How to handle teen conflict in family relationships

teen conflict

There are few things that can push a parent's buttons like a sullen, moody or downright nasty comment from their teenage child.

You may find yourself getting angry, sad or simply despairing that your once adorable son or daughter now seems to find your very existence the most irritating thing on the planet. 

Where did it all go wrong? And how will it ever come right again?

First of all, give yourself a break.  Believe it or not, it hasn’t gone wrong and their behaviour is simply part of their development into fully-fledged adults.*

Here are some ways to deal with the teen conflict you may be experiencing at home:

Don’t beat yourself up

Acknowledge that it is normal for teenagers to have disagreements with their parents and arguments at home. It is a key part of their development process as they are pushing boundaries and honing skills for independence and decision-making.

Stay calm

This might be a tough ask but it’s vital that parents model how we would like our children to behave. If an argument arises and you feel yourself finding it hard to stay calm, say this out loud and model how you are going to come back.

“I don’t want to shout at you so I just need a minute to take a break from this conversation.” Or, “I need to practice my calming breathing now.”

Give them breathing space

In the heat of the moment, our natural instincts are to reason with our child: “Why did you do/say that?”

Although this is usually coming from a place that may seem like you are trying to understand them, the teen may feel that they are being attacked and go into defence mode. Allow the dust to settle and come back to discuss the situation at a calmer time.

Check in with yourself

Being a parent can be stressful and with so many other demands and stressors in our lives, it’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling before addressing a topic that may lead to a disagreement or argument.

Plan ahead

One way of addressing a conflict topic is to plan what you want to say ahead of time. Try to use simple language and bring your feelings into it. For example: “I feel….. when….. Next time …..?”

e.g. I feel worried when you stay out late, next time can you text me or call me?

Tell them you love them

It’s imperative that your teenage child knows that it is normal to have differences of opinion and that they learn how to handle such disagreements.

Empower and allow opportunities for them to express their own thoughts and feelings about these topics. After heated discussions or arguments, let them know how much you love them and acknowledge that it was a tough conversation to have.


*If you’re concerned that your teen’s behaviour is not in line with their normal development, it’s best to get a professional opinion. Click here for more information.

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