Adults across the country are facing a dramatic role-reversal amidst the chaos of COVID-19. Echoing the warnings and instructions they heard as tweens and teens — and criticized as everything from unfair to lame — 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings are now having to bark orders at their 60 and 70-something parents and grandparents to stay inside, check in regularly, and don’t do anything stupid. And, in many situations, those parents aren’t listening.
Many of these parents belong to the Boomer generation, a generation built on resolve, self-drive, and relative autonomy. Asking them to surrender those precious concepts can be, to say the least, difficult. But, here we are. We love our aging parents, and we want them to survive this. We also know that many of them are stubborn, obstinate, and difficult. So, it’s time to cock back and ready the kitchen sink — we need to throw everything we can to convince them to lock down.
How have some broken down their parents walls and convinced them to stay home, social distance, and act smart during the coronavirus outbreak? We spoke to a dozen men to see how they convinced their Boomer parents to take the threat seriously. One cried. One leveraged the kids. One even used Tom Hanks. All of them did what they had to do to get their parents, to steal a colloquialism many of them used on us, to shape up and fly right. Whether you use these tips as a playbook, or a simple reassuring read to know that progress can take place, they’re proof that we can all get through this together.
“I surprised myself when I broke into tears on the phone with my mom and dad. I was pleading with them to be smart, and to stay home during all of this, and I just started tearing up. It was a FaceTime call, too, so they could see me trying to hold it together, and I think that really hit them hard. It’s weird, because they live almost halfway across the country as it is, so I don’t get to see them in person a lot even without the quarantine. It’s not like we were going to be any different than we are now. But the thought of something happening to them – maybe because we’re so far away – really upset me. That was the first time I conveyed those emotions, at least on that scale, and they agreed to stay home for the time being.” – Aaron, 33, New York
I Yelled at Them
“I’m a very quiet, reserved guy. With my wife, with my kids, with my friends…I just don’t really yell. I can think of one time, like 10 years ago, when I really just blew up and went off the rails with my wife (then girlfriend). But this whole COVID-19 situation has everyone on edge in a very unprecedented way, which drove me to yelling at my parents after a very frustrating conversation about them staying home. I didn’t scold them, I just got really emotional and angry. So, it’s not like I threatened them into staying home. I think they just knew that me yelling was a sign of something really, really important, and decided to listen.” – Chris, 38, California
I Cut Them Off
“My parents and I talk every day, one way or another. Even if it’s just sending a quick text back and forth. So, when they told me they had no plans to stay home for the quarantine, I had to cut them off to get their attention. I tried to reason with them at first, which didn’t work. Then I yelled, which also didn’t work. So then I just stopped responding to them. I didn’t really have a game plan going in, but when they started saying, ‘Are you alright? We’re very worried.” I used that as sort of a segue to say something like, ‘Sucks feeling like that, doesn’t it? That’s how I feel about you guys going out.’ It may not have been the most mature approach, but they definitely got the point.” – Rick, 33, Arizona
I Forbade Them to See My Kids
“I refuse to go out unless it’s absolutely essential. And I’m a healthy, young-ish guy. My parents are both nearing 70, my mom has asthma, and my dad has diabetes. So they’re very high-risk for COVID-19. They love their grandkids. Before all this, they came over all the time to play with and spoil them, and they really are wonderful grandparents. One day, my mom stopped over — after going to the fucking mall, no less — and wanted to see them. I said no, and made her stay outside. I told her that I couldn’t control what she did, but that I wasn’t going to let her come near the kids anymore until she started taking her health — and their health — seriously. They still have a house phone, so I call in to make sure they’re home every now and then. So far, so good.” – Connor, 39, Ohio
I Had My Kids Beg Them
“Not sure if I feel guilty about this, but I definitely used my kids as very, very blatant leverage over my parents to get them to stay home. First, I told the kids — my son is 6, and my daughter is 4 — what was going on. I told them that people were getting sick, and that old people like Grandma and Grandpa were dying because they didn’t stay at home. I wasn’t manipulative, I just planted the seeds. The next time we were all on a family call together, I sort of fanned the flame and got the kids to appeal to Grandma and Grandpa based on what they’d learned. At first, my parents were like, ‘Yeah, okay. Nice try.’ But then my son — future Oscar winner — turned on the waterworks and said, ‘I don’t want you to die!’ It almost had me crying. My wife, too. After that, I said, ‘Would it make you feel better if Grandma and Grandpa promised to stay safe at home?’ He said it would, so they did. They can’t lie to their grandkids, so I’m pretty sure they’re locked down until it’s over.” – Alan, 35, Colorado
I Argued With Them For Almost Three Hours
“My dad and I had been arguing about it over the course of a few weeks, and I didn’t see a resolution in sight. I didn’t plan on doing it, but I just ended up exhausting him. He’s stubborn as hell, so I knew the conversations about him staying home were going to come to a boil eventually. I’m stubborn, too, admittedly. So, when we finally ended up in a big argument about it, I just refused to give in. My dad won’t hang up on anyone — he thinks that’s rude — so I just kept ignoring his cues to end the conversation, and kept it going for two-and-a-half hours. Finally, he snapped and said, ‘Fine. Fine. I’ll stay home. Okay? I’ll stay home.’ I was shocked. I had no clue how the conversation was going to end, but I never would’ve imagined that. I just said, ‘Thank you. I love you very much.’ And that was it. We’ve talked since, but that conversation hasn’t come up. I’m not sure if he’s still mad, or what. But he’s a man of his word, so he’s staying put.” – Jeff, 34, North Carolina
I Cited the Gospel of Tom Hanks.
“He’s my mom’s favorite actor. She absolutely adores him. So when I was grasping at straws trying to get her to listen to reason, I brought up the fact that he and his wife both had the virus. She knew that. But she didn’t know they chose to self-isolate for several weeks. So I bombarded her with all the articles and posts I could find. It wasn’t as simple as, ‘Well, if Tom did it, then I’ll do it too!’, but I think she really felt inspired to follow his lead. I guess? All of my arguments and points weren’t enough to convince her to stay home. But, hey, if Tom Hanks says it, it must be true, right? I’m glad she came to her senses.” – Eric, 38, Pennsylvania
I Empowered Them
“A lot of my friends are having the same problem with trying to convince their parents to stay home. My solution was to show my parents that they could literally access everything they needed without leaving the house. I think they knew it was possible, but didn’t know how easy it was and, so, weren’t really interested in learning. They’re not luddites. In fact, they’re actually fairly tech-savvy. So they were both almost excited to let me help walk them through their first online grocery delivery order. Then it was stuff like Grubhub. A lot of my mom’s favorite craft stores even have curbside pickup now. So, all it took was a little bit of patience and I was able to show them how to get what they needed. I think they actually really like the feeling of being waited on from the comfort of their couch.” – Sam, 37, Ohio
I Talked About People, Not Numbers.
“I feel like everyone is being blitzed with numbers related to COVID-19. There are X confirmed cases. There are Y fatalities. There are Z groups of people at high risk. Well, those are letters, but you get the point. I especially avoided talking about numbers related to their ages. Instead, I tried to talk about people and events that my parents could look forward to. ‘Once this is all over, we can all go on a trip somewhere to celebrate. We just need to make sure to stay healthy and smart.’ Stuff like that seemed to appeal to them in the sense of working toward something with the sacrifice of staying home, as opposed to me rattling off numbers and facts that they would just tune out.” – Jason, 36, Florida
I Commended Them
“I think my dad’s major objection to isolating was that it made him feel weak. My own problems with that line of thinking aside, I saw that it was something I’d need to overcome if I was going to convince him to stay at home during all of this. So I told him that Disneyland, the NBA, the NHL, and the PGA have all closed or shut down indefinitely. I told him that Disneyland has only closed twice, ever — after JFK got assassinated and after 9/11. I think that made him realize that this virus is a big, big deal. And then I told him I was proud of him for being strong enough to stay home.” – Jim, 38, South Carolina
I Told Them to Think About Their Friends
“My parents are pretty social, and they have a lot of friends the same age as them. So, I put it in perspective by telling them that, even if they’re okay, they’d be putting all of their friends at risk by going out and seeing them. They say you can be contagious for up to three weeks without even knowing it, which I told them. And then I laid a guilt trip along the lines of, ‘How would you feel if one of your friends got sick and died, all because you couldn’t skip going out to dinner? I felt shitty for saying that, but it was pretty sobering. That said, they definitely don’t want to be the reasons behind any of their friends getting sick, and have decided that it’s not worth the risk.” – Jay, 34, Michigan
I Was Angry, But Stayed Calm And Spoke Plainly
“I drove to my parents’ house one day after the quarantine started, and my dad’s car was gone. My mom told me he went to the store for cigarettes and pancake mix. I was angry, terrified, and upset. But, I stayed calm. I asked her to please let me know when he got back, and that was that. She texted me, and I called him. I said, ‘Hey Dad, I’m not going to yell. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to argue. But, when I came over and saw your car was gone, with all of this going on, it broke my heart. It made me angry, and it scared me. And that’s because I need you to stick around. I’m not worried about you being smart — you’re the smartest man I know. I’m worried about other people out there, who don’t care about what’s going on, putting you in danger.’ That’s a paraphrase, but you get the idea. I was completely transparent, completely honest, and completely calm. We talked for a while, and I reminded him how much we all need him, especially my sister who is about to make him a grandpa for the first time. It was just a really good, really emotional conversation — probably one of the most emotional we’ve ever had. And he agreed to stick around.” – Matt, 38, Ohio