Not Communicating with Parents

2011/05/31 in Relationships

Are there some things you just can’t talk about with your parents? Maybe you’re afraid that if you did, you’d lose their trust, even their love.


Do you think telling them certain things could backfire, and you’d be disciplined instead of being encouraged to talk? In this tape we’ll talk about some of the reasons for communication problems between teens and their parents. We’ll also suggest some things you can try to help you and your parents talk more easily and honestly.

It’s perfectly natural for you to not discuss everything with your parents. But when you’ve got problems discussing anything with them, it can really get you down. You’re going through a period in your life when some big and exciting things are happening to you. You could be having some serious hassles, too. Sharing some of these things with your parents is important. And since you’re becoming an adult, you also want to let your parents know how you feel about things. What you’re thinking, who you are, etc.

There may be other reasons why you and your parents are having: a hard time talking to one another. As you’re struggling for your independence and identity, they see you growing away from them. When you were a kid, you depended on them to fill all your needs. Now you’re turning to your friends. Maybe your parents are starting to feel you don’t need them anymore, or love them like you used to. As a result, they may hesitate to approach you. They may feel you think they’re prying. Maybe they think that their need to continue to be involved in your life will be rejected by you.

If you’ve tried talking to your parents and they seem too busy to listen to you, be sure to choose a good time to talk to them. Other common complaints from teens about communication with parents are that parents interrupt, give lectures, become angry, or even tell you what you should do. This can really get you up tight! You want to discuss something with your parents, not be yelled at or talked at by them. If you’re trying to let your parents know how you feel, it’s a real put down to be told that you’re worrying about nothing, or that your problems aren’t important. If you make a mistake, you don’t want a lecture on how they would have handled it. You want their support and comfort.

As hard as it may sound, you might have to take the first step towards building better communications with your parents. To get started, you could come right out and say “Something is really bothering me. Can I talk it over with you?” This tells your parents two things: one, that you’re having strong feelings about a problem, and two, that you want to talk it over with them, not have them solve the problem for you.

When you do get a chance to talk to your parents, make sure you’re sending clear messages. By this we mean that you really try to say what you’re feeling. Use direct “I” messages. This is a method, which states what you want, why, and also how you feel. It doesn’t put the blame on anyone else for the feelings you’re having. Here’s an example of an “I” message: “I’m really upset. It was agreed that if I did supper dishes on Wednesday and Thursday, I wouldn’t have to do them tonight. Now I’m expected to do them, and I’ll be late for my date if I do.” This type of message states your needs and makes your feelings clear, but it doesn’t blame anyone else for the way you feel. You’re also not putting the other person on the defensive, which does cause arguments.

You’ll also have to practice receiving messages clearly from others. In order to really hear what people are saying, try to read between the lines. Be aware of the feelings behind the words said, not just the words themselves. Look at the person talking, and try to understand what he or she is saying and feeling. If you aren’t sure you understand, ask. You might say, “I’m not sure what you’re really saying.” Also, be careful not to interrupt someone who is talking. You can’t listen to what’s being said when you’re talking. If what’s being said is making you angry, try to hold your anger until the other person has finished. Then use tact, and a good “I” message. For example:

“When I’m called a child it really makes me angry. I’m growing up, and being called a child makes me feel as if I’m not doing a good job at it.”

We’ve talked about some of the feelings you and your parents might be having which can affect communications between you. We’ve suggested that you be aware of the feelings behind the words, not just the words alone. Try to be in touch with your real feelings, and let them be known.

Be careful you don’t blame others for making you feel the way you do. This can be done by using “I” messages. Be aware of the tone of voice you use. You’ll have better results if you don’t blow your cool. We also suggest that you have your parents read this section. It will make them aware of your concern, and desire, to improve communications.

When you try to communicate honestly, you’re taking a risk — and that takes courage. You’re allowing another person to see you as you really are inside, how you think and feel. That could open you up to criticism, possibly even rejection. But it is the only constructive way of letting people know what your true needs are so they can help fill those needs.


For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.