Forum: Barriers to creating strong family bonds also leading to health issues among parents

It is good news to hear that the Government will continue to foster a Singapore made for families, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying that strong families are the bedrock of our society (PM: S'pore will continue to strengthen family support, June 5).

There are some obstacles to achieving this objective that are also contributing to health problems in the community.

Take the need for family time. Adults should have adequate time to interact with their children and spouse, and to focus on bringing up children with the right values which in turn would benefit society as a whole.

Time is required, and it is in the context of interaction that values are transmitted and character is developed.

However, many young parents among my patients complain of long hours at work with little time left for family and exercise.

Some even told me they would rather have more free time than pay raises. Many lamented that there is no way out as their work and responsibilities demand commitment and, if they opt out, it would probably end their chances of being promoted.

Related to this problem, I see many patients coming down with severe migraine, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations and gastritis - all related to work stress as well as problems with a lack of a healthy lifestyle, accompanied by family problems.

With both parents working long hours, there is little time for the children. With a lack of supervision, discipline problems emerge, and I am seeing more cases of video game addiction, pornography addiction, synthetic drug addiction, vaping and smoking among the young.

During consultations, I often encounter young people who display rudeness and disrespect towards their parents even when I am present.

Parents cannot expect schools to take over their responsibilities to exercise discipline and instil good values in their children. The schools can supplement and complement the roles of parents, but they should not be expected to be a replacement.

Parents with little time for their children often shower them with gifts and also tend to put much more emphasis on educational results and achievements.

But education (in just attaining good results) is not the final answer. The nurturing of character and good values requires certain indispensable factors, among them quality time, good and positive examples, the transmission of important values and the willingness to accept one another in the spirit of love and humility.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

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