Into its third year, the Dads@School Forum at Queensway Secondary School on 7 April 2018, was filled with 200 fathers, father support group leaders, parent support group leaders, and educators from over 70 schools. To encourage the continuity of their involvement in father support groups from primary to secondary school, this year’s theme was: “Who’s Shaping Our Teens: Do Fathers Matter?”
The event was graced by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social & Family Development, and Chairperson, COMPASS (COMmunity and PArents in Support of Schools). It also saw the launch of the Dads’ MediaTech Resource Kit, a quick starter’s reference guide jointly developed by Centre for Fathering-Dads for Life (CFF-DFL) and Media Literacy Council for fathers to take a more active role in their children’s adoption of technology.
“I am heartened to see many of you today. Many came last year, got inspired, formed groups in your schools, and have come today. I hope that after this, more of you will be inspired, go back to your schools, form your own groups, and increase in number,” said Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim in his opening address.
Plenary Sessions: Media Engagement, Father-Teen Relationship, Identity
Speaking on Media Engagement, Dr Jiow Hee Jhee, Assistant Professor at the Singapore Institute of Technology and Media Literacy Council Member, urged fathers to monitor their children’s media usage, get involved in their kids’ online activities, and be a role model in the area. Participating in social media and playing online games, dads can be more aware of their teens’ activities and the possible dangers such as cyber bullying or inappropriate content.
Mr Edwin Choy, Co-founder of CFF, spoke on Father-Teen Relationships, encouraging dads to understand that an adolescent needs to go through the process of individuation -that is he or she has to develop towards maturity as a person with ultimately his or her values and personality. As such, the teenager may test boundaries and question parental authority. By remaining calm, loving and firm, a father offers his teenager the space to mature into adulthood.
Founder of the DFL movement, Mr Jason Wong, spoke on why DFL was started and the positive impact of father involvement on a child’s sense of identity. He also highlighted that dads play a important role in supporting teenagers as they seek direction in their course of study and career direction, especially when they face difficulties.
Dialogue Highlights: Building Resilience, Managing Parent-Teen Conflict
In the dialogue session moderated by Mr Bryan Tan, Chief Executive Officer, CFF-DFL; Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim and the plenary speakers shared their thoughts and experiences on issues raised by the forum participants. These included building resilience in teenagers and managing parent-teen conflict related to media usage.
- Building resilience – Resilience is the ability for a person to get back up on his feet after a setback. To develop resilience in a teenager, focus on his or her strength, namely an observable behaviour that will help him or her grow in self-confidence, said Mr Choy. Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim taught his children not to fear being reprimanded if they fail. In fact, the family would “celebrate loss” by going out for a dinner when a child failed to win a competition. This helped the children to understand that it is “normal” to lose, remain unbeaten by defeat, and move on to try again.
- Managing parent-teen conflict – It is helpful for a father to work out an agreement with his children on the amount of screen time and online activities allowed each week. Incentives can be dangled to motivate the child. If the child proves faithful with the allotted time, he can be rewarded with more trust or time on the device, said Dr Jiow.
Empowering Dads with Partner Organisations
As part of ongoing efforts to empower fathers on these issues, CFF-DFL’s community partners will be offering various programmes in the upcoming months. Eagles Mediation and Counseling Centre will put together a 1st Aider Mental Wellness Awareness programme to help parents identify distress in teenagers.
TOUCH Cyber Wellness is offering to train parents to become Digital Age Parenting Facilitators to deal with challenges in this cyber age. And, Google will conduct Becoming Confident Digital Parents workshops.
Help123 set up a booth to share its Cyber Wellness Support Resources and information on various avenues of intervention, while Eagles Mediation and Counseling Centre showcased its Father-Teen Mediation Programme.
Fathers can also tap on the Ministry of Education’s comprehensive list of online resources on cyber wellness and resilience. This list, distributed at the forum, contains useful links to self-help materials for parents.
Ideas in the Dads’ MediaTech Resource Kit resonated with Mr Lai Shu Hau (front row, right), a father from White Sands Primary School, “I believe that it is important to teach our children good fundamental principles and behaviours; that is for them to learn to moderate the amount of time spent on digital influences versus other activities in life, understand the right way to use digital media and its content, and to manage their time appropriately.”
Mr Justus Ong (left), whose daughter is in Primary 6 at St Margaret’s, plans to actively serve in her secondary school next year. “I will either participate in a father support group if it is already there or initiate setting up one. Most schools are convinced of the benefits of father-involvement. The challenge is in getting a group of dads together.”
Mr Peter Tan (second from right), Principal, Queensway Secondary, hopes to form a father support group in the school soon, “I was glad that over 20 fathers from our school came for the forum. It’s a very good start…If we can get the group together in the next few weeks, we can fan the fire…and let it grow. Fathers want to be involved. The challenge now is also to change the mindset of teenagers to be willing to participate in activities with their dads. That’s something we have to get going and I look forward to that.“
“A seed was planted at last year’s forum for a father support group in our school, and it has taken root. This year, we are like a new shoot, growing from strength to strength, as more dads sign up for our father-child activities. We also hope to encourage schools in the Northeast to start father support groups,” said Mr Clement Cheong (back row, right), a father from Palm View Primary School.