You probably talk to friends way more than you talk to your parents. That’s natural. Even if you and your parents have a great relationship, you want to find your own path and make your own choices.
Still, most of us want a parent’s help, advice, and support at times. But talking to the adults in your life can seem difficult or intimidating — especially when it comes to certain subjects. Here are some tips to make it easier.
Talk About Everyday Stuff — and Do It Every Day
The more you do something, the easier it gets. Talking to the adults in your life about everyday stuff builds a bond that can smooth the way for when you need to discuss something more serious.
Find something trivial to chat about each day. Talk about how your team did at the track meet. Share something one of your teachers said. Even small talk about what’s for dinner can keep your relationship strong and comfortable.
It’s never too late to start. If you feel your relationship with your parents is strained, try easing into conversations. Mention that cute thing the dog did. Talk about how well your little sister is doing in math. Chatting with parents every day not only keeps an existing relationship strong, it also can help a frayed relationship get stronger.
When parents feel connected to your daily life, they can be there for you if something really important comes up.
Raising Difficult Topics
Maybe you need to break bad news to a parent, like getting a speeding ticket or failing an exam. Perhaps you’re feeling scared or stressed about something. Or maybe you just really, really want to tell your parents about your new boyfriend or girlfriend, but you don’t know how they’ll react, how it will feel to tell them, or how to find the words.
Here are 3 steps to help you prepare for that talk.
Step 1: Know What You Want From the Conversation
It takes maturity to figure out what you want to get out of a conversation. (Most adults aren’t so good at this!)
What you hope to achieve can vary. Most often you’ll probably want the adults in your life to do one or more of these things:
- simply listen and understand what you’re going through without offering advice or commentary
- give permission or support for something
- offer you advice or help
- guide you back on track if you’re in trouble — in a way that’s fair and without harsh criticism or put-downs
Why think about this before you begin talking? So you can say why you want to talk in a way that communicates what you need. For example:
- “Mom, I need to tell you about a problem I’m having, but I need you to just listen, OK? Don’t give me advice — I just want you to know what’s bothering me.”
- “Dad, I need to get your permission to go on a class trip next week. Can I tell you about it?”
- “Grandad, I need your advice about something. Can we talk?”
Step 2: Identify Your Feelings
Things like personal feelings or sex are awkward to discuss with anyone, let alone a parent. It’s natural to be nervous when talking about sensitive topics.
Recognize how you’re feeling — for example, maybe you’re worried that telling parents about a problem will make them disappointed or upset. But instead of letting those feelings stop you from talking, put them into words as part of the conversation. For example:
- “Mom, I need to talk to you — but I’m afraid I’ll disappoint you.”
- “Dad, I need to talk to you about something — but it’s kind of embarrassing.”
What if you think a parent may be unsupportive, harsh, or critical? It can help to defuse things by beginning with a statement like, “Mom, I have something to tell you. I’m not proud of what I’ve done, and you might be mad. But I know I need to tell you. Can you hear me out?”
Step 3: Pick a Good Time to Talk
Approach your parent when he or she isn’t busy with something else. Ask, “Can we talk? Is now a good time?” Driving in the car or going for a walk can be great opportunities to talk. If it’s hard to find a good time, say, “I need to talk to you. When is a good time?”
Difficult conversations benefit from good planning. Think ahead about what you want to say or ask. Write down the most important ideas if you need to.