Find ways to grow the family

As a nation, we need to do some deep soul-searching. We need to ask tough questions as to why our family sizes are shrinking and our population numbers are falling below replacement level ("Track social change as families shrink; Wednesday").

The issue is a complex one, but this should not deter us fromasking the right questions and seeking solutions to address this grave problem.

Perhaps one question we should ask is this: Do we have a supportive and conducive environment for our children to thrive in?

Couples would likely ask: Do I have time to raise the children and give them the time of day and the right support? To bring up a child is a big responsibility. Do I have the support of the extended family or an equivalent "village"?

Domestic helpers and care centres are helpful, but nothing beats parental care by both father and mother.

But do couples with big bills to pay have the luxury of time and, even more important, the commitment to invest in their children? ("More women are staying childless" and "Have more kids? For many women, one child is enough"; both published on Oct 18).

The current social milieu encourages freedom and enjoyment.

So why would a couple want to tie themselves down to what they see as a restriction of their mobility at best and a burden at worst?

Then, we have a fundamental question: Does the traditional family model still make sense in modern Singapore?

My answer is "yes". Nothing is as fulfilling as having well-functioning families.

I define such a family as a place where children are given unconditional love and support; where it is safe for them to make mistakes and to learn; where acceptance and patience are exercised; where discipline and guidance are regularly provided with compassion and wisdom, and where children can grow up to be responsible people who are glad to take care of their parents and others.

The parents can be helped, with support from government, social and religious organisations.

Perhaps the Government can take the lead in opening a fresh dialogue with its citizens on this issue.

Zee Kok Eng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Find ways to grow the family'. Print Edition | Subscribe