Sometimes, people just don’t feel well. But if you don’t feel well more than sometimes, it may be helpful to talk to someone about it.
Why might it be helpful to talk to a family member?
A lot of people just don’t want to talk about difficult experiences. Everyone has their own reason to keep quiet. Some people may have a lot of inside fears: they don’t want to admit that there is something wrong, they blame themselves, they don’t think anyone else will understand. Other people may have a lot of outside fears: they don’t want other people to find out, they don’t want to lose friends, they don’t want to disappoint anyone, they don’t want other people to take care of them.
The problem is that it can be really tough to deal with difficult feeling on your own. But it’s also hard to find support if you don’t ask for support. Often, the quickest and most direct way to find support is to ask for it. Part of being strong and in control is knowing when to ask for help. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can really help people feel better.
There is another reason for talking with a family member. If you’re dealing with the health care system, like going to doctor’s appointments, you may need an adult’s help.
What do we mean by “family member?”
A family member is anyone in your support circle that you feel you can rely on. It could be a parent or step-parent, an aunt or an uncle, an older sister or brother, or a grandparent. It could also be someone from your community, like a teacher or other school staff member, a friend’s parents, or a family friend.
Talking to a family member
Talking to a family member is a huge step. No matter what happens, you should feel proud that you brought your concerns into the open. It takes a lot of courage!
One way to tackle the first conversation is to prepare ahead of time. If you know what you want and know how you want to say it, it can be easier to bring up with other people. Below, you’ll see different points to think about.
Sometime, family members don’t react to these tough conversations in helpful ways. Remember, you are not responsible for their reaction. Their reaction reflects them, not you. You can’t control how other people react, but you can control how you react.
Before the conversation
Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometime people even write notes to help organize their thoughts.
Think about what you want to come out of the conversation. Do you need a family member to help you see a doctor or other health professional? Do you want to try new strategies at home? Do you just want to talk?
Think about the best time and place to bring up the conversation. If you try to talk to a family member when they’re busy, tired or stressed out, they may not be able to listen as well as they’d like. You can even ask when they’re available to talk about something important and ask them to set aside the time for you.
During the conversation
- Don’t be afraid to take control. It’s hard to talk about difficult feelings or experiences. Some people find that it’s easier to say what they feel if they can just get it out without interruptions. Try, “It’s hard for me to talk about this. It would really help if you just listen until I’m finished. Then we can talk about it together.”
- Try to be honest and direct. A family member needs to understand what the problem is and what you want them to do about it. Try to be clear about why you’re having the conversation and what you want to happen next.
- Try to stay on topic. This isn’t the time to bring up old fights or disagreements. If a family member isn’t staying on topic, you can always remind them why you’re talking. Try, “I know you’re upset about (something that’s happened), but right now I need to talk to you about the way I’ve been feeling.”
- Try to keep your cool. Yelling, getting angry or getting defensive can really derail a conversation. If you feel very angry or upset, it may be more helpful to take a break.
- Prepare back-up. Some people don’t have all the information about mental health. If they don’t get the problem, they may not know what to do. Suggest resources that they can check out, like the organizations [in the resource section]. You can always continue the conversation after they’ve checked out information for themselves.
- End an unhelpful conversation. Sometimes, a family member won’t know what to do or say. They might react poorly or just not say anything that all. This can be frustrating, especially when you’re trying to reach out for help! If you’re having a hard time making the conversation work, it may be helpful to end it for a while. This will give everyone a chance to think about the issues. Try, “I don’t think this is working right now and I’m feeling really frustrated. Can we take a break and pick up the conversation in two days?”
After the conversation
Awesome—you’ve made it through the really tough part!
If you conversation went well, you can start planning your next steps.
If you don’t think your conversation ended well, try not to feel discouraged. These conversations are tough for everyone. Some people don’t react well when they have to hear something difficult or emotional. If you think that your family member just need some time and information, think of how you might work together to learn more and work together. For example, you could suggest resources you like and schedule another conversation later in the week.
If you just don’t think this is going work, it may be time to ask for outside help. Think about the options below and decide what feel most comfortable.
What if I just can’t talk to my parents?
Sometimes, you just can’t talk to people in your family. This can be really hard to handle, but it’s important to keep trying until you find someone that can help. Here are a few suggestions:
- Your school counsellor
- A teacher you trust
- Another family member, like an older brother or sister or an aunt or uncle
- A friend’s parents
- A trusted community member
- A counsellor at Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) or other help line
Kids Help Phone. (2010, April). Mental Health Literacy: Kids in Canada Talk About Mental Health. Kids Help Phone Critical Issue Report. Toronto, ON: Author. www.org.kidshelpphone.ca/media/62123/mental%20health_execsummary_final_final.pdf.
TeensHealth. (2009, August). Talking to your parents-or other adults. Jacksonville, FL: Nemours. www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/Parents/talk_to_parents.html.