, attorney, children, next of kin, and even your place of worship. A pro tip is to take your written wishes to a notary to make it official.