Jõulusoovide puu

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Building a more resilient relationship bridge between an adult and a child

How much time do you spend with your family? What does it really mean to spend quality time with your family?

The list of everyday obligations often seems endless and it is easy to let one’s priorities slip. Yet, the value of time consciously spent with your family is like that of gold, helping children to feel more confident and safer now, and also in the future as adults. Doing and experiencing something together is an investment into building a relationship bridge within the family and creating a valuable emotional tie between family members, which also supports the mental health of a child.

What is quality time?

It is hard to measure and it varies between families. For some people, it may mean weekend night board games; for others, daily conversations at the dinner table; while for someone else, quality time means exercising or hiking together. Whatever quality time means for a certain family, it is important that during that time communication takes place – adults with children, and also children among themselves. Quality time may also include differences of opinion. The process of overcoming these differences together creates new skills when it comes to managing situations and provides both children and adults with wisdom to learn from conflicts.

How to build a relationship bridge?

Make conscious time for your family
Don’t assume this time will simply appear somehow. Since we are usually always short of time, quality time should be deliberately planned into our schedules. It is an investment in the foundation of a relationship bridge within a family: noticing each other every day, either by having a conversation at the dinner table or reading a bedtime story, spending time in nature or spending the weekend at a museum. It all helps a child to feel important in the family, and to better understand each other’s feelings, needs, skills and talents. Spending quality time together helps us step away from our everyday routine when, although we see each other, we are often too busy surfing the tides of everyday commitments to take time to get to know each other’s essence and feelings.

Take time for a single family member
The most precious gift we could give each other is time dedicated to just one person only. It makes the person feel special and needed. When the needs of a family member are noticed and their soul is filled with good emotions, they have more to contribute to a relationship as a whole. Find a common ground on which to build these activities, to fill your hearts with joy from the time spent together and to enjoy these moments. And don’t forget to be present during all of this. Children are quick to sense when the adult is somewhere else in their thoughts.

Patterns we weave for children in the future
Every moment you create your personal life as an adult, you also model patterns of behaviour for your children. Every intentional or subliminal move or action may become a habit for your child in the future. If you have the wisdom to knowingly make time for your child, they will be more able to notice their loved ones and their needs in the future and set aside quality time to spend with their family.

Be there for your child
Be there and supportive, even when your child’s choices are difficult to accept and their actions are hard to bear. Stand by your child, no matter what is going on in their life. A child needs to feel loved and an adult’s supportive attention is necessary even in complicated situations. It is the role of an adult to support a child’s feelings so that they would learn to know themselves better and would be able to cope with different emotions after growing up. Rejection breeds rejection and shapes a pattern that does no favours for a young person. Adults do not always have to say what a child wants to hear or justify their actions, but sticking with a child, even in situations that we do not approve of, provides them with the key to be able to handle situations in the future.

MTÜ SEB Heategevusfond has established a fund to enable financially struggling replacement care families to enjoy time together by creating or strengthening family traditions, to get to know themselves or their family members, enjoy quality time outside their everyday routine, and just relax a little while exploring what the world has to offer.

Hiiumaa’s Eiffel Tower and Auntie Iivi

Our family began its drive from Ida-Viru County to Haapsalu early in the morning, to enjoy spending a little time looking around in Haapsalu before the ferry leaves. Four of the children had been to Hiiumaa before, but two had never used a ferry before.
After arriving on the island we went to a shop in Käina, to get ready for a barbecue party at Auntie Iivi’s. It was lovely to see how the children immediately ran to her when we arrived and all talked over each other to share the latest news about their life and things at school. Iivi told the children the story of how she got her dog. It was an unspeakably warm feeling to see how the children were acting just like when visiting a grandmother. That’s exactly what they agreed on – that Iivi will become a granny for the children.
In the evening, the bigger children helped Iivi with chopping wood and the smaller ones lent a hand at stacking it. The next day, Iivi helped us to plan a trip around Hiiumaa and promised to boil some fresh potatoes by the time we’ll get back.
We spent the day visiting all the viewing towers, the military museum, checked out the surf paradise, and went to see the Eiffel Tower of Hiiumaa. The children were especially interested in the memorial to the Estonia ferry disaster. They studied the information board thoroughly and reflected on what they had read, which led to a discussion on the topic of the disaster. Iivi was waiting for us with a warm meal when we got back. After dinner, we helped her to cut down an apple tree that had become dangerous to the roof of the house and dragged it to a campfire area. Doing everything together felt great.
The evening went by discussing the matters of the world. Among other things, the children learned that getting to the island was no easy task during Soviet times – you had to get written permission first. Iivi also explained the peculiarities of the Hiiu dialect. She added that saying the letter “õ” is somewhat difficult for the people of Hiiumaa. The day ended with the family enjoying a visit to the sauna. Washing was done in a large basin, just like it was in the distant past. It was a fun and different experience.
The children were very happy with their trip to Hiiumaa because they were able to do things together that they normally couldn’t – putting up tents, cooking together, stacking firewood, and cleaning the yard. There was definitely a lot more consideration towards each other during the trip, and the children started to hear each other out. We also learned to value time for ourselves, without the endless opportunities of the digital world.

Clay workshop and a rainbow of colours at Mulgimaa

While selecting an activity to enjoy together, we immediately opted for doing something that involved using our own hands. So it was that we decided on a clay workshop. Normally, our autistic and hyperactive 9-year-old boy cannot stand still for more than five minutes, but with clay the time just kept on going and he just kept on modelling. The smallest member of our family, a 3-year-old girl, rolled tiny clay balls and made a cabbageworm. She also carefully observed other children, hands never stopping.
The bigger girls made themselves mugs. Throughout the process it was easy to see how the children opened up creatively and showed great interest in doing something on their own. Each completed piece of art had its own unique character and style. You would think that if you have a look at what the person next to you is doing, your own cup or plate would look the same as your neighbour’s, but no – everyone’s creations were fascinatingly unique.
It was lovely to see the older children helping the younger ones, loaning them their tools and teaching them techniques. Everyone was attentive towards others. Once the clay items went into the kiln, not a minute went by without someone asking about painting them – when will that be and why can’t we do it now? Since clay is a material that needs to be given time, the entire family had to patiently wait for the right day to complete our creations. When painting day finally arrived, a bit of uncertainty crawled into our hearts – will our cups and plates still be in one piece when coming out of the kiln? Perhaps they have dried into pieces? Luckily, all of the items came out of the kiln safe and sound, and the children were complimented by the instructor. After all, it was a sign that they had carefully followed the given instructions.
The most modest girl in our family had pottered a work that impressed both the instructor and the other members of the family with its combination of colours. She said that she enjoyed the process of making something on her own, without having to hurry and being able to do everything exactly as she wanted. The girl reckoned that opportunities like that should come by more often. The other children also enjoyed the clay workshop. It was fun to spend time together with the family while all doing the same thing, at the same time feeling special and creating something unique. 

Doodlebug and a competition in ducks and drakes

This time, we went hiking to a landscape protection area with a guide. We moved along a forest way created to prevent the spread of a potential forest fire. The sand was covered with footprints of different animals. When the hiking guide dug up a doodlebug from the sand, everyone just stared wide-eyed because no one had ever heard of a creature like that before. Getting to know the doodlebug created a good connection between the children and the guide.
The hiking days were like outdoor lessons for the children. We talked about nature studies, botany, geography, and chemistry. We also ate berries in the forest. Some of the children had no previous experience with eating forest berries, which is why they were a bit hesitant at first to try berries they didn’t know. We walked through burnt forest that had met its sad fate almost ten years ago. The guide explained the differences between the burnt section of the forest and the part that was left untouched by fire.
There was also a sandpit on our path with little frogs living in the puddles. The boys were especially interested in them. They wanted to know how frogs develop and how fast will they grow later. When we got to a river, the children took no time jumping into the water. They soaked in the warm water for quite a while and fully enjoyed the moment. By the sea, they held a competition in ducks and drakes, and had a look at the jellyfish floating in the water.
When they reached their accommodation for the evening, the children immediately divided their tasks – the older ones started preparing shashlik and the younger ones brought out the dishes and set the table. Shashlik preparation was actually no easy task, to be honest. You had to watch out the entire time to make sure that the meat does not burn or stay too raw on some sides. After dinner, we talked for a long time about the successful day. We recalled how the entire family contributed to making this trip possible in the first place.
Going to bed was quick and easy – weariness had done its part. It was dribbling rain when we woke up, but by the time we set our foot on the hiking trail again, we were greeted by sunshine. The forest was so quiet. You never come across such silence in a city. The hike took us to the Peraküla moorland forest. The guide handed us orientation maps and some compasses. It turned out that there is an orientation trail in the forest, and we needed to find the required spots. At first, the older boys were not too keen on the entire idea of orientation, but after a little while they were so fast that the smaller ones had to work hard to keep up. The parents and the hiking guide had nothing more to do than to make sure that the children choose the correct path. Eventually, the children were able to find almost all of the locations by themselves. Another experience gained!
Then we had a picnic on the pine forest floor while watching the fishermen angling by the sea. The hiking guide informed us that this was the only beach in Estonia where fishermen could catch flounder with rods. We also visited an RMK nature centre, where we could see stuffed animals, reptiles in jars, insects under a microscope, and learned how to make a sand picture of plants and a woollen friend brace.
These two days gave us a wealth of great emotions. We felt happy together. We gained new experiences, got to know nature, and saw many exciting new things. And no less important – we got to know and trust each other a bit more.

Our very own travel plan

We talked about family traditions with the children. When at first it seemed that there aren’t any, it turned out during the discussion that actually there are quite a few events that have become our annual tradition together.
To continue our tradition of travelling as a family, we picked Prangli Island this time. When the time for preparations arrived, the older children had already packed their bags nicely. All the mother had to do was to take care of the luggage of the little ones.
Waking up in the morning was surprisingly quick – the children were up as soon as they heard the steps of the parent and there was just one young man so fast asleep that he needed several wake-up calls. The oatmeal porridge somehow tasted sweeter, as well, and the bowls were emptied faster than ever thought possible.
The moment we stepped aboard the ship, our family’s little gentlemen immediately found himself something to do by offering a helping hand carrying some sound equipment. The people he helped wanted to give us free tickets to Tanel Padar’s concert as thanks, but unfortunately we had to decline – we would have already been back on the mainland by the time the concert took place.
One of our girls hesitantly raised a question several times – are there any other children from orphanages aboard this ship? When she was told no, along with an explanation, she stated pensively that the others are then probably “normal people”. We discussed this matter a bit and concluded that our family also consists of completely normal people.
One of the boys found his way to the bridge and he was kindly allowed to be there until the trip to Prangli was over. He was later educated enough to explain to everybody what a nautical mile is, how deep the water is on the way to Prangli, and what are the different buttons on the bridge used for.
When we arrived on Prangli, the children were so excited they didn’t know what to do first – get something to eat or jump straight into the sea for a little swim. Once we had had enough of swimming, we went to explore the island. Rocking back and forth in the bed of a truck for a little while was a cool experience. The children were thrilled because it was so different from what they had ever experienced before.
Looking around on the island, the children learned how people are living in Prangli today and how they used to live in an authentic house that was nearly 60 years old. The children were allowed to look around in both houses. They thought that the old house was cosier and homelier, while the new building was admired like a dream.
On the way back to the mainland, our little fellow, who already knew so much about the nuances of being a captain, was immediately back on the bridge to see what the seamen were doing. This time, he was allowed to sit on the captain’s chair and got to “steer” the ship a little.
When we got home, no one switched on a computer or a telephone and some of the children were already asleep by eight o’clock. For several days, we all carried an unexplained feeling of joy from the time spent together and the experiences we shared. The children’s horizons had broadened, and various activities had given them a glimpse of life on a small island.
Our family’s children have all had complicated family relationships before, and they had no idea that things could and can be completely different within a family. They enjoyed visiting other people’s homes, where the lady of the house introduced simple everyday activities and the children listened attentively.
When we started planning this family trip, all the preliminary work was left to the children. They managed the complicated logistics perfectly with a little guidance from a grown-up. The decisions on what to bring, what to wear or what time to leave the house were left for the kids to make. Everything worked like clockwork because it is easy to stick with your own plan. This trip gave us quite a few useful skills.

Trip to Kirikumäe

Looking at the amount of tents, sleeping bags and other equipment, it appeared that we were headed on a week-long hike with the family.
Once we got to Võru County, the landscape became hilly and the roads curvy. The way the bus took the curves on the winding road was an experience in itself for the children. All curves and ups and downs on the road were met with cheers.
After arriving at our point of destination, our first task was to pitch the tents. Before that, everyone walked around and looked carefully for the best place to pitch their tent, making sure that the spot was even and without bumps. The older boys searched to the north and south and monitored the area for anthills, so that we wouldn’t place any of our tents on them. It was also very important to station yourself close to the friends. For some of us, it was a first-time experience pitching a tent and spend the night camping.
After getting a bite to eat, we headed to hiking trails around the Lake Kirikumäe. The trail was a boardwalk, winding its way through a boggy area, lined with blue fields of blueberries and red fields of cowberries. We made plenty of berry-picking stops along the way, since we all need vitamins for the winter. During one of the longer berry breaks, the children learned how to play a cheek instrument. The forest itself, however, echoed with all sorts of sounds. Everyone enjoyed spending time in nature. The youngest hiker in the family was able to draw our attention to details that the bigger ones didn’t even notice at first glance. When a big pole stuck out of the lake for example, it looked like a dragon greeting the hikers. To everyone’s great delight, we found a large village swing at the end of the hiking trail. It was just like a prize at the finish line, after an invigorating outing spent in nature.
The evening campfire site was located on a slope, with breath-taking views of the lake, sunset, and the full moon. We twanged a guitar and baked marshmallows on the campfire. A day in the fresh air had done its job and everyone headed for their tents quite early.
The morning started with packing up the camp and enjoying a bowl of breakfast porridge. After that, we organised a proper game of dodgeball. No matter how we mixed and matched the teams, the boys always won. But we all had fun.
At Vastseliina Episcopal Castle, we were greeted by a lovely madam of the castle who introduced the history of the structure and told us fascinating stories. We also walked among the ruins and in the castle park. A museum was set up in an old tavern, introducing and showcasing the way people lived in the Middle Ages. Since honey and beeswax were highly appreciated in this area in the Middle Ages, we got to make our own candle of wax and good wishes. To give them power, we burned them for a moment in the local chapel. The castle was a truly spectacular sight and the museum had plenty of interesting displays for visitors of all ages. The children listened to and observed everything with great interest.
The entire trip was excellent. Even the weather was on our side throughout the excursion. Now we have something to remember and gain strength from during school time.

Merike Villard
Project Manager
Non-Profit Association SEB Heategevusfond


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