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  1. Why adolescents should be encouraged to approach drinking responsibly Parenting in Shanghai is not easy. In addition to the regular challenges associated with parenting, raising a family in the city brings unique hurdles. One that is unfamiliar and unique to many parents is the ready availability of alcohol. In 2006 China passed a law stating that the legal drinking age is 18, but it is rarely enforced. Compounding matters is the extent to which clubbing is engrained in the social life of the city, and the fact that Shanghai clubs rarely check for age. There is no doubt that even if your teenager has not already consumed alcohol, he or she has had and will continue to have the opportunity to do so. If you have not begun an ongoing dialogue with your teenager about alcohol consumption, abuse, risks and your expectations and concerns regarding all the above, then you need to. There are two basic schools of thought regarding the legislation of your child’s drinking: abstinence and openness. The abstinence approach involves informing your teenager of the risks involved, perhaps sharing some tragic anecdote, and concluding your conversation with, “… and this is why you CANNOT drink.” Frequently parents will levy a harsh penalty for violation of the no drinking rule, which is as effective at deterring teenagers from drinking as the death penalty is at deterring murders – i.e. not very. The openness approach requires more effort, but is more effective. Do not be mistaken, it is not allowing your child to get drunk weekly. The goal is to have an open dialogue about alcohol and your child’s relationship to it, with the end result being responsible choices made by your child. It is not as simple as allowing your teenager to drink a glass of wine with the rest of the family during Sunday dinners and assuming you have taught them self-control, and it cannot be executed with a single conversation, or even ten. The openness approach must be a concerted, concentrated, organized and ongoing approach to educating your child about alcohol and the choices associated with alcohol culture. The openness approach does not lack limits – in fact it necessitates them – however, it is different than the abstinence approach in that the limits are not ‘zero tolerance’ but more fluid and designed to encourage discussion, honesty and problem-solving. It recognizes that the thing deterring your child from making irresponsible decisions is not the prospect of losing their Xbox or extracurricular activities, but rather that of harming their relationship with you. The stronger the bonds between you and your child, the more likely they are to seek your advice and heed it when it’s given.
  2. Hello A-roaming. Here's our experience, for what it's worth. Our daughter is in second grade at a local school. She's a "joint venture" (Chinese-Caucasion) and doesn't experience any bullying but she's pretty sociable. In fact I think she sometimes gets away with a little more and is made a bit of a fuss of because she is "foreign" (I think the only one in the school.) I'm not sure how much Shanghainese is spoken but I think it's discouraged. Certainly our daughter has never shown any desire to speak any Shanghainese. As for the schooling itself, it is tough. The school day is from 7.50 to 3.30 and she gets about 2 hours of homework each day (at least, it takes her 2 hours). The schoolday is actually 40 minutes shorter than last year as I believe the government mandated a shorter day to reduce the pressure on children. Mom spends a lot of time every day helping our daughter with her Chinese homework and you'll definitely need someone who can help your children with this. She was fluent in Mandarin before she started school and could read a fair amount of Chinese, although not write any, but the local kids seem to have been preparing for school from about the age of 4, so I think she was actually a little behind at least as far as writing goes. I think your 9 year old especially would struggle unless he/she is reading and writing Chinese at close to the local standard. I also wouldn't expect any help from the school in catching up. The style of teaching is very rigid and doesn't seem to cater for individual needs. The maths standard also seems to be fairly high - at least a lot tougher than when I was at school. Having said this, the school she is at is supposed to be a bit tougher than average but I don't think other good local schools would be that much easier. I don't actually regret the fact that she is at a local school but it's been heavy going at times and sometimes do wonder. My feeling is that she is getting a very good basic education and hopefully the ability to read and write Chinese will be something that sticks with her. Hope this helps a little. Regards ciwei
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