Dear Mac: July 3, 2014
I’m unemployed right now, and I don’t have any income. Most of my friends are employed. Even if they are just making minimum wage, they at least have some sort of money coming in. My parents give me money when I need it (for rent and stuff) but I hate asking them for money because we are struggling financially as a family as well. I try to mention it to my friends when they want to do things that need money. I mainly try to make it light, saying things like “I’m broke” and “Student life”, but they keep on suggesting things to do that cost money, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I love my friends, we’ve been friends all my life, but I can’t afford to hang out with them anymore! -Broke
That’s a really tough situation to be in. Financial difficulties can be awkward and tough to talk about, but it is important to address this issue, so that it doesn’t cause problems in your relationship with your friends. Since you’ve known them your whole life, it might be a good idea to try to talk to your friends, and be honest with them. Let them know that you are having a tough time financially. Chances are that they will understand.
You can also try suggesting cheaper alternatives for hanging out. Instead of going out to dinner, you can try having a potluck, or cooking dinner together. Instead of going to the movies, you can try playing board games or sports, or renting a movie. Most people understand what it’s like to be having money troubles at some point, so trying to communicate honestly with your friends could be a great idea. You don’t have to go into details, but it might be helpful for you to be assertive and say that you would prefer not to spend money when you hang out. Maybe they just don’t realize that you are serious about your financial difficulties.
I used to be really close with my parents, but now I’m having a really hard time connecting with them. I feel like we don’t have anything to talk about, and I feel like even when we’re spending time together, we’re not really “together”. We’re on our phones, or iPads, or not really spending quality time together. I feel like I’m really different from my parents now, I’ve changed a lot from when I was younger, and I know that we disagree on a lot of really core values, opinions, and beliefs. I still really miss being close to them, but it’s hard to have a conversation that won’t end in a fight. I really do love them though, and I want to get back to the way it used to be! -Disconnected
First of all, it might not go back to exactly how it used to be. You said so yourself that you’ve changed a lot since then, so chances are, your relationship will have changed a lot too. This is not a bad thing. You said your values, opinions and beliefs are different from theirs now, which also might not be a bad thing. Some of the best conversations can be between people with opposing viewpoints. You just need to make sure that you put emotions and frustrations out of the equation so that a debate doesn’t turn into an argument.
You can always start small: Ask your parents how their day went, try asking them detailed questions about their day, and try to really listen. Share details about your life too. Tell your parents what’s new with you, what’s new with your friends, how your day was. Starting small like this can build a great rapport, and help you get back into the rhythm of great communication.
If you feel like you’re beyond small talk, and are looking for some meaningful conversations, you can do that too. A great way to find interesting and relevant topics is by reading the news. Talk about a municipal election – the pros and cons of each candidate, talk about the World Cup, Talk about the economy, talk about international affairs. You can even google interesting conversation topics and use them as guides during your conversations and debates. This way you can have intellectual or relevant conversations and debates, and maybe even learn something.
Something else you can do is to try spending more quality time together. You can even explain to your parents what you are trying to do, and this way you can get the whole family engaged and actively working towards the same goal: reconnecting. You can do this by setting rules, such as “no electronics for an hour”. You can also try out some hobbies or activities together as a family. Don’t be afraid of the art of conversation – try to engage each other in meaningful conversations. You can talk about sports, world issues, your days, anything really. It might sound cheesy, but you can even really connect with each other about reminiscing about old memories, and hopefully building back your family rapport can help you create some new ones!
“Dear Mac” is a column written by volunteers from the MSU’s Peer Support Line. To email in a question that you want addressed in a column, you can send it in to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Dear Mac. The Peer Support Line does not run in the Summer, and will start again in the Fall.