It’s the holidays, the time of year when you get together as a family, eat a lot, and have awkward conversations. So why not start a conversation about your family medical history? Here’s why it’s a good idea. For starters, the holiday season is probably the only time of year when you get to talk to your whole family at once. And second, and most importantly, knowing your family’s medical history is vital for your own health. Knowing your family’s medical history gives you insight into specific health conditions you might be genetically at risk for developing, including everything from high blood pressure to ADHD to sickle cell disease.
“There are many beneficial reasons to talk about family health issues,” Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells SheKnows. “Talking about family health issues for biological families can provide insight into what a person’s physical health needs may include and what to watch out for. For example, if a parent has thyroid or mental health problems, since there is a genetic component, these ailments can also affect future generations.
As an adult, you may not think of screening for certain health conditions for yourself or your own children unless you know you are genetically predisposed for them, which is why it is crucial to engage in conversations about your family medical history. Discussing your health can be a tricky subject, so if you’re not sure how to broach the subject, here are some tips to help you break the ice.
There is still a stigma around many health topics
Lurie says it’s perfectly normal to be a little hesitant about discussing health with your family because many topics, including mental health, addiction and illness, are considered preventable.
“Talking about family health issues can be difficult if you imagine you will be judged or blamed for your health issues,” she says. “Also, some families have a culture of privacy and rigid boundaries. Parents may not want to “burden” their children with information about their health issues, or they may feel it is inappropriate to share this information with their children or extended family.
A family member may also be reluctant to share if someone is trying to protect a loved one, Lurie says, “but that makes it difficult to access support and it’s hard for the family member to be empowered to take care of himself. health.”
Additionally, according to Lurie, many families struggling with generational chronic health conditions tend to come from underserved communities and often have limited access to education and general health resources. “Living in these spaces that are effectively designed to be health care deserts can make it particularly difficult to empower younger generations with the knowledge to look after their health in the future,” she says.
Explain why you want to know
Before asking about your family’s medical history, Lurie says it helps to start those conversations with some helpful context.
“If you are concerned about your own health or the health of your children, and hope that having insight into the medical history of your parents or extended family can help you take better care of yourself and those you you like, share this before you address the issue. topic,” she suggests.
She also encourages people to think about when and how they have these conversations.
“A 1:1 conversation over coffee is likely to allow for more intimacy and, therefore, more comfort than a table chat with the rest of the extended family and family friends,” he explains. she. “While the information shared may be relevant to other family members, it will likely be easier to manage health and health issues with one person if it has never been discussed with anyone in the family. past.”
How to Respond to a Family Member Who Doesn’t Want to Talk
Keep in mind that a family member may be uncomfortable when asked about a difficult health issue. In this case, Lurie recommends acknowledging the discomfort. “The person asking the question might say they imagine it’s hard to talk about these things and validate these feelings,” she says. “Curiosity can also be useful in these situations. If you ask them what makes them uncomfortable, you can talk about it with them.
Why talking about your health is empowering
While these discussions can be vulnerable and uncomfortable, Lurie says they can also be empowering because talking about your health empowers you to take care of your health. “For many, knowledge about our family’s health can offer insight into our health and can help you monitor specific potential issues and make choices you wouldn’t otherwise make,” she says.
Lurie says she hopes people will enter these conversations with the need for compassion for themselves and their family members in mind. “Be clear with yourself and your family about why you are having the conversation so you can ideally identify the best way to care for yourself and how to support your family.”
Before leaving, check quotes we love for instilling positive attitudes about food and the body: