World / Reporter's Journal

Raising bi-cultural Chinese youth and restoring the healthy family

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-02-10 11:40

After a string of teen suicides, with the latest one taking place on Jan 24 in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Chinese community and parents are busy conducting workshops and organizing public speaking campaigns to restore a healthy family order and nurture a healthier parent-youth relationship.

Raising bi-cultural Chinese youth and restoring the healthy family

Among the many community efforts targeting parenting skills and youth behavioral health, the public service announcement (PSA) video produced by the city of Fremont in the East Bay and made available to the public on Feb 6, is believed to help alleviate many families' chronic pain caused by mental and emotional disorders among youths.

Entitled Chinese Youth and Families Bridges to Behavioral Health, the 30-second video aims to educate Chinese-American parents on the importance of early intervention and to encourage parents to seek professional assistance from the community and organizations for their troubled youth.

Annie Bailey, administrator of Fremont's Human Services Department/Youth & Family Services, said her team worked closely with families and the school district to learn some of the concerns about the social and emotional development of children in the Chinese community. Through this video, Bailey hopes parents will learn more about child development and work with the community and organizations like hers "if issues and concerns do arise."

Helen Hsu, clinical psychologist and supervisor also with the Fremont department, was extensively involved in the production of the video. She deplored losses of young lives through suicides, acknowledging effective communication remains the key to solve many parent-children conflicts.

In Fremont where one-fourth of the population is Asian American and 40 percent are Chinese-American families with children under 18 years, Hsu said children from the Chinese-speaking families are under a lot of pressure and anxiety because of the high expectations from immigrant parents.

Hsu said research since the 1970s indicated that Chinese families are very reluctant to seek and utilize public resources for early intervention when it comes to youth mental disorders. "Virtually, we just want to keep it in the family and we try to be stoic and wait for its pass," said Hsu. However, when treatments for mental disorders are delayed, the health outcome is poor. "If you have small problems (but you won't seek treatment), they don't usually go but become very worse," she said.

Very often, "we have families coming to us when they have emergencies due to their lack of education on early intervention," Hsu said. "We need to fight against this kind of stigma. Please don't think of seeking mental health assistance as a shameful thing."

With the release of the video to the public and school district, "We are able to help the parents gain the knowledge of where to seek assistance, the culturally and linguistically appropriate services and support," said Ivy Wu, who used to sit on Fremont's school board and now runs her non-governmental organization to spread concepts about healthy parenting.

Parenting can be very challenging for anybody, but it's much harder when you are parenting crossing cultures, said Justine Fan, a PhD student majoring in psychology who conducted workshops to help Chinese-speaking parents struggling with behavioral disorders of their adolescent children.

"Our parents are first-generation immigrants who tend to use the Chinese tradition to raise us and shape our way of thinking," said Fan. "We are supposed to respect our parents, follow their instruction and don't talk back."

In Eastern culture, parents are strict with their youth and spend more time criticizing than praising. In America, we often forget how little time we have to spend with our children. And when we are with them, we end up berating them - this only makes communication more difficult, said the monologue in the video. "However, we are Asian Americans and we need to assimilate to the American cultures - its values, social norms and behaviors."

Fan said conflicts and clashes of the two cultures sometimes would result in tension between parents and children, "somehow they might escalate into stress, anxiety and pressure of the youth and lead to emotional derailments."

Hsu encourages parents to spend more time with children, praising them on their positive attributes, and always listening with patience, without being judgmental. Besides, "Early prevention can keep your children healthy and you can detect the problems much earlier before they are diagnosed as health issues."

Contact the writer at

Most Popular
Hot Topics