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?
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.
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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.
“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.
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.