Ever feel like your parents aren't listening properly, aren't seeking your opinions, aren't seeing things from your perspective, or simply aren't giving you opportunities to talk? Ever feel like you struggle with opening up, can't find a good time, or are continuously frustrated by communication breakdowns between you and your family?
Lately, as a personal goal, I've been trying to work on talking often and openly with my parents, and with others in my life. Even though we have a very good relationship, I still have a strong tendency towards reservation and keeping words and thoughts to myself, so verbal communication doesn't always come so naturally. But all in all, it's been going pretty well, and definitely worthwhile—and the more I do it, I find, the easier it gets.
For people we've known (and whom have known us) for most or all of our lives, it's amazing how hard it can be to communicate with our parents (or whatever adults fill that guardian role for you). Sometimes it feels like we're speaking a completely different language from the people who raised us. Other times, it may feel like we're being pressured to talk when or about things we don't want to—or like we aren't getting the opportunity to talk when or about things we do want to. Not only is it frustrating, lack of communication also (unsurprisingly) often goes hand in hand with lack of understanding. And of course, lack of understanding can lead to all kinds of mistakes, hurt feelings, and—guess what?—miscommunications. It's quite the cycle.
The good news: With a little mutual effort and consideration, it's very possible to build a strong, working, and communicative relationship with your parents (and with others). So here are a few tips, and things to consider, to help you do just that.
You aren't alone in this! Even (especially) when issues arise, chances are your parents want to communicate with you just as much as you want to communicate with them. Sometimes it's hard to find the right flow, to match up your "languages," and you might be wishing they could do a better job at communication... but they probably feel exactly the same way!
So, since ultimately you all want the same thing (a happy, healthy, communicative relationship), make talking to each other and improving communication tactics on both ends a collaborative project. Meet in the middle. If you feel like your parents aren't listening to you, or aren't understanding, or aren't available, etc... tell them how you feel. Explain that you're having a hard time opening up, or that you don't feel like your ideas are being properly heard—or whatever the challenges are. Talk about talking!
If you're having trouble finding the words or the time in person, sometimes writing can be a helpful way to communicate—one which allows everyone to take the time to think about and process both what you're saying and what they want to say. If there are strong feelings going on, it also lets you/them calm down and think before responding, rather than reacting in the grip of the moment or losing temper. Whether an email, a multi-page paper letter you hand over, or just a note saying "Hey, can we find a time to talk sometime soon?", you may find that putting your thoughts into written words helps you get your message across more effectively at times. Another neat idea for a communication tool is a shared diary, where you both write (and read) about things that happen, feelings you have, etc.
Talking isn't a one-way thing. Listening is at least as important a part of communicating as the talking itself—if anything, I might say it's more important. It can be all too easy for adults (and kids, too) to forget the importance of listening to what their kids (or others) have to say. That doesn't mean that they don't want to listen, though. Sometimes a gentle reminder, telling them if you feel unheard, asking them to hear you out first, and really consider what you have to say, is super helpful. And in the meantime, even if they drive you crazy from time to time, try and listen to what your parents have to say too. ;)
A little empathy goes a long way. It's easy to see from our own perspective, of course—but sometimes, it can be much harder to look at things from another point of view. This is something every one of us can work on. And better yet, we can work on it with each other.
Remember: You're in this together.
Time and Place
Particularly as we get older and lives get busier, you may (or may not!) find that finding time for "just talking" isn't as easy or as naturally occuring as it once was. When conversation falls the wayside, it can become increasingly difficult when you really do need to talk about something. Don't wait until something huge happens—just make it a habit. When you arrive home from school to the infamous question, "How was your day?" don't grunt and head to your room. For once, try giving a real answer (trust me, I'm not the best at this either!). Tell them about what you did with at recess, or your big homework assignment. Maybe try asking how their day was. (They might not think you want to know, but often the answer can be very interesting!)
Especially useful if there's something specific you want to talk about and you're giving it advanced thought is to find a good time. Parents are people too, and people aren't perfect. Plus, life intervenes. If you and your dad got into a screaming match five minutes ago, now may not be the best time for a heart-to-heart discussion (or, maybe it is, but that depends on the two of you and your relationship); consider giving some time to cool down, and then bring it up later when you're both in a more constructive frame of mind. And if your mom is stressed and running late for work... well, again, for best results, if the conversation isn't urgent, it may be best to wait until later.
Sometimes—especially if you have something big you want to bring up, or are having trouble finding comfortable moments to chat during the course of the day—it can be helpful (together with the person you want to talk to) to set aside a time just for talking. Having your "meeting" planned on the calendar in advance can help ensure you have enough time, privacy, etc. to have a full conversation.
On the other hand, a great habit to build—and a way of communication that tends to be most comfortable for me—is to make communication a natural, casual part of your day-to-day. Combine talking with doing: Talk while going for a walk, or driving somewhere in the car. Talk while chopping vegetables. Talk while playing chess (and then use that as a distraction so you can checkmate... okay, just kidding xD). This kind of "double-dipping" helps both to save time in you and your parents' hectic, busy lives, and can also help lessen any uncomfortable feelings you may have, especially if "opening up" feels awkward or like something you're not used to. Find times you'll be together anyway, and sieze the opportunity to bond. It's easier than you might think!
Just Do It
In the end, sometimes it's just a matter of taking the plunge. In my experience, talking—no matter what I'm talking about—is never as scary as I think it will be. Once I get started, it's not as hard as I expect, either. And the more talking, and listening, becomes a habit, the easier it will become for everybody.
How do you and your parents, and other family members and others, communicate? What frustrates you about the way your parents communicate? What would you like them to do differently? What might you be able to do differently yourself, to help? What suggestions do you have to share about talking to parents?
Tell us your honest thoughts and ideas in the comments—and/or send them in through this poll! If there are specific things that you struggle with (in communication in general and/or in the way your parents communicate), I can try and address those in a future blog post. And your comments about problems in parent communication could be published in an upcoming New Moon Girls magazine article about how parents and daughters can better communicate!