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Never be too busy to play with your children

My children and I have this little game that we play: when they hear me opening the door after I get home from work, they scamper around looking for places to hide, their incessant giggling a dead giveaway.

One of them then leaps out of their hideout and instead of gobbling me up as a real monster would, holds one hand over the heart like a real-life Romeo, and sings a line from Lionel Richie’s song; “Hello…is it me you’re looking for?”

This elicits a lot of laughter and general carrying-on before we eventually settle down to supper and catch up on each other’s day.

Best friend

I believe that a parent is, or should be, their child’s best friend. In most instances, parents are the first people a child sees and bonds with.

As they grow up and interact with other people in the home, neighbourhood and eventually at school, they make more friends.

But before they establish other relationships, their parents should first have cemented the parent-child relationship.

My children find it easy to open up to me because they know that I love, respect and understand them. 

I once visited a schoolmate who was recuperating from surgery at her parents’ home. My visit extended into early evening, as her siblings tried to cheer her up.

Our animated chatter dissipated when they heard their father’s voice as he came in from work. 

The television was immediately switched off and everyone literally sprang to attention like suspects in a police lineup. To my astonishment, her father did not acknowledge anyone when he entered the room. 

Uncomfortable because of the tension, I made to leave, but my classmate whispered that I could not, until after her dad had had his supper, as it would be a sign of disrespect.

We sat eyes downcast, listened as he chewed and swallowed his food. 

When he was done with it, he stood up and left for another room without uttering a single word. I was now free to go home, to a welcoming atmosphere that was the exact opposite of where I had been. 

One of the ways that parents can strengthen the bond with their children is by playing with them. I realise that some parents may find this as improbable as a barking cat, but, from experience, it is an important bonding activity.

I always played dodge ball (kati), hide-and-seek and other games, especially when my kids were younger. 

One thing that sticks in my mind is the wide grins on my kids’ faces, during play. I recall an incident where a little boy quipped admiringly that my kids were so lucky to have a mother who could shoot a toy arrow from a bow with accuracy. 

Talking

You can also become closer to your children by talking to them about their fears and concerns as honestly as you can besides telling or reading them stories at bedtime. 

My husband tells hilarious made-up stories peppered with moral teachings which keep the children entertained for hours on end. 

Telling stories about my past also holds a fascination for the kids, especially when they try to envision a mythical-sounding, television-free era in which children read books or played in wide open fields — there is a dearth of playgrounds in our neighbourhood — and there were no mobile phones. 

Believe it or not, I have found that my children — even the image-conscious teenager — love it when I join in their rough-and-tumble games.