Pulled In Every Direction




by Samson Opiyo

Parents everywhere want the best for their children, and they’ll often move mountains to help them succeed. But just how far does their power reach when it comes to the career path their kids choose? In their good intentions, are they supposed to dictate the choices their children make? What do you do when your career choices lead to a series of conflicts with your parents?

These questions are a reality to some of the families we work with here at Ndoto. It’s not uncommon for our students to battle depression and anxiety from negative criticism, discouragement, and a lack of parental approval. Many parents worry that their children’s particular interests won’t earn them a good and steady income, having themselves seen the problems brought on by financial instability.

Cecilia is a 22-year old student who joined Ndoto earlier this year. She is taking a two-year course on beauty therapy and cosmetology. She did fine in high school, but there was no way that she would be able to afford college. The first born of seven, her father is a farmer and her mother does laundry for people.

Cecilia found herself in a quagmire. She longed to pursue her passion, but that very passion was a source of conflict with her parents. Her parents are fixated on her becoming a nurse, because they believe that she would have a better future and higher earnings. This is a very common attitude among Kenyan parents. When we met with our local college students for a discipleship session last month, Cecilia was at a loss as to how to save her struggling relationship with her parents.

Many parents, understandably hoping that their children don’t wind up in the same poverty that they were brought up in, tend to miss the other side of life.  A successful life and career is about more than just money. A career without passion feels like a dead end to children anywhere in the world. Furthermore, while generational gaps are large anywhere, in Kenya they are unbelievably large. Just one generation ago, access to running water and electricity were scarce. Independence from Britain was just 60 years ago.

Cecilia (left, in pink) ponders the message at our recent college discipleship session

Failing to dissuade her from studying cosmetology, Cecilia’s parents withdrew their approval. Although she is already into her program, she feels so devastated by the broken relationship that she has considered dropping out. She is struggling to focus in school and knows her decisions now will affect the rest of her life. This is a plight for many students in their college years.

We believe that a young adult has the right to choose their own career, and the achievement of one’s goals should not be contingent upon someone else’s approval. At the same time, one’s parents are not to be disregarded, especially in a family-oriented culture like ours in Kenya. The next generation in Kenya is growing up with much more of the Western-style individualism than their parents had. However, a parent’s opinions and counsel come with wisdom and experience, and they almost always mean well for their kids. Since a student can be pulled in every direction at once, achieving balance in some cases is nearly impossible without an impartial third party.

Ndoto’s discipleship team, together with the education department, is very keen at holistically bridging social gaps. Strong relationships are vital in realizing dreams among sponsored children. As those who understand youth and how difficult it can be to initiate conversations with their parents, while also being parents and older community members ourselves, we believe that it is essential for children and parents to have reasonable dialogue. Ndoto can step in, as a confidant and third party, and help to mediate these discussions between one generation and the next.

As school holidays begin and Cecilia returns home for a break, Ndoto is determined to help bring reconciliation to this family.

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