Written by: Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

Is there anything worse than feeling unheard? When we are trying to communicate with our own parents or caregivers, this is a fate worse than our wildest imaginations to be unheard. This is why learning how to communicate effectively is so important.

Anytime we have a conversation, there are things we are trying to communicate alongside our feelings. If we haven’t had a strong foundation for communicating before, it can feel really scary to try something new and it can be a vulnerable thing. The first thing is to validate yourself that it’s okay that it’s not easy. When we are born, we don’t get sent home with a manual that tells us how to perfectly communicate for the rest of our lives. We have to figure it out as we go! Give yourself some much needed grace that you are not expected to be an expert, you are still learning.

To begin having conversations so parent will listen, we can follow a blueprint and cater it to our own needs.

Set the Stage

Find a time for the both of you that will allow you to have space to talk. It can feel scary to plan a conversation or awkward to schedule it, but doing this allows you a time to be uninterrupted and to talk things out in a safe and calm environment. 

Understand You Own Needs 

Whatever it is you are wishing to communicate, you want to be able to understand it for yourself. If there are feelings we would like to voice or questions needing to be asked, take some time to think it out for yourself. Some helpful ways to explore this would be through writing a letter or talking out loud to yourself to voice the thoughts and give yourself time to think on what you’d like to say. When you can identify your own thoughts and feelings, it will help increase your confidence in communication.

Use “I feel” statements 

Focus on the problem or situation coming up and how you are experiencing it instead of simply assigning blame. Try using the “I feel (emotion), when (situation)” structure to voice your needs. Similarly, reflect back what you are hearing them saying with “I hear you saying” or “what I’m hearing”, to model the response you want as well.

Know Your Expectations 

Be clear what your expectations are. The sign of success in communication is not about getting the outcome you want but rather about engaging in discussion at all. Having the conversation is the success. You can go in with good intentions and do your best and still not get the response desired, however, this doesn’t mean you failed. Just trying to communicate is a big step. And that takes a lot of courage and vulnerability.

Every parent is a little bit different and your approach will be specific to your own experiences. When learning how to communicate effectively, you will make mistakes and that is absolutely okay. You are not expected to be perfect; you’re still learning. And your parent may be learning, too. This is an opportunity for growth.


Alexa Bailey is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), who works in private practice providing therapeutic services at Evolve Counseling. She has experience treating several different populations and areas, including trauma, anxiety, depression, relational challenges, and life transitions with both young adults/adolescents and adults. Alexa is a big advocate of self-care and creating whole personal wellness through positive change and healthy habits.