Kids Are Grown,

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Transcript

Transcript – Episode 30 – How To Have Challenging Conversations With Your Parents – With Johanna Lynn

Alice Agnello
Hello, Joanna, and thank you so much for agreeing to be on the podcast. I really, really appreciate it.

Johanna Lynn
So happy to be here. It's great to be with you.

Alice Agnello
So tell me a little bit about yourself and the Family Imprint Institute.

Johanna Lynn
Yeah. Well, I have always been fascinated by how our family shapes us. Even as like a younger person, I've always been so curious to know why we do the things we do, why we choose certain partners, why certain habits are harder to kind of break away from than others. I've always been just super curious about that. And it led me into mind body studies and lead me into this beautiful body of work. That is actually quite scientific, bringing in epigenetics and neuroscience and the whole idea of there is a method to the madness of how any of us, you know, end up the way we do,

Alice Agnello
Because I think we were talking before and it's about how intergenerational influences affect our lives. So you can talk to that a little bit?

Johanna Lynn
Yeah. Well, if we really think about it, you know, chromosomally, biologically, we're half our mom, and half our dad. And this ends up influencing every area of our lives much more than anyone gives a lot of thought to. But if we really break it down, it makes perfect sense.

Alice Agnello
It really does. Because I noticed that even with factors or the way I do things, or the way I feel, you know, definitely have my father's tendencies and the way I do things definitely have my mom even to the point where, like, I love mayonnaise my mom does, my dad hates it my sister hates it, you know, just I think it goes down to that kind of a level too.

Johanna Lynn
It does.

Alice Agnello
So and those my own kids go ahead

Johanna Lynn
I was gonna say and those parents that are listening if only we could cherry pick, you know, the very best parts of ourselves but sadly it doesn't work that way.

Alice Agnello
No, and I think that's why like my son and I are very alike. So we butt heads a lot. And my husband and my other son, butt heads a lot. And I think again, again, similar personalities. And I so I completely agree with everything you just said for that.

Johanna Lynn
Tried and true.

Alice Agnello
Yeah. So today, we wanted to talk about how to have those challenging conversations with your aging parents, because at this point, you've got possibly kids who are getting older, and they might not need you as much. But then you've also got your parents who might start asking you to do things, or you notice that your parents are starting to maybe slip a little bit. And there's a lovely phrase like you're the sandwich generation. So you're almost, you're a caretaker for your kids. And now you're almost done. And now all of a sudden, you're now the caretaker for your parents.

Johanna Lynn
Yeah, talk about being pulled in a million directions.

Alice Agnello
Exactly.

Johanna Lynn
It can be so challenging, and I think where this approach that the view that of how we the place we have in our family, I guess is what I really want to say, really supports and guiding through some of these more difficult pieces.

Alice Agnello
From personal experience, my parents, my one grandmother had everything laid out and everyone knew what was going to happen. And we had another, my other grandmother who really didn't take care of things. And so we didn't know what her finances were like or what her wishes were. And so because of my parents going through that, they made sure that myself and my sister know exactly what their wishes are, where all the documents are stored, who's the power of attorney, and how it's all going to be laid out for them.

Johanna Lynn
I think that ideal, yes.

Alice Agnello
And I think it's given me a sense of comfort, because I know it's already taken care of, and there's no question that I might have from of that. So I'm curious, how do I start that conversation if I don't know anything about my parents and where they kind of are with our finances with their life or wills?

Johanna Lynn
That's, that's a profound question because it's that big question mark that none of us really want to talk about. And yet, you know, it's the inevitable you know, what are certain things in life, you know, death and taxes, we know this is coming for all of us. And so, as a supposing your parents are in good health, my best suggestion would be to encourage them to meet with a professional. And so the best way to encourage our parents is to speak about our own experiences. So hey, my spouse and I just met with a financial planner and we're putting our will together and you know, just got me thinking, How are things with with you and dad or, you know, you and mom, how are how is that for you? Because I want to be sure all of your wishes are carried out. Everything that you want to have happen, can be followed through. I just want to be sure nothing is missed.

Alice Agnello
Because then you've got that third party who is helping direct the conversation a little bit more,

Johanna Lynn
Keeping it objective,

Alice Agnello
And you're not the one telling your parents what to do because just like your children don't want to be told what to do. I'm sure your parents don't want to be told what to do.

Johanna Lynn
Well, in from this, this approach, there's something called the orders of love. And we actually reverse the orders of care when we step into that sort of advisor or guidance role with our parents. And so as much as possible, we want to keep them in the driver's seat for as long as we can. And if their health is deteriorating, any kind of help that we give, we want to keep them in that respected place as as first as for as long as possible.

Alice Agnello
Tell me more about that four did you say four layers of love?

Johanna Lynn
So there's actually 70 orders of love.

Alice Agnello
Oh, my goodness!

Johanna Lynn
Why this stuff is not taught in school I'll never understand it. It's almost like we only bump up against it when we're challenged. You know, we're, we have a parent that are that that sandwich generation, you know, that we're starting to look outside of our own knowledge base to bring in something that will help,

Alice Agnello
Because it really is brand new territory when dealing with your parents in this reverse way.

Johanna Lynn
That's it, and even having a different relationship with your children, you know, what does that team relationship look like with them? What does that adult relationship look like? It really evolves over time. And so with our parents, the ideal position is parents give and children receive. And so we want to do our best to keep things in that model for as long as possible, which is why sometimes the best suggestion is bringing in that objective third party, that financial planner that you know, the person that plans for all of these eventualities that can keep that objectivity. And so you can really remain in the place of daughter in this conversation.

Alice Agnello
And so for like other aspects I'm thinking just taking care of their home, you know, how do I give up the help that I know that they need without taking over? Because because I know a lot of people, you just want to fix it, you just want to get it done. You just want to help them. But how do you kind of navigate those waters?

Johanna Lynn
It can be so sticky, because you're thinking I'll just come and clean out the garage, it'll take a weekend, you know, but for them, they might be treasured memories there might be there's difficulty of the acceptance of where they're at at a certain stage of their lives. So it's just filled with all these other emotional elements. And so it is determinant you know, family to family. But if there is the funds to cover, can you bring in somebody who's great with organization who might, you know, take the extra things off to donations. Is there any way you can rally some friends or other siblings to be sure that this also doesn't fall onto one. Again…

Alice Agnello
Sorry.

Johanna Lynn
Sorry to say it all of the families that I've worked with, for whatever reason, it seems to be one primary sibling that kind of holds the brunt of it. And it can create a lot of friction in the sibling relationships.

Alice Agnello
I can see that because my parents, they moved in closer to me. So they're at a retirement community, but they actually volunteer to help clean out and clear out as people who move from like a house to an apartment or an apartment to assisted living, and they will go in and so part of the service is whatever the family doesn't want, then they take it all out of the house for them to make it a little bit easier. But my, my, my parents have commented that they've seen that dynamic as you're seeing, like, there's definitely one parent one child who's in charge, and they've seen how their they've treated the parent almost like a bad child like you haven't cleaned this up, just leave it, who cares? It doesn't matter anymore. And they're always there. Like, within a weekend, like they've got to get back to something else. And my mom's heart goes out to them, because you just don't want to rush that process.

Johanna Lynn
No, I mean, this is really a lifetime of memories that have been collected. And, you know, I understand, you know, the, the, the children, I guess the adult children are coming from, you know, very fast paced work week, they've got to get home to their children, again, that sandwich piece, but we're also not honoring the emotional part of where our parents are at. And so how beautiful that your parents volunteer, and that's great to hear that there are these services available to help the process.

Alice Agnello
And I know it's hard. As you said, you're you're torn like you want to take care of your parent, but at the same time, you've got to get back and do so many other things. So how do I let my parents stay in their role as a parent without me taking over, like, almost as their parents again, which I really shouldn't be, I should be their daughter.

Johanna Lynn
Yeah. And I think it's a sort of the way we show up. It's, it's sort of what we bring to the table. And so, a lot of the times, it's before we even knock on the door, you know, we were getting ready that Okay, here I come. I'm here to help for the weekend, we'll accomplish what we can. Keeping the relationship intact is more important than clearing up the garage. And you know, here I come as the daughter to make suggestions and offer support. And maybe I find a volunteer association like the one you said, your parents volunteer in maybe when I'm there for the weekend, I bring in extra support. So it doesn't all have to be done in a 48 hour window. But a lot of it is how we show up. Can we really remain in that place of the daughter instead of coming in like a steamroller, to get everything done, keeping in mind, it's the relationship we're trying to safeguard.

Alice Agnello
Especially if there's been, I think, you know, strained relationship, because there's this assumption, and I have friends who don't have good relationships with their parents or their, you know, moms or whatever. And I've told them, you know, just because the world says you have to have a relationship with this person, doesn't mean you have to be if they're toxic, and if it was a friend, you wouldn't deal with them, you wouldn't talk to them because you would try and keep them as far away as possible. But I know…

Johanna Lynn
Here's the catch with that.

Alice Agnello
I know that they come back in you just can't ignore them completely.

Johanna Lynn
Well, we're half of them.

Alice Agnello
Right.

Johanna Lynn
So a lot of what we're trying to keep away to keep that in arm's length, or even the the, the judgment or the self protection that they're toxic and I've got to stay away. What happens is it comes to live out in another generation. So that dance we might have gotten stuck with with a complicated mom or a critical mom will end up living that out with our own child, or our child will with our grandchild. We know in this work, it's been around for 50 years that if a family member is excluded, or doesn't really have their place, we see it play out again. And so a lot of the times even what we blame our mom for so let's say we use that example. Oh, she's so critical. She's always so negative. We often end up doing that very same thing we blame her for to ourselves. We're the harshest self critic, you know, we're critical to our own children. And a lot of my work is okay, we've got this critical mom, and now you're in this position where the family expects you to come in and help take care and sort out all the details. You know, wow, what a what a pressure cooker.

Alice Agnello
Because you're getting, because you're dealing with all of your emotions that you might not have dealt with before. And now you're expected to make these life altering decisions because maybe they had a stroke or and you they are you are listed as their next of kin power of attorney and you didn't even know it. And now you're thrown into this mix of having to take care of things. And there might be a lot of resistance to that.

Johanna Lynn
You know, now you're thrown into like crisis management. And there's all of these unresolved emotions. And to be honest with you, that's typically the time that someone will reach out to my practice and go, “Ahhh help. I'm drowning here.” And a lot of the work that we do is to open up some understanding and some compassion, which has to include what happened to mom. And so instead of getting furious, instead of that, that same way that we always go, I encourage my clients to lean in and get curious.

Alice Agnello
And try a different reaction because they're reacting the same way with the same pattern.

Johanna Lynn
That's right and even further, like what's behind mom's criticism? You know, how, how is grandma? So a lot of the times the client will say, oh, grandma is amazing. She's so loving. Okay, and? What did mom say about her mom? You know, because right? It's gonna be a very different person. And oftentimes it is. 

Alice Agnello

I joke around my dad, you know, and he knows this. I'm like, you're a different man now than you were when I was growing up. And I understand he was stressed from his job. And so it's just a different relationship he has with his grandkids because the stress is not there as much anymore and he completely agrees with me and that's a joke that we have between the two of us when I see him.

Johanna Lynn
So perfect and so much of the time I love that you brought that up because so much of the time there is so many years of closure and heart hurt, that the only way that they can really let in a softening is to see how their mom or dad interacts with their children. You know, oh, wow, she's so loving, she's so much more patient. And if we can open up our hearts, to kind of let that in and let that soften some of the ways we were hurt when you know, struggle and finances and work schedules were in the mix. And none of us are at our best selves when we're juggling 42 balls at the same time.

Alice Agnello
And there's almost a I would say, a feeling of jealousy, because you didn't get that same reaction when you were younger that you see your parent now giving to your child and you're and you're trying to reconcile, like, how do I move forward from this when I see this happening?

Johanna Lynn
Yeah, and I think the best way to reconcile is to step back into your own adult experience, which is yeah, I'm exhausted. I'm pushed to the edge. I'm juggling, you know my professional life and being a parent and oh yeah, helping out my parents. And there's all of this stuff going on. And so I imagine my mom or dad felt the exact same way. Because when we begin to recognize if I feel, it's almost like we get stuck in a fight for what we didn't get enough of as a child, and if we still have that lingering jealousy, we get to live it out in our marriage, you know, we'll have the same defense or the same hurts with our spouse thinking, you don't give me enough time and attention. But really, who was that addressed to? You know, back to the original experience with mom or dad.

Alice Agnello
So how do I emotionally prepare myself to see them age? You know, is there anything I can do ahead of time to try and get myself in the right space or just know that it's going to happen or what kind of what kind of questions should I ask myself?

Johanna Lynn
You know, that's so hard and even as I think about my own parents, it just brings me such sadness to think oh, of course, you know, there will come a day. My mom is actually working with her own father through a bit of, you know, crisis management in his aging and a lot of the financial pieces that were left undone a lot of the health pieces that haven't been optimized. And so there's all kinds of challenges. And so she'll sort of say to me, I don't ever want you to go through this, you know, what I've kind of been thrown into. And so sometimes we learned through the hard way, how to set things up for our kids. So it gets to be different, a little bit related to the story you shared earlier. I don't know if there is any way to prepare for that eventual loss. It's, you know, it will hurt and it will change our lives forever. I think this world is a very different place to live in when we no longer have our parents in it. Even if the relationship has been very complicated. It because all of a sudden, there's this sense of oh, I thought there was time, potentially to complete that or, or say that thing I needed to say. And we still can do that, you know, in in a therapeutic setting. But sometimes we've got this idea of what it could look like. And so I think for for me anyways, if I'll share what I've done with your listeners, is have those conversations of appreciation, of gratitude, opening up some of the challenges so that there isn't those unspoken pieces. You know, kind of saying to them, geez, now that I'm a parent myself, I see this also differently. And it begins to open up another way of connecting and relating to them that I invite you know, we should all really take that chance while we can.

Alice Agnello
Yeah, I think because my my parents are closer now. They've been in California for the most part. We moved out to Virginia about 15 years ago, so it was only every once in a while. So it's been an interesting shift for me to know that I have help. Now, you know, where I've been so reliant on myself and my husband and a couple of friends. My mom's like, well, why didn't you call me and I'm like, oh, because I'm not used to thinking of you as down the street.

Johanna Lynn
That's right they're here.

Alice Agnello
They are here. So I try and do take advantage of everything that she has to offer. And I say to myself, I'm going to take advantage of as much as she wants to give as possible and let go of any guilt I might feel because I don't need to feel any of that guilt.

Johanna Lynn
Exactly. And you bring up such an important part. That's another way of being the daughter is receiving from our mom, and she probably has great joy in wanting to help you out and being with the grandkids and I think we are healthier for it. If we find a way to really receive the love and support, especially if it wasn't there for so long.

Alice Agnello
So if for someone who doesn't have they have a good relationship, let's just say good relationship, but they need to talk to, especially with the holidays, you know, coming up, and they're kind of making it maybe a point to maybe have a conversation with their parents about, you know, what, what are your plans? Do you have anything in place? Like, what kind of questions or how should I phrase the questions so they don't come across, you know, threatening to them.

Johanna Lynn
Of course. So my first suggestion will be not to have it around the holidays.

Alice Agnello
Ok, good.

Johanna Lynn
There's already so much hyped expectations of how it should go.

Alice Agnello
And I think that's a really good point. I think you're, you bring a really good point because people always put so much on the holidays, and then I'll slip in one more thing and there's, it's you're right, it's not a good time really to do it.

Johanna Lynn
That's it. And so I would suggest that it's a completely separate conversation or phone call. And begin with a story lead with, you know, I've been looking into updating my will or I've been looking into preparing for retirement or whatever, wherever you are at in your stage. And it just got me thinking, I wonder where you guys are at with it. And is there anything I can do to help things along? Another thing you can do this comes from my background and clinical hypnotherapy is tell a story, even if it's a little bit of a made up story. Oh, I was talking to my friend Jan. And did she ever have the worst experience? Her parents passed away suddenly and she was thrown into this chaos. You know, you can fill in the blanks from there that this got me thinking Mom, you know, how are things set up? And how can I best support you and dad?

Alice Agnello
Because it's definitely more non threatening than a very direct question to your parent. Because I would think as a parent they get might be threatened or it's none of your business, if you do tend to act, you know, in that in that manner towards them.

Johanna Lynn
That's it. Well, and they don't want to feel made wrong, oh, I haven't done XYZ. And many people don't have their financial house in order, let's be honest. And so no one likes to feel, you know, called out for lack of a better word from their own child, and it changes the relationship. And so this can be tender territory, you know, the whole financial conversation, and we want to be able to approach it respectfully and so that it's not going to make them feel pushed into a corner.

Alice Agnello
I worked for a financial advisor. So I have a different perspective, because I'm more cut and dry because I can, I've seen what can happen when things aren't in place. I can also see when family members are trying to get information and I have to tell them I'm, I'm so sorry, I can't talk to you. Your parents have not given me permission to and there's nothing I can do about it. And I can also to your point of the guilt factor. When clients we see them, you know, once or twice a year, they would come in and they still haven't gotten a trust done, or they still haven't gotten a will done. You know, we are the ones who are your quote, guilty them into getting it done to try and make it easier for their family members.

Johanna Lynn
And that's the appropriate way.

Alice Agnello
Correct.

Johanna Lynn
You want the professionals to take the heat, and you're going to be lightly there with, you know, stories to nudge along.

Alice Agnello
Exactly, no, no, I love that. Um, is there anything we haven't touched upon that you wanted to kind of talk more about?

Johanna Lynn
Well, I think I was so surprised when I read about this study. And it kind of goes to exactly what we're talking about that it was out of the University of London and it looked at what is the biggest predictor of heart disease and cancer. And I think a lot of us think oh, high cholesterol, maybe smoking, maybe eating lots of fried foods, but it's none of those things. The best predictor was unresolved emotions that kind of eat away at us from inside and cause all kinds of disharmony in the body. And so when we think about having these difficult conversations with our parents or being unsure about a new relationship with our growing children, this is sort of the background stress, like a slow leak in your tire that just ends up really compromising your well being. And so how do we get ahead of that? And and I kind of love the topic and the questions you've asked, because so much of it feels really preventative to me. How do we you know, stop the fire before it erupts kind of a thing?

Alice Agnello
Exactly. And I think that's why I wanted to have you on and wanted to start the conversation, you know, you got as a sandwich generation, we have to start slowly trying to get the information so it's not this, you know, wham kind of thing, a disaster happens and then you're scrambling trying to get all the information that you possibly need. And then maybe it's too late, something happens and your parents passed away. And then you're stuck in just a bunch of paperwork, a lot of paperwork.

Johanna Lynn
Or like you would the example you gave earlier, there is a stroke and the parent is non communicative for a time, and everything's kind of in this limbo. And so it only makes sense that we can be as open as we can. But there's complicated dynamics at play. And so these are the pieces that we want. We're all so excited to share. But these are the pieces to clean up before we can get to the nuts and bolts numbers kind of conversations. I think there's so much easier to have when the strength of the relationship is intact.

Alice Agnello
And to what you were saying about that unresolved emotion is one of the leading, you know, killers. It's it's not surprising to me, to be honest, you know. I think there is so much unresolved that no one talks about and or they don't know how to talk about it, and then just when you've got problems or issues with your parents, and then their health is compromised, it just compounds and it just makes you feel even worse, you know, inside. And the parents to you know, they might feel just as bad because you have no idea what your parent is feeling like unless you've actually discussed and talked about it

Johanna Lynn
That's it. You know, it's so interesting to me working with families, and you know, something that happened, I don't know, 25 years ago, the adult child has a very different, you know, rendition of what happened versus the parent. And so, you know, memories are so subjective and it all depends on you know, the quality of the relationship and how we hold it. Are they the villain in the in the story or are they the hero? And it adds to so much about how our health and well being ends up playing out.

Alice Agnello
Anything else you wanted to add before I ask you my last three fun questions.

Johanna Lynn
Well, I think we covered quite a bit. I think a lot of the times, what we're really talking about looks at an element of boundaries. So how do we also hold those resilient boundaries for ourselves, as we're looking through these kind of difficult conversations. And so none of us want to lose what's important to us, because we're trying to keep peace with the other. None of us want to feel pulled in a million directions and have no energy for what's really important to us. And so if we were really to just base that down, how do we explore in the body? How do we give enough space for yes to talk to us, and also the courage to hear no. So that we can really follow what we can give and be careful not to over give.

Alice Agnello
I like what you said about the courage to hear the no because sometimes that's a little harder to hear when it's your parent and all you have is good intentions for your parent.

Johanna Lynn
Well, that's it. And I think you bring up such an important point that the whole idea of boundaries, people have read about it, they're aware of it. And yet, if we took care of a sad mom, or a depressed dad, then it's our instinct to check outside of ourselves or what everybody else needs. And so we don't we have even checked in with our own body. Do I have enough energy to help them clean up the garage this weekend or fly to wherever and help? We're just already there. It's hardwired into us. And this can really throw us overboard, in complicating, complicated word to say, the relationship too.

Alice Agnello
No that makes sense because you don't want to put yourself into a situation where you know it's going to be high stress. And you're already in this high emotional state because you won't be as understanding as welcoming as just your ears even open because you feel like you've already heard the answer to whatever is being said, and you're not really fully truly listening to what needs to be done or said, or moved forward.

Johanna Lynn
Especially with our family. You know, I'll joke with my clients that we all carry this backpack with us, you know, of what was said 10 years ago, and how I was hurt as a child. And we show up with that backpack as they're in their vulnerable state of aging. And so, so much of that is brought into and this is really primarily what complicates the the bigger picture of the logistics and how do we implement the things that have to happen.

Alice Agnello
So ultimately, you've got to take off the backpack maybe for a little bit when you're put in these situations to really truly know and listen to what needs to be done for the benefit of your parent and your whole family.

Johanna Lynn
That's it and hey, you'll your marriage, your life, your everything, your health will we better off if you can let go of that backpack forever.

Alice Agnello
So I completely agree with you. Okay, but I guess we could go on and on and on. I know we could all right. So here's my fun questions for you, Ms. Johanna.

Johanna Lynn
Alrighty.

Alice Agnello
Alright, so tell me something that not a lot of people know about you.

Johanna Lynn
I love to get lost in great stories. So I would never admit to family or friends how much time I might go into a series and just sort of, you know, become the detective of the characters and just just love it. I just get so into it. I find that such fun.

Alice Agnello
I can. I'm right there with you, but I'm not gonna say anything else. Name it three things that you can't live without other than your family and your friends.

Johanna Lynn
Live music, going to concerts is one of my greatest joys. Time in nature. I think that's a real you know, the older I get, the more it feels like this is like a replenishing place. And one of my earliest areas of study was plant medicine. So essential oils are the main thing that I go towards, you know, for stress relief or a sore throat, or pretty much anything that would be so lost without them.

Alice Agnello
And if you could choose one song to play every time you entered a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Johanna Lynn
Well, I just saw Elton John in concert last week. So I think it would be the “I'm Still Standing.” You know, don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did.

Alice Agnello
I love that song! My husband and I just watched the bio on him

Johanna Lynn
Wasn't it beautiful?

Alice Agnello
So good. And so for the week, after all I was doing was listening to Elton John in the car. And that was one of them.

Johanna Lynn
He has so many hits, so many.

Alice Agnello
And there's so many that I didn't realize that he had like, I was like, Oh, he did this one. Oh, yeah, he did this one too. And you did this one too. And it just kept going and I'm like, I'm just gonna and then I would come in the door. I'd be humming one of the songs and my husband's like, Hey, I was just thinking that too. So I'm right there with you with Elton.

Johanna Lynn
He's a true icon. I tell you, it's such a great show. Wow.

Alice Agnello
So thank you so much, Johanna for I really, really appreciate it. I said, if anyone wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way to do that?

Johanna Lynn
Yeah, to visit my website, it's triple W dot, JoannaLynn.ca. All kinds of great articles and information if this has piqued their interest and they'd like to learn more.

Alice Agnello
That's wonderful. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Johanna Lynn
Great to be with you, Alice. Thank you.

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