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.
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.
“… 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.
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.
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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.
“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