Ever feel like no matter what you say, or how you say it, your parents never
really listen to you? Maybe they treat you like a child. Or, perhaps they act
like they're listening and even look you in the eyes, but really don't
"hear" anything you say. And if they do hear you, they always disagree,
right? Sometimes you feel like you just can't talk to your parents.
It's OK! You are normal. During the teen years, the connections and
interactions with parents often become strained. As you become more
independent, it's normal to develop and discuss your own ideas and
theories about life -- even if you don't fully believe everything you're saying
at the time.
It's a reality today that about half of all marriages end in divorce. And 75% of those who get divorced will marry again. This means millions of new stepfamilies are formed each year. Sometimes the transition is pretty easy. But many times, families have trouble adjusting to the new living arrangements, rules, and relationships.
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Still, when teens talk, parents often feel threatened. Sometimes they have a
hard time letting their kids go. They may long for the days when you were young
and dependent on them, and didn't question their ideas. Sure, it's
exasperating, but you can get through it.
Parents Are Human, Too
In an ideal situation, a home is a "testing ground" -- a safe place
where teens can voice their ideas and opinions, hear how they sound, and
parents can objectively discuss these thoughts with them. This helps you
fine-tune what you really believe. You get to lean on the wisdom that moms and
dads can give from their years of living on the planet Earth.
But, wait. Who said life is ideal? Your parents are only human --
just like you! They will slip up, say things they don't mean, be critical, and
have confusing emotions, just like you. Parents may also be offended when their
views are challenged, especially if you catch them at a bad time (like when
they are exhausted). Sure, you can feel upset with them. But keep in mind that
they are your parents. They are there for you in good times and bad.
Adolescence is a period of great change for teens. But moms and dads also
undergo major adjustments as they "cut the apron strings" and
allow you to become independent. While you need your parents to listen to your
new ideas on life, parents also have needs. They need to feel confident that
you can be trusted, and will be safe without their constant guidance.
How to Talk to Parents
With a little tolerance and persistence, you can get your parents to listen
to you and at least consider your point of view. Here are a few guidelines that
might help when you talk to your parents:
Get your thoughts together. Before you talk to your parents, jot
down some concerns and/or problems that you have with your normal
communication. You'll feel more prepared when your thoughts are in order. (You
can scratch through thoughts that may be hurtful or disrespectful. It's
probably best not to bring these up just yet.)
Plan a time to talk to your parents. Schedule a time with no
distractions so you can focus on your issues. Avoid talking before bedtime or
dinnertime, or right after your parents get home from work. Make sure you and
your parents are rested and not hungry. If you have siblings, ask that they
leave so you can be alone with your parents. You don't need brothers and
sisters chiming in with their own thoughts.
Don't throw dirt! When you do talk to your parents, speak about the
here and now. Avoid bringing up what they said the last time you asked, or how
they ignored you when you discussed this previously. Start fresh, with no
grudges. Make sure they agree to the same rules.
Keep it all about "you." When you talk to your parents,
avoid telling them what your best friend's parents allow or what they let your
sister or brother do several years ago. Avoid threatening them, and keep the
talk on a personal, caring level.
Be sensible and even-tempered. Suggest to your parents that
you explain your concerns or needs first. Then ask if they can give their
reaction without being critical or emotional.
Keep your composure. Be cool. State your side logically,
without throwing darts.
Try not to be defensive. That's when parents' moods often
turn sour! Stay objective and logical. Deal with facts.
Stand tall. By attempting to talk to your parents openly -- and
without emotional outbursts -- you are showing them you are adult enough to be
responsible for your actions.
Ask for feedback. Let your parents know that what they say is
important to you. Tell them you want to open up to them because you have
confidence in them. They will be impressed you are going to them instead of one
of your peers.
Get a third party to mediate. If talking to your parents is simply
impossible (and only you can judge that), perhaps a mediator might help. A
mediator is a third party who helps people talk with each other and make
compromises. A good mediator might be a mutual family friend, a relative, a
trusted teacher/counselor at your school, or a neighbor you know well. In some
situations, teens may stand a better chance of getting their parents to listen
when there is another trusted adult in the room.