Bits & Bytes

How Working Parents Can Bond with Their Kids

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[Jamilah Samian’s interview with Brigitte Rozario, former Editor of ParenThots Star Online. Find the original story at Brigitte’s blog]


MOST families today rely on two incomes. How can you not, what with inflation and almost everything going up in price?

With that, parents face the challenge of finding time to bond with their kids. How do you go about it when you only see your kids early in the morning as they prepare for school and late at night as they finish homework and prepare for bed.

That is if you even get home when they’re still awake!

Jamilah Samian, trainer and author of parenting books Cool Mum Super DadCool Boys Super Sonsand The Groovy Guide to Parenting Gen Y and Z, answers some common questions that parents have on bonding.

TnT: Why is it important to bond with your child?

JS: “Bonding” is the process of creating and maintaining a strong emotional connection with your children. It is subjective and hard to measure, but you know if it’s there or not. When you have successfully bonded with your child, the child is comfortable with you and vice-versa. There’s trust, and the child feels secure and safe in your presence. This is true regardless of the child’s age.

Bonding with at least one adult is a very important part of growing up for a child. As a child, you might recall how you looked up to adults. There is an innate need for you to have in your life adults who are kind, caring and show you how to live. These adults could be your parents, teachers, grandparents, uncles, aunts etc. At a most basic level, when you have adults to bond with, you feel valued, secure and safe. Bonding is a source of comfort and happiness. It’s a basic human need.

TnT: How do you bond with your child?

JS: To bond with a child, you require the two Q’s – “quantity” and “quality”. Of late, we often hear the importance of “quality time” and one gets the feeling as though “quantity” is less important than quality, which can be misleading.

How much time is enough to bond with a child? We can’t really state the quantity, but we do know that, for infants, you must be physically present as bonding takes place when you talk to them (this includes coo-ing, singing and the like) and touch them (carrying, hugging, kissing, caressing etc). These form “moments of connection” which are the building blocks of bonding. For older kids, it’s more verbal and gestures and less of touch (relatively compared to infants, though they do still need it).

For parents, we also have the innate need to bond with a child born of our flesh and blood. It’s natural. We feel responsible for them as we were the ones who brought them to Earth. Bonding comes quite naturally to many parents but may not be instantaneous to some.

Because of the two Q’s, this certainly is an area of concern for working parents, especially those who work long hours.

TnT: How can a working parent bond with their child?

JS: First of all, let’s answer the question: Is it possible for a working parent to bond with their child?

The answer is “Yes”. I know a number of working parents whose children have grown up into confident, well-raised, happy and successful adults. I also know non-working parents (at least one stay-at-home parent) whose children didn’t turn out so well.

What is it that the parents of happy and successful children do right? One difference I see is that, the successful parents (working or not) whose kids turned out well make it a point to make their presence felt. Successful working parents are focused. They do not let their guilt get in their way. They don’t spoil their kids. They discipline their kids when they have to. They prioritise, that is they know that time is very limited. They are not grumpy when they see their kids at the end of a long day. They are able to draw a line between work and home.

In fact, I know of kids who are proud of what their working parents do. These parents make it a point to relate to their children all the time. They tell the kids what they do, and the value of their contribution to society. The kids don’t feel cut off from them. The kids don’t feel sidelined or disconnected from their parents’ lives.

From what I observe, many of these working parents had the support of other trusted adults such as grandparents or babysitters along the way, especially when their kids were younger.

If you’re a working parent with younger kids, there’s always the concern of how much positive / negative influence other adults have in your children’s lives. In such cases, it is best to seek a babysitter whose values mirror yours and with whom your child can easily bond.

TnT: How do you maximise time when you only see your kids early in the morning, at night and on the weekends?

JS: It’s about optimising. Make it simple yet meaningful. It doesn’t help if you’re stressed and seem rushed most days. Kids are perceptive to these cues. Whether you’re working or not, there are certain “homely” activities that will help you bond with your child regardless of age. These include cooking, cleaning and shopping together, reading, having meals as a family (not in front of the TV), gardening (on weekends, if you’re into gardening), or accompanying your child to events / activities which you could enjoy together. It’s so important for kids to see parents smiling and upbeat when they meet at these times (morning, night, weekends).

Some working parents also create cool projects with their children. I find that this works very well. For example, spending time at orphanages tutoring underprivileged kids or reading to the blind. These kinds of projects are so valuable and have great potential to succeed because your kids discover how blessed they are despite the little time you have with them.

On the other hand, if your job requires so much of your time that you hardly see your kids, it would be wise for you to seek alternatives. Work part-time or look for another job. Bonding simply cannot take place with your continued and prolonged absence.

Have an understanding with your spouse that you need to work on this together.

TnT: How do you still discipline them, yet bond with them?

JS: This is why it’s important for you to be choosy in getting babysitters.

If you get a good babysitter, their values mirror yours and you trust them to discipline your kids. Have an understanding with the child minder what they’re authorised to do, such as reprimanding your daughter when she doesn’t clean up her mess. Agree on what they can / cannot do. Some child minders are reluctant to do it unless they get permission. This way, it reduces the need for you to correct your child at home all the time and it’s almost a seamless transition from child minder to parents’ home and vice-versa.

It’s better to pay extra to get a good babysitter.

One more thing, if you have been proactively bonding with your kids, such as doing things with them and talking with them when they are good, discipline won’t become an issue, so long as your rules are consistent. Kids know when you’re treating them fairly.

TnT: What do you do when you have more than two children and there doesn’t seem to be enough time for one-on-one time with each child?

JS: If you realise the value of one-on-one interaction, you will make time no matter how busy you are. Think of it this way: Failure to have one-on-one time might cause a child to feel neglected, which in turn might cause them to misbehave, which pushes you to scold / punish them. Kids would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. If and when this happens, you waste energy and time trying to correct this child, which is symptomatic and doesn’t solve the root of the problem which is a lack of attention. It’s a negative cycle.

TnT: Typically, weekends are when parents also need to catch up with errands, house cleaning and grocery shopping – how can parents bond with their kids even with all these time-consuming things to do?

JS: Do it together and it becomes an enjoyable family project! Plan the day with the kids. They feel honoured if you do this. Errands are time consuming if only one person does it. Set priorities. Lower your expectations with respect to how much cleaning you can do. The house doesn’t have to be spotless all the time. Outsource some of it like ironing. – By BRIGITTE ROZARIO





About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 540 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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