Advice for teens on talking with grown-ups

Published 9:40 am Saturday, June 16, 2012

Column:  Maryanne Law, Families First

Question: I just turned 13 and I get stressed out a lot. I’d really like to talk with my dad more, but he’s really busy. He works hard and gets bossy and uptight. It’s hard to get him to really listen. Any suggestions?

Maryanne Law

Answer: You’re right. To get through middle school and adolescence feeling good about yourself, you’re going to need a personal, adult friend that you can talk to about the stresses of life. The most convenient, supportive grown-up might be one of your parents. Parents are usually around the most and for the longest time. It’s true though, that parents are often too rushed or too critical to be available to really talk.

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Dr. Lynn McDonald of Family Services in Madison, Wis., has these suggestions on how to get your grown-up to listen to you that I think they are very practical. Pick one to two and give them a try with your father.


Surprise him

When your dad asks about your day, say it was awful. Then your dad will talk to you. When you say, “fine,” he walks away because he thinks that he asked you and that you did not want to talk to him. Saying “awful” will surprise him and he’ll listen.


Say it in his language

Ask your dad for an “appointment” to have a talk, or ask for a “meeting” to have a discussion. Adults do not understand subtleties and need to have things said to them directly. This is very direct and in their language, and I believe your dad will say OK.


Shock him

Turn off the TV and say, “Nothing good is on. Dad can we play a game?” As you get ready to deal the cards or roll the dice or pick the board markers, say that, actually, you wanted to talk to him about something.


Shame him

Say you will pay him $10 if he will just sit down and listen with no distractions and interruptions for 15 minutes. He’ll feel guilty and sit down, and you won’t have to pay him.


Trick him

Call your dad on his cell phone. Say what is on your mind. Remember, parents always drop everything, including you, to go talk on the phone. This will work.

These ideas are really worth trying. They are a lot more helpful in getting your father to listen to you than teasing your sister until she cries, breaking a dish, swearing or flunking a test at school.

If you would like to talk about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out


Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.