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Benni Cinkle Headshot

Talking to Mom 101

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I love Mother's Day.

Ever since I was a little kid, my dad, brothers and I have always gone all out to make it a special day for my mom.

For most of my life, that's meant making her a card, picking flowers, baking something, going out to eat or a combination of all of those things.

What I like most about the whole day is the look on my mom's face when she gets her gifts. Because it doesn't matter what it is we've decided to give her. In her mind, these are the best gifts ever.

A homemade card with elbow macaroni forming the shape of a heart? It might as well be a pair of diamond earrings.

Flowers picked from the yard? Yeah, she'll put those in the finest vase she has and refill the water daily. Those puppies will be on the dining room table till they're drooping over the side of the vase, deader than dead.

So yeah, Mother's Day is special to me, because it gives me a day to just reflect on how much I really do appreciate the relationship I have with my mom.

Sure, sometimes she gets on my case for not cleaning my room or being a smart aleck. But she always listens to what I have to say. And I know that, no matter what, she will always be there for me.

Even when it gets messy.

Especially when it gets messy.

As most of you know, over the last year, I've been through a lot. I had a lot of unexpected online hate directed at me and my regular life suddenly turned upside down.

And talking to my mom about it, as it was happening, really helped me keep things in perspective. And that, in turn, gave me the courage to take my story and my message out on the road to schools across the country and try to help other kids.

So yeah, I'm really grateful that I have a good relationship with my mom.

But I know that for a lot of other kids, this isn't necessarily the case.

And if something bad is happening to them, they feel like they have no one to talk to and they have to carry that burden by themselves -- and that can be overwhelming.

If this is you and you're dealing with a big problem right now, I want you to know just how important it is that you don't try to handle it alone.

I know from experience that sometimes just by talking about it, the problem doesn't seem so big after all.

So I wrote down 10 steps on how to tell your mom (or dad) about something that may be difficult. These work best if you have a decent relationship with one of your parents. If that's you, try something like this:

  1. One-on-one: Talk with just one parent. Choose the one you feel more comfortable with, or the one you think may better understand what you are going through.
  2. Timing: Pick the right time. When they are not in a big rush and not upset about something else.
  3. Privacy: Ask if you can talk to them in private and go to a room where you will not be disturbed. Turn your cell phone off and close the door.
  4. Set the tone: Start by telling them, "This is really difficult for me to say." This will let them know that you are struggling with something important and hopefully will set the tone of your discussion.
  5. Be forthcoming: Tell them everything. Start at the beginning and tell them what happened after that and what is currently happening.
  6. Be accountable: Accept full responsibility for where you went wrong. For example, something like, "I know you told me not to hang out with her anymore, and I wish I had listened to you." This will let them know that you were wrong and they were right. By admitting it, they might not feel the need to go on and on.
  7. Take your lumps: They may be upset with you. They may rant for a little bit. That's okay. They are entitled to have a reaction. Don't try to defend yourself because they may perceive that you are giving excuses. Just let them say/do whatever they are saying/doing. When that passes, they will help you.
  8. Listen: Don't tell them all the reasons their advice won't work. Instead listen to understand and ask questions. Maybe they don't have the full answer, but maybe they have part of it and together you can come up with the best strategy.
  9. Say thank you: Everyone likes to be appreciated. (A hug might feel really good for both of you at this point.)
  10. Outcome: Remember to keep them in the loop on the outcome. This lets them know that you trust them and you both feel good about your relationship.

If your relationship with your parents is strained and you feel like it will only make things worse to go to them, then you need to trust your heart. But do find an adult to talk to -- someone you can speak in confidence with and whose opinion you value. Maybe one of your friends has a mom that you can talk to. I know some of my friends talk to my mom. The point is, don't try to handle the situation alone. Some adults really can help.

If you don't have an adult in your life that you can talk to about your problem, feel free to contact me (benni@thatgirlinpink.org). My nonprofit is connected to a bunch of great organizations that are designed to help kids just like you keep things in perspective.

Whatever you decide, if you're dealing with something big right now, reach out to someone who can do for you what moms do best: listen to what you're going through, offer sound advice and give you a hug when you need it most.

Now, go pick some flowers and get busy with that macaroni!