Interview with Mr Ching Wei Hong Families for Life Council Chairman

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{Exclusive Interview with Mr Ching Wei Hong Families for Life Council Chairman}

Families for Life aims to promote strong and resilient families in a genuine and positive way, by bringing Singaporeans together and strengthening the conversation on family. The Families for Life Council is headed by Mr Ching Wei Hong, Chief Operating Officer, OCBC Bank. 

Our Parenting World (OPW) Team is very honoured to interview Mr Ching Wei Hong Families for Life Council Chairman.

1) Chairman, many are struggling with work-life balance and do not spend time with their aged parents or children. There are also single generation families, single parent family, broken marriages, couples with no kids and the unmarried. How can bonding be fostered and what is your advice/outlook for improvement in such scenarios?

In Singapore we are constantly faced with many activities both work and leisure that take away time we can spend with our families. It is important to place priority and allocate set time to spend with our families.

Families for Life has developed some great programmes to facilitate family bonding through food, outdoor activities and picnics, such as the recent Families for Life Celebrations at the Civic District. However, I think bonding is also largely about creating an environment of trust and understanding which goes beyond participating in programmes together. It’s important that each member of the family feels valued and treasured, and that can only come about through emotional connection and small gestures of concern in the course of weeks and months. Texting, short calls and even just making the effort to ask ‘how’s your day’ go a long way.

2) Social media is playing a large part in preventing further bonding within families and friends – such as meeting up and spending quality time personally. What is your suggestion on using social media to create bonding?

While social media may interfere with quality time spent with family, social media can also make it easier to converse and stay connected with our families amidst their busy schedules. For instance, more than 40% of the “Family Bonds” survey respondents felt engaging in online activities together helped enhance family life. I myself connect with my kids on Facebook and Instagram, so we can keep updated on each other’s lives!

Social media is also a great platform for the Families for Life Council to engage members of the public to find out and attempt to address their concerns regarding spending time with family. For example, we had our very first Families for Life Facebook Live chat just recently that brought together Council members, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and personalities such as Diana Ser and Kelvin Ang, Daddy blogger of CheekieMonkies to participate and share their thoughts on creative ways to spend time with your family. This is one great example of how we can leverage social media to bring together people from all walks of life to share their challenges, success stories and be encouraged by the wider community.

3) Maids, tuition and day care centers are playing a large part in families and as a result, family members tend to be less close. How can families learn to be less over-dependent on maids and centres and cultivate closeness with loved ones?

Parenting is never easy, and it is important to have a support group – whether it be family members such as grandparents, aunts/uncles, helpers or childcare centres that parents can rely on when the need arises. While such help is important in supporting the parenthood journey, we should not allow our own parenting efforts to take a backseat.

It takes commitment to find opportunities to make a conscious effort to cultivate closeness with loved ones, especially if that isn’t common practice already. It could be choosing a childcare centre that is nearer your house so you can take some time to walk your child there, or allocating time to eat with your family at least once or twice a week, or simply just keeping in contact throughout the day through the use of technology such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

4) In OCBC, you have helped put a variety of family-friendly measures (family first policies, PSLE leave scheme etc). How can Families for Life help to initiate such measures in other organisations for the benefit of employees?

At OCBC, we recognise how important families are to our employees. To encourage other organisations to initiate family-friendly measures, Families for Life has put in place FAMILY 365 initiative which supports and promotes family life in the community and workplaces. It is a suite of one- to two-hour talks and interactive programmes, covering four key areas – Personal Work-Life, Family Life, Marriage and Parenting. These programmes will be conducted in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

In addition, Families for Life also encourages Singaporeans to take time off to eat with their families with the annual Eat with Your Family day. Organisations and schools are encouraged to give staff unrecorded time off to allow families to share a meal together.

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5) Families for Life is privileged to have you as Chairman. What are some of the improvements you have witnessed in families participating in the Council’s initiatives such as Family 365?

I joined the Families for Life Council in 2013. There are many multi-faceted challenges facing families today, but I am heartened to see that families are rallying together, and making the conscious effort to take time off their busy schedule to spend time with their families, immediate and extended. This was evident from the recent Families for Life Celebrations which attracted over 2,800 families and approximately 13,000 participants.

It’s also extremely encouraging to note that in the recent “Family Bonds” survey Families for Life Council commissioned, the majority of respondents were found to be largely satisfied with their family life. 99% felt they have a good relationship with their children and 97% reported strong emotional connections with their family.

It is my hope that we continue to build upon these foundations to create a strong and resilient family unit, and Families for Life will continue to support this through organising activities and conferences to encourage family bonding and provide resources to enrich family life. Some upcoming programmes include the Father’s Day Picnic on 25 June 2016 and the Parenting Congress on 30 and 31 July.

6) You are a great example and role model of leading Families for Life, being the COO of OCBC and leading a close-knit family. How do you manage your time and what is your advice to parents juggling with many responsibilities?

I make it a point not to take work home and devote the weekends to my family. As a parent, you have to be prepared to make personal sacrifices. When my kids were born, I had to compromise. I cut down on my hobbies, such as sailing and golf, as these activities are time-consuming and I would rather invest that time in bonding with my family. When my children were younger and my longer working hours didn’t always allow me to have dinner with them, I always tried to be home in time to tuck them into bed. As a husband, I reserve Friday nights exclusively for my wife, Irene. One of our favourite date night activities is catching a movie! Over time, you will realise these efforts add up and build stronger, more resilient family bonds. 

Thank you to Mr Ching Wei Hong Families for Life Council Chairman for taking our interview!

To find out more about Families for Life and its activities, please click HERE.

* Article brought to you by Shobana N, Senior Writer and Our Parenting World (OPW) Team.

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