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.
“… 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.
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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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.