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Christ’s Relevance to ABC Gen Z

How can we best build relationships with our kids when we did not grow up with open communication with our own parents?

In an ever changing political and cultural environment, the Chinese diaspora in the US has many cultural differences from generation to generation. From baby boomers trying to make a better life, to millennials who experienced baby boomer “tiger parents,” it was all about tough love and teaching kids to make it on their own. The American Dream was not about becoming anything you want; it was about growing opportunities and making a better life. The post-millennial American-born Chinese (ABC), Gen Z and beyond, experienced gentle parenting and helicopter parenting. Times have changed. It’s now about doing what you love and serving your own happiness. Gen Z is given more freedoms in technology, media, fashion, and more. American secular culture makes it very difficult for Christ to be relevant in teens’ lives. With so much bombarding the generation today, where is there space for Christ to fit into all of this?

As a parent of a Gen Z teen, I’m navigating uncharted waters. I did not have the privilege of understanding or compassionate parents. I’m constantly working on having conversations with my teenage daughter that my parents never had with me.  

I remember growing up and having so many questions as to why my parents did or did not want me to do something. I was seen as a disobedient child, when all I wanted was to have a place to ask questions and not be judged. I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. I had a traditional Chinese upbringing where most conversational topics beyond school were considered forbidden. The traditional Chinese family dynamic emphasized absolute authoritarian rule and filial piety.

Although my parents thought they were doing their best, their method of parenting put great strain on our relationship even into adulthood. In retrospect, traditional Chinese parenting does not work for our ABC Gen Z today. What we know now is that not having transparency in our conversations and burying topics bring sin and shame when there shouldn’t be.

My childhood heavily impacted the way my husband and I raise our children today. Under saving grace, my husband and I sought to foster a Christ-centered family that glorifies God. While parenthood has been God’s greatest blessing to me, being a Christian parent has not been without its challenges.

We make changes and help to show Gen Z that Christ is still very much relevant to their lives when the world is telling them otherwise. We need to tackle those topics head-on. My family and I attend a Chinese-heritage church in LA County, and our youth pastor started a world view series. The world view series is our most popular set of teen sermons. The feedback every year is how they appreciate Christ’s relevance in modern everyday topics. However, I realized that the discussion shouldn’t end when the series concludes.

There needs to be follow-up in the home. Chinese parents cannot be afraid to initiate deep conversations when a sinful world is going to tell our children what to believe. If we as Christian parents don’t step up and address the hard topics, our children will obtain their knowledge from everywhere else instead of God’s Word.

The idea came to mind that it would be great to have a resource to talk about the challenges parents face in parenting and how we can address secular subjects with teens. We founded a small community group called GROW (Grace Revering Open-hearted Women). GROW meets once a month to discuss how to initiate biblical conversations with teens: from career choices, obedience, dating, sex, abortion, addiction, and more. Nothing is off limits. We also share our parenting struggles creating a safe space to support moms. We ask God to use his Holy Spirit, that he would lead us as parents to guide and disciple our children to follow Christ.

We seek to break down communication walls, both parent-to-parent and parent-to-teen. When communication is not open, teens do not have a safe space to ask crucial questions; lies can be created; and parent and child relationships are broken. It’s time to change the narrative for Chinese parents. Community groups among parents, like GROW, can serve as a niche in building a Christian narrative in families.

Every day I pray for God to give me wisdom to eliminate any barriers between my daughter and me. I pray for ways to be able to speak to her and for her to have an open heart. I found that like me, there are many other Chinese Christian parents that share the same struggles. So it’s nice to have GROW taking on this task of teaching us how to reach our teens when we could feign ignorance and never address the elephants in the room.

We as Christian Chinese parents are being led by God to open doors to see into our teens’ lives through deep and difficult conversations. This is definitely out of our comfort zone, but we have seen teens open up to their parents when they would otherwise be afraid of judgment and harsh criticism. We are learning to be slow to speak, listen carefully, and have even greater discernment. Our children see Christ’s love through us, and in encouraging open dialogue with our teens, where nothing is off limits, we are being gifted with the opportunity for family relationships to be fulfilled through Christ.

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Peace An

Peace An (pseudonym) is a member of a Chinese heritage church in LA County. She has an MA in Political Science and has taught students of different ages from elementary to community college. She currently works full-time as a risk consultant. Residing in California, Peace and her husband have been …View Full Bio

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