Catholic News features Family Life Society in this series on Catholic social service organisations.
Counselling for married couples is one of the services at Family Life Society.
At 18 years old, most girls her age would be enjoying themselves at the beach or shopping mall. However, for Gillian (not her real name) her world turned upside down when she found out she was pregnant last year. Worried what people might think and how her parents would react, her boyfriend suggested to abort the baby.
Gillian, a Catholic, decided against abortion because she believed that a baby’s life is precious. Subsequently, she was left to fend for herself after her boyfriend left her.
After five months into her pregnancy, her mother found out about her predicament. Although she was shocked and totally lost, she supported her daughter. She told her, “I will be there for you. And, in future, I hope this is the way you are going to love your children, and you must not forget God’s grace.”
Gillian and her mother turned to Pregnancy Crisis & Support (PCS), a service under Family Life Society which journeys with and supports girls and women with unplanned pregnancies.
With the counselling and guidance of the PCS volunteer and staff, Gillian gave birth to a baby boy and had him baptised.
The process was stressful, having to shuttle between counselling sessions, the gynaecologist, and bracing to face relatives and friends. But faith in God has kept Gillian and her mother going. “We continue to have faith in God. I was so afraid that I would lose faith in God through the whole situation,” said Gillian’s mother.
The experience also changed Gillian. She is more appreciative and mature and has accepted responsibility for her actions and is now focussed on the baby’s future. She has also resumed her studies to secure a better future for her and her son.
PCS is just one of the varied support structures available at Family Life Society (FLS), one of the member organisations under Caritas Singapore. It has a 24-hour hotline (63399770) to support girls and women with unplanned pregnancies and their families, supported by a team of counsellors and medical professionals.
Other support structures include family and marital therapy as well as parenting and sexuality education programmes.
The main mode of therapy used at FLS is counselling. “Counselling helps put the person in a safe environment, a space to voice issues that they normally cannot,” said Mr Sunny Naidu, Executive Director of FLS.
When an individual with depression or a couple with communication issues approaches FLS for help, a team of trained therapists are on hand to listen, guide and empower.
“We try and bring positivity and hope in the sessions, something that they can take away to empower their relationships and life,” said Mr Naidu.
Common marital problems include extramarital affairs, trust and communication issues, and other vices that come in the way of the relationship, such as pornography.
Sessions for Family and Marital Therapy are available at affordable prices at three locations: the FLS office located at 2 Highland Road, Agape Village at 7A Lorong 8 Toa Payoh and at CANA, The Catholic Centre, 55 Waterloo Street.
A community of trained para-counsellors are also available in 10 parishes across Singapore. This pro-bono service is available on weekday evenings and appointments can be booked at 63820688.
For sexuality education, FLS conducts the Made For More (MFM) programme for parents and teens. The programme aims to address sexuality issues such as premarital, casual sex and pornography.
“Many parents would feel awkward and not equipped to talk to their children about sexuality ... MFM helps to equip them to be the primary sexuality teachers,” said Mr Naidu.
Instead of dwelling on the consequences of risky sexual behaviour, MFM proposes truths as to why human beings are naturally inclined to sexual honesty, dignity and respect. Under the guidance of Father David Garcia, FLS Spiritual Director, FLS tries to bring participants to “universal truths and goodness which lead them to God,” said Mr Naidu.
For those who know of friends or couples going through difficult circumstances, offering a listening ear and being patient can go a long way in helping.
They can be referred to the various support structures at FLS. It is up to the individual or couple to see where they need help.
The FLS website is http://familylife.sg/.