PETALING JAYA: Parents’ over-commitment to work has left children neglected, leading to them experiencing emotional detachment.

The problem has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic as pay cuts and job losses force parents to spend more time chasing the dollar to make ends meet.

“In the end, they lose sight of their most prized possession - their children,” according to developmental psychologist Datin Prof Dr Mariani Md Noor.

“Being busy (at the office) all the time is not something to brag about. This will only lead to a greater deficit in meeting the secondary needs of their children,” she said in an interview with theSun yesterday.

She said the problem cuts across cultures and diversities across the world.

“Parents are children’s pride and joy, they help their children build courage,” she pointed out.

Mariani said while ensuring that children’s basic needs for food and shelter are met is important, parents also need to get their priorities right by seeing to their secondary need for love, attention, appreciation and acknowledgement.

“This will help to fend off the negative social impact that children, especially teenagers, are exposed to.”

She said the problem has become more acute in recent times as parents begin to fear losing their jobs.

“When parents go to work, they are fulfilling the primary needs of their children, which is the food and material needs,” she said.

But being overly committed to a career would lead to detachment with the child, who will then be more inclined to face social problems, she said when commenting on a report that a 15-year-old girl had committed suicide in Penang.

Police investigations revealed that the girl, the eldest of three daughters, could have felt distraught because her coming-of-age ceremony had to be cancelled because her mother had failed to return from Singapore where she works.

“The victim could have had all her emotions bottled up for years,” Mariani said.

She noted that Malaysians are more concerned about losing their jobs than losing their children “and this has to change”.

She explained that a strong family unit is essential to ensure that there is emotional support for the young.

“Weekends should be spent with the children, doing things they love,” she advised.

She pointed out that the world is changing rapidly, and social media is exposing children to such changes. “Sometimes, children are not able to differentiate between what is good and what is not,” she said.

Mariani said while parents may have very tight schedules at work, they should also bear in mind that if they lose a child, the money they make would never replace their child.

She also advised parents against making empty promises as that cause them to lose their children’s trusts in them.

Malaysian Wellness Society president Datuk Dr Rajbans Singh (pix) said that this is a wake-up call for many parents and that open communication is necessary to enable parents to know what is going on with their children.

“Talk with your children for 10 and 15 minutes a day. This is especially essential for teens who are introverts. They know how to hide their emotions and problems very well,” he said.

Angeline Yap Hui Chin, the manager at P.S. The Children, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on children’s needs, said companies can be part of a support system by offering their employees greater flexibility so they are able to spend more time with the family.

Read the story on our iPaper: Parents’ over-commitment to work causes them to lose sight of their children: Experts