Can We Talk: Family Health History – Part 1

I’m obsessed with 80s and 90s R&B. Give me some Mint Condition and New Edition and I am fully in my happy place. One of my singing-and-dancing-in-the-shower favorites is Can We Talk by Tevin Campbell. If you ever have the pleasure of seeing me (preferably not in the shower) when this song comes on, I’ll probably look like this:


Don’t judge me. It’s a classic.

It’s also the perfect way to bring up this topic of family and health. How do you talk to your family about their health? Being a 20-something, I struggle with this. I was raised under the premise that “I ain’t grown” and health is “grown folks business.” But as I got older, I realized that your family’s health is really your business – regardless of age. Your parents’ health issues can easily and usually do become yours. It doesn’t benefit anyone for you to wait until these issues manifest themselves on their own. So how to you ask the hard questions to the folks who usually ask YOU the hard questions? This is gonna be a two part answer. Part 1 will give suggestions for how to start the conversation and part 2 will focus on specific questions to ask once the conversation is started. We won’t address mental health in these posts. Thats a completely different conversation with separate issues. But don’t worry – I definitely didn’t forget about the topic! So on to the conversation starters –

  1. One way to start the conversation is to just ask. Hey, sometimes being direct is the way to go! Give your mom a call and just say, “Hey mom can we talk? I want to know a bit more about our family’s health.” Keep it simple out here.
  2. You can ease in by emphasizing that you want to know what you are getting into as an adult. If the direct approach isn’t your thing, you can always try the “I’m getting older and more responsible approach.” We all know family usually will appreciate a willingness to take on more responsibility. So you could say, “Hey dad. So you know that I’m getting a little older now and I’m trying to be a better me. But part of that is me taking more responsibility for my health. Can we talk about grandma? I know she was sick last year…”
  3. Another way is to ask a trusted member of the family who may have insight. Maybe your family won’t be ready to talk about health right away. Or maybe you are not comfortable talking to your parents/guardians because you are afraid of how they will react. If that’s the case, you can also ask a close family member or family friend that you can trust some of these questions. That’s always nice because they may have insight into why your folks may be avoiding the topic and can still be an objective source of information. Then you can gradually work your way to talking with your immediate family.
  4. Be HUMBLE. As Jesus and Kendrick taught us – be humble. Family health history is touchy, touchy, touchy. Remember, you don’t know how your family’s health may have hurt or negatively impacted the person you are asking. There could be feelings of shame for not sharing information earlier. So be humble. It’s great that you are taking initiative on your health, but make sure you think about how this conversation can effect the people you are asking.

Starting the conversation is the first part of the process. It may not solve every problem or answer all of your questions right away. But it is always worth a try. These are suggestions of course and I hope they help!

Happy Chatting,

The Neighborhood Bioethicist

2 thoughts on “Can We Talk: Family Health History – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Pokemon, Flint, and Other Problematic Behavior. | The neighborhood bioethicist

  2. Pingback: Can We Talk: Family Health History – Part 2 | The neighborhood bioethicist

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