‘Being close to grandparents teaches kids empathy and patience’
As the eldest son in his family, Mr Tan Chin Hock was raised to believe it is his duty to take care of his parents in their old age.
In 2010, four years into his marriage, he and his wife moved into a four-room Housing Board flat and invited them to live with them. Mr Tan has three daughters aged nine, seven and four. His father is 75 and mother 67.
With National Grandparents Day on Nov 22, the 42-year-old senior executive in business development wants to tell others that strengthening multigenerational ties is not impossible.
Mr Tan, who received the Filial Piety Award conferred by Nanyang Confucian Association in 2013, told The New Paper: "Just like a captain steering a ship, a father, being the head of the family, has to assume that role, rallying and unifying everyone in the family."
These values were instilled in him when he saw how his father, also the eldest son, took care of Mr Tan's cancer-stricken grandfather and was by his side till his last breath. As such, Mr Tan urges his children to spend time with their grandparents.
He feels his efforts have paid off. He recalled a heartwarming episode when his family went on a cruise without his parents: "My eldest daughter, who was three at the time, woke up from her sleep at 3am and asked for her grandfather, and kept wanting to ask the captain to turn the ship around because she wanted to go home to him.
"By being close to their grandparents, that is like an additional layer of emotional support from a close family member. It also teaches my children values like empathy and patience."
During the circuit breaker, Mr Tan took snapshots of his children bonding with his parents and put together a photo-book titled Memories Of The Circuit Breaker. He will be giving it to anyone who donates $50 or more as part of his fund-raising campaign for St Luke's Hospital (giving.sg/campaigns/memories_of_the_circuit_breaker).
Mr Tan acknowledged there are challenges that come with living with seniors. He said: "If you don't see eye-to-eye on most issues, living so close may even strain the relationship further. So unless it is harmonious and strong to start with, the outcomes may be disastrous."
Generations need to stay in touch
Mr Kua Soon Khe, a council member of Families For Life and a grandfather, on the importance of staying connected between generations:
Strong grandparent-grandchild relationships are beneficial and rewarding for both parties
"Grandparents play an important role in providing a nurturing environment for a child to grow up in and to inculcate a stronger sense of identity and belonging. The child... grows up to be more understanding and is committed to the family amid life's ups and downs."
Communication is vital to resolve conflicts due to different parenting styles
"Grandparents and parents should discuss how they can complement each other's roles in taking care of the child's needs. Grandparents should support and respect the parents' decisions in caring for the child."
Stay connected to sustain a harmonious multi-generational family while living apart
"You can do so via online communication platforms. Parents can plan a sleepover for the child at the grandparents' place. On a regular basis, call to check in on them and drop by to visit."
- CLARISS CHIA