Dad-icated: Celebrating Fatherhood and Lasting Legacies

Dad-icated: Celebrating Fatherhood and Lasting Legacies

07 June 2024 – Traditionally, the role of fathers has been perceived as resource provision, with the nurturing and emotional development roles largely left to mothers. However, a 2023 survey by Focus on the Family Singapore revealed that 74% of those surveyed wish for their dads to be more involved in emotional development.1

Today’s millennial fathers are redefining this dynamic and their legacy, showing a fresh eagerness to actively participate in raising their children.

The impact of building strong familial bonds spans across generations. David Choo, 75, father of 4 sons and grandfather of 14 grandchildren, shared about a tradition his parents started, which he continues to practice with his own family till this day. 

“My parents used to gather the whole family for dinner every Sunday. I found it very meaningful as all the siblings would gather and my parents were very happy and pleased. Hence, even though my four sons have gotten married and have children of their own, everyone continues to come together for a meal every Tuesday evening.”  

This highlights how the concept of legacy weaves a thread through the fabric of time and speaks of the impact we can leave on those who come after us.  

Yet, the significance of leaving a legacy within the context of fatherhood is not merely about the practices left behind. 

“Legacy is about what your kids will remember you for,” said James Ong, 41, a father of four.  

“My hope is that when I pass on, my kids will want to emulate the love and nurturing they experienced from me,” he shared. He was especially touched when his eldest son expressed his desire to be a father when he grows up, seeing it as a testament to his positive influence. 

Despite their enthusiasm, many dads face significant challenges. Rising living costs, demanding work schedules, and the fast-paced nature of modern life often leave fathers exhausted, with little energy or mental capacity to engage meaningfully with their children. 

Jonathan Cho, 37, a father of three, shares his joys in parenting, the difficulties in balancing work and family life, and the emotional struggles that often come with being a working father.   

“We have a lot of dad guilt as well, and often times we think about where we have failed our children or where we could have done better in terms of being around.” 

This Father’s Day, Focus on the Family Singapore is Dad-icated to spotlighting the lasting legacies and importance of fathers, and empowering dads to create stronger bonds and lasting memories with their children. We hope fathers will be encouraged to know that their efforts to connect with their children have a profound impact that extends far beyond the present moment, leaving legacies that will benefit generations to come. 

A strong champion for families and longstanding supporter of Focus on the Family Singapore, Dr Stephen Riady, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OUE Limited, recounts his father’s philosophy of giving back to the community where one has thrived and did well in.2  

As part of the campaign, the local charity has prepared a digital resource, The Busy Dad’s Playbook, to help fathers reduce the mental load of thinking of bonding activities with their children. These activities are arranged by time blocks of as short as 10 minutes to an hour, paired with fun facts and tips.  

A series of digital content featuring short-form videos, lighthearted comics, as well as authentic dad stories with emphasis on work-life balance and the legacies of fathers be available at www.family.org.sg/Dadicated from 7 to 17 June 2024.

“You just show up [for your kids]. And the moment you show up [as a father], something kicks in. It’s still tiring. I’m still often sleep deprived, but I’m happily tired, because I’m giving my life to the ones that I love, the ones that are dependent on me, and it brings me great joy,” Cho muses. 

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1 Fatherhood and Marriage Aspirations Survey 2023, Focus on the Family Singapore
2 https://www.straitstimes.com/business/how-to-succeed-in-life-business-ceo-shares-important-traits-leader-oue  

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About Focus on the Family Singapore 

Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local Christian charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status. Recognising the challenges and disruptions in our increasingly digitised world, we seek to bring families closer by encouraging and equipping youth and individuals from all backgrounds towards strong and resilient relationships, starting at home. Learn more at www.family.org.sg. 

 

Contact 

Natalie Yeo, Communications and Public Relations 

Natalie.Yeo@family.org.sg | 9747 8537 

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Mummies, you will get there – all in good time! Focus on the Family celebrates growth in motherhood

Mummies, you will get there – all in good time! Focus on the Family celebrates growth in motherhood

Salt & Light
Republished with Permission
7 May 2024

“As with all aspects of life, God has a time and season for everything in motherhood,” she said.

“There will be long seasons of hard work with barely any visible growth, moments of joy and relief upon witnessing glimpses of change and progress, and painful yet needful seasons of being refined.”

Mums can take refuge in knowing that “He makes all things beautiful in its time”, added Vicky.

For the full article, please visit Mummies, you will get there – all in good time! Focus on the Family celebrates growth in motherhood

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Bridging a wide age gap between siblings

Bridging a wide age gap between siblings

The Straits Times
Republished with Permission
29 April 2024

Ms Alicia Boo, principal counsellor at Focus on the Family Singapore charity, shares some strategies to manage a significant age gap between children.

She says: “Children with a big age gap between them may have vastly different needs and interests due to their different developmental stages, making it challenging for parents to meet each child’s needs. One way to mitigate this is to intentionally plan one-on-one time with each child on a regular basis.”

She suggests that parents implement a structured domestic routine that allocates specific times for individual attention, as well as bonding activities for the whole family.

For the full article, please visit Bridging a wide age gap between siblings

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What Does it Mean for Mums to Trust the Process When the Going Gets Tough?

What Does it Mean for Mums to Trust the Process When the Going Gets Tough?

3 May, 2024 – Being a mother is one of the most unique journeys one can take, filled with experiences that are special and precious. 

There is nothing quite like the feeling of holding your newborn for the first time, the wonder of seeing the world through the eyes of your little explorer, or the delight that comes with witnessing the ways your child is growing. 

At the same time, it comes with inevitable challenges that stretch one’s capacity like never before. On top of the physical exhaustion that mothers often experience, doubt, feelings of inadequacy and discouragement are not unfamiliar to mums. 

Joey Ong, 30, a mother of three young children aged 5, 3 and 1, can certainly relate to experiencing difficult seasons in parenthood – especially when she became a mum for the first time. 

In the early days of motherhood, she used to impatiently seek the next milestone, looking for the momentary relief between sleep regressions and leaps, trying to avoid discomfort where possible. 

She shared, “While things did get better, it most certainly would get worse again.” 

Cycles of improvement and setback left her disappointed and defeated, turbulent and easily triggered by the smallest obstacles. 

But Joey is grateful for the pivotal role her mother has played in shaping her character and attitudes when faced with challenges. 

Witnessing how her mum single-handedly and sacrificially raised her with whatever that she had, Joey attests, “She has shown me what true strength looks like, and often reminded me that when bad things happen to us, we can choose how we want to respond.” 

“While weathering the many storms of parenting, the last thing we need is a spirit of discouragement and defeat. I am learning to trust and enjoy the process, even when things aren’t ‘better’ yet,” she mused. 

Believing that discomfort is a good teacher and an opportunity for growth, she added, “These storms will always pass. No matter how terrible things may look or feel, we have an opportunity to reset every day.” 

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For Mary Heng, 47, a mother of three teenagers, parenting a daughter with special needs adds another dimension to her understanding and journey of trusting the process. 

When her youngest child, Kayleen, was born and officially diagnosed with Down syndrome, her world came crashing down. 

“Guilt came over me as I wondered if I had done something wrong to cause this condition,” she recalled. 

Due to the condition Kayleen has, delayed developmental milestones were inevitable. Many aspects that are seemingly easy to achieve with neuro-typical children require a lot of time and attention in Kayleen’s case. 

Mary shared, “Kayleen has had severe feeding difficulties since she was young and still attends feeding therapy. During the times when she had to rely on the feeding tube to get nutrition, I almost gave up the hope that one day, she would be able to eat the same food as us during mealtimes.”

From persevering through 2-hour long breastfeeding sessions to help Kayleen strengthen her oral muscles for speech development, to spending hours with her at physiotherapy to improve her muscle tone and strength, Mary continues to devote time and effort into her 12-year-old’s growth and progress. 

And she has been able to savour the fruits of her enduring love.  

“Kayleen has shown the family that she is much more than what we ignorantly perceived her to be. With her smiles and coos, she unites our family, and her siblings adore her,” she mused. 

“When her speech improved, she often tells our family how much she loves us and that I’m the ‘best mummy in the whole world.’ During her hospital visits, I often find her talking to the elderly and encouraging them. When she sees a child in need of comfort, she willingly offers a hug and kind words.”

She reflected, “I trust that God makes all things beautiful in its time. Watching Kayleen enjoy the tamagoyaki that I prepared for her, as she shares about her day at school, is indeed a beautiful sight that I’ve been blessed with.” 

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These stories of mothers learning to trust the process in their unique journeys are part of this year’s Mother’s Day campaign by Focus on the Family Singapore, which aims to encourage mothers that all their efforts of sowing into their motherhood journey will bring growth “All in Good Time”. 

The charity has prepared resources for mums to discover the ways they can trust the process in motherhood, through uplifting and practical bite-sized digital content. Mothers will find comfort in reading stories of fellow mums who are on their journey of embracing all that motherhood has for them. These can be readily accessed at www.family.org.sg/AllinGoodTime. 

Family members and communities surrounding mums will also get to play a part in encouraging and affirming mums through the Timeless Bouquet—a digital affirmation card tool—and with a thoughtfully created Instagram story filter.

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Focus on marriage first, and then maybe the kids will come

Focus on marriage first, and then maybe the kids will come

Published on ST Opinion.

28 March, 2024

Singapore’s total fertility rate has dropped to a dismal 0.97, the first time it has dropped below 1 in the country’s history.

It’s already been below the replacement rate of 2.1 – the level at which the population replaces itself – for a long time, so this new unwanted low has generated more calls to address the problem, beyond the usual solutions of baby bonuses and other financial incentives.

Some commentators argue that childbearing should be seen as a civic contribution, and that we need more pull factors in parenting, rather than considering it from a cost-reduction point of view.

Others have called for a reframing of the parenthood narrative, from seeing it as a burden to viewing it as a source of joy and meaning.

I am approaching the problem from a slightly different angle – by examining the state of our own marriages today, and by helping young people forge strong relational skills first. 

Understanding the family-of-origin factor

We sometimes need to look back in order to look forward.

In The Marriage Paradox: Why Emerging Adults Love Marriage Yet Push It Aside, authors Brian Willoughby and Spencer James observe that witnessing conflict in their parents’ relationship generally appears to diminish many emerging adults’ view of marriage.

According to research, young adults with parents who reported high stress or frequent conflict often labelled relationships as unstable and constraining, compared with young adults who grew up with parents with high marital quality and who learn that relationships take work and commitment.

As a result, many young adults may interact with their romantic partners using similar relational patterns that they see modelled by their parents.

Mr Luke Ong, a student at the Singapore Management University, shared: “Experiences sometimes shape reality. Many of my peers cite bad experiences in their own life (such as a lack of their father’s involvement, abuse in their parents’ marriage) as the reason they are not keen on marriage.”

His statement reveals something important when it comes to marriage and family aspirations: That young people can sometimes carry deep-seated fears that their future family will turn out as dysfunctional as the one they came from.

It also tells us parents that we should keep an eye on the state of our marriage, if we want our kids to have healthy relationships in the future.

The quality-of-marriage factor

A new study which polled more than 22,000 people in eight countries about their family ideals has found that Singaporeans prefer having one child to not having any.

It also found that couples seem to be desiring fewer children, particularly if other family ideals are not in place. These ideals include good communication between immediate family members, that the family is respected in the community, and that partners mutually support each other as they pursue professional and personal goals.

The fact that communication between immediate family members, and mutual support between partners rank highly on couples’ lists should not come as a surprise. A strong marital relationship, as well as sufficient family support, can give one the confidence and assurance to start a family.

Singapore’s latest marriage and divorce statistics show that the proportion of resident marriages that dissolved was the highest from the fifth to before the 10th anniversary, compared with other five-yearly periods.

This is also the period which tends to coincide with stressful life transitions, such as first-time parenthood or a mid-life career switch.

If young couples are equipped with the essential relationship skills of communication, conflict resolution and aligning of expectations, it could make a significant difference in how they perceive their ability to cope with the shared responsibility of child-rearing.

Marriage skills are highly teachable

However, not all is lost if we come from troubled or high-conflict families, or if we find the current state of our marriage lacking. The state of one’s marriage is not static and marriage skills are highly teachable if one adopts a growth mindset.

My husband grew up in a dysfunctional family, and he remembers much of his childhood life as “chaotic”. Thankfully, through his adolescent years he received mentoring and guidance from other adult figures in his life, and has largely come to terms with his past.

When we were both contemplating marriage, we were greatly helped by our marriage mentors and the premarital counselling that they took us through. Those sessions not only deepened our understanding of each other’s differences but also equipped us with a shared language to articulate our ideals and expectations – from financial matters to career aspirations, and from childcare arrangements to parenting philosophies.

When faced with life’s storms, such as navigating the emotional needs of a child or caring for a parent with dementia, we leaned on the language and skills we practised during our years of courtship. Emerging from life’s challenges together increased our sense of satisfaction towards our marriage and enhanced our marital well-being.

Professional growth, raising a family are complementary goals

In the old work-life paradigm, employers used to think that prioritising their employees’ personal lives came at the expense of their performance at work. We have come a long way since then, and today many employers see that a thriving and productive employee is one whose home and family affairs are well in order.

I wish we could see having children in the same light – where professional growth and raising a family are complementary goals rather than competing ones.

While it is true that in the early years of child-raising, a couple may have to delay certain dreams and aspirations, it is also true that having children forces us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate resources.

Unlike other life experiences, having children has a unique multiplier effect. It brings its own kind of creative power, one that can certainly bring both joys and challenges to a marriage.

While having children is a deeply personal choice, we can empower more young people to believe in marriage and parenthood by walking the talk ourselves, and showing them that marriage is worth aspiring to and investing in.

Today, my husband and I serve as marriage mentors to younger couples in our church. And I often find myself repeating this phrase that was first drilled into my mind by my marriage mentor: “You are first of all husband and wife, before you are father or mother.”

Strong marriages beget strong marriages, and that is the first essential step towards healthy parenthood.

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In an unplanned pregnancy, teenage girls need an ecosystem of care and support

In an unplanned pregnancy, teenage girls need an ecosystem of care and support

Submitted to ST Forum, but unpublished.

15 December, 2023

The Straits Times article Teen Abortion: Guilt, grief and shame can linger for decades presented a sobering reality as I read it, having seen cases of unplanned pregnancy grappling with complex psychological and emotional experiences as a counsellor. 

Put yourself in the girl’s shoes. In the face of unexpected shock, imagine feeling lost and fearful. Imagine the agony and sense of helplessness you would feel.  

As with the lady interviewed in the article, one can often feel pressured to abort the unborn child in the face of uncertainties. 

As a community, as parents and as helping professionals, no matter how upsetting  the news may seem to us, we have to remember we are the caring adults in an eco-system of help who can empower this teenager to make life-giving choices. For some, we may be her only lifeline.  

And we need to be the source of social and emotional support to them, listening to their concerns and encouraging them to voice out their deepest anxieties and fears in a safe psychological space. 

Apart from positioning ourselves as our children’s strong pillar of support, we should also look at preventive and upstream measures. One such strategy is to develop sexual intelligence in our young. 

Studies have shown that involved parental relationships can protect the youth from high-risk sexual behaviour and abusive dating relationships by helping them develop a strong sense of self-worth. 

Apart from such protective attachment bonds, it is also important that parents engage in regular conversations about values, sex and relationships with their children, or what we refer to as parent-led & child-centric sexuality education. 

Many parents may shy away from this, but what we have found at Focus on the Family, is that once the initial barrier is overcome, the talks become increasingly easier and more natural.  

Such conversations allow the parent to be the first source of influence in a child’s life, and encourages help-seeking when the youth find themselves in difficult life situations. 

We also have a Talk About Sex video series targeted at helping to break the ice around such conversations. Parents can get hold of these videos at www.family.org.sg/TASvideos. 

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Focus on the Family Singapore Celebrates 20 Years of Building Strong Families

Focus on the Family Singapore Celebrates 20 Years of Building Strong Families

19 May, 2022 – Focus on the Family Singapore will commemorate its 20th anniversary with a special celebratory dinner themed “Bigger, Deeper and Stronger for Families” on Thursday, 19 May, at Hilton Orchard Singapore. 

Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr Heng Swee Keat will grace the event as the Guest of Honour. He will be accompanied by his wife. 

Some 650 partners and supporters of Focus Singapore will be attending the event. The charity hopes to raise $1,000,000 in table sponsorships and pledges to fund its family-centric programmes and campaigns for the year. 

In 2021, Focus Singapore impacted the lives of some 40,000 people with its family-building programmes and campaigns. Looking ahead, the charity organisation aims to go bigger on sexuality education by partnering parents, educators and organisations, deeper in parent-child connections to build mental resilience, and stronger on marriage narratives, preparation programmes and mentoring communities.   

Bigger on sexuality education 

A 2020 survey conducted by Focus Singapore found that a staggering 79% of youths and young adults believe that parents have the primary responsibility to teach them about sex and sexuality. However, only 15% cite parents as their main source of information.  

Sexuality education needs to start at home as values about relationships and marriage have to come from parents themselves. With the growing awareness of the need for parental involvement in guiding youths in the area of sexuality, Focus Singapore plans to augment its current resources on its website with videos and conversation starters to equip parents with the skills to do so.  

Deeper parent-child connections   

Over the past two years, Focus has had to pivot its Family Life Education programmes and events from in-person to online format. To journey with parents in supporting their tweens through the transition to adolescence, Focus has redesigned its signature parent-child event, Date with Dad, into a parent-and-tween experiential programme titled The Select: Mission 1114 

240 parents and tweens attended the inaugural run of The Select in December 2021, and tried their hand at solving puzzles and cracking codes together, while deepening their relationship through letter-writing and intentional conversations. 

Ms Yvonne Kong-Ho, who attended The Select with her son, said, “It was such a timely bonding experience for us as it was just after my son completed his PSLE and received his results. The most memorable part for me was when we wrote letters to each other. I also gave him a leather belt as a gift and told him, ‘This belt represents my support for you, and you’re never alone.’” 

Stronger marriages 

In a bid to strengthen its programme offerings aimed at nurturing stronger marriages, Focus Singapore will be organising a date night event in August 2022. Targeting younger married couples, Best Date Ever will offer couples a unique experience to reconnect and rediscover the joys or marriage, building their collective resilience to withstand the stressors of life. 

Mrs Joanna Koh-Hoe, CEO of Focus Singapore, said, “It is significant that we mark our twentieth anniversary in a year that Singapore has designated as the Year of Celebrating Families. We’re excited that with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, 650 friends of the Family can now join us in this celebration!” 

“Today’s increasingly volatile and digitally immersed world unfortunately places new and more complex challenges on everyday families. Taking an upstream approach to build on the foundation of strong family values and healthy relationships will ensure our nation continues to thrive for many generations to come.” 

Partnership Dinner: Raising Family Champions 

Focus on the Family Singapore’s 20th Anniversary Celebration is held in appreciation of corporate and community partners that have supported the organisation’s work in helping families thrive. Through the celebratory dinner, the organisation also hopes to share the impact through stories of families equipped and restored over the past 20 years, and enable more stakeholders and partners to catch the vision of building stronger families and resilient children in the years to come.  

Chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore Mr Tony Soh said, “While championing upstream work with families hasn’t been without its challenges, we are thankful to count so many passionate believers of Family among our supporters today. With their partnership and encouragement, we will continue to build on the good work of the past 20 years, and forge ahead to realise our vision of thriving, vibrant and resilient families in Singapore.” 

At the fundraiser, Focus on the Family Singapore will also present its annual Family Champion Awards to commend corporations, communities and individuals who have been exemplary in promoting the interests of families.  

Six recipients will be recognised this year — Far East Organization, People’s Association, Mr Tan Chin Hwee, Dr Stephen Riady, Noel Gifts International Ltd, and Church of our Saviour. 

Focus on the Family Singapore hopes that this recognition will raise greater awareness of the need for family-friendly policies and a culture that celebrates and champions families in Singapore.   

Read our Stewardship Report for 2021 here.  

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Forum: Teaching young people to strengthen ties may get them to start own families

Forum: Teaching young people to strengthen ties may get them to start own families

The Straits Times
Republished with Permission
20 September 2023

CEO of Focus on the Family Singapore, Ms Delia Ng, in response to writer Amy Lim’s article, “Why financial incentives alone aren’t encouraging more births” (Sept 14),  mentions that it is important to give the youth of today skills to enhance their familial relationships.  

Ms Ng references a survey that was conducted with about 5,000 secondary school students during 2020-2023. She says, “the findings suggest that today’s youth see that the answer lies in building up family ties. They also reveal a keenness in our youth to rise up and take ownership of their own familial well-being.”

She adds: “By giving young people the skills to enhance their familial relationships, we are sowing the seeds for their hopes and dreams for their own families tomorrow.”

For the full article, please visit Forum: Teaching young people to strengthen ties may get them to start own families 

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