Recently at our EDC meeting, the topic of pre-parenting was raised. The issue is not whether there is a need for it but how we should do it. We grow up in many “pre” syndromes. Before we become a Christian, we have “pre-believers” classes. Before we get married, we have “pre-marital” classes or in TWPC case, BYSID classes. Before we go to formal school, we have “pre-school” and in school, we have “pre-exam” or what is better known as mock exam. Now is pre-parenting a new invention? My guess is NO! But who’s the target audience? Due to the breakdown in families and family structures, the policy makers in the West are now rallying to see that education for parenting and nurturing is recognized and implemented as one of the emerging strategies to:
1. Encourage young men to postpone fatherhood until they are ready for its responsibilities; (young men are highly significant in initiating sexual activity and in deciding if protection will be used).
2. Raise the expectation among young men and women that their children will have an engaged father; (this process is best begun early in life, before the societal implications of being male or female often override the powerful human drive to nurture that is equally present in boys and girls as toddlers).
3. Prepare young men to be present, bonded, nurturing, active, emotionally connected and effective from the beginning of the lives of their children, and help facilitate their smooth developmental transition from biological father to committed parent when the time comes; and to be positive influences in the lives of children, in general inspire young men and women to create more “father friendly” and “family friendly” institutions and culture when they come of age and enter civic life.
In some states in the USA, the Paternity/Parenthood Program is being distributed to reach every grade student. It has found that public school personnel, given the right tools, are eager to help prepare students for fatherhood.
Here we ask ourselves as a Church, where are we in preparing our young people for parenthood. Does this begin once they enter “courtship” and preparing for marriage or otherwise? How prepared are our people today for any kind of challenges before the “rubber hits the road”? Generally, I think many of us are unprepared.
In Singapore, since the 1970s, increasing numbers of women joined the work force leading to an evolution of expectations of fatherhood beyond the traditional role of “breadwinner”. This sociological shift had affected the traditional family trend. As such “dual career” families have required fathers to play a more active role in their children’s lives than before. In a 2006 study conducted in Singapore mothers were still much more likely than fathers to be their child’s caregiver. Traditional male roles also persist in the type of relationship most children have with their fathers. A study of post-secondary students in Singapore found that they perceived fathers as significantly less warm than mothers, in that fathers were less affectionate and provided less support and guidance to adolescent children in their everyday lives.
The results of these studies brought concerns from our policy makers and hence the directives from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to promote family life matters and fatherhood. The late 1990s saw an emergence of independent efforts to promote involved fatherhood and in 1999, the first Centre For Fathering, was registered in Singapore providing family life education and father-child bonding activities. In 2004, the Association of Devoted and Active Family Men (ADAM) was formed to raise awareness on men’s responsibilities and roles in society and family. Government interest began in earnest after the first national survey on fatherhood concluded in 2009. With support from MCYS, Dads for Life was launched on 19 November 2009 in conjunction with International Men’s Day, with a mission to “inspire, mobilize and involve fathers to become good influencers in their children’s lives for life”. This is true also of Focus in the family movement. The whole idea is in promoting greater co-parenting, not just fathers, but also mothers, to make the entire parenting experience an enriching one for the Singaporean family.
How then can we in True Way prepare tomorrow’s parents today? Our young people must be prepared not only for the “marketplace,” but also for the one occupation most of them will have: parenthood. We must convince our young people to see and be engaged in pre-parenting education. When we succeed in so doing, we can assure that the next generation will suffer less neglect, abuse, and abandonment and that more of tomorrow’s children will have two confident, involved, and effective parents. Preparation for parenthood is not just a matter of reading books, decorating the baby’s room and attending some seminars. Not even 10 simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real life experience of being a mother or father.
Having said that, what does it take to prepare one to be a parent? You might not realize it but there are emotional, physical and financial things to consider. It’s important to take some time to think about how having a baby is going to effect your family’s bottom line. Will you be taking some time off work, either temporarily or permanently? If so, will you be able to reduce your expenses at the same time in order to balance your family’s budget? Couples must talk with each other about fantasies, hopes and expectations they have of each other as parents and as a family. While many couples have been together a long time, they do not know each other as parents yet and will need to get to know one another in a new way.
There is never a better time to prepare than NOW! If you’re waiting for the perfect time, the perfect home, the perfect job, the perfect financial situation before having a baby, you might just wait forever! Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to! You don’t need everything in perfect order to have the perfect baby – he or she will be perfect regardless! So take some time to pray about what your heart and your head are telling you and the answer will come to you. If you are ready, your will simply know when it is time to begin the journey toward of parenthood! You and I cannot bring up godly children; it is not our responsibility – it is too heavy a burden. We are called instead to live godly lives. Will you journey with the church to prepare for parenthood?
Pastor Cheng Huat
May 6, 2012