By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin
For many of us who have served our time in National Service, we all know that to be operationally ready, we need to put in time and to train hard. There are no shortcuts to an effective defence. In many ways, to be a good dad, we need to also spend time, we need to put in effort to practice fathering and to always be ready.
Training to be operationally ready in NS…no dad bod here.
Time spent with children is never quite enough. But we need to work hard at it and focus on not just the big things, like providing for the family, but also on the small things, like just being there with your children. I am a firm believer in not just quality time but also quantity time. Whatever we can manage, we should try.
Side-note: Also important to help your wife out too.
I am sure many of us have our own ways of trying to be a good dad. After a long day of work, I make it a point to pop into their rooms to chat before they sleep. Sometimes I am just there to listen to their daily concerns. Sometimes it is an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt from things we experience. We try and play board games where we can. Sometimes we go out for a jog or swim or cycling. These days, we also spend time sharing our favourite Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live (SNL) episodes as we trawl through Youtube.
Time flies. Years ago he was just a little boy.
Every moment that we miss never comes back; especially as they are growing up, ever so quickly. Just being there, as much as possible, helps me stay in touch with them as they mature.
These may be just moments in time, but they become memories for life. 🙂
Support for Active Fatherhood
During my Ministry’s recent Committee of Supply debate, I spoke on how our families make life meaningful for us. Families really are the foundations for our society.
Active fathering is a vital part of strong families.
There is now more support for active fatherhood. We introduced paternity and shared parental leave to give fathers more time with their children right from birth. Fathers are also eligible for childcare leave.
More fathers today want flexible work arrangements. The Work-Life Grant incentivises employers to provide flexible work arrangements.
Our Dads for Life movement actively engages and reaches out to the fathers in the community, schools and workplaces.
But ultimately, active fatherhood is a personal choice and commitment.
Being An Active Father…Even After Divorce
It’s true – after a divorce, it can challenging for dads to remain actively involved in the lives of their children.
This is especially so when dads do not live with their children, and perhaps see them only on weekends.
So how can divorced fathers play their part?
To help parents learn to co-parent effectively, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) have programmes such as the Mandatory Parenting Programme and Parenting PACT for divorcing and divorced parties (as well as Children-in-Between, for the children).
From 1 April, the DSSAs have also started providing the Supervised Exchange and Supervised Visitation programme to facilitate child access arrangements. My Ministry will be sharing more details on this in the coming months.
On a more personal level, it is crucial that divorced dads make the best use of the time they have when they are with their children. Be present – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
As author Catherine M Wallace aptly put it:
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big. Because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.”
Divorced dads can show a presence in their children’s everyday lives by leveraging on technology. I know it is not quite the same, but it can be meaningful too.
Dropping a simple “Thinking of you” message to them in the middle of the day may seem trivial, but it tells them that you care, and are still there for them. Skype-ing them to have a chat when you aren’t able to meet is also one way of just connecting with them.
We often don’t realise how important our roles as fathers are. A recurrent pattern we pick up with youths at risks or even adults with various issues is that of an absent father. However imperfect we may all be, let’s all strive to be good dads and role models to our children, instilling good values that will anchor our families through challenges in life.
If we aren’t there to guide our children and be there for them as fathers, who will care enough to do so?