How to talk to your parents and other adults in your life
As a teenager, you may want to talk to an adult about dating, friendship, sex, drinking, drugs and mental health. But talking to your parents or another adult in your life can seem daunting. What if they lecture or judge you?
While it’s true that you can’t control how an adult reacts to what you say, you can learn:
- Which adults to talk to.
- How to start difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
- How to get the support you need.
Remember, adults were teens once too and can be really good resources. They care about you and want you to be healthy, happy and safe.
How to find a trusted adult to talk to
Start by determining which adults in your life you’d be comfortable talking to. While ideally, your parents would be supportive and open to conversations, if they aren’t, there are plenty of other adults to choose from, such as a:
- Aunt or uncle
- Older sibling or cousin
- Guidance counselor
- Neighbor or family friend
- Friend’s parents
- Religious leader
- Community leaders (such as at the Boys & Girls Club)
- Doctor or nurse
How to talk to an adult when you’re a teen
Talking to an adult about your life can feel a little uncomfortable—and that’s OK! Here are some tips for starting and having a helpful conversation:
Begin with a warm-up question. Start with a less personal question, such as asking for advice about friendship drama or too much homework. See how they respond and if they’re a good listener. You can also ask them about what issues they faced when they were a teen.
Tell them what you need. Whether you want advice or just someone to listen, start the conversation by telling them what you need. For example, you could say, “I want to talk to you about something going on with my friends, but I don’t want advice right now. Would you be willing to listen for a few minutes?”
Share how you feel. If you’re embarrassed, you could say something like, “I really want to talk to you about my boyfriend, but I’m embarrassed.” Or if you’re worried about how they’ll react, you could say, “I want to talk to you about something personal, but I’m worried about what you’ll say or think.”
Choose the right time. Try to pick a time when they aren’t busy. Find somewhere private and quiet to talk. Conversations can sometimes feel less awkward when you aren’t sitting face-to-face. Try talking to them while riding in the car or going for a walk. Or you could text them.
Practice. Talking to an adult can feel awkward. Just like anything else in your life, these conversations will take practice. You and the adult in your life won’t get it right every time. Keep showing up and asking questions.
Be patient. Adults are humans too and may be surprised or caught off-guard by your question. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help. Give them time to gather their thoughts or research the answer to your question.
Do research together. It’s OK if your adult doesn’t have all the answers. You can do research together and discuss what you find. Check out Centerstone’s teen content to learn more about topics like sex, relationships, bullying, body image, addiction, mental health and more.
Find another adult. If the person you talk to isn’t someone you can have a good conversation with, pick another trusted adult. Don’t give up! Not everyone has a parent or guardian with whom they can have open discussions. Look for an adult who respects you, listens to what you have to say, believes you, is nonjudgmental, remembers what it’s like to be young and gives good advice to others.
Know when to seek an adult’s help. Sometimes you or a friend may get in over your head. Perhaps you or your friends are dealing with abusive relationships, dating violence or assault, suicidal thoughts, bullying, or addiction. If you or someone you know is in a dangerous or unsafe situation, ask a trusted adult for help.
Get emergency support. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, call or text a Centerstone Crisis Line:
- Florida: 941-782-4617
- Illinois: 855-608-3560
- Indiana: 800-832-5442
- Tennessee: 800-681-7444
- Military Services: 866-781-8010
You don’t have to figure out everything on your own. Adults have been in your shoes and the right ones can offer advice and a listening ear to help you navigate your teen years.
Need more info? Ask an Expert.