We were all afraid of our parents at one some point or another. Some of us still are. And if you’re one of the millennials who lately have been the object of mystique and scorn from news outlets, then you probably have one of those helicopter parents they all keep talking about. You know, the parents who call your professor and dean if you get an A- in a class or who attend job interviews with you. I can’t believe this is a real thing or rather that it’s being portrayed as something normal. And here I thought my parents were very strict. They used to be. Now they’re just strict. Maybe that’s what happens when you grow up (I’m still considered one of those “strange”, “unmotivated”, and “super narcissistic” millennials though thanks to my birthdate.). I hope you’re picking up on how fed up I am on articles that like to over generalize my generation, but it happens to each generation I gather.
Anyway, my story isn’t so much that I couldn’t tell my parents what my dreams were, but rather I had a hard time telling them that I didn’t want to follow their specific dreams for me, which was to become a medical doctor or lawyer or politician. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I knew what I wanted to do as opposed to what I didn’t want to do, which is just as important.
I get it. We want to make our parents proud and have them acknowledge their pride in words or actions. However, we might actually be doing a great disservice to society, our parents, and ourselves if we don’t pursue our dreams and become the individuals we truly believe we can be.
So, if you’re in a predicament where you’re having a hard time communicating to your parents about your dreams or you’re afraid to even start a conversation because you’re thinking the worse possible outcome for such a talk, here are ten tips that I hope might help. Now, these tips are based on the premise that your parents are reasonable human beings. If you don’t think so, still read on. You might be surprised.
1.) Answer this question: Do you REALLY believe in your dream?
Before you can convince your parents that your dream matters, you first need to make sure that this dream actually matters to you. Evaluate your desires, inner motivation, and yourself holistically. Why is this dream important to you? Are you willing to sacrifice some comfort for this dream? Willing to endure pain, failure, and possibly ridicule? If you’re spiritually, mentally, and physically invested in your dream, then it makes it that much easier to communicate that dream to others, especially your parents. So, number one priority is to truly love and embrace your dream. Don’t pursue an endeavor because you think it’ll make your parents mad or you want to rebel or do whatever bs stupid kids do these days for parental payback. No, this needs to be real.
2.) See your parents as real people.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our parents are actually real people instead of these demi-gods or monsters that want to control and make our lives miserable. Parents, like everyone else, have their fears, hopes, weaknesses, and strengths. They too were young with dreams of their own, so hopefully they can dig deep and remember that. Meet your parents halfway by understanding and acknowledging whatever fears and worries they may have for your future. Let them know you appreciate and care about their concerns. Take some time to observe their faces and body movements, the extra lines on their faces, the signs of aging, and the points of vulnerability. Go deeper and look into their souls. Something will happen. You’ll see them. This will help create a real connection—not just between parent and child—but also between two people who have to live in this harsh, unpredictable world of ours.
3.) Choose to be honest with your parents and yourself.
Have you ever had to deliver difficult news so you added white lies here and there to lessen the blow? When it comes to your dream, it’s best to be honest completely. Don’t sugarcoat the delivery or say things that will please your parents because it avoids conflict or delays a difficult conversation. However, if your parents are really sensitive to big news, deliver it piece by piece in honest chunks. And if your parents inquire the whole truth, let them know.
4.) Write a letter to your parents if conversations are too hard or unbearable.
When I discovered that my father refused to let me get a meaningful word in our conversations, I decided to write him letters. I clearly communicated my thoughts, feelings, and views on a certain situation whether it involved my moving to Korea or deciding not to attend a medical school. I was able to outline my reasons without any interruptions. Best part? I got my point across and it hit home, making sense to my father. When writing these letters, try not to be confrontational or defensive, but be honest about your feeling if your parents have hurt you with their words or lack of support. Just speak your mind without hiding anything or using indirect speech.
5.) Don’t wait until you get your parents’ approval to start your working on your dream. You should’ve started yesterday.
Begin now in whatever way or capacity you can to build your dream—even if it’s something simple. Everyone knows that action speaks louder than words. Parents might soften a staunch stance against your dream if they see you sincerely working hard at it. Be active. Don’t be wishy-washy—starting, and then stopping for four months, starting, and then stopping again.
6.) Which brings me to this: make your dreams a constant and visible part of your life.
Let whatever you’re working have a constant presence. Talk about the activities for your dream during dinner or on a drive. Mention milestones you’ve accomplished. Mention even the difficulties. Keep your parents updated on your dream even if they show or feign disinterest. Humans can get used to just about anything. Your parents are humans remember? Get them acclimated to your dream.
7.) Get outside support.
Everyone knows the kid with the really crazy parents—the ones who actually do mean it when they threaten to disown you for not doing and being A, B, or C. If you feel that your parents hover in this vicinity, make an effort to find outside support whether it’s close friends, cousins, other supporting family members, godparents, co-workers, mentors, etc. You can’t build your dream alone, although you can try. However, having some sort of support can provide that extra push you need to get where you want to be.
8.) Don’t give up even it’s hard. Finish.
You’ve decided to become an author, start your own online company, travel the world through woofing, become a musician, and on and on and on. Oh, how great it would be if it were easy to make our dreams come true. But, it’s not. The best things in life are never easy to come by unless you’re ridiculously lucky. So yes, it takes hard work, suffering, discomfort, failure, discouragement, and so forth to make something of value happen. BUT, it is worth it so never ever give up. Show your parents that you’re really into this. More importantly, show yourself that you’re really into this and willing to see it to the end.
9.) This is your life.
No matter how much we may want to please our parents and make them happy according to their terms, at the end of the day, at the end of your years, it is your life. You and you alone can make the decisions to bring your life where it should be. You have to be unyielding in this area. Nobody can force you to do something unless you allow him or her to. If your parents have given you a script to follow blindly, edit that script, or even better, throw it away and write your own. Always remember you have a choice.
10.) Think about the big picture of your dreams.
What is the grand picture for your dream? What is its higher purpose? Will this dream become bigger than yourself, bigger than your parents and their expectations, bigger than all you’ve known till now? How will you be changing the world if this dream comes true? Who beside yourself will benefit when you make it? Asking and dwelling on these questions will help you stay on task and bolster your inner motivation. Thinking about the big picture might open your eyes to the fact that it’s okay to allow your parent to experience some discomfort and disagreement as you pursue a path they don’t believe in. Also, your parents won’t die if you pursue this dream. You might be surprised at how they can become your biggest cheerleaders when you make your dream come true.
So, what do you think? What advice do you have for anyone out there with unsupportive parents? I’d love to hear your thoughts!