I’m a teenager and at the moment the relationship between my father and me isn’t good. He gets very angry sometimes and this leads me to react and talk back. I think he is very stressed at work, but this situation is getting me down. How can I stay calm and talk to my father in a neutral way?

Usually, it’s parents asking me how to deal with their teenaged children, but your question has highlighted that sometimes parents displace their own feelings on to their children and fuel the confrontation themselves.

Of course, it’s fairly common to hear about parents clashing with their teens. It’s a time when you want to develop greater independence and your parents still have the responsibility of guiding you through to adulthood. However, the very act of getting in touch and wanting to find a solution, shows me that you are wise beyond your years.

With this level of maturity in mind, can you pinpoint anything in your own behaviour that might be triggering your father’s anger? I say this, because I think in this situation, it’s important to examine all the angles.

If your dad is struggling with stress, then it’s important to remember that this is not your fault and his anger, though directed at you, is probably a symptom of the pressure he is under. Of course, this is very hard not to take personally, but it’s important to distance yourself from it emotionally. Reacting to anger with anger never works and maybe you’re going to have to try and take the lead in this.

I suggest the next time you feel a confrontation brewing on the horizon, try to turn down the heat by either politely excusing yourself, or calmly acknowledging that he feels angry with you and asking if there is anything you can do to resolve the situation.

You’re a teenager and that means your emotions will run high, and staying calm might seem impossible, but the more you’re objective about the situation, the easier it is to control things. Sometimes, we just have to be the bigger person.

I wonder if you could also identify times when you do get on with your dad. Do you partake in any activities together or are there any times when you enjoy chatting to each other? If so, maybe you could talk to him generally about his work and show you’re interested. It’s easy to let communication go when you’re feeling resentful, but communication is at the heart of all relationships. 
The less you talk and really listen, the more you understand the other person. The same goes for your dad too. Communication is a two-way street.

Finally, is there anybody in your wider family circle that you might trust enough to confide your concerns to? Perhaps your mum, an older sibling or an uncle? You might find that they’re worried about your dad’s stress levels too and they might also offer some advice and support. As a young person, it’s not always easy to imagine what the stresses and strains of adult life can be like, but I admire your willingness to try and improve the situation and maybe with a bit of effort on both sides, your relationship might end up the stronger for it.