“You really have to let me fight my own battles. You can’t constantly second-guess me and try to protect me. It’s stifling.” (E.L. James, Fifty Shades Darker).
Have you ever heard words from your parents controlling your every move? “You are not allowed to date that girl/guy,” “There would be bad people holding guns outside,” “You would be kidnapped,” “You can’t protect yourself,” “You are too young to understand, just listen to me,” etc.
Growing up, I heard that all the time. I know they care about me and their way of expressing love is sometimes different from non-Asian parents. But sometimes, too much protection is too restraining, they make me anxious and dependent by disagreeing with my decisions and doubting my ideas.
My friend is facing a worse case.
My best friend is a girl earning straight A’s in school, working hard all the time, popular around groups and loved by everyone. Unexpectedly, her father made rules for his daughter. She is only allowed to hang out with her friends once a month, she is not allowed to talk to boys, and she’s not allowed to watch anime with bikinis.
There was one time we were planning to hang out one month ago, after asking both parents for their approval, we were really looking forward to it. But just in the morning of the hangout day, my friend’s dad suddenly “imprisoned” her for the excuse of “he doesn’t think going to a shopping place is safe for two girls alone.”
On the contrary, my friend watches every interesting anime she could find, eats lunch with boys every day, and she was regularly dating with her boyfriends. Her father’s rules do not work well on her, the strict orders from her father make her always feel uncomfortable, pressured, and sometimes, sad.
Overprotection, an issue occurring in a lot of Asian families. Parents constantly add pressure to their children in the name of love. As children raised in an Asian family or not, we know how that feels, understand the negative impact it brings on a child’s mental health. While compared to friends with more tolerant families, the feeling of unfairness, loneliness, and disappointment after useless communication with unsympathetic parents, depression develops over time.
Why is this so common in Asian families? The spirit of sacrifice to their loved ones among the society in Asia has greatly influenced the people raised there and their children after them. “望子成龙“, a traditional Chinese idiom refers to the parents hope their children to succeed in life. The idea of sacrificing for their children is historical, their atonement for their loved children has increased their fear of losing what they had lost for their child. Immigrate to a strange new country for their children’s better education; spend the whole life working to give everything they earned to their children, and don’t forget to sacrifice their own life and happiness had become astonishingly common.
You see, we commonly see Asian parents who immigrated to the United States abandoning their own life in their country only for their children to go to a better college. Afraid of their children not having an expected good life, the parents expect more and more of their children, they become more and more protective.
How do we help ourselves (the children)?
We always expect our parents to understand us. However, we rarely have communication with them after growing up, they would never know the real you by guessing and assuming. Talk to them, tell them about yourself, let them know if you are feeling uncomfortable. Nothing they expect for their children, whether it’s going to a top college or having a high respective job would matter if you are not healthy enough to make it worth. Help them understand that mental health would affect physical health.
Ask for help from others, talk to your friends, share your stories and discomfort, and call for help at any moment for any mental health if needed.
I am a lucky kid, my parents noticed I was constantly crying and having negative thoughts, they realized my mental health issue. We had a conversation, they decided to pressure me less, as long as my health is okay, they would leave me the freedom to choose, I got better.
A note for the parents: Overprotection is no longer protection to children. It might be the way your parents did, but a harmful way of education could not work for children as well.
Dear both parents and children: Listen. If you are just assuming who they are, be patient, and loving, try to understand them, trust them, and give them freedom. Do not make love become a burden on each other’s shoulders.