Christian Eber, a father of one shares what the ups and downs of his life have taught him about building trust with young people.
When Christian saw his results for his O-Level preliminary exams, he thought it was a joke. He had scored ‘F9’ for all his subjects. His dad told him plainly that he was never going to amount to anything. So he said, “Dad, you wait and see.” For the next few months, he “studied like crazy”, and managed to do well enough to enter Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Christian wanted desperately prove his Dad wrong. To do this, he had to be successful, fast. So he decided to put his studies on hold to enlist for National Service (NS), and started working after he served in the army. He learned to fix air-conditioners, and was earning $200 a day; he soon saved up enough money to get a car, and dreamt of becoming a multi-millionaire by the age of 25.
“My pride soon puffed up like a giant marshmallow,” Christian admitted. He became a “monster” who was arrogant to his Dad and the people around him. But his plans were disrupted when he met with a terrible car accident. He was almost crushed by a bus, and nursed a fractured arm for 6 months.
During his recovery, he realised he had to balance things up to remain grounded. He decided to joined SIA as an aircraft technician, and went back to polytechnic to get his diploma part-time. Then, his dad was struck with cancer. When his father passed away, it was a low moment in Christian’s life.
Thankfully, Christian had a mentor who supported and pulled him through that dark period. He never forgot the kindness shown to him, and wanted to pay it forward. After some thought and research, he founded a social enterprise. His involvement in the enterprise gave him a chance to interact with youths-at-risk and ex-offenders.
He shares his advice, as a boss and father, on ways to reach out to young people.
1. Take time to listen
Many of the youths-at-risk that Christian met lacked affirmation from their family and friends. “We wanted them to come into a positive environment, where we help them to find their strengths and develop them,” he said. “There’s so much information available online now, and I think the image of a mentor as someone who just dishes out advice can be passé. It’s about having someone who will listen to you, and take time to let you speak.”
2. Don’t be quick to judge
Once, Christian told a student to record the temperature differences of the air-conditioners that the company was testing, before and after cleaning. It was a simple task. But the boy failed to record the temperature for 3 days consecutively. In the end, the team had to redo the whole study. Christian and the students’ lecturers decided to give the boy another chance, and he delivered. Later, Christian found out that his parents went through a terrible divorce during that period. “I felt proud of him for being so resilient and also ashamed of myself because I didn’t know there was so much going on for him in the background.”
3. Be there for them
As a parent of a 12-year-old girl, Christian knows it’s not always easy for parents to get their kids to open up to them. “There are days when [my daughter] comes back and she just doesn’t want to talk. So I just sit down [next to her]. And lo and behold, after 15 minutes of silence, she starts talking. And after half an hour [of talking], she goes to sleep and gives me a kiss and a big hug.”