October 24, 2017
Start the conversation
with some key questions you should ask
Both of my parents
lived well into their 80s. We were very much a part of each other’s
lives but I came to realize that I didn’t know as much about them as
they knew about me. We would talk every day but mostly about
incidental things. How do you feel? What did you do today? What are
you making for dinner? How’s the weather? But who really were they?
I know I missed many opportunities to start an open dialogue to find
out about their childhood memories, dreams, hopes, accomplishments —
what made them happy. Now that they are gone, I will never really be
able to recreate their pasts unless it is through secondhand
information from a relative or friend.
In this day and age,
many people don’t talk to one another anymore. They are too busy
texting, Facebooking, tweeting, etc. The art of conversation is
becoming a lost art. Yet, it really is the only way to get to know
As I surf the web to find topics of interest to write
about, I came across a site called AgingCare.com. Its title page is
“Conversation Starters: 20 Questions to Ask Your Parents.” The
questions, compiled by elder care experts and editors, are ones that
they would like to ask their parents and in exchange start a
dialogue to better get to know one another. In other words, start a
I actually enjoyed
answering the questions for myself and shared my history with my
son. Inner reflection is good. It can give you a new perspective on
where you have been and where you would still like to go.
consider taking these questions with you when you next visit your
parents. Pick the ones that you feel will give you the greatest
insight to get to know and appreciate them. Try to stay away from
the ones that may cause old conflicts or hurt feelings to come to
1. In what ways do you
think I’m like you? Not like you?
2. Who is the person who
influenced your life the most?
3. Do you have a lost love?
Which new technology have you found the most helpful in your life?
Which do you find the most annoying?
5. Is there anything you
have always wanted to tell me but never have?
6. Is there
anything you regret not asking your parents?
7. Do you wish
anything had been different between us, or would you still like to
8. What was the happiest moment of your life?
9. What are you most proud of?
10. How did your experience in the
military mold you as a person?
11. What are the most important
lessons you’ve learned in life?
12. What is your earliest memory?
13. Did you receive an allowance as a child? How much? Did you save
or spend it?
14. Who were your friends growing up?
was your favorite thing to do for fun?
16. What was school like
for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects?
What school activities/sports did you participate in?
18. Do you
remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothing?
19. What world events had the most impact on you?
How would you like to be remembered?
Being that I am deeply
involved in aging issues and care coordination, I have added a few
more questions below that could help you understand your parents in
the present time as they age.
1. What can I do for you now that
will make your life easier?
2. Do you still enjoy living in your
home? Your neighborhood?
3. Are you experiencing any medical
issues that are causing you concern?
4. Would you like me to come
with you to a doctor’s visit?
5. Have you been meaning to do
something that you have been procrastinating about?
6. What items
are on your bucket list that you would still like to do?
you like to spend the day together, just the two of us?
8. Can I
help you sort through things in your house that you’ve been meaning
9. Is there anything that you would like to be
different between you and your family, grandchildren?
10. Do you
have a Power of Attorney? Living Will?
When your parents are
gone, their history is gone with them. You may have their pictures
or other mementos as a keepsake but not their voice, their feelings
— their essence. Take time in the present to enjoy their company. It
may shed some light on who you are.