You're wearing your most comfy sweatpants, settled in for a relaxing evening with a stack of videos and a huge bowl of popcorn. You've been hanging out since dinner - talking about that new hottie at school and how your best friend has been driving you crazy for the last 2 weeks (OK - more like 2 years!). The low-key night is a nice change from the pressures of homework and school and there's a chance you may even want to do it again, something you never thought you'd say - about hanging out with your parents! Read on to learn about the benefits of communicating with your parents and other adults.
Why Should I Talk to My Parents or Other Adults?
There are lots of good reasons for teens to talk to their parents or other adults. For example, maybe you're sick of always being the shoulder to cry on when it comes to your friends, and it's time you found someone who'll listen to your problems for a change. Sure, it's nice that your friends look up to you, but sometimes you need a listening ear or some good advice.
Your parents or other adults can be just the sounding board you need and you'll probably find that communication improves your relationship with them. In fact, as you resolve issues together and develop mutual trust, you'll probably find that living under one roof will get a little (or even a lot) easier.
Of course, in order for adults to trust, listen to, and understand you, you have to be willing to do the same. You don't have to like the rules they've established, but attempting to understand their reasoning on important issues like curfew, grades, and dating might help you negotiate. Don't be afraid to state your opinions about what's fair and what's not. They may not agree with you, but how can they know how you feel (or finally see that you're right!) if you don't tell them?
Whether it's an everyday issue like schoolwork or an emergency situation, your parents are there to support you because they care about you. Sometimes, though, it may seem like all they want to do is control you. Try to take time to think calmly about the situation. Do you really think that your parents won't let you go to that party because they want you to stay home and be miserable? Probably not. Chances are that if you ask them why they don't want you to go, the reason will be concern for your well-being or your safety. Maybe they're concerned that your ride will be drinking or that there will be drugs at the party.
When situations like this occur, find out what their concerns are and address them one by one. You may find that your parents will ease up a little if they realize that you've already thought things through and have made alternate plans in case your safety becomes an issue.
Who Can I Talk To?
As a rule, talking to your parents is always a good idea. If you're not comfortable talking to them about a particular issue (such as sex), if you feel you are being abused by your parent, or if you'd like to talk to someone else first, there are always other resources. For example, if you are having problems with friends, schoolwork, teachers, or your parents, consider talking to your school guidance counselor. These counselors are specially trained to provide help and support in these types of situations. A guidance counselor can also refer a teen to a professional therapist in cases where this might be beneficial.
For medical concerns and questions about sex that you may feel uncomfortable talking about with a parent, try talking with your school nurse, your family doctor, an adolescent doctor (a doctor who specializes in treating adolescents and teens), or a gynecologist.
Other family members, such as an aunt, uncle, or older sibling, can also help by offering some words of wisdom or comfort. Unless they fear that your health or well-being may be in jeopardy, most adults will keep your conversations confidential if you ask them to.
If you're involved in a church group or belong to a synagogue, your priest, pastor, rabbi, or youth group leader may also be a good source of comfort and advice. Parents of a close friend may also be able to help. They may even be able to ease your parents' fears about certain issues - like sleeping over at your friend's house - by assuring them that they'll be home all evening or that they'll be driving you to and from that concert.
Communication Breakdowns - and How to Begin Fixing Them
As a teen, it's normal to have difficulties communicating with your parents at one time or another. Your hormones may be taking your moods on a roller-coaster ride, and the more you try to become your own person by figuring out who you are and where you fit in, the more it may seem that your parents try to keep you under their control. Who wouldn't feel frustrated?
The good news is, your parents went through the same changes. Why not ask them about when they were teens? You may be surprised to learn that they got dumped, hated school, loved school, got cut from the soccer team, or thought their own parents were put on earth to make their lives miserable. Plus, remembering what it was like to be a teen might make them more open to compromise.
"Meet your parents halfway," advises Dr. Jeanette LeBlanc, a counselor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "If you resist the temptation to use sarcasm, yell, slam doors, or put down your parents, you'll have a much better chance of getting what you want. Simple, respectful talk may leave your parents open to compromise and negotiation on both the little and the big issues. Of course, they'll probably reserve the right to have the final say."
Another way to break through some communication barriers is to spend more time with your parents. We're not talking every Friday and Saturday night (you do have a life, after all!), but a few nights per month, try finding something fun that you can do together that may give you a chance to really talk.
When Should I Talk to My Parents or Other Adults?
Your parents and other adults are probably always eager to hear about all the stuff in your life - school, sports, homework, your love life. But if you have a question or want to have a semi-serious conversation with your folks, know when to approach them. Like you, adults can be busy, and bombarding them with requests when they walk through the door or while they're on the phone may not be the best approach. Pick a time when you know they're not extremely busy (like after dinner or before bed, for example) to talk. Sometimes, though, you'll need to talk to them right away, and that's OK, too.
Even if you'd rather talk to your friends about certain things, there are times when talking to your parents or other adults is an absolute necessity. If you think you or a friend is in jeopardy physically, emotionally, or mentally, talking to an adult is always your best option. Don't worry about getting a friend who has a serious problem in trouble. Waiting until the "right time" could be too late for someone who is suicidal, has an eating disorder, or is being abused, for example. Not telling could cause a lot more damage and a true friend will understand that you were only looking after her well-being.
Of course, it may be tough to find an adult whom you feel you can trust. Some may seem so busy with work or relationships that they barely acknowledge your attempt to talk to them. Talk to the person who takes the time to listen to you - without making you feel like you're bothering her. If you don't feel comfortable or you can tell you don't have the person's full attention, find someone else.
As for the really serious situations, don't try to handle them by yourself. An adult may have more experience or will be able to help you contact the right person or find the best resources to get help. And if you're worried that asking for help means you are weak, remember it takes a much stronger person to reach out to others than it does to pretend everything's OK when it's not. Confronting your problems with the help of your parents or another adult is perhaps one of the biggest steps that you can take toward earning some well-deserved trust and building your self-esteem.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Schneider, DO
Date reviewed: May 2000
Source: KidsHealth www.KidsHealth.com is a project of The Nemours Foundation which is dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children http://www.nemours.org/no/