Hugs or yikes?

Hugs or yikes?
Ms Jerlyn Long (left), 24, is uncomfortable when her parents Shirley and Patrick, both 58, try to hug her.

Ms Grace Tan, 29, has not been hugged or kissed by her parents since she was 12.

"They just stopped," the public relations officer says, referring to the hugs and kisses.

Even on her wedding day 21/2 years ago, she recalls that the photographer had to request that her parents put their arms around her. "If not, they would have just stood stiffly next to me," she says, with a laugh. "We are a very traditional Chinese family."

Singaporeans aged 30 and older whom SundayLife! spoke to also described their parents as "conservative", "old school" and, in some cases, "typical Chinese" to explain why they have received little physical affection from their parents.

Customer relationship management consultant Andy Lee, 40, recalls receiving just one hug from his mother in his life thus far - the day he returned home with good results for his Primary School Leaving Examination.

On his wedding day, he received a mere "congratulatory pat on the shoulder" from her.

Parenting blogger Meiling Wong-Chainani, 42, initiates hugs with her mother, but the older lady maintains "space in between them". Explains her mother, housewife Elsie Siew, 68: "My parents used to project a very serious demeanour, so I also feel the need to maintain an authoritative, serious air with my children."

Actor Edmund Chen, 52, has such memories of his parents too. "I grew up in a typical Chinese family, where my mother cooked and worked, and my father put bread on the table. In my mind, he was this highly intimidating, stern figure who kept words to a minimum.

There was very little physical contact."

Mr William Wan, 66, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, cannot recall his parents giving him any physical affection. "They were busy and I was left to my own devices," he says.

While it may be a sweeping generalisation to suggest that older Singaporeans are not demonstrative in expressing their love for their children, experts agree that parents today are more expressive than in previous generations.

Professor Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist and a Families for Life council member, says younger, better educated parents are less inhibited in expressing their love physically.

Ms Fazlinda Faroo, a member of the Family Life Education Expert Panel and centre manager of PPIS Vista Sakinah, which runs marriage preparation classes for remarrying couples, agrees things are changing.

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