Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite, derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.
The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.
Parent and Teen Child
Description: A parent and teen relationship is often defined by dramatic highs and lows. While this relationship is vitally important for teens as they grow and mature, conflicting goals between the parent and child can result in ongoing low-level friction and spectacular blowups. And the pressure for parents to get it right can add to the already elevated stress of raising a teen.
Each relationship is different, depending on the people involved, their history together, their individual personalities, and a host of factors. Below are a wide range of dynamics that can accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict.
Unconditional love between a parent and a child
Providing space for the teen to explore their world
Providing reasonable boundaries and rules to ensure the teen’s safe development
Listening with an open mind—often without offering advice or criticism
Being approachable, consistent, and reliable as a parent
Respecting the parent’s knowledge and experience
Parental obedience when it matters most
Recognizing that the parent is on their side (they’re not the enemy)
Being truthful and transparent
Allowing the teen the freedom to establish their own beliefs and values
Trying to be the teen’s friend instead of their parent
Conditional love based on the child’s obedience and achievement
Removing all boundaries
Failing to monitor activities as they should
Avoiding responsibility as a parent
Modeling bad behavior for a child to emulate
Abuse or cruelty (physical, mental, emotional)
Toxic control and interference that damages the teen’s self-reliance and independence
Discouraging independent thought and the teen’s exploration of their world
Discouraging other relationships and friendships to ensure dependency
Not respecting one’s parent
Open and repeated defiance
Endangering oneself or others knowingly to get back at a parent
Rejecting a parent’s wisdom or experience
Lying or deceiving one’s parents to engage in desired but unhealthy behaviors
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
The parent seeking control while the teen seeks freedom
The parent wanting to connect with a teen who wants space
The parent wanting certain goals for a teen who has different plans
The parent wanting to help a mentally ill, addicted, or self-destructive teen who doesn’t want help
The parent wanting to do what’s best for a teen (changing schools to avoid bad influences, hiring a tutor, etc.) who has different ideas about what’s best
A divorced parent wanting to remarry but the teen not wanting that
The parent wanting to improve a dysfunctional relationship with a teen who wants things to stay the way they are
The parent seeking forgiveness from a teen who refuses to give it
The parent wanting to protect a teen who thinks they don’t need protection
The parent pursuing a dream that the teen doesn’t approve of (because they’re morally opposed, it will inconvenience him or her, etc.)
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations:
Independent and Controlling, Responsible and Irresponsible, Ambitious and Lazy, Honorable and Dishonest, Naïve and Worldly, Meticulous and Disorganized, Nurturing and Withdrawn, Playful and Humorless, Responsible and Scatterbrained
Negative Outcomes of Friction
A loss of trust
Self-blame for not handling the situation better, resulting in self-doubt
Feeling powerless (to control behavior, to be treated fairly, to influence the other, etc.)
Keeping secrets rather than being transparent moving forward
Distance in the relationship
One side trying to hurt the other as retribution or punishment
Resentment directed toward the person involved (the parent, the child, a sibling who seems to never get in trouble, etc.)
Feeling disrespected or not trusted
Ways a Healthy Relationship Can Encourage Positive Change
Teens can view parents as a resource to be mined when advice is needed
A healthy relationship will provide teens with the confidence and support that will enable them to take risks and strike out on their own
Parents who remember that their goal is to empower their teen and set them free will be able to achieve the ultimate parenting goal
Parents can learn from their teens to be open to new ideas and experiences
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Borders, Coming of Age, Crossroads, Endings, Family, Freedom, Inflexibility, Journeys, Love, Perseverance, Rebellion, Transformation
Other Relationship Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.