Life in Vietnam

Sunday, 21/05/2023 09:12

Raising a happy and healthy child: advice from Trần Thu Hà

Trần Thu Hà is a well-known journalist and author of three bestsellers on parenting. With 20 years in journalism, she has written many viral articles on education. Her Facebook page Trần Thu Hà (Mẹ Xu Sim or Xu Sim’s Mother), has over 270,000 followers, and her insightful and profound posts receive positive feedback from many parents.

Trương Khánh Linh talks with her about her professional journey and her views on parenting and education.


Trần Thu Hà on a talkshow: Photos courtesy of Trần Thu Hà

Inner Sanctum: Could you share a bit about your most memorable experiences during your 20-year career as a journalist, as well as the lessons you have learned that continue to influence you today?

I used to work for a teenage newspaper, where my day-to-day tasks involved manning the hotline and reporting on social issues. This experience gave me a better understanding of the challenges and aspirations of teenagers. I genuinely care about their well-being and often wonder if parents could take a day to listen to their children. I strongly believe that such an opportunity would have a positive impact on their relationship.

While writing articles and working on the hotline, I noticed that many problems stem from the relationship between parents and their children during their early years, which often goes unaddressed. We tend to overlook this issue, and the consequences become harder to handle later on.

Inner Sanctum: As a single mother, you have experienced challenges overcoming the divorce stigma. Could you share more about how you overcame those difficulties and became a successful mother you are today?

I wouldn't say that I am successful yet. I got a divorce 12 years ago when there was more social prejudice compared to now. My parents told me that no one in our family had ever gotten divorced, and if I did, it would bring shame to our family.

In Eastern culture, a parent's reputation is highly respected, and children feel guilty if they bring shame to their parents and family name. I kept my divorce a secret from my parents for a year and avoided meeting mutual friends. I didn't visit my hometown for several years during Lunar New Year holidays.

The biggest challenge for divorced mothers is the lack of legal protection. If the father refuses to take care of the children or provide financial support, there is nothing they can do. Moreover, there is a lack of respect for privacy. Some teachers openly shame students for having divorced.

Inner Sanctum: You have written many articles on educational issues. In your opinion, what are the pressing problems in education today?

Perhaps it's a matter of losing sight of the true purpose of education. Vietnamese parents are known for their enthusiastic, caring and attentive approach to raising their children.

According to The Economist, Vietnamese parents rank second in the world for the time spent helping their children with their studies. A 2016 survey on "Education Expenditure Priorities of Consumers" in 16 Asia-Pacific countries revealed that Vietnamese parents also invest heavily in their children's education, with foreign language learning being the top priority.

However, the Vietnamese education system often revolves around teachers imparting a unit of knowledge to students, which they are expected to memorise, practise, complete homework for, and take tests on.

Those in higher positions pre-determined the unit of knowledge, so the school's goal is to prepare students to take tests. At home, teaching children usually involves helping them with homework from school. In my opinion, taking tests and doing homework should only be considered tools, not the ultimate goals of learning.


Trần Thu Hà and her two daughters. 

Inner Sanctum: In your book 'You Think, Mom Doesn’t Know', you have shared many pieces of advice to help parents raise their children. What are the common mistakes parents often make when it comes to child-rearing?

Maintaining one's composure is crucial, as parents often overthink and become stressed. Parenting goes beyond acquiring skills, as it primarily involves building a relationship with one's child.

As a result, emotions can overpower these skills. Attributes such as love, responsibility, and bonding can make it more challenging to raise a child. Therefore, one of the most crucial aspects of parenting appears to be disconnected from the child: we must learn to love ourselves, recognize our pain and trauma, and find ways to relax and heal before engaging with and teaching our children.

What parents teach their children is not as important as who they are and how they live their lives. Since having children, I have been striving to study diligently and live a dignified life.

Inner Sanctum: In your opinion, how does the way parents interact and treat each other affect their children?   

The most important lesson that parents teach their children is to love and treat their spouse well. Many people think that only physically hitting a child is considered child abuse, but when parents fight and insult each other, that is also a form of abuse.

Children observe how their parents treat each other and understand their worth, why they were born, why they exist in this world, and whether they are cherished or rejected.

They observe the relationship between their parents and learn about relationships with others in life. As a single mother, I can teach my children about studying and doing household chores. However, I am still worried that my children will not have enough experience with relationships and will not witness firsthand a stable, loving relationship, making it difficult for them to believe in long-lasting love.

Inner Sanctum: Lastly, do you have any plans for your future, and are you considering writing another book?

I promise to write more books about my teenage years. With 18 years of experience working with teenagers and having two teens at home, I have many stories that could make several books, but I'm too busy to write them all.

I also plan to write a book about single mothers in Vietnamese society. I have many things to share, including lessons I've learned at great cost. I remember feeling desperate in the past, and I hope that by telling my story, I can give others hope and strength to continue on their path. VNS

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