Outreach, Welfare

INVESTING IN BONDS, the kind that pays lifelong dividends

GOOD AND SOUND INVESTMENTS almost always yield positive results. Not so tangible perhaps are bonds of a slightly different kind – human bonds. But far better than monetary or commercial gains, these kinds of bonds not only produce yield abundantly, but also last a lifetime.

The call for more involved fathering continues to ring out loud and clear in Singapore as our modern working lifestyle robs working couples of spending enough time bonding with their children.

Time with a capital T
However, unlike investment bonds, real human bonding can only come with spending the time: hours, days and months relating with the child, as he or she is not a robot and cannot be programmed to respond at will. At times, the child may not feel like opening up or talking, and so the next opportunity needs to be patiently sought out. Often fathers, rather than mothers, simply cannot squeeze precious hours from their hectic schedules to foster this kind of bonding.

“Some fathers are burning the candle at both ends,” said Mr Peter Tan, Principal of ACS (Barker Road). “However, the difference can be very obvious, and we notice that when the fathers are involved with their children, there are fewer disciplinary problems. Making time was not easy and there was a silver lining during the SARS epidemic in 2003 when fathers could not travel overseas. They stayed at home and spent time with their families!”

Mr Tan believes that fathers need to expand their role beyond that of simply being the provider. Fathers also need to take on part of the nurturing role, giving care and emotional support to the child, granted that these areas are traditionally the domain of the mother during the times when she was mostly a homemaker.

Research also bears this out. In a 1995 study, it was found that children whose fathers were highly involved across diverse activities like eating meals together, helping with homework and going out on family outings, seemed to have fewer behavioral problems, were more sociable and had higher academic achievement.

At the extreme end, when fathers are not even playing the provider role, the effects on a child can be quite detrimental, impacting on a child’s self esteem.

June (not her real name) is a Primary 2 student at one of the Methodist Welfare Services’ student care centres. After her parents had divorced, her father stopped providing for the family and distanced himself from them. June started to have nightmares, became very insecure, clingy and her school performance deteriorated.

“June would call her mother from the centre everyday, saying she was unwell so that the mother would rush down to see her,” said a centre staff.

With support and guidance from the staff at the centre, June gradually became better adjusted and her school work also improved.

Praying fathers are caring fathers
When men come together, they tend to talk about practical things such as sports and business.

“But when fathers come together to pray, they develop a larger perspective and God stirs their hearts. When there is a godly man leading a household, there tends to be more stability in the home,” said Mr Tan.

“At ACS (Barker Road), a group of fathers come together to pray every third Saturday of the month, giving up that morning to be prayerfully involved in the lives of their children and those of others in the school. rough prayer, we have seen transformation in the lives of the boys and their families.

“ACS has had prayer groups in our schools for a while, but those were mostly attended by mothers. In 2002, the ACS (Junior) Fathers Prayer Group was started. Now there are prayer groups in all the ACS schools. At ACS (Barker Road), we now have 12 to 20 men meeting every month, and every Saturday, one of the schools will be hosting a Father’s Prayer Group.”

Investing in human bonds may take more time and effort and certainly can be as tricky as the monetary ones but what glorious fruits they produce when they mature.

For more information or help on fathering or parenting:

• ACS Barker Father’s Prayer Group, tel: 6255-1633 (General line)

• Centre for Fathering Ltd, tel: 6252-8428
• MWS Family Service Centres:

– Covenant Family Service Centre, tel: 6282-8558

– Daybreak Family Service Centre, tel: 6756-4995

– Sembawang Family Service Centre, tel: 6754-7050

– Tampines Family Service Centre, tel: 6787-2001

Pearl Lee is the Director, Communications & Fund-raising of the Methodist Welfare Services.