Dubai: There is no bond like the one between mother and child. But what about the father's?
Bonding is a powerful connection that forms between a child and their parents even before birth. However, fathers are sometimes left completely out of the loop as mothers undertake full responsibility in scheduling their children’s activities; affecting their already-strained relationship with their children due to living in a fast-paced city, such as Dubai.
After witnessing how many men shared the same ordeal of losing the bond with their child, Steve Page, a Dubai-based father of three who works at a semi-private company, decided to take the matter into his own hands and organise a workshop to focus on just that.
“Kids are very busy in Dubai with activities, and dads are also very busy, which doesn’t give them enough time to build a relationship. So [with a friend], we created this workshop to build the Ultimate Duo,” he said.
Steve Page, a Dubai-based father of three, created the Ultimate Duo workshop to help fathers nourish the bond with their children.
Catered to children between the ages of nine and 14, the Ultimate Duo was based on the theme of superhero duos, where fathers are paired with their child who carry out team-building exercises in a manner that is not only fun, but that also re-enforces the relationship.
“We started out at first with seven pairs of parents and children. Through the workshop, they were able to find new activities and common interests between the two of them. The idea was about having fun but also on focusing on where the relationship can work better,” said Page.
“It was about having something that represents the two of them, whether it be a silly handshake or creating a signature dish that they can prepare together as a team. So when friends or family get together, the parent and child can make that dish for others and that will in turn, reinforce their bond, which they can publicly display to others,” he said.
Creating special moments
Research has shown that the most important factor in creating attachment with your child is positive physical contact, such as hugging, holding, and rocking.
Speaking to Gulf News, João Lourenço, clinical psychologist at the LightHouse Arabia community clinic, explained that sharing special moments with your child can create specific neurochemical activities in the brain that are responsible for bonds and attachments.
“Helping your child develop a secure attachment is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. It becomes the foundation for all social relationships in your child’s life, and it is how children see themselves and how they relate to the world around them,” he said.
Lourenço stressed that a secure attachment allows children the secure base necessary to explore, learn and relate, and the wellbeing, motivation, and opportunity to do so. “It is crucial for safety, emotional regulation, adaptability, and resilience” he said.
In the case of Page’s workshop, parents in the Ultimate Duo were further involved in listing the strengths, or ‘superpowers’, that they saw in each other and then present it to the group.
“The public statement is an affirmation of what they value in each other. But the workshop was also used to uncover the gap between parent and child, and to know the defects in the relationship. As a parent, I see that we should not keep telling our children what not to do, but should instead spend time participating in what our children are interested in,” said Page.
Lourenço agreed that while some parents may find bonding with their child as a natural process, for others this could be a challenge. There are different ways that parents can bond with their children, he noted, with the time factor playing a key role in the process.
“Children need special time together with their parents where they can play, have face-to-face interactions, develop eye contact, experience physical proximity, touch and other primary sensory experiences such as smell, sound, and taste,” he said.
Play could be one of the richest bonding experiences a child could have with their parents, and according to Lourenço, play allows parents to enter a child’s world on the child’s own terms, in order to foster closeness, confidence and connection.
“Most parents understand the importance of bonding with children through senses, but as children grow, many of us spend less one-on-one time with our kids. By keeping parent-child play alive throughout childhood, parents can foster an ongoing connection,” he said.
When parents play with their children, they are not only connecting and engaging, but also exchanging back-and-forth emotional signals that help regulate the child’s mood and behaviour, which teaches them how to read social signals and communicate.
“Each of these abilities contributes to a child’s sense of security and develops strongest and more durable bonds with their parental figures,” he said.
5 top tips to strengthen your child's bond
Express your emotions. Remind them everyday how much you love them, and discuss how their negative behaviour makes you feel.
Encourage your child to ask questions. It will help them form their own opinion.
Eat together. Sharing a meal at the dinner table encourages quality time.
Play with your child. Learn what their interests are and participate.
Let your child help. Your child will feel useful, and also feel that they are making a contribution.