Talking with parents

Many children and young people contact us who are going through a really difficult time but feel unable to talk to their parents about how they are feeling and what is happening for them. They may be, for example, being bullied, struggling with an eating disorder, self harming, and/or generally feeling depressed.

The reasons they give for not talking to their parents include:

  • They won't understand
  • They will think its my fault
  • They will be angry
  • They're too busy
  • They will be upset
  • I don't want to worry them

If you are a child or young person who is going through a bad time at the moment it is sad that you are going through it on your own. Try for a moment and put yourself in your parents shoes - try to imagine yourself in the future as a parent - if you had a child who was unhappy would you not want them to tell you so you can give them some support, help, extra care, hugs, affection etc?

Don't automatically think that your parents are going to blame you or be angry with you. They may be angry at the situation but that is different to being angry with you. They may be shocked at what you tell them but once they have got over the shock they will probably want to help and give you some support.

If your parents know you are very unhappy or there is something troubling you or you have got yourself into some kind of trouble - yes they may be upset and worried initially but I think they would be more upset and worried if they knew that you are keeping your unhappiness from them.

If you want to talk to your parents about something worrying you or how you are feeling try and choose a quiet time - not when they are in the middle of making the tea or getting ready for work - but a time when you know they are going to be around to talk to - or even suggest going for a walk together and talk to them then. If you find it difficult explaining what is happening or how you feel try writing a letter to leave for them so they can take in what you are saying and then sit down together and talk.

Parents were young themselves and may be more understanding than you think about situations - it may well have been that your parents may have found themselves in similar situations when they were your age or may have had friends with similar problems. Sometimes dealing with stuff on your own can make you feel more alone and isolated which will just end up making you more depressed. Just to talk about worries and problems can be like a weight lifted from you. Your parents may not be able to solve your problems for you but they may have advice or suggest different ways of coping which you may not have thought of and it is another means of support. Some children and young people who feel down and very depressed try and act like everything is ok and put on a happy face - this in itself can be an enormous strain - constantly putting on an act. If you share your problems with others at least you don't have to pretend to be happy and/or coping.

Everyone finds it difficult to cope sometimes and most people feel down and depressed about things too at some time or other but if you allow yourself to get more and more depressed it will be harder for you to pull yourself out of it.

Remember that your parents are responsible for your protection and safety. If you feel you are being given a hard time, your parents are too strict, always on your back etc. try and show your parents you can be responsible and trustworthy and are willing to compromise and that you realise you cannot always have things your own way

If you feel they are being unfair about something then sit down and try and talk about it in a mature way - shouting, yelling, tantrums, slamming doors etc. isn't the way to get what you want. If you feel something is unfair then maybe come up with a few suggestions of how things could change and negotiate with your parents. They may have some rules which they won't compromise on but if they see you are acting in a responsible way they are more likely to trust you.

e.g. if you have to be in by 9.30pm then stick to that time and don't keep coming in later as that will only annoy your parents. If you stick to that time regularly then maybe after a period of time you can sit down with your parents and say that you have been sticking to the agreed time and wondered whether there was any possibility of negotiating a slightly later time with them. If you are reasonable you should find your parents will be reasonable too.

Remember also parents worry about your safety and if you are later than you said it may not be a big deal to you if you come back half an hour late but your parents may be beside themselves with worry so always ring or text if you are going to be late.

Many children and young people spend a lot of time emailing and surfing the web - that is fine but remember about your own safety. Never give your personal details out and never arrange to meet anyone without talking to your parents about it first. You may think you are meeting another young person who could in fact be an older person who is a paedophile and would harm you. Keep yourself safe at all times.

If you are going through a difficult time now please think about sharing it with your parents - they may be able to help you to get some support which may make you think differently about things. If you really can't talk to your parents then there are also young peoples counselling services and helplines where someone can talk to you and that may help too or talk to a teacher/college lecturer, youth leader, school/college counsellor etc. (see section on Children's & Young People's Helplines).

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