Putting in long hours at work and taking an additional part-time job as a courier may have been necessary for Sam, the family’s sole breadwinner, to support his family – but it had forced a wedge between him and his 15-year-old son.
His wife took on the role of primary caregiver, and he rarely made it home for meals, let alone found time to check in. The distance between them grew – and when his son started getting into trouble with the law, he knew something had to give.
“Finances were tight and I could not give my best to my son or be the best father. But I realised that I couldn’t let this go on, or I would eventually lose him,” he said.
Sam and his wife enrolled in a parenting programme offered by Singapore Children’s Society, where they learnt about the critical need for communication.
He went back to the basics, taking in tips on building a foundation for a strong and healthy relationship, and learnt strategies on communicating and opening up about problems. He also learnt to parent more strategically, and how to play “tug-of-war” – knowing when to pull back, and when to let go.
He also realised that despite financial stressors, it was important that he spent time with his son. He began to make more of an effort, discovering a common love for music, and began inviting his son to spend time with him on the road on weekends and after school. Over time, their relationship improved. His son became more willing to share, and Sam, more available to listen to and guide him.
He credits Ms Nurul Ashikin Bte Muhd Lee, a counsellor at Youth Service @ Children’s Society, for helping him recognise the need for change, adding that exercises like role plays helped him and his wife see things from different perspectives and level up their parenting.
“I hope my fellow fathers out there make an effort to be more open, and really hear and understand their child’s needs, wants and problems,” he said, adding that there is never a bad time to start being a better father.
To all fathers out there, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for giving fatherhood your very best.