Without mutual respect, any relationship will be an unhappy one. People who respect each other:

a) Value each other's opinions
b) Listen to each other
c) Disagree without screaming or insults
Your parents have lived longer than you - don't discount their experience and knowledge.

Your parents want to know what's going on in your life. If you keep them in the dark, they won't know when you need their help or whether they can trust you. Tell them what you're up to, share your thoughts and feelings with them and seek their advice for your problems (you don't have to take it). Communication builds closeness.

Trust is your key to freedom. The way to build trust is through honesty and responsibility. Honesty means you don't lie or manipulate. Responsibility means you are reliable and can be counted on to use good judgment. When your parents trust you, it's a lot easier for them to say "yes."

These guidelines work both ways. If your parents violate any of these guidelines on occasion, talk to them about it. Pick a time when you are both calm and feeling good toward each other (never when you're angry), then explain to them what they did, how it makes you feel and what you'd like them to do instead.

Unfortunately, these guidelines don't always work. Since we can only control what we do and not what our parents do, sometimes we are truly helpless to transform a bad relationship. If this is the case, try to use these guidelines to at least improve things a little and talk with a trusted adult who may be able to help you.

Try out the following discussion questions with your parents and writing assignments below to further develop your family relationships:


  • What things do your parents do that really bug you?
  • What do you do that really bugs your parents?
  • Do you think your parents understand the changes you are going through at this age? If not, what could you do to help them understand?
  • What are some things you would like to talk to your parents about but feel you can't? Why don't you think you can talk to them about these things? How have you tried? What happened?
  • Do you find it difficult to express your emotions to your parents? If so, why?
  • Does the amount of freedom your parents give you change from time to time? What are the factors that influence those changes?
  • Do you think your parents should give you total freedom, with no limits at all? If not, what should those limits be?
  • Do you respect your parents? How do you show it? In what ways would you like your parents to show you respect? Have you earned that respect? How?
  • In an ideal relationship with your parents, what would be their responsibility to you and yours to them?
  • What differences exist between your parents’ values and your own? Do these differences have anything to do with some of the conflicts that occur between you? Do you try to consider their values when you talk to them about difficult issues?
  • Are there things you feel you need from your parents that you're not getting? Do you tell them that? If not, what would happen if you did? Do you ask your parents what they need from you?


1. Imagine that some day you will have a child. Write a letter for that child to open when he or she reaches the age you are right now. Tell the child how it feels to be a parent and what things concern you the most. Tell the child what you need from him or her in order to have the best possible relationship and what the child can expect from you in return.

2. Has there ever been a time when your parents trusted you and you let them down? What happened? Was it harder to get them to trust you afterwards? Were you able to rebuild the lost trust? How? What have you learned from this experience?

3. Watch a television program that has both parents and children as characters. Analyze their relationships. How do they treat each other? Are they respectful? How well do they communicate? Do they trust each other? What is good about their relationship? What is bad about it? What suggestions do you have for improving it?

4. If you had the power to change any aspect of your relationship with your parents, what would it be? Is there anything you could do to make that happen? What?

5. What do you admire about the way your parents perform their role as parents? What do you disapprove of in the way they perform this role? How could you help your parents be better parents?

The ideas in this article were adapted from the video “Getting Along with Parents” (part of the “Big Changes, Big Choices” video series). For a copy of the video or for more information, visit:

Copyright Elkind+Sweet Communications / Live Wire Media.
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