As more and more foreign residents these days choose to live in Tokyo for an extended time, the number of foreign families raising children in Tokyo is also increasing as well. For many mothers from overseas, raising children in a foreign country where language and culture are different from theirs can be often difficult. As Meilin tries to get some help from Dr. Advice for her friend who is a struggling mother of a young child, Mr. Kim, who himself is a father of young children, joins the two to talk about raising children in Tokyo.
Kim I just happened to hear you talk about a baby, Meilin. I didn't know you had one.
Meilin Oh no, Mr. Kim. I was talking about a Chinese couple who are regular customers at our restaurant.
Dr. Advice Meilin says the husband is very worried about his wife because she is stressed out from taking care of their baby.
Kim How old is the baby?
Meilin It's a boy and he just turned one. He always has a big smile on his face, but according to his mother, he is fussy and cries a lot during the day while her husband is away from home.
Kim Babies of that age easily get upset when they are separated from their mothers even for a moment. They could put anything they see into their mouth so have to be watched all the time. Many mothers stay home alone to take care of the babies, and it is not always as easy as it sounds.
Dr. Advice Regardless of where they are from, mothers can be stressed from caring for young children. However, raising children can be especially difficult for some mothers if they are trying to do so in a foreign country where language and culture are different from theirs. It is important that they should not keep themselves at home and be worried all by themselves.
Meilin Where is the best place to get information about raising children in Japan?
Dr. Advice Many cities and towns today publish an information booklet in foreign languages about raising children for their foreign residents. The copies are usually available at the alien registration section or the child welfare section of the city/town hall. For example, Machida City provides local foreign parents with a guidebook about childrearing in English, Chinese, and Korean.
Meilin That's nice. I will find out if my friends can get one from the city they live in.
Kim It is also helpful if they can find support from other mothers, experienced parents, and Japanese friends.
Dr. Advice Some local international centers offer Japanese language classes that have child-care service for mothers with young children. Sometimes participants are allowed to bring their babies to the class. I hope these services will become more available in other communities so that many mothers with young children can benefit from them. I also understand that some communities have been operating a program called " kosodate hiroba, " which is to open up the facilities of hoikuen (preschool/nursery school) to local stay-at-home mothers and their young children to provide them with a safe place where they can play together and meet with other children and mothers.
Kim Once children start hoikuen or yochien, it becomes much easier for both children and their parents to make friends.
Dr. Advice By the way, do you know anything about " boshi kenko techo, " Meilin?
Meilin No, I have never heard of it.
Dr. Advice In Japan, anyone who becomes pregnant is eligible to receive a booklet called boshi kenko techo (mother-child health handbook) at a local city office. The book tells what mothers need to know about pregnancy, delivery of babies, and caring for infants and toddlers. The book can also be used to keep records of the baby's health condition and growth, the result of checkups, vaccination history, and more. For parents who do not read Japanese, the boshi kenko techo is available in eight other languages, including English, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Tagalog, Portuguese, Indonesian, and Spanish. To get a copy in a particular language, ask a local city hall if they have one.
Meilin That sounds very useful. I will mention the book to my friend who is expecting a baby.
Dr. Advice There is no culture that does not treasure children. I suggest all foreign fathers and mothers, if they are facing any concerns or issues about their children, to stop worrying alone and seek support outside their home. And as Japanese citizens, we should reach out to these families and help them so that their children would later have happy memories of their lives in Japan as their childhood hometown.
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