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My Parents Don't Approve of My Major

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I'm a junior in high school who has just decided to switch my planned major from pre-medicine to French Education. After a lot of thought, I've decided that this is the right decision for me. This news wasn't welcomed by my parents, who have been dreaming of cherry red Lincoln towncars and Florida retirement homes. For the past three years, I've taken the classes that my parents chose for me. Now, with this new goal, I'm going to have to change my schedule to meet the requirements for college. How do I please my parents and keep my schedule open to my new plans?

A: I applaud your decision to pursue an academic course of studies based upon your interests, instead of your parents'. I'm sure that this difficult decision has resulted in considerable disappointment on your parents' part and a current atmosphere of tension within your household. Your sarcasm related to their wanting you to be a medical doctor suggests that you thought their principle motivation in pushing you to be a doctor was so that they could reap the economic rewards of your salary. I would guess that there might be a lot more that's wrong with your relationship with your parents than this disagreement.

Any college will understand your changing your career goals and shifting the focus of your remaining high school electives based upon your desire to major in French Education. The advice of a savvy high school guidance counselor, in addition to information you can obtain from college admissions offices and collegiate French Education departments, will assist you in selecting the best courses for the remainder of your high school education. If necessary, you may always take high school or collegiate summer courses in addition to those courses offered at your high school during the regular school year. Colleges will not penalize you because you have not had a certain number of advanced courses related to your projected college major. They will, however, be impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication you now show related to your interest in French Education.

Your biggest problem is not your eventual acceptance to a college to pursue French Education studies, but your relationship with your parents. You need to make peace with your parents, and they need to accept and respect your change of academic focus and present career orientation.

I would seriously recommend some family therapy...for everyone's sake. There are too many hurt feelings and disappointments within your family to leave unattended. Your relationship with your parents is not going to get better on its own. If you still try to please them somehow, while eagerly pursuing a life path of which they don't approve, you will inflict more emotional harm on yourself. If they will not see a therapist with you, see one on your own. You need all the encouragement and support that you can find. Please seek that support from as many family members, friends, and teachers as you can.

Your parents appear to have established unrealistic expectations for you regarding your future career choice and until recently you felt obligated and trapped by those expectations. It will take some time to reestablish a relationship with them that is based upon mutual respect and trust. I hope that you are all willing to put in the work to accomplish this goal.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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