Young People Ask
How Can I Get to Know My Parents Better?
Jessica and her parents are having dinner with friends. While eating, one of the adults says to Jessica’s mom, “You’ll never believe it! The other day I saw Richard—you know, the boy you dated in high school.”
Jessica drops her fork on the table. She’s never heard about Richard before!
“Wow, Mom, you dated someone else before Dad? I had no idea!”
HAVE you, like Jessica, ever learned something about your parents that surprised you? If so, perhaps that made you wonder what else you didn’t know about them!
Why is there often room to get to know your parents better? What benefits could come from learning more about them? And how can you do so?
More to Learn
Why might there be things you don’t know about your parents? Sometimes, physical distance is to blame. “My parents divorced when I was eight years old,” says Jacob,* now 22. “After that, I saw my dad only a few times a year. There’s a lot about him that I wish I knew.”
Even if you’ve lived with your parents for years, they probably haven’t told you everything about themselves. Why not? Like all of us, parents sometimes feel embarrassed about mistakes they’ve made in the past. (Romans 3:23) Also, they may worry that if they reveal their shortcomings, you’ll think less of them—or feel emboldened to take greater liberties yourself.
Often, though, there are things your parents haven’t told you simply because the subjects never came up. A young man named Cameron says, “It’s amazing how you can live with your parents for years and still have more to learn about them!” Why not take the initiative to draw your parents out? Consider four benefits you’ll likely gain.
Benefit #1: Your parents will probably appreciate your interest. No doubt they’ll be pleased that you care enough to ask about their life. And who knows—they may even respond with greater empathy for you and your feelings!—Matthew 7:12.
Benefit #2: You’ll gain insight into your parents’ point of view. For example, did your parents have less materially in the past? This might explain why they’re as frugal as they are now, even if that seems unnecessary to you.
Such insight into your parents’ thinking can be helpful. A young man named Cody observes, “By learning how my parents think, I can consider how my words will affect them before I speak.”—Proverbs 15:23.
Benefit #3: You may become more comfortable talking about your own life. “I felt uneasy talking to Dad about a boy that I liked,” says 18-year-old Bridgette. “But when I did open up to Dad, he told me about the first time he fell in love and how great a feeling that was. He even told me about the day he broke up with his girlfriend and how bad he felt. That encouraged me to tell him more about my situation.”
Benefit #4: You might learn something. Your parents’ life experiences can help you deal with your own frustrations and challenges. “I want to learn how my parents manage to care for a large family with many different physical, emotional, and spiritual needs,” says Joshua, 16. “There must be some important lessons there.” The Bible poses the question: “Is there not wisdom among the aged and understanding in length of days?”—Job 12:12.
Take the Initiative
If you would like to get to know your parents better, how can you do so? Here are some suggestions.
Choose the right setting. The setting doesn’t always have to be formal. Rather, aim for casual conversations. You might toss around a ball, work together on a project, or take a walk or drive with your parents. “I’ve had good conversations with my parents during road trips,” says Cody, mentioned earlier. “Sure, it’s easier just to plug in earphones or go to sleep, but I’ve found that initiating a conversation is always worth the effort!”
Ask questions. Let’s face it: Even in the right setting, your mom probably won’t tell you out of the blue about her first crush, and your dad may not mention the time he wrecked the family car. But your parents just might tell you such things if you ask!—For ideas on questions to ask, see the box on page 12.
Be flexible. Often the answer to one question will lead to some other story or topic. You might be tempted to steer the conversation back on track, but resist that urge! Remember, your goal isn’t simply to gather facts. Rather, it is to develop a closer bond with your parents, and one of the best ways to do that is to talk about things that matter to them.—Philippians 2:4.
Be discerning. “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.” (Proverbs 20:5, Today’s English Version) You especially need insight, or discernment, when drawing your parents out on sensitive topics. For instance, maybe you’re curious about the sort of embarrassing mistakes your dad made when he was your age and how he would handle things differently if he had it to do over again. But before jumping into such issues, you might say, “Do you mind if I ask about . . .”
Be tactful. When your parents tell you about themselves, be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking.” (James 1:19) Whatever you do, don’t ridicule or insult your parents for what they’ve just shared. Remarks such as “Wow! I can’t believe you did that!” or “So that’s why you’re so strict with me!” will not make your dad or mom want to open up further. Neither will your sharing personal matters with others outside your family.
It’s Never Too Late!
The above suggestions can help you to get better acquainted with your parents while you still live at home. But what if you’ve already moved away? The same principles can help you reconnect with your parents—or even connect with a parent you never really knew. That’s what Jacob, mentioned earlier, has found. Although now living on his own, he says, “I’ve been getting to know my dad better lately, and I’m enjoying it.”
So whether you live at home or have moved away, it’s never too late to get to know your parents. Why not try the suggestions in this article to help you do so?
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Some names in this article have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
▪ What subjects mentioned in this article would you like to ask your parents about?
▪ How might learning more about your parents help you to understand yourself better?
[Box/Picture on page 12]
Ask your parents questions such as the following:
MARRIAGE: How did you and Mom (or Dad) meet? What first drew you to each other? Where did you live after you were married?
CHILDHOOD: Where were you born? How well did you get along with your siblings? Were your parents strict or lenient with you?
EDUCATION: What was your best subject in school? What was your worst? Did you have a favorite teacher? What made that teacher so special?
SECULAR WORK: What was your first job? Did you enjoy it? If you could choose any line of work, what would it be?
INTERESTS: If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be? What hobby or skill would you like to develop?
SPIRITUAL HISTORY: Were you raised as a Christian? If not, what sparked your interest in the Bible? What challenges did you face in conforming to Bible principles?
VALUES: What do you think are the most important factors in a good friendship? in a happy life? in a successful marriage? What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Try this experiment: Choose a few of the questions above and try to anticipate your parents’ answers. Then, ask the questions and compare their answers with what you thought they would say.
[Box on page 13]
A NOTE TO PARENTS
You’re eating dinner with your husband, your daughter, and some family friends. During the conversation, your friend mentions someone whom you dated—and broke up with—before meeting your husband. You haven’t shared this story with your daughter before. Now she wants to know more. What will you do?
Usually, it’s best to welcome your child’s questions. After all, anytime that he or she is asking questions and listening to your answers is time when you are communicating—something most parents desire.
Just how much should you tell your son or daughter about your past? Naturally, you might prefer to withhold embarrassing information. Yet, where appropriate, revealing some of your mistakes and struggles can be helpful to your children. How so?
Consider an example. The apostle Paul once disclosed about himself: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. . . . Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24) Jehovah God inspired those words and caused them to be recorded and preserved in the Bible for our benefit. (2 Timothy 3:16) And we do indeed benefit, for who of us cannot relate to Paul’s candid expression?
Similarly, hearing about your good choices and your mistakes can help your children better relate to you. Granted, you were raised in a different era. However, while times have changed, human nature has not; neither have Scriptural principles. (Psalm 119:144) Discussing challenges you’ve faced—and how you overcame them—can help your teenagers as they work through their problems. “When you discover that your parents have faced challenges similar to your own, it makes your parents seem a lot more real,” says a young man named Cameron. He adds, “The next time you have a problem, you wonder if your parents have been through this before too.”
A caution: Not all stories necessarily need to end with counsel. True, you might be concerned that your teen will draw the wrong conclusion or even feel justified in making similar mistakes himself. But instead of summarizing what you want your child to take away from the discussion (“That’s why you should never . . .”), briefly state how you feel. (“In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done such and such because . . .”) Your son or daughter can thus learn a valuable lesson from your experience without feeling as if he or she has been given a lecture.—Ephesians 6:4.
[Box on page 13]
“One time, I admitted to my mother that I felt more at ease with my schoolmates than with fellow Christians. The next day, there was a letter from Mom on my desk. In the letter she told me how she too had felt the lack of friends among fellow believers. She reminded me of individuals in the Bible who served God even when there wasn’t anyone for them to be with who would encourage them. She also commended me for the efforts I had made to cultivate wholesome friendships. I was surprised to learn that I was not the only one who had faced this problem. My mother had too, and I was so happy to learn about it that I cried. I was very encouraged by what my mother told me, and I was strengthened to do what was right.”—Junko, 17, Japan.
[Picture on page 11]
Ask your parents to show you photographs or other items from their past. These can often spark lively conversations