HOUSEWIVES of today are overwhelmed by the double duties of running a home and bringing up the children - almost single-handed. Sad to say, the husbands are doing little to help. This was the conclusion reached at a recent seminar on 'Effective Parenting', organised by the Children and Youth Centre of the YMCA (Hong Kong). The event was part of the YMCA's recent Easter Family Fun Fair. Vivien Lai Siu-wai, section manager of the Family Life Enhancement and Outreach Centre of the YMCA (Hong Kong), summed up that Hong Kong's housewives were 'under-appreciated' and vulnerable to 'housewife depression'. She revealed the startling statistic that on average Hong Kong fathers spend only six minutes a day with their children, leaving the task of 'bringing up the family' to their wives entirely. Even worse, some mothers have to give up full-time jobs for the sake of the family. Despite the great personal sacrifice made by mothers, most people see the housewife's job as inferior to other 'professions' in society. 'That's why some of the mothers I have counselled suffered from 'housewife depression'. They experienced great frustration but did not get help and guidance to deal with it. 'I suggest that these mothers enrich their social life by forming mother-groups - to share their feelings about parenting and also to take time off their families and enjoy themselves.' It was also recommended that fathers took a serious look at their responsibilities as the 'male role model' for their children. 'This is especially important for boys. They can't identify with their mothers for their masculine development. They need their fathers for that.' Housewives should take at least one night off from family duties and let the fathers or maids take care of the children, Ms Lai said. While mothers are having a hard time serving their families, Hong Kong parents should heed five principles in good parenting, Ms Lai added. The five principles are: Language expression: Many a Hong Kong parent tended to scold his or her children in public, which was detrimental to children's dignity, Ms Lai said. 'If the children are really naughty, scold them at home. Public scolding is an insult to the children. They will resent whatever the parents are saying at the time.' Re-assurance: A daily word of encouragement would show children that their parents care about them. Some children tend to 'cling' to their mothers because they fear they might be abandoned any moment. Physical show of affection: Chinese families feel awkward about hugging and touching. Research shows that body contact stimulates the human blood cells to absorb more oxygen, which is good for children's growth. Bright expectations: Parents should keep encouraging their children about their future, and help them to explore and develop their talents. 'But don't be all money-minded in gauging your child's potential,' Ms Lai warned. Active participation: Accompany children when they go out to play sport, and show an interest in their hobbies and recreation. Parents should always keep their promises, as children are easily disappointed. Jake Tang Chit-ping, senior programme officer of the YMCA's Children and Youth Centre, hoped the fair would help foster a closer relationship between parents and children. 'All the game stalls call for a better understanding between children and their parents,' he said.