Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the CFF and AMP Parenting Seminar
Mr Abdul Hamid Abdullah, Chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals
Mr Richard Hoon, Chairman of Centre for Fathering
Distinguished guests and parents
Good morning. I am heartened to see so many of you taking time off your busy schedule to attend today’s Parenting Seminar. Your presence here is encouraging, as it shows that all of you want to strive to become better parents for your children and build a lasting and strong family.
This is the third year that the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and Centre for Fathering (CFF) have co-organised this Parenting Seminar. Its popularity shows that more parents want to learn how to be better at parenting. Parenting is a learning journey, where we must develop new parenting styles and equip ourselves with the relevant skills to nurture our children at different stages of their lives.
It is a joy to have children. They add much love and laughter to the house, especially when it is a big family! But having children can also have its challenges. Over time, the AMP and CFF have seen more families needing help in the areas of marriage, parenting and other social issues. According to statistics from AMP, there was a twofold increase in the number of people who requested for help in 2017 compared to 2016. Unfortunately, many of these families seek help only when things are already at a critical stage. Very often, counsellors and case workers notice that the root cause is due to an unintended neglect by the married couple in strengthening and building their marriage. In most cases, these families are made up of dual-income earners, who find it challenging to spend quality time together.
It is therefore important to make an effort to nurture our marriage. Strong marriages are the foundation of strong families. Parenting is teamwork. When we choose a life partner and marry him or her, we are actually choosing a lifelong teammate who will partner us in our parenting journey. To parent together successfully, it is important to support each other, respect and complement each other’s parenting style, as both parents are ultimately driven by the same goal to nurture the child well. Being a parent myself with five children, I understand very well that the parenting style differs from each child. Hence, we have to constantly adapt and modify our parenting styles.
Of course, I understand that this is easier said than done. Parents today face challenges that are vastly different from a generation ago. Many children and teenagers now carry smartphones. It is almost impossible to track what they do online and whom they interact with on social media.
I am therefore glad that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has introduced the Positive Parenting Programme, otherwise known as “Triple P” to support parents. This programme aims to equip parents with practical and easy tools to promote their children’s psychological, social and emotional competence. In so doing, it strives to reduce children’s challenging behaviours and consequently parenting stress. I hope more of us will tap on such available programmes. To address the challenges of parenting, it is crucial to nurture the parent-child relationship early as this builds trust and understanding between parents and their children.
I mentioned earlier that parenting is teamwork. Indeed, in the latest Marriage and Parenthood Survey 2016 conducted by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), almost all respondents agreed that this should be the case. Ninety-nine percent of married respondents to the survey agreed that fathers and mothers are equally important as caregivers for their children. Yet at the same time, the survey showed a disconnect between what parents agreed should be the correct caregiving arrangement, and what was being practised. The same survey revealed that most childcare responsibilities such as caring for a sick child, feeding and bathing the child, are still predominantly carried out by mothers. On average, mothers reported spending 2.6 hours on domestic chores on a normal weekday, almost twice of the 1.5 hours by fathers. Although the situation has since improved, there is more that the fathers among us can do to bridge this gap.
Fathers play an important role in educating and nurturing your children. Research shows that children with more involved fathers have better social skills, do better academically, and have fewer behavioral issues.
There are many ways that fathers can play a more active role in their children’s lives. Fathers can impart good values, advice and insights through daily conversations and interactions with their children. This is especially important for the relationships between fathers and sons, as the fathers often serve as role models. Fathers can also provide moral and emotional support to their wives as well as share the load of household chores. As children learn by observation, fathers can teach the children by setting a good example. Daughters who observe their fathers as kind, loving, and involved in sharing the household load would also look for similar traits in their future husbands. Sons, on the other hand, would model after their fathers to be loving husbands to their wives, and caring fathers to their children. Social workers have shared that abusive husbands are often influenced by behaviors from their own fathers.
With the multiple roles played by fathers today, it can at times be overwhelming for some. I understand that AMP, PPIS and CFF are working together to commission an in-depth study on socio-cultural challenges to effective parenting experienced by Malay/Muslim fathers in Singapore. Findings from this study will help to provide a framework where intervention measures can be developed early to manage these challenges. In this regard, I am also heartened that CFF will be establishing a fathers’ support group to promote the Dads for Life Movement. Such support is crucial as fathers also need to be nurtured and guided. The support group will be organising father-children bonding activities and workshops to equip fathers and parents to become good influences in their children’s lives. I hope that more of such groups will be introduced in our community, not just in schools but also in institutions such as mosques, madrasahs, as well as voluntary and welfare organisations.
Good parenting is not limited to just our relationship with our children, but also the ability to continually build and strengthen the relationship between parents. I hope that you will put new knowledge from today’s seminar to good use and truly build lasting families.
With that, I wish you a fruitful seminar ahead.