Is My Child Addicted to Gaming?

As a parent, you may have struggled with your children exceeding their screen time limits just so that they can continue playing Mobile Legends. You may have been frustrated at the many times where your child pleads, “Last game, mum!”  

Sometimes, you may even resort to switching off (and plucking out!) the WIFI router so that your child can no longer access the internet to play his games.  

All these are common challenges in today’s digital age, says Ray Chua, a principal clinical psychologist who’s been working with gamers since 2009.    

Some of the common questions that Ray has been asked include: 

  1. How do I know if my child is addicted to gaming? 
  2. How do I stop my child from gaming so much? 

In this article, Ray sheds some light on this matter.  

Understanding the heart of a gamer  

Ray believes in “addressing the problem but loving the child.” For that to happen, one important thing to understand is why gamers even game. What are children really looking for when they game?  

There are three reasons:  

1. A sense of achievement 

Many gamers that Ray works with are underperforming in school. He remembers one Primary 6 client who wrote a letter to his mother, telling her that he knew he would not do well for PSLE. But things looked very different in BlackShot, a first-person shooter game in which he excelled in.  

No one likes the feeling of constantly failing to meet expectations in every part of their life. Knowing that our children are fuelled by a sense of achievement derived from gaming can help us better empathise with them.  

2. A sense of connection 

Your child may have friends in school, but it’s not only the physical connection that matters, but the emotional connection. As former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in his book Together, “Loneliness is the absence of physical and emotional connection.”  

When children play online games with their friends, they may feel a sense of camaraderie with them, and have shared topics of interest to talk about in school.  

3. A form of escape 

Many of the children that Ray sees have problems in their life which they find it challenging to resolve, and gaming is effective as a form of escape. 

But when does gaming become a problem?  

How can parents tell if their child is addicted?  

There are four criteria under the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for gaming disorder.  

Firstly, the child must demonstrate impaired control, such that they are losing control over their gaming behaviour.   

The second criterion is an increasing priority over other things in life. “Gaming takes precedence over other interests. For example, it becomes more important than sleep, food, or going to school.” 

The third criterion is continuing to game despite negative consequences. They may be failing, or getting into trouble in school. They may be quarrelling daily with their parents over gaming, but they continue to play. 

The fourth involves functioning. “Their functioning needs to be affected because there are gamers out there who play a lot, but are still keeping up with their schoolwork and managing their life pretty well,” explained Ray. 

These criteria have to exist for a period of at least 12 months, unless the symptoms are severe, for the person to be diagnosed as having a gaming disorder. Of course, parents may not want to wait till their child is displaying problems for a year before seeking help.  

What can they do if there are already observable concerns? 

When you’ve deposited into their emotional bank account, they will know you’re disciplining them out of love, and not anger. 

Prevention is better than cure  

One recommendation for parents of younger children is to delay the introduction of games, for as long as possible.  

“There are many developmental milestones for a child to reach and build at the ages of preschool or even early primary school.” Delaying the introduction of games can give more time for younger children to hone the ability to delay gratification, allowing them to build a healthier relationship with games. A practical way is to give your child a basic phone, rather than an internet-enabled smartphone, suggested Ray. Alternatively, parents can install parental controls to limit online access. 

Experts worldwide agree that early introduction of digital technology may change the psychology of young children in ways that are still unknown. The hit documentary “The Social Dilemma” revealed how persuasive technology may be ‘hooking’ users of social media, and eventually causing addiction.  

The same concepts are often applied to game design, with tactics such as requiring gamers to log-in for consecutive days to score streaks. What you may not know is that underlying this ‘game design’ is the strategy to form habit loops.  

The relationship is the heart of the matter 

Working towards healthy gaming habits requires a strong parent-child relationship.  

Ray explained, “This is the period of time where you can deposit into their emotional bank account. You will need it because when the time comes, sooner or later they will start playing games and you will need to instil boundaries and rules and even discipline them. This will tap on this reservoir of relationship that you have built with them over the years. They will know you’re disciplining them out of love, and not anger.” 

If your relationship with your child is already strained, regulate yourself first, then seek to understand your child’s motivations. 

But what if the relationship is already strained?  

If your relationship with your child is already strained, Ray urged parents to first look inwards.  

“Regulate yourself, and ensure that you’re not disciplining the child out of anger.”  

Sometimes, our children’s behaviour may reflect our own flaws, or even remind us of our past, causing us to feel triggered and upset.  

Being aware that this is happening can be the first step towards better managing our frustrations when we see our child playing excessively.  

Thereafter, seek to understand your child’s motivations.  

“Think about what your child’s motivations are. For example, if your child is using games to escape from the real world, perhaps taking time to listen to your child, and supporting him with tools to deal with the problems in real life can reduce the instances of escape gaming.”  

Understanding why the child games, and equipping them with coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges can help you make a lasting change in your child’s life.  

We are not perfect 

Ray’s parting words offer much comfort, “We are all not perfect parents. We are still learning. To become better parents. To become better guides to our kids.” And our children too, are learning to function in what can be a scary and confusing world.  

Even as we set boundaries around gaming and device use, let’s keep our relationship with our kids at the centre. With our parent-child relationship secure, perhaps games will no longer be the anchor our children base their identity on. 

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

How to Talk to Your Children About Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

Despite being 26 this year, I remember the first time I was ever exposed to a conversation on LGBTQ+. It was in my first year of university, as a starry-eyed 21-year-old, ten thousand miles away from Singapore.  

My parents never talked to me about LGTBQ+, nor did school teach me about this.  

How times have changed.  

If you’re the parent of a child today, you may be confused, anxious and worried over how much exposure your child is getting to this issue in the current social media environment. You may be wondering how best to talk to your child about this.  

With the recent government announcement about the repeal of Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men, it may be all the more critical to begin engaging your child in this conversation.  

Here are some guidelines that can help. 

Understand the context  

Firstly, it helps to understand your child’s development. Your child’s brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25. That may mean that the concerns your child brings to you may be part of a phase, rather than anything permanent.  

This is especially the case during puberty, where your child experiences rapid changes hormonally and within their bodies. They may find themselves “attracted” to someone of the same gender and start having questions about their own sexuality.  

As a parent, you play an important role in helping the child to recognise that this emotional turbulence and confusion within them, may be a passing phase or even just a form of admiration for a same-sex peer.   

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pay attention to what your child says or cast doubt on everything they say. But do be aware that such a confusion over their identity or sexuality could be experienced by your child but need not signal something life-changing.  

Be the safe space, early on  

As parents, you may never have had conversations with your own parents about sex. That may influence your level of comfort with having these conversations with your own kids.  

But having these conversations as early as possible can remind your child that you are a safe space where they can raise questions and concerns about what can be a confusing world to live in.  

You may not want your child to end up being swayed by their peers in school, without them having learnt anchors that can hold them steady in these turbulent times.  

I spoke to June Yong, Lead of Insights at Focus on the Family Singapore, and she provided these helpful conversational handles: 

  • Approach it as an ongoing conversation  

Build on the topic layer by layer. For example, for preschoolers, start with the basics – naming of body parts, sexual identity, and how babies are made. Through this, you can help your child understand that this means every child has one mummy and one daddy who “made” them.  

By the time children are 9 or 10 years old, you may want to explore how the body changes during puberty and what to expect, or discuss the dangers of porn. 

  • Equip based on family values 

It is good to reach a consensus with your spouse on your family’s stand on dating and boundaries in relationships, so that you can explain to your child your values in a calm and thoughtful way.    

These first principles can help them to form a good foundation to tackle issues around LGBTQ+ later.  

As parents, often, it’s important to distinguish whether we cannot or do not want to have these conversations. The former is a question of ability, which can be learnt through helpful workshops 

But not wanting to can be more subtle. We may find ourselves discomforted by the idea of having such conversations with our children. We may experience a sudden blush, feeling sheepish or embarrassed of the idea of talking about the birds and the bees.  

Perhaps we need to first get in touch with our own discomfort, and just be aware that it’s there. We could then be more open to acknowledging that we, as parents, don’t have all the answers.  

The key thing is – Be available and willing to journey with our child through that process, and to figure it out together. Grab hold of teaching moments when they present themselves, and try not to skirt the elephant in the room simply because of the discomfort.  

LGBTQ is not an easy issue to discuss. But it will be made easier if your child already has a good relationship with you, marked by psychological safety.

Jumpstart with questions    

Take it as a learning journey for yourself, too.  

Questions can serve as a useful jumpstart to these tricky conversations. Some helpful questions include: 

  • What do you think about the recent move to repeal 377A?  

This can be a useful way to use current affairs to start a conversation.  

  • What do your teachers/friends say? 

It may be easier for your child to talk about what their friends, or others think, rather than what they personally think. Use these as starting points to explore your child’s thoughts on the issue.  

Share your own experiences  

It can be helpful for you to share your own questions about the issue. As parents, we sometimes expect ourselves to know it all. Realistically, we can’t.  

I remember hearing this gem from a 70-year-old community leader: “Well John, I don’t know if I have all the answers. But what I do know is that we may sometimes miss the tree for the forest. And that perhaps the issue isn’t confusion over homosexuality, but confusion over our own sexuality.”  

This position of “vulnerable inquiry”, where you share your own challenges working through the LGBTQ+ debate, but also share your own anchors to negotiating this issue, can model to your child a better way to think about the issue.  

Celebrate your child’s milestones  

Most parents don’t think of celebrating their daughter’s first period, as periods are often associated with pain and discomfort. But it is also a significant milestone in your daughter’s journey into womanhood.  

Imagine if we celebrated moments like these and used the opportunity to affirm our children’s sense of self, helping them be proud of who they are, and how they are made.  

For boys, some parents like to throw a big birthday bash when they reach their first double-digit birthday, using the occasion to talk about one’s duties and responsibilities as a young man, and the challenges that may come with that. This can be another way in to speaking about LGBTQ+.  

For example, you might say: 

  • Sometimes as we grow up, we may find ourselves liking another person of the same sex. This may be admiration, rather than attraction. Do you know what the difference is?  
  • In some other countries, people of the same sex can marry and bring up children. What do you think are the pros and cons of such living arrangements?  

Enlist mentor figures 

As children grow, they may start taking reference from their peers, rather than you. Even if it’s tough getting through to your teenager, persevere and keep reaching out and building bridges. 

At times, it may be useful to find age-similar role models for your child and intentionally help them connect with trusted friends whom they can speak to about careers, relationship, and life. Such mentor figures can serve as a guide for your children during these difficult times. 

Relationship is key  

LGBTQ is not an easy issue to discuss. But it will be made easier if your child already has a good relationship with you, marked by psychological safety. Think of psychological safety as a warm bubble bath on a cold day – an environment where your child feels safe to bring their worries and concerns, knowing that you won’t fault them for it.  

Building this takes time. It takes trust. And perhaps most importantly, it takes love. A love that will accept differences in opinion, disagreements, while also offering a principled stand on an issue that has divided our nation.  

Because I believe that it is such a responsible and boundaried love that will ultimately keep us united and strong.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

How to Nurture Your Youth to be a Confident Young Adult

We all want our children to grow to become responsible, competent, and confident adults. 

But what exactly does that look like, and how do we get there? 

Adulting is a term that’s been bantered around rather frequently now and is used by young adults to describe their new roles and experiences. Often, this is done with humour and tagged onto chores you have to pick up, new financial commitments and so on.  

But more than these things, young adulthood is also about stepping up – stepping into bigger responsibilities, wider social circles and navigating what the big (and sometimes scary) world means for you as an individual.  

Focus on the Family Singapore spoke with two young adults, Nicole Soh, 20, and Jakin Tan, 21, recently on IG Live, on this topic. Here, they share from a young adult’s perspective what adulting looks like, and some tips on how you can set your teen up for success in navigating this life transition and beyond. 

Tip #1: Create a safe space for conversations 

As Nicole is graduating very soon from polytechnic, for her, adulting for her means making a lot of big decisions about school and career. 

She recalled the time when she had to help her dad see the merits of a polytechnic education. Prior to this decision, she felt that conversations with her dad revolved mostly around grades. But as she became more intentional about engaging him in other matters, she found him gradually becoming more open about her pursuing a polytechnic education. Today, she appreciates that she has a safe space to discuss with her parents about the things she learns in school and other happenings around them. 

As for mum, Nicole is most appreciative of how she would ask probing questions as she was growing up, questions that would help her to form her own opinions on things, and to have greater clarity on why she wants to make certain choices. 

She said, “Dad and mum played different roles in my growing up years. I appreciate that they are able to bring very unique approaches to the table. And that they are willing to discuss things, and go back and forth with me.” 

Tip #2: Give them opportunities to make decisions 

Jakin is currently waiting to start his university studies in linguistics. But he still remembers vividly how his parents empowered him from young to make his own choices and weighing the pros and cons of each option. (He even kept the notebook he wrote in when deciding on whether to opt for homeschooling or formal schooling!) 

He credits his parents for instilling in him a strong sense of independence, and thinks it has helped him to be able to make his own choices, including understanding the “whys” that go into each decision. 

Tip #3: Let go, gradually 

Jakin described the process of letting go he witnessed in his parents when his elder brother started university, “Because my elder brother is living in a university hall and only comes back on weekends, so a lot of the time he’s living his own life. So I’ve seen my parents be able to chill, and recognise that they have no control over the choices he makes in school. All they can do is just trust that their parenting has been good enough.” 

“Now it’s my turn. When I make my own choices, I will have certain reasons, and if I explain it to them, they will let me do what I think is best for myself.” 

Nicole chimed in, “If you have younger teens aged 13-14, like just starting secondary school, not only do they have the world to explore, but there are also the dangers of the world. So, it’s totally valid and understandable to be a helicopter parent, to make sure the child is safe.” 

“So, on one hand, there are some things parents cannot be there 24/7. On the other hand, there are also instances where the kid wants to hang on for a little bit longer. I think when we have the foundation, we won’t be easily swayed and we know we can always come home to our family, where it’s a safe space.” 

“As parents, it’s natural to worry,” Jakin added, “but instead of telling your child not to do this or that, just educate them on what’s good and bad. Your kid will find out anyway, whether it’s about porn or sex, so it’s better to guide them as it will teach them how to make logical decisions.”  

Very often, parents may feel guilty for not doing enough. But very often, we already feel very loved when you’re just sitting there beside us, listening to us share about our day.

Tip #4: Sit beside them and listen     

It doesn’t mean that parents always have to do the hard work of education or encouraging our teens. Most of the time, our quiet presence is enough. 

As Nicole said, “Very often, parents may feel guilty for not doing enough. But very often, we already feel very loved when you’re just sitting there beside us, listening to us share about our day.”  

As parents, it can be hard to restrain ourselves from jumping in and making big decisions for our children, so we can “save” them from making mistakes. But if we look at the longer term, we may begin to see the benefit of allowing them some leeway as they grow to make certain choices and to raise their own viewpoints. 

By providing a safe space for conversations and heartfelt sharing to take place in the home, we are actually helping them gain a strong sense of self and identity, promoting confidence and responsibility, while also building a healthy parent-child relationship.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Dads Need Other Dads to Grow in Their Parenting Journey


Our third Survey for Dads was conducted from 04 May – 31 May 2022 through the databases and social media channels of Focus on the Family Singapore. A total of 269 fathers responded.   

This year’s survey focused on understanding dads’ self-efficacy in parenting, and uncovering the importance of “dad-friends” in supporting a dad’s journey of fatherhood.

Research Findings

Is It Possible to Change a Person’s Sex?

Tween & teen years

No. A person’s sex cannot be changed. Biological sex is determined at conception (genotype) and during the baby’s development in the womb (phenotype). 

Sex differences are expressed in many bodily systems and organs, not just what can be seen and observed by the human eye. While it is possible to change many areas of our lives, such as our dressing, hobbies, diet, or friends, it is not possible to change one’s biological sex. 

It is possible, however, to change a person’s outward appearance.  

Some people may use clothing, accessories and make-up to modify how they look. For example, a female might bind her chest in order to reduce breast visibility. However, it is also important to note that chest-binding is associated with negative symptoms such as rib pain or musculoskeletal symptoms (Jarrett et al., 2018).  

Others may take sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) or turn to cosmetic surgery to further alter their appearance. These actions are taken as part of a process known as “medical transitioning”, but they do not change a person’s underlying biological sex. 

Emerging years

What about gender dysphoria? 

The word “dysphoria” is a clinical term for a sense of unease or distress when one experiences a mismatch between their gender identity and biological sex.  

There are three types of gender dysphoria: 

Early onset gender dysphoria typically begins in early childhood, usually between the ages of 2 and 4. According to Psychology Today, only a small number of children with gender dysphoria will continue to experience symptoms in later adolescence or adulthood.  

Late onset gender dysphoria first appears in early to mid-adulthood. Persons who experience late onset gender dysphoria are almost exclusively male. This may simply involve experiencing sexual arousal through dressing as a woman, but it can also involve medical transitioning and living as a female. 

Rapid onset gender dysphoria, an increasing social phenomenon, affects adolescents who have identified with their own biological sex for years, then decide they want to change genders and sometimes alter their bodies.  

This developmental problem, which seems to predominantly affect adolescent females, is said to be associated with social influences such as:  

  • Social media influencers embracing and celebrating the idea of gender fluidity. 
  • Peers embracing transgender behaviour as popular and as an avenue for social celebration. 

If you suspect your child may be experiencing gender dysphoria, it is important to acknowledge their struggles and to seek therapeutic help. Approach them from a posture of listening, gentleness and patience.  

Be present with them when they are willing to share and be open about their thoughts and experiences, while also remembering that loving your child need not mean you have to affirm and agree with everything they do. 

Why is Porn So Readily Accessible?

Why is Porn So Readily Accessible? 

In a previous article where we explored “Why is porn so addictive?, the pervasiveness of porn came up as a contributing factor because of how easily accessible they have become today. A quick look at the figures published by a cybersecurity company underscores the extent of this accessibility: 

Every Second: 

  • 28,258 users are watching pornography on the internet. 
  • $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet. 

In this follow-up piece, we will explore “Why is porn so easily accessible?” by taking a deep dive into the forces that drive the proliferation of porn, and offer a few practical handles for kids in dealing with such exposure. 

The ubiquity of technology and devices 

There is no doubt that technology has greatly changed the way we live. For example, we certainly enjoy numerous conveniences and entertainment the Internet brings us – ordering our favourite dinner and embarking on a professional development course are now just a few clicks away. Lockdowns and quarantines during Covid years have only deepened the intensity and accelerated the rate of our digital connection. However, the flip side of having such a high connectivity, also means that it is probably easier to access sexually explicit materials than to avoid them.  

In the early 2000s, porn used to be contained in age-restricted print materials and subscription-based platforms. It was a service only paying customers could access. This was the chief revenue model for the porn industry, until video-streaming platforms started to revolutionise the way we consume information and entertainment.  

Inspired by YouTube’s success, the porn industry was swift in adapting to streaming platforms that were not only free for any user to access, but also offered better means of generating revenue for companies. 

Given how much of our lives both at home and at work now relies on staying connected, it would be unimaginable for one to be without a device. Yet, we often forget the tremendous power of connectivity this small device yields. A double-edged sword hidden in pockets, our devices have opened us up to the very best technology has to offer, while proving to be equally, if not more, dangerous, at the same time.  

Under Singapore Law, it is illegal for an individual to keep, possess, or download porn. Although IMDA has banned approximately 100 websites as a token gesture of disapproval, it is not illegal to watch or stream pornographic content online. That means any child with a connected device will still be able to easily access or stumble upon porn at the click of a button, in the absence of rigorous parental controls. 

A profit-driven entity at its finest 

Revenue estimates for the porn industry vary widely, and understandably so. Not only is it impossible to obtain accurate figures from privately-held porn companies, it is also challenging to account for the entire porn industry. For instance, the membership platform, “OnlyFans”, has become synonymous with porn even though it was originally meant for creators to directly monetise their content, adult or not.  

The steady rise of individual porn creators through such membership platforms further complicates the effort to obtain an accurate estimate to how much the industry is really worth. Nonetheless, several estimates clearly put it as a multi-billion-dollar industry.  

To understand how the rest of the porn industry continues to generate revenue despite offering free-to-stream videos, we need to first understand how porn advertising works. They do not work the same way as advertising for a handbag or a pair of shoes.  

Since porn companies are blocked from advertising on traditional media outlets, they have only other porn companies to turn to, for their advertising. For perspective, Pornhub’s annual report revealed a staggering 42 billion visitors in 2019 alone, reflecting a very robust base of potential consumers that could be funnelled through advertising into another paid porn site. In other words, Pornhub receives lucrative advertising fees in return for offering free-to-stream videos.  

Apart from advertising dollars, porn companies are also able to monetise user data and profiling that they capture from their online visitors. For these reasons, porn companies are motivated and invested to continue offering free content that generates the highest possible viewership, because every click on their website translates to dollars and cents.  

Practical handles for when your child is exposed to porn 

In the effort to safeguard our children, some of us turn to parental control apps on their devices. However, even the best app will fail, as Google search engine reminds us that there are always creative ways to bypass restrictions.  

If there is one thing parental control apps are good for, it is buying us time for building up a more reliable “internal filter” in our children, and time for teaching them practical handles to deal with exposure to porn.  

A few practical handles include (when speaking directly to your child):  

  1. Look away immediately – Close the laptop or put down the device and walk away immediately. Resist the urge to linger or dwell on the image/video.


  2. Look to daddy or mommy – Seek out daddy or mommy in person, or if not possible, reach out to one of us as soon as possible via a phone call. You are not in trouble for being exposed to porn, you can always approach us. 


  3. Share what you saw – Let us know what you saw, how the images made you feel, and if you have any questions. We will journey through this together.  

Porn may be more accessible than ever, but as parents, we have greater influence when we ensure that our presence and guidance are even more accessible in our children’s lives.  

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Playing to My Strengths As A Father

In today’s world, fathers are increasingly expected to play equal roles with mothers in terms of hands-on care. However, many of us grew up in an age where fathers played more traditional roles, leaving childcare mostly to the mothers. Lacking in role models from their own lives, some fathers may find it intimidating to bond with or care for their little ones, or even struggle to juggle both traditional and modern expectations of fathers.  

As a father to two young children, I too have felt inadequate. I often compared myself with mummy, who seems to tackle modern motherhood effortlessly, whether it was bringing home the bacon, cooking, cleaning, or caring for the children. Her list seems infinitely longer than mine! 

Though self-doubt continues to be a struggle, I have come a long way in building my confidence as a father. A time of personal reflection, as well as regular affirmation from my wife, has led me to realise that as a father, I play a unique and irreplaceable role in the family.  

Here are some ways I have learnt to step up in my role as a father.   

Parents each have unique interests and personalities that can contributed to enriching our children’s development.

1. Leverage one’s unique personality and interests  

While it is good for parents to recognise our weaknesses and build on them, it should not blind us to our existing strengths. My wife and I have unique interests and personalities that have contributed to enriching our children’s development.  

In terms of interests, my wife exposes the children to arts and crafts, cooking, and applies her experiences as an educator to help them learn subjects such as English. As for myself, I bring my sense of humour and creativity to playtime and storytelling, expose my children to mechanical and open-ended styles of play through toys such as Lego and Transformers, and introduce them to other interests like coffee-making. 

Personality-wise, my wife brings more energy and spontaneity, and a sense of adventure to our outings together while I bring a tender love and warmth to our relationships, which creates an atmosphere of safety and acceptance in the home.  

Avoid unhealthy comparisons with other parents, and zero in on each other’s strengths and contributions to the family.

2. Recognise that we contribute to the family differently

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others, especially in terms of performance and ability. While this can sometimes serve as a benchmark for growth, such comparisons can become toxic when we cling too tightly to unrealistic standards.  

Rather than compete on who is the “better” parent at home, it has been helpful for my wife and I to take time to reflect and affirm each other – and ourselves! – on the different ways we contribute to the family.  

For instance, my wife is better able to juggle the many tasks at home, spanning from household chores to caring for the kids. She is more natural at keeping the house looking fresh and homely, in part by keeping a lookout for good deals on household items. As an educator by profession, she keeps a better pulse on our children’s learning needs and school schedules. Finally, as the more adventurous parent, she keeps abreast of events and activities that the family can enjoy. 

On the other hand, I am better at managing conflicts and meltdowns at home, whether it was between my wife and I or with the children. I am also good at giving the children undivided attention and tuning in to their interests and thoughts, which helps boost their confidence and self-esteem. Finally, I feel better able at guiding the family on making bigger decisions, such as career choices, choosing where to stay, which school our children should go, managing finances and big-ticket expenditures.  


3. Surround yourself with resources and like-minded persons  

Nobody wakes up as a competent parent from day one. Many skills that experienced parents demonstrate today are hard-won from experience or passed down from other parents. Similarly, I had to educate myself in the areas where I lacked. One key way was to leverage modern technologies to accommodate my busy lifestyle. For example, I follow parenting accounts on social media for bite-sized tips and tools which I can absorb on-the-go. 

It is also important to get connected to gain support and learn from others. For example, we got connected with fellow parents of younger children and have regular get-togethers. This exposes us to various styles of parenting, while simultaneously helping us and our children to build lasting friendships. We are also members of online parenting groups where we regularly get advice from on a wide variety of parenting issues.  

“Papa’s home!!”
Every day when I come home, my children shout for joy and run towards me for a giant bear hug. 

This image of my children welcoming me home is seared in my mind and heart. It keeps me going as a father. I once thought that my role as a father was easily replaceable, but this could not be further from the truth; there is no replacement for the role that we play in our family.

To my fellow fathers, if you are struggling with self-doubt over your ability as a father, take heart: At the end of the day, our children do not want a different father, or a “better” father to be at the door. All they want is for their very own Papa to return home to them.

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Dealing with the Stresses of Youth

A survey on mental health last year found that 90% of undergrads in Singapore felt that work and study commitments were their greatest sources of stress. How can parents respond to their youth in times of stress?

Join our host, Chong Ee Jay, who hears from Hosanna Nazar, a 25-year-old studying psychology in university.

From societal to financial pressures, Hosanna unravels the hardships of navigating stress in today’s world and provides practical advice on how to cope with them. Through her personal experiences, parents can better understand the challenges that young people face and ways to support and encourage them.

If you have enjoyed this episode, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcast or Podchaser. It’ll be very helpful for others to find our podcast. You can also help us by copying this link to share with your friends.

You can also support us by giving monthly. We appreciate your generous giving as every dollar helps to sustain our efforts in strengthening families. Do note that if you are based in Singapore, one-time gifts above SGD$50 or monthly donations above SGD$10 are eligible for 250% tax-deductible benefits.

Mum, Here are 5 Signs You’re Being Too Hard On Yourself

We recently passed the halfway mark in 2023. Some people like to do a mid-term life review to ensure they are on track with their goals. Educational institutions have assessments or exams to evaluate their students’ learning.

Have you done a mid-year assessment of your role as a mother?

This may sound like a strange question to ask mothers, but if we care to admit, we are evaluating our “performance” more often than we realise. And the bad news is our self-assessment is often biased because as mums, we are our own harshest critics.

Here are five signs that we are too hard on ourselves.

1. We engage in unhealthy comparison  

Comparison is a killjoy in parenting. Knowingly or unconsciously, we compare ourselves with other parents – in the areas of academic performance or in aspects that we or our children are weak in. Does the following inner dialogue sound familiar?

“Why can’t I be like Macy, she is so adept at juggling work and family life…she just got promoted and her children are doing so well in school. What’s wrong with me?”

2. We overlook the “little wins” in parenting 

There is a good mix of bad days and good days for mothers. However, when we are hard on ourselves, we are less inclined to notice the significant moments. When our child shows kindness to a sibling, we take it for granted; when junior puts in the effort to study for exams, we are slow to affirm; instead, we emphasise to junior how much more can be done to do well.  

3. We blame ourselves when things go south  

There is a good mix of bad days and good days for mothers. However, when we are hard on ourselves, we are less inclined to notice the significant moments. When our child shows kindness to a sibling, we take it for granted; when junior puts in the effort to study for exams, we are slow to affirm; instead, we emphasise to junior how much more can be done to do well.  

4. We frequently use negative language

Whether it is expressed verbally or an inner conversation, we are inclined towards negative self-talk. 

“I am not good enough”, “I just can’t get everything right”, “I should have known better than to….”, “I am a bad mother.”

If any of these critical statements ring a bell, you are not alone. However, being overly critical of oneself can be unproductive and ineffective. It does not benefit anyone, much less our children, even if we are hard on ourselves and push ourselves to do better or to make our child behave.  

5. We put self-care on the back burner

Our children’s needs often take centre stage and we are so focused on meeting their needs that we forget to care for ourselves properly. Truth is, we can provide the best care for our children when we first care for ourselves. Prioritising ourselves can make us more effective in our parenting and ultimately, happier as individuals. 

One effective antidote to combat such self-defeating thoughts is self-compassion. So, what can we do to develop the art of self-compassion? 

1. Embrace unconditional positive regard  

Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist introduced the concept of unconditional positive regard as a key component in his person-centred approach to therapy. It involves showing care and prizing a person by unconditionally accepting whatever the person does or is feeling.  

While unconditional positive regard is often associated with counselling, it can also be applied in other relationship contexts (e.g., parent-child, husband-wife) 

We can apply unconditional positive regard to ourselves as mums too – accepting and valuing ourselves regardless of circumstances we face in our parenting.  

2. Learn to silence the inner critic  

    • Find the belief statements to set off the negativity
      For example, it could be: “What’s wrong with me; I can’t get anything right as a mother.” 
    • Fix the critical script by challenging it 
      Is it really true that you cannot get anything right? Even if you made many mistakes in parenting, there are instances where you have gotten things right. Recall those positive incidents instead of focusing on that one poor judgment call. 
    • Flip the self-defeating thought to a healthy or empowering belief 
      For example, replace the negative statement with, “It is not true that I can’t get anything right as a mother. There are instances where I did the right thing. I wish I had made a better choice in this matter, but I can learn from it and exercise better judgment next time.”

      Silencing the inner critic takes time, patience, and practice. Do not lose heart if you do not get it right in the initial stage of practising this technique. Keep at it and you will experience a positive mindset change.  

3. Prioritise your self-care

One of the best gifts we can give our children is a healthy and happy mother. So, make time to nurture ourselves through activities that strengthen the body, mind and spirit. 

Parenting is hard work. While it is beneficial to reflect on our actions or take stock of ourselves to learn and grow, as mums, we often take ourselves too seriously and judge ourselves more harshly than we deserve.  

Let’s learn to value and accept ourselves unreservedly and develop the skill of silencing our inner critic. What is one thing you will do today to be kind to yourself?  

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Growing Trust Through the Teenage Years

How do we build trust in our relationships with our children? How do you keeping trusting your kids after they’ve messed up? Is fear motivating you to control your kids’ behaviour? 

As our children grow older and forge their identities through independence, it can be hard to keep the bond of trust. Yet we have to keep trying because trust in a relationship is what provides safety and respect.  

Mother-daughter duo Jenni Ho-Huan and Abby share with us their stories and tips on how to cement their bond of trust.  

Explain the why behind the what 

Time is needed to build trust. Abby, who’s in her third year of university, said that she learnt to keep trusting her parents through the repeated conversations they’ve had over the years. 
“For example, when we were younger and Mum wanted us to do something like our 10pm curfew and I was like, oh, my friends’ curfew is 11pm’, but Mum always explained why. It was never like ‘because I said so’ but they explained the why behind the what.” 
The way her parents separated the issue from the person also helped Abby learn that being corrected does not mean her parents think badly of her as a person but instead, they were merely correcting the behaviour.  
So, when trust is broken because of certain wrong actions, consequences are given through lots of thoughtful communication. 
So its not that you inherently are a bad child,” said the eldest child.  
Jenni tries to have pockets of time daily to think through what she wants to say to her child and how to say it. 
Pulling back and processing has helped her approach conversations clearly and intentionally so that it goes “better than me saying 10,000 things and none of them makes sense.

Apologise when we get it wrong

Parents can also default to the mode of “we know better”. However, as our kids grow into teens, we have to help them grow by actually listening to them, giving weight to their opinions and apologising when we get it wrong.  
Abby learnt how to apologise by watching her parents do so. She recalled, Being willing to apologise is a big deal. One of my memories is when my dad got upset and I think he raised his voice and maybe I looked scared so he came to my room, apologised and explained why he got upset and how he felt. That set an example for me to own my mistakes.” 
Learning to listen well also helps avoid incidents like this. As Abby shared,[My parents’ willingness to listen] lets us have a space to share our own lives and it encourages us to share the things we are processing, our hopes and fears so that creates emotional intimacy. So even when it gets hard, theres emotional reserves, and when conflict occurs or when push comes to shove, you still know your parents love you.” 

Keep up the ‘communication habit’

According to Jenni, developing the “communication habit” to stay in connection with one another is critical. 

“When the kids were small, there may be times when we have to intrude into their space and they may get irritated but you have to trust that your love is getting to them somehow. You have to make sure you get into the fray or you go back to the room to say I am sorry,” said Jenni.  
She explained that it has to be a connection of the heart so that even as a child, they know we have their backs and are more open to communicate.   
Jenni likens every year of parenting to be like reaching another “clearing in a forest” where you never been before, and it brings new things to talk about. So the intentional reaching out to connect has to be done constantly. 
The mother of three, who’s also the author of a kids book named “Simple Tips for Happy Kids,” also consciously works on growing her own self-awareness and gaining clarity on what’s important.   
“I have to be clear on what is important to me as a parent, what are my non-negotiables, realising my non-negotiables has to take into consideration that I am raising a child in a different generation, different context,” she explained.  

Being aware of the different world our kids are growing up in will help us grow as parents while also communicating to our kids that we understand their world. 

Develop situational awareness

Being aware of the different world our kids are growing up in will help us grow as parents while also communicating to our kids that we understand their world.  
“These days, 10-year-old kids know about the war in Ukraine… last time, when we were 10, we were ‘blur blur’ but they have all these information to navigate and I think it can create this fog that makes it harder to connect. Sometimes it’s not that your child doesn’t trust you, but their world is a different world.” 
Jenni advises that we continue pursuing their hearts even if they don’t seem receptive at first. We also have to be aware of our own fears and motivation.  

We are capable of repairing our narratives so we can offer something more stable and hopeful for our family.

“All parents have irrational fears… we can imagine that one bad habit they are doing now is going to mark their lives.” 
Jenni shared that these fears can propel us to be anxious, something she experienced herself with her son who did not thrive in the mainstream school system. 
“The turning point for me was when I realised I was trying to over-plan his life too much. But my role is not to ensure his journey has no road bumps.” 
So part of the journey of building trust with our kids is not letting our emotions push us to control their behaviour or the outcomes of their decision. As we grow as parents and put in the hard yards to communicate and connect in season and out of season, we can one day see the fruit of that bond of trust.  
And even if you didn’t grow up with that yourself, be encouraged that you can still break the cycle to start a new story for your family.  
As Jenni so wisely said, “We are capable of repairing our narratives so we can offer something more stable and hopeful for our family.” 

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.