Spending quality time with your family is key to building closer and healthier relationships. A tight-knit family offers children a safe environment where they receive a strong sense of belonging, security and support.
With long working hours and a stressful education system in Singapore, it may be challenging for many parents to spend quality time with their children. In fact, in a 2015 survey, The Straits Times noted that Singaporeans craved more time with family.1
Late night meetings at work and extra activities at school, coupled with spending time with friends and time spent on mobile devices can cause families to drift further apart without realising it.
School holidays presents an opportunity to bring everyone together. No matter how old or young your children may be, this period will allow family members to interact during activities where they are able to bond and create lasting memories. At the same time, parents will also be able to impart life skills, instil good values and share their knowledge and experiences with their children.
Regardless of the age of your children, there will always be meaningful and fun ways you can spend time together. Here are five ways to do this at different age groups your children fall within.
1. Eating dinner together
Appropriate for children of all ages.
"A family that eats together, stays together."
As simple and common as this expression may sound, it is important for Singaporean families to remember. With long and busy schedules for both parents and children in today's generation, it might not be easy to find time for a shared meal. Recognising this, an annual Eat With Your Family Day in Singapore encourages companies and schools to end activities by 5pm so families can have dinner together.
When there are proactive efforts made to schedule family dinners and prioritise family time, families will be able to build an even closer bond with even better communication between parents and children. Family time spent is invaluable, as you talk to your spouse and children, listen to their thoughts and worries and make time to laugh at memorable moments in their lives. In essence, you get to be present and very much part of your loved ones' lives.
To best achieve this, set some ground rules. This definitely means no mobile phones at the dinner table. To get family members to look forward to the meal, treats at restaurants can be planned occasionally. You can also make it a point to eat healthier or prepare meals together on occasions you eat at home.
2. Participating in sensory activities
Appropriate for children aged 0-6.
Young children rely on their senses to learn and explore the world. This is why participating in sensory activities to stimulate their senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing – encourages their physical, intellectual and socio-emotional development.
Sensory activities such as listening to music and engaging in movement such as dance let children explore their creativity as well as expose them to mathematical concepts such as rhythm and speed. Even infants can benefit from such activities as parents can move to the music while carrying them.2
Art-based activities with children enable them to take a hands-on approach to discovering colours, shapes, tools and textures. They also get to express their ideas and emotions through creating their art pieces.
Parents usually take on the role as a child's first teacher. By participating in such activities with your children, you get to experience the limitless potential and creativity of your children and understand the way they think.
One point to note is that these activities are meant to inspire your children rather than limit them. This means colouring purple elephants or drawing hexagonal fishes in the sky are perfectly fine.
3. Learning about financial literacy
Appropriate for children aged 7-13.
In this age group, your children will start to handle some pocket money, and this offers a good chance for you to start introducing simple financial concepts and knowledge to them.
As financial education is not formally taught in schools, imparting this skill to your children early could invaluably impact how they view money. Exposing your children to the three main aspects of financial literacy – saving; investing; and protection – from a young age will have a positive impact on their long-term finances when they grow older.
You can introduce the concept of saving by getting your child to put away a portion of his or her allowance to be able to afford an expensive toy or game that he or she has been eyeing. Throughout the saving journey, your child will have to make hard decisions to diligently put away money and resist the temptation of using it early. When they start working, this will help them understand the importance of delayed gratification.
Teaching your child the ropes of investing does not have to be mundane either, as you can read up or reference a sport or snack that the family enjoys. You can start to introduce the concept of a company, competitors, revenue, costs and profits. These are fundamental things to note when making stock investments.
What's more, you can do your own research or joint research online, and come together to present findings and discuss why a company would or would not make a good investment. Aside from the fact that 40 per cent of respondents in a local survey said that engaging in online activities together enhanced family life3, this equips your children with the ability to observe, deduce and explain why they thought an investment would be good.
Financial protection is the most advanced concept to teach your child. You can start by explaining that insurance works to protect people and the value of things. If you have already introduced your child to savings and he or she has bought a new toy, use that as an example. Ask your child how unhappy he or she would be if they lost it, and whether they would be willing to fork out a small percentage of the cost of that toy to ensure you would buy them a new one if anything happened to it.
4. Volunteering at a charity organisation
Appropriate for children aged 14-20.
Families reap many benefits from volunteering together. The bond that you create while volunteering as a family is very different from that when you take part in a fun or educational activity.
Volunteering can be much more personal for the entire family. Deep and long-lasting connections are created through your involvement in a humbling and rewarding experience as well as through forging shared values as a family.
To begin this journey, families need to talk about the causes they care about most. After coming to a joint decision, teamwork is required to encourage one another and successfully aid their chosen cause.
By doing this, families are not only doing good for society and engaging the community, but are enhancing their family unity as well.
5. Go on a family vacation
Appropriate for children aged 21 and above.
From about 21 years of age onwards, your children will likely become increasingly busy with adult responsibilities. This means is they will be spending less time at home and with you.
This makes it ideal to plan for a family vacation ensuring everyone sets aside quality time to bond with one another without the stresses of daily life, while experiencing the magnificent sights the world has to offer.
The things you talk about will also be vastly different at this age. You can have conversations together as adults, share life goals and upcoming plans for your children's further education, career, marriage or investments or your own retirement or career plans.
Take action to spend quality time with your family
The age groups attached to each activity are not meant to limit your choices but rather guide you. There's nothing wrong with taking an art class with your 16-year-old or going for a family trip with your 9-year-old.
No matter what age groups your children are at, there are always meaningful opportunities to bond with them. We all know that family is important, and we should take action to build healthier relationships with them rather than become another statistic in another survey saying we treasure family time but do not have enough of it.
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- Singaporeans crave more time with family: Poll – The Straits Times, 7 September 2015.
- Early Years Development Framework for Child Care Centres – Ministry of Community, Development, Youth and Sports, 2013.
- Families for life launches next phase of its #ICHOOSEFAMILYTIME campaign – Families for Life, 18 May 2016.