What Teens Really Need From Their Parents

byJoanne Poh
  • Sep 09, 2021
  • 11 mins

Raising a child does not come cheap, much less raising a teenager. From living expenses, to school fees, and tuition and enrichment classes - the costs add up. It's not surprising to see education contributing to these growing expenses as it is often seen as an indicator of success.

In fact, parents spend so much on their teen's education that the private tuition industry in Singapore was worth $1.8 billion in 2018. To put things into perspective, parents spent less than half that amount - $650 million - in 2003.

teenager revision
Image: iStock

If you are a parent of teenagers, you may find that extra tuition and enrichment classes are well worth the money, especially if it helps your teen get into the university of their choice. But does your teenager feel the same way?

Parents, here's what your teenagers really need instead.

Tuition of enrichment classes, but only when required.

Parents and teenagers are no strangers to tuition. According to the quinquennial Household Expenditure Survey conducted by the Singapore Department of Statistics, households in Singapore spent a whopping $1.4 billion on tuition in 2018. Historical trends have also shown that this has been increasing as the years go by. 

With the amount that parents are investing in tuition or enrichment classes, how effective are these classes? We spoke with some youths and here's what they had to say.

Samuel, a 24 year old who attended tuition sessions for A. Math and E. Math in secondary school, and chemistry in JC:

He believes tuition can be beneficial for students who need extra help. For instance, students facing difficulties may benefit with the undivided attention of an external tutor that lets them learn at their own pace. 

While he valued the help he received from Chemistry tuition, he admits that tuition may not always be helpful. “I believe tuition is not required if the student is able to follow his classes at school and is disciplined enough to complete assignments and study on his or her own regularly and consistently,” he explains.

For that reason, he shared that he would have opted out of the mathematics tuition his parents enrolled him in during secondary school. 

Rong Jian, a 22 year old NTU student who began group tuition in primary school:

He believes the usefulness of tuition depends on the students and teachers themselves. No matter how good the tutor is, students must be willing to learn and prioritise their studies in order to do well. 

“I know a few friends who flunked despite the tutor’s efforts. The tutor’s teaching methods are also important as they might not be suitable for the students,” he says.

Nickolaus, a 21 year old intern who attended Math and Science after school lessons:

While tuition benefited him, he emphasises that its effectiveness boils down to the student’s attitude and the syllabus taught by the tutor. “If the student is not open to learning, he might not have any takeaways from the tuition sessions,” he says. 

For a better use of time, tutors should also be teaching students additional academic-enhancing skills instead of just covering what the school has taught. “Such skills would include analysis, writing styles, deductive and inductive reasoning, and so in,” he shares.

To sum it up, tuition can be helpful. But only if your teenager wants the extra help and receives proper guidance from a tutor with the right teaching methods. 

Developing your teens' soft skills

Academic success is important but education goes beyond that. While basic academic qualifications are essential, it is fundamental life skills that will help your teen survive and navigate the competitive world.

Help your teen build social, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. These will come in handy in their future as employers seek people who can communicate well, think strategically and solve issues. 

A survey conducted by NTUC LearningHub in 2020 revealed that 7 in 10 employees intend to hire workers with broader skill sets. Some of the top skills they were looking for include effective communication, collaboration, innovation, analytical thinking and creativity. 

asian basketball
Image: iStock

To equip your teens with these skills, encourage them to explore and experiment. This includes developing a hobby, or participating in extracurricular activities in school. Activities such as sports encourage teamwork and help your teenagers build on their interpersonal skills. 

In addition, consider alternative classes such as programming or coding instead of tuition. The benefits are twofold. First, such classes promote analytical thinking and logical reasoning. Secondly, these are future-ready skills that are highly marketable in a technology-driven world.

Strong emotional and mental support

Your teenager may be on the cusp of adulthood, but don’t forget that they are going through puberty. This can be a tumultuous period as your teenager undergoes hormonal and physical changes. It is often a time marked with emotional outbursts, mood swings and risky behaviour. 

This is a stressful time for your teens as they start to figure out how the world works and experience things for the first time. Research has shown that teenagers between the age of 11 to 15 are particularly susceptible to social stresses while those between 15 to 16 are partial to risk-taking

father son bonding
Image: iStock

As parents, it is important to help your teens develop healthy coping mechanisms. Encourage them to regulate their feelings through exercising or listening to music. More importantly, be their support. Not only does this help to build their self-esteem, it also helps them become strong emotionally.

Here are some tips on supporting your teenager:

• Treat them with respect and acceptance
Let your teenager know that you accept who they are as a person. Speak to them as if they are adults, with respect and patience. Refrain from negative behaviours such as shouting, or talking down to them.

• Give them space
Show that you trust them by giving them privacy. This doesn’t mean letting your teenagers do whatever they want. Instead, set some boundaries and then let them take the lead for everything else. Give them the freedom to try new things. Even if they end up making a mistake, it will be a learning experience.

• Be present in their lives
Did you know that strong family support can reduce your teenager’s odds of developing depression? Help your teen feel safe by being there for them. Root for them, offer your companionship and be their emotional support.

A headstart on financial freedom

Money management skills are key to achieving financial success in the future. Start them young and give your teenager a headstart by imparting the following habits.

Build saving habits

Saving, when done right, could be the single most important factor for financial success. That's because the earlier they start saving, the more time they have to earn on their savings. 

Help your teen build the habit of saving by getting them to put away a portion of their allowance each month, either in a separate savings account or a joint account with you that is not meant for spending. 

Prepare some guidelines on how much to save, spend and the purchases they should be prioritising. Encourage them to ask if it is a need or a want before every purchase. This serves as a mental checkpoint and reduces the chances of impulse buying.

Learn how to budget

Money management is all about spending within your means. Let your teens learn this by giving them a fixed budget each month and letting them manage their own expenses. Be firm, and let your teenager know that they will have to deal with the consequences if they spend beyond their budget. 

If there is something they really want, help them set up a savings goal and evaluate if there are other expenses that they can cut. 

Encourage them to track their spending through the use of budgeting apps, many of which are free and easily available these days. Alternatively, use physical cash instead. Compared to digital money, it serves as a better visual cue.

Explain key financial concepts

How do credit, loans and interest rates work? What are some of the common financial instruments available? Your teenager needs to understand these concepts in order to manage their money properly. 

Explain how credit cards work and why it is important to pay your bills on time to avoid getting caught in debt. When your teenager asks for a loan - whether it’s $200 to get the latest pair of Yeezys or $20 for a meal with friends, use it as a teaching opportunity to instil the habit of prompt payment or illustrate how loans can snowball when they are not paid promptly.

Understand the value of money

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Most of us would have heard that growing up and it is time to pass it on to the next generation. Let your teenager understand that money isn’t an infinite resource and needs to be worked for.
If they want more allowance, encourage them to take on a part-time job to supplement their pocket money. Get them to be responsible for their own financial commitments, such as paying for their phone bill or saving up for the tablet that they are eyeing.

Secure your retirement for your teen's future needs

It’s no secret that every parent wants the best for their child, and are willing to make sacrifices to do so. But this may backfire despite your good intentions. When you forego your own retirement planning in favour of your child’s education fund, you inevitably end up shifting the financial burden to them. 

This additional financial commitment may be hard to bear and your teenager may end up having to downgrade their lifestyle or give up their interests and hobbies to support you in your later years. They may even alter their career plans to one that is more lucrative, in order to support you and their future family at the same time. 

To avoid this, make your retirement planning a priority instead of channeling everything you have into your kids’ education. This way, your teenagers have the resources - and freedom - to pursue what they truly want in the future. 

And if you still feel bad about prioritising your own retirement needs over your teen’s education, these statistics might change your mind. Think of it this way - by helping yourself today, you are helping your teen tomorrow. 

Here’s how you can start planning for your retirement.

Define your retirement needs

The first thing you need to do is to understand your retirement needs. And to do so, you need to decide when you want to retire and what kind of lifestyle you’ll want to lead. Not sure how to plan so far in the future? Start by considering the following.

1. Cost of living: What kind of lifestyle do you plan to lead? Do you plan to embark on a bucket-list trip or pursue an expensive hobby? How often will you be going out now that you have free time? Be realistic about your expenses. Think about what a typical day might be like to help you plan better and don’t forget to include the rate of inflation.

2. Home: Where will you be staying after retirement? Are you planning to purchase a new home? If not, what is the cost of maintaining your property and will your mortgage be fully paid up by then? Housing costs are usually huge outlays and will need to be factored into your retirement plan accordingly.

3. Health and medical expenses: Do you have any existing health conditions or long-term medical needs? Calculate the number of years you will be in retirement and factor in the rising cost of healthcare, before deciding if you have enough to last you till the average life expectancy. Even if you are healthy today, make sure you are well protected and have enough stashed away for future medical needs.

Review your finances

How much savings do you have and how much more do you need? People live much longer these days and it is important to make sure you don’t outlast your savings. 

For a clearer view of where you are financially, create separate buckets for savings that are meant for different things. Set aside your emergency fund and the funds required for existing financial commitments such as your home loan, then decide if the remaining is sufficient for your desired retirement lifestyle. If not, what is the gap you need to fill? 

You can also use the CPF retirement calculator for an idea of the savings required for retirement, depending on your age and preferred lifestyle.

Close the gap: Start accumulating your savings

To accumulate more wealth, focus on growing your income. Besides doing what you can in your day job, consider supplementing your income with side hustles, or passive income through stock dividends or property rentals. Simultaneously, review your spending habits and see if you can cut out certain activities or expenses to save more in the long run. 

To grow your savings, consider investing it to enjoy a greater rate of return. Another way is to leverage government-supported schemes such as CPF Life and the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) to build your retirement nest. Participating in these schemes also brings about additional benefits such as tax reliefs, which helps you save more.

Financial freedom is your best gift to your teens

For parents of teenagers, prioritising your teen’s education over your own retirement needs is almost instinctive. After all, everything you do is in their best interest and this is a crucial time in their life to achieve academic success. But before you pour your life savings into their education, take a step back and ask if this is what your teen really needs? 

Their educational needs are important, but so is looking after your own retirement. Only by doing so, can you give your teen the freedom to explore their career of choice and pursue their desired lifestyle. 

Help yourself today to give them a better future. Explore our savings and investment plans or consult with our friendly advisors to get started on your retirement planning.

Important Notes:
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 

Tags: Parenting
With over a decade of experience writing, Joanne Poh specialises in insurance, finance, real estate, fintech, and travel. Her work has been featured on Yahoo!, MSN, AsiaOne, and herworldPLUS.

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