59

Some background:

I've been trying to get into a particular overseas university for about 2 years now (applied twice before, both rejected), but I found out that I got accepted this time after a lot of hard work and effort.

I was beaming and went to tell my parents. After a short handshake, good job, they immediately went to tell me how I should apply to other universities (that they like), and started to question if I really want to go and how difficult it would be for me to go overseas. They also made bad jokes about my time there and what will happen.

Seeing me try for this University three times it, ought indicate that I really want it and have thought about the possibilities and how to carry out my own plans.

Question: I'm fed up with them treating me like I don't know what I'm doing and am still a kid (I'm 24yo). I want to communicate to them these feelings without coming off as an ungrateful son and disrespectful.

Additional info: My culture is Asian, the overseas university is very far away, but my brother studied there and they didn't give him this much trouble.

TL;DR: Parents don't approve of my choice in an overseas university. How to tell them to leave it to me it's my life and I've thought enough about this?

Update: Thanks all for the insight and it has indeed helped me view this differently. After talks with my parents this past weekend, they have mellowed in their views and become more understanding. Many thanks to everyone for the answers and it has become a lot better :).

  • 15
    Who is paying for your tuition, accommodation etc.? What benefits did your overseas uni have over more local ones? – user8671 May 11 '18 at 7:22
  • 18
    The overseas university is in a country where the university fees are much less than where i am, i will be funding myself with savings from my current job and about 1-2 semesters in i will be finding work part-time as i study to support myself. I might need financial assistance in dire times from my parents if i cannot find a job, don't earn enough. I also wish to have overseas experience and be more global – SomeoneElse May 11 '18 at 7:48
  • 1
    You say your brother has bern there. Just a guess, but maybe they're somehow disappointed with him and hope that you will do better (from their point of view)? – Vilx- May 11 '18 at 20:23
  • Yes the ones they like are closer, but my brother has returned and is currently staying with us – SomeoneElse May 14 '18 at 9:53
  • Great that you have got lot of understanding by talking directly to your parents. For the next time, it would be more helpful to specify your culture more directly. You know... Asia is a big continent and mix of cultures with totally opposite principles (even in countries close to each other). For instance, in some of them, absolute dedication to the parents would be reasonable. – mpasko256 May 14 '18 at 11:57

11 Answers 11

48

I am only 21, and my culture is Australian but I think dealing with parents who are very reluctant to accept your personal growth is a fairly universal issue that anyone can have and I do have a lot of experience in dealing with that.

For me, by far the best way to communicate to my parents that "I have thought about something in depth, and that they should stop treating me like I don't know what I'm doing" would be to show them.

By this I mean to avoid asking for their opinions and essentially just do it. I do not mean cut them off, just that when bringing up the topic with them try to focus on showing and explaining the research you have done and plans you have made rather than prompting them for their input.

It sounds very much like this is just wishful thinking on your parents part, and they are likely trying to stubbornly convince themselves that you don't know what you are doing and need their help just as much as they are trying to convince you. Because of this, getting into a discussion in these cases can be ineffective or even have the opposite effect. Instead the all around most successful solution I have found in making your parents face reality is to show it to them. You are forcing them to see things as they are, and its not ungrateful or rude in any way, it can even give them the opportunity to have that ever so touching bittersweet moment of realisation that their son is 'all grown up'.

  • 1
    @Cullub I mean show them everything you want to convey when saying it has not done the trick. In OP's case that means yes show them you have thought this through by telling them your plans, but OP also wants his parents to understand that he is not a kid who needs to rely on them for things like this so I am also suggesting he show them this by going to the overseas university, doing great and then telling them about it! Perhaps here it is worth noting that if he were to go there, complain to his parents and constantly need their support it will show them the opposite to OP's goal. – Jesse May 12 '18 at 15:27
  • I think it was the Fresh Prince who said it best, "parents just don't understand." – Anthony May 14 '18 at 0:19
24

Caveat: US-ish perspective.

Dont' tell them. You can't.

In fact, the very fact that you are describing your relationship in these terms hints that you still orbit their star. Is their blessing really so necessary? I mean, sure, it would be nice and all, but you're an adult person living your own life. Just go do it. They'll come around. Or not: that's the risk you take. Arguably preferable to living in their shadow forever, but YMMV.

As for the difference compared to your brother, if you're the youngest and your parents are aging they are going to have some separation anxiety and possibly an identity crisis. One of the most important roles in their lives for the last ~30 years has been that of parent, and suddenly it's a lot less central than it was. Probably right about the same time their career(s?) are winding down (another central pillar of identity). You should be empathetic and respectful (you'll be in their shoes someday) but that's no reason to stunt your personal growth and development.

  • 7
    "In fact, the very fact that you are describing your relationship in these terms hints that you still orbit their star. Is their blessing really so necessary?". Yeesh. To ask for validation and support from loved ones does not mean you're still orbiting their star. Mutual support and (some level of) validation is a fundamental feature of any healthy human relationship. – Finn O'leary May 13 '18 at 2:32
  • 1
    @FinnO'leary there's a big difference between "I'd like the support of and validation from my parents" and "I won't be satisfied in life unless I get it". I know lots of people with the second (unhealthy) outlook. Perhaps I read too much between the lines? – Jared Smith May 13 '18 at 12:29
  • I wasn't really seeking their approval to carry on with life, but i feel that they did not approach the situation with the response i expected, maybe it was on me for thinking they would behave different. – SomeoneElse May 14 '18 at 1:18
  • @SomeoneElse just remember that they see the world very differently than you, which is not in itself a bad thing. Just go be awesome and don't worry too much about it: everybody loves a winner :) – Jared Smith May 14 '18 at 13:25
12

I am a Asian as well, and I find parents tends to be more skeptical and they should be constantly worrying about their children.

Having that in mind, they will need some kind of assurance. Therefore, let them know your determination and your plans about it.

Hey Dad, Mum. This university is something that I really wanted to get in. [State your reason why you are choosing this university to the others]. Having tried 3 times and now I am able to get in (showed your determination). Definitely, study in the overseas will be difficult and a challenge (acknowledge their concerns), but this is also exactly why I wanted to give it a go - to be better and more independent (answer to their concern). And once graduated, I would like to find something [...continue on your future plans]. Therefore, I hope both of you would understand and respect my decision of going overseas study. Give me the chance to prove not only to you all but myself as well.

My English isn't that good, so just change accordingly to something along those lines above.

Yes, I agreed with Jesse that the best solution would actually to show them by actions. But you can only do that when granted to overseas study, which I believe given at your current stage, you will still need some financial support from them? If not, then you may fully go by Jesse's suggestion and show it to them that you can do it.

  • 2
    i'm not totally financially dependent on them for this choice, infact it will cost them less to do this than to study locally – SomeoneElse May 11 '18 at 7:49
8

They are likely just concerned for you. I cannot explain why they may have treated your brother differently (although that could just be your perception because you are now on the receiving end) but parents worrying for their children, whilst annoying, is evidence of their love.

What you have described is not outright opposition - they congratulated you (albeit halfheartedly) but are now trying to change your mind in a not-so-subtle way. Based on this there doesn't seem to be any real concern that they will do anything to stop you.

My preferred method for dealing with this would be to weather the storm, that is to press on with your plans to attend the university, be absolutely unwavering in your decision, keep positive, and where possible turn their negativity into positivity. This will take effort - their lack of support is clearly getting you down. But if you challenge them outright, you will have a disagreement and fall out.

Just answer everything they throw at you with a positive, undeterred response. If they say you'll run out of money then reply so I'll get a job. If they say it's dangerous there reply then I'll be extra careful.

See, I don't believe they want to cut you off. They seemingly want you to be nearby, perhaps because of safety concerns, or because they will miss you if you go overseas. If you just pursue this goal like a runaway train I believe your parents will quickly realise that by being negative you are leaving them behind. Show them that you are going to do this with or without their support, and if they love you and care for you which they surely do then they need to catch up with you.

5

Maybe your parents, especially if you're the youngest or the last to move out, are having a difficult time dealing with their emotions regarding your leaving and going so far away. Some people who have a difficult time communicating how they feel will make fun of the thing that is causing those emotions in an effort to draw their own attention away from it. If you are the youngest, they probably wouldn't have acted that way with older siblings because they still had children (you) that weren't leaving the nest anytime soon. They would gladly prolong dealing with the sadness they might be feeling until they absolutely had to. I hope that helps in some way. Congratulations on your achievement and best of luck.

3

Try to go beyond the level of expectations (you expect them to be excited about your choice, they expect something else) and try to reach the level of connections. First, calm down and let yourself feel how much they mean to you. They have helped you become someone who persevered in the face of rejection.

And then, consciously holding on to that feeling of love and gratefulness, ask them what worries them. Are they afraid of losing contact with you? Are they worried about how you will cope? Don't start arguing or defending yourself, just keep on feeling your connection to them and listen. Acknowledge that you have weak and strong points and acknowledge that living and studying so far away may be harder than you can imagine. But also assure them that you are learning to find solutions and that you want their support as you grow into your future.

Forging your own way while keeping connected to the people around you is one of the most important skills you'll ever learn. See this as a good opportunity to practice this skill with people who, more than anyone in this world, have your best interest at heart.

2

Caveat: US parental perspective

I suggest not wasting your time telling your parents how much you didn't like their response. I don't see an up-side to this, for you or them. If they're not standing in the way and saying "You cannot go" then make your plans and go, whether they like it or not.

2

Are you your parents' last child to leave home? If so, please keep in mind what a big change it is for them. They've given a couple of decades of their lives to parenting, and now that work is coming to an end. To overstate it, your star is rising and theirs is setting. It's possible they don't disapprove of your plans, but just don't want you to move far away. Be gentle with them.

  • My brother did leave to study overses as well, but after 3 years studying he has returned. – SomeoneElse May 14 '18 at 1:16
2

There are two aspects to this question that it would be helpful for you to differentiate. (I don't mean in the usual stack exchange sense of posting as separate questions; I mean it would aid your handling of the situation to recognize these two distinct aspects.)

One is your parents' acceptance of your choice of university.

The other is your parents' response to an important achievement in your life.

It would also help your parents if they were to keep these two factors separate. If they want their concerns to be really considered by you, they would do better not to bring up those concerns in the exact moment when they should be congratulating you on what is a great achievement for you.

If you could have that initial conversation over again, I would suggest responding something like this:

Look, I get it you have arguments against it. Try talking to me about that later, but right now that is just terrible timing, unless you are intentionally trying to "rain on my parade." I've worked really hard to get this acceptance and I'm really happy about it! The least you could do is congratulate me, just because I'm happy about it, even if you want to try later to persuade me to go elsewhere.

The same kernel of an idea may still help regardless of when you bring it up.

Rather than trying to convince them this is the right university for you, first just pursue an acknowledgement from them of your achievement in gaining acceptance.

This is not just about improving their good handling of communication, which includes acknowledging originations made to one. It has other benefits:

In acknowledging the achievement, they will also recognize the achievement and may understand better how much it means to you. For them, the action of simply communicating their congratulations will likely get this point home to them better than anything you might say to persuade them of it. In other words, it does not have to be the case that they recognize the achievement and therefore acknowledge it; it could happen that they are persuaded to acknowledge your achievement simply in order to handle communication better, and then due to that acknowledgement they realize that it really is an achievement.

And on the other side of the coin, when you've been acknowledged for your achievement by them, you will be more willing to listen to any concerns they may still have about your choice of school.

Everybody wins. Understanding can be achieved.

And by the way, well done on getting accepted to your target university!!

2

Hopefully this will put somethings in perspective. When I graduated from nursing school and then started working in my field becoming accomplished and respected by those I worked with, I NEVER heard anything in anyway acknowledging my accomplishment ever from anyone in my family.

I think your parents know how important it is to you but there could be ambivalence to be excited for you because of how it changes who they are, once you go away their focus of being a parent is changed forever. I know from where you stand their enthusiastic approval is what you’d like to hear and you do deserve recognition. But, it may be more complicated for then to let you go even if it was a few miles away, for them it represents a life stage change just as you going to this university is a life stage change for you.

Now, I'm in the position of your parents and when my oldest son moved out on his own I was proud of him for taking this big step. But, honestly, with my younger son the emotions were much more sad.

It's harder for a parent to see the job that they've committed over 24 years end so abruptly as you going so far away. It doesn't even matter how far you go, to them it's far not geographically, but emotionally. No matter how much they think they've prepared themselves it's still not the same as when it is an imminent reality. They are likely experiencing many mixed emotions, and aren't sure what comes next.

For some parents the reason that the relationship stays is the combined work of raising children. They could be questioning the nature of their relationship and what they feel for each other. Many issues that they've put to the back burner for years while staying busy with you and your brother are going to come to the forefront when there's so much quiet in the house. It's not just that you were there but probably your friends as well. There was activity, noise, and comings and goings then it's going to be just the two of them. It's far harder for us middle-aged folk to adjust to this kind of change, if our entire focus has been raising our children then we look around and say "Now What???"

I know from where you stand you have worked hard....a big congratulations is due. Your life is stretching out onto a vast horizon of possibility. You may have to step out of your shoes for a second and step into theirs for the next second. Their horizon may look very different and they're still trying to wrap their minds around how different life will look, it may even be a grieving process for them. I know it's hard to see that, but just stay upbeat, give them some time to work out their new roles. Good Luck.

1

You've accepted the top-vote answer of "just do it." YES, that's fine.

Now, I'll give you the next challenge: can you have a great lifetime relationship, as an adult, loving your parents... even though they may never actually agree with the choice you've made?

Why I ask: I'm not sure you're actually seeing this yet from a truly adult / "parents" perspective. (I am writing as an ancient denizen of the 'net, whose dad was like your parents, and am now a father and grandfather... ;) )

Facts:

  • You're an independent adult: proactively taking action, funding it yourself. You already know that your parents disagree with your choice.
  • Your parents DID congratulate you on the success of your effort ("a short handshake, good job.")

I wonder: why were you surprised that they're not more supportive? They disagree with your choice. It's that simple.

Your question indicated that you expect them to change their mind? Why? You're not going to control their perspective. This is important to understand for a lot more than your choice of school.

One of my observations about both Asian and Western cultures: once people have taken action (including stating their perspective!) on a topic, it is VERY difficult for them to reverse course. Often at best they'll go silent, with a "let's forget about it" attitude. At best.

Your initial perspective on their disagreement was they are "treating me like I don't know what I'm doing and am still a kid." Likely reality: for whatever reason, they disagree with your choice.

Now, your perspective on their interaction with you is: "they have mellowed in their views and become more understanding." Likely reality: they still disagree with your choice but are no longer arguing with you about it.

I have had the privilege of knowing a number of amazing leaders, people successful in various fields. All over the planet. At first I was shocked to discover that a number of them have had -- even continue to have -- the same challenge you face with your parents. It's no longer a surprise. People just don't always agree on everything! And yes, because of that they often miss out on a very real blessing.

One amazing guy has led tens of thousands, influenced hundreds of millions. Yet his parents didn't understand, refused to even watch him speak, etc. They got together for family events, but his work and life calling was basically a taboo subject. This went on for many decades (!) AFAIK, in their old age they finally did attend one of his speeches.

What does it take to get people to agree on something?

The easy way: agree out of ignorance ("go along to get along")

But this is a topic of importance to you. Just like a marriage, or maybe politics or whatever.

To achieve unity there requires heart changes. For that:

  • You need to understand their heart
  • They need to understand your heart
  • You need to live a life that overcomes the experience (of pain or joy!) that caused them to prefer a different choice.
  • It may require a bit of a miracle :)

A bottom line bit of wisdom: people don't have to be rational and fact-based-logical about everything.

:-D

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