For families who live far apart, the New Year celebrations are usually preceded by much anticipation of warm reunions, hugs, laughter and too much good food. Regardless of our cultural background it can be either a pleasure to go home, an obligation or it can be a dreaded nightmare (as per the recent pre-Christmas lamenting conversation I overheard in a European train between two girlfriends…)!
Parents all over the world seem to believe that their grown up children belong to them for ever and that it is their parental duty to control the direction their offspring’s life is taking.
As Chinese New Year （春节）approaches and extended families hope to get together, for some ‘children’, regardless of the age, it is often the moment where family pressure begins. Expectations are high in Chinese families, particularly when it comes to finding a life partner. The one child policy has made things difficult for the younger generation who will struggle to find a soul mate. It is therefore not uncommon for a ‘child’ to be asked questions such as:
“Why are you single? If you have a boyfriend why aren’t you married? What happened to your hair? This colour is not suitable for Chinese people. Have you saved money to buy an apartment? No girl will want to marry you if you don’t own an apartment.”
We all want the best for our children and sometimes, out of love, we say things that have the opposite effect and push our children away from us instead of bringing them closer. Having probably realised the extent of the damage her nagging did to her relationship with her son, one mainland Chinese mother recently posted an advertisement in a Chinese Australian newspaper, begging her son to return home for the New Year Festival. In the simple hand-written ad she promises that neither she nor her husband would nag him about his marital status.
Dear Peng, I have called you many times but you don’t pick up, maybe you will see this. Dad and mom won’t ever force you to get married anymore. Come home for Chinese New Year. From your mom who loves you. (爱你的妈妈)
Respect has to be added to love if we wish to create healthy relationships with our children, as Kahlil Gibran reminds us in his poem on Children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you…
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Lyliane Stewart is a teacher, a positive discipline parent educator and a mother of two young adults. Originally from Switzerland, she lives with her husband in Beijing where she has been very active with the school community over the years. Her personal experience of living internationally in a cross-cultural family has given her a good understanding of the various challenges encountered by multi-cultural, multi-lingual expatriate families. Passionate about psychology and education, she founded Parenting East West to offer support to families around the world. Lyliane believes that by gaining a better understanding of ourselves, and of human relationships in general, we become better equipped for parenting. She offers weekly interactive parenting classes through which she introduces positive parenting tools and strategies.
The Mums2B group she started meets in Sanlitun weekly and welcomes new expectant parents.To get in touch, send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org