Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today



The Author Speaks

'Mom Always Liked You Best' Excerpt

'A guide for resolving family feuds, inheritance battles and eldercare crises'

There's a new reality for families today characterized by a dramatic increase in adult family conflict. Many adult siblings are having a difficult time as they face their parents' aging and related decisions regarding caregiving, health care, property distribution, estate planning and more.

It is now common for us to live at a distance from our aging parents and siblings. This can lead to a breakdown in family communication and increased conflict over important, often critical, family decisions.

See also: Interview with Rikk Larsen.

While, in the abstract, the challenges of sharing family homes and assets seem like nice problems to have, these dilemmas account for some of the most vicious family feuds and court battles in our society. Sibling wealth disparity and the division of family assets is one of the leading causes of strife in families today. Rivalries, jealousies and the quest for fairness play out in living rooms and dining rooms in our neighborhoods.

Being in conflict with someone, especially with a family member, is disorienting. When we are impacted by ongoing conflict, it can seem very dark out there. When we're in a dispute, we feel lost — we're on a journey we do not control. Navigating from where we are to where we think we want to go is almost impossible because others keep putting up roadblocks. Plus, everyone is coming from different places, and there is no consensus on the final destination.

Simply declaring that everyone should hold hands and begin singing "Kumbaya" won't miraculously change your family into a group of cooperative souls. We need some guidance before the dispute hijacks our family relationships taking us to some desolate place and landing us in a ditch.

The odds of success in an important conversation improve considerably with preparation. Think of a difficult conversation as a negotiation; you wouldn't go into a business negotiation without preparing for it, and you shouldn't go into a family conversation unprepared either.

Figure out what is important to you and what you hope to achieve. Think about what the others want. Can you find any common ground? What potential options exist to meet your interests as well as theirs? By practicing the techniques that we lay out for you, you can learn skills used by trained professionals.

You can empower yourself to think like a mediator in order to become a better decision-maker, a more mindful negotiator, and a more effective communicator.

You may also like: Cost of taking care of Mom and Dad. >>

Permission to publish granted by Arline Kardasis, Rikk Larsen, Crystal Thorpe and Blair Trippe.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Resource Center

Find tools, work sheets and tips on how to plan, prepare and succeed as a caregiver. Select a Caregiving Resource Center topic from the drop-down menu below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Reading eyeglasses eyemed 6 membership benefit health

Members save 25% on orders of $200 or more and get free basic lenses at

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx discount card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

grocery coupon center member benefit aarp

Members can print savings coupons at the Grocery Coupon Center powered by

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.