- POSTED: 08 Sep 2013 22:10
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The Ministry of Social and Family Development has appointed a six-member expert panel to improve programmes and courses on family issues. The aim is to help individuals build stable and cohesive families.
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development has appointed a six-member expert panel to improve programmes and courses on family issues. The aim is to help individuals build stable and cohesive families.
It may seem basic, but how family members relate to one another at different stages of their lives is something experts say needs to be properly taught.
Associate Professor Ngiam Tee Liang from the NUS Department of Social Work, who is one of the six members on the panel, said: "If you look at the life course development, you have infants, then you have preschoolers, then primary schoolers. Each stage is quite different...
"Then, of course, you yourself, in your marital relationship with your spouse, and then as you approach middle age, you've also had parents who are in their senior years to worry about.
"Even when you become seniors yourselves, you've still got to relate to family members.
"Therefore, learning how to be a cohesive family, a stable family over time, means you've got to have appropriate information, knowledge and skills because you're dealing with a different age group. There are some issues which are unique to that age group.
"That's why the importance to stress the life course approach in family life education...
"But all this, we don't have it in us automatically. It is an active acquisition of the knowledge, the skills.
"That's why we do need to have people to have that knowledge, that skill-set, the values of how to bring up family properly and in a more systematic and holistic way."
Those knowledge and skills involved are part of what's known as Family Life Education.
The expert panel is now working on a curriculum to teach these skills.
And they are becoming more important than ever, especially with families becoming "nucleated".
Professor Ngiam said: "The family is (now) more nucleated, so you find fewer adults caring for the young. Then, the sandwiched generation will get a double whammy because they've got the young to look after and they've got the senior parents to look after.
"It is actually very, very tough. Both of you are working, so really, we need to examine how we can have support from the community, from the neighbourhood apart from formal services.
"I think we must not always think, well, we need just more childcare centres, more daycare centres for seniors, but it's all this other in-between that we really need to look into."
But with work-life balance already a struggle for this group, ensuring those who need the course most and undergo it, will be a challenge the panel needs to tackle.
Professor Ngiam said: "It's not going to be one where you just simply put an advert out, publicise it... we have to find ways and means of reaching out.
"That's why we are trying to consolidate and have a more concerted effort so that we can then examine, from different stakeholders, what would be the way we want to deliver the message and how we want to deliver the message."
Will this foundational curriculum add more work to social workers and counsellors who already have a lot on their plates?
Professor Ngiam hopes not, which is why the panel hopes the programme can also appeal to members of the public, especially individuals who want to champion family issues, whether in the workplace, at school or in the community.
Professor Ngiam said: "Ideally, every individual should have some sense of this whole area of Life Course Development, and the importance of having appropriate communication skills, appropriate relationship skills in relating to each other.
"And, I think, that's the part we're trying to encourage - as many individuals, groups, whether they're companies, whether they're grassroots organisations, faith-based religious organisations, civic organisations, whatever, whoever would be interested."
The Social and Family Development Ministry is expected to release more details at a conference on family issues next month.