Parents Know Best

NSMAN spends time with a family to find out what they do to make the best of the SAFRA experience.

By Kerry Yip        30 October 2020

It takes a village to raise a child. For many modern families, the luxury of getting an entire community of caregivers to interact with children – for them to experience life in a safe and healthy environment – is far and few.

For family man Goh Sia Hwa, 51, and his wife, Pamela Yeo, 49, the inner circle of community involving relatives and friends makes up one part of character building and development, while the other resides in quality communities they seek out for their children.

A SAFRA member since after his National Service, Sia Hwa had Pamela and his youngest son, Clement, 13, on board as SAFRA Dependent members in 2016. This was followed by his eldest son, Robin, 23 – who joined as a Principal member when Robin served in the Singapore Armed Forces in 2017 – and his second son, Dominique, 21, an SAF Navy Regular, in 2019.

For years, Sia Hwa’s family have been active participants of SAFRA activities and events that aim to create bonding memories for NSmen and their families.

What activities do you and your family enjoy most at SAFRA?

We have been visiting SAFRA for many years. From Kidz Amaze at SAFRA Jurong with Clement back when he was four, to joining the SAFRA Punggol Waterway Challenge – our most recent jaunt was in 2018 – it’s tough to pick a favourite activity. Our regular visits usually involve swimming laps at SAFRA Toa Payoh pool and indulging in the club’s many dining options available.

With the age gaps between the children and their obvious different interests, how do you manage to gather?

Despite everyone being so busy, we decided that as a family, we should actively seek to spend time together. Fortunately, SAFRA has been organising pro-family events all these years, which we are grateful for, as the entrance fees are usually inexpensive and the activities fun. You’re likely to find one family activity or solo participant event that suits what we need as a family to bond and create memorable moments.

Some notable events that we took part in as a family include the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon, SAFRA Punggol Waterway Challenge and SAFRA Sprint Kids. The positive experience outweighs the most pertinent barriers to involvement, such as strong competition and travelling distance. We are not competitive by nature, so the key objective is to bond while attaining new skills, developing character and widening our social networks.

With your family being this active in sports, what advice would you have for parents looking to help build a healthier lifestyle for their kids?

Children learn from observing adults and following their behavioural patterns. They “do as we do” more than “do as we say”. As parents, we influence our children’s outlook in life, which includes being keen on sporting activities. Parents who regularly exercise tend to have children who exercise.

Our tips are threefold: One, set aside a time each week for family fitness. It can be a fun outdoor activity that’s not necessarily strenuous. Two, make it a point to get everyone out there for the fun exercise. No excuses for absenteeism unless there are classes to attend or an emergency crops up. And, three, sign up for a well-planned annual event like the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon or Kids Sprint.

With fun events being the focus, families young and old should be able to work out and stay in shape together. Don’t get upset over losing – both the parent and child have to bear in mind that the objective is to bond through sporting activities.

Always remember to start small and build up your endurance. You cannot expect yourself to pick up something you have never done and go for gold at once. A family that runs together stays together.

Pamela, what was one of your most memorable SAFRA events?

There are too many to pick from, such as my first SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon back in 2013, to my partnership with Clement in the SAFRA Punggol Waterway Challenge in 2016. It was 1.7km kayaking, 2.9km cycling and 1.4km running. Clement was just nine back then, but we completed six challenges.

We learnt a lot that day. To us, winning is not everything and the SAFRA Punggol Waterway Challenge was testimony to that. As we were both not adept at kayaking and had weaker arms than the rest of the competitors, exhaustion overcame us after a while.

I knew Clement and I would not be able to win as it was our first time. However, I took this opportunity to let him know that winning is not everything.

This was, after all, a mini-triathlon, and taking on multiple sports was physically and mentally trying for him then. I had to let him know that, regardless of the outcome, as long as we have trust and love in our relationship and enjoyed the time spent together, we would have accomplished something.

Clement loved the event so much that he participated in the 2018 edition with his father. It’s a life lesson for us to impart to our kids that even if we are not able to be first, we should reward ourselves for being at the starting point. Having started is better than not starting at all.

What about you, Sia Hwa?

Mine would be the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon. I took part in the 21km run and tell Pamela that as long as you are “mind calibrated” or mentally strong, there is no distance too far. I weighed about 100kg back then, and was simply happy with grinding out the distance with my family. My wife saw the words “Old soldiers run marathons too” on a man’s tee shirt along her route and I am proud to say that the race was for both old and young soldiers – a reminder of our NS spirit.

Clement is in the FINS Junior Water Polo programme. Pamela, how has FINS helped him achieve his sporting dreams?

[Chuckles] This might sound farfetched, but I enrolled him after reading NSMAN. At that point, I had absolutely no idea such a programme existed, and finding out about it from the magazine and doing so was one of the best decisions I have made for him.

I just wanted Clement to learn something new and did not set expectations. However, FINS surfaced a latent talent in him. All it took was a year of training with FINS and Pacer Water Polo Academy for him to be sufficiently confident of applying to be in the water polo team to his school of choice, St Andrew’s Secondary School.

The Direct School Admission trials were competitive and the experience was nerve-racking. It was really a moment of joy for all when we received the offer letter of admission.

Clement’s happy and confident despite the many hours he puts in. If your child is contented and you’re not pushing him, you know you have done right. No matter what your child’s talent may be, it’s important to ensure that he’s living his dream – not yours. As parents, we can only help to nurture his strengths. The child must take ownership or it will turn into a negative experience.

We’re excited for Clement! By the way, NSMAN will be going digital in January 2021. What do you think about that, Robin?

NSMAN going digital is timely. In the age of smartphones, readers will be drawn towards easily accessible content. I believe this convenience will help increase viewership while enhancing its positive influence. The digital edition will allow easy sharing of community news as well as significantly reduce our carbon footprint. I’m sure this shift will enable sustainability in the long run, both socially and environmentally. We look forward to reading more articles. Thanks for having us.