It can feel really daunting to share your trauma history with your parents. You may feel that you need to protect them. You may feel angry at them for not noticing you were struggling. You may worry they will judge you or not believe you. You may also feel some relief or hope that they will understand or support you. Whatever you are feeling. It is valid.
The first thing to remember is that your story is yours and yours alone. Whether you want to tell your parents immediately, much later, or not at all is your choice. If you’re feeling ready to tell them about what happened, here are some things to think about.
What you share about your story is completely up to you. Even if they ask for details, it may just be because they do not know what to say and want to understand. Still, just because they ask, doesn’t mean you need to say more than you planned. Example wording to use could be “I wanted to tell you what happened to me but I don’t feel comfortable sharing any details right now.”
The way you choose to tell them is also up to you. It can be in-person, over the phone, or in a letter. There are benefits and drawbacks to all options but only you know what will work for you. No matter how you choose to tell your parents, it is a good idea to set some ground rules first.
If you choose to disclose in person, timing and location is important. You want to ensure they can give you their full attention and have time to process afterwards. Thus, if they are about to run out the door, go to sleep, or are intoxicated, consider waiting for a better time. If you feel safe with your parents, choose a private, quiet place to talk. If you fear they might become angry or violent, a public location may be safer and you might want to have support on standby.
You deserve to feel heard and understood when telling your story. However, not everyone responds well to disclosures and the conversation may not go the way you hope. The parent you tell may feel many emotions. While this is normal, it can shift the conversation away from you and onto them. They may express anger, guilt, disbelief, or confusion. If they are taking up too much space with their emotions, redirect the conversation to you and your feelings.
Your parent might also express doubt or blame. This says more about them than you. Resist the urge to internalize these responses. If your parents aren't supportive, that doesn’t mean that others won’t be. Research shows finding at least one trusted support can really help the healing process.
It is also important to note that even if the conversation does go well, it can still be an emotional experience. Thus it is important to take care of yourself afterwards no matter what the outcome. There are many people out there who love and care about you. You are not alone. If you want to practice telling your story of trauma or healing anonymously, and learn from the disclosures of others, you can practice through our storysharing site. We see you. We hear you. We believe you.