How to deal with pressure from your parents

Finding a balance between your parents/carers’ expectations of you and your own desires can feel like a constant battle. If they want you to take one path and you’re set on another, you might be feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Read on for some practical tips on how to deal with high expectations from parents and carers.

Remember: you're good enough

First up, it’s important to remember that you're all good, just as you are. What you choose to do with your life is important, but it doesn’t define your value as a person. It can help to work out what your strengths are. Take this free test to find your top five character strengths.

If you're struggling with feeling good about yourself, it also helps to practise positive self-talk. Find out how to do this here.

Try to understand where your parents/carers are coming from

It’s not a big deal that you and your parents have different ideas and expectations. What matters is how you solve with the situation. Their expectations are usually coming from the right place, they just want you to succeed or be happy. It might just be that their idea of what that looks like is very different from yours. Or, it might be related to their expectations of themselves.

If you think the bar they are setting is way too high, try talking to them about how it makes you feel. It can help to acknowledge this (even just to yourself).

Work on your communication skills

Having real talk with your parents/carers about what you want for your life can really work wonders. Kick start this by saying something like, ‘I understand why you want me to be a doctor, but I don’t think this matches my strengths or interests.’

Some other tips for having this conversation include:

  • Pick your moment, find a time when your parents/carers are free and chilled. Midweek can be a chaotic time, between work and school, everyone is a little fried. Tee up a quiet half hour on the weekend and tell your parents you’d like to have a talk.

  • Explain that you’re worried you can’t meet their expectations.

  • Tell them what you see for your future, even if the answer is “I don’t know.” Proving that you’re thinking about what’s next - even if you’re not sure - might make them feel more secure.

  • Listen to what they have to say.

  • If you feel you’re not getting anywhere, agree to disagree.

Check your own expectations

Make sure your own expectations of yourself aren’t too high. Having goals is great, but if you put heaps of pressure on yourself you’ll probably feel stressed. Check in with how you’re feeling and whether you’re being too hard on yourself. See how to set goals here and check in with how you’re going here.

What to do if it's really getting to you

Even if you follow all the tips above, your parents/carers might still be disappointed with the choices you make. If so, remember that there are probably other areas of your life that they’re stoked about.

Balancing your parents/carers’ expectations with your own can be tricky. If you’re really struggling, talk to another trusted adult or friend and get their take on it.

What can I do now?

  • Read up on how to handle conflict with family.

  • Trying to live up to expectations can be hard. Read up on our 5 steps for talking to someone you trust.