How To Deal With Family Who Do Not Support Your Decision To Immigrate

As the Migration Mentor I come across this issue all the time. 

Helping families cope with the separation form their family members who do support them going far away to pursue a better life through immigration, but I also deal with families who face the harder task – dealing with family members who do NOT support their immigration choice.

This is much harder to deal with when families are at odds with your immigration decision, than longing for a family who will miss you when you are far away in a distant land.

It is incredibly difficult because you are then torn between the yearning for a better life, and the anger and resentment from your extended family who do not approve of your immigration move.

It can drive a rift between couples, even if both members of a couple are in favour of the immigration – either one of their parents or extended family might not be as supportive of it. 

This is where negative emotions, resentful comments and even cutting ties with family members tear families apart.

How can you overcome this, how can you make it easier on you and your family to deal with your immigration decision?

We first need to understand some dynamics here:

  1. Firstly, the lack of support for your immigration dream from your extended family might be jealousy – disguised as negative comments and emotions. Remember that not everyone has the same choices in life.  In seeing your chance for a better life, others in your family might feel that they are being left behind to still live the hard life from which you will now be able to get a break from – in their eyes.  They might feel that you have a chance at a better life and it might make them feel resentful.

    You cannot control someone else’s feelings and emotions, but there is something that you can do – you can, despite their jealous behavior, let them know that you need them now more than ever.  You need to let them know that immigration is the hardest thing that you will ever do and that you cannot do it without their support.  Try and involve them in your decisions and get them involved in some of the actions of your immigration too.

  2. Secondly, some of your family may be downright afraid – afraid that they will never see you again. This is especially true of elderly parents.  Will they ever see you again?

In their minds they are losing you to the big, wide world which they have never been to see and do not know anything about.  For this reason, you might find that they simply won’t support your immigration decision. 

Again, you cannot influence the behaviour of other people, but there are a few things you can do about this to help them relay their fear:

  • Share your information about your destination country with your elderly parents. Remember, they are afraid of the “unknown” – of a place that they know nothing about.  Your job is to turn the unknown into “known”.  Show them pictures and share information about the country where you are going to, the people, the lifestyles, the job you will be doing.  All of this information acts as education for them to become familiar with where you are going and makes it less scary for them.
    They need reassurance from you and by giving them some information, you are giving them reassurance.
  • Don’t give all the information at one, but drip feed it. Let them process one thing at a time, ask questions and then you can answer those questions and drip feed more information.

Sharing too much information at once is sometimes too much for elderly people to deal with – it is a shock to them.  You must give them time to process some facts before other facts are disclosed.

Dealing with the reactions and emotions of disapproving family is one of the hardest things you are going to have to deal with during your immigration process and something most people do not even take into consideration until it becomes a problem that affects their decision.  There is no manual, there is not right or wrong and no-one is going to prepare you for it.

Most people, I have found, never even thought about the fact that this is going to be so hard and they are ill prepared.

Awareness of this is a battle half won – be aware that you might come across it and prepare yourself with the things I have mentioned so that you can focus on your actual immigration process because, believe you me, you will never, ever solve the problem of disapproving family and sometimes you will have to make a hard decision about what is important – your future in a new country, or your extended family’s approval.

In the end it is your decision alone.


Zarélsie Van der Merwe is the Migration Mentor.  She inspires, guides and educates new immigrants globally to find jobs and overcome the common job finding obstacles as immigrant job seekers and deal with the psychological and emotional factors of immigration to become thriving, successful citizens of their new country. 
Read more on her blog or sign up to the Q-Jumper Factor – the programme with which immigrants can land a job in their new country in record time.