I Can’t Talk to My Parents

From the WebMD Archives

Ever feel like no matter what you say, or how you say it, your parents neverreally listen to you? Maybe they treat you like a child. Or, perhaps they actlike 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 andinteractions with parents often become strained. As you become moreindependent, it's normal to develop and discuss your own ideas andtheories about life -- even if you don't fully believe everything you're sayingat the time.

Still, when teens talk, parents often feel threatened. Sometimes they have ahard time letting their kids go. They may long for the days when you were youngand dependent on them, and didn't question their ideas. Sure, it'sexasperating, but you can get through it.

Parents Are Human, Too

In an ideal situation, a home is a "testing ground" -- a safe placewhere teens can voice their ideas and opinions, hear how they sound, andparents can objectively discuss these thoughts with them. This helps youfine-tune what you really believe. You get to lean on the wisdom that moms anddads 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, andhave confusing emotions, just like you. Parents may also be offended when theirviews are challenged, especially if you catch them at a bad time (like whenthey are exhausted). Sure, you can feel upset with them. But keep in mind thatthey 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 alsoundergo major adjustments as they "cut the apron strings" andallow you to become independent. While you need your parents to listen to yournew ideas on life, parents also have needs. They need to feel confident thatyou 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 listento you and at least consider your point of view. Here are a few guidelines thatmight help when you talk to your parents:

  • Get your thoughts together. Before you talk to your parents, jotdown some concerns and/or problems that you have with your normalcommunication. You'll feel more prepared when your thoughts are in order. (Youcan scratch through thoughts that may be hurtful or disrespectful. It'sprobably best not to bring these up just yet.)
  • Plan a time to talk to your parents. Schedule a time with nodistractions so you can focus on your issues. Avoid talking before bedtime ordinnertime, or right after your parents get home from work. Make sure you andyour parents are rested and not hungry. If you have siblings, ask that theyleave so you can be alone with your parents. You don't need brothers andsisters chiming in with their own thoughts.
  • Don't throw dirt! When you do talk to your parents, speak about thehere and now. Avoid bringing up what they said the last time you asked, or howthey ignored you when you discussed this previously. Start fresh, with nogrudges. 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 yoursister or brother do several years ago. Avoid threatening them, and keep thetalk on a personal, caring level.
  • Be sensible and even-tempered. Suggest to your parents thatyou explain your concerns or needs first. Then ask if they can give theirreaction 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 oftenturn sour! Stay objective and logical. Deal with facts.
  • Stand tall. By attempting to talk to your parents openly -- andwithout emotional outbursts -- you are showing them you are adult enough to beresponsible for your actions.
  • Ask for feedback. Let your parents know that what they say isimportant to you. Tell them you want to open up to them because you haveconfidence in them. They will be impressed you are going to them instead of oneof your peers.
  • Get a third party to mediate. If talking to your parents is simplyimpossible (and only you can judge that), perhaps a mediator might help. Amediator is a third party who helps people talk with each other and makecompromises. A good mediator might be a mutual family friend, a relative, atrusted teacher/counselor at your school, or a neighbor you know well. In somesituations, teens may stand a better chance of getting their parents to listenwhen there is another trusted adult in the room.

If all else fails, remember to stay strong and positive. Often in life, wemust do things that do not make us happy. But many times, these things turn outfor the best. You will be on your own soon enough, and can make your owndecisions then. Disagreements with parents can be frustrating because you lovethem and do not want to hurt them. At the same time, you feel the need to beyourself.

Be patient and persistent. In time, it's likely that you and your parentswill relate to each other as interdependentadults, working through yourproblems together. Keep in mind this quote from author Mark Twain:

"When I was 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand tohave him around. When I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he hadlearned in just seven years!"

Show Sources

SOURCES: Atlantic Health System, TeenHealth FX web site: "Relationships: Dating, Family & Friends." TeensHealth web site: "Talking to Your Parents -- or Older Adults."

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