Fostering good relationships with parents

Relationships with parents 

Conflict is a normal part of any relationship, but sometimes this is more intense because of change. During adolescence these changes can happen quickly. Young people often move away from their parent's beliefs as they are learning about the world, and parents can find this hard.

Causes of conflicts 

Changes in thinking:  It's a time when you start to work out the world for yourself. Sometimes your values and beliefs can become different to your parents, leading to conflict.

Changes in relationships:  As you mature it becomes a more equal relationship where you all relate on the same level. The process of moving from one type of relationship to another can be a real struggle and your parents are still responsible for you, maybe even after you might feel you should be responsible for yourself - so lots of talking about issues is needed.

Changes in individuals:  Parents may be going through their mid-life crisis while young people can be going through their "identity crisis".  All at the same time - in one household.

Parents wanting to protect you:  Your parents are probably very much aware that young people can be at risk of getting into difficult and possibly dangerous situations. It can be quite scary for parents not knowing what's happening to you, not to mention imagining what could happen.  Your parents may feel a need to guide you and protect you from harm.  It can seem like parents are interfering.  This mismatch of understanding can end up in hassles and arguments. It takes a bit of give and take on both sides to work it out.

Changes in situation:  Some examples of major change are: moving to a new state or a different part of the state, family breakdown, or getting a new step-family. Try to talk openly with your parents about how this is feeling for you. Also try some relaxation strategies.

Try to work it out! 

It's OKAY for you to make the first move in dealing with disagreements or conflict with your parents. When you can work out your differences positively, you'll continue to have a good relationship. Here are a few tips:

• Be respectful when discussing any areas of disagreement.

• Be willing to listen to your parent's view.

• Stay calm.

• Be non-blaming, don't accuse.

Stick to the issue - don't get side tracked into other areas.

• Use a team approach to working out problems - work at it together, think about what you want in common and work out together how you can get there.

• Use a problem solving model like this one:

1. Decide together exactly what the problem is.

2. Brainstorm the possible solutions - be open and creative.

3. Think out the consequences of each possible solution.

4. Choose one idea and do it.

5. Did it work? If so, congratulate yourself and each other. If not, go back to step 2 and try another idea.

Try out the above ideas but if it's hard to learn conflict resolution and problem solving just by reading it, see if someone can help you. It may be your counsellor, community health worker or there may be groups running in your local area that can help.

These tools can be used in any conflict situation, not just with your parents. They can be used with grandparents, foster parents, and step-parents and friends.


One of the most important skills in communication is listening. It can be a precious gift you give to another. If a person feels properly listened to, they feel understood and less alone because someone has taken the time to really care. Listening, really listening, involves several aspects.

  • Listen to the meaning, not just the words. To show you understand the meaning, you may want to repeat back what you thought you heard the person tell you but in your own words. Don't get discouraged if they say, "No, no, what I am saying is..." because this means the other person wants you to understand and you're getting there.
  • Try and imagine yourself in the other person's position - this can help you understand better.
  • Don't butt in or talk about something similar that happened to you.  It takes attention away from the other person and puts the focus on you.
  • Your body language is important too, it shows that you're listening. Face the person. If you look out the window or doodle on paper they'll feel you're not really listening. Let them know you're still listening by nodding and saying words that show you are listening, like, "yes", "uhuh" or "go on".

The good news is that all the studies indicate that generally things settle down later on.

As you move through adolescence and into young adulthood, your relationships with your parents seem to get better. Parents can be one of your best supports, supporting young people through the good times and the bad.

Adapted from