Highlights
  • Mental health challenges can be difficult to deal with and talking to others — especially your parents — about them can be difficult, too.
  • The reality is that opening up to your parents about how you’re feeling and your desire to get mental health help can be important and beneficial.
  • To open up this conversation, pick the right time and place; do all you can to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible and be able to focus.
  • Share as much information as you feel comfortable with, but also remember that your parents can’t read your mind.
  • Be straightforward about wanting to get help and if the conversation doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, try again.
  • You can also talk to another trusted adult about how you’re feeling, and they can help you confront your parents.

Dealing with stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges can feel overwhelming. And the thought of talking to someone — especially your mom, dad, or another primary caregiver — about those challenges can feel overwhelming, too. But in most cases, opening up about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing will lighten that load. 

Most often, your parents are on your side, and they don’t want you to feel like you’re alone. Talking to them about your mental health struggles and/or your desire to get mental health help might seem scary or cringe-worthy, even, but you can do it and you’ll likely be glad you did. It’s understandable to feel worried, but we’re going to help you navigate that conversation.

5 Tips for Opening Up to Your Parents

Perhaps you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain exhausted. It’s easy to become frustrated with those around you… specifically your parents… specifically when they’re pestering you for answers. “Why won’t you come down for dinner?” “How come you aren’t hanging out with your friends this weekend?” “Why don’t you seem like yourself lately?”

Try to remember that in most cases, they’re asking you for answers because they care and want to help. So, when you feel ready, open up. Here are some helpful tips for opening up this conversation with your parents about your mental health:

1) Pick the right time and place.

There’s a time and place for everything — if your dad is busy juggling your two baby brothers or your mom is pacing around the house after a stressful work call, it probably isn’t the right time or place. Instead, choose a calm, low-key space and moment. This’ll ensure everyone feels comfortable at the start of the conversation.

2) Share as much as you want to.

You aren’t required to divulge every little thought and feeling you have — share what you feel comfortable sharing. Maybe you feel okay telling your mom that you’ve felt really sad lately and don’t know why, but that’s it. Or, maybe you’d rather get into the nitty-gritty details and walk her through a timeline. Both are okay. But try not to lie. If you’re struggling mentally, don’t double down and insist you’re just tired. Remember, (in most cases) your parents care and want to help.

3) Remember that your parents can’t read your mind.

I’m sure this is no surprise to you, but your parents are only human. They can’t read your mind. They also might not be able to understand exactly how you’re feeling, especially if they haven’t experienced it (i.e., depression or anxiety) themselves. But they’ll typically do their best to. So try to be understanding if they ask questions or don’t seem to get it. What matters is that they’re listening and want to help.

4) Be upfront about wanting help.

If you want to talk to a counselor or think that you should, be straightforward. Tell your parents, “I want to talk to someone about how I’m feeling and figure out how to feel better.” Most likely, your parents will help you schedule an appointment right away (and they’ll also likely be so proud of you for vocalizing the fact that you want or need help). If instead, they insist that you don’t need to go to counseling, put your foot down. Remind them that they aren’t in your shoes; that they can’t fully understand what you’re going through; that you really want and need their support here. 

5) Try again or talk to another trusted adult.

If the first conversation with your parents doesn’t go the way you want it to or they brush you off, try again. It might’ve seemed like a good time and place, but maybe it wasn’t! Your parents might be going through something mentally or emotionally challenging, too. There are a lot of potential explanations. But don’t give up. If you don’t feel comfortable initiating another conversation about your mental health with your parents (or even having that first conversation with them), talk to an adult you do feel comfortable opening up to. An aunt, a teacher, a school guidance counselor, even a friend’s mom. They can then help you approach that conversation again with your parents and get the mental health help that you’re looking for. 

Keeping Your Parents Posted on Your Mental Health Journey

Your parents can become your greatest allies during the toughest times if you let them! When you begin counseling, they might have questions about your counselor, your treatment plan, your progress — and they should have the opportunity to be actively involved in working with your counselor to better understand what you’re going through as well as how they can help.

Again, share as much as you feel comfortable sharing! If you’d rather keep all of this to yourself, let them know that (respectfully, of course). Remember, though, that it’s important not to shut them out — remind them that you love them and appreciate their interest in your experience in counseling.

Tapping into Your Support System

You can find allies in other people, too. Teachers, school counselors, coaches, other family members, friends. While a licensed counselor (and other mental health professionals) can help you with your mental health in a way that others can’t, in most cases it’s still important to keep loved ones close and maintain a strong support system. 

You might feel distracted or discouraged when your mental health is suffering. However, it’s during these times that the people closest to you can potentially provide the most support. Just remember — it isn’t fair to expect them to understand exactly how you feel. But if you keep the door open for them, they might just surprise you.