Family United. Strength Unlimited.

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

14051770_1196607300382043_8473696740470892432_n-1Spent an enjoyable afternoon cooking for these lovely ladies!
From the launch of Hour Glass Kitchen at Pacific Activity Centre last month.
We will see much more of the silver population by 2030.

We wrapped up the public consultation on the draft Vulnerable Adults Bill last month. The proposed new Bill will enable the State to intervene in high risk cases, conduct assessments and ensure the protection and safety of these vulnerable adults.

By 2030, there will be over 900,000 Singapore residents 65 and above. Our parents, uncles, aunts, friends – they are aging. As these family members and friends (including those with disabilities) become more frail, they may be especially vulnerable to undesirable situations of abuse, neglect and self-neglect.

I’m very glad that so many of you have written in to show support for the Bill, and even offered suggestions on how we can improve on certain aspects of the Bill.

The provisions in the Bill enhance protection for our vulnerable family members. I’m sure you have read the Aesop’s Fable “The Bundle of Sticks” before. It’s the familiar story about how you can’t break sticks in a bundle, but you can break them easily when they are singled out.

This fable teaches an important lesson about strength in unity. And by applying that to the context of our family, we understand that close-knit families are stronger together.

Our families see us at our best and worst, through our joys and sorrow. They share with us their successes and happiness, and are always our first line of support whenever we need help.

And by extension, there can be a transformative effect when we all play a part to care for one another. With strong families and strong communities, we can help each better, and earlier.

Do read our press release and summary report on the Vulnerable Adults Bill public consultation at www.reach.gov.sg/vaa2016.

To Those Who Teach Children to Start Small, and Dream Big

Each day, they teach and care for the little ones. They help them to learn, and to grow.

They are our pre-school teachers.

And each day, there are stories of how they have helped little boys and girls learn a few more new words, put another step forward, and helped them to understand a bit more about the world.

NLX_ HF_ECDA-ORION-7602Bethanie Wong from Orion Preschool

When Bethanie met 3-year-old Daniel, he was barely speaking at home.
To help Daniel, Bethanie worked with his mother to learn his favourite words and songs. Then, Bethanie used those words as a conversational hook to interest Daniel into participating in class.

Within a few months, Daniel became sociable, and was able to speak in full sentences!

Ms Farhana listening intently to a child's comments.Farhana Mustafa from Bright Juniors

Alan was a child with special needs, and was having some difficulty trying to express himself. To better help Alan, Farhana took the time to attend a three-day course on speech and learning support.

Farhana used Alan’s interests in music and movement to slowly expand his vocabulary. Over time, Alan was learning to form sentences with more words – from two, to four, and then to six.

Like Bethanie and Farhana, many other pre-school teachers go the extra mile. Some of them even enter this field from other job industries, because they felt a calling to help children have the best possible start in life.

14079578_1195466487162791_7724903438978079209_nReally love children at this age 😊

To all pre-school teachers, thank you. This day is for you, who make that positive difference in the lives of children. You guide them in their small, starting steps. And you teach them to dream big.

Thank you for making a positive difference in the lives of our little ones. I wish you Happy Teachers’ Day. 😊

Plan for a rainy day, Apply for the LPA

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

We spend much of our lives planning for our future – from simple things like what to have for lunch, to more complex things like our career path or family planning.

But what do we do when the unexpected happens? What if we are suddenly unable to make our own decisions or care for ourselves? It is a tough question that we all need to think about.

An Institute of Mental Health study found that dementia strikes one in 10 Singaporeans aged 60 and above. As our society ages, many of us are increasingly at risk of losing our mental capacity.

It can happen to any of us. And if it does, I’m sure we would want someone we trust to make those important decisions such as our finances or those relating to our health and welfare on our behalf.

There’s no harm in planning ahead for a rainy day. I encourage everyone to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) early to give ourselves and our loved ones peace of mind in the event that the worst does happen.

I’m delighted to share that the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has extended the fee waiver for Form 1 applications for the LPA for another two years to 31 August 2018.

For those unfamiliar with the LPA, do take some time to watch the following videos which can help explain the importance of an LPA, and how we can apply for it. OPG also runs talks and workshops on the application of an LPA.

There’s no better time to plan ahead, so why not now?

 

 

Helping your child succeed

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

As parents, we always want to give our children the best. I do believe that at the very least, we need to make a conscious choice to be active and present in our children’s lives. But then comes the hard part –what do we do next? 

How do we connect with our children when we can’t understand their lingo? How do we guide our children when they do not behave? I am sure we all have our own stories. Every day is a new challenge.

Let’s face it. Sometimes, we parents need a little help too. When our children came, they did not come with an instruction manuals did they?!

The journey to being a good parent

The reality is that parenting is like a running a marathon. You don’t just wake up one day and decide, “I am going to run 42km today”, and expect to complete the run in record time.

We need to learn about how we prepare ourselves. We need to spend months putting what we know into training and to consciously make changes to your diet and lifestyle. There is no ‘cheat sheet’ that will instantly transform you into the best marathon runner. Even when you are able to complete the marathon, you have to continue training to improve the time you take to finish the run.

It’s the same for parenting – we don’t become great parents overnight. Each child is a unique individual. Just because certain methods worked for us growing up, does not mean the same methods will work for our children. Parenting is an evolving process; as your child grows, you may have to adjust the way you guide them.

We brought in the evidence-based Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) and have been running a two-year pilot here, involving over 5,000 parents. This programme has worked well in other countries, and the feedback here in our schools has been very encouraging. I was really glad to hear from the trainers directly. They were incredibly passionate and convinced by the effectiveness of the programme and had many stories to share. They were also motivated because they could see how parents were highly engaged, and had found the techniques and approaches useful.

Triple_P_1triple_P_2

 

There was a mother whose child had a gaming addiction and she was at her wits end. Banning him from gaming wasn’t working. Triple P taught her to apply new skills to better engage and motivate her son – by setting limits, and affirming him when he kept to the agreed time.

We will be expanding this effort.

Singapore Parenting Congress

This weekend, I will be at the Singapore Parenting Congress as a guest panellist. Am looking forward to the dialogue with parents on being a Superhero to their kids. I for one am certainly not one…but am trying to be as best a father as I can be.

SPC2016.jpg

Parenting is tough, with the many twists and turns, and ups and downs. But we will try and provide support and signposts to guide the way.

Let’s keep growing and learning as parents. There is no better feeling of accomplishment than seeing our children succeed in life and knowing that we had a hand in it. And there is no greater joy than in simply being a parent. This is one journey that is completely worth walking and running!

To Love and to Cherish; For Better or for Worse

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

At MSF, we keep a close eye on statistics related to marriages and divorces. I looked through the latest annual report on Marriages and Divorces by the Singapore Department of Statistics – good to know that the number of marriages are more or less at status quo compared to the year before.

Overall, no drastic fluctuations. But there’s been a slight increase in the number of divorces.

All married couples will have challenges along the way. But if we take our vows seriously and view it as sacred, we owe it to each other and to our families to work through those difficult moments. Efforts to strengthen marriages can help. Sometimes, marriage counselling can help at an early stage, to soothe the tensions and save marriages.

singstat
Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

Unfortunately, sometimes, things don’t quite work out. Divorce is never easy for any couple, especially when children are involved.

We will introduce the Mandatory Parenting Programme at the end of the year for divorcing couples with young children. The programme will give them time and space to think deeply about issues they will face, both during and after divorce, and how they can protect their children’s interests will be emphasised in all they do.

Staying Committed

The promises and wedding vows we say may differ from couple to couple, but the underlying lifetime commitment remains consistent. When we fall in love and step into marriage, we wish to stay committed to our partners through thick and thin. And for that love to grow and become the cornerstone of the marriage. However, this doesn’t just magically happen so that we can live happily ever after. It requires us to work hard at it and to never take it for granted.

MSF and our partners run many marriage preparation and enrichment programmes in the community. These programmes will help us, as husbands and wives, to better understand and communicate with each other. It will give us skills to resolve conflicts when they arise.

A good marriage brings joy and deep fulfilment. But it will require our dedication and constant effort to nurture that relationship. Let us all remember our vows and renew our commitment to our spouses and our marriage.

Be a Dad for Life

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Quick question for all dads: Has your Father’s Day celebrations been rather low key as compared to Mother’s Day celebrations?

Maybe it’s our traditional cultural roles that make it that way. How we think it’s Dad’s job to go out and make money, and Mum’s role to take care of the family.

But today, these traditional roles are evolving. Now, more couples take on shared responsibilities in supporting the family. Fathers are becoming more actively involved in their families.

There is no doubt that we, as fathers, play an important role in our children’s lives.

Sure, it’s easy to get caught up with work. But is the tradeoff really worth it? I’m sure we don’t want to miss hearing our child say their first word, or take their first step.

Children grow up so fast. I think it’s immensely important to create special memories and moments with our children from young. But we can start from everyday activities.

For example, I was glad to catch ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (on a movie date!) with my daughter after her exams were over. We had a great time discussing the movie afterwards…

xmenapoc

(…Such as how Professor X may need some Beijing 101 after the events of the movie)
Image: 20th Century Fox

So, time spent in both quality and quantity does matter. At the same time, do remember to appreciate our own fathers and include them in our celebrations too!

On the whole, it is good to see that more families and organisations are starting to celebrate Father’s Day in a big way. I’m glad to be a part of a few of these celebrations – such as the “Dad’s Day Out” event on Father’s Day today, and the Families for Life Father’s Day picnic later this month.

Fathering is a beautiful and meaningful journey, and I am proud to be a father. To answer my own question? It’s not about the size of the celebration, but the strength of the bond with my children that matters more to me. 🙂

To all Dads and Grandfathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Every Day is Mother’s Day

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

IMG_4013

My Mum and I

When our children were younger, they would hold your hand, come running to you to hug you and they will just absolutely adore you.

As they grow older, our love will also grow and our relationship with them will evolve. They will begin to have lives of their own and in turn, will one day become parents themselves too.

In our eyes, they will always be our little children. But do we not realise that our parents probably look at us the same way too? Do we take our parents for granted? Do we get more impatient as they begin to slow down with age? Do we show enough appreciation to them?

Occasions like Mother’s Day provide us an opportunity to reflect, remember and to celebrate. I am sure we all have our family traditions. It can range from flowers, chocolates, big dinners, or simple homemade cards or just preparing breakfast.

In truth, as a son, father and husband, I have come to realise that our wives and mothers deserve more than these once a year grand gestures of appreciation. We really should show our appreciation every day through our actions.

Making it a point to visit parents regularly or even just to call them are some things that we children can do for our parents. Simple gestures like helping to supervise the children’s homework, changing the baby’s diaper, or washing the dishes are just some things that we fathers can do for our families.

Although many women are the main caregivers for their children, more fathers do want to be involved. We want to encourage this and to provide more support such as paternity leave and flexi-work arrangements.

So what will you be doing this Mothers’ Day?  And what should we do to treat every day as Mother’s Day?

Meanwhile, to all the mothers and grandmothers out there, I wish you Happy Mothers’ Day!