This article is presented in partnership with Red Rose® tea.
Uncomfortable conversations with your parents are a rite of passage. If you've managed to get through life without having at least one difficult exchange, count your lucky stars because most of us aren't that fortunate.
Holidays, in particular, tend to breed even more awkward encounters. Families gather after time apart, emotions run high and life-changing news is often shared during these brief reunions. A survey* conducted by Red Rose® tea found that the majority of Canadians (58 per cent) have avoided having tough conversations, citing preserving a person's feelings was the top reason for doing so.
But there are ways to make these tough conversations easier. Here are stories from Canadians who mustered up the courage to face them head-on. Some of these are uncomfortable, some hilarious and heartwarming but all inspire us to take that big step this holiday season and have conversations we're sometimes scared to have.
As the first born of two engineering graduates, my mother's dreams for me always consisted of going to law school or pursuing the sciences. Telling them I wanted to pursue journalism instead, was never an option.
I remember the day vividly: I needed my parents to sign my Grade 12 course selection form, which included English-intensive courses and didn't include any sciences or maths. When my mother came to realize this, it was probably the angriest she'd ever gotten when it came to my education and choices.
"You're taking chemistry and biology in summer school," she yelled.
"No, I'm not!" I retaliated, "I don't want to go into sciences! I want to write!"
"You're taking them in summer school!"
"No, I'm not! That's a waste of time! I don't need them for university."
Back and forth, back and forth, we were just two broken records of frustrations, expectations, and borderline tears.
Eventually she calmed down and signed my form, as I promised to prove to her I would keep my grades up and work hard, no matter my program.
While it was pretty hard trying to figure out what I wanted to do while my mother had expectations of what I should do, that conversation really was a turning point in making me want to work even harder for what I wanted and to prove to my parents I would be just fine.
So that's why today, after a bit of fast-forwarding, I own a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University. And my parents? They're both pretty proud.
When I was 17 years old I sat in my kitchen, practically bawling my eyes out, and told my parents "I don't want to go to university." I wanted to work, save money, and travel. The idea of burying myself in books, studying subjects that I felt wouldn't take me to the end point I desired...it lacked energy for me.
I wanted to be out photographing nature. I wanted to be part of the broader spectrum of the world and feel liberated from the manufactured structure of careers and families. I wanted to do something entirely for myself. I craved individuality.
My father sat through my crying and explained to me why getting my degree was going to be good for my resume, why the pursuit of a bachelor's degree would give me the advantage, would fit me into the mold and would give me the opportunities he never had growing up in an Italian family whose eldest son had to take responsibility rather than prioritize his own education. The thought of relinquishing a chance at university lacked logic for my father.
So I gave up my fight and went. I know. Anti-climactic right?
I was able to convince my parents to let me live away from home. It was the closest thing I could get to travel and something my other Italian friends would never have dared to ask their parents. It was a consolation prize on their part. It didn't impress Nonna, but it was the best compromise I could have gotten and I was incredibly lucky to have had it.
A year after graduation, when I told them I'd be moving abroad to teach English in South Korea so that I could save up my money to travel, neither made a peep. No questions. No comments about how it would disadvantage me. It wasn't relevant experience to a job industry that would await me when I returned. It wasn't anything they would have even considered doing in their lifetime.
It was the meter of trust I'd asked for years before, returned to me intact.
It was approval in its fullest form.
Growing up, the idea of moving out after college or university was never really an idea my parents wanted to entertain. As an immigrant family from the Philippines, the expectation especially for young women is to live with your parents until you're married or at least, engaged.
My parents knew that I wanted to move out and I started to talk about it more and more as I approached graduation as a way to normalize the idea. Along the way, when the topic would come up, my parents always had counter-arguments to all of my motivators for moving out. They were quick to tell me to wait until I graduated. When I graduated, they told me to wait until I was employed. Once I was employed, they told me to wait until I had paid my student loans.
When the time finally came to start seriously discussing finding an apartment, to my surprise, I was still met with such resistance from both my parents. After an exasperating conversation I finally said it out loud: "I got my degree. I have a full time job. I paid my entire student loan within two years. What more do I have to do?"
Fast-forward to a few months later: With the help and support from my parents, I've moved out from their house and have started settling into my own apartment in the city. While the initial conversation was difficult, I really do believe that was the turning point for my parents. After that, they accepted that I wouldn't change my mind, and instead of fighting me on it, opted to help me find nice, clean and safe apartment they were comfortable with me living in.
*From September 20 to September 21, 2017 an online survey was conducted among 1,515 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results were statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.