Why Is My Family So Weird?

Only 46 percent of children live in a traditional nuclear family.

Shutterstock (Sky); iStockPhoto.com

Turns out ... they’re probably not! Here’s why your family frustrations are more common than you think—and how you can learn to deal.

It’s National Siblings Day, and your Instagram feed is full of smiling sisters and brothers. Back in the real world, though, your very own bro is throwing a tantrum while your sister’s bad grades have your parents engaged in World War III. The only thing you feel like posting to the world is a great big question: Who makes up these dumb holidays anyway? 

In times like these, remember: Everyone has family drama of some sort! “There’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ family,” says Lori Gottlieb, a family therapist in Los Angeles. 

What can you do about the people you’re connected to forever, but sometimes can’t stand to be around for another second? 

We asked teens for their deepest sources of family-related stress, then took their issues to a panel of experts. Read on for advice that will help you feel better about your crazy clan. (Promise!)

 Is it crazy to . . . wish I had a different family? 

Jill’s parents expect her to spend weekends with them. (“That’s how we were brought up,” they say.) Can Jill, 13, change her parents’ minds before her friends stop inviting her out on Friday nights?

The Pro Opinion: It will be difficult to change their values— so the answer is compromise.

Is This You? No matter who your parents are, they have their own beliefs and rules, which may not always align with what you want. They’re also adjusting to you growing up and needing more freedom—especially if your life is really different from what theirs was as a teen. 

How To Deal: Ask your parents to meet you halfway by suggesting that you move the hangouts to your house. That way, they’ll have a chance to get to know and trust your pals, which will only help your case next time you ask to go out. 

 Is it normal to . . . feel like I’m the parent? 

Megan’s parents are divorced and can’t be in the same room without causing a scene. How can she stop them from ruining her big dance recital?

The Pro Opinion: Helping your parents learn how to get along is not your responsibility, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t your problem. 

Is This You? Maybe Mom pressures you to badmouth Dad, or Dad picks fights with Mom in public—either way, you end up playing peacemaker when your parents act like kids, not adults.

How To Deal: If you’re stuck in the middle of a battle zone or faced with a high fight-risk situation, try not to take sides or exclude either parent just to keep the peace. It will only encourage your parents to keep score, which adds fuel to their immature fire. Instead, shift their attention away from each other and back to you. In Megan’s case, that means politely asking them to leave the drama at home on recital day. Will they listen? It’s not guaranteed. But at least she’ll have said her piece so she can focus on her performance. 

 Is it weird to . . . resent my little brother? 

Jay’s 6-year-old brother, Dylan, has behavioral issues. Jay, 16, loves him more than anything, but he feels frustrated that all of his parents’ time goes to Dylan. How can Jay get some of the spotlight?

The Pro Opinion: Every single one of our experts said that Jay’s feelings are completely understandable. 

Is This You? Whether your sibling has special needs, operates like a straight-A cyborg, or is always getting into trouble, it’s frustrating to feel like you’re being overlooked. We all crave love and attention from our parents, and we all know when we aren’t getting enough of it. 

How To Deal: First things first, resist the urge to act out to get attention. Throwing tantrums or getting into trouble only hurts you in the long run. To really get your parents’ focus and earn their respect, you have to be honest about what you need. Ask them if you can do something special, just you and them. And don’t feel guilty about not wanting to include your siblings. You aren’t asking for your brother to be shipped off to a deserted island—you just need a break! (And shhh . . . they may not talk about it, but your parents might need one as well.)

When Your Family Can’t Help

Sometimes no amount of calm conversation can change your family situation. But if your parents are never around or they just don’t get you, you still  deserve to be surrounded by people who love you for who you are. “Everybody gets two families: the people you’re related to and the people you relate to,” says Gottlieb. To find support, reach out to a teacher you trust, or visit your local Boys & Girls Club (bgca.org), where staff is available to help teens just like you.

The True Status of the American Family

Check out these fascinating facts!

Only  46%  of children live in a traditional nuclear family.

  28%  of kids are being raised by a single parent.

About  1 million  children see their parents divorce each year.

Over  2.9 million  kids are being raised by people other than their biological parents.

  8%  of all kids and teens live with a stepparent.

About  220,000  kids and teens are growing up with same-sex parents.

Approximately  4.3 million  children are multiracial.

  1 in 5  families with kids have at least one child with special needs.

OUR EXPERT PANEL: Stanley King, a Clubhouse Director at Madison Square Boys & Girls Club; Barrett Johnson, author of Your Imperfect and Normal Family; Lori Gottlieb, a family therapist in Los Angeles

Images: Golden Pixels LLC/Alamy (Scenario 1); JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images (Scenario 2); Nicolay Titov/Getty Images (Scenario 3); iStockPhoto.com (family silhouette)

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