Thailand or “the Land of Smiles” has a warm climate with endless sun shinning upon plentiful fruit trees. It’s a country known by it’s multitude of extravagent Buddhist temples and extrordinarily friendly people. According to Thai culture, hospitality to family is valued above everything else. Maintaining one’s independence in life is of a lesser importance than taking care of the family. It’s a common gesture to welcome anyone who needs food and shelter into the household.
The family system is strong as grandparents, parents, children, as well as aunts, cousins, in-laws, and other extended family members tend to live in the same house or home system. It’s seen as honorable for the parents to work even if that means they have to be separated from their children. They sacrifice time with their kids to give their children a better life than they had with the money they earn. This in turn earns the parents a merit (In Buddhism, a result of good deeds that carry over the person’s lifetime).
Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.
“Every child has the right to grow up in a caring, loving, and safe environment” expresses the head of UNICEF Thailand. A year studying the issue and findings are continuing to develop to show the effects of parental migration. In the first portion there was a 9% difference when comparing children with developmental delays. Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.
3 Million, or about 21% of Thailand’s population, are left behind children being raised by extended family mostly in rural areas. 90% live with grandparents, most of whom have only a primary school education, and are at risk themselves of financial instability and mental health issues. These children are often behind in language skills in school and have behavior problems. Grandparents and young children have an age gap that often hinders their ability to relate to the pain they feel, which limits conversation and opportunity for personal growth.
“If we’re sick all we have is a cell phone to take care of us.”
Does economic growth mean the poor get richer? No, the poor still are poor for a long time even after an economic boom. Parents working abroad makes one family richer, only to leave a teenager responsible for the life of her sibling.
A representative from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas published statements on the impact of migration on children (Nicolas). The money sent home from their parents goes towards raising the child and providing an education. Sounds like a great opportunity to provide their children with a life better than their own? Despite finding in a study that migrant children earn higher grades elementary school, there was more to be explored. An “emotional strain” was apparent in a separate survey on school-children. Poor school performance and anger, apathy, and confusion was noted about high school students from this as well as another study. They blame themselves. They think they are unloved because their parents leave. Having an absent mother was shown to create a stronger negative affect on families. The Philippines sees the mother as the nurturer. School-age children from parental migration have good life conditions therefore are healthy some studies say. Further studies among high school students tell of an emotional stress that is associated with poor physical health. Stress deteriorates the body. The mental health of teens suffered as they report anxiety, loneliness, and being unloved.
Interventions such as financial literacy programs to inform families on how to manage their money are put into place for the families left behind. What can we do?
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Traditionally migrant workers go to the east for work in the cities and visit family once a year during spring festival. Recently many are going back home in the west looking for opportunities close by. This is because of the high living expenses in the city. Most used to search for work in major cities but the costs of living is too high. The salaries of migrant workers and increase in living expenses means more migrant workers, this year, are deciding to stay near home.
Migrant workers are becoming local business owners because the villages are developing faster than ever, which is creating more jobs. This is good news for families who wish to stay together in their homes.
Shuangyan thinks that his parents are abandoning him for a bright, fun-filled, busy city that is more vibrant and fast-moving than his sleepy village. It’s the fact that in the city they earn more money than in their village. “Since 1978 China has experienced the largest internal migration in history.” The rise in globalization is contributing to the issue that creates more and more children being left by migrant parents. Left behind children have a difficult time in school, relationships, and later in life.
Global Children’s Vision aims to empower boys like Shuangyan. They are not defined by their circumstances. LBC have the right to have success in their lives. We believe that it is important for children left with extended family to have quality schooling. Loneliness, depression, and outbursts are also common amongst LBC and can be dealt with by utilizing psychological counseling. The kids can’t always find the words to say when talking to their parents over the phone. With guided communication over phone and internet they can learn how to maintain a healthy relationship with their parent.
The good news is that change is coming. More families are choosing to stay home with their children. Housing in cities costs more than their salaries so the best bet is to create work at home. Yet, parents are tempted to take low-paying jobs in the city over no jobs at home to provide a better life for their children. It’s a difficult decision that affects the entire family. Let’s see how the pattern progresses in the coming years.
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/world/east-asia/20131013/the-children-left-behind-by-chinas-economic-migrants#ixzz2zMwN8m1R Follow us: @TheNationalUAE on Twitter | thenational.ae on Facebook
A new study conducted by Jinkui Lu, Xiaojian Yin, and Lihong Mao shows that left behind children are more likely to acquire cardiovascular disease.
It is commonly said, when referring to LBC, they are more susceptible to poor performance in the classroom as indicted by teacher accounts and test scores. Another pattern for LBC is they tend to have higher rates of depression and low self esteem.
What we neglect to consider is that the constant stress on the neglected children deteriorate their physical health. Results show that left behind children are more susceptible to increased heart rate and blood glucose levels than non-left behind children. There is also a correlation with life satisfaction, academic satisfaction, loneliness, and happiness scores.
“Serious attention should be paid to effects of parental migration on the health of left-behind children, in order to provide a better societal environment to protect them from both mental and physical disorders in later life.”
Later on in life, LBC are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. It is a potential health problem that could be reduced with attention and care to one’s emotional well-being. A Norwegian study found that depression increases the risk of heart failure by 40%. Our goal is to empower children with the tools and skills to combat any stress-related issues. Depression causes some to loose interest and become despondent, neither happy nor sad nor angry.
Loosing contact with a parent, a child takes it upon themselves to safeguard their emotional well-being by shutting down. It is a difficult task to be a child without a clear understanding of why they have to work so far away. Depression is a common characteristic in LBC, and with depression, cardiovascular disease typically follows.
What must happen is for these children to be educated and realize their full potential. They have so much to offer.
What are common patterns of a child left behind? Poorer school performance and higher drop out rates.
Who are beggar children? They can be left behind children who are used by extended family for income. Adults send them to the streets to beg for money. They are working 14 hour days instead of being in a classroom or playing like a kid should. Beggar children drop out of school and end up addicted to drugs, trapped in human trafficking, sex slavery, or life on the streets.
Grandparents and extended family look after left behind children for their parents working in the city but they busy taking care of the household. The children are left unsupervised. There has been cases that report LBC as kidnap victims. Their kidnappers force them to become beggar children.
“On Tuesday, Peng Gaofeng, a migrant worker in Shenzhen, was reunited with his son who was kidnapped three years ago. Five other children whose pictures were posted on the blog were also identified by their parents, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.” After sacrificing precious time with your little son to find a job in the city, you are then are notified of his kidnapping because he wasn’t being watched.
How would you feel?
Campaigns arise imploring people to take pictures of child beggars on the streets to help migrant parents find their missing children. Grandparents and extended family who look after left behind children for their parents working in the city are busy taking care of the household. They are often unsupervised, and unfortunately there has been cases that report LBC as kidnap victims. Their kidnappers force them to become beggar children.
“When you have 61 million children who cannot relate to their parents, it is very traumatizing for a society,” Sanna Johnson.
What if a child was sexually abused at school, but there’s no parent at home to tell?
It is the case for left behind children. They are named “easy targets” for sexual abuse and haressment.
Chen left his daughter to be raised by his grandmother in a supposedly safe, sleepy place. She called sounding depressed and like something was not right. Later she said it hurts down there. It was discovered that she was abused by her teacher who also abused five other victims under the age of 14.
Around 250 million have migrated to the cities escaping from poor areas with limited job opportunities. Children of these parents are extremely vulnerable. Parents send them presents in place of themselves. They begin to value materialism above anything else. Sexual predators often take advantage and give them gifts to reel them in. Huazhou in Guangdong province reported 94% of sexual abuse cases involving left behind children. They have limited supervision, no safety precautions, and have no education about self-protection.
As a result of Chen’s case, he is fighting to bring justice against his daughter’s assailant. There have been safety meetings to educate and guarantee the safety of the school’s children. Parents need to teach children not to take rides from strangers. Parents should say not to walk across the street without a buddy. Without the appropriate education and supervision, children are left unprotected and extremely vulnerable to predators.
The All-China Women’s Federation realizes this. They are calling for an increase of the care for left behind children. They wish to put into place official guardians taking responsibility for providing safe custody. The CWF is asking the government to set up a protection system for the children to turn to. Left behind children report feelings of abandonment and guilt. They think they are a burden to their parents. It is difficult psychologically and emotionally they struggle. What should we do? EDUCATE! Educate others about the effects of migration on family systems. Educate left behind children about self-care, self-respect, and safety matters. We can act and save millions!
Check out the largest migration on the planet –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcGnvTL0NdY
“… I’m just thinking about making a bit more money here, then buy a house back home as soon as possible. Housing prices are too steep nowadays, still have to wait a few more years,” (Chinas Mack). Gao Changliang, a migrant worker, drove a taxi to provide money to his family. The mother stayed behind for the children but the family was fragmented. Living in the city is expensive. The city though provides the jobs the parents are looking for to earn money for their children to have a better quality of life. Gao Changliang and his family took an expensive high-speed train to be reunited with family for Chinese New Year. After the new year ends, the wife and children will go back to their hometown leaving the father behind to work in the city.
Parents are doing what they think is right to provide a better life for their children. In the past few years the number of left behind children in China has doubled. A very common phrase that is heard in stories from LBC is they see their parents only once a year during the Chinese New Year Festival, which happily is tomorrow. It is now the time of the year we may rejoice in knowing that many children will be reunited with their parents for a joyful holiday celebration. We must also be aware that they lack the emotional support the rest of the calendar year.
Growing up in a household with no parents has significant psychological effects. The mental health of the child is a factor that we have to be aware of, and the parents also have to acknowledge when making the choice to work in the city. Working away provides food, clothing, and an education – a better future for the child. Or does it?
1 in 7 children in one of the villages has migrant parents and live with their grandparents (tough times). The teachers say they need extra academic support. China’s strict residency laws prevent children from going to school out of their hometown. Professor Chengrong, academic and author, states “psychological and emotional problems are the most common,” (tough times). We can provide encouragement and support in their social life, emotional health, and education to the child left behind. Encouraging regular and meaningful communication between the parent and child is also a great need.
Left Behind: China’s Child Negligence Epidemic (LinkAsia: 12/7/12)
Ping’an, a 3 years old boy, wandered in a water hole and drowned. His parents came back from work for the funeral and returned to work shortly after. The father tells people that his son died of a sickness and was quoted saying “I don’t feel badly about it,” (wsj). There has been a startling increase in drownings of left behind children in China from neglect and lack of supervision. The statistics are devastating.
The Jiang brothers’ parents work in a purse factory in Guangdong province. The high cost of transportation totaling near to their salaries leaves them with only enough to visit their children at the Chinese New Year. Opportunities to talk over the phone are composed of the children answering the parents’ questions and reciting school textbooks. “Kids in the countryside are not the same as those city children,” says Fan Renshu, principal of the village elementary school. “City children are too reliant on their parents. Rural kids are more independent. They are used to not having parents around,” (World Policy Institute).
Therefore, although a phone conversation is possible, the conversation does not fulfill the child’s emotional needs. The Chinese concept of face comes into play during phone calls. This is because it is to “loose face” when one displays a negative emotion and they are embarrassed or disgraced for not being able to handle the situation. In China it is not acceptable to get angry or upset. Obedience to authority, conformity, and self-control are the widely accepted values that prevent children and parents to have an honest emotional discussion over the phone regarding their absence.
In Xia Qing, left behind children walk up the mountain to Mao Cao Ping Primary School. 39 out of 75 students have migrant workers as parents. Their Chinese language teacher Yang Yuansong often comforts them by after they are contacted by their parents. Parents just say: ‘Behave, study hard, do well.’
Global Children’s Vision seeks to strengthen the quality of communication between children and parents. Wandering children that drown from neglect is unacceptable. Phone conversations that make the children either more upset or numb from lack of emotional response from their parents is unacceptable. GCV equips these children with the tools for more effective communication and emotional resiliency.
One of the largest migrations in human history, rural poor workers are traveling to cities where the jobs are. China’s economic boom is partly caused by an increase of migrant workers willing to work for low wages. The high costs of living and long work hours force parents to leave children to be raised with grandparents in the villages until they earn the money to take them to the city.
A young girl talks to her parents over the phone while they are away. She is the first to use the free phone at school. It is a difficult call to make. She cries saying, “I’m not used to chatting with them…usually I just answer their questions,” (Youtube).
It is heart-breaking to hear the individual stories of children apart from their parents who are living in the city to work. A teacher at the end of the video implores the public to see that left-behind children are hard-working and independent. At the same time they lack the ability to trust others.
A plea for time off was discovered on the door of Jianba hairdressers in the southern city of Zhuzhou. Hairdresser Wu Hongwe addressed the note to customers with the message, “I got a call from my daughter yesterday. I have been away from her so long, she doesn’t even know how to call me ‘Daddy’ any more… I beg you for a week off to visit my family,” (Wan). Wu’s daughter Beibei has become accustomed to calling her parents Mum and Dad, with the mentality that they are just their names. With so much time and distance between the child and her parents, they have become strangers to her. “Mama” has no meaning. The countryside where she lives is a healthy environment and has a low cost of living unlike her parents’ city. She grew up with her native dialect and has a difficult time understanding her mother’s Chinese.
What hurts her parents the most is that their daughter does not know what it is like to have a mother. They have set a goal of working to gain enough money to bring her into the city by February this year.
Within the next week, there will be a research launch on “They are Parents: A Study on Migrant Workers of Left Behind Children in China” with conferences in Beijing and Shanghai. CCR CSR report launch will share a study from the perspective of working parents, (Zhang). We need to realize that these migrant parents do what they do because they think it is what is right for the well-being of their children. Don’t we all want what is best for our kids? Now we have the mission to provide the educational and social services to left-behind children to promote their emotional development. Global Children’s Vision strives to equip LBC with the tools to succeed in life.
Please refer to our site for more information about coming on a trip to China or making a donation.
A woman feeds her child at a charity event in Bucharest, Romania, one of the poorest countries in the European Union. Photo: Reuters
One mother says her husband earns money in France that is not worth much there, but in Romania it is of much more worth and is used for the family. Even if they understand that a parent is working away to bring them a better life, doesn’t it still hurt the children? What is being done for the kids left behind?
“Mum doesn’t want to stay away long. She just went there to make money for me and my sister,” said Cristina, a nine-year-old who lives with her grandmother when her mother is away. (South China Morning Post)
80,000 Romanian families have both parents working abroad according to the Romanian ministry of labour. Children left behind are put in a vulnerable position as they no longer get parental care and support, expresses a psychologist for Save the Children. Romania desperately struggles from parental migration. Thankfully there have been programs put into place aiming to improve the child’s development such as day-cares and support systems. What the children need most is support and individualized attention.
The government is acknowledging the issue. A law states the parents must register before going oversees to work and allow a judge to approve of the chosen guardians. Families do not tell the government of their plans to work abroad and reliable guardians are not assigned.
Please View This Moving Trailer For A Documentary On the Romanian Tragedy – Depressed Left Behind Children in Romania Commit Suicide
A tragic case is of 11 year old Maria, abused at home by her mother. The mother left her in the house for three months to work in Moscow then came back as an alcoholic. She beat her and had sex in front of her damaging her child emotionally with the abuse. This story is very common. A community in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, is suffering from economic and social breakdown caused by a collapse of state-run collective. “As a result, more than half of its working adults go abroad to earn a living wage,” (Milmo).
Another case of Adriana, 13, and 16 year old Gina moved in with their grandmother when there parents went to work in Moscow. Gina became pregnant, was banished, and lived in animal sheds. A study in 2005 found that 110,000 Moldovan children lived in a household where either one or both parents are absent,” (Milmo).
Left Behind Children are found across Europe. Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is another country dealing with temporary labor migration. This means that there is short term emigration from Lithuania parents who leave children to be cared for relatives. Most of the time it is undocumented. According to a 2007 study, 36 percent of children who stayed behind experience noticeable changes in behavior (VAITEKONIENĖ). The first case study recorded children left behind as anxious, lonely and lacking in confidence. The second case study found them to be suffering from anxiety and sadness, loss of appetite and sleep disorders. The final case study compared genders. Boys tend to develop emotional and behavioral disorders while girl are more likely to show symptoms of depression. The term “Left Behind” doesn’t seem to be used, but the problem and the solutions are similar.
Left Behind Children often suffer from lack of guidance and supervision. Though well-supported financially by parents working in the city, it has been found that “without normal family guardianship and education, some of the children quit school at an early age and commit crimes,” (Chuanjiao). Loneliness and feelings of abandonment contribute to a neglect of their education. They turn to crime. The crime rate increases for left behind youth. For rural youth, it often is the case that they are not bailed out for that crime.
“Young people left behind by migrant parents, meanwhile, are more vulnerable to being incarcerated if they have no guardian. Their rural home towns lack resources to monitor children on probation, so they end up in prison. They also appear more susceptible to trouble in the first place. The Centre for Child-Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, a Beijing partner of Save the Children Sweden, conducted a survey which found that 60% of left-behind children felt their parents were “not around” when they needed support,” (Economist).
Li Tianyi’s case is one that has spread throughout online media. Although Li has famous singers as parents, he is still a migrant and therefore was put in prison. In cases that deal with youth from rural areas the teenager is usually sentenced to a longer term in prison. Mr. Li was convicted of a crime of gang rape and was sentenced for 10 years in prison. His accomplices pleaded guilty and paid a large sum of money. They were “city-dwellers”. When the criminal is a former Left Behind Child from a rural area “Chinese courts are more likely to imprison rural and migrant youths than their city peers,” (Economist). City peers can pay the victim a compensation in place of imprisionment. The case of Mr. Li illustrates the urban-rural gap and what it means for those affected by China’s urbanization phenomenon.
Migrant youth do not have the benefits that urban youth are privileged with. Healthcare and social security is not accessible for the youth living in rural areas.
Unfortunately the hukou system makes it so that migrant workers have limited rights denying them services that only citizens of urban areas are given. It therefore decreases equality between migrant workers and urban citizens. In fact it prevents them from assimilating into the city. It is creating various living issues that have detrimental emotional and social effects on the workers. They are losing hope and struggling with feelings of loneliness and not fitting in.
An article by Castaneda and Buck says family unit is more important than poverty for children illustrated in the dialogue below.
“You have it all. Good clothes. Good tennis shoes,”. . .
“I’d trade it all for my mother . . . You can never get the love of a
mother from someone else” (Nazario 2006:xii).
Research studies show that transition is traumatic for the child. Whether it be a divorce or remarriage, a transition in the family structure impact’s a child’s poor school performance. When a child’s grades plummet, the teacher assumes something is happening in their home life. Family system disruption decreases the child’s chances of having healthy emotional and psychological development. Nobles (2006) suggests that more than a third of Mexican children experience some type of household disruption during childhood,”(Cortes). Networks in indigenous rural areas helped next of kin, but very rarely provided assistance to non-family members. Migration brokers promise to help pay for the migration and while the parents works in a temporary labor position in America, they are expected to pay the broker or the family left behind is in debt. Mexican educational credentials are less important than US education. There is less incentive for the child to continue their education while the parent is away. Having migrant parents lowers the chance of boys completing junior high and girls completing high school. Migrant parents do not expect that the separation will cause they left behind children to suffer in school. Males tend to work to support left behind family and drop out of school. Females tend to dropout because of marriage. The Mexican community is known to criticize the migrant parent and in extension the child calling the parent a “social climber” and associating them with the negative image of illegal trafficking. This labeling causes the children to be looked down upon and margenalized. Safety issues also arise from “lack of parental care, separated children and linkages with trafficking, recourse to institutionalization and child labour,” (Cortes). Parents work hard abroad to send money home to their families to improve their quality of life. The money sent home is given for the children. Teachers do not like the idea of the children having control over the money sent home.
From my personal observations on the opposite side of the issue, parental separation has detrimental effects on the child living in America. A child being raised in a Spanish-speaking community with the parent left behind in Mexico has the expectation in schools to learn how to read and write in English. The expectation in their household is to know both Spanish and English. The child often is raised in a home with grandparents, extended family members, and siblings who desperately want to visit Mexico to see their mom or dad. It is difficult for one to witness the drop in the child’s educational performance after the parent is away. The parent who sent the child to Americaa for a better life lives with extended family or friends. The parent wants to be with the child but there are so many factors against them. “A trip to the United States for most migrants involves physical danger, unpleasant working conditions, low social status, illegality, family separation, and other deterrents,” (Kandel and Kao) Migration is a tricky issue for the observer to fully understand. The parent works hard to provide the child with food, clothes, and a livelihood yet the impact of the disintegration of the family structure has many negative effects. This issue cannot be ignored by educators, child-care providers, or mental health counselors.
Lastly, the “abandonment” of parents not only hurt the child, but also impact the parent’s mental health. A study on parents who are left behind when children pirate to the United States were examined. Higher anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and a wish to die were significant psychological effects that were reported in the study (Arenas and Yahirun). It is therefore important to examine all sides to migration to effectively understand to impact of the family unit for one’s mental health and education.
What is China doing to help LBC in it’s own country?
A non-governmental organization called Twinkling Stars has produced amazing results. Inspired by AVIVA’s “Street to School” project that focuses on equipping LBC with useful skills and supplies, Twinkling Stars has recruited 1,000 volunteers. They have helped about 9,000 left behind children in 11 provinces in China since 2010 (t-stars). Global Children’s Vision like Twinkling Stars creates centers with educational resources and enhances the parent to child communication experience. The work aims to improve the child’s emotional development and inspire them to dream. We both increase awareness on the importance of education and what that means for left behind children and their teachers.
The Twinkling Stars Children Painting Competition is a recent event in which about 500 children including LBC and city children have participated in. This is the work named House of Joy, by Haohan Cui, a child from Liaoning Provinces, which won the first prize.
They also launched a project in 2012 that focuses on LBC’s mental health, trying to provide constant and effective help. GCV’s mission is to strengthen each child’s confidence with empowerment tools. We eliminate the idea that based on one’s circumstances there is no hope for a better future. Left behind children have an increased chance of suffering from anxiety and depression (Zhengkui). They have a decreased interest in school and a higher likelihood of have difficulties with communication and trust. They feel like their mom and dad has abandoned them. They live on the streets and are mistaken as orphans. They fail in their classes because they don’t think it is worth it. They have higher chances of drowning from neglect and lack of supervision, being recruited as child prostitutes in the sex trafficking industry, and dropping out of school.
LBC have loving parents who just are unable to directly care for the child because of financial reasons, not because they “left them behind” for selfish reasons. It is a common misconception that left behind children are purposely neglected. The parent who finds work in the city earns money to provide the child with a better quality of life back in the villages. Twinkling Stars aims take care of the children that are benefiting from the money being sent home to sustain the grandparent and extended family members raising the children. The workers and volunteers take into account this population’s specific emotional, social, and academic needs.
A special project called Caring House (pictured below) is part of the Twinkling Stars accomplishments that has converted idle classrooms into special places full of toys, pens, and more than 100 items for children. Volunteers play with the children.
How does this Chinese non-profit create positive change? This issue of Left Behind Children is global. It touches the lives of millions of children in China alone. Twinkling Stars empowers these children “by creating an inspiring environment for the children to do homework, classes, play and sing – to dream a little,” (AVIVA). Global Children’s Vision’s motto is Empower the Future. We must empower individuals and let them know that they are not defined by their circumstances. They can accomplish greatness if they are taught they can do anything. Teach children to be resilient by teaching them they are worth it then they can dream big.
Zhengkui Liu, PhD, Xinying Li, MD, and Xiaojia Ge, PhD. “Left Too Early: The Effects of Age at Separation from Parents on Chinese Rural Children’s Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.” American Journal of Public Health Research and Practice 99.11 (2009): n. pag. Web.
“I only go to see the kids during national holidays. The rest of the time, I have to work.” – a migrant parent
It’s Thanksgiving Eve, when America’s thoughts are on family, fresh mounds of turkey in excess, and multiple types of pies made by loved ones ready to be consumed with delight. Yet there’s a thought that comes to a mind filled with the excitement of a family reunion at the holidays and it is a thought that stops me in my tracks.
In the video a father confessed “I only go to see the kids during national holidays. The rest of the time, I have to work.” This heartbreaking truth is a result of China’s economic situation. This issue is a consequence of globalization’s affect on migration. Jobs are in the cities and children are raised by extended family members. It is a joyous reunion when left behind children are reunited with their parents. At brief times that their parents have time off from work, it is wonderful for the child to see the parent in person.
How do we help? We can’t promise the parents a higher paying job that is closer to their child. We can’t change every government official’s mind on the issue. What we CAN do is create resources for these children and their parents that facilitate communication, extra psychological care, higher academic quality, and education for the parents and grandparents on problems LBC may face.
Left behind children may have wonderful and caring parents but the parents are put in a situation where a choice have to be made either to be unemployed and raise their child in a poor village or work far away in the city and provide their child with a better quality of life. There are social and emotional consequences unfortunately for these children. A sense of abandonment and an increase depressive and anxious feelings is common in LBC. Left Behind Children are not only in China, but are all around the world. Philippines has around 9 Million (CNN) and Indonesia has around 1 Million (UNICEF), Moldova has 177, 000 and Romania is at 350, 000 (icmhd).
As it is Thanksgiving, we reflect on what we have. We have a greater appreciation for food, shelter, friends, family, work, and an education. Reach out to those in need during this holiday season and learn more about the ways you may use your gifts to empower the future for these neglected children around the world!
“US-China, two-way express. Pick up from airports, packages, children”. Are children really listed as baggage? Our latest post was about the phenomenon of Left Behind Children who have foreign passports. The fact that a sign mentions children as a thing to be shipped from one country to the next is commonly seen around China. Think about it. How did you respond when you first moved from one home to another or how did your children respond? It is difficult. Transition for children is always rough.
Transition is a trauma. Transitions of LBC from one home in China to another in the United States and back to China as a young child and then the journey to return to America at the time their parents earn enough money is the process many have to go through. It makes even my head dizzy to think about. Chinese children don’t acknowledge that they are sad moving or being away from their parents for long periods of time. It is uncommon in China for one to express oneself and especially to express what they are feeling. All they want is to do is to live with their parents, wherever they live.
China’s one-child policy can be evaluated within this context. Children do not have siblings and according to studies, the policy has increased the likelihood of these children becoming more pessimistic and less trusting (Abrams). What does this mean for the LBC issue you ask? If one goes through life alone without a mom or a dad providing love and comfort, it is lonely. Without a sibling to fight with, play with, and most importantly, to share the burden of being away from their parents, the child does not have anyone they can relate with.
Left Behind children are left without siblings, without parents, and without a steady home life and stable family system.
“China’s rural-to-urban migration has affected… 22 million who have been left behind by their migrant parents,” (Xu). 22 million LBC have been affected and that number changes every day! A university study on well-being of migrant and LBC found significant results on left behind children who stay at home in rural areas while their parents are away working in cities. They suffer from reduced parental care and supervision. This causes a higher risk for psychological and behavioral issues (OCD, depression, etc.), and feelings of abandonment. They are more likely to disregard their education by dropping out of school or skipping classes. They feel like baggage to be transported. They feel like a burden to aging grandparents who are unable to relate and have a difficult time trying to raise the suffering child.
What can YOU do to empower these Left Behind Children? Educate yourself, discuss solutions, and act!
Lastly, I wanted to bring your attention to an event on December 5-6, 2013, when there will be an Inaugural WUN Global China Conference on Family Transition, Aging, and Social Security in China. One focus of the conference will discuss the implications of China’s growing economy on Left Behind Children, defined for those involved in the conference those “who live with their grandparents or other relatives as their parents moved to the cities for employment,” (Heung). Could you imagine being raised by extend family – a grandparent or aunt – and have limited contact with your working parent? I look forward to what they come up with regarding one of the key issues on increasing “family stability” and the results of their conversations about LBC. I bring up this conference to let you know that powerful research institution collaborations such as this “Worldwide Universities Network” are discussing and brainstorming solutions, which is something everyone has the ability to do.
(all children in above picture have foreign passports)
The hard-working parents of left behind children migrate to the States to find better paying jobs. Foreign passports are distributed to children yet it is expressed that “Kids generally leave China aged 5, because their US passports are only valid for five years,” (Chinese Time).
Consequently LBC are then raised by grandparents or extended family who cannot provide the parental comfort the children desire. An illusion of comfort by the toys and other gifts sent from America is not enough. A child’s greatest hope is to join their parents in the States but it is important to examine the parents’ greatest hope, which is is for their child to effectively integrate into American society.
Accommodating this wish, some schools for left behind children teach English and Chinese to prepare them for their future in America.”Giving birth to a child in the States is a wonderful dream, but a very costly one too,” Song Jingwen states. It is expensive for maternity care but it is a privilege to be born in America since it grants one’s parents with an ability to emigrate to America later on and provides a bilingual education for the child that is given higher priority to enter good Chinese schools.
A 4 year old Chinese boy, Liu, was born in America and sent to China at 3 months. With a name of Eddie on his US passport, he is one of the LBC with foreign passports that were forced to live with a family member in China. Liu’s mom works long hours in America and is unable to take care of her child. Grandparents or relatives attempt to provide the child care before the child is able to go back to America and live with parents continuing their education at age 4 or 5. “But nice preschools and family care can’t replace the absence of parental interaction,” (CCTV reporter Lin Nan). In the kindergarten of interest in this CCTV article, 80% of students owned US passports.
Pitying the child left behind with a parent overseas, family tends to spoil the child and fail to provide them the parental attachments needed for healthy development. Emigration from poor villages to rich cities in America leaves the parent with no time to physically provide care for their child, but also leaves them with a justification for their actions. They believe the child is well fed, loved, and provided with a privileged life.
“These children all hold foreign passports, as their migrant worker parents have all gone to other countries － mostly the United States － to work.”
“US-China, two-way express. Pick up from airports, packages, children” reads a sign that illustrates the issue of the shipping children overseas.
China’s “Born in the USA” Frenzy – TIME http://content.time.com/time/world/article
It’s hard to imagine elementary, middle and high school without the help of parents. While growing up, there are countless lunches made, thousands of outfits picked out, many mornings waiting at the bus stop, hundreds of hours spent on homework and dozens of parent-teacher meetings to ensure wellbeing. For many, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of mom and dad.
For left behind children, school is still important. But without the love and support of parental attention, it might not be as trouble-free.
According to UNICEF, parental supervision and presence is vital during the time when children learn the importance of studying and school. UNICEF found in their study, The Situation of Children Left Behind by Migrating Parents, that most LBC involved mentioned that their school performance has decreased since their parents’ departure. This can be for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, parents aren’t around to help students manage their time. It is understandably hard for elementary age children to balance freedom and schoolwork. One child involved with UNICEF’s study mentioned, “It’s difficult to stay at home and study when you are alone and friends invite you: ‘Come out!’ And nobody is there to stop you from going,”
UNICEF also consulted with local public school administrators on the school habits of LBC, and found that many teachers and headmasters are also noticing many LBC having a hard time. “Their school performance is going down. Grandparents and aunts provide them with food and clothes. In the majority of cases the material aspect is taken care of. But considering their successes at school, it is hard for an old person to look after a child,” one administrator mentioned.
LBC often times have responsibilities outside of school. Household activities that were taken care of by parents are now the duties of children. Because of this, finding time to study can be hard.
Experts, parents and teachers alike are concerned for what may seem inevitable: LBC dropping out of school. “The risk of dropping out of school goes up. It all begins with the fact that the child left without any care is late because he or she forgot to set the alarm and then…” says a representative of the District Department of Education, Youth and Sports involved with the UNICEF study.
A study of 250 middle-school aged LBC in rural Hubei Province found that more than half of the students experienced difficulties adapting to the absence of their parents and performed poorly in school. “Parental migration has not given children left behind a significant advantage in educational prospects as their parents had hoped. This is unfortunate, because one of the primary reasons for migration is to better provide for one’s children,” says Yao Lu, facilitator of the study The Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China.
Although the education of LBC seems a bit hopeless, UNICEF provides some comforting information: some teachers and administrators are recognizing the struggles of LBC and are extending a helping hand.
Many times this is difficult because parents planning to migrate do not notify school administrators. Additionally, LBC often hide their difficulties to avoid being the center of attention and to prevent their parents from learning about such difficulties.
For some LBC, teachers are the only people the can approach to share and consult with difficult subjects. “Sometimes we also accomplish this role, to get close to them, to discuss with them and even to caress them. We try to fill the gap created in their souls by their parents’ departure,” explained a teacher involved with the UNICEF study.
This issue tugs at the heartstrings of Global Children’s Vision. Much of our work is aimed at providing a safe and comfortable place in schools for a community of LBC to study, learn and freely communicate with their families. We dream to change the lives of countless LBC, and part of that dream is ensuring that they understand the importance of school and are encouraged to work hard for their future.
Garvriliuc, Cezar. “The Situation of Children Left Behind by Migrating Parents.”UNICEF Study Report (2006)
Yao, Lu. “Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China.” Journal of Marriage and Family (2012).
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