Interaction with South Asian Parents

Interaction with South Asian Parents

Talking to parents or guardians can be a difficult task. We always think “How will they react?” Below are possible outcomes that can emerge from your conversation, as well as ways to respond in a manner that may guide you towards a positive end result.

“What if they are sad or disappointed?”

Parents feel this way intrinsically due to the fact that they establish a mindset where they have failed you. In this situation, parents often blame themselves for how their child feels, and try to find out what they could have done differently to prevent you from going through these experiences. They need time to sort through the information that you have given them in order to assist you.

Remember that you are not disappointing your parents, and they are not upset with you, but rather they are upset with the situation. To help them respond appropriately, thinking through and explaining fears about why this specific reaction can add to your struggle will allow them to approach in a different manner. Shifting the blame away from them, only if they have not been directly affecting your mental health in a negative way, can help both parties from adding negativity to the situation. When your parents become aware that they are not at fault, it becomes easier to reach out and have them understand why you need support at this time.

“What if they are angry and don’t take me seriously?”

This is a common initial reaction that many parents elicit once they realize what their child is going through. Denial and anger are coping mechanisms to shift the blame away from them and onto something else. They may also have preconceived notions about what reaching out for help means. If they dismiss your feelings, it is easy to become frustrated, however explaining the reason behind your feelings can give them insight towards your reality. Your feelings are valid regardless of their dismissal and it is important to speak up for yourself. If they continue to establish the unimportance of your emotions, it may be time to talk to a different trusted adult or friend.

“What if they ask too many questions?”

When your parents are upset and afraid, they are bound to ask questions. This is an opportunity that they will seize in order to understand what you’re feeling. You do not need to share everything if you do not feel comfortable doing so. It is also difficult to reflect your feelings into words sometimes, so divulging every detail all at once might do more harm than good. Staggering information through multiple conversations can help you understand your own feelings further as well as giving you the option to not be overwhelmed with a lot of questions. You do not need to answer questions that you do not want to, however exploring the reason as to why that is may be important, as it could be a hidden reason behind your feelings.

“What if I’m furthering their burden and bringing shame to our family?”

Your well-being and health are held to a high importance for your parents. Whether they choose to show these feelings or not, you deserve the attention that is required from them in order to help you reach a solution. The belief behind “burdens” being attached to the act of sharing your feelings is often misplaced. Pain and struggle are important feelings to address, and your experience is both valid and worthy of their time. The issues that are in front of you may seem trivial compared to what your parents have gone through, however each situation is different. When you witness someone who is happy, society does not say “There are happier people out there so your feelings are not valid.” This same mentality should be followed through when talking about struggles. Diminishing this barrier behind furthering burden and bringing shame will allow you to develop resilience and strength when you decide to start a conversation. Reaching out is not shameful, and your parents may not realize that this is a healthy option due to the scarcity of resources that they had access to. Allow to give yourself space to speak up, because you do not need to go along with this alone.

“What if one, or both, of my parents are the reason behind my struggle?”

Within the South Asian community, the general conclusion that is drawn is that parents are sometimes the reason behind the struggles an individual goes through. It becomes difficult to open up and confront those who have negatively affected your mental health.

If you trust one parent, make sure that dependability is established before the conversation starts. Ask them to not share any information with the other parent, as this can only aggravate your current situation. If they are not comfortable keeping this information private, they may not be the best person to turn to at this moment.

When both parents are the reason behind your mental health struggles, your home environment can seem lonely as there is no one within reach to turn to. Take this opportunity to confide within another trusted individual. This person can be within your household who has not been directly involved within your struggle, or this can be another individual you trust.

If cases of domestic violence and/or abuse are behind the cause of your struggle, visit​ for information on steps you are able to take, as well learning about the effects behind certain actions that can be taken.

“What if they don’t believe me?”

More often than not, parents tend to label your struggle as insincere due to the fact that is it not a physical wound that can be seen. It becomes more complicated to explain what goes on internally when no one else has gone through a similar situation. Under this circumstance, reinforcing the importance of accessing resources for yourself is crucial. When others dismiss your efforts to reach out, question why this is. Understanding the opposing point of view can allow you to help educate your parents about your internal conflicts. Without educating your parents, there is no way for them to be fully equipped in order to help you. Although it is not your job to educate others about your own struggle, introducing these difficult topics can help address future issues. Phrases such as

“I understand where you’re coming from, and I would appreciate it if you took the time to hear what I think about this.”

“These are ways you can educate yourself in order to help me in the future.”

“I understand that you cannot physically see my struggle, but this is negatively affecting my mental health.”

“My mental health is just as valid as my physical health, and I am asking for your support.”

can open up opportunities for a more in-depth conversation about your mental health. If they choose to ignore your problems, remember that this does not get rid of them. Ignorance from their end does not need to reflect on your end as well. By not validating your struggle, your parents do not take away the importance and legitimacy away from what you feel. At this point, reaching out to other resources will still set you up towards the right path when support at home is not going to be available.