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Firms benefiting from OFW toil must give back

By Cathy S. Babao-Guballa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:05:00 08/03/2008

Filed Under: Overseas Employment, Family

MANILA, Philippines - When I see and hear young parents complain about the woes of their kids, I just shrug and smile. I tell these 20-something and 30-something parents, ?Enjoy the ride. The years go by very quickly.? The road gets bumpier when one?s kids turn adolescent.

Today, teenage life has become even more complicated due to technology, media and the OFW phenomenon.

At a media forum recently by the Philippine Psychiatric Association (PPA), Dr. Glenda Ilano, chair of the Committee on Advocacy, Legislation and Multimedia of the PPA, says that two out of 10 adolescents and their parents go through a tumultuous phase. ?They fail to navigate through the air pockets and storms in life. Since adolescence is a period of experimentation, there are always areas of conflict and issues that inevitably arise. Some of the behaviors that trouble parents may be normal symptoms of growing up.?

Ilano cites common points of conflict between adolescents and their families: Sibling rivalry, academic underachievement/overachievement, dating and premarital sex, alcohol, drugs, smoking and gambling, video games, Internet, cellular phone usage.

Good home life

Although teenagers will make their own choices, a good home life can increase the odds that kids will avoid many of the pitfalls of adolescence. At this stage, the social hierarchy is intensified and a teener?s self-worth is often times measured according to who they are, who likes them, what they wear, where they live and what they have.

?Since teenagers are short on personal substance and accomplishments, the external trappings assume a primary role in defining their social status. When they feel they have failed to measure up to the standards of their peers, their self-esteem suffers a blow that can diminish their ability to cope with life?s problems,? Ilano explains. This is when they tend to indulge in attention-getting behavior and begin to experiment with alcohol, drugs, sex, or activities that they think will numb the pain.

Solid relationship

A kind, warm and solid relationship with parents who demonstrate respect for their children, and a genuine interest in their children?s activities, setting firm boundaries for these activities may directly or indirectly deter criminal activity, illegal drug and alcohol use, negative peer pressure, delinquency, sexual promiscuity and self-esteem. However, because of the OFW situation there are more and more families now that are a one-parent household.

It is especially more difficult when it is the mother working abroad because then, the father, who is not usually a nurturer by nature, is left to his own abilities and defenses in raising the children.

Heart-tugging ad

A new TV commercial of a little girl practicing at the piano and showing off to her dad whose voice could only be heard in the background really tugged at my heart. In the final frame, the girl was talking to a mere speaker phone. Her father was obviously in foreign shores. A speaker in the PPA forum said, ?The mother (or father) is now associated with a telephone. In the OFW home, she has been delegated as such.?

The point was driven very close to home recently when my daughter began her outreach project in a poor community not far from where we live. After her first session, she was very saddened by the fact that on a street where there are about 10 homes, only one had a mother. The men were the ones doing the chores, she observed. The saving grace, she said, is that the children and the teenagers seemed to show interest in art and music. For final project, they will put up a youth center where teeners can hang out safely and do creative activities to stimulate their minds and hearts, and keep them away from trouble.

It is tough enough to parent an adolescent; how much more difficult a journey becomes when you are on solo flight. Those, especially firms, who benefit from the remittances of the OFW-parent-hero have a moral obligation to help steer the course and ensure that those left behind have a much better future than that of their parents who toil far away from home.

E-mail the author at cathybabao@gmail.com

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