Published online January 2015

    Bonding with small children is easy – play and cuddles do the job. But when they’re older, it can be hard to find the time. Read on for three expert bonding tips

    We’re always being told to talk on the school run or to take them on long country walks – but trying to cross a box junction isn’t ideal for cosy chats and outdoor bonding won’t work when rain is lashing down. Instead, try these surprising tips.

    1 Share a family secret

    It’s natural to try to keep secrets from the kids – explaining that daddy might be made redundant might worry them and you don’t want to burden their young minds. But older children need to feel included, says parenting expert Amanda Gummer, whether it’s a surprise party for grandma or something more serious.

    “Let the kids know when there is a problem and include them in discussions of how to resolve it,” she says. “Nothing unites people like shared crises and shared humour.”

    2 Set your own non-tech time

    We’re always telling the children to get off their tablets and phones – but it’s parents who should be limiting their tech time, thinks Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, consultant psychiatrist at London’s Nightingale Hospital.

    “As adults, we do need to be the change,” she says. “This means making conscious choices about how we ourselves use our devices and communicating this to our children.” Set a “time off” period each evening where electronic devices are banned – and that goes for you, too.

    3 Oversee homework

    Homework time is when they get sent off to plough through fractions and you get started on dinner or catch up on TV. But getting involved maximises bonding time, says Cyrus Afkhami, education expert and founder of

    “Create a dedicated homework station,” he says. “Ask, is your child better suited to sit at a table in the kitchen or curled up on the couch with a lap desk?” Getting them comfortable and working in a way that suits them means they’ll be more receptive to your input – and talking about work can often lead to discussing school, teachers and friends afterwards.

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