Talking to your parents can sometimes feel strained at the best of times, let alone when you want to discuss a difficult topic with them. Part of it is to do with having completely different mindsets. What makes sense to you can seem completely foreign to them simply because it (whatever IT is) was not a possibility when they were your age. Part of it has to do with you being their child. They might think they know more than you or think they know what’s best for you, because for a long time, they did.
So how can you communicate with your parents without it seeming like a frustrating exercise in futility? How do you open up discussion about, say, you wanting to move abroad to study when they’d prefer you to stay here, without it getting shot down immediately? Here are seven tips that might help.
You might be worried about your parents’ reaction to whatever you want to discuss with them. As a result, you might want to avoid speaking about it entirely. Don’t – your parents are supposed to always be there for you. Chances are, they’ll hear you out and try to help you, no matter how embarrassing, worrying, or life-changing your issue may be.
Maybe it’s better to discuss your subject with your mum first, or you’d feel more comfortable talking to your dad about it. If you have a parent who gets mad quickly, and the other is more calm, then speak to the calmer one first and get them on your side before you speak to the other parent.
You’re less likely to get the outcome you’re looking for when the person you’re talking to is feeling stressed or is busy. Find a moment to schedule a time and place for your talk. That way, you will have your parents’ undivided attention and they will come prepared to listen to what you have to say.
Know what it is you want to say, and how to say it. Maybe you think it’s best to dive straight into the subject, or maybe you want to talk about lighter, less serious things first. Whichever way you want to go about it, writing down what you want to say will help. Start off your conversation by stating what you want the outcome to be – if you want advice, or permission, or simply for them to listen.
Speak calmly, in an even tone. If your voice pitches upwards, you might come across as a little whiny, or childish – which is exactly the opposite of what you want to be doing. If you sound childish, then your parents are more likely to treat you as if you’re throwing a tantrum, and they will be more dismissive of you. Speaking to them like you're an adult will make them more likely to treat you like an adult.
This is the best time to be completely honest with your parents. If you lie to them when you’re having a serious discussion, they might be less likely to believe you about anything in the future. Lying, or withholding the truth when they’re trying to treat you like an adult, will make them less likely to trust you the next time you want to talk to them.
Chances are, your parents will not see your point of view at first. They will have points to make against yours, and they might get upset. Pausing, absorbing what they’re saying, repeating it back to them, and empathising with their concerns will help them see you as the mature person you (probably) are. Acknowledge their opinions, but ask that they respect yours, too.