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FREEBIE: “Chinese Parents Camp Out on Campus” Discussion Starter

In the News

Shanghai, China—Hundreds of “love tents” pop up every fall on Chinese university campuses, and the residents are parents, not students. Parents—and often extended family members—who travel long distances with their college freshmen often have difficulty finding accommodations. So universities have devised the compassionate solution of free campsites, allowing parents to make sure their kids get settled in.

Although critics say the love tents hamper young people’s independence and show how spoiled they are, others say they’re a great way to celebrate a special occasion.

Most freshmen being dropped off are only children, due to a one-child government policy in China. Because these prized kids have grown up in the wealthy modern era, they’re known as “little emperors.”

“They are 18-year-old babies,” says one social-media user. “I moved in on my own.” But another admits, “I’m quite envious of these kids. When I started university, my parents were busy. Nobody took me.”

Many students say they appreciate their parents’ efforts, which sometimes include taking unpaid time off work. “There are too many things to carry, and I need their help,” says Yvonne Wong, 22. “They might as well see how the university is. It’s something to be proud of.” Chinese students must take a grueling exam, known as the world’s hardest test, to get into college.

China’s one-child parents are especially vulnerable to loneliness after heading home from campus. “I feel my heart is empty with my son gone,” says one new empty-nest mom. Many parents stay in constant contact with their kids, texting and calling often.

One anxious mother, who thoroughly cleaned her son’s dorm room before departing, texts him regularly to make sure he’s eating well. “We have to wait at least a semester to see him again,” she says.


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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups

How do you feel about the love tents? What in the United States is similar to that phenomenon? What message do you think these parents are sending to their kids: unconditional love? fear and clinginess? other?

When parents hang out on campus, does that ensure their kids get settled in or prevent them from getting settled in? Explain. Does being accompanied by your parents automatically mean you’re spoiled? Why or why not?

When it comes to milestones such as moving to college, is it okay for families to celebrate together? At what point should students “cut the cord” and venture out on their own?

What are some ways your parents display their love and emotional support for you? When does their presence feel comforting, and when does it begin to feel smothering?

When you head to college or move out, what type of goodbye experience do you want or expect? How frequently do you expect to be in touch with your parents, and how often do you want them to contact you?

How often do you expect to go back home to visit? Is it best to stay away for a while, to adjust to your new surroundings? Why or why not?

How can you balance wanting your own freedom with helping your parents cope with your absence? How will you be able to assure them you’re doing okay and can handle things on your own?

If you’re struggling, do you think you’ll feel comfortable admitting that and asking for help? Explain. How can you prepare for the possibility of homesickness, even if you think it won’t happen to you?

When you’re living on your own, how do you think your relationship with Jesus will be affected? Do you expect to find your own church and new Christian friends? Do you think it’s weak to stay dependent on Jesus, even when others are leaving him behind?

Scripture links: Joshua 23:6-8; Jeremiah 13:11; Matthew 10:37; John 15:5-8; Philippians 4:6-7; and 1 Timothy 5:8.

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FREEBIE: “Chinese Parents Camp ...

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