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Question: My parents are judgmental and expect a lot from me. I try to point it out, but they still won't stop. It just goes to the point where I'm overstressed and do crappy on my school assignments. What should I do?
Answer: Thank you for your question. Feeling pressure from parents to do well in school is one of the top stressors students report. When asked why they are putting so much pressure on their children, most parents say that they are just trying to help their children succeed in life. However, unreasonable parental expectations often have the opposite effect. Studies show that excessively demanding parents can undermine their children's self-worth and academic success. In addition, unrealistic parental expectation can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety and, in some instances, depression.
Although parents sometimes push too hard, most parents deeply care about their children. With that in mind, try to have one more conversation with your parents about how much stress and pressure their expectations are causing.
Here are a few tips on how to have a good conversation with your parents:
1. Prepare for your conversation. It can be hard to find the right words when you are discussing a difficult topic. Take some time and think about what you would like to say. You could write a letter to your parents explaining how you feel and use the letter to rehearse what you will say when you talk to them. Make sure you clearly communicate how you are feeling. You could say, "Mom and dad, I have been stressed out a lot lately. I have a hard time falling asleep because I worry, I'll disappoint you," or, "I panic every time I have a test. I can't think straight because I'm scared I won't do well enough, and you will be disappointed in me."
3. Address their concern and propose a solution. You may start by saying, "Mom and dad, I understand that you worried about my grades. I would also like to do well. But it's hard for me to have high grades in every subject." Try to focus on what your parents can do differently instead of telling them what they've done wrong. For example, you could say, “It’s really hard for me to get an A in math. I may need a tutor to help me understand a few things,” or, “I really want to do well at school, but I need to see someone to help me learn how to deal with stress better. Can we make an appointment with a psychologist?”
4. Find someone else who can talk to your parents on your behalf. If your parents are still not helpful, talk to someone you trust, like a teacher or a guidance counselor. Explain that you are under a lot of stress because you constantly worry about not living to your parents' high expectations, and, as a result, your school performance is starting to suffer. Ask them if they could sit down with your parents and help them understand how much pressure they are putting on you.
It's really important that you don't wait too long before talking either to your parents, a teacher or a guidance counselor. You need to get some help right away with managing your stress before it gets worse.
Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.