How to Talk to Your Parents

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 12, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

You need to talk to your parents about some things, like curfews and rides. But maybe you don't like to turn to them for personal or social advice. You might be surprised if you give them a try.

“Nobody is going to care about and love you with the intensity of your parents -- even when you’re trying to push away from them,” says Kathy McCoy, MD, a former feature editor of Teen magazine. “As intense and wonderful as friendships can be -- and some of them are for life, but most of them aren’t -- you can count on your parents when your friends might flake on you.”

Talking to your parents doesn't mean you're acting like a kid again. "You can ask their opinion and you don’t have to accept everything they say," McCoy says.

Talking Tip 1: Engage in Small Talk
Try to talk to your parents a bit every day about little things -- the dog, your baseball game, what’s for dinner. This keeps you connected, so moving on to a big topic isn’t so difficult.

Talking Tip 2: Send Out “Trial Balloons”
When you want to talk about a difficult subject, sometimes it’s easier not to dive in headfirst, McCoy says. “You might say, ‘Most of my friends are having sex,’ or even ask your mother, ‘Do you remember what it was like when you were just starting to change? Did it feel like everyone else was growing up faster?’”

Talking Tip 3: Know What You Want to Accomplish
Do you have some bad news to break to your parents? Do you need their permission to do something? Or do you just want them to listen to you, without offering any advice? Try writing down for yourself what you want from the conversation. That will help you let your parents know what you need.

Talking Tip 4: Consider Talking to One Parent
If it’s difficult to bring up a touchy topic like sex, discuss it with the parent you feel most comfortable and open with.

Talking Tip 5: Pick Your Battles
Conversations always go better when they don’t become fights. “If everything is a crisis or battle, you and your parents will get ‘battle fatigue,’” McCoy says. “If you go along with their limits most of the time, then ask for an exception -- to stay out later or do something new, for example -- you have a much better chance of having them say ‘yes.’”

Talking Tip 6: Pick the Right Time and Place
It’s not a great idea to give your parents bad news when they’re rushing off to work. Talking in the car when you're doing errands can be a good time. And if you’re angry, wait until you cool off.Go for a run, cry, or hit a punching bag or pillow first.

Talking Tip 7: Listen When Your Parents Talk
It's tempting to dismiss your parents' opinions. But if you give them time to tell you what they think, they’re more likely to listen to you. Try the “five-second rule”: Everyone agrees to wait five seconds after another person has finished talking before responding.

Talking Tip 8: Find Other Adults You Trust

In some cases, it just may not be possible to talk to your parents. Maybe your mom can’t be there for you because she has her own troubles. Or your dad is not even willing to listen. One of your parents may not even be around. In that case, find another adult you trust – like a favorite aunt, a teacher, or a counselor. The most important thing is to have a reliable adult that you can turn to when you need to talk.

WebMD Feature



Holmes, M. Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff That Matters, Health Communications, Inc., 2005.

Drill, E. Deal With It: A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a Gurl, Pocket Books, 1999.

Kathleen McCoy, MD, psychotherapist, coauthor, The Teenage Body Book; Florence, Ariz. (520) 509-6724.

Kidshealth: “Talking to Your Parents -- or Other Adults.”

Pfeifer, K. American Medical Association Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Teen, Jossey-Bass, 2006.

Seventeen: “Talking to Your Parents About Sex”

Emily, Davis, Calif.

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