Family Life | Approaching difficult family topics and decisions

Family Life | Approaching difficult family topics and decisions


As a family-life educator, I teach people all the time on best practices and communication techniques to help with family dynamics.

Moreover, as a human, I know that some things are easier said than done.

No matter what kind of training you have in life, there are some topics that are often difficult to discuss ... some of the most difficult revolve around money, health of family members — specifically Alzheimer's — mental health, drug use and end-of-life planning and choices, just to name a few.

Besides the topics at hand, there are some common reasons given why families avoid having conversations about tough topics:

— Old emotions or issues could rear again.

— Long-standing family dynamics that are still in play make it tough to come together.

— Sibling relationships such as sibling rivalry, differences of opinion, etc.

— Long-distance conversations may not be as good as those had in person.

People avoid things that they do not understand, such as end-of-life planning.

They avoid things that they fear, such as mental health or dementia, and they avoid conversations that may end in conflict.

Many people may even feel all these responses at once.

So, how do we proceed in discussing these difficult topics?

To better help individuals and families, Illinois Extension has developed a movie series called "Timeless Family Topics" that features movies that highlight topics that can be difficult for families.

With each feature movie, we bring in an expert following the movie to answer questions about the topic to better help you or your family.

Last month, we showed "Thinking Money: The Psychology Behind Our Best and Worst Financial Decisions" and had a great discussion about the driving force behind many of our financial decisions.

Tonight we are showing "Monster in the Mind: The Convenient Un-truth about Alzheimer's."

Following this movie, we have a representative from the Alzheimer's Association available for a question-and-answer session, as well as a resource table full of free resources to take with you.

Next month, we will focus our attention on the opioid issue here in Illinois with the film "The Heroin Project" on July 10.

Following this movie, we will have a robust panel full of community experts and resources. Come learn more about the opioid epidemic, how it affects individuals, families and communities and be enlightened by our panel:

— Jonathon V. Sweedler, Ph.D., director of the UIUC/National Institute on Drug Abuse Center, professor of chemistry and neuroscience.

— Rosecrance.

— Champaign Health Department.

— University of Illinois Police Department.

— Dominion Diagnostics.

— And possibly others.

If you are interested in either of these events, they will be held at our office at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Please register by visiting our website at or by calling 217-333-7672.

We will have chairs set up but will leave room for people to bring in their own camp chairs to be more comfortable for movie viewing.

Popcorn will be provided in addition to plenty of resources.

To read more family-life topics, visit the statewide family-life blog, 'Family Files,' at For more information on family-life-related topics and programs, visit our local University of Illinois Extension website at or contact Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker at 217-333-7672 or

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