Many Vietnamese lack strong bonds with their parents because of the Vietnam War, says Suong Nguyen.
The Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association’s (AVWA) playgroup co-ordinator says the long-running war disrupted the family unit, and generations later the consequences are still playing out.
Recently the association, which runs playgroups in Sunshine, St Albans and Delahey, held a birthday party for a little boy who attends one of their playgroups.
His mother had never celebrated his birthday before, because her parents had never made a fuss about her own milestones.
“She broke down and cried, and shared her story of hardship,” Ms Nguyen said. “She didn’t have a strong connection with her son, but she really wanted it to work. It made her so happy to see him smile and laugh.”
Ms Nguyen said the association’s playgroups were not just about entertaining children for an hour each week.
It organises volunteers to work one-on-one with the parents to build their English literacy skills, as well as featuring such things as bilingual story time. It takes children and their parents into the city to show them how to navigate Melbourne’s public transport system.
“Quite a lot of our families have never been to the city before,” she said.
The association has been named Playgroup Victoria’s “playgroup agency of the year”.
Ms Nguyen said their success hinged on earning parents’ trust.
“The more we build their trust, the more we can meet the needs of the family,” she said.