So lately, we’ve been absolutely addicted to watching ABC’s The Fosters. Sure it’s partly the crazy story lines and drama that keeps us tuning in every week (ok, that’s a lie, we’re totally binging on it), but it’s also the way the family deals with all the tough times and sticks together no matter what.
Ever since day one on this show, the teens — Brendan, Callie, Marianna, Jesus and Jude — have managed to get themselves into some serious trouble; messing with their friends, drugs, sex and even the law. And despite the fact they have two of the most awesome mums anyone could ever ask for, there are some things they just don’t want to talk about with their parents — and so one crisis after another keeps popping up.
Talking to our mums and dads about some issues is just plain awkward. Other issues are a bit sketchy and we know our parents will probably jump the gun and get us in trouble. Really, if the Foster kids can’t talk to their awesome and open mums about everything, how can we be expected to talk about tricky subjects with our parents (who may or may not be as cool as Lena and Steph!)?
Here’s a couple of our favourite hints and tips for tackling the tough topics with your parents:
- Find a segue. One of the hardest things about talking to parents about awkward stuff is finding the right time. You can’t just randomly bring up sex while you’re mum is watching her favourite show, or start talking about contraception while your dad is on the toilet, it just might not go down so well.
Sometimes, making sure a conversation goes well and everyone stays open and clam, is a much about timing, as it is about anything else. So pick your timing carefully. Find a time when your mum or dad can totally concentrate on what you’re talking about, when they aren’t frazzed and stressed or mad at your brother or sister.
Guide them into the conversation gently, rather than just blurting out something that will leave them with their jaw on the floor. For example, if you want to talk about sex, start by talking about a dilemma someone is having on your favourite TV show.
- Be honest if you expect honesty. While a gentle lead in may be a good way to start, it’s really important you are as honest and as upfront as possible — because if you want them to be honest with you, it has to go both ways.
To help you be honest, before you start talking, think about some of the questions your mum or dad might ask you when you bring up a topic and how you’re going to answer them. For example, if you want to talk about the pill, you will definitely be asked if you are having sex, and if not, if you are thinking about it. Likewise, if you ask about drugs or alcohol, expect to be asked if you are drinking or taking drugs.
- Keep the peace. These types of conversations can be tricky because a lot of the time there’s a little tension involved and a lot of emotion. Likely you’re feeling nervous, you’re on edge and ready for an attack, while your mum or dad may be surprised, unprepared and they may feel they haven’t had a chance to put their opinions or judgements aside in time to talk with you.
Because all these emotion are flying around, what could be a simple conversation can easily turn into an argument as your mum or dad starts getting too personal and you feel judged, or your edginess starts to turn into defensiveness. It’s tricky, but try to put yourself in your mum or dad’s shoes so you can understand their surprise, lack of preparedness or anxiety. Having this sort of empathy can help you stay calm, give them time to think about their responses, and answer their questions with maturity, so they know you are truly ready for the conversation.
- Give yourself time. Let’s be honest, most of the time these types of talks aren’t short, they’re not just a quick question with a one or two-word response. Tackling an awkward or touchy subject can usually result in your parents wanting to ask questions and better understand what’s going on with you. Cutting the conversation short or rushing can add to stress and tension and can mean both you and your mum or dad are a little more sensitive or temperamental than usual.
- Find a trustworthy and non-judgemental adult. If you can’t talk to your parents because of their own beliefs or opinions, for example, if you want to talk about sexuality and they aren’t open to those conversations, you don’t need to bottle it up and keep it to yourself.
Sometimes when you talk about a problem with someone else, they can offer you a different perspective because they aren’t as close to the issue as you are. Other times, it’s just nice to have someone listen so you know there is another person who knows what you’re going through and can offer you support if you need it.
The biggest thing to remember about these tricky conversations is they are not just tricky for you, they’re also tricky for your parents.
Think about it, when your parents first talk about having kids and imagine all the magical moments they’ll experience with you — first steps, birthdays, family days, school and sport achievements, lazy days hanging out — these talks probably aren’t high on that list. Probably most parents don’t think, ‘I really can’t wait until my kid tells me she is having sex with her boyfriend’, and they dread the day a little when these types of conversations eventually come up.
If both you and your parents focus on some of the points listed and really work to respect each other, tough and awkward topics can go from dreaded conversations, to becoming some of those magical moments you both remember as times you really just got each other.