How Can I Talk to My Parents?
“I tried really hard to tell my parents how I felt, but it didn’t come out right—and they just cut me off. It took a lot for me to get up the nerve to express myself, and it was a complete failure!”—Rosa.
WHEN you were younger, your parents were probably the first ones you ran to for advice. You told them any news, big or small. You freely expressed your thoughts and feelings, and you had confidence in their advice.
Now, though, you might feel that your parents just can’t relate to you anymore. “One evening at mealtime I began to cry and pour out my feelings,” says a girl named Edie. “My parents listened, but they didn’t seem to understand.” The result? “I just went to my bedroom and cried some more!”
On the other hand, sometimes you might prefer not to open up to your parents. “I talk to my parents about many subjects,” says a boy named Christopher. “But I like it that sometimes they don’t know everything I’m thinking.”
Is it wrong to keep some thoughts to yourself? Not necessarily—as long as you’re not being deceitful. (Proverbs 3:32) Nevertheless, whether your parents don’t seem to understand you or you are holding back, one thing is certain: You need to talk to your parents—and they need to hear from you.
In some ways, communicating with your parents is like driving a car. If you encounter a roadblock, you don’t give up; you simply find another route. Consider two examples.
ROADBLOCK 1 You need to talk, but your parents don’t seem to be listening. “I find it difficult to communicate with my father,” says a girl named Leah. “Sometimes I’ll talk to him for a while and then he’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, were you speaking to me?’”
QUESTION: What if Leah really needs to discuss a problem? She has at least three options.
Yell at her dad. Leah screams: “Come on, this is important! Listen!”
Stop talking to her dad. Leah simply gives up trying to talk about her problem.
Wait for a better time and bring up the subject again. Leah speaks with her dad face-to-face later, or she writes him a letter about her problem.
Which option do you think Leah should choose? ․․․․․
Let’s explore each option to see where it would likely lead.
Leah’s dad is distracted—and thus unaware of her frustration. So if Leah chooses Option A, her screaming might seem to come out of nowhere. This option probably won’t make Leah’s dad more receptive to her words, and it won’t show respect and honor for him. (Ephesians 6:2) Really, then, this option leads to a no-win situation.
While Option B may be the easiest course to take, it’s not the wisest. Why? Because “there is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” (Proverbs 15:22) To deal successfully with her problems, Leah needs to talk to her dad—and if he’s going to be of any help, he needs to know what’s going on in her life. Ceasing to talk accomplishes neither.
With Option C, however, Leah doesn’t let a roadblock become a dead end. Rather, she tries to discuss the subject another time. And if she chooses to write her dad a letter, Leah might feel better right away. Writing the letter may also help her to formulate exactly what she wants to say. When he reads the letter, Leah’s dad will learn what she was trying to tell him, which may help him to understand her plight better. Option C thus benefits both Leah and her dad.
What other options might Leah have? See if you can think of one, and write it below. Then write down where that option would likely lead.
ROADBLOCK 2 Your parents want to talk, but you’d rather not. “There’s nothing worse than being hit with questions immediately after a hard day at school,” says a girl named Sarah. “I just want to forget about school, but right away my parents start asking: ‘How was your day? Were there any problems?’” No doubt Sarah’s parents ask such questions with the best of intentions. Still, she laments, “It’s hard to talk about school when I’m tired and stressed.”
QUESTION: What can Sarah do in this situation? As with the previous example, she has at least three options.
Refuse to talk. Sarah says: “Please, just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk right now!”
Go ahead and talk. Despite feeling stressed, Sarah begrudgingly answers her parents’ questions.
Delay the “school” talk but keep the conversation going on another topic. Sarah suggests that they discuss school at another time, when she knows that she’ll be in a better frame of mind. Then she says, with genuine interest: “Tell me about your day. How did things go for you?”
Which option do you think Sarah should choose? ․․․․․
Again, let’s explore each option to see where it would likely lead.
Sarah is stressed and isn’t inclined to talk. If she chooses Option A, she’ll still feel stressed but she’ll also feel guilty for blowing up at her parents.—Proverbs 29:11.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s parents won’t appreciate her outburst—or the silence that follows. They may suspect that Sarah is hiding something. They might try even harder to get her to open up, which, of course, would frustrate her more. In the end, this option leads to a no-win situation.
Option B is obviously a better choice than option A. After all, at least Sarah and her parents are talking. But since the conversation isn’t heartfelt, neither Sarah nor her parents are going to get what they want—a relaxed, open discussion.
With Option C, however, Sarah will feel better because the “school” talk has been delayed for now. Her parents will appreciate her effort to make conversation, so they’ll be happy too. This option likely has the best chance of success because both sides are applying the principle found at Philippians 2:4, which says: “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”—Today’s English Version.
Avoid Sending Mixed Messages
Remember, the words you say and the message your parents hear do not always match. For example, your parents ask you why you seem to be in a bad mood. You say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” But your parents hear: “I don’t trust you enough to confide in you. I’ll talk to my friends about the problem but not to you.” Try this exercise by filling in your answers. Imagine that you are facing a difficult problem and your parent offers to help.
If you say: “Don’t worry. I can handle it myself.”
Your parents may hear: ․․․․․
A better response from you might be: ․․․․․
The bottom line? Choose your words carefully. Deliver them in a respectful tone of voice. (Colossians 4:6) Think of your parents as your allies, not your enemies. And let’s face it: You need all the allies you can get if you are to cope with the challenges you have to deal with.
What if talking to your parents isn’t the problem—it’s that each time you talk, you argue?
“I talk straight from my heart and speak sincerely.”—Job 33:3, The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, by William Beck.
If you find it difficult just to sit and talk with your parent(s) about a problem, discuss the matter while you are walking, driving, or shopping together.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Just as you may find it difficult to talk with your parents about serious subjects, they may feel awkward and inadequate when trying to talk with you about those same subjects.
The next time I feel I want to stop talking to my parents, I will ․․․․․
If my parent pushes me to talk about a subject that I am reluctant to discuss, I will say ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● What role does timing play in good communication?—Proverbs 25:11.
● Why is talking to your parents worth the effort?—Job 12:12.
[Blurb on page 10]
“Communicating with your parents isn’t always easy, but when you do open up and talk to them, you feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off your mind.”—Devenye
[Picture on page 8]
Just as a roadblock need not be a dead end, you can find a way to get through and communicate with your parents!