Family rifts over Brexit:’ I can scarcely look at my parents’

The EU referendum result has hurled many thousands of people, particularly young adults, into bitter conflict with the closest members of their families

Im worried Brexit has attained me ageist, a friend said, following the shock of the referendum result on Friday morning. I saw this older couple in the street and merely felt this sudden, enormous wave of frenzy towards them and their generation. It was almost physical.

In the immediate aftermath of Britains vote to leave the European Union, emotions have been running high. Since YouGov reported that 75% of 18- to 24 -year-olds and 56% of 25 – to 49 -year-olds voted in favour of remain, versus 44% of 50- to 64 -year-olds and 39% of those over 65, the extent of the generational gulf between Generation Y and the so-called baby boomers and their parents has been palpable. As has the indignation many younger people including my friend, are feeling.

Generation gap: what happens if the people voting against your interests were members of your own family; your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts? Photo: Neil Hall/ Reuters

Over the past few days, thousands have ventilated on social media. Im never giving up my seat on the train for an old person again, read one tweet. The overwhelming consensus on the part of millennials( defined as those aged 18 -3 4 ), has been that, by opting for Brexit, the older generation has selfishly voted against the interests of subsequent ones. What happens if the people voting against your interests were members of your own family: your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts?

Stephanie is 21, from Merseyside, and was visiting her parents for the week of the referendum. Right from the moment I got back I was bombarded with questions about which side I was on and why, she said. Im not one to shy away from healthy debate, but my mothers totally refused to see things from any point of view but their own, and would deliberately misunderstand my opinion or rubbish it completely.

After the leave outcome, my parents continued to insult and degrade the 48% of us[ who voted remain ], with my daddy at one point get into an debate with a family friend who is an “European unions citizens” and telling her she should leave if she loves the EU so much. Even when narratives of legitimised racism and xenophobia were highlighted, my parents refused to accept this may have been partly because of the leave referendum, she adds.

Young anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at the gates of Downing Street. Photo: Isabel Infantes/ PA

The referendum may have ruined Stephanies trip-up home, but it has shifted her view. What was supposed to be a nice week turned into a week of being belittled and endless debates, and I have never felt so insulted by members of my “families ” before. As much as I love my parents, this referendum has attained me see them in a different light people who are unwilling to listen to the opinions of others and disrespectful of those with legitimate concerns about what their opinion could lead to.

Stephanie is far from being the only young person now seeing her family differently. Ive been having the most terrible rows with my mum about it, as Im so heartbroken by the result, tells Alex. Both my parents voted to leave despite me begging them not to. I tried to explain the effects it would have on my future, and my childrens future but each time it would just end in the most awful arguments. Now, with the route things are, I feel like I can barely look at them. It sounds melodramatic, but I feel so betrayed by it all.

Some will suppose Alex is going over the top, but the realisation that your mothers may not just have voted against your interests but represent wildly different politics and values from yours can be a bitter pill to swallow. Jamie, 28, grew up in a council flat with a single mother who worked hard to make their difficult life better for her children. Ive always been so proud of her for all the things she sacrificed for us. Shes warm, kind, generous and funny. She has such acute sympathy that shes been known to cry hearing about the illness of other peoples relatives. Oh, and she also dislikes immigrants.

It is not a prejudice that Jamie shares. My mum voted to leave the EU because she doesnt want non-British citizens here. Despite the fact that my brother and I have been extremely vocal about our reasons for staying in, shes chosen to vote out because she doesnt like the local Asian population. It induces no sense to me.

When she tells me wildly embellished narratives about how disgusting the local peaceful, quiet, mostly elderly immigrant community are, I laugh at her and calmly tell her shes wrong. Most of the time, I can see past her views. But right now, Im angry and ashamed.

Sarah is also struggling with anti-immigrant sentiments among those close to her. She is the only known remain voter in their own families. I grew up in the Midlands on a council estate where many of my relatives still live, so I do wonder if that has something to do with their choice, she tells. It came to a head post-result, when a relative asked: How can Remain voters call leave voters racist?

I had pointed out that sharing EDL, Britain First and BNP posts online[ means] people will assume you share those views and are likely to call you a racist, homophobe and a sexist.

After that, things took a nasty turning. Im no longer engaging with it. My household isnt impressed I called their own families racist, and the whole referendum has certainly created a them versus us divide that I dont guess will mend any time soon. I havent spoken to any of them since Friday. Its a bit sore.

Naturally , not all narratives of post-referendum familial disharmony will be so extreme. Where some mothers are defiant in their voting selection, for others, a certain amount of remorse is put in. My whole household voted leave, tells Emma. My brother, who is 31 , now feels nasty about it and wishes he hadnt even voted at all. My mothers have been staunch Eurosceptics their whole lives, and are pleased with the result. But my mum now feels bad about how upset I am; and all of her friends infants have been upset, too. We are having very tense conversations.

I dont begrudge her the life that she has had my mothers are homeowners who retired early with nice pensions because she has worked damn hard for it. Im not even angry with her for voting the way she has, because she has a right to her opinions. I simply feel sad about my own future and I cant pretend that Im not. And so she feels bad for building “i m feeling” sad, which only maintains going in a never-ending cycle. I feel like we are both hurting and we cant assistance each other.

Jo, too, is cut up about her parents decision. My parents voted out. I was very shocked when I found out how they were voting, she says. My parents were anti-Thatcherites, originally from the north-east, and they partially blamed Europe for the loss of industry and jobs in the north. They are not racists and they are degree-educated people who had decided years ago that if the vote ever came up they would vote out.

They felt lied to in the original referendum as to what Europe would become. It seemed to be a vote for nostalgia. I had a hard time picking up the phone on Friday, and I think mum was upset as to how distraught I was about the result. She said she never thought it would actually be out and was amazed. I feel like something has died that we cant get back as a nation.

One woman I speak to is so furious with her uncle for voting leave that she is considering not inviting him to her bridal. I simply dont want got anything to do with him at the moment, she says. Maybe after a few days I will calm down. Then again, maybe not.

What do young people think about Brexit ?

From speaking to young people up and down the country, many of whom are now embroiled in rifts with the closest members of their families, it becomes clear that their reactions to the result are not just matters of political principle, but come from a place of profound grief and betrayal. It sounds dramatic but, for many, the heartbreak is total, because of the futures so many feel they have lost. One person I speak to, from west Wales, has expended their entire adult life analyzing or working on an EU-funded programme across several European countries, and is furious that despite this their mom didnt even bother to vote. Another, who speaks two EU languages, is working on a third, and dreams of living abroad, is furious. Now, because of petty quibbles with EU practice, my mothers have voted away my right to live and work in virtually 30 countries, she says. Everything Ive analyzed for, for as long as I can recollect, has been thrown away over false constructs of sovereignty and lies about immigration.

I am presumably one of the citizens who leave voters thought they were winning the country back for. I dont want their toxic, pathetic little country, it is not mine. If I had anywhere else to go I would burn my passport.

You can imagine how it must feel, to expend so much of your young adult life into the European project, only to have your parents undermine it. How could they do this? is the phrase that comes up over and over again. Some tell me they are leaving the Labour party, dismayed at what they perceive as Jeremy Corbyns failure to passionately fight for the EU they so love, or are moving to Scotland and plan to vote SNP, and several mention the Lib Dems promise to campaign to reverse the decision if there is a snap general election. Whatever happens, there is a huge swell of political subsistence among young people for remaining in the EU that clever legislators could potentially galvanise.

In the meantime, young people are reflecting given the fact that you only get one adult life, and its one that political leaders and parents alike have gambled with. Im ashamed of my own mother, says Jamie. Its a horrible impression. Im unbelievably angry that she didnt consider the future of her young children who are just starting out in the world.

Were graduates, starting our careers and beginning postgraduate analyzes. Were newlyweds and nearlyweds, looking for our first homes and who will be starting families in the next 10 years. But when our mum voted, she chose to ignore that, driven by her abhor for foreigners, rather than love for her own children. Shes sacrificed a lot in life to give us the best chances but now, with one little cross in a box, shes undone all the good she did for us. I simply dont understand why she didnt listen to her children before she voted.

Not all young people voted to remain, of course. Emily, 26, voted leave, while her mum, father and grandad all voted remain. My mum hung up the phone on me when she found out my younger sister and I had voted leave. Dad said he was devastated at research results, and my granddad, a second world war veteran, initially told me he was worried for a future he wouldnt insure. Her younger sister, who is a student, also voted leave.

Being young, both my sister and I felt we were at the sharp objective of the economic accident. Shes saddled with 9,000 -a-year tuition fees she didnt have any say about, and set to work under the dreaded junior physician contact in a decimated NHS. Im still paying almost half my income in rent. We wanted something to give. Mum and Dad are second-home owners. Grandad has been retired longer than he has worked. The system worked for them. Now the economic reality is beginning to set in, Im not sure if I induced the right decision. Mum tells we all construct bad selections, she voted for Thatcher in 79, and she forgives me. Grandad says not to worry , nothing will be as bad as the Great Depression he grew up in. When he was a child, he was so hungry he feed acorns for dinner and had no shoes. People nowadays need to toughen up, he says. Itll be OK in the end.

All names have been changed

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Why I set 400 condoms in the kitchen drawer for my sons

As a youth worker, Amy Barwise is used to dealing with pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, but after a week of revelations at home and run she decided safer was better than sorry

An hour before the kids get home from school on Friday, I check the kitchen drawer where Ive left about 400 condoms for the sons. Its virtually empty. Clearly its been a busy week on the sexual front in my small house. Nothing to do with me and Ive been in all week, so I know theres been no action within these four walls.

I make a cup of tea and mull it over. Its been a hectic week.

Last Friday, the landline rang. As it usually entails its person over 40 calling , nobody else answers, so I do. But it was my son Bens best mate; sunny, chatty Danny. He voiced like he was a million miles away. He asked if Ben was in and when I said yes, he explained he needed to talk to him and was coming straight over. And he was gone.

I told Ben, who seemed shifty. Nothing unusual in that.

I guessed the call had something to do with last Saturdays sleepover at another friends house. Danny had siphoned off the top inch of spirits from his mothers collecting and mixed them into such a lethal cocktail that he was hospitalised and his daddy was called.

When Danny arrived, he was ashen and scarcely looked at me as he headed upstairs. Five minutes later, I heard sobbing. Ben came down and waved me up urgently.

Danny sat on the bed, head down, face blotched, shoulders shaking. Ben told me what was wrong. Two and half months ago, Danny had sexuality for the first time. The 16 -year-old girl told him she was on the pill. She wasnt.

Now she was pregnant with twins and keeping them. Danny maintained repeating that their own lives was over and this was why hed got so drunk at the party. He couldnt face telling his mothers. Ben asked me if I would. You could hear a pin drop. They both looked at me, pleading.

It was not an easy chore. I felt for them all. I also guessed, breathlessly, that it could happens to my children so easily. The UK has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion in Europe according the Family Planning Association. The average age for first time heterosexual sex is 16 for girls and boys.

As a youth worker, I spend a lot of period dealing with problems arising from narcotics, drink( sometimes thats the mothers problem ), social media, contraception, pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections( STIs ). All in no particular order.

The Monday following Dannys revelation, and with his parents shell-shocked faces in my head, I am in the waiting room of an STI clinic. Im accompanying 17 -year-old Ella. She guesses she may have chlamydia. Its an easily transmitted STI and pretty much symptomless, but it can lead to infertility. Not that clever Ella wants a newborn shes ambitious and thats a great contraceptive.

She didnt want to go to her GP for it to go on her record or talk to her mothers, who have never mentioned sex. She asked me to stay while she got tested, and therapy if necessary, and pick up free condoms. Shes confident and aware. I am really impressed. At her age I would have been mortified in here. As it is, I feel a prickly heat in case I insure person I know. As a single mother with three children, my love-life has flat-lined.

The blonde nurse who calls Ella is bright and breezy with dazzling white teeth and red lipstick. The nurse chats about the climate; how she likes Ellas cool skinny jeans and sky-high shoes. She makes us feel comfortable in seconds. The well-built physician looks like he should be on a rugby pitch. While Ella is otherwise occupied, I ask him how it is for young people locally. Hectic, he says. I wish they were as sensible as Ella. Its carnage out there for teens. We have such hang-ups about sex and young people in this country. And older people too.

He looks at me. I blush.

He adds: I wish it was like Holland. Underage pregnancies and STIs are far more under control. When boy meets girl they get tested and sorted for contraception before sex. We dont talk openly here. I am open with my patients. I had an STI at 18. If you have unprotected sexuality, it happens.

I nod. I need to drum it into my own sons. The doctor asks me the murderer question: When do you think the riskiest period for sex is?

I believe all sex is risky but shrug my shoulders and say: My sons are 16 and 15. They probably think about it all the time.

He agrees: Day and night. And the time they are most likely to have sex is between 3.30 pm, after school, and before parents get in from work.

Weve had adolescents tell us “theyre using” crisp packets because they are too embarrassed to buy condoms or cant afford them. We give out free contraception and sometimes money to get the bus home.

I think of crisp packets burning saltiness and the terrible noise they must make. Surely that is more embarrassing than buying condoms? Not in the heat of the moment. I am glad I am always home at 3.30 pm.

Ella taps me on the shoulder, smiling. She hasnt get chlamydia. She takes home a free box of condoms in a plain white plastic purse. The doctor says to me: Wait a minute.

He returns with another plastic suitcase. Inside are four boxes with hundreds of condoms. Ella smirks as he says: That should last you. I blush from my neck to the roots of my hair.

Off we go. The two of us armed for any sexual encounter for the next decade.

When my sons, Ben and Aaron, return, I tell them where Ive been.

Weird job you have, says Ben, looking in the cookie closet, which is bare because they have been through it like locusts.

I clear out the kitchen describe. Aaron ignores the whole scene and asked whats for dinner. Pizza. Again, I say as I tip-off a river of condoms in. They both say: Ohhh, Mum!

Look, I add, these should last. Im not fostering you. This is sensible. You dont have to buy them and you dont have to worry.

I dont mention crisp packets.

A week goes by in a snowstorm of run, cooking and domestic chores. All mine. Weve heard nothing from Danny.

So, when I open the condom drawer and its virtually bare I do a double take. I close it and wonder where theyve all gone? Ive been home when they got back from school every day. Ben and Aaron return first; my younger daughter, Molly, is at an after-school club. She knows about the condoms but is uninterested and embarrassed.

I open the drawer and ask the boys: Where are they?

Ben creates his thick eyebrows and looks at Aaron who blushes the same way I do.

Ben tells: Mum, you helped Danny. And because of whats happened youve done a great service to the community. The lad in my year are now protected. You have single-handedly prevented unwanted pregnancies and if theres a dip in teen-births here next year its down to you.

Its the longest speech hes made since puberty. I giggle until there are tears in my eyes.

Names have been changed

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