At their very best, they are supportive and understanding of the choices you make in life.
At their very worst (or as we think is the worst), they are unloving and adamant about a specific way to live life.
If you grow up in an Asian family (like I did) or any first generation immigrant family that expects a lot from its offspring, you'll hear stuff like "You must study hard to become a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer."
Well, my parents didn't come all the way from China and leave everything behind so that their children could have an unstable life without prosperity. Opportunities are abundant in America, but please take the safe choice.
Similarly, even if you have grown up in the states (or wherever you are from), there might still be certain expectations from your parents. How they want society to view you, why they want you to get a certain type of job, and what they think is in your best interest.
Here's what it boils down to:
They think you are an extension of themselves
This is very common in Chinese culture. The parents will humble brag about their daughter or son getting in a prestigious school like Harvard law and think they've done really well at parenting. But whether the child is actually happy in that career path is another matter.
It's likely that if your parents view you as an extension of themselves then their parents probably did the same to them. They never questioned this assumption.
Life is easier to view from this lens of what society's definition of success is. It's the stable, high status 6 figure job, with the picket-fenced house, married with 2 children, etc. type of thing.
It can be dangerous because once their child starts deviating from their expectations, the parents can feel like a f*** up. When really, it's fine that the child doesn't follow what the parents want and this shouldn't be a cause for any concern.
By this point, the child isn't a child anymore, but an adult that can think for them self.
They want stability for you in a tried and true path
Throughout their lifetime, they've clocked day in and day out at a 9-5 job they expect to stay until retirement. It didn't even matter if they are/were passionate about their job.
Even if they didn't work at a corporate job, most parents see the stability in a steady 9-5.
They want to make sure you have enough money to live off and not have to worry about potentially "failing in life".
But they are wrong, this is an illusion. There isn't job security anymore due to changes in the economy, how companies operate, and the rise of outsourcing.
Companies are no longer loyal to their employees. Employees no longer stay 40 years at one company either.
It wouldn't be surprising to have several more financial crises happen in our lifetime. These nationwide or even global events can put our lives and finances in a tailspin.
They fear what they don't know
Sometimes, the most challenging critics are not the voices of those who have no faces, but rather the people we hold dear to us.
In this case, perhaps very few people close to your parents have taken huge risks in their life. Or at least the people that they hold in high regard.
In addition, your parents might have secretly wanted to do certain things in life but never had the guts to go after it. Maybe other people criticized them for it and the dream just withered inside of them.
You going out there to pursue your biggest dream could make them feel threatened and question themselves on how they've lived their lives because they were too afraid or lazy to do what they secretly wanted.
When you are in the process of going after your dreams... How can you get your parents on your side?
It isn't going to be easy. Your parents have been on this earth for approximately 20ish - 30ish years longer than you. They are less malleable in their opinions and likely very set in their ways.
However, you should still try to communicate with them as hard as it is.
Here are three strategies you can try to get your parents on your side as you go after your dreams:
#1. Write them a letter (or email) explaining everything you are thinking and feeling.
You know how in conversations it's hard to remember everything that you want to say?
Sometimes, you get interrupted in the middle of a thought, then have to restart, or worse yet, go on a different tangent.
Through a carefully written letter, you can express your thoughts and feelings about going after your dream in a structured way so that nothing is left unturned. Also, writing will force a person to read it in a logical manner all the way through.
This works well with parents who don't listen well and like to interject.
After they read your letter, that's when you open up the discussion with your parents.
Another variation of this is writing your thoughts in a complete letter form or in bullet points form to memorize and review. While you don't have your parents read what you've written, you'll still be prepared for the discussion.
#2. Have an alliance with someone they really respect.
For example, this person could be another family member like an uncle or your older sibling. This ally is someone who is a huge supporter on what you are working on and will do their best to help with getting your parents to look at your situation from another perspective. A positive perspective that undoubtedly plants a seed in their minds over time.
In fact, if you have more than 1 ally to champion your cause, that's even better!
#3. Discuss with your parents into letting you try out your path for x amount of time.
Talk to your parents about letting you try out your own way for a year. If it doesn't work out in that time frame, then you are open to doing things their way.
This is a more compromised approach.
Feel free to try these strategies on their own or do a mix and match in whatever makes sense.
At the end of the day, if we aren't pushing ourselves to constantly grow, be challenged, and go after our dreams, it's such a waste of this beautiful life we've been given.
Ultimately, I do believe that parents who really care want what makes their children happy in the end. That's why they'll come around to letting you do your thing. It might take years though!
I hope you enjoyed this article!
Are you going through a career change? Then you'll want to grab my 3 free email templates to connect with people who can help you land a job you love.
If you are curious about my approach to helping 20 somethings like you figure out your career and helping you successfully transition, click here.