How to talk to parents about tough stuff

So you’re in a sticky sitch. You’re period’s been a little off, and you’re not sure if you should see a doc about it. Or you think your friend is in trouble, and you’re worried about her. Or maybe you’ve just been feeling a little down or stressed, and you need help working through this funk.

Being in a tough spot is a great time to reach out to your ‘rents. Even though you know they love and adore you, it can still feel really difficult to bring up something that seems serious or a little awkward. That’s why we’re bringing you tips to make reaching out a little easier.

Getting Ready
Choose your “who”: First things first – decide who you want to talk to. Perhaps it feels most natural to talk about your bra troubles with Mom. Or maybe Dad seems like the one who will keep a cool head and help you come up with a solution to your school problems. There’s not really a wrong pick – it’s all about what seems most comfortable to you.

Find a time: If something’s an emergency, you need to talk to someone ASAP. But in general, it’s best to have serious convos when your parent has some undistracted time to give you the one-on-one attention you need. Look for uninterrupted time in the day that you two have together, like the ride home from swim practice. Or just ask when they’d be free to chat. Not a single minute to even ask? You can always send Dad a text or stick a note on Mom’s mirror.

Write your message: If you’re feeling unsure about what exactly to say, take some time to think (and maybe write) it out beforehand. What are you worried about? What do they need to know? What would you like from them? You don’t have to have all the answers or a word-for-word script, just jot down your most important thoughts for now. You can always take what you’ve written with you when you talk in case you feel nervous or forget.

Going for It
Take a deep breath: If you find yourself becoming anxious or emotional, take a few deep breaths. Your ‘rents love you and care about you, and they do want to help you. It can be hard to talk out loud about personal stuff, especially when you feel embarrassed or aren’t sure of how they’ll react, so be proud of yourself for speaking up.

Get started: Once you’ve found a time to talk, jump in. Sometimes just getting the first few words out is the hard part, and it gets easier as the convo continues. If you feel weird, you can always start it off by saying, “This is difficult/awkward/scary for me to talk about but….” If you get stuck, refer back to what you wrote down before.

Be open, be patient, be persistent: It’s hard to know exactly how your parents will respond – they worry about you, so naturally they may get a tad emotional. If mom has lots of embarrassing Q’s about your body problem, try to answer ‘em as best as you can. If Dad starts getting angry or overreacts when you tell him about the bad crowd your friend’s been getting involved with, keep calm and remind him that you are making smart decisions about who you hang with. And if they try to dismiss your feelings or say that things will just get better on their own, don’t give up – stick with it. Show you’re serious, and they’re more likely to take you seriously.

Following Up
Say thanks: When you’re done talking, let them know you really appreciated them hearing you out. You can even write a little note or card to say thanks if that feels right. It’ll make them feel warm-n-fuzzy, and they’ll be more than happy to help you again in the future.

Try, try again: If the first convo doesn’t go how you imagined it would, or you feel that they didn’t take your concerns seriously, don’t give up. Find another time, and bring it up again. Mom or Dad still not helping? Find another adult you trust – an aunt, a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a coach or someone from church – and try talking with them. There is someone out there who can help you.

Keep them posted: Once you’ve opened the door, you’ve got someone you can check in with for help. Let them know how things are going, or ask for perspective on a new sitch. And remember – even if they really do want to help, it doesn’t mean that they won’t slip sometimes. It’s totally okay (and a good thing!) to remind Mom to schedule that doctor’s appointment. You’ve got the practice, so all you have to do is speak up.


by Marie Hansen | 2/1/2016