Good relationships with your parents

Relationships between parents and teenagers are often challenging. You’re growing up and trying to work out who you are and what you want; parents can no longer treat you as a child, but are still responsible for your wellbeing (legally as well as emotionally).

These are some of the most common issues, with suggestions on what you can do about them. There are particular issues if you’re a carer for one or both of your parents – see here.

Too much control

Many teenagers want to break free of their parents’ rules and do their own thing. This can be a particular problem if your friends’ parents are more relaxed and you feel that you don’t have the same freedom.

Try:

  • working out which rules you particularly don’t like
  • thinking specifically why you don’t like them, and what you think would be a reasonable alternative
  • think about why these rules might be in place (e.g. your safety on late-night buses) and think of sensible ways to deal with them.

Then:
Talk to your parents. Explain which rules you don’t like, and why. Set out what you think might work. Show that you can be responsible and have thought of a sensible way round.

You may be able to reach a compromise which suits you both. Your parents may suggest a trial period to see whether you can be trusted. If they do, make sure to show that you can be trusted. This should encourage them to extend the changes.

Remember, most parents (in fact most people) hate dishonesty. Don’t lie about what you’re doing and try to be as straightforward and unmanipulative as you can. If your parents don’t immediately accept your suggestions, try not to over-react (though this may be hard). Concentrate on showing them your responsible, mature and helpful side.

If you ignore this and decide to rebel – accept the consequences and whatever you do, don’t put your own safety at risk.

Too much neglect

The opposite is true for some teenagers – their parents seem so busy with their own work or relationships that they don’t have time for you. You perhaps don’t feel that you can talk to them about the things that really matter to you, or you don’t see the point of working hard or doing well as they’re not interested anyway.

Try:

  • talking to your parents and explaining this. Your parents may not realise that you feel this way. They may think that teenagers want as little as possible to do with their parents. Or they may just have lost perspective because of their own issues. See if you can understand each other better and work out a balance that suits you both.
  • looking for other sources of support and encouragement. As well as friends, try other relations (such as grandparents or aunts or uncles); sometimes these relationships are easier. You can also find useful support from teachers and other adults, but make sure you don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on these. Try to have a balance of different relationships and different perspectives.

Losing respect for your parents

It is completely normal for teenagers to feel embarrassed by their parents, or awkward near them, or to think that their parents are ignorant, or old-fashioned or haven’t lived. This is a natural part of the growing-up process, so that you can gradually develop into an independent adult.

Try:

  • not to worry about it. It is so normal, and over time you will generally form a new, more adult relationship with your parents.
  • not to be too rude to your parents or too angry with them. This can be very hard, but it doesn’t help anyone if arguments get completely out of hand. Try to go somewhere by yourself for a while if things are getting very heated.

Arguments between your parents

Your parents may have their own relationship issues – for all sorts of reasons – and may not be able to hide these in front of you. Minor arguments are part of family life, but serious emotional confrontations can be very upsetting.

Try:

  • not to get involved in the actual arguments when they are happening. Parents who are already angry might not react well, and won’t really listen to you. Move away to another room if you can.
  • speaking to your parents separately afterwards. Sometimes things may not be as serious as they seem. If there are serious disagreements between your parents, you may be able to make specific suggestions or comments (for example, if you know that there is a misunderstanding), but don’t think that it is your job to sort everything out. If there is violence or serious emotional abuse, see ‘When things go very wrong’ below.
  • not to blame yourself.

When things go very wrong

If your parents are violent or abusive or threatening:

  • Ring the police on
    • 999 if you’re in immediate danger
    • 101 if you’re not in immediate danger
  • Get in touch with
    • Childline (a charity joined to the NSPCC and dedicated to the protection of children) or
    • your local council who will have a child protection team.

If things go very wrong, you may feel as though you can’t stay at home any longer. Young people are very vulnerable on the streets. Read this first then try:

  • seeing if there is another relation or a good friend that you can stay with for a bit.
  • contacting your local council. If you are 16 or 17 and become homeless, they should provide accommodation – see further advice here.

You may also be interested in our pages on:

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Good relationships with brothers and sisters
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Good relationships in step-families
Get the help you need
Young carers