In this competitive society, you’re expected to do your best, look your best and be your best but how much can your parents push you before you break?
Shu Ting* is 24, a successful screenwriter and playwright and an English tutor. She lives at home with her parents and pays all the bills. She is even helping her parents pay off the mortgage on their family home. However, her mum pesters her incessantly about settling for an office job because it’s ‘more stable’ and she can make ‘more money’. Shu is already stressed about writing her latest play before the deadline while juggling the tutoring job but her mum’s pestering is pushing her to the edge. She recently picked up a smoking habit to cope with all the stress.
Shu Ting feels immense pressure from her mum. She pushes herself to make more money so her mum will let up on her finding an office job. Meanwhile, Shu Ting’s mum is unaware of how her daughter feels because she believes that all she’s doing is encouraging her child to get the best in life. Shu Ting’s situation is not unique and is shared by countless young adults.
Parents want the best for their children so they may get pushy when it comes to academics and extra-curricular activities during the school and college years. Some parents even go so far as to decide which job their child should take. Unfortunately, these good intentions are often very detrimental. Wanting their children to excel so they can get accepted into a prestigious college or university, deciding the course they think is best for their child’s future and even deciding how much their children should earn when they leave school, is not helping their children at all.
Some parents use the phrase ‘pressure makes diamonds’ to justify the pressure they exert over their children but often, this backfires. It causes problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, excessive worrying in a teenager or young adult. Some children begin to withdraw from friends and family.
According to the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioural Sciences at UCLA’s (US) resident physician, Dr. Jason Schiffman, anxiety manifests in children differently than in adults. In younger people, physical manifestations of feeling overwhelmed such as stomach aches, diarrhoea, rashes and headaches, may occur. From a behavioural standpoint, an adult would try to identify and their anxiety but teens and young adults may turn to destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse.
Besides their studies and a career path, parental pressure can also revolve around a child’s image. It is common for parents to want their children to excel and look good at the same time. For some parents, ‘tough love; may be their way of expressing their opinions about their children’s looks. Criticism about their child’s weight, hairstyle or choice in clothing may cause low confidence and friction between parent and child. For example, some parents may feel that a person with dyed hair may not be able to get a good job. However, in industries such as music, advertising or publishing, having brightly coloured hair may not be an obstacle and could actually be seen as an expression of creativity.
Talk it through
The easiest path to take may be to avoid talking to your parents. If you’re living with your parents, you can opt to move out and find a place of your own. This is, however, a temporary fix. In order to cultivate a healthy, long-term relationship with your parents, you’ll need to face your issues with them, head on.
Dedicate some time for to talk one on one with your mum, dad or both of them. Remember to remain calm. Sit your parents down and let them know how their expectations are putting a lot of pressure on you and why it is so burdensome. The most important thing to remember is to give and take. As much as you’d like to talk about how much pressure you’re under, make sure you listen to what your parents have to say.
Being able talk about bothers you and also understand your parent’s reasons behind pressuring you will prove to your parents that you’re mature enough to think for yourself. Remember to tell them that you appreciate their input and also their encouragement but you’d also like to make up your own mind on matters related to your personal life.
There is a chance that your discussion with your parents may come to a stalemate. This is when you’ll have to reach out to other people. This can be members of your immediate family who know your mum and dad very well such as your grandparents or uncles and aunts. You can also call in a professional such as a family counsellor or therapist. This is not about looking for a person who will be on ‘your side’ but someone who will help oversee the talk with your parents, without bias.
Whatever happens, try to see the bigger picture. If what your parents want you to do will inconvenience you now but benefit you in the long run, why not give it a shot? Conversely, if you think your parents’ wishes are too strict or go against your beliefs, talk to them about it and let them know exactly how you feel.
Ultimately, it is best to find out why your parents are pushing you so hard to achieve something you think isn’t important. Knowing why they’re so insistent on a certain achievement can help you understand where they’re coming from. Furthermore, if you know their motives, you’ll be able to let them down gently if you decide to make up your own mind. Honesty is always the best policy in all relationships.