Conflict between family and culture
Feeling stuck between two cultures can create confusion and conflict: your family wants one thing, and you want something totally different. Australia is a multicultural country, so this is a very common situation for young Australians, but there are things you can do about it.
This can help if:
- you feel stuck between two cultures
- you find it hard to see eye-to-eye with your parents on a lot of things, because of their cultural background
- you want some ideas for how to deal with conflict between family and culture.
Two different worlds
Our culture is something that we learn and get used to over time, and it can become a pretty central part of our identity. It shapes significant things about us, such as our values and our way of relating to others. When you move away from your culture and into another one, there are heaps of challenges that come with adjusting to your new way of life.
If your parents were born overseas, they’ve probably been through this
It can be a great thing to be in a household where multiple cultures exist under the one roof. You get all the richness and benefits of two (or more) cultures, instead of just one. Sometimes, however, it’s the cause of a whole lot of family conflict.
Can’t we all just get along?
Culture is a complex thing, and in a multicultural family there are many different factors that can stir the pot. Some of the things that can be difficult to manage with a parent from a different culture are:
- language barriers, if they don’t speak English very well
- different opinions on things such as discipline, curfews, expectations or alcohol
- dating someone from a different culture
- identity crises – when you feel stuck between two cultures
- responsibility overload as you help your parents adjust to a culture that’s foreign to them
- feeling different from your friends
- experiencing racism, and distancing yourself from your parents’ culture as a result.
How to manage conflict between family and culture
If you’re experiencing conflict within your family because of cultural issues, here are some steps you can take to help manage the situation.
When you feel like your family is against you, it’s tempting to switch off or think about something else. Next time, listen to what they’re saying. If they see that you’re willing to listen, your family might be more receptive to your point of view, too.
Look at it from their perspective
It’s also tough for your parents, who are trying to raise children in a totally different environment from the one they grew up in. Change can sometimes be a real shock to the system, and it can take a long time to process. A bit of patience can help you reach an understanding.
Show an interest and ask questions
Cultural diversity is the reason this world is so interesting, so ask your parents questions about their background. You might better understand why they have the values and opinions that they do, and even learn some things that are worth hanging on to.
Focus on shared values, rather than differences
Focusing on what’s going well in life, rather than what isn’t, has been shown to reduce stress and increase positive wellbeing. By focusing on positive ways to engage with your parents, you can build a stronger relationship with them based on shared values.
You can also create opportunities for activities together, based on your shared values. For example, if you share a love of learning about history, you and your parents could learn about the history of your parents’ countries of origin and of Australia.
Talk to your parents about what’s most important to you, and ask them what’s most important to them. Maybe you can find some middle ground that works for all of you.
In some cultures, this might not always be realistic, and it can be difficult to reach a compromise. Only you can decide for yourself how much you can let go, how much effort you want to put into trying to reach an understanding, and what values you can’t compromise on.
Agree to disagree
Sometimes, just let it go. It can be tiring to constantly clash with your parents about things, big and small, and there are some things that you’re never going to see eye-to-eye on.
Still having trouble?
If you’re still finding it really hard to get along with your parents, have a chat with someone from outside the family. This could be a friend or teacher, or someone online, like on the ReachOut Forums or via an online helpline. Talking about what’s going on can really help you feel less alone and clear your head. Get more info about why talking helps.
If you’re still not feeling too hot about it all, you could make an appointment with a psychologist to talk things through and get some more ideas on how to handle the situation.
What can I do now?
- Get some more tips on how to manage conflict with family.
- Learn more about understanding a different culture.
- Check out our cultural identity topic, for more resources and stories from like-minded young people about navigating their cultures.
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