Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. All Americans can celebrate it, we can all get together as a family, give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, and eat!-all without the stress of finding the “perfect” gift or fear of political correctness!

Unfortunately, however, knowing that this might be the last Thanksgiving with an aging loved one can produce enormous pressure to make the holiday especially significant. In fact, when faced with the inevitable, many family members try to make up for 40, 50, or 60+ years of a less than close relationship in 1 day and set goals such as:

~ Preserve the family history

~ Erase all the years of animosity

~ Get answers to all the questions about your childhood

~ Get answers to all the questions about their childhood

~ Make this the holiday you become the Walton\’s

While it may well be sadly true that this will be the last Thanksgiving you share with your aging loved one, going into the holiday with unrealistic expectations – that everything must be done now – just ratchets up the anxiety and makes the day more difficult and stressful than it needs to be – and lessens the likelihood of success.

So, what do you do?

~ To begin with, keep your level of expectations realistic. Rather than think of this holiday as the one that finalizes everything, instead, think of it as the one that gets the process started.

~ Slow down the day – leave time for a number of quiet conversations rather than 1 big, significant one.

~ Start with “easy” topics such as your aging loved one\’s Thanksgiving traditions. Learning about their history can often explain decisions they made later in life.

~ Focus on objects such as family possessions or photographs. You might even want to pull out old photo albums or home movies and get the whole family involved.

~ Let the stories go where they go naturally. Trying to force a direction often stops the progress in its tracks.

Remember, an open door to future conversations in the holidays to come may be your most realistic expectation – and the one that reaps the biggest reward.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving® 2007 You can find information about Generational Coaching, AgeWiseLiving® seminars and free teleseminars, and to sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter at or by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country\’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University, where she created and teaches “Seniors Housing Management” at Cornell\’s School of Hotel Administration.

Barbara E. Friesner Generational Coach

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.