How the pandemic is strengthening fathers' relationships with their kids

·7-min read

With Father’s Day happening today, many are posting tributes and thank yous to their dads on social media and reminiscing the times spent together. The past year has been tough for many, with some losing their fatherly figures due to COVID-19, and others losing their livelihoods in the pandemic.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a father as “a male parent” while fatherhood is defined as “a lifelong responsibility.” Yahoo Lifestyle SEA spoke to three fathers on their responsibilities as a parent, how they interacted and bonded with their children pre-pandemic and during COVID-19, and what it means to be a father during the pandemic.

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For Kelvin Ang, a father of three, bonding with his children did not stop just because the pandemic is ongoing. To forge memories during challenging times, Ang brought his children, Ashton, Ayden and Alethea, aged 16, 14 and 10 years old respectively, to “off-the-beaten places like the disused Keppel Hill Reservoir, abandoned Seng Chew Quarry, and even jungle bashed to locate the WWII Kay Siang bunkers.”

Ang’s blog, which his wife started, had since grown into a platform where he updates his family's adventures. A firm believer in “play is the best form of learning”, he made sure to allocate time for the family to “enjoy an activity together, be it a board game, online gaming, working out to a YouTube video, baking cookies, or even washing the toilet!”

“Pre-COVID, we usually head outdoors during weekends. In addition, we travel quite a fair bit too, taking short trips to nearby places like Malaysia and other S.E.A. countries. With COVID, we are at home most of the time, but we make it a point to head out during weekends to go on a weekly nature hike together.”

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As for music teacher Sim Keng Lee, the shared love for music between him and his 7-year-old daughter, Ann, allowed them to spend precious time together. A music prodigy, Ann “played her first song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the age of two years and eight months”. Noticing his daughter’s interest in music, Sim started to bring her to his recording studio when she was just three.

“After we started jamming, she would play the piano or the drums, and I will play the guitars. In just a couple of months, we would start covering her favourite songs in the studio,” Sim shared. To document Ann’s progress, he started a YouTube channel for her.

And while many were lost on what to do during the circuit breaker in April 2020, the 7-year-old picked up her third instrument, the bass guitar. Together with Sim, the family spent most weekday afternoons during the pandemic playing and jamming to music, creating memories that cannot be replicated.

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When it comes to showing concern as a father, Bali-based Andrew White let on that being there for his family and being involved in his children’s lives as much as possible are some guides he adopted. “We always have dinner together as a family every day. We also make Sundays our ‘family day out'. We spend the day out doing anything the kids want to do as long as it’s together,” White shared.

“COVID truly changed the world; everybody around the world was forced to change nearly every aspect of the way we lived our lives. However, the one thing we didn’t realise would get impacted the most was the children. At the age when they need socialising and human interaction the most, they are forced to stay indoors and avoid people. We thought about this a lot and tried to give them activities that would keep them active and fun things that would balance the long screen time from online schooling.”

White’s children, 14-year-old Jason and 9-year-old Sarah, found themselves switching from team sports to solo sports. Jason, who is in soccer and basketball clubs, took up skateboarding instead. For Sarah, who loves riding her bicycle, White shared that the family rode at the beach together instead.

With work-from-home and online study being the default mode in Singapore for the bulk of 2020, parents had a glimpse into how their children study and interact with friends. The horror stories that we heard and saw on social media, about how being cooped up at home together soured relationships; thankfully, did not happen with the fathers we talked to.

Sim Keng Lee and his daughter. (PHOTO: Sim Keng Lee)
Sim Keng Lee and his daughter. (PHOTO: Sim Keng Lee)

“I had the chance to listen in as my sons talked to their friends during online lessons and also when they play online games together. It opened my eyes (and ears) to another side of them that I hardly see, like how they trash-talk one another as a form of bantering. Before this, they used to do it at home and my wife and I always chastise them for being rude. Now I realise it is just the teens’ way of communicating,” Ang shared.

“This pandemic has taught me to be a more patient and understanding parent,” Sim said. While the pandemic had affected his family financially, along with being home together almost every hour of the day, he noted that it is possible to “drive you crazy at times.” However, Sim also shared that the child is probably stressed out because of the lockdown and that parents losing their tempers with the kids “would certainly make things worse.”

The pandemic had allowed White to understand his children better, how they deal with their problems and how to better communicate with them. “Us parents were forced to replace the roles of our children’s teachers and also their friends, all while still trying to work,” White said. “With time, we all adjusted, and it has been tough, but I think we’ve found our balance.”

Last but not least, we asked the three fathers what it meant to be a dad, especially during such challenging times.

“As a father, our main job is to put food on the table. With most businesses affected during the pandemic, it has certainly made this task quite daunting. It has driven me to be more creative to find alternative sources of income for the family,” Sim reflected. The pandemic had shown the music teacher the importance of family, friends, and connections he forged in life, and how fragile yet special life is.

Andrew White and his family. (PHOTO: Andrew White)
Andrew White and his family. (PHOTO: Andrew White)

For Ang, making sure that his children are not made the victims of his unfulfilled ambitions, being happy always, and being the best version of themselves is all they asked of them. “Being a dad is a position of responsibility, one who is the role model and contributes to the life, growth, and feelings of his child. Being a dad means being there for them, in good and bad times, physically and spiritually and even beyond in memories. They do not have to follow in my footsteps, and neither do they have to emulate someone.”

Finally, White shared that his children have different concerns during the pandemic. As a father, he attempted to tackle each issue individually instead of finding a one-size-fits-all solution. “No one knows the long term effects of the pandemic on kids, so as a father, as a parent, we need to try and understand their struggles and help them cope as best we can,” he added.

“Becoming a father was and is the best thing to ever happen to me,” White concluded. “Having kids changed my life and gave me a different focus. For me being a good father means being there for your kids, simple as that. Being there for them physically and mentally, whether they ask for it or not. We get about eighteen years with our kids, then they become adults and move away, so I try to spend as much of that time together with them.”

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