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Parental expectations and me

parental expectations
✍ By Dr Subhash Chandra Sharma, 5th March, 2023

The Unavoidable consequences of unreal parental expectations 

My parents have a distinct parenting style that sets them apart from my sibling’s parents. I have some freedoms they never had while they were growing up, but I still don’t feel like I’m getting the same amount of trust or affection. I’m frequently labelled as being ‘mature for my age’, even though I’m still just a kid. I’ve picked up a lot by studying my siblings and learning from their actions, earning me the reputation for being a “sensible child”. It seems like my siblings have always resented me over the years, believing that I have been the recipient of more affection from our parents when we were young. Was I really the one to be faulted for the unfair approach our parents took?

I was born into a big family with two older siblings- one 4 years apart from me and the other 6. This enabled me to have a front-row view of all the tricks they pulled and helped me learn the tips and advice for navigating the world. By being exposed to this type of knowledge at a young age, I was able to comprehend things that many people don’t understand until they are much older. Thus, by the time they were 18, I had already figured out certain concepts that I had immersed myself in when I was only 12 or 13. I witnessed the tension between my sister and our parents when she was sent to rehab at the age of 18, which shook our family dynamic. It could be that the amount of stress and expectation our parents placed on my sister was simply too much for her to handle, which led to her becoming dependent on substances. It was very clear that she was feeling guilty, and this made me conscious that I didn’t want to take the same path as her. It’s understandable that our parents had expectations for her, which would result in our well-being in the long run. However, this had an adverse effect on her in multiple facets of her life.

My other brother was sometimes overshadowed within our family. Our parents weren’t exactly invested in him, which made his bond with our sister all the more special. When she was forced to go to rehab, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under him. His mental state worsened, and he required support. Unfortunately, our parents dismissed the idea of sending him for therapy and disregarded his battle despite witnessing it all. This experience made me understand that it’s unlikely that my parents would appreciate my mental health, and this realization made me hesitant to tell my folks about my innermost feelings because I no longer felt sure that I could trust them. My insecurity to open up about things may have caused me to suppress my feelings, leading people to think that I’m “emotionally robust”.

Everyone talks about how the youngest gets special treatment and is the favourite, but what they forget is the fact that we’ve all had to grow up faster than necessary just to feel accepted. We can convince ourselves that we are mature to the point that we think we are ready when in reality, it is our desire to be accepted that drives us. It can feel like no matter what I do, someone else always excels beyond me. I strive never to let them down, yet the expectations placed upon me can be intense and can lead to me feeling like a rock is being placed on my shoulders, seemingly getting heavier each day. It sometimes worries me that if I fail them, I could see the same look of discouragement my mother had when she heard about my sister or the disappointment my dad radiated after my brother confided in him about his mental health. A sense of motivation to strive for excellence in everything I do has been engendered in me so that I can experience acceptance from my parents and siblings, rather than encountering discontentment or disapproval.

Even though parents are not able to guarantee their children will find contentment, they should provide them with the tools and support needed to locate happiness on their own. The lofty standards set by parents can be challenging for children, leading to issues like raised stress levels and even anxiety. This can seriously reduce the likelihood of the child forming a sunny outlook on life and the ability to work through issues. Unhappy results of too-heavy parental expectations include diminished grades, low confidence, and a flood of emotions beyond anyone’s control. Parents should remain optimistic and realistic when inspiring their children towards potential future success. Kids are one-of-a-kind and possess their own interests, standards and preferences and grow over time- not weeks or months. Children are capable of making many of their own choices when it comes to their adult lives despite parental involvement. Parental guidance should be focused on helping youngsters develop into mature, emotionally stable grown-ups – not ideal adults completely familiar with the intricacies of adult life. 

  • Dr Subhash Chandra Sharma

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