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What Parents Really Mean When They Say…

By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: October 22, 2010 Revised: October 3, 2013

We’re all pretty good at predicting what will come out of our parents’ or guardians’ mouths next. But have you ever wondered what they really mean when they say, “So, how was school today?” Simple questions like these are Mom’s or Dad’s way of expressing their concern and desire to learn more about our lives.

Use this handy guide to translate some common parent-speak sayings. And then you’ll be on your way to communicating more easily with them. Here’s what your parents really mean when they say…

Are you wearing that to school?

Translation: I’m worried you’re going to be judged for what you look like, and you’re so much more than that.

Whether it’s a reference to that low-cut tank top or a low-lying pair of jeans, questions about your appearance can make you feel annoyed with your parents and badly about yourself. But our parents may be concerned about the messages we’re sending when we dress a certain way. Oftentimes, wearing provocative outfits can get you unwanted sexual attention from others, and putting on sloppy or baggy clothing can give people the impression that you don’t care about school or anything else for that matter. Your parents just want you to look your best so that you’re not misjudged.

Simple questions like these are Mom’s or Dad’s way of expressing their concern and desire to learn more about our lives.

Who’s HE? or Who’s SHE?

Translation: Are you dating this person, and do I need to be worried about him or her?

Parents don’t always get that we can have friends of all genders, and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re dating that person. Once you mention the name of a friend of a different gender, it’s like you’ve set off a bunch of red flashing lights, and Mom or Dad automatically assume that you’ve been hooking up with this person—or even worse—done it together. To make matters worse, there’s always this presumption of heterosexuality, which can be especially frustrating when you are gay or lesbian and your parent(s) don’t need to worry about you dating your different-gender friend.

Parents ask questions about who we hang out with because they worry that we are getting into relationships we aren’t ready for or engaging in risky sexual behaviors that may harm us. They want us to be safe and happy. If you know this is what they’re worried about, you can talk with them about it.

You can talk to me about anything.

Translation: I want you to talk to me about anything. I may not be comfortable talking about everything, and I may not react the way you’d like me to.

Your parents want to talk to you. But you may bring something up, and your parents suddenly become silent, making it clear they aren’t ready to talk about whatever it is you’ve brought up. Remind them of what they’ve always said about you being able to talk with them about anything. Reassure them that if they don’t have an answer to your question, you can find out together. Then, let them know that you would genuinely like to be able to talk with them about whatever it is. They just might surprise you by breaking their silence and having an honest conversation with you.

Are you having sex?!

Translation: Are you having sex?!

Ah, the classic question. All you do is mention that you like someone and your parents jump to conclusions in a sudden moment of hysteria, as images of pregnant teens and scary sexually transmitted diseases come to mind. The thought that their baby might actually be doing it is too horrifying to handle.

If you actually are having sex, this situation usually ends in one of two ways:

  1. you deny that you’re having sex and spare your parents the stress, or
  2. you calmly admit it and deal with their reaction.

The first choice may be tempting, but the second choice just might be followed by an honest conversation—even if your parents have freaked out at first. Having an honest conversation breaks down barriers to comfortably talking with them about sex later on.

If you aren’t having sex, you can also tell your parents. Just because you aren’t having sex now doesn’t mean you can’t ask them questions and have a conversation with them about it. You can then privately laugh off how panicked they got. But in the end, know that your parents ask questions like this one because they care about you so much.

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