How to Write a Letter to Repair Relationships With Parents

Repair Relationships with a Letter

Sometimes, it’s hard to talk to parents IRL. It may feel uncomfortable or embarrassing. You might freeze and forget what you want to say. Even though it can be tricky, it’s essential to repair relationships with parents. Communicating your needs allows them to better understand and support you. Teens who have supportive adults in their lives are happier, healthier, and better able to handle challenges. 

Letters can be useful tools to help get conversations started. You can offer an apology, express your feelings, or advocate for your needs. While letters may feel old school, there are some pros over tech. Text and emails can feel less personal and might lead to quick, reactive responses. What you really want is for your parents to carefully think about your words so they can better support you or take the necessary steps to repair your relationship. Writing a heartfelt note allows you to share what’s on your mind and give your parents the time to process. 

Read below for tips for writing an impactful letter. The ideas come from over 500 teens from 40 different states

3 Do’s

  1. Do include something positive. Even if you are hurt or angry, start from a place of love and understanding. Share your commitment to making things better. Think back to a time when things were going well. “I am writing this letter because sometimes it’s hard to tell you how I feel. I love you even though I don’t always say it and things are messed up right now. I want to make it better.”
  2. Do clearly state what you need. Share your feelings and concerns. Your emotions are often signals that your needs are not being met. First, identify what you are feeling, then determine what is causing those feelings. Naming your emotions allows you to figure out steps to deal with them. “I am upset and feel like I’m being unfairly judged. What I really need is for you to support my decisions even if they don’t always work out.”
  3. Do proofread it. Reread the letter before you send it. Consider having a trusted adult or friend read it as well. Check it for thoughts that might be misinterpreted. Rewrite it until you are satisfied you have made your points and not said something that might backfire.  

3 Don’ts

  1. Don’t blame or criticize. It’s normal to look for someone to blame when you are angry. But avoid saying things that are shaming or judgmental. No name-calling allowed. These are roadblocks to good communication and will cause your parents to shut down and get defensive. 
  2. Don’t focus on the past. You can’t change the past. Focus on what you are feeling in the present and on what you can do differently moving forward. Come prepared with potential ideas for how to change course. Come up with steps you can both take to address the problem. 
  3. Don’t start with “You.” Many fights happen when one person points out what the other did wrong. These accusations often begin with “You.” Double check your letter for sentences that start with “You.” Swap them with sentences that start with “I.” “You are so unfair!” becomes “I worked really hard this semester. It hurts to be punished when I’m trying my best.” 

Open the Lines of Communication

Your parents may want to talk after they read your letter. The good news is you have already gathered your thoughts, so facing them in person will be easier. While letters might not magically repair relationships, they can open the door to better communication.

About Elyse Salek

Elyse Salek, M.S.Ed. is an Administrative Director of Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her degrees are in Psychology and Human Development from Middlebury College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Education. She is the proud mother of two children.

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