Family bonding: How diverse parents build strong family relationships

PHOTO: Pexels

Learn from the experience of these diverse parents!

Curious to know what families in Singapore do for family bonding time?

On this cover story of The Finder Kids Volume 29 , learn how to bond with your family with these 18 diverse families who will give you a peek into their lives and some of the family bonding activities that helps them to build strong family relationships. Warning: You may experience warm fuzzies – and get lots of inspiration!

1. The Bell family

Amy Bell; husband, Josh, and daughters, Harriet, 4, and Elizabeth, 2
PHOTO: Amy Bell

“You’ll laugh, but my husband, our two girls and I all squeeze onto our tiny balcony with a kids’ IKEA table and chairs and share breakfast together. We watch people swimming and play tennis, talk about how we slept and what we have planned for the day before getting ready for it.

Since Covid, we’ve had even more time to talk, explore, ask questions and enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of having to run around constantly. At the same time, my daughters have come to understand and appreciate what ‘work’ is for me. They can now give me the space I need without getting upset.”

2. The Macbay family

Janelle Dong MacBay; husband, Derek, and daughter, Kaia, 8, and son, Easton, 6
PHOTO: Janelle Dong MacBay

“As a family, we love going on global adventures. Before Covid, we toured nine different places in Japan over 11 days on bikes, we drove through Mexico’s Pacific Coast and Sierra Madre mountains, we went surfing in Panama and even ran half-marathons in the Sapa Mountains! We also like to spend the quiet minutes before sleep gazing at the moon or listening to our favourite kids’ meditation.”

ALSO READ: Recipe for family bonding? Home-cooked food

3. The Jeyaratnam family

Ashta Dinakaran; husband, Navin Jeyaratnam, and sons, Yugan, 5, and Avyaan, 2
PHOTO: Ashta Dinakaran

“Family and friendships are very important for us. I want my children to realise the value of relationships. Birthdays are happy occasions where memories can be created with friends and family.

Since we could not have a physical birthday party for my son Yugan during the Circuit Breaker, we invited everyone to come together to celebrate virtually – family and friends overseas joined in the fun, too! We sent everyone some cupcakes, including cakes for those abroad, because what is a birthday without cake, right?”

4. The Crittenden family

Chantal Travers; husband, Damien Crittenden, and son, Zak, 7.
PHOTO: Chantal Travers

“We are big believers of quality time over quantity. That way we can ensure we are fully engaged and present in the time we have with our son. My husband and I take turns to do different activities with Zak. I take my son to movies, theatre and drama activities and my husband does rock-climbing, ice-skating and mindfulness.”

5. The Evanoff family

Theresa Evanoff; husband, Darryl, and sons, Aidan, 8, Jonah, 7, and Brendan, 6
PHOTO: Theresa Evanoff

“Family bonding can happen from birth and throughout life, but there is definitely a window of opportunity where the kids are old enough to cherish family time, and young enough to still need to be around us – before they venture into the world on their own. At home, we enjoy playing board and card games. Our favourites are Monopoly, UNO, Sushi Go!”

ALSO READ: How Indian parents here bond with children in this Internet age

6. The Austin family

Kara Bensley; husband, Jono Austin, and son, Jack, now 5
PHOTO: Kara Bensley

“We absolutely love building together – whether it’s wooden or plastic train tracks, LEGO hotels or car parks made out of magnetic shapes. We also love painting, colouring and making things out of Play-Doh and doing some craft like making Forky from Toy Story 4!”

7. The Ng family

Samuel Ng and daughters, Charis, 10, and Zoe, 4, and son, Benjamin, 8
PHOTO: Samuel Ng

“As the children grow older, the nature of the activities progress and develop. With the older children, we cycle and longboard for the entire day – exploring Singapore more extensively in the process.

With more opportunities to explore, there are also more discoveries to be made about ourselves and each other. My children grow through these expanded experiences; they grow their interests, and I grow in understanding of them as they find more expressions of their multifaceted personalities.”

8. The Garcia family

Reamy Garcia; husband, Arthur, and son, Ar Xuel, 7
PHOTO: Reamy Garcia

“For us, reading does magic without a wand, and reading together each night with Ar Xuel strengthens our family bonds. It brings good cheer, adventure and so much fun!”

ALSO READ: Use language of love to build strong bond with your child

9. The Malik family

Samina Malik; sons Suleiman, 18, Zayd, 17, and Ismael, 9, and daughter, Safoorah, 11
PHOTO: Samina Malik

“We have a small band at home and I dare try a few chords on the bass guitar and sing. My sons play drums, acoustics and electric guitars. Safoorah dabbles with the keyboard and we are still figuring out what Ismael’s interest is!”

10. The Yap family

Yin Shian Chia; husband, YS Yap, and daughters, Rebecca, 13, and Rae, 11, and sons, Samuel, 9, and Stephen, 4
PHOTO: Yin Shian Chia

“We spend Valentine’s Day with our children. For our girls, it is especially important to us that they know how to be treated with love and respect by their future partners.

As Daddy is the first man in their lives, he sets that example. For our boys, who are also younger, we hope they will learn to treat their Mummy with love and respect, just like how they should with their partners in the future.”

11. The Sthalekar family

Siddharth Sthalekar; wife, Jemma Hooykaas, and daughter, Ida, 10 months
PHOTO: Siddharth Sthalekar

“The Covid Circuit Breaker created chaos for so many people in Singapore, but we were really fortunate to have it land on us when Ida was three months old. Under normal circumstances, Jemma would have had to go back to her teaching job, and I would be travelling quite a bit for work.

Instead, working from home meant getting to spend time with Ida every hour: from sharing three meals a day to having her join our video calls and letting her play with whiteboard markers in our make-shift office.

ALSO READ: How this Singapore dad of 4 builds a strong bond with every kid

We both had our reservations, but watching our colleagues engaging with her in calls and seeing her create her own playspace with the most mundane items, it felt like we had woven her into our lives. This dad is definitely hoping to make working from home a lifestyle choice.”

12. The Brankin family

Andrea McKenna Brankin; husband, Chris, and daughter, Georgia, 8
PHOTO: Andrea McKenna Brankin

“One of my great joys in life was playing a sport like rugby that allowed me to express my physicality, challenge my mindset and test my limits.

''I feel even more joy being able to share the sport with my 8-year-old daughter. I want her to believe and know that she is strong, both mentally and physically. When we coach, my husband and I get to teach her that and share that experience when we watch her play.”

13. The Williams Family

Kate Williams; husband, Matt, and son, Ollie, 10 months
PHOTO: Kate Williams

“I particularly love bath time with my son, Ollie. We had to buy a big plastic tub, as we only have a shower, and it’s too big for him to go in alone, which means I have to get in, too! We splash around, read bath books and generally giggle a lot at the end of a busy day.”

14. Katu and Family

Katu; husband, Balint (not shown), and daughter, Zoe, 22 months

“My girl adores cars, trains, scooters, planes – anything with wheels really. We have the most fun when we create any kind of track, life-sized or minuscule.

''We make them out of masking tape, popsicle sticks, LEGOs, wooden blocks or simply just by drawing on paper. We run vehicles through our living room floor to her bedroom, out the balcony and back – we even go vertical up on the walls. We also include dead ends, crossings and tunnels made of toilet paper rolls, plus landings strips and train tracks.”

ALSO READ: 5 ways you damage your relationship with your child without even knowing it

15. The Cheah family

Jeremy Cheah; wife, Miki Tanoue, and sons, Christian, 3, and Alexander, 1
PHOTO: Jeremy Cheah

“My wife and I take our kids out to parks, beaches and gardens at least four times a week. One of our sons, Christian, loves being in the sand.”

16. The Ward family

Vicky Lee Ward; husband, Mat, and son, Honor, 6, and daughter, Hayden, 3
PHOTO: Vicky Lee Ward

“My kids love music and dancing! We were gifted a disco light from a friend during Circuit Breaker and we’ve had weekly ‘family disco’ nights ever since.

''Our kids also love to do these ‘human family sandwich’ things where daddy is laying at the bottom, followed by Honor, Hayden and then Mommy right at the top.”

17. The Chua family

Meishan Chua; husband, Jerry, and daughter, Emilyn, 5, and son, Oliver, 2
PHOTO: Meishan Chua

“To make reading night stories to our children more engaging, we let them choose the stories they want to listen to.

''Every weekend, we partake in outdoor activities such as park visits, cycling or swimming. Spending such quality time together brings us closer as a family and also encourages our little ones to lead an active lifestyle from young!”

18. The Libby family

Zahra Hamzah Libby; husband, Guilet, and sons, Jeremiah, 2, and Jayden, 3 months (not shown)
PHOTO: Zahra Hamzah Libby

“Given the Covid situation we are in right now, my husband and I love to do art and crafts with our older son, Jeremiah.

''From making animal face masks to creating gooey slime, we try to keep indoor playing fun and interesting. Since the recent arrival of Jeremiah’s little brother, my husband brings him out for a swim every Friday evening and weekend morning.''

Family bonding before birth

PHOTO: Kong Choon Yen.

Here are four helpful hints for families to feel closer to their not-yet-born babe, from a certified doula, Kong Choon Yen.

“When parents interact with their little one in the womb, the foetus will feel safe and secure.

These experiences cultivate a relationship with the people interacting with them, which stimulates the baby’s brain development and promotes growth”, explains Kong Choon Yen, who founded Birth Discovery in 2011 to educate expectant parents about the Hypnobirthing method. Here are her top tips to help unborn babies feel that parental love.

1) Talk to your baby

Speaking to your unborn baby gives them a chance to receive love via sound vibrations. Tell her a story, read him a book or share about your day.

2) Surround them with music

When parents sing toothier unborn baby, they create a joyful connection. In addition, playing uplifting or relaxing music that the mother loves will help to stimulate her endorphins that will strengthen immunity and regulate the nervous system.

3) Touch them

Touch is just as important as food and sleep. Appropriate and light touches calm the nervous system, release tension and promote the flow of energy. Tip: It can also reduce the incidence of colic after birth.

4) Playtime!

Use safe objects that are slightly heated or cold. Or, try to shine a torchlight on the womb. These stimulate the brain circuits that, in turn, can cultivate a good foundation for future learning.

This article was first published in The Finder.