In most families, there is a generation gap between parents and their children. It is not just because of the age difference, but also because of how the older generation reacts to a certain scenario. Children, who are still young and immature, cannot grasp their way of thinking. Some believe that their parents should demonstrate greater trust and offer them more freedom, but they also understand that they’re simply concerned about their safety and well-being.
In many situations, even mature parents may not understand the shifting values and thinking patterns of modern society. This causes a schism in communication between these two generations. With that being said, I interviewed five people from the younger generations to talk about their thoughts and experiences with the older generations. They were also given the chance to share what they’d like to tell the older generations that are reading this to hopefully promote a better understanding between both generations.
“We want to carve our own path to the future of our dreams.”
Parents have a significant effect on their children’s job growth and career decisions. Parents want their children to be happy and successful in life, and career choice is one aspect that promotes that. According to Keller (2004), when children feel supported and loved by their parents, they have greater confidence in their abilities to look at different careers and select one that is intriguing and exciting. This is significant because research shows that teenagers who feel competent in professional decision-making make more fulfilling employment choices later in life. Parents impact their children’s degree of education or training, their understanding of work and other vocations, their views and attitudes toward work, and their drive to succeed. The majority of this is learned unconsciously; as toddlers and teens get older, they internalize their parents’ attitudes and expectations of them.
However, many parents frequently participate in the decision-making process and will go to any length to ensure that their child pursues the “perfect” career path. Parents who choose their child’s jobs are more likely to be supportive of their child’s future. Many parents who have failed in the past set them on their children, and seem to relive their aspirations in their children. The parent then goes to great lengths to guarantee that their child has the life they wish they could have by overpaying on opportunities to assure success in that field.
An interviewee, who prefers to use the alias ‘Sandy’, has shared her experiences with her parents when it comes to choosing a career: “During college, I pursued an art-related degree and my dad would always say ‘make sure you earn a big income from that.’ Truth be told, arts is not a very lucrative career, so I had to take a business course later on to meet his expectations of earning more.”
She even added, “If only I had his full support in the arts, and appreciate it how I do, and not focus on the income or the money, would be really nice. That even if it’s such a struggle, knowing someone supports me is a good enough motivation to keep going.”
From this, it’s clear that while parents seem to know what will lead to a bright future, it is possible that the contrary is true. Children are more self-aware than anybody else, even their parents. Children who choose their own job pathways are preparing for a future that they are interested in. After all, it is up to the child to make the decision because it is their future and their life that is at stake. Even if a child’s parents do not initially embrace the child’s professional decision, they will ultimately come to accept it and support the child, because that is what family is for.
Lindsey Yu, a Communication Technology Management Student at the Ateneo de Manila University, is grateful for her parents’ support and has noted that she has never felt pressure from them to choose a certain career path. She noted, “I’m lucky that my parents allow me to pursue whatever I’m passionate about. Of course, they aren’t exempt from being the loving parents that they are, wanting me to become a doctor or a lawyer, or even taking over the family business. But all of this was rooted in one thing; their desire to see me successful and comfortable with my finances. At the end of the day, all they really want is to see me happy; and if I decide that this can only be done by pursuing my own passions, then my parents are more than willing to support my dreams. I only ever want to say my thanks for sending me to the best schools that they could and allowing me to grab ahold of my own future.”
“We want to create our success on our own terms.”
Planning for business succession may be difficult. It’s a concern shared by many parents with businesses, and it’s true that children frequently feel this pressure— even if their parents don’t actively apply it to them. Although some parents are clear that they want their children to pursue their own interests, some children are concerned that they’d hurt their parents’ feelings if they didn’t get into the business. They feel like doing something different would be abandoning what their parents had been working on their whole life. At that point, it’s more than simply a business decision as feelings and emotions are involved.
However, situations like this can be prevented. It’s important for parents and their children to sit down and have an open and honest discussion with them about their life goals, their career path, etc. It’s important as well that, regardless of what they say, their decisions and feelings must be validated and respected.
Sophia Tan, a Communication Technology Management Student at the Ateneo de Manila University, talked about her experience with her parents and how she believes that even though taking over the family business is an “easier” route, it’s much more fulfilling to pursue what she is truly passionate about in life. She said, “They don’t pressure us, but they do keep the option open. One thing in my family is that they don’t really like the idea of ‘handing down success’. If you don’t work hard for something, you’ll never cherish it. And if you don’t cherish your work, you’ll fail. Of course, they would also like it if we took over since it makes life easier for us, but at the same time, If we can’t be passionate about my family’s business, then all that hand-me-down comfort will easily go down the drain. So if I were to say something to them about it, it would be just me being thankful for them giving us a choice to choose to either succeed them or to create our own success.”
Lindsey also has a similar experience to Sophia. She shares, “We actually have a hardware store in Caloocan City, and I spent a few of my summers handing out change and counting inventory. I was offered the opportunity to take over the family business, but I simply don’t see myself doing it in the long term. It was never something forced upon me, and I will always be grateful that I’m not limited in the career options I can take in the future. What’s funny, though, is that the offer to take over the hardware still stands to this day.”
“We want to be given the freedom to love who we want to love.”
I’m sure everyone has heard about it— the so-called “the great wall” in relationships. The great wall illustrates how Chinoys are sometimes discouraged from dating someone of other ancestries. The fundamental reason for building the Great Wall is to preserve culture and tradition, which explains the evident preference for Chinoys over non-Chinoys.
Sandy even talked about her experience with “the great wall” and dating: “Like most Chinese parents, I was only supposed to date Chinoys. Even if there were Filipino suitors I had to turn them down (though I liked them back). But right now I’m with a Chinoy boyfriend and everything is smooth sailing since he is approved by my parents.”
As a result of the great wall, some couples have to be separated due to this as it can be difficult for them to overcome or “climb” the great wall. This predicament is not limited to these couples; it may occur in any relationship. Some understand that love does not always imply attachment. It is sometimes necessary to let go. After all, Chinoys are just like everyone else. They desire the best for their family members. However, they sometimes lose sight of what is vital because of what they feel is most important.
It’s a combination of ancestry and culture for many. However, sometimes, if they see how happy and cherished a family member is, even the most conservative members of the family will gradually stop caring whether the other is Chinoy or not. It won’t be easy, but it does happen. In this way, the great wall should not govern one’s love, and the same goes for their family’s affection. Yes, relationships have varied consequences. But, as corny as it sounds, if there is mutual love, respect, and openness, ethnicity and the great wall are irrelevant. We all have walls, whether we are Chinese or not, yet will never be bigger than love.
Sandy added to her statement that if she had the chance to talk to her parents about it, she would say this: “If only you were open about Filipino suitors, I would have said yes to some potential men who were not only good and kind, but successful now in their fields.”
Kyle Liong, a motoring journalist and an AB Diplomacy and International Relations graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, stated this as well in regards to the topic: “The days of seeing a race to be a differentiating factor among people are over and that we must look at other qualities that define a person. Personality, of course, should be the number one factor. There are good Chinoys, and bad Chinoys. This is well accepted. They must however also accept that the same applies to non-Chinoys.”
Lindsey, who used to have the great wall, notes that she is now free to date whoever she wants and she is grateful to her parents for that. This emphasizes the importance of parents letting their children date freely. She said, “I was just lucky enough that my siblings are already married to Chinese people, so I’m pretty free to choose who I wish to date. My mom actually knows who I’m currently interested in. As usual, she asked if the person was Chinese. When I responded with a no, she just laughed it off and said, ‘as long as he treats you kindly, then it’s all fine.’ I feel like I’ve only been saying thanks all this time, but it’s really all I can ever say to my parents. Others might not understand how important their opinions are with regards to their children’s own decisions, so hearing my mom support me without prejudice is really heartwarming.”
“We want to be heard and understood when we are going through something.”
Dealing with depression, anxiety, or other major concerns is difficult for anyone. It’s even more difficult alone. For the younger generations, the first step toward feeling better is admitting to their parents that they need help. However, having that discussion might feel daunting.
Selina Tan, a Medicine student at FEU-NRMF, even noted that it’s not talked about at all. She said, “Since I’m the eldest, they have so many expectations of me. So, any mistake I do will get me in trouble for it. I often get yelled at when I’m being sad or having trouble with some stuff. I generally keep things to myself now.”
The younger generations are concerned that their parents won’t understand. Or that they will be let by them. Comments like, “we’ve given you everything that you want and need, why are you depressed?” or “there are people with worse situations, you have no right to feel that way” invalidate what they’re going through and make the situation worse as they will be hesitant to seek any help even if they need it.
Sophia Tan shared her experiences with her parents making certain comments like that regarding mental health and how it often causes a lot of arguments. She said, “We both grew up under different circumstances— my mom had to learn how to be tough at a young age while I was free to indulge in safety and comfort. So there were lots of times when our personalities clashed since I would sometimes feel restricted when she would force me to do things (eg: work in the office, do house chores, etc). These fights were usually during my childhood since she always pushed a heavy sense of responsibility on my brother and me early on—which made us feel like we lost our chance to enjoy our childhood. Though nowadays, we are working towards a middle ground, I should learn to be less sensitive, while she learned to be more sensitive. Now she is more careful with her words and actions around me and I’ve learned to always hold onto my emotions before lashing out, which really helped lessen misunderstandings.”
She later adds that we shouldn’t take their comments to heart, even if it hurts. She states, “If you feel offended over something your parents said, just say you’re hurt by what they said, say it as it is, and don’t beat around the bush—giving sarcastic comebacks and unclear statements. They may laugh at you for it but don’t let it affect you since at least you are trying to be the better person and giving them a chance to connect with you. You can even ask them why they say said those things, what they meant to say. Ask them to simplify and expound on their thoughts. Essentially, (as bad as it may sound now) force yourself to understand them—because you can either grow up and be the mature one or stay and be immature with them.”
As such, this is a reminder for the younger and older generations that it is the parent’s responsibility to help and love you no matter what. They may have already realized that you don’t appear to be yourself. Telling them might actually relieve some of their stress since they will understand what is going on. Parents typically handle it better than you’d think.
Lindsey talks more about her experience with mental health and how her parents were there to guide and support her in their own way. She shared, “I think it’s a common idea that mental health is a difficult topic to bring up in a Chinese household. Up to this day, I can never fully confide in my family about it due to its sensitive nature, as well as my own fears that they wouldn’t be able to understand its weight. I don’t want to force the idea onto them, especially since it wasn’t something they commonly saw in their generation. My most significant experience expressing my difficulties was when I asked for breaks in school, and I could never fully explain to them what the breaks were for. I think it was my mother’s instinct, but my mom somehow knew how important this was to me. She never hesitated in allowing me to take a day off school every now and then, preparing me with my favorite comfort food and lending an ear to listen. I have yet to take solace in the latter, but I’m forever grateful to my mom for offering such an incomparable love.”
In all these different aspects—career, business, love, and mental health—one thing is clear: all the younger generations ask for is to be understood and for their decisions to be respected. It is not always simple, but a willingness to understand strengthens healthy love. And we hope that through this article, you were able to understand the younger generations more.