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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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How to talk to your family

You have a serious mental illness.  You want to have a discussion with your parents about things they do that bother you.  Past conversations with your parents have turned into an argument.  You want to find a way not to let this happen. What is the best way for you do this?

Step 1. Prepare for a meeting with your parents.

Make a list of two or three things that your family does that really bother you.

Your list might look like this:

  1. My parents open my mail.

  2. My family makes plans for me without asking me.

  3. My parents go into my room and go through my things.

Step 2. What to do when you meet with your parents.


Read them the list of two or three things that bother you.


Ask your parents what they think about these things.


Do not interrupt, and give your parents time to talk.


When they are talking, try to see their point of view.


Listen to what your parents have to say about these things.

Step 3. Talk about why each of you feels the way you do.

For example: 

You could say to your parents:  “It upsets me when you open my mail because I feel like you are invading my privacy.”

Your parents might say:  “We want to make sure you do not forget to handle important mail.”

Step 4. Talk about the things that each of you could do to change the things that bother you.

For example:

Your parents say they did not know doing these things bothered you.  They felt they were helping you out by doing these things and assumed you did not mind.  They tell you they were only trying to be as supportive as possible.

You tell your parents that when they do these things, it makes you upset.  You tell them you like your privacy, and when they do these things, it makes you feel like a small child who cannot be trusted.

Step 5. Develop a plan of action with your parents of what each of you can do to make things better.

Your action plan might look something like this:

New Rules

Parents agree to:

Not open John’s mail unless John gives permission.

Check with John before making any plans that concern John.

Not go into John’s room unless John says its okay.


John agrees to:

Open and read his mail every day.

Clean his room every Saturday.

Step 6. Agree on a plan with your parents.

John and his parents agree that they will hang the “New Rules” on the refrigerator door as a reminder to everyone of what they have agreed to do.

Step 7. Meet in a week or two to discuss how the plan is working.

Step 8. If the plan is not working, either for you or your parents, go back to Step 4 and try again.

Discuss other things that each of you might do to change the things that are still bothersome.  Then work through Steps 5, 6 and 7 again.

Learn more about how to solve problems.