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Context: I'm 30, my parents are in their mid 50s, they are divorced and they both married after. I don't live with any of them (I'm in another city) and I visit them about once a month, also for special days like holidays.

The long story: I want really bad to live abroad (in another continent) in the near future, the reason is because I want a change in my life, I want to live new experiences, visit new places, have a better life quality (I live in a third world country with lots of issues to achieve that).

I haven't talked about this with my mum but I know she will support me and be happy for me, but with my dad is a whole other story. He is married to a divorced woman with a son that, a couple of years ago, left home in bad terms, mainly because she was overprotective and he was a big boy already, so bottom line there is still a lot of abandonment sentiment going around the house and this also made her see me like her own son more than ever, is worth adding she also has very delicate health, and any kind of sadness express in her body in the form of illness.

My dad suffered from depression a couple of years ago, with the fortunate coincidence that when he was on his worst days I was on a 3 week trip across europe, and in those days not only I was very far away but I didn't know what to do to help in that position, so I didn't talk to him much when he was really sad, and I didn't want to go back in the middle of the trip because I thought it wouldn't make a difference in his illness besides having my company through his rough time. Obviously I felt very guilty about this, and I apologized to him and we both left this moment behind, but now I'm afraid this will bring up the ghost of the past. Besides this episode I know this would be very difficult for him, because I'm his only son, and he doesn't have any close people besides his wife so I'm a big part in his life and it would hurt like hell to have me too far away.

What I need help with: I want help in how to approach them in the best way considering that the situation is more than delicate. Also I don't want to create false expectations related to for how long I'd be out, because I don't really know that, today I think about a couple of years, but I'm very aware of the possibility that I might don't want to go back at all. Also I'm not just thinking about "the talk" but when to have it (right know I didn't even started planning this) and what else to do to live this process as painless as possible.

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One of my children moved literally to the opposite side of the world - it takes equal time to fly there going either east or west from my house. 4 of my siblings have moved thousands of miles from their parents, at least for a while. And my parents moved thousands of miles away from their parents when I was just a few months old. I have experience with many of the viewpoints here.

First let me urge you not to go to either parent and say "I have decided to move to a far away country some day." It's far too vague in both time and space, and even in reason. The only possible reaction to such an announcement will be emotional: about missing you, perhaps, or about feeling abandoned.

Instead, I encourage you to share your ambitions with your parents regularly. You would like to work as a [doctor/programmer/investment-analyst/jeweler] and you have dreams that are bigger than the town where you live now. You were once worried about living in a different city from your parents, but you did it [reminder of the reason] and it's worked out great. You want to have your own team or to get a promotion to a senior whatever or lead whatever, you want to learn a particular technique or work for a particular company they've heard of. Talk about that. Don't explicitly say that this involves moving to X, but if they ask say that might be part of the process.

If they freak out at the tiniest mention of anything related to your career, saying things like "whatever else you must not ever move any further away than you already have, family must be the top priority" then you have information. They may say something like "we're so proud of you for having big plans; how can we help?" Or they may express a mixture of admiration for the plan and nervousness that it may take you away. That's normal. I didn't celebrate the thought of my child moving away, or look forward to spending less time together, though I was very proud of the opportunity that caused the move and, on balance, in favour of going there. Just because there is some wistfulness or sadness at the thought of seeing less of you doesn't mean they don't support your decision and want you to do well.

Yes, it's possible your father and his new wife will be very upset when you move away. You won't lower that possibility by telling them now that you want to do that, without even knowing what job, what company, what salary, what great opportunity will take you away. Let them know you have big dreams, and that these may include moving away. Let them know you're looking into opportunities and possibilities. But the sentence "I am moving to another continent some day" is not at all the same as "I am moving to Canada in 3 months" or better, "I have been offered the chance to move to Canada in 3 months and I am seriously considering it." That's something to be excited and proud about. You can answer questions like where you would live, how much you would make, what your job would be, how often you could afford to come back and visit, and so on -- all things that parents want to know right away when they hear you're moving. They can be involved in your process instead of being presented with a decision (though of course they don't get a vote; this is your life.)

Sure, they might start a campaign of talking you out of it once you share your dreams. That doesn't worry me though because the way I see it, you're running that campaign on their behalf right now in your own head. You don't know they're going to hate it. You don't know how they're going to react. By ramping up to it slowly and not announcing decisions before they're made, I think you'll make the whole thing go better. You're not the first child to move away. Most do it and stay connected to their families and countries of origin.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer, you made lots of good points I haven't thought about. As you said I carry this as a burden, and it's preventing me to really get into this process which by itself is gonna be a big challenge in many ways Aug 7 at 1:40
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I've been in your shoes.

I moved from Brazil when I was 30 and until then I lived far away from my parents (we're from the countryside of São Paulo, I lived in Rio for about 6 years) and visited them usually on long weekends or they came down to visit for a couple days up to a week - they're significantly older than your parents and I'm their only child.

I did mention every-so-often to my parents in casual conversation that I intended to ask for a position abroad at work, but no exact times (since there were none to speak for), so they were NOT taken by surprise when I finally got fed up enough with Brazil and decided to actively pursue a position in another country.

If you have friends and / or relatives moving abroad and they hear about that (through family, for example), you can use that opportunity to mention your intentions of leaving. You don't have to mention details, but you should have some sort of direction in place - in my case, I wanted to go abroad via work and not for studying.

Mention your plans to them even if you don't have a specific timeline in mind - for example, if you're looking into a Master's or a PhD abroad you can tell them "Hey, I'm looking into doing a Master's abroad, this university and that university have really good programs, I'll apply for a scholarship this summer". Or "I've applied for some positions with this company and that company in X country, they're accepting international candidates, I'll keep you guys posted"

Give them assurance that you'll be OK. This for me was easy - I away moved for a job with a reputable company and to a safe country with a stable economy, so a lot of their worries were assuaged pretty quickly - I would have a job with a good salary, a roof over my head, safety would be better than it was in Rio...

Make them see that this move will be better for you in both the short and long run. And of course (if you're willing), they'll have somewhere nice to spend vacations as soon as the Covid mess clears up more.

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In the first place, you should convince yourself by good research about why you want to go abroad. You should do research on the pros and cons of your decision. You should have a collection of questions or expectations of your parents.

I know it's hard to convince them. But your well to do research about why you want to go abroad will help you in explaining them. In the end, parents want their children to be happy. Your excitement, homework on your decision will surely convince them. Whatever the distance be displacement should be zero. Whether it matters or not to them, just tell them whatever truly you feel like. I am sure they will be convinced if your homework is excellent.

I could say all this because I was also planning the same and have a similar kind of situation. I wanted to go abroad to study and stay there. It was one of the toughest decisions that I took. So I did detailed research and worked on the plan. Then I told my parents about it they were against this decision. The biggest challenge is that I am a girl.

But with all the efforts I mentioned it took me around a year to convince them but I am halfway done and still doing to fully convince them. I am sure that I will be successful.

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