Overcoming a challenge together helps father and child to build trust, enhance communication and build stronger relationships.
A father and daughter are attempting to climb a rock wall together.
"Try reaching out for the hold on your left," cries out the dad, who is a short distance below the girl. She stretches out her hand but the hold was still just beyond reach. "Dad, I can't do it," she calls out, sounding a little defeated.
"It's all right," he replies in encouragement, "Try again!" Mustering her strength, she reaches out one more time and finally manages to grip the hold and move up the wall. Below them, a rapt crowd strain their necks upward and cheer the two as they continue their ascent.
For this dynamic duo as well as other parents and children from Ngee Ann Primary School, it was a morning of thrills at the SAFRA Yishun Country Club's Sport Adventure Centre. Organised by the school's Fathers' Support Group (Fathers@NAPS) on 12 March 2011, the event saw thirty dads and their kids working together to overcome a series of obstacles that tested their fitness and in the process, strengthening their father-child bonds.
Putting the fun in fathering
For many participants, especially the children, it was their very first time tackling hurdles such as a rock climbing wall, canopy walk and boulder gym. But the chance to do it alongside their dads was what made it especially memorable.
Dr Cotting and Kiran at the boulder gym - both father and son thoroughly enjoyed the bonding session.
"I really enjoyed the rock climbing and loved the feeling of abseiling down!" exclaims Kiran Cotting, a Primary 2 pupil who joined his father, Dr Rene Cotting, in a gamut of physical challenges. "I also enjoyed the boulder gym - we could climb up and touch the photos of different sports."
"Spending quality time with my children and doing things together is very important to me," states Dr Cotting, who works in the financial sector. "This also provides a conduit for passing on values and culture. Furthermore, the kids get to see me in different situations and this allows them to learn from me." Putting it simply, Kiran declares, "I also enjoy doing something together with just my dad!"
Giving fathers and their children the opportunity to learn more about each other while having fun is precisely what Fathers@NAPS hopes to achieve. Since the group began two years ago as a branch of the school's Parents' Support Group (PSG), Fathers@NAPS has organised a spate of activities to encourage father-child bonding and highlight the importance of fathers to a child's development.
A father's presence and encouragement goes a long way in a child's developments.
Mr Alvin Lee, one of three core members of Fathers@NAPS who help plan and organise the group's events, adds that these occasions also give fathers a relaxed environment to meet each other and share their parenting experiences.
Other recent outings for dads and daughters and fathers and sons include a 13-km hike from MacRitchie Reservoir to Bukit Timah Hill in February and a Sentosa sleepover last year. Mr Lee reveals that other 'slumber parties' are being planned, possibly at a museum, the zoo or bird park, along with cycling outings at Changi Beach and sandcastle building sessions at East Coast Park.
Encouraging active parenting
Many fathers today have hectic schedules, which often include weekends at work or on business trips, leaving little space for family time. Take Mr Mok Boon Poh for example, who is out of town more often than not and cherishes whatever time he has with his children. Activities run by Fathers@NAPS give Mr Mok a bounty of new ideas and places to go. "If not for the organisers, I wouldn't have known about the Sports Adventure Centre," shares the father of three who also went for the Bukit Timah hike. "It was the first time the kids saw ants almost as big as their fingers!"
The Fathers' Support Group provides a platform for fathers to meet, interact and share parenting experiences.
To help fathers connect with the school and each other, Fathers@NAPS provides an online platform through the PSG's Facebook page. Members also receive email invitations to events, parenting talks and workshops, where participants learn how they can play a better role as fathers to their children.
The lessons from such workshops are not lost on those who attend. "Usually, husbands tend to take the easy way out and rely on their wives to be the main caregivers," says Mr Hoo Kim Kwee, whose daughter is in Pri 5. "Last year, my daughter's results slipped a little and that made me realise I need to spend more time with her. Instead of always scolding and nagging at her, I think a more effective way to encourage and help her is by spending time together."