Asian-American Adolescent Mental Health | psychology today

Source: Barney Yau / Unsplash

If you’re like me, an Asian-American parent of a teen, you might be thinking about using Thanksgiving week to take stock of what your kids need to do in the remaining weeks of this semester to improve their grades. Must be thinking Because if they don’t, it might reduce their chances of getting into a good college, right?

There’s no doubt that this is important, but I want to raise another point to consider: It’s also important to consider the stress our teenage children may be under, and how our culture and parenting affect this. What does it have to do with On Halloween night, an Asian-American student at my kids’ high school went missing for five days. His distraught mother pleaded on social media for him to come home, expressing deep regret for the pressures he may have placed on him. When he returned thankfully, he said that he had gone into an unhealthy state of mind and was contemplating suicide.

Rising Rates of Depression and Anxiety: What’s Behind the Trend?

Jason Leung at Unsplash

Source: Jason Leung at Unsplash

Among Asian-Americans, depression diagnoses increased 104% and anxiety disorders 97% after the start of the COVID pandemic, the highest increases among any ethnic/racial group, 64% of Asian-American teens reported being the target of racism, This is also the highest of any group. At the same time, the vulnerability of Asian-American youth is amplified by many other factors. First, model minority stereotypes, which may, paradoxically, lead teachers and others to ignore and ignore their problems, under the mistaken belief that Asian-Americans are doing all right and need help or support. is not needed. Second, the high achievement orientation among many Asian-American parents – the drive to succeed in the form of grades and admission to elite colleges – may impose a much heavier burden than we may realize. Children eagerly absorb our expectations; The “success at all costs” mentality creates tunnel vision in which other essential aspects of their growth and well-being are ignored by us and by them. Finally, many Asian cultures are collectivist, placing the good of the group above that of the individual. Each person is like a part of the whole body. I have explained this perspective to Western friends as follows: I am only an arm. The hand is important but not as important as the whole body. So Asian-American children learn to adapt their individual needs to fit family values, which means living up to parental expectations.

What can parents do?

Many Asian-American parents naturally follow the template we ourselves grew up with. As immigrants or children of immigrants, we single-handedly pursued educational achievement, often at the expense of social and emotional development, because economic survival was at stake. While we have made it into the middle class and our children do not have the same economic imperatives, they live in a world that is very different, with arguably more threats to their sense of security. covid pandemic; blatant racist attacks; Fear and uncertainty about a world beset by the global climate crisis, and so on.

The night high school seniors returned home, I asked my kids to talk to me if they ever felt like they couldn’t manage or were feeling too stressed, that there were solutions I could help them with. Am. I told them that in our household, we are not going to define success by grades or GPA, or whether they get into Harvard or Stanford. We’ll define success by how they manage and balance their lives, with all the important elements outside of school: participating in their respective sports, pursuing other interests (that includes video games!), Time with friends and family, and most importantly, sleep. (Above all, I emphasize gold.) I might have added: ethics, kindness, and integrity, but it’s embedded in what you do rather than what you say.

hard work cost

Jason Leung at Unsplash

Source: Jason Leung at Unsplash

Is this what I really mean? If you had asked me a few years ago, I probably would have mentally crossed my fingers behind my back. Now, this is my daily effort and practice. Sure, I’d love for them to go to Harvard or Stanford, but more than that, I want them not to be stripped of the social and emotional parts in service of a narrow and expensive definition of success. in documentary film try harder!, Students at Lowell High, an elite public high school in San Francisco, most of whom are Asian-American, deal with incredible pressure to try and get into an elite college. (Full disclosure: I attended Lowell in the 1980s.) At the same time, parents and alumni of the school are clamoring for a holistic admissions policy for the school that takes factors other than GPA and standardized scores into account. fear that Asian American students will lose out. Regardless of where one stands on the question of admissions policy, the underlying spirit of the relentless drive for achievement is unmistakable, the sense that admission to elite schools is the ultimate success that justifies everything, including the cost to mental health or the health of a community.

it thanks

As Chinese immigrants to this country, Thanksgiving was a new holiday for my family that we embraced easily because it fits so well into our culture – a family gathering heavily focused on food! We paired turkey with sticky rice with sausage. This Thanksgiving, I am hoping that our community can embrace a more Western view of the primacy of the individual, viewing our children as wholes, as individual beings with their own paths of development, and the Eastern values ​​of family harmony. with. I’m especially thankful that my boys and I are enjoying the time together we each have a respite from work. We’re taking in the desert air and the views of the mountains. They tease me and each other mercilessly like teenagers, and I can see that they are overjoyed. He’s worth everything.

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