image by mr brown
I have been reading some forum threads at ExpatSingapore.com written by expat parents in Singapore worried that their children are growing up not understanding how privileged they are. This is a very interesting topic and something to consider if you are embarking on the expat life. This is my take on the subject.
There is no doubt that we are privileged living as expats here in Singapore. Singapore is safe, clean, everything functions properly, and there are plenty of opportunities. Our children go to private schools with state of the art facilities, most of us have maids, cars and live in condos with resort-style facilities. We go on wonderful international holidays, often traveling 2 or 3 times a year, visiting family back home as well as relaxing in Bali or Bintan or where ever.
How do we give our children some perspective? We don't want them to become ungrateful brats who see it as their God-given right that someone cleans up after them and that life evolves around them.
This is only my humble opinion, but I think it all depends on the parents' attitude to life. I don't think we can depend or rely on the schools to teach our children about values and morals. Of course peer group pressure is a strong force, but the home life is where children learn the difference between right and wrong.
This is one reason why I didn't take on a full-time maid. I have seen my daughter's friends treat their maids appallingly-one 8 year old shouting at her maid and calling her 'stupid' for some trifling matter. I want my children to grow up understanding that just because someone is a domestic helper, doesn't mean they are worth less, it simply means that the economy in their country is poorer and there aren't as many opportunities for them.
Children mimic and learn through example. If they see you treating other people like dirt; huffing and puffing if you don't get the best service, or if your maid doesn't make your bed the way you like, then they will think this is the way to behave. If you treat people with respect and as equals, then they learn manners and become gracious human beings.
I see living in Singapore and other Asian countries as an education in itself. Unless you live a totally insulated life, it is very difficult not to be aware of the different ethnic and cultural groups here. You only have to walk around Little India to experience this.
Our holidays are educational as well. Visiting Sarawak, Vietnam, and Malaysia are an eye-opener for the children. I don't think it's necessary to ram down their throats how lucky they are if they spend some time in these place. They see the poverty, but they also see the vibrancy and the sheer joy of living in these places.
I know that for me personally, it wasn't until I left Australia to travel that I understood anything about the world. I was 21 when I traveled abroad for the first time. My 8 year-old daughter is on her second passport already and has visited 10 or more countries. This is the key- education through experience.
I haven't done any voluntary work with my kids yet, but that is the next step. This would give them a real sense of responsibility and perspective. I don't want them to feel guilty though; I want them to enjoy life and the things we can offer them, so long as they understand that everyone is equal and that being privileged means that we have the opportunity to help others.
What is your opinion? Do you do charity work with your children? I would love to hear your views.