“Tears would well up in my eyes during the morning rush hour as I made my way to work. Watching as the kids head to their schools, I found myself saying “Their parents must be very proud of them for wanting to go to school. Why couldn’t my own children do the same?” I was raised in a family where education was given utmost importance as it was our guaranteed ticket out of poverty. My husband and I tried to pass down this value to our children, but it did not have the same effect on them.
Both our children took a gap year from their studies. We initially thought it was a simple case of school refusal as they always had a reason not to go to school: from not sleeping well the night before, to feeling teachers were lousy, rowdy classmates, no energy to get out of bed etc. But we were wrong, terribly wrong.
After several visits to the doctor’s and psychologist’s clinics, both of them were diagnosed with depression coupled with developmental disorders, one with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the other with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It was a difficult time for our family as we scrambled to come to terms with the reality of these illnesses affecting our loved ones and to find ways to help them manage such illnesses. We clung onto our Catholic faith, attended caregiver’s training, joined a parents’ support group and surrounded ourselves with a smaller but well-disposed group of friends. We also intentionally rebuilt and strengthened our relationship with our children.
It was also during this period that we came across the Ronald McDonald Family Room (RMFR) at Institute of Mental Health’s Child Guidance Clinic and met Senior Operations Executive, Mano. The RMFR became our oasis amidst the frequent doctor appointments and therapy sessions. It was where we took time to relax on the soft and comfortable sofas while we watched TV or engaged in meaningful conversations with Mano. The RMFR was so relaxing that on multiple occasions, I was able to take power naps while waiting for our children’s therapy sessions to end. Both our children loved going to the RMFR where they can enjoy snacks and beverages from the well-stocked fridge and pantry. They also love receiving the goody bags that the RMHC team would distribute during festivities like Children’s Day and Christmas.
More than a year has passed, and as I looked at a group of students on the train platform after sending our younger child to school, I felt a certain peace. I sent a text message to our older child to remind her to eat in school. There were tears in my eyes. This time, they were not tears of sorrow but of thankfulness. My husband and I have come to accept that our childrens’ life journeys will be different from ours but we will still be there to guide them no matter what.”
Mabel*, mother of two children
Beneficiary of Ronald McDonald Family Room at Institute of Mental Health
*Name and image used has been changed to protect the identity of our beneficiaries.