Talking Through the Tough Stuff: Explaining Assisted Living Homes to Your Children

June 6, 2017

in Lifestyle

Tough, uncomfortable conversations are part of the rugged terrain of parenting. From bleary-eyed parents of newborns to seasoned guardians wading through the teen years, noone will dispute that the tough talks serve as defining moments for a child’s emotional development. However, when it comes to explaining to your little one why grandma or grandpa is moving to an assisted living facility, you don’t need to stress over the impact it will have.

Millions of seniors live in supported facilities

You and your family can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Currently, 6.3 million American seniors are housed in extended-stay or permanent assisted living homes, and many of those individuals have sons and daughters grappling with the same burden of explaining to their children why Grandma or Grandpa had to move. To ensure your child handles such a big change with ease and as little disruption as possible, follow these steps to secure a smooth transition.

Set the Scene

Most children, especially younger children, don’t respond well to change without preparation. Describe in detail to them what the visit will look like and that they'll likely be a nurse’s station, recreation room, hallways, common areas and dining rooms. Give them an idea of what they can expect, such as sudden announcements over the P.A. system and lots of people around. Phrase it in language your children can understand depending on their comprehension level. Think about saying something like, “Grandma or Grandpa need extra attention right now to make sure they don’t get sick and stay safe, but they’re very excited to see you!” Explain to them that from Los Angeles to the east coast, there are Grandparents across America living in similar facilities. If your elderly relative or parent is very ill, don’t ignore it and hope that your child doesn’t pick up on it. Remember: you can’t protect your child by pretending nothing is happening. 

Stay Positive

If a sudden decline in health or mobility leaves Grandma or Grandpa unable to do the activities your little one loved, shift the focus onto things they can do together. Guide your child and trade nature walks for drawing pictures of the world outside the window. Perhaps make bead jewelry or watch a silly cartoon together. Point out all of the great features Grandma and Grandpa’s new home has that their old home did not.

Come Bearing Gifts

Bringing a gift for your child to give to their grandparents is a great way to sustain your child’s presence in between visits. Whether it’s a framed picture or artwork that can be displayed or treats to share with friends. This will be a nice way to encourage conversation that the child can contribute to and of course, it's also a nice thing for their Grandparents too.  

By opening and maintaining an active line of communication between yourself and your child regarding assisted living, you are reinforcing the positives of change while showing that you are open for further questions. Such a significant life decision doesn’t need to be met with confusion on behalf of the child, so long as you are there to guide their feelings towards their Grandparents being safer, happier, and healthier.

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Lindsey Renuard is a blogger, YouTube beauty expert, and the Managing Editor of the Skiatook Journal.

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