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Is It OK to Talk to a Teacher About Personal Problems?

Is it OK to talk to your teacher about personal problems? For instance, my brother’s cancer or just general stressful things that are going on in my life? Sometimes I really want to talk to someone outside of my family about this stuff. My school doesn’t have a counselor, but there are a couple of teachers that I really like and trust. If I did talk to them, would they think it was weird or unusual? Would they think it was strange that I was talking to them instead of my parents?

A teacher you like and trust can be just the right person to turn to when you have a personal problem or situation you want to discuss. This is especially true if your school doesn’t have a counselor. But even if you do have a counselor, you might find you click better with a teacher. Or you might want to talk to a teacher as well as a counselor.

It’s natural to want someone to know what’s going on in your life when things are stressful. When there’s a lot going on at home, plenty of people want to talk to someone outside the family. Having another adult to share with like this can make a big difference in how you feel and how you’re able to cope.

Letting a teacher know what’s happening in your life gives you relief from the stress of carrying it alone. A teacher can be a sounding board, someone to just listen — and telling someone about your situation, thoughts, and feelings can sometimes help you better understand yourself.

A teacher might be able to help you think of things you can do to make your situation better. If stress is interfering with concentrating on your schoolwork, a teacher can give you practical advice on things like managing assignments.

A teacher won’t think it’s strange that you want to talk. In fact, most teachers would take it as a compliment that you value their support.

How can you approach a teacher to talk? Pick a time before or after class. Say, “I’ve got a situation I’m dealing with and I’d really like to talk to you about it. Is there a good time we could talk?” Most teachers would be happy to meet at lunchtime or during a free period.

The conversation doesn’t have to be long. If you want, you can plan ahead so you know what you want to say. For example, think about what you want to get out of the conversation and then let the teacher know. For example:

“I’m having a problem and I need someone to listen as I think it through.”
“I need your advice on something.”
“Can you help me figure out ideas to cope?”
“Can you keep this confidential?”

You can end the conversation by saying something like, “Well, I just want to thank you for listening. It helps.”

Here’s another reason why it helps to approach a supportive teacher: Reaching out to the adults in our lives can actually help us be more resilient (better able to deal with stress and better able to recover quickly from the difficult times). So talking to teachers is a smart idea for lots of reasons!

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2014

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.