Complete family, best care for kids

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More and more Filipino families have at least one absentee parent who may be gone for years on end.

MANILA, May 29, 2013—Far from providing gadgets for learning, tutors or a new house, the best way to take care of kids is to have a complete family, says a bishop.

“Anybody comes from a father and a mother, [but] for that somebody to be taken care of, there must be also the mother and father—together,” said Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz in an interview. 

Impact of absentee parents

Abp. Cruz, Judicial Vicar of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Tribunal of Appeals, said clinical psychology has already given evidence of the immense impact of one or both parents leaving the home, even physically, on a child.

“The moment one is out all the time, for years, don’t tell me it will be better for a child to be missing the mother or a father,” he explained, making reference to Filipino parents who continue to go abroad to work in order to provide extra perks for their families.

Abp. Cruz, one of three Judicial Vicars who processes cases of marriage nullity in the Philippines after it passes through the diocesan level, mentioned how Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFWs) indiscretions like infidelity have a profound effect on their children’s emotional and psychological well-being as well.

“The problem is that when they are gone they do their own miracles outside the country and sometimes that reaches the knowledge of the child…That is when the family becomes dysfunctional,” he added. 

Emotional to economic challenges

Even with appointed guardians like grandparents or relatives, children of OFWs are largely left to deal with more challenges that range from the emotional to the economic.

While an OFW parent can send home more than P100,000 monthly, the premium placed on financial comfort vis-à-vis the corresponding social and emotional toll on the family is questionable at best.

According to a 2008 United National Children’s Fund paper by Rosemarie Edillon on the effects of migration on children, “Many children of OFWs age 13-16 appear to be worse off than children of non-OFWs of the same age.”

They are “more vulnerable to psycho-social shocks brought about by the splitting-up of families.”

Interestingly, the same study shows that most kids of OFWs do not feel they participate actively in family decision-making; they have lower community and civic organization involvement; and have a higher incidence of hygiene-related health problems, compared to children of non-OFW parents.

For Abp. Cruz, family or married life does not require great wealth, as shown in the marriage vows, neither does ensuring children’s future need huge amounts of money.

“If [couples] want their children to have a good future, they better have a good marriage. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

An estimated 9.5 million to 12.5 million OFWs live and work abroad at present. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz)

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