Precious moments

Sharing a hobby with your child can bring you closer together and build trust

Sandra Czarny’s children and the family’s dogs. Photo courtesy Sandra Czarny

Sandra Czarny’s Australian Shepherds are more than her pets and family members – they’re her hobby.

Czarny – who has kept the breed for over 20 years – took up the sport of dock jumping with her dogs in 2009, even winning a Canadian championship title in 2010.

As much as she enjoyed the sport, the icing on the cake was when she got to share it with her three kids. The Ottawa resident has been bringing her children to dock diving events since they were babies. Her oldest daughter, now nine, was three months old at her first event. It’s truly a family affair for the mother of three, her husband, and their children Abigail; Jonah, 6; and Eden, 3.

“At home we have four Australian Shepherds, so taking care of the dogs is 24/7 and 365 days a year,” says Czarny. “We have a litter every year or two and the children love to help with puppies.” When the puppies arrive, it’s all hands on deck. “The kids always help when we breed a litter and help raise the puppies from birth until it is time for them to go to their new homes,” says Czarny.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a hobby you love – unless it’s a hobby you and your child or children can enjoy together. There are benefits for both kids and parents when hobbies are done together, says Ottawa psychotherapist Amanda Telford.

For children, that list of benefits is long, says Telford, who works with children, teens and their parents.

“Sharing activities and hobbies with kids… fosters a secure attachment,” she says. Also, “children who feel safe and connected with their parents are generally less anxious, less depressed, less irritable; they make better choices in terms of their own social circle, and are less likely to be bullied at school.”

As they get older, kids continue to benefit from shared hobbies.“As teens, (they) are less likely to be negatively influenced by peers, as they trust their parents more and will likely listen to their parents more,” Telford says.

Parents gain from shared interests with their children as well. “(Hobbies) foster a warm and caring connection with your kids,” says Telford, adding, “sharing experiences together promotes healthy attachment to your child.”

The list goes on. “It promotes a deeper understanding of your children’s strengths; areas for improvement; how they think, and what values they have – you get to know your child on a much deeper level.” It also fosters a sense of trust. “If you spend time with your kids doing shared activities, you know them better and you know you can trust them more.”

In addition to individual benefits, shared hobbies strengthen a parent-child relationship. With each shared experience and with more time spent talking and interacting, both parties feel a greater sense of belonging in a family, as well as trust. The hobbies also promote family problem solving and emphasize common goals, Telford says.

Czarny agrees – she also believes it teaches her kids about teamwork, how to deal with disappointment, making mistakes and the importance of perseverance.

“We just love being able to do this as a family. The kids enjoy, the dogs enjoy and we love being able to have our kids involved in a sport my husband and I did together before the kids arrived. The other competitors have seen our kids grow up on the dock. Our children have had many adults supporting their journey and it’s such a beautiful thing for our kids to find as much love for our dogs as we have for them.”

Like Czarny, Mariah Little also introduced her daughter Scarlett to one of her interests.

As a teen, Little, 29, worked at an orchard. “At the end of the day, we would gather the chickens and take them back to their coop,” she says. “I’ve always had a like for chickens.”

When the opportunity to have her own chickens came up, the Finch resident couldn’t turn it down. To her delight, her six-year-old became interested.

Mariah Little’s daughter, Scarlett, loves collecting eggs. Photo Courtesy Mariah Little

“A lot of chicken keeping is preparing for the possibility of predators, keeping them healthy with certain feeds and treats, watching for any potential illnesses and keeping their nesting box clean for them,” Little says.

Although the eggs are an obvious reward – “Scarlett absolutely loves coming out throughout the day to the coop and checking the nesting box to see what eggs have been laid,” Little says – there are other benefits to their shared hobby as well.

“As for learning, she’s learning the process it takes for a chicken to create an egg, how long it takes for the next one to come,” says Little. “She’s watched young pullets from six weeks old grow into six-month hens. She’s aided in helping some back from sickness. Even with feeds, (she learns) how much is right to give and how much oyster shells to give for calcium.”

While Czarny and Little introduced their respective children to their own interests, Blair Gable’s 10-year-old son, Liam, brought him into the world of Dungeons and Dragons after hearing about it on TV.

The pair, who lives in Ottawa, had already played card games including Pokémon, Yugioh, and Magic: The Gathering, but Gable didn’t know anything about D&D, a story-driven adventure game.

“We didn’t really know anyone else who played it,” says Gable, a 38-year-old father of two. “Until just recently, it was something that you only embarrassedly admitted to playing in public. A few celebrities have been publicly talking about how they played D&D since they were kids and the geekish-stigma is starting to lift.”

When choosing an activity to share, Telford says getting the children involved may be best, as “they need to have an interest as well in the activity.”

Liam and his father were quickly drawn in. “Liam started talking to some of his friends about it and we roped them and their dads into playing.” Before Covid-19 hit Ottawa, they played weekly at The Kessel Run in Orleans, but have since moved their gaming online.

In addition to loving the time with his older son, Gable says the game has other benefits as well. Because D&D doesn’t require a game board or even miniature characters pieces to play – “they help add a visual element to an otherwise spoken-word driven game,” Gable says – “this game is played almost entirely in your imagination, so (Liam’s) creativity benefits greatly from that,” he says.

“Liam is constantly thinking up new characters to play, inventing new magic items, and creating small campaigns to play with his friends at school. He is also learning that the actions his character takes affect the other people we play with, so he is learning to think about how the scenarios play out from a broader perspective. There is also a bit of acting and creative thinking involved as you need to role play your character and make decisions in real time… It is really something you can play for your whole life.”

Naturally, younger siblings may join in at some point.

Gable’s younger son, four-year-old Owen, likes to imagine what the different adventurers and bad guys look like and might do. While the game is still too complicated for him, Gable predicts that he will start playing with his father and older brother in a few years.

Little, too, is looking forward to having three-year-old Gavin join his sister. “My son loves watching and seeing what we do and interacting with the chickens,” she says. “As soon as he’s big enough, he’ll be able to help with the nest box, collecting eggs and feedings.” Until then, she says, “I love this quality time with my daughter. It’s something we both have an interest in, and don’t mind being up early to go do feedings. She’s learning about responsibility and how life works around her. It’s quite an amazing experience.”



Fact Box

Amanda Telford’s tips for choosing a shared hobby

Start doing shared activities together when the child is a baby

– Find age-appropriate or skill level-appropriate things to do together – do not make it too difficult or too easy

Establish a daily check-in with your kids

– Take an interest in their friends and school life to determine what they are interested in