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Family Life Education Programmes

Educating families educates a nation

Family matters. Family is the building block of the society. A good family environment is important to the well-being of each family member, who sees each other as sources of joy during happy moments and sources of support during difficult times. But good family relationship does not just happen. It takes effort to develop. Hence the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is playing its part to spread its family life education programs to some two million Singaporeans by 2015 under its FamilyMatters program. The family life education programs are targeting a critical aspect of family relationship: the relationship between parents and their children.

Parents: paradigm shift

Family Life Education Programmes allocated S$40million in Singapore

Family Life Education Programmes allocated S$40million in Singapore

The program first aims to introduce cooperative parenting into

Singapore families. It seems that the idea of parents being authoritarian figures still exists in the society. Parents shout at children or physically discipline them in order for their children to follow their words and instructions. The top-down approach of parenting is often done with good intention, but sometimes producing undesirable results. Especially for parents whose children are entering adolescence, they usually find their children rebellious. So they react by being more coercive, leading to more rebellion from their undisciplined children. The life education programs seeks to dispel the myth that force and coercion can solve problems. It seeks to introduce a paradigm shift in the mindset of parents who were themselves brought up in the old school of parenting. They are taught behavior psychology that helps them better cope with their children. They are taught how to be patient and rein in their anger, when they feel inclined to shout. Making parenting ‘screaming-free’ is the first aim of the programs.

Moreover, parents are also trained on communication skills with their children. Children at different stages have different ways of socializing as well as different concerns. Parents, who are well into their thirties or forties and whose childhood was distinctly different from that of their children now, may not know how to engage their children effectively. Effective communication requires empathy, the ability to appreciate where the other party is coming from. The programs aim to teach parents about unique aspects of children. For children, they may be highly susceptible to peer influence and form their behavior based on recognition of their peers, while adults tend to make decision based on other more ‘rational’ factors. Trying to tell their children how ‘unreasonable’ their actions are may not be a so effective way of parenting, because that misses the point on how children make decisions in the first place. Hence, parents will be more aware of the differences between them and their children and engage their children more effectively.

Children: getting into the shoes of parents

The programs aim to teach children to see from their parents’ perspective. It is a common complaint from children that their parents do not understand them. Their perception of parents being not understanding is a major cause of family conflicts. Recognizing the problem, the life education programs aim to put children into their parents’ shoes. It is more effective to have an objective third party from the programs to talk to children about their parents’ concerns for their well being, as children may have already become defensive in front of their parents and treat everything from their parents negatively. The coaches from the programs try to let children see the big pictures of their parents’ action and reassure them of their parents’ love, which is the basis of their trust in their parents. According to a survey done by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, children feedback favorably towards the programs for enabling them to see from their parents’ perspective and know their interest and that of their parents are the one.

Children are also encouraged to approach their parents for communication. It has been observed in Singapore that youngsters nowadays are not willing to share their thoughts with their parents. They tend to think that their parents belong to a different generation and either do not appreciate or often misunderstand their point of views. While the gap in communication may happen, the programs still urge children to talk to their parents on a dinner table or during family outing. The purpose of this exercise is to let children realize that their parents can actually be their confidants and be as sympathetic towards them as their peers. Moreover, their parents can even offer different suggestions or solutions to their problems because parents are more experienced in life. Once the confidence between parents and children is established, communication will be enhanced and family bonding will be strengthened.

Modernization has created many family problems, as parents get busier and youths become more vulnerable to negative influence in society through mass media and other channels. It is important that Singapore stays alert to such a trend and the life education initiative represents commendable effort to mitigate family problems. If ‘the future of the empire depends on the education of the youth’, the education should start from the families. Educating families educates a nation.

For a comprehensive picture of the family life education program, you can check out this PDF file

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