Blood is thicker than water

Written by Parcsen Loke

“Blood is thicker than water” is a 15th Century proverb that implies that family relationships are always more important that friends. It was a social norm and everyone understood that, “If you ever need help, don’t ask your friends. Come home and ask us, your family. Blood runs thicker than water.”[1]

But does this proverb still ring true today?

While there was no urgent need for it, The Maintenance of Parents Act was nevertheless passed in 1995 as “a social safeguard against pitfalls that came with an aging population and against a trend of individulalistic young Singaporeans who thought that they should be allowed to do as they please.”[2] Twenty years later, Mr Khoo Oon Soo, Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP), reported that “deep-seated anger and resentment are often at the root of why some children do not support their elderly parents.”[3] And the reasons can range from parental neglect and abandonment to unresolved parent-child conflict.

So how do elderly parents meet their financial needs? Some might turn to Social Service Offices for financial aid. Fewer still will go to CMP to claim support from their children, but only as a last resort for fear that this might worsen – or even sever – their already strained relationships with their children. Those who take this option – on average, six in 10 are fathers – are often successful in getting their children to give maintenance. But most children do not reconcile with their parents.

Finances, while vital to everyday survival, is not the most important thing to seniors. A survey lasting nearly a decade by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education in Duke-NUS Medical School found that half of Singaporeans over sixty felt lonely “some or most of the time.” Prof Angelique Chan, its executive director, wishes that children realise, more than money, their elderly parents need “communication and connection.”[4]

Something must happen in order for communication and connection to take place between the two consecutive generations. It is not impossible. Just as glaciers are vanishing due to rapid atmospheric warming, a relational warming can melt the glacial animosity between the father and his adult child. The latter plays the important role of starting this thawing process. But how?

Bridging Generations is an important initiative of Centre for Fathering, to help adult children begin to restore and rebuild the relationship between them and their fathers. You can find on the website practical suggestions and powerful testimonies. Its goals are simple and down to earth, to help preserve the family and priceless values and traditions.

Blood is thicker than water, even if the water has turned to ice. Never lose hope. Everyone deserves a happy ending in the end.

[1] McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs (2002)
[2] Spirited debate on Parents’ Bill (1995, October 26). The New Paper, p. 4.
[3] Parent maintenance cases ‘often down to strained ties’. The Straits Times, December 6, 2015.
[4] Living with family, but still feeling lonely. The Straits Times, December 27, 2018.