Should you talk to your parents about stress?
It can feel pretty natural to talk with friends about how wildly stressful exam time is, but what about talking to our family or caregivers?
In our last Wednesday Wellbeing column, we talked about how it’s essential to have friends to lean on during exam time. As researcher Daniela Kaufer put it, ”If you have friends and family you can turn to during a stressful period, you’re more likely to handle the stress well.” With exams coming up at a disturbing rate, we’re all definitely feeling stressed out.
However, you’ll notice that Kaufer said that your should be able to turn to your family in times of stress. So why is it that talking to your parents about the pressure you’re under seems unwise or even impossible? Today’s Wednesday Wellbeing column — which is a little late because we’re stressed out too — is going to discuss the difficulties behind opening up to our parents.
Now, we’re not going to assume, like some chipper teenage-advice giving sites would, that you trust your parents unconditionally. Very few people, even adults with their own children, have an uncomplicated relationship with their parents.
When we are teenagers, we often tend to go through a rough patch with our parents. This is because after relying on them for lots of things as younger kids, we’re keen to start building our own life, interests, and priorities separate from them.
When we feel like we’re getting closer to being adults, and that our parents should stop trying to control our actions, we try our best to make sure our parents don’t see when we’re struggling with stuff. This is, after all, the way adults seem to handle things — who can remember the last time their parents admitted they’d messed up? Or the last time they said were struggling at work?
There’s no doubt that your parents sometimes feel as stressed as you do peak exam-season. But the majority of parents try hard not talk about feeling overwhelmed. Talking about how bad it feels to be stressed, whether it’s about juggling exams or struggling at work, can be difficult at any age.
It makes you feel vulnerable admitting you’re under pressure and unsure how to deal — almost like saying you’re weak. It’s likely your parent feels like this too, and often. It’s true that some adults struggle to express this because they think that being seen as vulnerable, especially to their kids, is a bad thing.
Brene Brown is a researcher who has spent years looking into vulnerability. Her whole brand is built on getting adults to realise the benefits of opening up about stress and failures.
Brown writes: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Sometimes it can feel like it’s more adult not to talk to our parents because they’ve taught us that opening up and being vulnerable is not an adult thing to do. However, one way that we can actually show our parents our maturity is to share moments of stress with them.
Calmly discussing our concerns about exams with our parents is a remarkably mature thing to do — it might even teach them a thing or two about the importance of vulnerability.
If you are starting to feel under a little pressure from exams, it’s a good idea to start talking about it as you begin to feel it. The whole ‘calmly discussing to show your maturity’ thing doesn’t work so well if it’s two days before your exam and all your bottled-up stress busts out in spectacular break-down fashion.
Talking things over — whether with parents or friends — helps reduce the stress chemicals pumping around your body. Your parents are old, so one of the reasons talking to them will help is that they’ll be able to give you a different perspective of stress. They’ve been through many stressful times and might have some tips on what to do and what not to do. They may even have resources they can use to help you.
Things to keep in mind when talking to your parents:
- There’s few people in the world that care as much for you as your parents or caregivers do. They’ll always have your best interests at heart.
- Just because they have your best interests at heart doesn’t mean conversations about serious, vulnerable-feeling topics will always go as you want.
- Approaching the topic in the right way — calmly, having thought about what you’d like to say — will help the conversation stay productive
- Can you think of anything that would help you feel less stressed? Discuss this with your parent or caregiver. They might be able to help you work out what will help and assist you to get it, whether it be tutoring, extra resources or just a bit of motivation.
- If it doesn’t go as planned, don’t despair. Sometimes it can take several attempts to find the right time, and sometimes your parents just aren’t good at conversations like these. Try with any other adults you trust, even a teacher.