The gaming and hospitality industries in Macau have brought increased job opportunities for its residents, yet also significantly contributed to a sharp increase in living costs resulting in more families having both parents working to keep up with daily expenses. Furthermore, because of the concentration of these industries, almost 40% of the working population are employed as shift workers.
With a high percentage of young adults working on shifts in the hospitality and gaming industry in Macau, many young children are often left in the care of grandparents, domestic helpers or nurseries. In these situations, parents are at a higher risk of engaging in poor parental practices since they need to work irregular shift hours and find it difficult to regularly spend quality time with their children.
The Galaxy Entertainment Group Foundation recognises that engaging in good parental practices from an early age can have long-term positive effects on the overall physical and mental well-being of a child when they grow up. Early childhood is thus an important and ideal time to help them build a solid foundation in learning, developing relationships, and in preventing problematic behaviour.
To help parents engage in positive parenting practices, the Foundation teamed up with YMCA Macau, Heep Hong Society and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Applied Social Sciences to launch the GEG Parenting Education Scheme, and pioneered an 8-week parenting programme for shift-working parents with children aged 2-7, who are working at the three properties under the Galaxy Entertainment Group: Galaxy Macau, Broadway Macau and StarWorld.
Galaxy Entertainment Group
Heep Hong Society
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
About the Parenting Programme
Parenting training comprises a range of education, supportive and remedial measures which help parents better understand themselves and their children, enhance their mutual relationship, as well as promote individual, family and social well-being. Effective parenting in early childhood is therefore crucial in building a solid foundation in developing parent-child relationships, and in preventing the development of problematic behaviour.
Parenting workshops or seminars are offered by many organisations in Macau, but these tend to be one-off sessions, with no further follow-up. Such sessions are effective in disseminating information, but participating parents who have questions afterwards often have no one to turn to for advice. Multi-session parenting programmes, especially those which are conducted in smaller groups (of about 8-12 participants), will however provide participants with opportunities to practise their skills, share their experience and directly receive feedback for maximum effectiveness.
The GEG Parenting Education Scheme pioneered an 8-week multi-session parenting programme based on an already well-established parenting programme developed in Hong Kong. The programme was specifically adapted and tailored to Macau by educational psychologists and social workers, with a focus on shift-working parents. Through activities such as role play, demonstrations, group discussions and “at-home practice”, the programme taught participants crucial parenting skills such as building positive relationships with children, dealing with behavioural issues, relieving parental stress, and making special arrangements to communicate with children during work, etc.
Implementation at Galaxy Entertainment Group
The programme was run on a pilot basis at the Galaxy Entertainment Group throughout 2019. Galaxy Entertainment Group’s Human Resources Department arranged for about 150 eligible Team Members, who are shift working parents with children aged 2-7, to attend the 2-hour per week training during their work shifts, for a consecutive 8 weeks. All sessions were conducted on site at either Galaxy Macau or StarWorld to ensure minimal disruption to operations.
Randomised Control Trial
As the training was adapted and tailored to shift working parents in Macau and implemented for the first time, the Foundation wanted to prove it’s effectiveness before considering whether a rollout of the training to a wider community is appropriate. Accordingly, the Foundation commissioned the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Applied Social Sciences to conduct a randomised control trial during the pilot implementation.
This is the first study on the effectiveness of a workplace-based parenting education programme for Chinese families, the study breaks new ground as it is designed as a programme specifically targeting parents working on shifts.
Results from the randomised control trial were positive, indicating there was a significant reduction in child behavioural problems, parenting stress and dysfunctional parenting practices. The results of the research have been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Research on Social Work Practice.
Feedback from Participants
Participants shared that the parenting programme was useful and was a valuable experience for them as they were able to improve their relationship with their children, and the training also had given them a newfound understanding of how to practise “positive parenting”. Galaxy Entertainment Group, as a caring employer, has always prioritized the health and well-being of its staff and regularly offers a variety of employee-centered activities and programmes, and encourages its Team Members to achieve a work-life balance. Support from the Galaxy Entertainment Group has been instrumental in allowing its Team Members to participate in the pilot programme and the randomised control trial to be successfully conducted on its premises.
Feedback from Scheme Partners
A Caring Employer
The workplace is a convenient and effective environment to deliver parenting programmes, and the support of management is crucial to this mode of programme delivery. Workplace training programmes for parents on shift work can only be done with the commitment and cooperation of the employer, especially the human resources department, which will need to manage the complicated rostering arrangements for participating staff, thus ensuring minimal disruption to company’s operations.
Galaxy Entertainment Group, as a caring employer, has always prioritized the health and well-being of its staff and regularly offers a variety of employee-centered activities and programmes, and encourages its Team Members to achieve a work-life balance. Support from the Galaxy Entertainment Group has been instrumental in allowing its Team Members to participate in the pilot programme and the randomised control trial to be successfully conducted on its premises.
Further Training at Galaxy Entertainment Group (June 2020)
As a result of the positive feedback from Team Members at the Galaxy Entertainment Group on the parenting education training conducted during the randomised control trial, the Corporate Human Resources Department had decided to extend the training to now include also participants who may not be shift workers, as all parents face similar issues during their children’s formative years. As part of the continued refinement of the course, the training is further divided into two groups to cater to slightly different needs of parents with children ages 2-4 and 5-7, enabling parents to be able to address issues they should focus on at different stages of their children’s development. The training was particularly timely given the pandemic situation when parents were spending more time with their children at home.
Comments from Co-Organiser YMCA:
“We received many positive feedback last year, and this year, we made some improvement to ensure that the program fits with the participants’ needs, especially during the epidemic as some parents were spending more time with their children and to help avoid any friction, we wanted to help parents learn how to control their emotions, understand the emotions and manage the emotional problems of their children.”
Feedback from the participants:
“In the past, my wife was in charge of looking after our children, but since the outbreak, I have been spending more time with our children, which made me realize the importance of good parenting. The program has deepened my understanding of how to educate my children, how to help them develop plans and also how to encourage them to think independently.”
Further Training at Galaxy Entertainment Group (April-June 2021)
GEG continues to hold the parenting skills training for its team members for the third consecutive year. Based on the age of their children, this year’s participants are divided into 3 groups: parents with children between the ages of 2 to 4, parents with children between the ages of 5 to 7, and parents of adolescents between the ages of 10 to 14. The third group of participants are the target participants of the newly-launched “Decoding Adolescents’ Language” training course, which they take during their working time by completing a total of 8 hours of training over a period of 4 weeks, and learning the parenting skills needed to communicate and manage adolescent behaviours.
Conducted by instructors from Hong Kong through live streaming and by instructors from YMCA Macau, the course uses interactive lectures, role plays, group discussions and fun-filled activities to help the participants discover the different approaches to parenting and responding to and nurturing children’s emotions and behaviours so that the participants can improve their parent-child communication, strengthen their parent-child relationship, and better understand why patience is important when teaching their children.
Moreover, the program has been included in the “100% Parents Award Scheme” of the Education and Youth Development Bureau of the Macau SAR Government, which allows the participants to accumulate their training hours towards the award.
Feedback from the participants:
“I need to work in shifts, and my child turns 10 years old this year. I hope to improve my communication skills with my child so that I can get well-prepared for my child’s adolescence. The course instructors were very professional and taught us many skills to help us better communicate with our adolescent children which are useful and applicable in my daily life.”
GEG Parenting Education Scheme
Effective parenting in early childhood is important in building a solid foundation for children in learning, developing relationships, and in preventing problematic behaviour. The Foundation considers parenting courses to be particularly important for shift workers, in particular those who are working in the gaming/hospitality industries and parents with young children, since their shift workhours make it difficult for them to spend time together with their children. A parenting education scheme is therefore piloted, targeting parents who are shift-workers, on various parenting topics conducted over multi-sessions to help them to better understand themselves and their children, thus enhancing their mutual relationship as well as promote individual, family and social wellbeing.