On October 15th, the Vietnam Studies Center at Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) collaborated with the Development and Strategic Initiatives Office and the Psychology Department at Fulbright to organize the workshop “Mindful Family, Happy Family.” This workshop is an important first step in a series of interdisciplinary events in psychology, education and culture that focuses on building good relationships between parents and children, so as to contribute to the overall well-being of a society.
In his opening speech, Dr. Nguyen Nam, Director of the Vietnam Studies Center at Fulbright, highlighted the workshop’s expectations: to help “re-establish and strengthen the relationship between parents and children,” so that familial relationships become “increasingly empathetic and healthy.”
Dr. Nguyen Nam pointed out the importance of healthy family relationships in the 21st century, when modern life brings many pressures and changes to human interactions:
“The pressures of work, study, and life, generational gaps, lifestyle conflicts, the sense of isolation, emotional burdens, and many other factors are creeping into family life, damaging the relationship between parents and children. […] Faced with these challenges in family relationships, parents and children seek their own channels of communication for release. […] However, these two main groups of actors, parents and children, often do not establish a communication channel between themselves to converse and understand each other.”
The solution proposed for this challenge is the practice of mindfulness. Dr. Nguyen Nam emphasized: “Taking on the responsibilities of parents and meeting the duties of children are not innate genetic skills, but something that must be learned and practiced with mindfulness, with care, with observations, focused on adapting to specific circumstances.”
The morning session focused on three in-depth lectures by Dr. Hoang Minh To Nga – Faculty in Psychology at Fulbright University Vietnam, Dr. Le Nguyen Phuong – Co-Founder and Chair of the Consortium to Advance School Psychology – International (CASP-I), trainer and author in the fields of Psychology and Education, and Ms. Tran Thi My Yen – Founder and Chair of the Mindful Living Institute. The speakers discussed the difficulties in parent-child relationships and guided participants towards mindfulness practices as a method to develop skills in reflection and contemplation, via which to improve their behavior and language use in family contexts.
Dr. To Nga started her speech by categorizing the challenges of raising children. These include the problem of how to increase positive behavior and reduce negative behavior in children, managing the power balance in parent-child relationships, or how to keep up-to-date with children’s social relationships without infringing or imposing restrictions. Dr. To Nga concluded that mindfulness is essential for identifying lasting wounds across generations. Parents who have self-healed will be able to clarify the purpose in their behavior (whether they act out of an essential need or non-essential want of the child, whether the action is for the children or for themselves, etc.) and recognize the hidden sorrows and wounds that need healing in both their children and themselves.
Dr. Le Nguyen Phuong continued with a discussion on the generation gap between parents and children through observations on traditions. Notably, he zoomed in on the idea of Generational Continuity: “one generation always wants to prolong the status quo with the next,” and to avoid conflicts, which leads to stagnation in thoughts and actions among family members. In addition, Dr. Le Nguyen Phuong provided an insight into the “hierarchical nature” in the right to express emotions: parents often get angry, suppress their children, while not allowing their children the right to express these same emotions or behaviors. He also emphasized that in order to improve their relationship with their children, parents should look inside, transform their thoughts, their words and deeds through mindfulness, and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, and deeds.
Ms. Tran Thi My Yen gave her lecture on the practice of mindfulness. She reminded participants to focus on their breath to stay present, and to remember two major tools for meaningful social relationships: Mindfulness – being fully present, and Clear awareness – clear perception.
She also reminded listeners to pay attention to the trio “Body – Mind – Situation” (the physical body, mental state, and surrounding circumstances). Ms. My Yen clarified that every phenomenon occurs within the context of body, mind, and situation. Therefore, one should not hastily label events, but use mindfulness to clearly understand the reason and purpose behind the presented words and actions, and respond with mindfulness in a compassionate manner.
After the lectures, participants were divided into break-out rooms to discuss and share about the existing issues in their parent-child relationships. They then came together for a group discussion. Through this activity, parents and children had the opportunity to have direct dialogue, allowing both sides to understand each other’s concerns and release existing tensions. Participants posed questions about breakdowns in communication, differences in lifestyles and ways of thought, or the frustration of not being acknowledged by the other party despite their well-meaning efforts. In addition, participants also received answers to their concerns from the session’s experts, which included psychology advice from Dr. Nguyen Thi Lan, Visiting Faculty in Psychology at Fulbright, social perspective explanations from Dr. Nguyen Nam, and mindfulness methodologies from Ms. Tran Thi My Yen.
Participants from within and outside of Fulbright University Vietnam contributed great questions and dialogues throughout the event. One of the missions of a university is holistic education. The Vietnam Studies Center at Fulbright believes that learners must first be educated to be aware of their responsibilities towards themselves and their families. This is the foundation, the starting point for the creation of responsible citizenry. The event hopes to have provided a positive and scientific space to help participants reevaluate the parent-child relationship dynamics in their own families and becoming more holistic individuals. This is also the first step in forming a close-knit community to expand the reach of the Vietnam Studies Center’s programs in order to guide the attention of society towards important issues of our time.
The “Mindful Family, Happy Family” workshop was sponsored by C+P Consulting Company.