Conflict with your parents or guardians

girlDo 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?

Everyone 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.

But 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.
  • 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. But 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.Some 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.


Comments Show all comments

  1. Naoise says:

    Hi Emma
    It's a tricky time the teenage years, you're growing up and you need more space and independence and no longer want to be treated like a child. On the other hand for parents, they may not be ready to have you grow up and miss the fact that you don't seem to need them in the same way. There's also a lot of scaremongering out there for parents in the media and so your mother may feel she is still protecting you when it is unnecessary, and just a case of you needing time on your own or with friends.

    Your friends idea of writing her a letter is a brilliant one. It's a really mature and rational approach. You can tell her how upset it's making you and that you don't want to fight about everything. It can really level the field again where you're both not approaching conversations in a defensive manner. It will also give you time to lay everything out clearly that's been going on and give her time to digest it before you disuss it, hopefully breaking the cycle of confrontation you've been having. (which is not unusual between teens and parents!!)

    It is upsetting all this and it does sound like you used to have a good relationship so it would be great to get back to that. As no matter how grown up and independent you become, it's great to be able to talk to your mum.

    Take care Emma

  2. Emma says:

    My mom and I don't seem to be getting along as usual. I always seem to make her angry, which then she shouts at me for. Even if it's just little things. Being a teenager, I want my own space. Whether that's to go out with friends or just be on my own in my room. I had asked her whether I could go out with some mates but she had said no. And that i needed to sort my attitude out. But by stopping me from going out I got annoyed at her, which resulted in the chances of me going out even more slim. I have managed to talk to one of my friends about this and she has been a great help. She told me to write a letter, as I don't feel confident enough to speak face to face. I want to tell her how she makes me feel when I cant go out with my friends but I don't know what to say and I'm scared this will only make things worse. What should I do?

  3. says:

    Hi Lacie,
    It sounds like you and your family are going through a tough time. You say that your home situation is not dangerous but it sounds a bit overwhelming for you. I wonder have you tried speaking to your family about how you feel? They may not realise what a negative environment they are creating and how it's affecting you.

    Moving out or running away will not only be very hard in terms of getting a job, health insurance, a place to live, but it could also really affect your relationship with your family. I think the most responsible thing to do is try work on your relationship with your family. Moving away from your family should be an absolute last resort.
    Having good, healthy relationships with your family can make life so much easier. We all need family around us for understanding and support. You're almost an adult and you have an opportunity to build a special relationship with your family that can be so valuable for the rest of your life.
    A great first step in building or re-building a relationship with your family is talking to them like an adult. Maybe you could talk to your mom and arrange an hour each week which is just time for you and her to do something nice together? Perhaps she could help you talk to your dad and your brothers about how their behaviour makes you feel like you want to leave home? Our page on communication, might have some useful tips for you
    Parents aren't perfect and they need an extra bit of support every now and then. They may not have realised how all of this is affecting you. It is only right to let them know how you are feeling and give them a chance to try to work it out. We're sure they care about you, even if it might not always seem that way and we're sure that they would want to know how you are feeling.
    We are based in Ireland and from your IP address it looks like you may be in America. If this is the case, there is an American version of that you may find helpful. It even has forums where you can talk to other young people about everything you have been going through.
    There is also a hotline in the US for young people who are thinking about leaving home. You might give them a call if you want to talk things through with someone. You can call them 24 hours a day on 1-800-786-2929 or email them via this webpage
    I hope this helps and that you do talk to your family and let them know how you feel.

  4. Lacie says:

    I don't like my house my brothers are always arguing and my dad when he's home from offshore is impossible to please and my mom is always busy with her school work or her job and I want to leave. The only problem is, I'm only 16. Am I allowed to leave my house at 17 without asking their permission? If I tried to ask they'd never let me so I'd have to leave in the middle of the night anyway.
    It's not that it's dangerous it's just that I can't take all the drama and madness anymore. I want to leave but I don't really wanna wait until I'm eighteen.
    What can I do?

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