A son's dedication to his elderly parents

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Read on as this dad of two shares his sentiments on why he chose to have his parents stay with his own family.

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Me and my two beautiful girls.

It seems that less and less Singaporeans are choosing to stay with their parents or their in-laws. As the population gets more affluent and with generous housing subsidies from the government, it makes little economic sense not to get a flat for one’s family.  Moreover, a public flat in Singapore is an asset where one can possibly generate positive returns when selling it after the minimum occupancy period.

However, when I got my flat in 2011, I made the decision to bring my parents over to stay with my family. Why? I am the eldest son and I want to be close to them and look after them during their twilight years.

My wife and I have lived with my parents since we got married in 2007. With the addition of our two daughters, we are now a family of 6, plus a helper, currently staying together in my 4-room flat.

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Filial piety: I chose to have my parents to stay with my family because I want to be close to them and look after them during their golden years.

Here are some things I’ve learned from this living arrangement over the years:

Staying with the elderly folks is not an easy task

There could be many reasons for not wanting to stay with one’s elderly parents. Some of these are valid, such as having an abusive or alcoholic parent. Others have cited reasons such as financial woes, limited living space, or the classic “my spouse does not like my parents.”

Different human dynamics make it tough for people with bad temper or high ego to live harmoniously. Simple differences in views on managing the household and selecting which television programmes to let the kids watch are just some of the things on a long list that can ignite a fight or an exchange of words in our everyday lives.

Take for instance the grandparents giving in to the grandchildren. For them, it is an act of love. However, for us parents, it could violate a few of our parenting principles.

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Conflicts are bound to happen when grandparents stay under the same roof with you. That is why it is important to set some ground rules early on.

More on filial piety and the benefits of having our elderly parents home with us on the next page.

The benefits of having our parents home with us

Like many others from Generation X, I grew up staying with my parents and grandparents. Looking back, there are many wonderful benefits to having had my grandparents in close proximity while growing up.

My grandfather would ensure that I had a nutritious meal on time. He also allowed me plenty of playtime… which might not be a good thing depending on which school of parenting one adopts.

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Look at the bright side – there are many benefits of having grandparents staying with you and your kids!

Though he did not teach me like the teachers in my school did, I learned so much more from him. Habits such as saving, being respectful to others, and being compassionate to the needy were inculcated in me through my daily interactions with my grandpa.

Fast-forward 20 years, staying with my parents now gives me a sense of relief as their safety and well-being are definitely ensured. My kids also have plenty of opportunity to interact with their grandparents and are learning a lot from them.

As my parents are in their 60s and 70s, my elder daughter understands that her grandparents can’t walk or react as fast as she can; she then holds their hands during outings. I would call this attribute “empathy.” When the elder girl bids her grandparents goodbye and wishes them a safe trip during medical appointments, I call this trait “care and concern”.

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Thank you to my wonderful wife for going through the ups and downs of family life with me.

More on filial piety and how I manage family life with my parents on the next page.

Tips for a more harmonious living with the elderly

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Here are some tips on how to make things work when you have your parents living with your family.

Staying with the elderly folks can be really stressful sometimes; it has created problems for me on occasion that seemed difficult to handle. I must thank my wife for sticking with me all the while, as I know it is not easy for her too.

But if given the choice again, I will still choose to stay with my parents. I will not leave them behind and will hold their hands, walk with them as they walked me when I was a toddler. In the Chinese culture, there is an old adage, which I strongly believe in: “When drinking the water, remember the source – 饮水思源”.

Given the pros and cons of living with one’s elderly parents, how do we live harmoniously with them, then? Here are some tips.

  • Settle arguments objectively – Arguments, if any, must be dealt with objectively. Do not bear grudges overnight and don’t get involved in a personal attack.
  • Tame your ego – Does it really matter to have the last say in things? If you were to ponder at all those nasty exchanges in the past, I believe most of those issues were not important at all.
  • Be patient – Look at it this way, our children are looking closely at how we deal with their grandparents. What do we want them to learn from those encounters?
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Always be patient when dealing with issues with your elderly parents – your children will pick up cues from you too!

  • Set boundaries and communicate clearly – When it comes to looking after their grandchildren, it is best to set rules early on, such as how much TV time the grandchildren get after school.
  • Never put your spouse in a situation where he or she has to choose between you and his or her parent

Article contributed by Tan Chin Hock, National Filial Piety Award Recipient 2013 & Founder of Holdinghands.sg.

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