Cultural Disconnect

On April 24 on a Sunday afternoon, WizChinese’s Palo Alto Chinese Parents’ Club (PACPC) hosted the first meeting of their “Pressure and Emotional Management” series, with around fifty attendees. Funded by donations from the Vincent VC. Woo Memorial Foundation, the organization’s meetings are headed by Stanford faculty, composed of psychiatrists Dr. Rona Hu and Dr. Huiqiong (Joan) Deng and psychologist Dr. Flora Ma. The series includes twelve topics across an entire year, with both English and Mandarin spoken, and every two weeks, there will be an in-person support group where six to eight attendees can gain guidance and counsel from the three doctors regarding the previous online meeting’s issue. Sign-ups for the first support group on May 15 are here.

The PACPC organized the series to address the cultural disconnect within the Chinese community between children and parents, resulting in the stigmatization of mental health issues. With the combined cultural pressure of immigrant families and the extreme competitiveness of Bay Area schools, students bear the consequences of crippling expectations and lack of a support system. The transition from the isolation of remote learning to the jarringly supposed “normalcy” of in-person school adds a layer of additional weight to the already high levels of stress. 

In what Dr. Hu characterized in the first meeting as acculturative family distancing, the deterioration in communication and deepened differences of cultural values across a gaping generational gap results in the distancing between immigrant parents and children. The series seeks to bridge the gulf between parent and child, through the de-stigmatization of mental health issues with Q&A, anecdotal examples, and support groups. The first session’s questions ranged from video game addiction to procrastination as a byproduct of perfectionism. The doctors will guide and encourage effective communication and compassionate listening, helping attendees navigate through cultural differences and the effects of trauma, and educating on the cultivation and importance of mental health and wellness. Ultimately, PACPC’s sessions aim to foster healthy perspectives about mental health and mental illness, addressing the long-needed healing and language of understanding within the Chinese American community.