For students, summer holidays are synonymous with play. This is essential to children’s development, contributing to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being.
Play also gives parents great opportunities to engage with their children. But adults’ workplace demands, coupled with the increased attention to study and enrichment activities for students, makes such chances harder to come by.
One way is to involve the children in a personal passion over the summer break.
Businessman Tony Lit Wing-tung has been doing just that for years. He has passed on his love for scuba-diving and the ocean to his two teenage sons.
“Sharing a hobby with children is an excellent way of giving both knowledge and confidence to them. As children and parents are interested in the same topics, intimate communication is established between them,” says Lit, who has been diving for 33 years.
Sharing a hobby changes the dynamics of the parent-child relationship, Lit says. “It resembles one between friends in which both are willing and eager to discuss and learn from each other. Involving children in our own activities makes them feel important. A bit of encouragement and explanation can go a long way to help the relationship develop.”
How did Lit involve his children so successfully in his passion for scuba diving? Starting when children are little – a time when they try to emulate mum and dad – certainly helps, he finds.
Even at that age, he believes parents should engage children in open discussions. “Although these discussions may seem pointless and a waste of time, the child learns a lot through this process as his mind is developing the complex ability of reasoning and learning from facts,” Lit says.
In his experience – one which will resonate with educators and school counsellors – “the child will not only feel proud because he believes that he has contributed to the discussion, but his confidence also grows.”
Lit taught his sons to swim when they were just two. By the time they were five, Aaron and Luca, now 16 and 14 respectively, were enjoying snorkelling in the ocean with him.
He taught them to scuba dive after they turned 10, and soon introduced them to underwater photography – another activity the boys have grown to love.
Having them accompany him on dives across Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, as well as around Hong Kong, has certainly helped strengthen communication and his ability to influence them in their formative years.
More recently, Lit has involved his sons in the Aquatic Life Conservation Fund, which he founded to educate the public about the need to protect marine life. Seeing Hong Kong’s beautiful underwater landscape deteriorate over the years, and its marine life slowly depleted by overfishing has motivated him to set up the organisation to help protect the environment.
He assigned Aaron and Luca to be underwater photographers for the organisation, and later selected some of their work for display in a photographic book on marine life, which was published by the fund – an expression of appreciation for their efforts.
“Praise from others can deeply touch young children’s hearts and it is important encouragement,” Lit says.
Although his wife, Alice Chau, doesn’t share their passion for scuba diving, she encourages their adventures.
“There is never a right or wrong interest,” she says. “Everyone in the world plays the part they are born to do with the talent they are born with, and your children deserve your support and encouragement.”
Anjali Hazari teaches IB and IGCSE biology at the French International School