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Extended familes can endure

Study finds children fear for migrant parents

Family and friends of an overseas Filipino worker in the southern Philippines pays a visit to Archbishop Antonio Ledesma Family and friends of an overseas Filipino worker in the southern Philippines pays a visit to Archbishop Antonio Ledesma
  • Pinky Choudhury, Quezon City
  • Philippines
  • May 30, 2011
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Children of Filipinos working abroad constantly pray for the safety of their parents.

“Dear Lord, please protect my father so he can come home and we can again cook,” prayed Ziltjain Surigao, 12, at a recent forum at the University of the Philippines.

The young girl who is set to start high school in Quezon City, dreams of becoming a pastry chef like her father.

“Dad, I thank you for taking care of me and for providing for my needs,” she said in a letter read during the forum titled: The Difference Parental Migration Makes: Health and Well-Being Impacts on Left-Behind Children.

Surigao was joined by two sons and three daughters of other migrants. The six are under the care of the Pastoral Care for Migrants and their Families Ministry of Novaliches diocese, run by Scalabrinian Sister Eva Ocemo.

The children were also asked to give their views on a study titled: Child Health and Migrant Parents in Southeast Asia.

Conducted between 2008 and 2010, the study looked at the situation of children of migrant workers under 12 years old in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Dr. Maruja Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center said 509 households in Laguna and 491 households in Bulacan – two provinces that consistently send large numbers of migrant workers abroad – witnessed "rearrangements" in taking care of the household and of the children.

“There is no marked difference in the assessment of happiness between the children of migrants and non-migrants. The common problem faced by all children had more to do with peer issues rather than relationships with older people or those in authority,” Asis observed in the study.

“The results suggest that parental absence does not necessarily result in higher probabilities of psychological distress among children left-behind,” said Asis.

The study concludes that using text messaging and mobile phones, "transnational families" have adjusted to physical separation, and continue to make caring for children a "family responsibility."

"This is contrary to what I was expecting to hear,” said lawyer Carlos Cao, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. “This gives me the resolve to propose and improve programs,” he said.
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