Imagine if you were a child and abandoned by an emotionally abusive mom, being left with a dad who is married to the job. Or growing up with a single mom, then all of a sudden mom disappeared and never came back again. Being a young child, you have to face life’s challenges alone and wondering what you have done wrong to deserve this.
This story is played out in a very popular television drama in China, “In the Name of Family”. Since most Chinese youth are part of the “one-child generation”, they are deeply moved by the bonding of the three kids in this story. The different types of moms and dads have also caused people to reflect upon the relationships in their own families.
In China, the classic definition about parenting is, “strict father, loving mother”. This saying reflects an age-long practice where the father is supposed to be straight-faced, strict about the child’s performance, always having authority, power for punishment and correction. The role of mom is to care for children, comfort and nurture. Culturally, these two elements of parenting are praised, and considered both crucial for a child’s success.
As Chinese society has developed and changed, most women have to work a full time job and are still expected to take care of the family. The family model have shifted. Moms have become the main caregiver AND the discipliner in their children’s lives. Many moms have described their lives as “widowed parenting”. Many fathers appear to be absent in the parenting elements, and emotionally distanced. Moms pour their lives into children’s education, future financial prosperities and foundation for success. Some of them even have projected disappointment of their marriage into the hope for children’s future. There are high expectations on return in obedience, honoring and excelling.
Many Chinese have complicated relationships with their parents. Many young people are afraid of the line “this is for your own good”. They cry out inside, “you say it’s for my sake, but you never know what I really need”, “you don’t even know who I really am”. Many people had hard time making choices as young adults, because growing up every choice they made was examined and assessed, questioned and blamed. Most choices were made for them by their parents, without considering their own thoughts. Many young people are confused because their parents will say they “do everything” for them, even making significant sacrifices. However, the child is left feeling judged, pressured and controlled by their parents. The love they receive from their parents is perceived as conditional, and unstable.
All of these were reflected quite thoroughly in this drama. The star dad, Li, in this drama was considered a “too good to be true” existence in China. He is like a perfect mom figure combined with a dad that many people desire but never have.
Because of the experience that most Chinese student have had with their parents and family, it can be difficult for them to comprehend grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love. So in your ministry, take some time to explore what they think about those terms, what’s their understanding and expectation of love. You can ask questions like “what’s your first memory of your time with your mom and dad?” Or “what kind of parent do you want to be for your kids in the future?” It’s important to know that many Chinese students find it difficult to personally express their thoughts and feelings about their families. So, try to connect with their experience by asking questions about shows and dramas that depict the Chinese family. It would be easier to share objectively about their thoughts on family, parenting and love.
For Chinese students who have experienced brokenness in their family, the truths of God’s word are powerful and effective. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:18) And “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1John 4:18) It’s our desire to see all Chinese students can one day experience unconditional love from the heavenly father, and healing can penetrate into their families, inside out.