Communicating with our moms, dads, or guardians can be tricky. For a variety of reasons, we often don’t say what we really want to tell them or ask the questions that beg to be asked. The truth is that while we love our parents, our relationships with them can be complicated, uncomfortable, frustrating, or downright difficult, at times. And even if we’re close, we don’t always take the time to really talk. Or tell them how we really feel.
However, whether your parent-child relationship is loving, fraught, or somewhere in between, it’s worth it to tell your mom, dad, or guardian the things you want them to know. Sadly, we often leave these things unsaid, sometimes until it’s too late. Once a parent passes away, people often find closure in the things they managed to say while they were alive. So, don’t wait. Here are the 7 most important things to tell your mom, dad, or parent right now.
What to Say to Your Parent Right Now
We might think they already know how we feel or that you’ll have time to tell them later on. Maybe the time doesn’t ever feel right or you’re embarrassed or nervous. Or just don’t feel a great urgency to really talk with your parents, right now. Still, make the time—and now is as good a time as any—because you never know when you’ll have the chance again.
You may know in your heart what you might want or need to tell them. So, you can certainly go with your instincts and just start talking. But sometimes, it helps to map out what you might want to convey ahead of time. To that end, below are some ideas to get you started.
“I love you.”
It may seem obvious or even unnecessary, but a great place to begin is with, “I love you.” You might say it all the time already to your parents (as in, “I love you, Mom” or “Thanks for the call Dad, I love you, talk to you soon.”) or you might never or only rarely say it. In these cases, saying “I love you” might feel intimidating, scary, or overwhelming.
But either way (or anywhere in between), saying it matters and is powerful. Plus, it’s pretty much universally meaningful for the parent and child alike. So, give it a try. While we may think our parents already know we love them, and they probably do, hearing the words is fortifying and bonding, particularly if stated with intention rather than simply as an after-thought or habitual part of goodbye or thank you.
Next, consider thanking them. Tell them you appreciate everything they did (and do) for you. This doesn’t mean that you loved everything they did as your parents, just acknowledging their efforts as your parents. Rather, finding gratitude for your parents can be affirming (and healing) for parents and kids alike.
Consider the parts of your childhood that you cherish and share those memories while thanking them for their part. You can also let them know you appreciate things now that you might have resented before, such as their insistence on you brushing your teeth, learning to play the violin, or sticking with your soccer team. You could thank them for helping you study for exams, for making your favorite meals, or for just plain feeding you and keeping a roof over your head.
“I forgive you.”
If your relationship is strained, and you’re ready to mend the fences, don’t wait. Consider what you are ready to forgive and then let them know. You might tell them that you have more understanding for their choices and/or the things they may have done that you didn’t like. You might simply say that you forgive them. Letting go of past hurts helps you move on, repair the relationship, and offers healing to you as well.
Even if your parents are not willing to listen or to accept their part in any past hurts, it can still be valuable to forgive. Shedding your feelings of anger and blame can be unburdening for you as much (or even more so) than it is for them. Additionally, if your parents are deceased, you can still gain the benefit of forgiving them by simply saying it out loud.
Ask them questions about their life
Often, as kids, we forget that our parents are full human beings, too, with wants, desires, dreams—and crazy stories. Ask about their happiest memories, their most embarrassing moments, their biggest regrets, their ultimate dreams. Tell them you want to know about their life, in the past, in the present, and in the future. Regularly ask questions and then listen. This kind of communication will help you get to know them better and will facilitate a better understanding of who they were in the past and what their hopes and plans are for the future.
“What do you think?”
Bring your problems, questions, and musings to your parents. Ask them to share their wisdom and perspective. Let them know you value their opinions, even if you don’t always follow their advice. Ask them about what they might have done differently in their life, particularly at the age or phase of life you are at now. Let them know you’re happy to have them in your life and that you enjoy spending time with them and talking to them.
Tell them about your life
Share what’s happening with your life. Whether it’s a project at work, a rift with a friend, a new documentary you watched, a hot date, or a new passion for hang gliding, let your parents in on your day-to-day life and what makes you tick. Clearly, there will be some things that you’ll want to keep private, but for everything else, feel free to let them know.
Tell them how you are feeling
Share with your parents about how you’re feeling, too. They’ll want to know if you’re worried about a test or heartbroken over a breakup or even just excited about going to a concert next week. Talking about your emotions lets them see the full you—and be there for you when you need support. It can be hard to broach these subjects sometimes, but remember, you can share the hard stuff along with the good. Moreover, disclosing your challenges can bring you closer and give your heart and spirit a boost.
Key Takeaways on Communicating With Parents
Talking to your parents can bring healing to strained relationships, closure if a parent has passed on, and deepen an already solid bond. Note that even if your parent is no longer living or is not emotionally available for productive conversation, telling them the things you need to say (even if in a letter or just said aloud to yourself) is meaningful and worthwhile.
So, take the time to tell your parents the important things you want them to know.