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This Card Game Sparks Deep Conversations Across Generations

Innovation Fellow Joseph Lam tried to heal his relationship with his immigrant parents. Now he’s helping a global audience bridge divides.

Joseph, Mary, and Francis Lam, the family behind Parents Are Human.

Photo caption: Joseph, Mary, and Francis Lam, the family behind Parents Are Human. Photo courtesy of Parents Are Human.

What is Parents Are Human and what inspired you to start it? 

Joseph LamParents Are Human is a card game that helps spark deep conversations across generations. Now available in 15 different languages, each deck contains 70 prompts that inspire connection, compassion and vulnerability. 

For the last few years, the most important priority in my life has been healing the broken relationship I had with my immigrant parents for more than 12 years. I co-created Parents Are Human to get to know my parents deeply before it’s too late and to help others do the same. 

What problem are you trying to solve? 

I want to normalize working through challenging family dynamics and make the process easier, especially within immigrant families, where there are often significant language, culture and generational gaps. 

Interpersonal challenges at home are among the most painful challenges to resolve and yet there aren’t many of these “baby steps” to healing aside from jumping straight to family therapy. We wanted an easy way to start these important conversations, which often feel too daunting and awkward to start.

How does Parents Are Human work?

You simply pull out the deck of cards, make sure everyone is up for playing, and start asking questions! Sometimes people will go around in a circle, giving everyone the chance to answer the same question. Or you can have each person draw a new card and answer a different question. Then it’s really just about carving out the space to listen and be present. Putting your mobile phones away might be helpful! 

Why choose a cogenerational approach? 

Parents Are Human is proudly POC-owned, our team is 89% non-white, 67% women, and represents almost every age category, teens to 70s! As we grow, we are committed to maintaining this cultural and generational diversity as it is profoundly necessary for both our company to be successful and for society as a whole.

Each of our card games symbolizes a cultural bridge, crafted thoughtfully and meticulously by bilingual families around the world that represent each language and culture. None of our 15 language editions would exist today if it weren’t for the 110+ native speakers and their loved ones who have put in months of work to co-create each one. We feel good about providing this paid work that translators are proud of and that serves their own community. 

What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see? 

We believe with our hearts that bringing families closer together will bring the world closer together. After all, families are the basic building blocks of society. Our vision is for Parents Are Human to be one of the first, most accessible tools anyone reaches for when thinking of deepening their relationship with their loved ones, something that you can find in every home and store. As we help make this challenging journey easier, we’ll see a societal shift where improving family relationships is one of the most popular goals that people set for themselves. That’s how we can all heal together.

How can people get involved with your work?

You can purchase a card game or download our free/pay-what-you-can digital version on our website. Follow @parentsarehuman on Instagram for inspirational family content. Reach out to us at [email protected] if you’d like to collaborate on something, share an idea, or ask a question!

What are you most proud of in your life? 

Rebuilding my relationship with my parents will always be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I documented the very raw and real journey I went through on our blog, if you’re interested in checking it out. 

Learn more about Joseph Lam here.