Hong Kong teens from broken families need mental health support
Having worked as an educator for several years, I have had the opportunity to interact with students from diverse family backgrounds. Whenever I meet a student from a single-parent family, I feel a wave of sympathy, as I have always thought that the crippling impact that their parents’ separation can have on children is underestimated by society.
As someone brought up in a single-parent family, I can say from personal experience that the most worrying aspect, from a child’s perspective, is the psychological stress.
A few of my students have lamented that they hardly experience life as a family as they tackle a wide range of teenage problems, including academic stress and peer pressure. Working round the clock to sustain the family, their parents find it hard to make time for them. When there is only one breadwinner, how much “quality family time” can we expect children to enjoy?
I always see myself as one of the lucky ones, as the environment I grew up in taught me to be tough and independent. However, many of my students from such families became reclusive and developed health issues such as insomnia. Is there any support available in our society for such youngsters?
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not seeking a lower tax rate or more financial resources for single-parent families. The crux of the matter is not money but ensuring that such children lead happy and emotionally fulfilled lives. While Hong Kong is praised as a fair and equal society, I still feel there is a stigma attached to single parenthood and seeking help is seen as a taboo.
Admittedly, the government does provide a great deal of financial help for families in need, such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme. Nonetheless, given that stress in everyday life has become one of top concerns in Hong Kong in recent years, I urge the government to pay extra attention to the mental health of teenagers in single-parent families.
Mark Tse, Tuen Mun