Happy families and happy ever after? A card game you might have played as a small kid, and a fairy tale ending. The reality is rather different for a lot of people.

 

Parents - who needs them?

You might think they are a pain and know nothing, but you might be surprised to find out they understand more than you think and went through a lot of the same things when they were young. Try talking to them, give them a chance, they may actually want to help you! And if there is a choice between listening to your mates or your mum, it might be safer to listen to you mum.

 

So who's rocking the boat in YOUR household?

Maybe your brothers or sisters don't get on with each other, with you, or your parents. Maybe your parents or the adults in your home aren't getting on with each other.  If your home is full of arguments and unhappy people it isn't going to do anyone any good.

What can you do about it?

Brothers and sisters aren't much different to friends (except you can't choose them) in how to get on with each other, maybe you can all get something to think about from GTRT's being a friend. If it gets really bad, and can't be resolved in the home, try to persuade the others involved to get some counselling and family mediation. It's not just about adults breaking up with each other. Your home and family life can be disrupted just as much by you or a brother or sister behaving unreasonably, violently or anti-socially as by one of the adults. 

If the arguments are about bad habits or addictions, or because someone is being abused, or a victim of domestic violence find out where to get help. If you feel unsafe or in danger, tell someone and in extreme cases you may be able to live somewhere else which is safe.

If the problems at home are down to cultural differences, you might want to look at the GTRT page for more advice.

Learning to be tolerant of other people is not just good at school or in work, but it helps at home if you can avoid being impatient with each other and make a little more effort to think how the other person feels. A thought-provoking video to make any age group think hard about how they treat each other :

What is a "normal" family?

You might have started out as a family with two parents who may or may not have been married. What you end up with is, according to the statistics, somewhat different. So what we are talking about here is your original parents, one parent and whoever they are living with now, step-parents, carers, foster parents, whoever you live with and expect to look after you.

There is no "normal" any more. The idea of a "nuclear" (no not the bomb, it means the basic family unit) family is an ideal for some and a reality for not so many. So whether you have a stable family life with two parents (both yours) who stay married to each other in a nice home, two parents who never get married, a parent and a step-parent, a single parent who stays that way, a single parent with a succession of partners, or foster parents/carers and no parents - or anything in between - what you're used to is "normal" for you whether it's what you would choose or not, and you certainly won't be the only one in the same situation.

When your parents aren't getting on

Who wants to come home to listen to more arguments and maybe fighting? Parents (and adults living together) argue and don't always get on.  If you're lucky they do it in private and leave you out of it, if you're unlucky you may have to suffer directly - they may drag you into it and try to make you take sides, blame you, or take it out on you because they're not getting on. Not to mention the noise, stuff getting broken, neighbours hearing, even the police getting called. You've got your own problems and this is hardly going to encourage you to stay in and do your homework or bring your friends round, is it?

Whatever, none of this is your fault and you have no choice in what happens. Except maybe which parent to live with when and if they split up, or already have done. You might feel that one person is very wrong and genuinely to blame and want to stick up for, protect and stay with the other one, you might they think are both wrong and be mad at them both, or you might just desperately wish for things to get back to how they were.

They might be prepared to talk calmly to you about it, or they might not. They may be so wrapped up in their own crisis that they haven't got time to think about how much it affects you. So you need to learn how to cope and some survival tactics of your own. You can certainly learn something about relationships which hopefully helps you not to make the same mistakes yourself as you grow up. Your first need is to look after yourself.

After that maybe you can start to understand them a bit better, they're only human and no adult gets it right all the time. It is not your responsibility to try to fix their problems but there is nothing to stop you trying to help or encourage them to sort their differences out.

When parents split up

If they do split up temporarily or for good, including getting divorced, you have to deal with who to be with and when and how your family manages without whoever goes - which may also have a big impact of the money available to live on. This is hard for everyone concerned and very easy for things to get nasty again, or it might be an amicable parting where they don't argue about who gets what or how much and are actually nice to each other but just don't want to live together any more. If you are a teenager, any court settlement should take into account who you want to live with and whether or not you want to see the other person, if the court is asked to make an order for that person to have access (time with you).

So let's look at what might be happening at home with the adults, whether or not they are both your parents, or permanently there.

A lot of the things which can make a teenager's life rough are the same for adults, being out of work, having too little money, being bullied at work, discriminated against, being ill or disabled, living in substandard accommodation, having issues with sexual identity, and then there are the bad habits and addictions, smoking, drinking, gambling, drugs which can get out of hand for adults just as easily as teenagers. Just the same as if it was you with the problem they would be worried about you or have to put up with the effects of how you were, so you are affected by them being the ones with the problem. So again, first you need to get some help for yourself, and then for them if you can and they will accept it. Take a look at the What's making it rough? pages about the things which are making your parents worried, bad tempered or violent and find out who you can tell and how to get help to survive. If there is violence at home you should get immediate help for yourself and whoever is the victim, domestic abuse is a crime in the same way that any other kind of abuse should not be suffered.

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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