Asking for a friend: Help! I don’t know how to talk to my parents about serious issues

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student who wants to learn how to have deeper conversations with their family
Dannie Aildasani |

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Finding it hard to have tough talks with your parents? It may be helpful to explore why. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I have always been close to my parents, but I can only talk to them about happy things. How can I learn to discuss more negative emotions?

Sincerely, Nervous

Dear Nervous,

It’s great to hear that you already have a bond with your parents, even if you can only discuss happy things. It means you’re not starting from zero, and you’re already on the right path to having deeper conversations.

Here are a few tips for having more serious talks with your family:

How do I stop my emotions from taking control of my life?

Figure out what’s holding you back

You say you can’t share your negative feelings with your parents, but why? Are you worried about how they will react? Embarrassed to tell them something personal? We know it’s easier said than done, but don’t let those feelings stop you from talking to your parents. Instead, you can incorporate them into the conversation.

For example, you could say, “I have something I need to talk about, but I’m afraid of disappointing you. Still, I think it’s important for us to discuss.”

You might end up being surprised by how they react! Photo: Shutterstock

Think about what you need from your parents

Do you want to ask for your parents’ help or simply vent your frustration? Be clear about what you want. For example, maybe you had a fight with a friend and want to discuss it with your parents to see if they have any tips for ending your feud. You could say, “Hey, I had a fight with my friend today. I would really like to talk about it with you. If you have any advice, I would appreciate it.”

My sister’s stress about university is rubbing off on me

Practise the conversation beforehand

We know it sounds silly, but practise what you want to say – in your head or out loud – so you can build up your confidence. You can even do a run-through with a friend. It will make the discussion with your parents less intimidating since you’ve already had it before.

We know it can be tough to talk about certain topics with your parents; just remember they care about you and want to listen. Photo: Shutterstock

Pick the right time to talk

If you know your parents are grumpy in the morning, don’t try to have a serious conversation with them then; they might not react well, and it could make you afraid to discuss serious topics with them in the future.

Instead, pick a time when you know they’re open to a chat; maybe that’s after dinner or on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You might even need to schedule a time to talk – tell them, “I have something kind of serious I want to talk about. When would be a good time for us to sit down and chat?” Timing makes a big difference!

Hope that helps, Friend of a friend

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