SINGAPORE: For this Chinese New Year, Serene Wu and Michelle Tay want to steer the conversation away from the stereotypical stilted topics at gatherings.
Instead, they hope to spark more meaningful exchanges via questions printed on the back of ang pow packets, such as “What was the best thing that happened to you in the past year?”.
Wu, 36, and Tay, 38, founded their online business Love Bonds in July 2019, with the aim of encouraging more intentional conversations between parents and children to strengthen family bond.
They have created a set of eight ang pows, which come in four designs, in collaboration with design studio Urban Li’l.
The women were inspired by the awkward questions directed at them as children.
Wu, a teacher, says: “How is school? How were your exams? Which school are you in or what is your favourite subject? It was so stressful receiving such questions during Chinese New Year. I would think ‘Am I supposed to tell you my grades?’.”
For Tay, a wedding photographer, such questions related to academic life were “especially evident for me the year after my PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination)”.
There are similar questions asked at every life stage, like those relating to one’s marital status or the number of children one has.
“Yet family gatherings can be the perfect time to get to know more about one another. I want to strike a meaningful conversation with my nieces and nephews, ” says Tay, who is married to a civil servant, also 38.
The couple have two daughters, aged two and four.
Other items sold by Love Bonds include parent-and-child conversation prompts, where the adults can ask their offspring questions such as what their favourite part of the day is or what three things they are good at.Wu and Tay, who have been friends for more than 10 years, also want to impart values through the books and magazines they offer on Love Bonds, which come with conversation guides they create themselves.
One of these items, Bravery Magazine, showcases female role models for both girls and boys, such as Junko Tabei, a Japanese mountaineer who is the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Wu has encountered parents during past parent-teacher meetings who said their children had stopped communicating meaningfully with them.
That was when she realised some parents “don’t know how” to talk to their kids, especially when the latter are absorbed with smartphones.
“I wanted to make having conversations with my children a big part of my own parenting, ” says Wu, whose sons are aged three and seven.
Her husband, 38, is also a teacher.
She suggests some strategies from her own experience.
She sometimes writes notes for her Primary 1 child, Azel, which accompany the snacks for school that she packs for him and have questions such as “What is the best question you asked today?”.
“It’s to encourage him to talk to me. (In contrast), a question like ‘How’s your day?’ is difficult, ” she says.
Despite its challenges, talking to children can be unexpectedly delightful.
Wu recounts how one neighbour kept forgetting her name. She asked the young girl to give her another name instead.
The response: “How about Auntie Beautiful Earrings?” — The Straits Times/ANN