Helping the new generation of parents speak to their children about social issues.
WHAT IS UBXED ?
UBXED is the social impact platform that I have created to address today’s “hidden” issues that affect children with sensitivity. It tackles difficult topics like war, immigration, dementia, family ties, school safety, humanity, divisiveness, sexual abuse, depression and identity acceptance using humanity’s oldest communication tool: storytelling.
Its stories speak to the adult in the child, and the child in the adult. UBXED focuses on the cultural and emotional intelligence, and welfare of children, and encourages the active participation of parents in their children's life.
A COMPLICATED WORLD
The world is constantly changing. There is always good and bad that comes with change. We welcome all that is good with open arms. And we deal with all that is bad with hate, anger, denial and indifference.
But what about the children? The children are exposed directly and indirectly to the bad that is in this world.
Can we shield them from harm by ignoring their awareness of such things? Can we shield them from harm by telling the children to ignore such things? How long should we hide these truths from them?
THE ADULT IN THE CHILD
I believe there is the potential to understand worldly things in some children. These children are not geniuses but they have a curiosity about the world around them. This is the little adult that is inside them. This little adult is the beginning of the grown-up person they will become.
They have questions about why certain things happen in the world, and why adults act the way they do on such matters.
They may ask their parents these questions. If the parents shush them up every time, they will stop voicing these questions out. And it is sad if they stop asking such questions even in their own minds. I believe this will somehow stunt their personal growth.
There are too many adults today who tend to keep quiet even when something feels wrong to them. They have been taught very early on that the act of questioning itself is prohibited first by their parents then by their teachers.
I believe the little adult in the child is precious. Not every child has it. For the child who has this potential in him or her, it is something to be nurtured.
THE CHILD IN THE ADULT
As adults, and most importantly as parents, we have a lot on our minds. We have bills to pay, and people to take care of. These are all the responsibilities of an adult and a parent.
When our children question us too much about things we think is not yet for them to think about, we may find such questions annoying. We may develop the habit of just nodding our heads in reaction to such annoying questions. Or we may just react quite angrily when we are busy.
Adults were not born fully-formed as adults. We were once children too. Which is a biological fact that most adults have somehow forgotten. Without having lived through the years as a child, we would never have become an adult.
I believe the child is always in us. It is just that most of us have kept the child dormant and hidden. We feel that it is stupid to acknowledge its existence. The funny thing is we do not feel so stupid when the child is let loose after a few drinks. We know how childish we can be after a few beers.
Let the inner child in you out. Especially when you are a parent. I think it is healthy to have conversations with your children on anything that they have on their minds. And for you to be able to understand their point-of-view at the level of a child.
But I do understand that sensitive topics can be hard to discuss with your children, and that is why the world has stories. Stories are the bridge to connect children and parents together.
When a parent spends time reading a story to a child, I believe it is more than just an expected thing that is traditionally done. It is more than just teaching about morals, and good and evil. It is more than helping the child learn how to read.
When the parent is truly telling the story instead of just plainly reading it out loud, he or she is also learning what the child is supposed to be learning. If the parent allows the inner child in him or her to be free, the parent is actively engaged in the story which will make the storytelling session so much more compelling.
But first of all, the story itself needs to be compelling. It needs to be so simple yet so powerful in making itself entrenched in the minds of the young and old alike.
THE POWER OF STORIES
Some of the greatest children’s stories are stories that are eternal. They last for all time. They are told and retold without losing their power. They teach every young generation lessons that capture the fundamentals of being a good human being. I am in awe of such powerful but simple stories. These are stories of Hans Christian Andersen and Roald Dahl. These are stories of Pixar’s and Ghibli’s.
The power in storytelling has never diminished no matter how the media form changes. Whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, the power is indisputable. While stories are powerful by nature, the strength of each story’s power depends on how invested the reader or the audience is into it. Why should the reader or the audience care?
WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT STORIES?
Children’s stories that are well-thought out and well-crafted are not that many. We mostly remember the classis fairytales. Tales that have a certain formula that have proven to work with every new generation. And every new generation cares about these stories. Where does their power lies?
I believe even when the tales are incredible, there is honesty in them. It is this honesty that I feel makes them powerful. What do I mean by honesty?
Even though these tales were written specifically for children, the writers did not hide the truth about the world from them. They wrote about the bad that is in this world. They may have masked this badness in the guise of a witch or a monster but they never hid the fact that there is evil around us. These tales were our first exposure as a child to let us know that not everyone or everything is sweet and nice. These cautionary tales spoke on behalf of the parents to their children on matters that most of the time are never talked about at home on an ordinary day.
It was an important lesson, in fact, perhaps the most important lesson we learned in our lifetime. So we care about these stories because there is truth in them (even when the truth featured dragons and unicorns). And these truths are so simple, so fundamental, that they seep into our consciousness and embedded themselves there. I took this honesty and truth into the world of UBXED.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES OF UBXED
I am aware of my limited talent as a writer. But I do have stories brewing inside my head almost all of the time. I have been this way since I was young. I even remember that I had imaginary friends, and playing in imaginary worlds way back then.
So it is quite natural for me to create UBXED. I chose to write short children’s stories because I thought I could do a decent job at it. I knew even though it seemed easier to write for children, it is one that takes into account many sensibilities. And because I chose to write topics that are contemporary and sensitive, I had to figure out how to do so without pushing the boundaries too far.
For UBXED Season One, there are six stories touching on various topics. And within these topics are sub-topics that are related to them.
NEWWLAND: It seemed like there was never a time when humans were not fighting over some disputed land or island. And in the social media age, it just gets more intense. This story was a reaction to all the news that was being reported at one time. No adult nor children could have escaped the news then.
MY LUCKY MACARON: When children see how adults are concerned about luck and lucky charms, it will eventually be adopted by them. I used the ubiquitous lucky cats that can be seen at most retail shops (and at homes and offices too) as the basis of this story. Because it is taboo to break a lucky charm, I purposely have the lucky cats broken more than a few times. I wanted to let the children know that “luck” comes in different forms not necessarily as lucky charms.
THE STARS THAT PAVED THE HEAVENS: I wanted to talk to children about how their grandparents may forget things (because of dementia) as they grow even older. And I wanted the parents reading this story to their children to also address filial piety.
MR. T’S MOUNTAIN: This is about the wall. The wall that a certain president wanted to build. How do you explain this to children?
DOG - A LUNAR NEW YEAR STORY: Every Lunar New Year, we are told how our birth sign is going to be good or bad for us. Children are also not spared. We should not make children feel more or less blessed because of the year they are born.
EATING THE HAPPINESS EATERS: Even though this is essentially about street children’s safety. It concerns all children’s safety. It is a story emboldened by the #MeToo Movement.
All these stories could not have seen the light of day if not for my wonderful collaborators. I am indebted to Minh Lam, Minh Chau, Luanluong, Kien Hoe and Tri Thong for helping me make UBXED Season One happen. Nghi Nguyen, Trung Nguyen and all the good people at Gam7 who supported me, and everyone who read the stories, a big thank you. I am now working on UBXED Season Two. Hope to continue having all your kind support. Until then…