Conflict with your parents or guardians

Do you feel like you’re not getting along with your parents, guardians or carers? That they don’t understand you and can’t see things the way you do?

girlEveryone disagrees with each other sometimes. Occasional arguments are part of family life.

But, constant arguments can be stressful and exhausting, especially when people lose their temper, become intentionally hurtful, or even violent.

There are ways to defuse conflict and help bring about some peace, even if the final decision is a compromise or agreeing to disagree.

What causes conflict?

Common causes of conflict or arguments with parents, guardians or carers include:

  • when your own opinions and values are different
  • misunderstanding each other, jumping to the wrong conclusions, or a lack of communication
  • wanting more independence than they’re willing to give you
  • feeling you’re being treated like a child or your right to privacy is not being respected
  • changes to the family caused by separation, divorce, a new baby, moving house or even moving from a new country
  • feeling the burden of high expectations from your parents or guardians. This can be on a range of issues from who you hang out with, your career or job, exams and chores, to even your choice of hairstyle or your taste in music
  • different cultural expectations and values of parents, guardians or carers who have grown up in other countries or are from older generations.

Other things to consider

Like you, your parents, guardians or carers might be worried about other unrelated stuff, such as problems with work, relationships or money. That can affect how they talk and act with you.

They can also feel the pressure of high expectations from their own parents, family or community about being a good parent, especially if they grew up in a culture with different values and beliefs.

What you can do

  • Talk to someone outside the situation. Getting a different perspective can help you understand why there’s conflict and work out what you can do to improve the situation. People you can talk to include a counsellor, friend, brother or sister, or teacher. See face-to-face help for more information on who can help.
  • Cool down. Counting to ten can be a good way to cool off and avoid saying something that could make the situation worse. You might also find that writing down your thoughts and your feelings helps relieve some of your worries.
  • Get some distance from the situation. While not solving the problem it can be good to get some head space and avoid more arguments. This might include going for a walk or hanging out with your friends.

Talk it out

Actually sitting down and talking about the situation with your parents or guardians might feel nerve-wracking. It could improve the situation if you’re seen to be taking such a mature step.

It can also be a great way of sorting through issues and finding a solution that works for all of you.

Tips for talking to your parents, guardians or carers:

  • Try and find a time when no one is angry, stressed or tired and somewhere you won’t be interrupted by the phone, TV or other people.
  • Be willing to compromise and have a number of options you’re willing to accept.
  • Don’t make it personal. Try to avoid sarcasm, personal comments and name-calling, an approach that can make things worse. It might be helpful to stick to comments about how you feel, eg ‘when you keep telling me I need to get high marks to get into college, I feel really stressed.’
  • Be honest. If there’s something they do which really pisses you off tell them (while still trying to avoid sarcasm and swearing). Maybe there’s something you can both do to ease the situation.
  • Listen to what they have to say and accept their point of view may be as valid as yours (something that’s not an easy task). They should try to do the same.
  • Once a compromise is made, stick to it. This might mean agreeing to stick to it for some time before talking about it again. If necessary, write it down as a contract, signed by all of you.
  • If talking seems impossible, write your parents a letter or an email explaining how you feel, particularly if it helps you be clearer about your feelings. Another option is getting the help of a mediator or going to family counselling together.

For some really good advice on how to communicate assertively and get the result you want, have a look at tips for communicating effectively.

Agreeing to disagree

If you simply can’t find a way to compromise, you might have to ‘agree to disagree’ with your parents or guardians. Remember you’re entitled to your own opinions, beliefs and values – whether or not you accept your parents’, guardians’ or carers’ views is up to you.

Violence and safety

If you’re being physically or sexually abused and feel unsafe, it’s really important to tell someone. It might seem pretty scary, but tell your parents, a teacher or a counsellor and they can help.

You can also contact the CARI (Children at Risk in Ireland) Foundation helpline on 1890 924 567 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm) or call the Gardai on 999 at any time, they are there to help you.


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