How to get your parents to support a big change in your life

prettyndsweet12 asks: I don’t really like the new school I’m going to, so I have two options for next year: go back to my old school (which I didn’t like because I was uncomfortable there but now that I think about it, it was pretty stupid to leave), or I have the option of moving to Virginia, which I think would be a good decision because there are more activities to do. I would get to spend quality time there with my cousins, and I would be able to keep my grandma company (my grandfather passed away about two years ago and it’s just her in the house), but it would be a different experience that I’m not sure I’m ready for. Also I know my dad may want me to live with him and my stepmom, but I’m not sure if I want to. Can you help me rationalize my options so that I can come up with a confident decision?

Hi prettyndsweet12 –

One thing about being a dog – everyone thinks we’re running around being silly all the time, but the truth is we spend most of our time watching, waiting, and paying attention.  We know when our friends are coming home because we’ve been listening to the world all day and recognize the sounds of their cars.  We grab dropped food with lightning speed, because while you humans are thinking about each other and the table settings and good manners and all that, all we’re focused on is where morsels can potentially fall.

Similarly, one reason I love doing this job is that I pay really close attention to my Pack members, to try to get a sense of what they want, so I can make them happy.

And frankly, prettyndsweet12, I don’t have to work as hard at this as I do at catching Handsome’s clumsy dining moments.  It seems pretty clear to me that you’d like to try a year in Virginia.  You don’t like the school you’re at now, you weren’t crazy about the one you were at last year, you’re not sure you’d like living with your dad and stepmom – and you’re very interested in helping out your widowed grandmother, as well as in the activities and cousin-time that would offer.  Now you’re right when you say that it would be a “different experience.”  Maybe you’d find that you didn’t love doing that one too.  But one big argument for it is that parents and stepparents tend to last around a lot longer than grandparents.  So a year with your grandmother could truly be a gift in your life that can never happen again, and could be incredibly good for you (not to mention a godsend to her).

So what it’s sounding like to me is that you don’t need help in making a decision, as much as you need help in getting to do what you want.  And this requires some pretty strong negotiating skills.  You’re dealing with lots of potential for hurt feelings here.  Whoever paid for you to go to the new school might be bothered that you’re saying no to it, your mom might wish you moved back, your dad is probably wanting to have you in his place for a while… how do you say no to all of them?

Well, I think the best answer is, just as you suggested, to be Confident.  If you approach your parents with “well, I’ve been thinking, you know, and, like, I’m wondering if the best idea might kinda be…” they’re going to instantly try to correct you.  As anyone would.  But if you walk up to them and say “I’ve been thinking about this, and I believe the best plan for my next year would be for me to move to Virginia,” it’s a lot harder to say you’re wrong.  More likely, they’d ask why you think that’s best – and that’s when you can step in with rationality.  You talk about the opportunities that are there in Virginia, the saved money from not being at that school, the building of relationships with your cousins, and most importantly, your desire to have more of a relationship with your grandmother while being there to help her as well.

Now of course, it’s possible your parents might just say no.  One of them might insist on your living with them, and they might have some strong arguments against your being with your grandmother or cousins.  But if they’re not in an “Absolutely NOT” mindset, the more confidence you exude, the better your odds are.

I’ll tell you what, why don’t you try something out with me?  I’ve listed a few reasons as to why it might be best for you to go to Virginia.  How about if you come up with ten more?  Yes, I said TEN more!  Some will be better than others, but try to see if you can brainstorm that many.  And then, when you have the list, send it to me.  And I’ll look over it and let you know what I think of it.  Which ones sound good, and which ones sound pretty weak.

Then, you can use the best of them to make your case.

Does that sound good?  I’m happy to do it!

Best of Luck!

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