What is family?
Families can be made up of many different relationships. There can be two parents, single parents, step parents, foster parents or adopted parents. Even extended family like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins may live together or close by. Some families have a parent or caregiver that stays home and looks after younger kids, some families have parents or caregivers that work full time. If there are younger kids in the house, often teenagers will have to help out and care for the younger ones or care for adults who are unwell. There is no right or wrong way a family can be put together. The important factor is how everyone is getting on with each other, as it is usually through your family relationships that you learn how to get on with others, how you view yourself and what is appropriate behaviour.
Facing challenges together
All families face challenges and hurdles as a normal part of life and getting through these times requires respectful communication and care for each other. However, some families face significant problems like not having a place to live, a parent going to court, a parent having a long-term illness, or parents having to work away from home or for long hours.
Some families seem to fight and argue a lot, which can be really scary and stressful. Sometimes, family relationships can be so stressful you feel unsafe and scared. These types of things make relationships feel tense and negative and it can make it difficult to feel like talking things through.
It is not uncommon as a teenager to feel less tolerant at times towards members of your family. You might feel stressed about school requirements and deadlines or be confused about some of the relationships you have with your friends. All of these things can impact on the way you feel about yourself and how you interact with other family members.
What changes in your life might affect your family relationships?
As a teenager you are going through a lot of changes within yourself - physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Often these changes occur at different rates and at different times. It is important for you to be aware of what is going on and how this may affect you at school, home and/or around family and friends - having an understanding of adolescent development can be be helpful.
Basically, adolescent development is the different stages we all go through when we are growing and maturing into adults. It is important to remember that you may develop at a different rate or at a different stage of maturity from your friends. Teenage development includes things like:
- There are many physical changes that occur during adolescence, including growth, increased muscle mass, sexual development and changes in voice
Learning about morals
- Learning to understand other people's perspectives
- Starting to understand concepts like law and order and developing a bigger picture about society
- Questioning the normal way things are done, which can result in arguments with parents
- Working out values and what is important
Developing a stronger sense of self
- Starting to establish your own identity separate to your family - this can be through sexuality, values, friendships, ethnicity and employment options
Thoughts and feelings
- Developing new skills such as analysing ideas, generating new ideas and thinking more about the future
- Practising humour through sarcasm and jokes - often irritating to adults!
- Learning ways to deal with feelings and moods
- Learning to have compassion for others and seeing other people's points of view
Relationships to parents and other adults
- Coping with so many changes can affect how you are in your relationships and with your family and sometimes leads to conflicts and arguments
- There is a greater focus on social friendships
- Hugs from parents are not cool but sometimes it's still okay!
- It seems harder to stick to your parent's rules
- A growing desire for independence
Remember, your parents and other adults around you were teenagers once and will be familiar with some of the changes and challenges you are going through.
Being yourself and being with family - how to make it work
Families can function well if everyone is able to communicate their needs and wants with each other in a respectful way. This can be hard if you are feeling frustrated, angry, hurt or sad. Sometimes it can be better to wait until intense feelings have passed, so that you can more calmly communicate what is going on for you and what you need and want. You may not always get what you want straight away and you might have to be patient and/or learn the art of negotiation and compromise.
Learning to negotiate is a great way to work things out so everyone comes out winning. For example, you might agree to help with chores around the house so you can go to the movies. It's important to stick to your side of the agreement - this builds trust and respect.
Talking things through can be really helpful, particularly if you are worried about your family relationships. It's important to identify someone in your family who you feel is understanding and supportive. This could be a parent, brother, sister, cousin, aunty, uncle, a grandparent or a close family friend.
Putting time and effort into a relationship that includes trust and honesty will really pay off. This relationship should be a vital source of support and safety for you throughout your teenage years. This person should stick to their word and not harm you or make you feel uncomfortable.
Relationships can be tricky for everyone but usually things work out if people get to know and trust each other and keep communicating about what is important. It helps to know yourself, what you are good at, what you like and don't like and what makes you feel happy, and safe. It then becomes less likely that misunderstandings will develop and cause problems in a relationship. Other attitudes and behaviours that help make healthy and positive relationships include being authentic, patient, showing that you care and being someone who can be trusted and relied upon.
It can be helpful to talk to a counsellor about any issues you are having in family relationships. Counsellors are skilled in helping people work things out. Sometimes, it is just good to talk to someone outside of your circle of family and friends. You can say whatever you want and the focus of the conversation is all on you and not about what anyone else needs. Other Hot Topics on the KHL website may also be helpful, including:
- Living In Foster Care
- Life After School
- Separation and Divorce
- Respectful Relationships
- Being Resilient
- Talking With Your Parents
If you would like to talk some more about family relationships or just need to talk to someone about what's happening for you, you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or use our web or email counselling services. We will listen to you and help you work out what might help.
Published: 10 May 2012