What are we depriving them of, really?

April 1, 2014, 0 Comments

Are students spending too much time on co-curricular activities (CCA)?

Has our the society become so competitive that schools too are competing how many CCAs they can offer, and what CCAs are they best known for? Is it just sleep deprivation that we are robbing our children of? As some parents have reported, their children are leaving homes as early as 5.30am, only to reach home at 7pm, at least three times a week. That leaves them little time to catch up on their homework and even less time spent with the family.

I have heard of stories where it is impossible to quit from a CCA unless a student submits a letter certified by a doctor as unfit.  In grooming our young into well-rounded persons, are we in fact telling them that the only important thing is self-advancement? Is there implications to an individual, and hence the society in the long run?

Many have written in to the Ministry of Education asking for more time to be freed up, the Straits Times showed.

Sometime late last year, there was a discussion on Channel News Asia on social trends that are challenging the norms of marriage. I caught up with Dinah Lee, Head of Research and Development of Focus on Family and talked more on the topic of family.

1) Question: Hi Dinah, you mentioned that Singapore kids are very very bright, but lacking emotionally.  How do you mean?

Dinah Lee: I’m referring to the lack of holistic development in our kids, especially emotionally. I’ve observed that both our educational system and parents generally put a disproportionate emphasis on academic excellence with little regard for their emotional development. Consequently, our kids grow up as very driven, self-centered individuals with a lack of empathy and pitiable relational skills.

2) Question: With both parents working from 9am – 5pm and sometimes beyond 9pm everyday, how do parents even have time with their children?

Dinah Lee: Filling a child’s love tank is not limited to big events; everyday interactions can be more meaningful than parents realize. Though time is scarce for working parents, make every effort to ensure every moment with the child counts – grab the opportunity to engage their children at bedtimes, mealtimes and on weekends. Simple family meals and outings can turn into meaningful times of bonding and relationship-strengthening.

With an increasing focus on academic achievements, it is easy for parents to forget about their children’s emotional needs. Other than checking in on their schoolwork, make the effort to connect with our children on an emotional level by checking in on their feelings and processing those feelings with them. Nurturing a child to develop a high emotional quotient will help him or her become a well-developed individual as an adult.

3) Question: You mentioned that the importance of family begins with the young. What can families do to teach our children about the importance of family?

Dinah Lee: My point is for the young to learn the value of marriage and family in their home.

Parents have the privilege and responsibility of inculcating a strong set of values in their children, and that should include the value of marriage and family. This is done through both words (instruction) and actions (modelling). Other than talking to their children about the importance of healthy relationships, parents should also model a loving relationship with each other and with their children, and spend quality time bonding as a family.

Ultimately, the home is the nurturing cradle for personal development, where one can acquire a sense of security and learn the nuts and bolts of how to relate to others.

4) Question: Does the rise of materialism distract us from the more important task of building families?

Dinah Lee: In our materialistic society, aided by numerous advertisements, it is very easy to be lured into wanting more and more things. The desire to keep up causes us to place undue importance on getting what others have, or more.

Materialism plays out in various ways and competes with the more important task of building families. For example, weddings have become a signal for social status, and couples are facing pressure from parents and even friends to achieve a certain standard for their wedding even if they don’t have the means to. This attitude often influence couples to only focus on investing in a one-day affair instead of learning how to build a lifelong, happy marriage. Even after marriage, it is easy to get caught up with climbing the corporate ladder or striving to get a better car or house, at the expense of devoting time to build strong family relationships.

Materialism not only competes and distracts us from the already limited time we have for our family; it can blind us and deceive us to think that having and giving our loved ones more stuff is more important than the relationship we have with them. Such an outlook is what makes us succumb to compromising our time for our loved ones when we are better off guarding that time to build our family.

5) Question: You spoke about individualism. How does individualism looks like? How does it affect having a family?

Dinah Lee: In the context of marriage, individualism basically asks the question, “What’s in it for me?” Some believe that a good relationship partner should be someone who is able to fulfill all their needs, without thinking much about how to become a better spouse themselves. Others might expect their partner to have equal or better educational qualifications and professional status as them. With such mindsets, finding a suitable partner for marriage becomes more difficult. Also, some might feel that building a strong marriage and raising children require too much time and effort, to which they are unwilling to make that personal sacrifice and decide that they are better off being single and independent.

6) Why is family important? Isn’t it enough that one pursues happiness without having a family?

Dinah Lee: Family is God’s idea and design!

Family fills us with love and a sense of belonging, and provide security and support which is especially valuable during difficult times. Though material possessions and status can provide us with a certain degree of happiness, these do not satisfy us in a lasting manner nor do they fulfill our innate desire to love and be loved.

The family is also where a lasting legacy of faith, values and traditions are established. Having close ties with family and loved ones is priceless; it is to our own good that we make every effort to build and strengthen these relationships.

Great stuff! Thank you Dinah for your invaluable insights! Indeed it is ever so urgent to treasure, guard and protect the time we have with our children.  Most importantly, model for them the importance of family.

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