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Feeling stuck between two cultures can create confusion and conflict: your family wants one thing, and you want something that’s light years in the opposite direction. Australia is a multicultural country, so this is a very common situation for young Australians, but there are things you can do about it. Get some tips on how to navigate this cultural mine field.

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.
Dad angry with his daughter

Two different worlds

Our culture is something that we learn and get used to over time until it becomes 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

In Australia, there are loads of households where multiple cultures exist under the one roof. This is often a great thing; you get all the richness and benefits of two cultures instead of 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 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.

Compromise

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.

Listen

When you feel like your family’s on at you, it’s tempting to switch off, think about something else or talk over them. Next time, listen to what they’re saying. If they see that you’re switched on and acting maturely, they might be more interested in hearing your point of view.

Show an interest and ask questions

At the end of the day, your parents are from a different culture and that’s pretty damn cool. Cultural diversity’s the reason this world is so interesting, so ask your parents questions about their background. You might learn some things that are worth hanging on to.

Look at it from their perspective

It’s not all about you. It’s also tough for parents who are trying to raise children in a totally different environment from the one they grew up in. They’re making some serious adjustments, so be patient with them. Change can sometimes be a real shock to the system, and it can take a long time to process.

Agree to disagree

Sometimes, just let it go. There will be some things that you’re never going to see eye-to-eye on.

Still struggling?

If you’re still finding it really hard to get along with the olds, have a chat to someone from outside the family who might be able to give you a fresh perspective. Check out info on how to manage conflict with family. Or make an appointment with a counsellor to talk things through and get some more ideas on how to handle the situation.

What can I do now?