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To Sam

Uncomfortable around family

Hi Sam

Sometimes I feel uncomfortable around family, mainly with cousins, aunts and uncles. I find that I can't talk to them, and when we are talking the convorsation is awkward and its hard to talk about anything. I mainly feel like this will my older family, as I can get on well with my younger cousins. Being unable to talk to them makes life difficult, and my parents thing I'm being stubborn and rude by not talking to my family. I've told them this but they said make small talk, but even when I do try to make small talk, my convorsation always ends up in silence.

What can I do to make it less difficult to talk to family?

Ask Sam



Thank you for your letter. It seems that you're feeling that it’s hard for you to communicate with older members of your family. You’ve said that you’re able to communicate better with your younger cousins, which makes me think that you’re good at having conversations when you feel relaxed. Perhaps it is easier for you to chat with your cousins because they are closer to your age, so you're likely to have more things in common.

Sometimes, when we find it difficult to do something, we can get too focussed on worrying that we’re doing badly. This can make us feel anxious about trying that task again, so each time we try, it gets harder and harder and makes us even less confident. Being criticised for being unable to do something can also be unhelpful because it often make us feel worse.

It’s worth remembering that every conversation takes two people! It shouldn’t just be your job to keep the conversation going. You could help the other person to say more too, by smiling at the person you are talking to, listening carefully and asking questions to show that you are interested. Maybe it would be helpful to make a mental list of things you could ask that person about, for times when you feel stuck in silence. This might be things you’ve seen on TV, or news about other family members, or asking about their plans for the next year.

There are some useful tips and exercises to help improve your conversation skills on the “young people” page on the Talking Point website.

ChildLine counsellors are also on the end of the phone, so you could call ChildLine on 0800 1111 and talk to a counsellor about this. You could get some more advice, while at the same time having the opportunity to practice talking to an adult. If you’re not ready to talk on the phone, you can log in for a 1-2-1 chat. Look at the talk section of the ChildLine website for information about all the different ways of communicating with ChildLine, and for details of the confidentiality policy.

Take Care


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