Dear Thelma: I am 23 but my parents still want total control of my life

I’ve been going through a lot lately. I’m 23 years old. I feel like I have been denied some of the best experiences at certain phases of my life. Some may say I’m still young and can pursue my passion. But I have very strict parents who constantly monitor my every move.

I want to be more independent and outgoing but my parents’ behaviour stops me from being so.

I feel I’m being watched all the time. I have lost my privacy which makes me go a little crazy at times, especially when I see people the same age as me or younger having more privileges than I do.

I simply feel incapable and insecure because of my parents’ controlling behaviour which has made me lose a lot of my friends. I have to always be at home and am never allowed to hang out with them.

To make it worse, my boyfriend recently broke up with me because of this. He felt he drifted from the relationship as I’m not allowed to hang out with him or be there for him when he needs me. Is it my fault?

How long will this go on?

I’m tired of consoling myself that things will change if I start working soon (but I doubt it). I’m mentally exhausted trying to make things better or the way I wish it to be.

I’m tired of losing my friends simply when I’m not the problem.

I’m not seeking a lavish lifestyle; I just want the bare minimum. I just want to be connected socially.

I want to be like other adults, but my parents seem to be treating me like a teenager. All this has pushed me to be more introverted and increased my social anxiety.

They still fail to understand or see how their actions have impacted me.

I keep giving excuses to every one of my friends when I cannot attend even a normal meet-up session. I feel embarrassed that I have to go through this.

I feel lost, hurt and lonely within my four walls. I feel like I’m losing myself. I tell myself I’ll be OK someday but the years have passed, I’m an adult now but it’s still the same for me.


What a sorry situation! At your age you should be out and about, learning adult life skills while having the backup of a safe and secure home.

If your parents keep you locked up, you can’t learn. So when you do leave the nest, you will have few skills and little experience. That’s bound to lead to trouble.

Also, we are social creatures. In the short term, preventing people from socialising creates mental health problems that include stress, anxiety and depression.

In the long term, studies show that friendships and strong social connections are important factors for happiness in life.

As you do have friends, and did have a boyfriend, I’m uncertain if you have limited in-person social activities or whether you are socialising online only. Also, you mention a loss, which suggests an incident perhaps.

Whatever is going on, you feel stifled, cut off and are depressed. Clearly something needs to change.

As you are already in a low mood, reach out to the services above and ask to be assessed for depression and anxiety. They should also be able to support you while you make changes.

Seeing you have already talked to your parents and they ignore you, I suggest you recruit an advocate. This should be someone your parents respect. Perhaps a grandfather or aunt.

Ask them to speak for you. Keep it simple: young adults need to build their own lives. You must have freedom to start the foundation for your future.

Your advocate may remind your parents that they can control you now, but your health is suffering and your resentment is building.

Anger and frustration kill love. If your family members aren’t careful, they will damage their relationship with you.

Hopefully, they will reconsider and accept that at 23 you need to find a job and find your adult feet. It may be helpful if you make a deal where you pay rent; it signals you are independent.

Unfortunately, people aren’t always reasonable. If your parents double down and refuse to change, then you have choices.

You say that merely getting a job may not fuel change. So it’s down to stay or leave.

If you leave, you need a job, income and a place to stay. That can be expensive. Could you find a job in a different town or part of the city, perhaps one where you can live with family or roommates? That might prove a gentler transition than setting up entirely on your own.

In some families, parents are controlling when the kids live at home and quite different once they move out. It may be that once you get a job, everyone sweetens up.

In other families, parents drive away their kids, and choose to be angry about it. If your parents are like this, please know that leaving does not automatically mean estrangement.

Once you have a job and independence, you can reach out and talk. It may be tricky but most families want to stay connected – even if sometimes there are quarrels.

As there are many variables, I think it might be helpful if you talk this over thoroughly with someone a bit older who has direct experience. It’s not just about your health and the relationship, there are also economics to consider.

If you feel like roping in extra help, discuss plans and needs in depth with a mental health practitioner. Also have a chat with Bank Negara’s free Agensi Kaunseling & Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK) financial counselling service so you can work out a budget.

Above all, don’t do anything in haste. Decisions taken in anger or tension are seldom the best. So breathe, think, plan and only make changes when you’re ready.

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Living

New York drives towards first US congestion charge
Can money buy happiness?
Generation Z want flexibility, purpose and work-life balance
Job insecurity may increase risk of premature death, says study
Pets are our faithful companions, but the expenses to care for them can add up
Taking over an abandoned cemetery to preserve their loved ones' resting place
Malaysia's dying art of bamboo basket weaving
Ask the Plant Doctor! How to deal with waterlogged gardens
10YO boy in US from sells his handpainted rocks for charity
Are physically-demanding jobs a risk for dementia?

Others Also Read