Why do we find it difficult to communicate?
A lot of people feel apprehensive about discussing their mental health struggles with their parents simply because they do not want to upset them or "add to their burden." Sometimes, what also prevents people from opening up is the difficulty of pinpointing where their concerns actually stem from.
Some common concerns that can hold you back from communicating openly include:
- “I don't know how my parents will react.”
- "My parents will be disappointed in me."
- “My parents won't take me seriously."
- "They won’t understand my struggles”
- “One (or both) of my parents are part of why I am struggling."
While all these concerns are reasonable and valid, remember that bottling up your feelings only widens the communication gap between you and your parents.
In this situation, a good question to ask yourself is, how would you feel if someone you love was suffering and wanted to discuss it with you? In all likelihood, you would be glad they confided in you and want to help them to the best of your abilities. In most cases, the same applies to you reaching out to your parents.
Before you sit down with your parents, it’s important that you take some time to prepare for the conversation. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you prepare:
How can we prepare for the conversation?
Before talking to your parents, you should sit down and check in with yourself for a moment. Try asking yourself the following questions regarding therapy:
- Why now?
- Why will this be good for me?
- What do I hope to get out of it?
Answering these questions would give you confidence and greater clarity of thought, allowing you to communicate in a way that commands respect and conveys how serious you are about this.
- Be thorough with your research
Doing some research beforehand would help you make well-informed arguments. It could also ease things for your parents, who might not be completely aware of various mental health terminologies and find it difficult to understand how to go about things.
For instance, you can research the exact symptoms, a few causal factors, and the commonly-used therapy techniques and explain to them in simpler words how counselling works. If you want, you can also list certain key points you want to address ahead of time.
- Pick a suitable time and place
Pick a place where you're most likely to get your family’s full attention (for example, at home on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing much going on) or on a family walk rather than when they’re getting ready to go to work. Similarly, try choosing a specific time when you and your parents are in a relaxed mindset, and open to having a conversation.
- Send a heads up
It is completely understandable if you do not feel comfortable expressing all your feelings or ‘getting it all out at once.’ Just start by sharing one thing at a time. For example, you can share certain instances during the pandemic that made you feel sad, lonely, and burnt out.
Speaking up even in parts makes way for working together to identify options that could help. This also allows you and your parents to establish a common ground and find meaningful solutions to address any specific challenges.
- Use affirming statements
Affirming statements can help. Not only do these reflect conviction in your approach, but they also make it less easy for your parents to dismiss your emotions.
Examples of using such statements in your conversation could be “I know this might not be the most pleasant conversation to have, but it is essential we have it...”, "My stress has been specifically triggered by…”, “I am confident therapy would help me because…”, and so on.
Every parent comes from different walks of life, which in a way shapes their outlook towards life for the better or, the worse. While some parents might be very open and inclusive to the idea of therapy, others might not perceive it so seamlessly.
If you feel your parents are turning a deaf ear to your concerns, you can try looking for another trusted adult in your circle. This could include a teacher, a family friend, or an understanding relative who can provide you guidance and/or lend a listening ear.
On the other hand, if your parents are supportive, keeping your parents in the loop about any future therapy sessions and treatment plans might be a good idea. This would make them feel involved, encouraging them to be a great support system for you!