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Talking to Your Parents

Sure, you talk to your parents, but what if you need to really talk? Maybe you have a problem you can’t solve alone. Or it could be that you want to feel closer to good old mom and dad.

It’s easy to say “Hi, Mom” or “Dad, can you pass the potatoes?” but it can be harder to start a discussion about tougher topics.

Funny, isn’t it, because when you were younger, it probably felt easy to tell your parents about your troubles. Even though you’re older now, it’s still perfectly OK to confide in your parents. In fact, it can help a lot.

Be Brave and Start Talking

So why does it seem so uncomfortable at times? Why is it hard to bring up the important stuff? Sometimes kids don’t speak up because they don’t want to feel embarrassed. Let’s face it — talking about personal stuff can feel embarrassing. But remember, your parents know you pretty well — and they were your age once, too! So don’t let a little embarrassment stop you. It’s OK to go ahead and share the personal stuff.

Other times, kids might not want to make a parent worried or upset. As you explain your problem, your mom might look sad or your dad might look worried. But that’s OK. Your mom or dad can handle knowing about your problem, big or small. That look on their face just means they care, and that they feel for you. That’s what families do — we feel for the people we love.

On a brighter note, it also means that your parents get to feel happy and celebrate when you are happy. Woo-hoo, you got an A on your test! Hooray — you learned how to dive!

Sometimes, kids don’t bring up a problem because they just don’t want to think about it — and hope it will just go away. But sweeping a problem under the rug hardly ever solves it. And bottling up your feelings can make you feel stressed.

Talking things over with a parent can help you feel less stressed. Together, you can think of ways to cope, solve the problem, and feel better. Just knowing your parent understands and cares about what you’re going through can reduce your stress a lot.

Planning Your Talk

Need to talk about something important? This is a little silly, but you might think of it like planning a party. When you plan a party, you have to make some decisions:

  • who to invite
  • when to have the party
  • where to have the party

Pick your mom, dad, or both. Some people live with grandparents, so this works with grandparents, too. Also, think about who you don’t want there. It’s OK if you don’t want sisters, brothers, or anyone else there for this talk.

Life is busy for kids and adults. Look for a day and time when you both have the time. Before school, in the morning rush, might not be the right time. But on the way home from sports practice could be a perfect time.

Just like the decision about when, you’ll want to pick the right place. To get away from the hustle and bustle of the house, you could go for a walk. Or you might find that traveling in the car together is the right time. Lots of good talks have happened on long (and even short) drives.

How to Start

When conditions are right — the right people are in the right place at the right time — you need to start the conversation. But it’s a good idea to do a little thinking about what you want out of the talk.

What are you looking for? It’s good to tell your parent what you need. Here are some possibilities:

  • just listen and understand what you’re going through
  • give permission or support for something
  • offer you advice or help
  • guide you back on track if you’re in trouble, but without getting mad at you

If you don’t know how to start, try writing down what you want to say. It can help to almost have a script of what you’re going to say: Here are some examples:

“Mom, I need to tell you about a problem I’m having.”

“Dad, I need to get your permission to go on a class trip next week. Can I tell you about it?”

“Grandma, I need your advice about something. Can we talk?”

“Mom, I did something I know was wrong. You might be mad, but I want to fix things, and I need your help. Can I tell you?”

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to plan out the whole conversation. Just get it going. Your mom or dad will start talking and then you can have more of a back-and-forth discussion about it.

Communication Tips

Speaking of back and forth, you may have heard that communication is a two-way street. That means it’s not just about what you want to say or about what your parent wants to say. You both have a place in the conversation.

Here are some suggestions for making your talk turn out the best it can be:

Be clear and direct. Be as clear as you can about what you think, feel, and want. Give details that can help parents understand your situation.

Be honest. If you’re always honest, a parent will be likely to believe what you say. If you sometimes hide the truth or add too much drama, parents will have a harder time believing what you tell them. If you lie, they’ll find it hard to trust you.

Try to understand their point of view. If you have a disagreement, can you see your parents’ side? If you can, say so. Telling parents you understand their views and feelings helps them be willing to see yours, too.

Try not to argue or whine. Using a tone that’s friendly and respectful makes it more likely parents will listen and take what you say seriously. It also makes it more likely that they’ll talk to you in the same way.

What if It Doesn’t Work?

Most of the time, you and your parents can have a good talk and make at least some progress. But for some kids, it might not work out. Some parents have troubles of their own. Others just can’t be available in the ways their kids need and deserve. Others have a hard time being flexible.

If you can’t talk to your parent, seek out other adults you can trust. Find a relative, a teacher, or a counselor who will listen, understand, encourage, believe in you, and care. Then follow all the tips above to get the most from your conversation with that person.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2011