Parents need to make the effort to spend quality time with their children to create trust
Children turn to their parents for guidance only if they have their parents' unconditional love. To build this environment of security and trust, parents need to build strong bonds with their children.
Only then will children have the confidence to turn to their parents when they encounter adversity in life.
And using a child's dominant love language is the most effective way for the child to feel loved.
According to Dr Gary Chapman, the five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts and Physical Touch.
One parent I know, Mr Rich Ho, strongly believes in being involved in his child's life and, conversely, involving the child in his life.
For example, he takes time to write letters to his child using creative means, such as through cartoons.
(Incidentally, apart from developing their creativity, cartoons can also encourage children to think, retain information and express themselves.)
Another way to be involved with our children is through shared activities. Rich suggested joining those organised by the Dads for Life movement in Singapore, which promotes active involvement of fathers in their children's life.
Dads for Life, for instance, collaborated with South View Primary School to arrange an overnight outing for dads and their kids.
They spent a night at the Underwater World at Sentosa, literally lying among the majestic sea animals and fish and bonding over this magical experience.
We can also bond over activities right in the home.
Another involved father I know bonds with his daughter regularly through baking bread, pizzas and cakes. The child enjoys it so much that she bought a recipe book for cupcakes with her savings for their baking sessions.
Another parent, Carol, also sees bonding with her children as a long-term, consistent and conscious effort. She describes it as understanding them and responding to their needs.
She would participate in activities they enjoy, such as cycling and playing board games like Scrabble, which often, her youngest child would win!
As she spends time with them, Carol connects with her children. Even a seemingly common outing like shopping for clothes could be an opportunity to discuss family values, such as suitable clothing styles for a teenager.
If you have more than one child, make it a point to spend time with them individually.
Every child is different and he or she wants to be recognised as an individual. Making sure each child gets your undivided attention from time to time will strengthen the bond. Even a short trip to the grocery store can be special for the child if he gets you all to himself.
Children naturally crave attention from their parents and sometimes, they will do anything to get it.
Some misbehave just to get their parents to look at them.
If parents fail to notice and address this cry for attention, their child may grow up looking for attention in the wrong way and place.
So if you want to be the influencer and "the significant other" in your children's lives as they grow up, it is essential to work on that bond and keep the communication lines open.
For a change, how about letting your children choose what they want to do?
A mother who did this was initially uncomfortable when her child chose to go to a trampoline park. But she followed through, and even joined her child on the trampoline.
She had so much fun with her child that they both wanted to do it again.
Alternatively, choose a theme that your child is interested in and organise a series of activities around it.
For example, if a child is fascinated by sea creatures, spend a weekend visiting the aquarium and learn about the aquatic world together.
To reinforce the experience, record your fond memories in a scrapbook together or even create a story out of it.
For something low key, just head to the nearest park connector for a walk. You can also try cycling or playing ball.
One family uses the playgrounds that dot the trails as the milestones for their walks. So if they have more time, they can reach more playgrounds, on days when they have less time, they go to just one.
No matter how busy we are, it is important that we prioritise and make special effort to spend quality time with our children.
Whatever the activity, it is about building beautiful memories and strengthening the bond with your child.
•The writer was a principal for 18 years in Kheng Cheng School, Radin Mas Primary School and South View Primary School. She is a lead associate, focusing on partnerships and engagement, in the engagement and research division of the Ministry of Education.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Use language of love to build strong bond with your child'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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