Making the Convention Argument

Making the Convention Argument :: Teens' Guide to Parents

It seems like a lot of teen otaku are trying to figure out how to convince their parents to let them attend a convention. Now, this will be different for every person, because you each know your parents far better than I do, but for the average parent, here are some talking points.

And remember, to most parents, anime is just odd. They think of cartoons as something for little kids, not teenagers. They don’t understand why you would be interested in it. And they also want to keep you safe.

One of the most important things I’d caution you against when trying to convince your parents about anything is to come into the discussion fully armed as if it were a debate. You want to try to predict what arguments they're going to make and have some solid evidence to counteract it. Appearing mature during the conversation will go a long way toward convincing them you're mature enough to actually attend. Never use pouting, crying, yelling, or other dramatics to try to make your point, because nothing will make you look childish faster. Your goal here is to make them reevaluate their opinion of you and decide that you are truly old enough to either make your own decisions or at least have input in them.

Why you like anime.
Central to the process of convincing them to let you go may very well be also making them accept why you like anime. Come up with some lessons you’ve learned, cultural insights you’ve gained, friendships formed, etc.—whatever it may be that makes anime so important to you. Clearly and concisely tell them why you would like to go to the convention and what you hope to gain.

Conventions of any kind can look “dangerous” to parents. A bunch of teens getting together in one place? Even teens can acknowledge that can be a recipe for disaster!

One thing you want to do is reassure your parents that there is security and staff at the convention, people who are trained to deal with any situation that may arise. You may want to show them the rules and regulations for the convention (make sure you’ve read them yourself!) to show that most of the actions they're worried about (underage drinking, lewd behavior) are clearly not allowed at the convention and that staff will act on any instances of those things they see. If they have further concerns, it may be possible to get in touch with someone from the convention who can relieve some of those worries, but as it gets closer and closer to the convention, staff may be harder to reach.

Persuade in Force
Gather your friends and make a group weekend of it with one or two trusted parents as chaperones. You’ll need a parent to abide by most convention rules, so if one of your friends has an at least anime tolerate parent, convince that parent to chaperone the trip and then start working on your own folks. If they know that another parent they trust is going, they will be more likely to allow you to attend as well.

Travel Costs
If you need to travel to the convention, convincing your parents to pay can be tricky. Not only do you need to get there, but so do your chaperones. Most conventions require a parent on site (some have to have the parents registered, others just a parental permission sheet) if you are under the age of sixteen. This means that at the very least you need a friend with a parent interested in going.

One way you can try to get your family to attend the convention, or at least transport you there, is to sell this as a family vacation. Now, if you’re just there for the weekend, this might mean giving up some of your convention time to eat dinner with the family or visit a tourist attraction, but that’s still better than no convention at all. Do some research before you approach your parents about what interesting things are going on in that city and attractions that your parents might be interested in.

Convention Costs
Another reason they might not want to let you go is they're afraid you'll blow all your money either at the con or making your costume. One thing I’d suggest is come up with a budget/savings plan before the convention and make it clear to both them and yourself that you won’t spend more than your budget. Be reasonable though; know that you will spend about $20-30 a day on food at least, if you aren’t able to stay at home. Even if you just end up snacking all day, those pops and snacks will add up. Maybe come up with a plan, like that you are going to bring bread and sandwich materials to cut down on your food costs. Acknowledge that your parents have a point when it comes to money, because you will be spending a good chunk at the convention. Even just for yourself, it's good to think ahead of time about how much money you want to spend and then remember that during the convention when something cute and shiny catches your eye.

Start Local
The closer your first anime convention is, the better. It’ll be easier to convince your parents to let you attend, and it will save you money. With anime conventions spouting up all over the country, you can probably find one nearby. Convincing your parents to take you to Otakon in Baltimore for your first convention, when you live in Florida, might be a bit of a stretch. Check to find out about conventions you may have never heard of. You could also look to see if there's a science fiction convention in your area if there isn’t an anime one. Those conventions often have anime programming.

What will your parents do?
This point can be best summed up in my previous column, Parents at Conventions. There I stress how to best prepare younger siblings for conventions and make suggestions on what your parents can do while you’re doing your own thing. Keep in mind what interests your parents have, maybe they like cooking or history, and try to see if there are any panels listed once the panel schedules are up that meet those interests. It might be good to see if you can get a hold of the previous year's schedule, as often panels will reappear and it will give you an idea of what kind of panels dominate the convention.

If you’re brining your parents to the convention with you, you might want to plan ahead of time how to cover yaoi and yuri if your parents are at all homophobic. A parent who might not care about gay/lesbians in a normal situation might get overwhelmed by the sheer amount “OMG, let's make two pretty boys kiss!!!!” that’s going on at a convention. Warning them ahead of time (as long as you don’t think they're going to keep you from going) might help avert an awkward situation later. You can try to keep it a secret from them, but chances are, they’ll find out what yaoi is.

So those are my thoughts on the subject. Please ask me any questions in the comments, and I’ll try to clarify and help you with your situation, or message me as well if you want personal help. Not all parents will be persuaded, unfortunately, but if you make a good argument one year and get them thinking, then it's possible that next year they might just decide to let you go. I remember the worst thing about being a teen was hearing “when you’re older,” but sometimes that’s just life.