Out of all the relationships we have in a lifetime those with our parents can be the most sensitive. Especially, when we are not able to see and share our lives easily with them. We are not the children, regardless of age, that we were before we moved away. There is a lot they will not understand regarding the hardships we have faced and the new social rules that we have to play by in a different country to survive.
There is a lot we could say about our parents and not all of it is nice. Some of us have this relationship with our parents where we can them anything and speak to them every day. Others of wish that could happen and some of us wish we never met them. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder but with one’s family that is not always the case.
Children, as they grow up, want to make their parents proud of them. But as adults things change. Not all of us want to follow the same paths that our parents dreamed of and expected for us. When we try to explain this to them, this can cause friction. And, to be honest, for us to be authentically ourselves, our parents may never approve of how we live our lives. We can’t change people who are stuck in their own beliefs. But we can change how we react to those outside beliefs. Or find the places that we can be together which won’t cause us to have painful triggers because we don’t have this acceptance.
Boundaries and Centering in our Identity
It is important that all of us, as individuals, follow our own values and create a lifestyle that suits us best. However, this becomes harder when we are in relationships with others. This does not need to be a black and white situation. Your parents don’t need to be just like you and value what you value. The same for the reverse. In relationships, it is important to find the compromise or the gray area.
When we are able to have that gray area and be fine with it. We have healthy boundaries within our relationship. Healthy boundaries mean that someone can disagree with your decision or opinion while at the same time, not having that decision becoming a mortal wound to the relationship. This means that all members of the family can have their owns lives and make their own mistakes without creating a downfall for the entire family.
Dealing with the Reaction
Our parents may feel from the initial announcement that it may be the downfall of the family. Understand that those reactions in the beginning, most likely come from a lot of fear and insecurity of the future. If you know your parents genuinely care for you, don’t let their initial reaction scare you or create a permanent rift in your relationship with them. Let them have their feelings and space to process the news. You do not need to be present for their processing. During this time, take care of yourself and seek out those that you find most supportive.
At the end of the day, know that the hardest part is over. You were honest. Understand that what happens next we may not have full control over. You are following the values that are right for you. If you live your life for someone else all the time, you may be stable but you may never be happy. When we talked last week about action, we talked about the winding road. There are successes and failures in every journey. Enjoy the process of you trying to get where you want to be and learn from these hardships. They may never fully understand why you needed to make the decision you needed to make.
It is up to you what type of relationship you want with your parents. Again, you cannot control how they are and how they react. You can decide how much you interact with them and for how long. You can set boundaries with your parents on what you’re willing to discuss. You do not need to accept being called names by your parents or any other type of abuse.
You are a long way from home and if your parents are far this may be easier for you then for others. If you are not sure what your boundaries are, take some time to reflect on this before having a discussion with them. When you know what they are. Set your boundaries. And stick with them. In the beginning, it is always hard. But there may be a chance that your relationship with your parents improves. Or at least you may not feel so resentful of them. You may not feel so trapped by them.
With this said, it is, also, a compromise. Not that you are compromising your boundaries but to have a relationship there is a give and a take on things. Talk to them about what is really important to them about their relationship with you. Expectations that are parents have of us are not just how it looks upon them but its how they know that the day they are gone that they know we will be fine. So maybe instead of having 10 interactions by phone for a minute or two a day. Set up a time to have a real conversation about what’s happening in each other’s lives. Distance can be hard on everyone. Find a compromise that all parties can learn to accept.
The Biggest Threat
This brings up a more difficult topic. When parents refuse to compromise. When they have no respect for your decision at all and threaten to break total contact with you. For a lot of us this is the scariest thing that could happen and it is a very real possibility for some of us. The choice is yours how much you let your parents know about your life. That is also part of setting boundaries. Being able to choose when and when not to disclose information. Boundaries are part of what keep us safe. Do what feels right for you and your situation.
And By the Way!
My name is Tara. I am a licensed clinical social worker who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you are interested in a free 15 consultation with me, click here!