Dr Sunil Sethi

Loving unconditionally and finding purpose in one’s work are what makes life meaningful for Dr Sunil Sethi. He shares about how he tries to build his children up with these relational and life skills.

A life of meaning

Dr Sunil SethiDr Sunil Sethi, 54, father to 2 children, heads a Department at the National University of Singapore (NUH), where he does research in chemical pathology and internal medicine.

Looking at the Sethi family, one is struck by how the children, daughter Shevaun, 21, and son Ervin, 20, seem to follow in the footsteps of their father, in taking up medicine as their study and calling, as both are current medical students in NUS as well.

Dr Sethi believes that he has an indirect influence on his children’s study and career choice. However, he reflects that it is due more to his personal belief that it is important to look for meaning in what one does more than anything else that has made a bearing on their choice. In fact, he and his wife, Linda, who is a Chinese and a homemaker, espouse supporting their children rather than influencing and judging their decisions, so that they will not fear making their own choices in life.

Learning to love

Though Shevaun and Ervin are only 18 months apart, and both are studying medicine, they could not be more different to their parents. While Shevaun is strong-willed and socially inclined, being involved in regular community development trips abroad, Ervin is more obliging and easy-going, with a keen interest in working with athletes and taking up sports medicine.

Indeed, differences in the family make for a good reason to practise unconditional love for the building of firm relationships. Dr Sethi and his wife believe in the utmost importance of supporting and loving their children unconditionally, so that they will not learn to be calculative or selfish, doing things for their own benefit or purpose.  Dr Sethi stresses that unconditional love is first and foremost seen in the bonding between husband and the wife, before children, who are sharp in spotting hypocrisy, learn to show and exhibit likewise to family members and others in their lives.

Learning to reconcile is just as important as learning to love unconditionally, which is another value that Dr Sethi and his wife make a point to impart to their children. Whenever his children quarrel, the parents would make use of the opportunity to teach them the ‘art of reconciliation’ with the spirit of grace and humility, rather than react with passive aggression. He explains that far from being ‘bad’, arguments, when handled well, teach people to be honest with themselves and others, and to be magnanimous.

Being peacemakers with the aim of imparting such values to their children, Dr Sunil adds on that consistency is another golden rule of parenting. Leading by example, rather than merely teaching through words, is what children need to see practised by their parents. He and his wife therefore make the effort not to show favouritism to either child, speaking with both independently and with consistency, especially when it comes to negotiating disagreements.

Little moments

For Dr Sunil, the sum of the most memorable moments with his family come from the little things: daily family dinners at home and time spent in the car with the children as they commute to school and work together. He also immensely enjoys the simple holidays that they take together as a family each year. He is grateful for the simple life and closeness that the family shares, and is proud that his children have learnt to be independent and pick up after themselves, in part due to he and his wife’s joint decision not to have full-time help in the house. This also gives them the chance to do some household chores together as a family.

Shared dreams

Dr Sunil, who is an avid volunteer himself, participates in overseas medical mission trips 2-3 times a year, and is also involved in outreach in hospitals to help the local communities in Singapore.  He reflects that though he and his children volunteer in different areas, their joint interest in serving the community has also probably brought them closer together. In fact, he would used to bring his children along with him on his overseas medical mission trips when they were younger, and he has a fond memory of 8 year old Ervin dishing out medicines for him as his self-appointed pharmacist when they made their rounds together in a village with a small mobile clinic.

Dr Sunil indeed wishes that his children would share the same dreams as him, which is to believe in what they choose to do, and to enjoy it to the utmost. ‘I hope for them to have genuine fulfilment in what they do’, he shares, ‘so that they find something for themselves other than mere material things’.


About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

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Categories: Dads' Stories

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1 reply

  1. Prof Sethi was my department head before my retirement. I was very fortunate as he is a very understanding and supportive boss. Somehow I always brighten up whenever I run into him. That speaks volumes of him.

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