Family

No more family holidays – how else can families bond?

Christine Leow // August 28, 2020, 12:57 am

SOTF - Jason

Dads for Life founder Jason Wong, with his wife Donna and children Samuel and Sarah, believes little moments together can create lasting memories. Photo courtesy of Jason Wong.

Families that play together stay together. It’s not just a saying. Data backs this up.

Studies show that when parents and kids spend time together, it helps the children’s development. Playing, reading or even doing homework with our children can improve their grades and cognitive skill development and improve child behaviour, too.

And it’s not just the kids that benefit. Mums and dads also show increased happiness and decreased sadness, stress and fatigue when they spend time with their children.

So, now that our favourite go-to family bonding activity – holidays – has been put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic, what can families do together?

Guests for the coming edition of Zoom chat show Salt&Light Family Night about the State of the Family share some ideas to build bonds that strengthen the family.

1. It’s the little things

Jason Wong, 56, is a well-known champion of fatherhood. He is the founder of national movement Dads for Life and chairman of the board of Focus on the Family Singapore.

“She still remembers the detour on our way home … when we’d pick up a pack of chips to share.”

Father to a son and a daughter who are young adults, Wong says little things can create lasting memories. When his children were growing up, Wong would play football with his son and make special effort to spend time with his daughter.

“On days when I could leave work early, I’d surprise her by picking her up at the school gate instead of letting her take the school bus home.

“She still remembers the detour on our way home to the petrol kiosk, not for petrol but for me to pick up a pack of chips for us to share.

“We would finish it and get rid of the evidence before we reached home.”

2. Welcome interruptions

Family life specialist with Focus on the Family Singapore, Raphael Zhang, 35, is a new father.  Working from home while parenting his baby girl has been a challenge, with work sometimes spilling into the weekends.

Family specialist Raphael Zhang advocates seizing little moments instead of waiting for chunks of quality time. Photo courtesy of Raphael Zhang.

Family specialist Raphael Zhang advocates seizing little moments instead of waiting for chunks of quality time. Photo courtesy of Raphael Zhang.

But instead of waiting for there to be time, Zhang advised that “we have to learn to ‘catch’ moments when we can spend time together as a family throughout the day”.

“I am learning how to lean into the rhythms of this particular season God has called me into.”

“It may not be as long as we like, or even during the times that we prefer, but we try to focus during these moments on giving undivided quality time to each other and to our daughter.”

He says these can be considered kairos moments or opportune time for action that break into chronos or chronological time.

“It taught me to see that these interruptions are opportunities to step away from the need to always be in control of, or be controlled by, scheduled time, in order to welcome and enter instead into these surprising moments of joy and wonder with my daughter and my wife.

“I am learning how to lean into the rhythms of this particular season God has called me into to find joy and practise thankfulness for its gifts as well as its challenges.”

3. Invent family fun

Building a family culture rather than having a “one-off activity” is what Focus on the Family CEO Joanna Koh-Hoe, 46, does for her family. At the Koh household, having fun is how they bond.

Joanna Koh-Hoe. Photo courtesy of Joanna Koh-Hoe.

Joanna Koh-Hoe, with son Tobias and husband Gary, uses fun activities to bond. Photo courtesy of Joanna Koh-Hoe.

“Despite becoming a teen, our son still enjoys birthday treasure hunts. Now that he’s older, he plans it on our birthdays and it’s become as elaborate as an escape room challenge,” said Koh-Hoe.

“Despite becoming a teen, our son still enjoys birthday treasure hunts.”

During the Circuit Breaker, the family embarked on the 30-Day KohVid Challenge, a fun pun on their family name.

Each day, they encouraged families to do a fun task like a ping pong match without paddles or guessing the words written on an opponent’s fast-moving fist.

“As a teen, my son rolls his eyes and appears to cringe, but he also has a good laugh and recounts with us the good memories we’ve had as a family,” said Koh-Hoe.

4. Let’s eat

At the Koh household, meals together are where the family gathers for quality time as well.

“Bonding over food is an easy way to keep relationships strong.”

“Life gets busy so we have an agreement that family mealtimes are for catching up with one another. So, everyone’s devices (yes, rules apply to us parents as well) have to be put aside,” said Koh-Hoe.

Added Wong: “Bonding over food is an easy way to keep relationships strong. It can be a baking session, a birthday celebration, or just the weekend family dinner ritual. It’s something we still have even as our children are all grown up.

“During circuit breaker, or now when my son needs to rush back to army camp on a Sunday night, instead of eating out, we’d order in to save time.”

5. Remember couple time

Family bonds begin with the model between husband and wife, said Wong. So, “mum and dad time” without the kids is what he always makes time for.

“Intimacy and obedience to God is the key to a healthy marriage.”  

“I just went to Gardens by the Bay with my wife for a half-day trip. Yes, just the two of us,” he said.

“My wife and I realise that there are many places in Singapore that we have yet to explore, and some places that we have not visited for a long time.”

Senior Pastor of 3:16 Church, Pastor Ian Toh, 41, agrees. Sharing how he nurtures his marriage, he said: “In my experience, intimacy and obedience to God is the key to a healthy marriage.  

Pastor Ian Toh (fourth from the left) with his children (left to right) Roslina, wife Lilis, and sons Jan Toh and Elias believes in  building his faith walk in order to build bonds within his family. Photo courtesy of Pastor Ian Toh.

Pastor Ian Toh (fourth from the left) with his daughter (left to right) Roslina, wife Lilis, and children Isaiah, Jan and Elias, believes in building his faith walk in order to build bonds within his family. Photo courtesy of Pastor Ian Toh.

“There are three phrases that I used a lot in my prayers with God that have also helped my relationship with my wife: ‘I thank you’, ‘I love you’ and ‘I am sorry’.  

“I have found these to be great starting points for meaningful conversations to take place for a couple.”

6. Watch your walk

Guarding his faith is also what Pastor Ian believes to be the foundation of a healthy family.

“Personal spiritual formation plays a big part in the progress of the spirituality of the family,” he said.

“Regular routines provide structure for intentional bonding.”

“The authenticity of the parents’ faith has tremendous influence in the individual’s life. More is caught than taught.

“When parents fail to display a genuineness of his or her faith, it shows and proves to the child that the professed faith of the parents are empty. Why should anyone pursue or value something that is empty?  It will distance the relationship between the child and God.”

That is why Koh-Hoe encourages family devotions as a way to bind the family together.

“Regular routines provide structure for intentional bonding. Our weekly family devotion is one routine we have at home that allows us to worship, read the Word, pray, discuss faith and share life together.”

Salt&Light Family Night: How can we strengthen the state of the family?

Join our guests, Jason Wong, Pastor Ian Toh, Joanna Koh-Hoe and Raphael Zhang at the next Salt&Light Family Night, on Tuesday, September 1, 8.30pm-10pm, “live” via Zoom.

Come and learn together how our families can become stronger.

Pre-registration is required.

About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.