Living with your parents: your rights and responsibilities

As you grow up, it's only natural that you won't always see eye to eye with your parents or guardians. However, if you're having problems living at home, moving out is not the only option. This page looks at ways you can improve your relationship with your parents - with a bit of give and take on both sides. It also looks at issues surrounding stepfamilies and what to do if you feel that you're in danger at home.

Set some ground rules

You may feel that in your family, your parents or guardians make the rules and you have only two choices: obey the rules, or break them. However, it doesn't have to be this way. As you grow up, it's important that you and your parents begin to set ground rules together, and to make mutually acceptable decisions about issues such as privacy and personal space, when and how often you go out and how much you help around the house.

Try to negotiate rather than argue, and be prepared to compromise. For example, you could agree that your parents won't go into your bedroom provided you keep it tidy and put your dirty laundry in the wash. Or you may decide that you won't go out during the week, but can stay out as late as you like at the weekend.

If they're particularly adamant about certain points, ask them why, rather than arguing about it, and listen to their reasoning. Chances are, they have your best interests at heart and just want you to be safe and happy. If they're worried about you, you may be able to set their minds at rest.

TIP! Give way on the little things and you might win on the big things. Not that bothered about cutting back on hours in front of the telly but desperate to stay over at your boyfriend or girlfriend's? Give in on the telly.

Follow our top tips

It's a bit of a cliché, but if you want to be treated like an adult, it's important to act like one. Here are some tips for gaining your parents' respect and trust:

  • Do your bit around the house: look after younger brothers or sisters, do the washing or cook the family a meal.

  • If you want your parents to stay out of your bedroom, keep it tidy. Don't give them an excuse to go poking around.

  • Don't exclude your parents from your life - try spending some quality time with them every so often. If they realise you're not avoiding them, they're more likely to trust you and, in turn, give you some space.

  • Try not to lie - if you get caught out (and chances are you will) it'll only make things worse and destroy your parents' trust in you.

  • On the other hand, what they don't know can't hurt them, and there's no point bringing up something you know will upset them.

  • Don't argue over every little thing you disagree with. That way, when it comes to the big stuff, you'll have more force.

Talk it through

If you have a problem with the way your parents are treating you, for example, if they're nagging or lecturing you or refusing to compromise on house rules, talk to them about it. They may not even realise they're upsetting you.

Don't get angry and shout or swear - your parents will just switch off. If you are angry, wait until you've calmed down, then discuss things rationally later on. Pick a good moment, when your parents aren't busy and can pay attention to what you're saying.

Put forward your side of the story, then ask them to explain theirs. Listen to what they have to say, and try to acknowledge their point of view, even if you don't agree with it. If you end up arguing, don't be afraid to admit you were wrong and say you're sorry.

TIP! Remember, your parents were young once too. Things may have been different in their day, but the chances are they'll understand what you're going through.

Talk to someone else

If you're having problems communicating with your parents, it may help to talk to someone else such as an elder brother or sister, your grandparents, aunt or uncle, or a friend or teacher. They may be able to act as a go between, to help smooth things over with your parents. You could also call a helpline such as ChildLine on 0800 1111, and talk to an adviser in confidence.

Get help from a mediation service

If you feel you need some 'hands on' help sorting things out with your family, you could contact a mediator. A mediator is a sort of neutral referee who can help you and your parents sort out your problems. They don't take sides, they don't decide 'who is right' and they don't tell you what to do. Instead, they help you work things out for yourselves.

Find out more about mediation.

Coping with a stepfamily

The introduction of a stepparent into the family can be the cause of terrible arguments, and can lead to young people running away from home or moving out before they're ready to cope on their own. However, it doesn't have to be this way. Learning to live with a new parent, and possibly also new sisters and brothers, can take a lot of adjustment, but if you work at it, it can be very rewarding.

Your new stepparent may have different ideas about how the people in their household should conduct their lives, and they may expect you to keep to their rules. Accepting this can be difficult, especially if you feel that your stepparent has no right to tell you what to do. You may resent them for taking the place of the parent who has left, and you may still feel upset, insecure, angry or rejected because your birth parents have split up.

If one of your parents has died and a stepparent comes on the scene, it can be especially hard to accept that new person into your family. You might feel resentful if it appears that your stepparent is trying to fill the shoes of your mum or dad.

Although it's hard, try to remember that your stepparent probably isn't trying to replace your mum or dad at all. They probably want to support you but don't know how. It can't be easy for them either, especially if you are still grieving.

Whatever your situation is, there's no magic solution, but talking things through and agreeing on ground rules together can really help. Negotiate calmly, be prepared to compromise, and don't force your 'real' parent into taking sides with you against your stepparent, as this will only cause more trouble

For help and advice on being part of a stepfamily, you might find Relationship Scotland can help 0345 119 2020.

Coping with the death of a parent

When someone in your close family dies, you can feel isolated and as if no one is listening to you, but rather than getting upset or running away, try telling the people who are still around how you feel. Talk to your mum, dad or stepparent. If you feel you can't do that and there is no-one else to talk to, you can contact Cruse, who will be able to give you help and support or just chat to you about your bereavement.

If your mum or dad has died, you might feel that your house isn't your home anymore. If you feel that you are going to be pushed out of your home, remember that you might have some rights to stay in the house. Don't do anything hasty though. Have a look at our section on death in the household for more information.

What if I'm in danger?

If someone in your home is being violent or abusive towards you, you must get help immediately. If you are in this situation you can:

Can my parents kick me out?

Once you are 16, if your parents ask you to leave, you will probably have to go. If you're under 16, your parents have a legal responsibility to look after you and make sure you have somewhere safe to stay. However, if you have a bad falling out, they may make you leave anyway.

If you find yourself in this situation, you should talk to an adviser immediately.

  • Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 for advice on where to stay.

  • Call ChildLine on 0800 1111 for help.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 21 April 2020

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England