Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Lindsay Fleming LPC
How To Talk To Your Parents About Difficult Things
Published Mar 29th, 2021 & updated on Apr 9th, 2021
Have you ever wanted to talk to your parents about something really hard but didn’t know how? We don’t blame you…it can be awkward AF. Maybe your mom believes she’s “not like a regular mom, she’s a cool mom” but that still doesn’t mean you’re running to tell her about a bad grade, the state of your mental health or any details about dating or like, your sex life. *cringes into the next lifetime*
Maybe talking to your parents about difficult stuff gives you major anxiety. Maybe you’re worried you’ll upset them. Maybe you’re afraid they won’t look at you the same way. You wanna keep that image of a perfect lil’ angel in their minds whenever they think of you! But hey, you don’t have it all figured out just yet. There are times when you could really use some help from your parents (even if you don’t wanna admit it).
Opening up this communication with your parents is super important! (If it’s safe to do so!) They wanna be there for you and guide you through life, even through all the scary stuff. If you don’t feel safe talking to a parent, talk to a trusted aunt or a friend’s parent.
Here are some things to help you talk to your parents about those uncomfy things that you would much rather not talk about, at all.
Practice What You’re Gonna Say
There are a lot of subjects that you might think are off-limits when it comes to your parents. Maybe you wrecked your car, or failed a test. Maybe you’re hanging out with a new friend who has a problem with shoplifting and you don’t know what to do. Or maybe you’re dating someone you really, really like but you’re starting to feel pressure to move faster than what you’re comfortable with.
This might sound weird, but rehearsing what you wanna say to your parents can be really helpful. When we’re panicking inside, it’s normal to fumble what we’re trying to say. So write down what you wanna tell them in a journal first before you dive into that talk. Even practice it in the mirror if that works for you! Ya you might feel kinda goofy doing it, but having an idea of what you’re gonna say will make you feel wayyy more prepared. Don’t know what to say? Keep reading and we will help you put the words together.
Find The Best Time To Talk
Even if you have a super-tight relationship with your parents à la Rory and Lorelei Gilmore, you still might not know how to start those difficult conversations. Picking the right time to talk can make the conversation feel a lot easier. Find a time when they’re not grumpy or stressed out about something. Wait until you’re more level-headed and calm if it’s an emotional topic for you. Then when you find that moment alone with your parents, seize that opportunity!
And keep in mind that you don’t have to tell them in person. You could also write them a note, text them or call them. Whatever you’re comfortable with!
“Are you busy right now? Do you have time to talk?”
“Hey, I want to talk to you about something. Could we go for a walk/drive?”
“There’s something on my mind I want to talk to you about, could you let me know when you’re free?”
Make Your Feelings Known
If it feels like your anxiety levels are through the damn roof right about now, it’s probably because you’re worried how they’re gonna react. So let them in on how you’re feeling right now about the thing that you wanna tell them. It’ll give them the heads up that a) you’re obviously nervous as heck to bring this up and b) they should try to go easy on you and consider your feelings before they respond.
“I wanna talk to you about something but it’s kind of embarrassing.”
“There’s something I need to tell you but I’m worried you’ll be disappointed in me.”
“I’m scared of upsetting you, but we really need to talk about this.”
Define The Real Problem
If you got a bad grade, maybe the problem is you’re struggling in that class and could use a tutor. It could be that you’re having a hard time focusing in class because of something else going on…like your mental health.
If you got really drunk at a party, maybe it was because you were worried about fitting in. Or you have social anxiety and feel like you can’t be yourself in a room full of people who might be judging you. Or maybe you just made a mistake, which we all do because we are human.
Maybe deep down, you don’t know what the problem is. Maybe you need help from your parents defining the problem. Whatever it is, you can work through it. Together.
“I know this behaviour isn’t like me. Lately, I feel a little bit lost.”
“I think I’m struggling in school because I’m feeling ___. I want to work on this.”
“I know I made a huge mistake. I don’t think I was thinking it through.”
Explain What You Need From Them
Make it clear to your parents exactly what you want out of this conversation. Do you need their advice? Their support? Do you just wanna vent? Are you in trouble? By sharing what you need out of this conversation, your parents will know what angle to come at this convo from (and maybe diffuse any potential anger or disappointment they feel towards you *crosses fingers*).
“I’m not sure what I should do. I could really use some advice from you.”
“I don’t need your advice right now, instead can I just vent to you about something?”
“I messed up and you might be upset with me, but can I explain? I would appreciate you hearing me out before you say anything.”
“I know you are going to have thoughts/advice. It is hard for me to even share so can I share first and then you can yell/talk to me about it tomorrow, or later, when I am mentally able to listen to what you have to say? Can you just listen to me for this moment?”
It’s hard to be honest with parents sometimes. But it’s really important to always stay honest, especially if you want your parents to understand your side of the story. Even if it’s something pretty bad, like you stole money from your parent’s wallet, or got into a vehicle with someone drinking and driving, own up to it. If you get caught in a cycle of lying to them, it’s reallyyy hard to build up that trust again.
So make it clear that you wanna be honest during this whole convo, even if it means facing the consequences. It sucks but honesty is 100% the best policy.
If what you need to share with them is in regards to trauma, you don’t need to share everrryyything at once. All you need to do is just start the conversation and be honest in telling them you’re not ready to share all of it yet.
“This is hard for me to do, but I know I need to tell you the truth. Even if there’s consequences.”
“I really wanna tell you everything, even the parts that I’m afraid to say. Please keep in mind this isn’t easy for me.”
“I want us to be honest and open with each other, but I also need to feel safe when I come to you about stuff. Can we work on that together?”
Try Understanding Their Perspective
Sometimes we forget this, but our parents worry about us. That worry usually comes out as anger when they’re yelling at us for wrecking their car, or as disappointed silent treatment after we get caught in a huge lie. They have their own feelings of fear and anxiety too, and it’s usually about our safety and well-being.
“I know you worry about me and just want what’s best for me.”
“I totally get why you would be upset about this.”
“I wanna be able to talk to you about difficult things, even if it’s kinda awkward for both of us.”
Remember You’re Loved
In case you needed this lil’ reminder: your parents love you, no matter what. It’s easy to forget this when it’s time to tell them something scary AF. You might be imagining all of the ways they’ll ground your butt or worse, if they’ll come for you with “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” like a punch to the gut. Maybe you’re imagining the mutual cringe when you come to them about relationship boundaries, or different birth control options.
But no matter how awkward it might be or how they’ll react, it’s alllll comin’ from a place of love. You love them. They love you. So lean on them when it’s time to talk about difficult things! Having their support, guidance and understanding can really help you get through some tough crap…even if you’re kinda stubborn and think you can figure it all out on your own. You don’t have to deal with anything alone.
Have Friends Or Siblings On Standby
If this conversation is going to be a hard one, have friends on standby or siblings that you can talk to after. Having someone to be with after this difficult conversation will be important.
We hope these tips help you start those difficult conversations with your parents. It’s not easy, but it’s 100% worth it in the long run.
However, we know that not everyone has a positive relationship with their parents. We know that there are parents who aren’t supportive, and who in some cases are abusive. The number one priority is safety so for those who don’t feel safe talking to their parents, you can adapt these talking points to any adult that is a mentor or parental figure for you. If you are concerned about your safety, reach out for help from the following resources and consider speaking to a trusted adult first.
*If you need immediate help, dial 911 or your local emergency number.
US & Canada: Crisis Text Line offers free emotional support. Their crisis counselors are available 24/7, just text HOME to 741741 or use Facebook Messenger. Check out their website for more info: https://www.crisistextline.org/
Canada: Kids Help Phone has a free texting service that’s available 24/7, just text CONNECT to 686868 to speak with a trained crisis responder. They’re available to talk you through anything you’re going through, big or small! You can also call 1-800-668-6868 to speak to someone on the phone. Visit their website: https://kidshelpphone.ca/