Some people love Chinese New year, others dread it. Chinese New year family reunion dinners or visits seem to be declining. Personally, I still love Chinese New year. I see it as a joyous occasion where I get a break from work, get to see my cousins and relatives (when I get to travel to Malaysia) who I don’t get to see for usually the whole year. Of course these 3 years have been very different for me but nonetheless I still enjoy it.
If you watched the video I made, you can see what many people typically face during cny and might dread. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love getting told I’m fat or asked about my love life in a condescending manner. However, for me, Chinese New Year is about the happy stuff like eating good food, hanging out with my cousins, and in the past getting away from normal life for a bit.
If you grew up in a typical Chinese family, there’s a high chance that you’ve faced comparisons, fat shaming, job shaming, relationship shaming, a lot of shaming in general. Ultimately, the message to you is “You’re not good enough, your cousin is always better”. Sounds familiar? That being the case, how can we learn to deal with it?
Here’s what I’ve noticed happening more and more.. People are avoiding going for CNY or choosing to spend time with friends or travelling instead. Quite sad how our traditions are going away because the older generations and younger generations cannot communicate using the same emotional language (my own terms).
Well, with everything, there’s different ways that we can see it or choose to go through with it. None of the decisions are wrong, but what’s important is how we deal with the emotions that come along with our choices.
Tips from a Psychologist in Singapore to deal with Chinese New Year Anxieties
For the ones who don’t like the endless questioning and comments:
If we choose to go back for reunion dinners, we need to be ready for the questions and comments that relatives might make. Remember, the majority of your grandparents, aunties, and uncles come from the era of having nothing, and many of them had to work very hard and many had a high likelihood of experiencing harsh parenting styles or maybe even absent parents because that’s our culture. They hold on to beliefs that good professions are doctors, lawyers, engineers, but that’s their beliefs and unless they see a reason to change their belief, they will not do so. There’s also many who might have the mindset where they believe they’ve done so much for everyone else but got nothing back in return. Knowing the characteristics of each of them, without holding a condescending judgment of them (you don’t want to turn out cynical too!) and trying to approach them with a mindset of compassion.
What can you do?
Before meeting relatives
- Imagine you were the mother of all of your relatives, how would you see all of them? What is it that they truly need, what is it that they are truly trying to ask for or bring across?
- Prepare yourself before going to meet your relatives. Do a self-compassion exercise or meditation before you go.
- Practice validating their concerns (Role play with your partners or friends)
- If you have a counsellor, go for a counselling session and speak to your counsellor about it
When you are meeting relatives
- Acknowledge their concerns and thank them. If you try to prove them otherwise, they’ll get defensive and you’ll get more angry.
- Smile and nod.
- Make your needs known by setting firm boundaries using kind speech
- Excuse yourself and look for your cousins or pets that you feel comfortable with
- Busy yourself with the food or take a walk outside
After you’ve left your Chinese New Year Reunion
- Check in with yourself on how you feel (How do your body feel? Any emotions arising?)
- Practice a meditation if needed
- Talk to your friends or journal about your feelings
- Do things that bring you joy
- If needed, schedule a session with your counsellor to unwind and talk about what happened
For grandparents, aunties, or uncles reading this:
This post isn’t to shame anyone or to tell you that your methods are wrong. What this post is meant for is to share that there’s a difference in the generation now and the times that you grew up in. To you, being kind and compassionate towards your nieces and nephews might mean doing things for them, or giving them things. However, the new generation carries a lot of weight on the words that are said to them.
It’s not about being oh so lovey dovey and gentle all the time, but it’s responding with actual care and concern in ways that does not put them down. Trust your new generation to make mistakes. I know that you want to protect them, you want them to do the best, but remember, if you don’t allow them to make mistakes, they will never succeed in ways that you hope for them to. If your dream is for your younger generation to be happy, then try letting them go.
Instead of saying “Why you doing this job? So low pay.” or “OMG you become fat already” or “Huh? Why you date someone like that?”. Ask questions or show concern genuinely. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
“Tell me more about your job, how do you feel there?”, “What’s going on in your life right now?”, “Tell me more about your partner”, “What makes you happy?”
How many of you truly know your children, nieces, and nephews? Maybe this is a chance for you to get to know them better 😉
Alright, that’s all for now!
Hope these tips will help everyone have a happier Chinese New Year and increase connection between generations! 😀
If you struggle with getting along with your relatives or experience anxieties meeting your relatives, reach out to us today. Our counsellors have a lot of experience working with anxiety and family of origin concerns.