Life just feels easier when you can communicate well with your parents/carers. It can be tricky to know how to feel heard when it seems like your parents/carers aren’t listening to you. These communication tips will help you get your message across.
1. Time it right
Timing is everything. Whether you’re after some emotional support or something else, you’ve got to get the timing right. Tune into what’s going on in the family, and pick a time to talk when your parents/carers aren’t stressed or distracted by other things. It may be easier to have a conversation when you’re in the car, rather than during the morning when everyone is trying to leave the house. It also helps to start with an opener like, ‘Hey, do you have time for a chat today?’
If you’re in a crisis or need urgent help, then this doesn’t apply - just go for it.
2. Use ‘I’ statements
This one is genius. Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me at all’, try this: ‘I feel really upset when [insert issue here].’
When you use ‘I’ statements, you’re taking responsibility for your own emotions, instead of trying to ‘blame’ them on someone else. When you use the ‘you’ word, it can make the other person feel attacked, and so they’ll be far less likely to listen to you.
The short version: ‘I’ = constructive conversation; ‘You’ = potential argument.
3. Take the pressure off
The ‘no pressure’ approach to communication can work really well. Here’s how you do it: ‘Hey, I wanted to talk to you about [insert issue here], but I don’t need an answer right now. I just want to put it out there for you to think about and get back to me when you’re ready.’
This approach can work because it’s less demanding than a straight-up request. It gives your parents/carers time to think an issue through in their own time. Plus, it shows that you’re being patient, reasonable and mature.
4. Try some active listening
If you want your parents/carers to listen to you, you kind of have to listen to them, too. Active listening is a great technique that shows others you’re listening to their point of view. Here’s how you do it:
When they say, ‘I’m sick and tired of asking you to clean your room. It’s disgusting!’, don’t jump in and interrupt them mid-sentence. Take a breath and try saying something like, ‘I hear that you really want me to clean my room. I’ll try hard to be better at that.’
When you indicate to someone that you’ve heard what they’ve said to you, it really brings down the tension in a conversation.
5. Take a break and try again
Despite all your efforts, sometimes things can just get really heated. The next time you notice a conversation with your parents/carers is heading toward an argument, stop and take a break. Collect your thoughts and think about how you’d like to be talked to. Once things have chilled out a bit, you can try again with this new strategy.
Everyone loses their cool every once in a while. If you regret something you said or did when you were angry, own up to it and say sorry. This shows that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions, and your parents will be more likely to trust you.
If you’ve tried a few times and feel like you’re getting nowhere, think about who else you can talk to – a friend, maybe an aunty or uncle, or a teacher.