The Effects of Working Overseas of Filipino Parents

Last Updated: 23 Mar 2023
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As experienced by many Filipino children like me nowadays, separation from one of our parents results to a very great impact in our lives. Unlike any other children with both parents present at home, raising us up needs more effort and careful attention since that there is only one attending parent.

The temporary single parent at home must have the ability to handle things very well - from raising children up to the accomplishing of household chores, and even to the budgeting of resources, like money and time. Fortunately, as for me who have witnessed such, I can say that my mother did very well in handling these tasks, considering there are three of us she had to take care of. The academic performance of children is affected when one of their parents, especially when both, are working overseas. These effects are just the manifestations of the situation families have when one parent or the parents, is/are not present at home.

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This paper aims to provide the effects that are observable and some of their psychological factors. The Filipino Family Setting “Families provide social and emotional supports that help family members cope with crises…But perhaps the most widely recognized and universal functions of the family are the care giving and training that parents and other family members provide for their young. ” (Shaffer, 1999, 558) Filipino families have great values, which up to now are still present. They are known to putting a great importance to family, because one of the most weighty and intimate relationships among humans is that between parent and child.

It is important especially for the child because it makes him feel secure about life and molds his future (Bigner, 1989). This is the reason why in the Philippines, they have extended families. Since that family members become really close to one another, they have a hard time letting go of a family member when he needs to leave home during the time he decides to build his own family. Furthermore, in the Spanish colonial period, only men were sent to school to learn, and women were to stay at home to do domestic things, like household chores.

It is in the history that women do not have the right to learn because they are probably “designed” to be housewives, and they need to focus on that. Men, on the other hand, study so that in the future, they could earn a living for their family. As a very influential culture imposed by the Spaniards, this, until now, has been an ideal Filipino family tradition—men are to work, women are to stay at home. Labor Migration Nevertheless, today, because of the financial instabilities Filipino families face today, they are forced to send an able-bodied member to work and earn a living for them.

In addition, with a great number of Filipinos sent everyday to different countries around the world, a single Filipino family also suffers from temporary loss of a family member each day (Parrenas, 2006). Labor migration has always been the first choice of families in need of more financial support; so as a result, separation normally happens every day in the Philippines, which leads to various effects in the behavior of family members, especially to children. One example is its effect to their academic performance.

In the modern nuclear family, usually, fathers work abroad—which proves that the tradition above is somewhat still alive. They fulfill their duty as the “good providers” of the family; while as for the mothers, they do the traditional household responsibilities by putting all of their energy into meeting the daily needs of the family. However, because of this work division of parents, children crave for emotional guidance coming from their father. However, since a gap develops through the course of time (“embarrassment”), it prevents them from expressing this desire.

This is according to Rhazel S. Parrenas who wrote the book, Children of Global Migration (2006). Mothers rarely go outside of the country to look for work opportunities without being driven by the deep necessity of the family financially, or else, the children are more likely to question their motives (Parrenas, 2006). The only time that mothers pursue working overseas must be when they badly need money to support the family that both of the parents must go, the father is incapable of working, or the mother is a single parent.

The Situation of Family Members after Separation

As an effect of the economic problem, parents, mostly fathers, choose to work abroad to support the needs of their family. Therefore, in every decision made, there is always separation afterwards, and it always, has an effect on the family members:

  • On the Migrant parent: The decision is the first hard thing to do. Leaving the family means missing important events and giving up being in the actual growing up of his/her children. It requires absence to meeting the daily emotional needs of the family. Furthermore, the hardest is when this parent encounters problems—may it be in health, financial, or work—he/she has to face them alone. The person has to be strong emotionally especially when feeling homesick. The parent should focus also on the goal of meeting the needs of his/her family, so that his/her convictions will not sway when distractions come on his /her family.
  • On the Non-migrant parent: The pressure of raising the children alone is passed on to the non-migrant parent. Fulfilling both duties of a mother and father is difficult and strenuous at the same time. In addition, the parent suffers from emotional struggle from being separated with his/her spouse. Like the other parent, he/she experiences distractions. However, the weight is doubled, because this parent needs to show a strong personality and firm stance on the situation while at the same time, doing all of his/her duties at home, and/or sometimes working part time to support the family more.
  • On the Children: Children growing without one of the parents or both of them can result in different responses from children. They can respond positively or negatively. The necessity of having the parents present is one big factor on how well they will turn out in the future. Therefore, it depends on how the parents handle the situation in the family that the children will be able to bear it and respond to it properly. As I have said earlier, the parents have to keep their stance firm in these kinds of situations. They need to have trust and confidence in each other. They, also, need to have constant communication to address to each other their needs to build a strong relationship within the family despite the absence of one family member.

More than anything in the world today, children need strong parents with strong convictions, a set of values and principles by which they live. Without such strength of convictions and principles, our children stand a good chance of simply being gobbled up by the social pressure in the world. ” (Dacayanan & Isaac, 1974) The Effect of Labor Migration Childhood is a very crucial stage for children. It is the time when children get the values that will found their behavior when they grow up. Therefore, parents’ role is very essential.

According to Guthrie and Jacobs (1967), during the earliest childhood years, child gets the attention of older people. However, as he grows, people expect him to become conscious of the things he ought to do and not to do. Not only that these things vary with the time and mood of people older than he does, he is compelled to obey them and to predict what pleases or displeases them. About the things they encounter, children wonder and try to ask unending questions to their parents believing their parents can answer them. If the children receive responsive answers to their questions, they will be encouraged to find out more answers.

On the other hand, when children receive unresponsive answers, or worse, are ignored, they will just try to figure things out on their own, and thus, starting lack of communication between the parent and child. This is according to Felicidad Dacayanan and Josefina Isaac in their book, Towards Building the Filipino Family Today (1974). Childhood is the time when children need the presence of their parents the most. Nevertheless, how about those children with parents separated because of working overseas? How well will they turn when they grow up?

On the Behavior of Children

When children experience separation, there is a sudden change in their behavior. Children are immature. When they are given an entirely new situation, their behaviors that are manifested will be decided according to it, forgetting the previous one (Dacayanan & Isaac, 1974). Therefore, when children experience separation, they are quick to respond. According to Ortigas (1996), there are stages of attachment/detachment. First, the child denies the situation. He chooses to be blind to reality in order to cope with the situation.

Second, when he feels that he cannot really cope with it, he becomes depressed. In this period, the child lacks interest in doing things—playing, studying, eating and the like. He pities himself about the situation and feels helpless and hopeless. After that, different thoughts will start dwelling inside his mind. One of these is fear of abandonment. The child clings to other parent fearing that the parent left may also leave him since the absent parent was able to leave him. As a result, the child becomes submissive to the parent, or acts unacceptably to get attention from the parent.

Another thought that will enter his mind is that he may be the cause of separation of the parents, making him feel guilty eventually. Hence, it will start the self-blame of the child. Because of this, he starts acting out behaviors that will lead to punishment. Lastly, he develops low self-esteem. In this period, he feels worthless and unlovable, maybe because of the punishments received from acting certain behaviors. The child thinks that this is the reason why the absent parent left him, and develops helplessness especially when he does not see much concern from the absent parent.

These effects lead to certain manifestations in the actions of the children. To be particular, the situation compromises their academic performance. On the Academic Performance of Children Students belonging to a family with a migrant parent sometimes have bad images, like being “pasaway” in school, back then. It was an issue for people to have single parent families—because it was not still the first in mind when it comes to finding a high-paying job, assuming that children belonging in an “imperfect nuclear family structure” connote poor academic performance. Different studies produced different hypotheses about the topic.

Nevertheless, the presence of both of the parents, the mother only, the father only, or none of them has different outcomes: Children with two parent migrant families are more likely to suffer from poor guardianship. In fact, many children, according to an interview, who dropped out of school, had all been members of those types of family who experience separation from their parents for a long time (Parrenas, 2006). Another piece of information is in agreement with the earlier: Children in single parent families are at a greater risk than children in other types of family.

Even though they have the same level of intelligence with other children, they are three or more times to drop out of school. (Adoption. com) Furthermore, according to Hoffman (1967), daughters of employed mother are academic achievers, are successful in their careers, and are more independent. On the other hand, children in poverty, in both two-parent or single families with employed mothers, have higher cognitive and socio-emotional indices scores. In addition, sons from the middle class with employed mothers have lower school performance and lower I. Q scores in the early years in school than those with mothers at home.

One finding from the 1970's from the blue-collar class said that sons of employed mothers did well academically; however, there was a strain in the father-son relationship. It is true that life in single parent family structure can be very difficult. Children, as said earlier, are more prone to suffer emotional struggles. As a result, they have greater chances to act inappropriately, especially if the parent left is busy working too. This can result in lack of time in disciplining and controlling their children, which often lead to lower school performance or misinterpretations—that the parents left does not love them.

Some researchers suggest that family has great impact on the academic performance of children. It is a factor in the involvement of parents in their education. Income is a pressure that can limit parents’ effort from supporting them. (Adoption. com) Nevertheless, this is not true in all situations; some children coming from the single parent families perform well in school. This may be credited to how well the family coped with the situation, and how firm the parent left stood firm on the situation.

As I have pointed on the first part of this research, “Families provide social and emotional supports that help family members cope with crises…But perhaps the most widely recognized and universal functions of the family are the care giving and training that parents and other family members provide for their young. ” (Shaffer, 1999, 558) Socialization and Time as factors to Prevention of the bad effects Children become what they are today through interaction and exposure—getting values from people surrounding them and using everything hey acquired from the environment.

This process of becoming self is fastest and crucial in the formative years because parents leave a mark on children, which schools will have a hard time correcting. This must not be taken for granted by Filipino parents who consider that all children in tender years can be ignored because they are still unaware (Dacayanan & Isaac, 1974). Studies about the topic may differ from one to another, may they agree or not, the performance of children in school is not dependent upon their situation.

It is dependent on how the family handles it, starting from the responses of the parents, to their orientation of it to children, and to how children would respond to it. According to Shaffer (1999), in his book, Developmental Psychology: Childhood & Adolscence, Socialization is a process by which children gain the beliefs, values, and behaviors considered fit by elders in the society which serves it through controlling children’s behavior, promoting growth in order to function well within their communities, and imparting what they have learned as social adults to their children.

However, time spent with the children is also a factor in building a good relationship in the family. Therefore, it is possible for children with parents working overseas to perform well in school, because parents can control their responses to situations. Generalizations “Time together, mutual efforts for more open communication and greater understanding could alleviate the gap in father-away families. ” (Parrenas, 2006, 78) Indeed, working overseas of Filipino parents affects the academic performance of their children, may it be in good or in bad.

However, we can minimize the bad effects, and only reap good effects of it, by simply applying what has been said above. The family is not built to function individually; it is sector in the society built to function as a whole. Hence, the solution to the problem cannot be solved by anyone else, but ourselves.

Reference List

  1. Adoption. com (n. d. ). Single parenting and children’s academic achievement. Retrieved January 31, 2012, from http://library. adoption. com/articles/single-parenting-and-childrens-academic-achievement. tml
  2. Bigner, J. J. (1989).
  3. Parent-Child Relations. (Third Ed. ). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company Dacayanan, F. M. , & Isaac, J. D. R. (1974).
  4. Towards building the Filipino family today. Quezon City: Bustamante Press Guthrie, G. M. & Jacobs, P. J. (1967).
  5. Child rearing and personality development in the Philippines. Manila: The Bookmark, Inc. Hoffman, L. W. (1967).
  6. The effects of the mother’s employment on the family and the child. Retrieved January 31, 2012, from parenthood. ibrary. wisc. edu/Hoffman/Hoffman. html Ortigas, C. D. (1996).
  7. The Solo-parent experience: A growing social phenomenom. Quezon City: Office of the Research and Publications Ateneo de Manila University Parrenas, R. S. (2006).
  8. Children of global migration: Transnational families and gendered woes. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press Shaffer, D. R. (1999). Developmental Psychology: Chilhood and Adolescence. (Fifth Ed). USA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company

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The Effects of Working Overseas of Filipino Parents. (2016, Nov 10). Retrieved from

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