Navigating Communication with Asian Parents: A Guide to Building Understanding

communication with asian parents

Are you facing communication challenges with your Asian parents? Do you often feel misunderstood, disconnected, and cannot openly communicate your thoughts and feelings with your parents? If so, this blog post is for you.

 

Communication between generation can be complex, especially when bridging cultural gaps. In this post, you’ll learn key strategies to improve communication with your immigrant parents, specifically how to understand their perspective, navigate conversations skillfully and bridge the communication gap. You will feel less stressed out and upset when navigating differences in cultural values and beliefs. These strategies will ultimately help you foster stronger and more meaningful relationship with your parents.  

Understanding the Cultural Context

Understanding the cultural context is important within Asian family communication. Take a moment to reflect on the cultural values and beliefs that are prevalent in your family. These values and beliefs significantly shape communication styles within the family.

 

What does your family believe about the Confucian principle of filial piety? On a smaller scale, filial piety represents a set of family-centered moral principles covering a range of actions from honoring ancestors, adhering to and showing respect for the elders, to offering financial support to parents. Looking at a larger perspective, filial piety holds broader implications: older individuals possess elevated social standing solely due to their age. This status grants them elevated respect within both familial and societal contexts. Does the concept of filial piety shape how you interact with older people in your family? How does this concept establish expectations among your parents regarding your behaviors?

 

Furthermore, the practice of collectivism prioritizes the group over the individual. How does that dictate your interactions with your family members? Perhaps the emphasis on familial harmony impacts your behaviors to maintain peace and unity within the family.

3 Barriers to Communication in Asian Families

4 Strategies to Improve Communication with Asian Parents

  1. Practice active listening

    Instead of immediately jumping to conclusions, try to maintain an open-mind and stay curious about where your parents are coming from. Allow them time to express themselves fully. 

  2. Show empathy and understanding

    Try to contextualize your parents’ behaviors and depersonalize the meaning of their actions. Think of a moment when you felt angered or hurt by your parents’ behavior and try to translate the behaviors within the Eastern framework. For example, your parents’ insistence on asking if you’d eaten can be translated from an effort to control or “baby” you to “I care about you”.  

  3. Clarify and summarize

    Periodically paraphrase what you parents have just said to ensure understanding. Use phrases like, “So, if I understand correctly…” or “It sounds like you’re saying…”. Encourage more dialogue by asking open-ended questions and clarifying their traditions, beliefs, and values. 

  4. Practice respectful assertiveness

    Recognize the potential cultural emphasis on respect for authority and elders. Approach assertiveness with tact and consideration for these values. Be clear and direct in expressing your thoughts or needs, without being confrontational or aggressive. Practice using “I” statements when communicating your thoughts and feelings. For example, “I feel…”, “I would like to…”, or “I’d appreciate…”. 

To summarize, effective communication with your Asian parents involves understanding and openness to cultural nuances, practicing compassion and empathy, and being patient. By employing these strategies, you can bridge the gap and create meaningful connections with your parents, fostering healthier relationships and mutual understanding.

Improving communication within Asian families is an ongoing process that requires commitment and understanding from both sides. With perseverance and an open mindset, these efforts can lead to stronger familial bonds and enriched relationships.

Ready to enhance communication with your Asian parents? Connect with our therapists today for a phone consultation to navigate these challenges effectively.

References:

  1. Chow, N. W. S. (1999). Diminishing filial piety and the changing role and status of the elders in Hong Kong. Hallym International Journal of Aging, 1, 67-77.
  2. Hong, J. J. (2013). An idiographic evidence-based approach to addressing cultural factors in treatment: a case example. The Behavior Therapist, 36, 143-146.
  3. Janie Hong, PhD 

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