She bridges generational and cultural gaps by speaking from her multifaceted heart. Her personal journey continues to resonate with many readers. This is especially true for those who have experienced the challenges and unique values with being raised in a multicultural community with immigrant parents. Common to a lot of childhood experiences, especially with Asian backgrounds, are beliefs that discourage expression and preserves privacy. However, with respect for her Chinese heritage, Katharine Chan shares the beauty of embracing all of yourself even when you may have been disciplined not to.
Rhey: What are your favourite thing(s) about the Canadian culture and the Chinese culture?
Katharine: I love how the Canadian culture is very accepting. It really feels like the ‘True north, strong and free’ with this country being built on multiple cultures and has become a melting pot of all of them.
From the Chinese culture, I really love my Chinese food. I also value how family is very important and I think how Russell Peters said how Asians are the cheapest. It’s true, we really know how to spend wisely.
Rhey: What is your comfort food?
Katharine: There are just so many. Do I have to choose just one? I will go general and just say noodles.
Rhey: Outside of blogging, what is your go to coping method?
Katharine: Outside of writing, I would say talking and connecting with my closest friends and family. It really helps to spend quality time with the people I love.
Rhey: What are your top 3 values?
Katharine: Authenticity. Integrity. Open-minded/non judgmental.
Rhey: What is the greatest lesson or experience you have had with your daughter to date?
Katharine: Patience, patience, patience. Being a parent your level of patience is tested time and time again. It puts things into perspective and how you see the world. A child will test your boundaries to the point that you are constantly wanting to either give up or your heart is melting because they’re acting super sweet. One moment you are absolutely fed up and just want to throw in the towel, and then 2 seconds later you are telling yourself to just do it.
You really end up getting outside of your comfort zone. Getting pregnant, going to the playground and becoming a mama bear overnight, you start doing things just thinking what is right for your child. She has given me so much courage to do things I would have never done.
Rhey: How do you believe you would discipline a child acting out?
Well, she is at the point where she is starting to hit people, talk back and whine a lot. So I have learned that I like to use my words, I am a talker. I would go down to her level and say how I feel. The important point would also be explaining why something is wrong. I wouldn’t just say, “No jumping on the bed” or “Brush your teeth”. Explaining why something is wrong or right is important.
There are times though I need to check out mentally. This may be me walking in a safe space or do breathing exercises in a corner of the room. The goal is to control my temper so that I can come back to her and give her a stern look in the eye. Eventually, when she gets older, instead of taking stuff away, discipline should be consistent, with lengthy conversations, less autonomy, more accountability, fewer privileges, encouraging the child to self-reflect and to take responsibility for their wrongdoing.
Rhey: What advice would you give about opening a conversation about a topic that is considered taboo in a culture that is ‘private’?
Katharine: It must be very difficult to say anything if you’re having those thoughts. My personal belief is that the cause of fear is almost always uncertainty. If someone is struggling to bring something up, I would think to first explore their own fears about why they fear talking about a topic. This involves self-reflection. Do your own research of reputable sources. Get informed about the topic first. If being direct is too hard, then try using another person’s story or start with sharing your own fears around it like “It’s really hard for me to bring this topic up but I’d like to talk about it.”
Rhey: What advice would you give to other parents about teaching their kids to be more culturally sensitive?
Katharine: It starts with being self-aware. Some people make comments not even thinking If they are being culturally sensitive or not. If you find you are generalizing, your kids may grow up thinking the same way. Monkey see and monkey do. Demonstrate what is right. Lead by example.
Rhey: How would you persuade a person with traditional cultural values to ask for help outside of the family?
Katharine: It is hard to persuade people when it involves changing them as a person. First, understand that person’s journey and story of where those beliefs come from. Depending on their age and generation, there are celebrities or influencers who they resonate with who openly talking about their mental health challenges. Sometimes to read about something makes it less taboo.
Sometimes being a bystander is the hardest position to have. This is especially true if you see someone you care for is struggling. Letting you know you care and you want to help can go a long way. If you have an established relationship, refer them to helpful resources and services if they need help. But remember, just be there for them. Also, be mindful of your own health.
Rhey: What goals do you have for yourself or for Sum on Sleeve this year?
Katharine: Reaching out to more people to share my mission and vision – talk about growing to love themselves, embracing culture and start loving relationships.
Note: 1. Katharine Chan is currently in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).
2. Discovered through a Facebook group for bloggers.