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To Sam

Difficult relationship with my mum

For some time, I’ve had a very difficult relationship with my mum. If it’s any help, I’m a girl, sixteen years old (seventeen in April), an only child, and currently attending sixth-form college. Now, I do love my mum, and I know she loves me, but recently, I’ve started wondering if I actually like her. I know she had the same problem with her own mother.

The main problem is that she constantly needlessly criticises those around her but can’t handle criticism herself. And this isn’t gentle teasing, either—it’s just plain old-fashioned nastiness. It really does bother me, especially when it’s me or my dad she’s talking about; I have no idea whether she talks about me behind my back, but given that she talks about my dad behind his back quite freely, it does make me wonder, and I can’t help feeling it’s a little twisted that I feel as if I can’t trust my own mother not to do that.

But this is the thing: every time, every single bloody time I so much as try to confront her about it, she immediately makes me feel as if I’m the one who’s done something wrong! She always has to be right, at any and all costs, even if she reduces me to tears in the process (and that’s something that’s happened a few times before).

It’s gotten to a point where I feel like I can’t talk to her about anything. Twice this week she’s already made me cry, then brushed it off, and both of those times I had gone to her for support or comfort. I’m frustrated, angry and just plain lost. I have no idea what to do. Please, please help.

Ask Sam


Hi there,

Thank you for your letter and for telling me about your relationship with your mum. Whilst I was reading, I really got a sense of the hurt you feel because of the way that your mum behaves and treats you.

I often hear from young people who experience criticism and nastiness from a parent and this is something that could be considered emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is when an adult mistreats a young person in a way that can make them feel worthless, unloved or inadequate. Emotional abuse can also make someone feel valued only if they do what the other person (in your case, your mum) wants. It can also include making fun or teasing and I know that this is something that you’ve mentioned in your letter.

Though you haven’t told me the kinds of things that your mum teases you about, what’s important is how the teasing makes you feel. If you are hurt or upset by it, then it’s not okay. I can also hear that you’re aware that your mum talks about your dad behind his back and that this makes you wonder what she could be saying about you. This could also count as emotional abuse as it makes you worry about what other people will hear and how they’ll think about you.

It sounds as though your mum often isn’t able to put your thoughts and feelings first. You’ve spoken about times when you’ve tried to talk to her about the affect her behaviour has had and this has resulted in her reducing you to tears. Realising that a parent or carer isn’t valuing your feelings can be really upsetting. However, it’s important to remember that this isn’t happening because you’ve done something wrong. You’ve said that your mum’s relationship with her own mother was also difficult. Perhaps this has affected her behaviour as she’s become a mother herself.

It’s important to say that not everyone who is treated badly as a child goes on to treat others badly when they become adults. However, it’s possible that your mum’s experience has affected the type of parent she is. Coming to terms with not having the sort of relationship that you’d like with a parent can be really tough. In some ways it can be like a type of grief – grief for the parent or the relationship you wish you’d had. 

You’ve mentioned your dad and that your mum speaks badly about him. What I don’t know is how you get on with him and whether he supports you at all with the situation? I also don’t know whether things have always been this way between you and your mum or if your relationship has changed over time?

I can hear that you’d really like some help. It’s difficult to give you specific advice about your options without knowing some more about your situation. So I think you'd find it really helpful to give a ChildLine counsellor a call on 0800 1111. You can also speak to a counsellor via 1-2-1 chat. They’d be able to talk about how this situation has affected you and what support might be available to you and help you to decide what you’d like to happen next.

There’s also an organisation called Relate who support young people with the relationships in their lives which you might find useful.

Take care,


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