Families can be made up of many different relationships. There can be two parents, same sex 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.
What challenges can a family face?
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 my life can affect my family?
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 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 and be 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 may not be 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.