HONG KONG pays a high price for its prosperity, for although it is still a place to find work and get rich, it is becoming less and less attractive as a place in which to raise a family. This warning was sounded by Heep Yunn School principal Minnie Lai Wei Kit-lin, when she addressed the school at its recent speech day. Ms Lai quoted a survey showing that parents very much wanted their children to enter university, but worried greatly that before getting there they would be caught up in vices of all kinds. She noted that since problem children generally came from problem families, much had to be done at home. Parents needed to spend 'more quality time' with their children, and be their friends as well in order to strengthen family ties, she said. At Heep Yunn, close personal counselling was given to both students and family members in serious 'problem student' cases. The counselling was done by teachers, the counselling team and the school social workers through interviews, home visits and telephone contacts. 'To tie in with the counselling service we offer, experts are invited to give talks and conduct seminars on relevant topics,' Ms Lai said. 'Besides drawing on real-life situations, the counsellors use examples taken from TV programmes and the newspapers to point out the traps students can fall into.' Taking part in extra-curricular activities helped to develop strength of character and mind, which was necessary to tackle problems in work and life. Guest-of-honour Professor Felice Lieh Mak of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Hong Kong, said that life was 'an ever-changing thing', but it also needed structure and the framework of routine. The challenge was in maintaining a balance between strict routine and flexibility. 'In school, your teachers help you to work towards this balance. You learn facts, not simply to recite them but to create new thoughts. The more knowledgeable and innovative you are, the more strong and flexible an individual you will be,' she said. Professor Lieh Mak added that a sense of humour was like a 'lifelong companion', and that one should never lose it. One is better off for being able to see the funny side of a situation, and the best off were those who could see the humour in their own lives, the professor said.