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Family Bonding: How Diverse Parents Build STRONG Family Relationships

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

For these 18 international families living in Singapore, the lockdowns of the recent year have afforded them lots of extra quality time at home. Even before Covid changed everything, though, they regularly did family bonding exercises to help build strong family relationships with their little ones.

Take a peek into their lives – both before and during the global pandemic – and be inspired (or just entertained!) by some of the things they’ve tried over the years.

Warning: You may experience warm fuzzies!

1. The Bell Family

family bonding
Amy Bell; husband, Josh, and daughters, Harriet, 4, and Elizabeth, 2

“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

family bonding
Janelle Dong MacBay; husband, Derek, and daughter, Kaia, 8, and son, Easton, 6

“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.”

3. The Jeyaratnam Family

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

“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

family bonding
Chantal Travers; husband, Damien Crittenden, and son, Zak, 7

“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

family bonding
Theresa Evanoff; husband, Darryl, and sons, Aidan, 8, Jonah, 7, and Brendan, 6

“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!”

6. The Austin Family

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

“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

family bonding
Samuel Ng and daughters, Charis, 10, and Zoe, 4, and son, Benjamin, 8

“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

family bonding
Reamy Garcia; husband, Arthur, and son, Ar Xuel, 7

“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!”

9. The Malik Family

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

“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

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

“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

family bonding
Siddharth Sthalekar; wife, Jemma Hooykaas, and daughter, Ida, 10 months

“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 3 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. 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

family bonding
Andrea McKenna Brankin; husband, Chris, and daughter, Georgia, 8

“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

family bonding
Kate Williams; husband, Matt, and son, Ollie, 10 months

“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

family bonding
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.”

15. The Cheah Family

family bonding
Jeremy Cheah; wife, Miki Tanoue, and sons, Christian, 3, and Alexander, 1

“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

family bonding
Vicky Lee Ward; husband, Mat, and son, Honor, 6, and daughter, Hayden, 3

“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

family bonding
Meishan Chua; husband, Jerry, and daughter, Emilyn, 5, and son, Oliver, 2

“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

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

“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.

Bonus: Family bonding before birth 

Here are 4 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.

About Kong Choon Yen
Yen is a mother of two boys, an International Best-selling Author and a Birth Expert. Through Birth Discovery, she guides expectant couples in childbirth education with the Hypnobirthing method as a Certified Hypnobirthing Childbirth Educator, providing family bonding advice for young families. Yen believes that all babies should into this world calm, healthy, joyful and complete.

By Kirstie-mae Baptist, Jashleen Kaur and Willaine G. Tan., The Finder Kids Volume 29 / Last updated by Jasia Shamdasani / Images provided by families named.

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