Dear Thelma: My overprotective parents are stifling me – how do I become an adult?

I am an 18-year-old girl, and I started college some months ago. I am an only child and come from a conservative family.

My parents love me so much and are very protective. Sending me to a matriculation college in another state was difficult for them as they miss me a lot. I miss them too and I am lucky that they take me home every week.I am a bright student and have always excelled in school. However, things are different in college. I guess I am homesick because life there is certainly not easy; I have to bear with water shortage, poor cleanliness and the lack of clean food. I do not feel like myself.

I do not feel as if I can tell them every single thing in my life since they are so conservative. I am afraid of how they would react to things.

But if I have to, most of the time I confide in my mother as she is the more understanding parent.

I am not allowed to have social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Nor am I allowed to upload photos of myself on the few social media accounts I already have.

I do not argue with them about this as I know it is for my own good. They are just trying to protect me. I do not disobey them as I do not want to hurt them or make them lose trust in me.

Some teens are able to open up to their parents about everything as they are very open-minded. When I was in school, I would have been lucky if I could casually tell my parents that I was chatting with a guy friend on WhatsApp. I am still not allowed to have a boyfriend although I am 18.

But I agree with that as I only plan to start dating after I finish my degree. However, my parents have improved a lot now and allow me to be more friendly with boys in my college as they know they can trust me. Sometimes I feel lonely as I do not have siblings to talk to. Some things are too personal for me to share with my friends; it is best to keep them within the family.

Sometimes my parents argue very fiercely and it scares me a lot as it sometimes ends with them not speaking to each other for the day. We are a small family and I want us to be united always. In my opinion, it is wrong of them to argue in my presence. Am I right?I overthink lots of things and this leads me to imagining horrible things happening. I get stressed and cry to myself a lot.

All I want is a hug and comforting words. I keep my problems bottled up inside me. I think the only reason I am still sane is because of my prayers and faith in God.

I tried telling my mother that I feel lonely but she doesn’t understand.

I still want to someone to talk to. Sometimes I feel like getting a boyfriend, although I repeat to myself that I shouldn’t, as the last thing I want is to get distracted, do badly in my studies and even worse, hurt my parents. Everyone needs love. I’m not saying I do not have love; I have my parents. They are everything to me. It’s just that I want someone within my age group who sees eye-to-eye with me about things.

Due to my parents‘ rule about not getting a boyfriend, I am not opening my heart to anyone. I can’t even say that I have a crush on someone because I really don’t.I feel like a mess. My parents would be worried and heartbroken if they found out that I am going through this.

What can I do to stay calm and stop overthinking? Will I be betraying my parents if I get a boyfriend?

A Mess

It sounds as though you are stuck in a child’s role. By hanging on to mum and dad, and cutting yourself off from people your own age, you have effectively isolated yourself. That’s not healthy, as loneliness fuels depression and anxiety.

The fact that you are tearful and overthinking things worries me. It sounds as if you’ve pushed yourself too much. Please make an appointment to see your school’s mental health professional.

With proper support, you can start making effective changes.

I suggest you see your studies as your day job. At the moment, you’re not doing great but that is mostly likely due to anxiety and depression. When you start making friends and connecting with people, you should bounce back.

When you do, take lots of workshops and build a network of career contacts. If you are offered an internship, take it!

As for the life skills, let’s talk about adult relationships first. You say you have friends but you don’t have people who see eye-to-eye with you.

Well, kids have BFFs and run in cliques because they have school and not much else. Grownups have many different interests and therefore several friendship groups.

Usually, we have lots of casual friends at college, of which a handful become people we can talk to about personal matters. The thing is, relationships take time to develop.

Go out a bit more and meet lots of different people. Join a sport club, an art group and support a charity. Go for lunch, see a film, have a coffee and a chat. Do fun stuff.

As for the ban on social media, yes, whatever you post is up there forever. But a few selfies are hardly going to compromise you.

Also, practical knowledge of social media is an important career skill because many businesses communicate via WhatsApp and use social media.

I think you need to tell your parents they have to be reasonable here. It’s 2019, not 1019. Start taking part in social media. Cautiously. Sensibly.

And finally, boyfriends. Suppose you lock yourself away until you finish your studies. Do you really expect to step out several years from now and hook up with Mr Perfect Forever After? Of course not!

Successful relationships don’t just happen. You need to know yourself and understand what you want from a life partner.

That’s a tall order, so effective dating is about socialising and figuring out what works for you.

It does not mean you fall into some man’s arms and bond like superglue for the rest of your lives.

Also, you should never give up your studies, career or independence. Look for a partnership with mutual support and respect.

Deciding whether you are ready to date is up to you. But I urge you not to leave it too late.

Practically speaking, it is easier when you are at college because that is when you have a large group of single people your own age. If you wait, the pool of opportunity will shrink.

With friends and a bit of light dating, you should be a lot happier. But if I might make a bolder suggestion: consider getting a part-time

job instead of rushing home every weekend.

Working in a shop or some other simple job will teach you important skills that will make your studies more meaningful, and it will make you more attractive to employers when you graduate.

Also, you can use the money you earn to buy some decent food.

I suspect that is easier said than done. Taking your first adult steps will probably cause some fights with your mum and dad, so if going home weekends is the compromise, then do so to keep the peace.

I suggest you avoid living at home while you study for your degree. You really need to learn to be independent.

As for your parents fighting, stay out of it. They have their own resources and can fix their own issues.

Good luck and I hope you will soon be much happier.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, ADDRESS AND A PSEUDONYM. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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Loneliness , worry , anxiety , depression


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