Commentary: Giving Thanks, Restoring Relationships and Paying It Forward

Looking back in order to look ahead

By Jason Wong | 17 December 2019

My children are now almost grown up. Seeing them as budding young adults, I still look back at the old days and wonder if I had spent enough time with them.

I used to struggle in doing the right thing. I would bring work home to do on my computer. My son would call for my attention, “Daddy, daddy,” but I just told him, “Daddy is busy.” And he walked away.

Some time later, I had the chance to ask him, “Is there something you want daddy to change?”

His answer? “Stop working on your computer.”

From that day onwards, whenever he called me, I would set my work aside and give him my attention first. Usually it would just take a couple of minutes. It was as if as long as he knew that I’m there for him and that he is important to me, he no longer felt the need to compete for my attention.

I am grateful that I took that small, decisive step to turn towards my son. Is there something you’re thankful for in your own family as we see 2019 draw to a close?

Challenges and Triumphs for Families

According to a survey done by WholeLife in 2019, 44% of married couples are at risk of marital distress. Some 20% of women and 8% of men have also contemplated divorce in the past year.

There has also been an increase in suicides amongst male youths; suicides among boys aged 10 to 19 reached a record high in 2018.

At the same time, surveys done by the Institute of Policy Studies have found that family structures in Singapore are increasingly diverse. More young people here are open to alternative forms of family structures.

While these trends are disturbing, they should also serve to move us into action.

At Focus on the Family, we have been intimately involved in walking with couples in crisis, and also parents whose children are battling anxiety or depression.

I recall one success story from one of our counsellors. Tricia (not her real name) was experiencing communication breakdowns and growing resentment in her marriage. She and her husband came to seek help with one of our counsellors, and they learnt to air their grievances constructively – without winding up in an ugly fight.

With the counsellor as mediator, the couple was able to identify the root of their issues and seek forgiveness from each other for past hurts. They also gained new communication and conflict resolution skills to help them forge a path towards a healthy and fulfilling marriage.

Next year, we will launch a new initiative called Marriage Intensives. It is envisioned to be a 3-5 day programme that seeks to help couples get to the root of their issues, and set them on the path toward recovery. It is my hope that many couples will experience restoration and healing through this initiative.

As for the youths, we had the opportunity to establish a FamChamps Council this year, made up of some alumni members from earlier FamChamps runs. Having experienced the life-changing effects of FamChamps, it is heartening to see these family champions now rising up to take the baton and do their part for Family. 

If we believe that Family is the basic building block of society, then let's do our part to invest our time and resources in Family. We can do this by helping everyone to believe in Family, to live out Family, and to champion Family.

The restoration work

In the fight for strong families, headwinds abound. To me, the greatest challenge is no longer drugs, gambling, or absent or abusive parents, but the lack of interest amongst young people in getting married and having children.  

Perhaps in experiencing their fair share of disappointments in their own families, some have given up hope in marriage and family altogether.

How do we rebuild something as fragile as our young people's faith in these vital social institutions?

How can we insist on them following what they no longer believe in?

“No one can do everything. But everyone can do something.”

These are tough questions, but I believe it is our collective responsibility to engage and grapple with them.

As parents, educators, and significant adults, we need to work at rebuilding the faith of our youths again. For starters, we can model how to do marriage and family right.

While things will never be completely flawless, like the lesson I learnt from my son, much can be achieved if we are open to change and decide to do our part.

Secondly, we can support programmes like FamChamps. The newly-minted FamChamps council is currently spearheading a ground-up campaign called “Connect with Family”, a web series that challenges youths to put their relationship with their families to the test, and be more involved in family building and establishing stronger family relations.

In the premiere of Connect with Family, 4 youths race against time to complete a series of family challenges within 168 hours. (Catch it on Facebook or Instagram!)

As Max Lucado writes, “No one can do everything. But everyone can do something.”

As we enter 2020, let’s dream for a better future for families.

If we believe that Family is the basic building block of society, then let's do our part to invest our time and resources in Family. We can do this by helping everyone, young and old, to believe in Family, to live out Family, and to champion Family.  

You can make a difference today by giving a gift


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