A version of this Forum Letter was published in the Straits Times on 26 August.
It was heartening to hear about the improvements that our government will be making to pre-school education at Sunday’s National Day Rally (National Day Rally: Pre-school subsidies' income ceiling raised from $7,500 to $12,000; 30,000 more families to qualify). Increasing subsidies, enhancing accessibility and developing pre-school professionals all go a long way towards easing some concerns parents have about raising children and providing quality education for them.
While these “hardware” upgrades are welcomed, it is important to remember that having children and enabling them to succeed is more than just an issue of economic ability or physical convenience.
For children to thrive, we must continue to foster an environment that champions families and supports parents in every sphere and at every stage of life.
There are four critical areas where more can be done to improve the support that both new and existing parents receive.
Firstly, parent education efforts must be stepped up, so that parents can be equipped with the skills and attitudes they need to nurture resilient children in a complex, digital world. Parenting does not come naturally to couples just because they have a child – this brand-new skillset must be taught and developed intentionally over time.
Second, businesses and organisations can be encouraged to cultivate a family-friendly culture at the workplace, especially since a majority of Singaporeans are from dual-income households. Beyond just executing existing legislation, companies can actively design and promote policies, including flexi-work arrangements to help employees flourish in both the home and work fronts.
Third, the parent-teacher partnership can be further strengthened. The old adage rings true – it does take a village to raise a child – and teachers form a crucial part of that village. Building communication and trust between teachers and parents will help these two key stakeholders better develop and share strategies for helping children grow up holistically.
Finally, we should find ways to help parents get connected to healthy parent communities – safe spaces where they can be vulnerable about their challenges and insecurities. As parents of two young children, my wife and I have personally benefitted from these parents’ circles where we’ve had opportunities to learn from other parents and know that we are not alone in this parenting journey.
Strong families are the bedrock of a strong society. Providing parents with the support that they need in the early stages of their parenting journey will complement our government’s efforts in building strong families, and seeing the success of future generations in Singapore.
Family Life Education Trainer
Focus on the Family Singapore
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