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The Importance of Championing the Family

Opening Address by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the FamChamps Camp 2022 Honour Night

Mr Tony Soh, Chairman, Focus on the Family Singapore

Mrs Joanna Koh-Hoe, CEO, Focus on the Family Singapore

Friends, parents, and aspiring young Family Champions,

  1. Good evening to all of you. 
  2. Thank you very much for inviting me here tonight to celebrate this occasion.
  3. I was invited to the last FamChamps Be.Live Conference in July, but I unfortunately came down with COVID-19 then. 

    a. First of all, I would like to congratulate the team. I understand that it was a very successful conference.  

    b. Close to 600 youths from 13 educational institutions took part. Many came, walked away inspired to do more for their families, with their families.
  4. This camp, like many other activities, could not take place previously during COVID-19. And I think we missed it a lot more because we couldn’t do it. 
  5. I’m really glad this evening, that we have the opportunity to be back here. 

    a. It is also timely because 2022 is the year of celebrating the Singapore family. So we have designated 2022 as the Year of Celebrating SG Families. 

    b. We have about 91 campers and 120 parents from 12 participating schools.

    c. In addition to the 3-day 2-night camp, all of you young campers will also be embarking on an 8-month mentoring experience. So look forward to that. 

    d. And parents, thank you very much for your presence here tonight. Partnering with your child, having fun in a very relaxed fashion, allowing them to do goofy things to you like this. 

    e. I think all deserves a real round of applause for your presence here, and for your partnership tonight. 

    The importance of championing the family

  6. I want to say a few words about family. Family is really the fundamental bedrock of our society. 

    a. Every family here, every table here, all of you are part of a richer whole in Singapore. 

    b. And this is why we want to encourage strong and stable families as a fundamental cornerstone of how we construct our society in Singapore. 

    c. We have long taken in government a very strong pro-family position. And we will do whatever we can to encourage the family unit to be strong, stable and supportive of children within the family. 

    d. We know that while we do all this, while we encourage family, while we try to ensure that family that is strong and stable brings up children within that context – there are difficulties, there are pressures that put a strain on the family. 

    e. In many developed countries and Singapore is not different in many ways, the rate of marriage has come down, and the rate of divorce has gone up1. This puts a strain on the family unit, family structure. And children suffer as a result of that.

    f. We also see a greater shift, partly because of COVID-19 and partly because of cultures today, and pressures today, that we got a lot more individualism. A lot more me versus the we in society.  

    g. There have also been mental health challenges, particularly amongst the young. There has been a spotlight on this issue in the post COVID-19 environment in the last couple of years. 

    Building strong and stable families, starting with us

  7. And these challenges and more, are the reason why it is inspiring and important for the new generation to take up the mantle of championing family. 

    a. I think we must always remember that this is a fundamental part of society. 

  8. To the aspiring family champions here, allow me to share some of my own thoughts on how we can put the family at the centre of what we do, and always ensure that we make time for the family. 
  9. I just have three very simple points, starting with making family the priority. 

    a. In today’s world, especially with social media, the Internet, life is very much, much faster, a lot more connected. A lot more information, a lot more things you can do by yourselves, with friends. Sometimes we forget that the family is also important. And we tend sometimes to neglect those who are closest to us. 

    b. We take for granted sometimes, because every day we see our parents, we see our children at home. We see that our brothers and sisters, our siblings are there. And sometimes we do take them for granted. 

    c. So the first thing to do is to make sure that we make priority and we put some deliberateness into what we do as well.
  10. Second, it is important to always ensure that in difficult times, and there will be difficult times for all of us as families, we prefer kindness and hope.

    a. No family is perfect. In fact, our families are the very place we learn to embrace the differences and imperfections in life.

    b. These are all places which we learn to understand and appreciate that there are differences amongst all of us even amongst the closest of all of us. 

    c. The strength of a family is not something you can observe from what people post online as well. When you go online, there is a picture that is created online. It is often a picture that represents one part of their lives but not the whole life. What we see online should not be taken as the default or the standard. 

    d. Brother and sister pair, Aaron and Delia Ng, they anchored one of the camp’s family dialogues, shared about their own journey, their own journey of healing from the hurt and their sense of abandonment when their parents divorced. 

    e. Instead of losing hope, they chose to believe that family and family relations are worth fighting for, despite their own experiences. They were intentional about mending broken relationships and making sure that they start afresh. 

    f. Both Aaron and Delia are now happily married with young children and doing their best to build strong families of their own. And showing by way of example. This is an inspiration for all. 
  11. Third, family in Singapore is a collective responsibility. 

    a. It is not just for the parent, not just for the child, not just for one sibling over the other. This therefore speaks to your role in championing family in the larger society. 

    b. Each of us has our own part to play when we talk about Singapore and celebrating the Singapore family this year.  What are some of the things that we could do?

    c. Well, will we respect and care for the elderly in the same way as we do for ourselves? Will we take some time to understand from them family traditions and family values? What is it that is important to our seniors? What are the cultures that they want to pass on to us? In turn, what can we do to help them to bridge the gap and their device? Can we help them with their devices a bit more? 

    d. Because like me and my children, my children are the superior beings when it comes to managing devices and sorting it out. I think the gap between grandchildren and grandparents will be even bigger. So what can we do, to help them bridge the divide? 

    e. Navigate some of these differences and sometimes we take for granted these devices because we grew up with them. We are intuitive, but we forget that grandparents from their generation, they’re worried getting online. They’re worried trying to navigate the internet or social media. What can we do to help them bridge that divide?

    f. Will we challenge existing biases, attitudes and stereotypes that hinder the development of family? And in particular the role of girls and women in our families? 

    g. Do we stereotype them to do only certain things in the family? Do we say that when it comes to caregiving, cooking and cleaning – that’s only the role of the women or the girls?

    h. I think these are some of the things that stop a family from being really a family of equals, taking collective responsibility. Will we therefore acknowledge the equal importance and worth of both men and women across all domains of society?

    i. And also as employers in our workplaces, will we commit to nurturing family-friendly workplaces?
    • Now, we can all of course look at work from home as almost a default. But whether you’re in the offices, or when you’re working from home with children, there may be challenges.
    • Will we be understanding amongst co-workers, creating a family-friendly environment? So that whilst we work, we put our heart and soul into our work, we can also at least know that our family, the young ones, the young children, are being taken care of. 
    j. Will we look out for and be generous to families in distress in our own neighbourhoods and communities? And I’m sure many of us will come across these families. Families in distress, with youth at risk, children at risk – can we reach out to them, can we offer them a helping hand in their own time of need?
  12. Ultimately, we want a society that values family.

    a. On the Government’s part, we are strongly committed to supporting Singaporeans in this journey.
    • And we know that it is oftentimes not an easy job. We always, like I mentioned just now, see nice images online, nice photographs online and social media. 
    • But we know that behind every family, there are challenges, and we have to work at those challenges because when we overcome these challenges, they will make us all stronger as a family. 

    b. Over the years, we have progressively enhanced, from the Government, our marriage and parenthood policies and benefits to push this along, to help us along, recognising that it is not so simple, not so straightforward.

    c. For the families that require additional support, and there are many families who do require such support – we take the further step of going upstream to look further into their needs.
    • Not just for the policies or grants, but to go further upstream to further understand the reasons why that is so, and we try to intervene at an earlier stage before these family relations break down.

    Conclusion

  13. In this Year of Celebrating SG Families, I want to end by saying thank you very much for being here. 
  14. And I also want to thank Focus on the Family, the role that you play in society, the role that you play with families to raise strong advocates. 

    a. You are building a whole-of-society effort to build a Singapore Made For Families. It is truly important. 

    b. And I think these efforts, together with the partnership of many parents here, will become the foundations when we make Singapore a really strong place for families.
  15. We must continue to champion and raise the important role that family plays in Singapore. 

    a. We start small, family by family, individual by individual, bringing up the role of the family in our society. 

    b. Eventually, we can be the stronger SG family in Singapore. And we look forward to continuing to protect these values, because they are worth protecting.
  16. We just have to look around this evening. The relationship between parent and child, I think, is truly a fundamental building block of a strong family. 
  17. A couple of weeks ago, with my daughter who is here this evening, we had a father-daughter bonding. We had a football match. 

    a. It was a special football match, because the father had to hold on to the hand of the daughter anywhere you want to go on the pitch. And you have to move around in tandem. It was a real challenge.

    b. But ultimately these are some of the things that you don’t do every day. When you have occasions like these camps to come together and just agree to do this together, they add something special to the relationship, puts you in a different position. 

    c. Your daughter or your son sees you as an equal, trying to get to the goal, trying to score the goal. That was a really good experience. 
  18. So I encourage you, as the holidays come along, to take care, and to take some steps to find some occasion to spend some time alone. 

    a. And it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. It can be any occasion, and it can be doing anything. 

    b. Because many a time, the child values the special time that the parent puts aside for the son or daughter. And I think these are the little moments that people will remember throughout. 

    c. And these are all very valuable memories that will shape and forge a stronger family. 
  19. Thank you very much once again for inviting me here. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening. 
     
 1 Source: OECD Family Database 2022
Last updated on 04 November 2022