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Parent's Responsibilities


Rules at home and your parents' responsibilities


What responsibilities do my parents have?


Your parents have a legal obligation to look after you until you are 18.   This means they have a duty to provide you with the things you need such as food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and protection.  


What rules can my parents make?


Young people often ask us questions like:
  • Can my parents take away my phone?
  • Can my parents make a bedtime for me?
  • Can my parents ground me?
  • Can my parents stop me hanging out with my friends or going to a party?
  • Can my parents make rules about my privacy at home?

As a general rule, parents have legal responsibility for their children until they turn 18.  This means they are responsible for your basic needs such as food, shelter, health and education. With this responsibility comes an ability to make certain decisions and rules for you, but these decisions and rules must be in your best interests.

There is a difference between family rules and laws. If you break a family rule you do not break the law. In fact the law does not usually get involved in matters like this unless you are at risk of harm or abuse.

Can your parents take away your things?


Although no-one can physically force you to hand over your belongings that you own, there is no law which says that your parents can or cannot confiscate your belongings. The law does not usually get involved in matters like this unless you are at risk of harm or abuse.

If you live at home your parents are able to make reasonable rules about things. This is because your parents are legally responsible for you until you turn 18. For example, schools can confiscate property when lawful, reasonable rules are broken – parents can too.

Can your parents make a bedtime for you?


Yes, your parents setting reasonable rules for you can include making a bedtime for you. This is because they are responsible for you, and they make rules for your best interests. Their reasons for making a bedtime might be because they want to make sure you get enough sleep before school so you aren’t tired the next day.

Can your parents ground you?


Like school rules, family rules might have punishments. Grounding you is an example of this. Although grounding you affects your independence, while you live with your parents and grounding you isn’t putting you at any risk of harm, your parents can make rules about this and the law won’t get involved.

Can your parents stop you hanging out with your friends or going to a party?


Yes, sometimes your parents make might rules about who you spend time with, or where you go. Your parents can make rules about this because they are allowed to make certain decisions about your wellbeing and what’s in your best interests.

Can your parents make rules about your privacy at home?


Sometimes parents might make rules that you feel are unfair because they impact on your privacy. These might include rules about your parents checking what you look up on the internet, or asking you to have your door open when you’re in your room.

Most of the laws about privacy apply to big companies or the government. There aren’t any laws about privacy about in situations like your parents making rules in your home. This means that as long as the rules aren’t putting you at risk of harm, your parents can make rules about your privacy at home.

What can you do if you don’t agree with your parents rules?


As you grow older it is normal to want to make more of your own decisions, and for your parents to disagree. As you grow older you will also develop your understanding and maturity to weigh up the consequences of an action and make a rational decision about it, so you might feel like you are the best person to make decisions about you. However, your parents can still make rules for you to follow.

If you are unhappy with one of the rules your parents make, the best thing to do is to have a conversation about it with them. You can explain what about the rule makes you unhappy, and your parents can explain why they made the rule and why they think it’s important for your wellbeing. By talking about it, you both might understand each other’s point of view and you might be able to reach a compromise you are both happy with. You could also ask another family member or a friend to be with you for support when you talk to your parents if you like.

Reachout has some information on dealing with parents and independence that you might like to read: http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/conflict-with-your-parents.

Kids Helpline also have a fact sheet on talking to parents: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/talking-with-your-parents.php.

Once you turn 18 you are legally responsible for yourself and are free to make your own decisions (although if you live in your parents’ house they are still free to set rules for you to follow).


Living at home is stressing me out/making me feel depressed – what can I do?


Sometimes you might feel stressed, emotional, angry, or depressed about having to live at home. If you're not sure whether what's going on at home is normal family conflict or if it crosses the line, please have a look at this website: http://www.burstingthebubble.com/.

If living at home is upsetting you then we recommend that you talk to someone about what’s going on.

If you feel safe doing so, it would be a good idea to try to talk to your parents. If you can explain how you're feeling, you and your parents might be able to come up with some strategies that make you feel more comfortable at home. If you need some tips on how to talk to them, we recommend having a look at:

•    Talking to parents: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/talking-with-your-parents.php  

•    Communication: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/communication-skills.php

Dealing with conflict: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/dealing-with-conflict.php

•    Family relationships: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/family-relationships.php

You could also ask a trusted family member or friend to help you talk to your parents.

If you're not comfortable talking to your parents about how you're feeling, the next best thing is to speak to a trusted adult (like a family member or a counsellor at school) about how you’re feeling so they can offer you some support and make sure you don’t end up in a bad situation.

If you'd rather not talk to someone you know, we recommend that you speak to a counsellor at Headspace. They offer free and confidential counselling for people under 25 who are experiencing a tough time. You can find your closest Headspace centre by entering your postcode here: http://www.headspace.org.au/headspace-centres.

Headspace also offers free and confidential counselling online at https://www.eheadspace.org.au/ or on the phone on 1800 650 890 (9am to 1am AEST).

Another service that offers free and confidential counselling for young people is Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (24 hours, but there can be a wait to get through) or at http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens.


Can I get emancipated or become my own legal guardian while I am under 18?


In Australia there is no such thing as “emancipation” like in the United States.  Emancipation is commonly known as a legal process where you become your own legal guardian.

As a general rule, parents have legal responsibility for their children until they turn 18.  When children are separated from their parents, someone else (like another family member, a foster carer, or an adoptive parent) will normally be given legal responsibility for them.

Once you turn 18, the law considers you an adult and you can do things completely independently from your either of your parents.

While Australian law does not have a process for emancipation, it does allow for young people to become 'independent' in various ways. This might include getting a job or your driver’s licence.  


This page was last updated on 25 June 2015.