“Before opening any dialogue it is essential that you do a risk assesment. You must have a realistic grasp on what your parents’ culturally based reaction may be. You must know and be prepared to deal with any and all possible consequences, and where necessary have back up support in place. Although you may not adhere to the cultural practices of your parents, they do follow them and it is extremely important that you know what the worst case scenario may be. Don’t assume that parental bonds are stronger than cultural pressures, this is not always the case.”
Here are some of his tips:
1. Do not be confrontational in your behaviour. Do not go on the offensive. This conversation is going to be hard enough without giving your parents a good reason to justify being defensive.
2. Know and respect the rules of your parents’ culture and follow them to the very best of your ability when talking to them about your conflicts. For instance, if contradicting the wishes of ones parents is frowned upon in their culture open your conversation with something like this;
“I know that you see my bringing this up as disrespectful but that is not at all what I am trying to be, I just really need you to know what is going on in my life and how I feel about a few things.”
Make the issue more about you and your feelings than about culture.
3. Before telling them what it is about their culture that you don’t want in your life, list all of the things you embrace and/or respect. Make clear that your criticisms are not a blanket rejection of your heritage or of them.
4. Remain calm throughout the entire conversation even if it takes a turn you don’t like. If they start to get angry or shut off and stop listening, it is very important that you not punctuate this behavior with your own anger. Instead, stay calm and stop talking. Let them know that your feelings won’t change but that you can wait until later to discuss it further. Then wait until things have calmed down before you approach the topic again.
5. Do not attack your parents’ culture or practices, only express why they are not right for you or why you can’t embrace them as your own.
Thank you, Mike, for your great advice — and especially for this:
“Even the most horrendous practice is usually routed in a parent’s love and concern for their child’s survival within the culture. Different cultural pressures determine what practices a parent considers ‘essential’ and which fates they fear most for their child… Chances are good that they love you very much and want nothing more than to see you happy.”