Featured

Pets bring out the best in us

Pets offer utmost devotion and companionship that is often unmatched. When interacting with these domestic animals, children attempt to emulate their behavior which can at times prove to be fruitful to their development.

Deciding to include animals in your children’s lives can prove to be beneficial, especially if you’re seeking to inculcate behavioral changes.

Here are five ways why you should adopt a pet as your family member.

Pets contribute to physical development

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com
  • Pets encourage children to stay active by running and practicing motor skills. By nature, animals are brutish and untamed. The efforts to train them require the development of an exercise regime and following through it on a regular basis.
  • Young children need to be encouraged to move around and spend an ample time outdoors. Pets can be a catalyst then without the child feeling the pressure to do. Befriending a pet can allow your child to conceive outdoor play time as fun.
  • Allowing a child to carry out the tasks associated with maintaining a pet’s lifestyle can help in the development of motor skills. Pouring water into the dispenser of a bird’s cage, without any spillage, is a delicate task. So is brushing a dog’s coat after its bath. When children are assigned these jobs, they become recruits under ongoing training to become pros at them.

Pets encourage social interaction

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
  • Firstly, pets can act as social objects themselves. This means that a pet acts as an object around which develops a social network. For example, Instagram is a photo sharing application that allows people to upload photos of their interest. In this case the social objects are the photographs people share and he social networks are developed amongst people who may exhibit liking to pictures of their interest. In a similar manner, pets can help children who are shy or less socially outgoing make friends. When children see a kid playing with a pet, they are interested in interacting with the animal themselves. This provides an impetus for befriending the pet owner whose inhibitions are reduced by other children approaching him in a friendly manner.
  • The second manner in which pets help social development amongst children is by helping a child understand the dynamics of a relationship. There might be times the pet may listen to the child and others when he might exhibit its disobedience. One day a child’s cat may finish its meal while the other day show its moods and sprawl it all across the floor. Learning to understand the different moods and behaviors of the animal and acting accordingly is a social skill that can easily be translated to human relationships as well. Further, since animals are beasts, dealing with them requires ample patience. When a child adopts a pet, she continually undergoes the training to perfect this trait and instill it as a characteristic within her.

Pets help develop emotional intelligence

Pets facilitate a 360-degree emotional development amongst children including the aspects of self-esteem, confidence and responsibility

  • There are times when a child may be in doubt of himself. Children are often prone to criticism stemming from comparison, and if during these times they find a source to help them denounce this notion, it goes a long way. Animals accept us for who we are. During the early developmental years, this reassurance matters the most.  Pets show their loyalty to their assumed owners. To the pet the child is their best friend irrespective of whatever the rest of the world thinks of her. This contributes to building self-esteem.
  • Taking in a pet means that you are embarking upon the challenge to take care of the animal for the rest of its life. As the pet grows, the chores required to keep it healthy increase and at times become daunting. Tackling these issues may help a child develop confidence. Such a phenomenon help children understand the links between actions and consequences and confidence then stems from positive reinforcement.
  • Pets can provide a good platform for instilling responsibility amongst children. When keeping a pet, parents should facilitate their child to get involved in the tasks associated with raising the animal. This will help them realize that the animal is a dependent being and its well-being is the sole responsibility of its owners. However, as a parent one should be careful in teaching their child only age appropriate tasks. Compelling a 3 year old to bathe a dog on his own may not be such a good idea as the animal may get rough and scare the child into believing he can never take care of his pet. On the contrary, the toddler can help fill the pet’s feeding bowl and feel content and responsible in fulfilling his job successfully.

Pets stimulate cognitive development

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com
  • A pet can help in developing a child’s imagination. When a child befriends a pet, he automatically gives it a name and launches into developing a bond. This bond is strengthened when the child tries to imagine how the animal feels and often may speak about its emotion on its behalf. Other times you may see your daughter having a tea party with her cat and the other dolls. All these actions are indicative of a mental story going on inside the child’s head helping her develop imaginative thought.
  • Pets arouse curiosity amongst children. Animals live in a manner that is different from humans. A goldfish lives in a bowl, a bird in a cage and a tortoise in a shoe box! The attempts to understand how a goldfish breathes under water, or how a bird flies, or even trying to decipher how the tortoise might feel inside its shell compel a child to seek answers. In times like these, parent can make the most of the opportunity and help their child engage in research tools like encyclopedias or the internet to help them learn about the characteristics of the animal. The interest can be extended by allowing the child to look up for more information about his pet.
  • Younger children are often prone to separation anxiety. The feeling of having a companion may help the child ‘not feel alone’ in social settings. With the animal he may seem to have a partner he could count on and help in reducing his insecurities.

Pets provide comfort

  • Children are often under stress. May it be excelling at school, or being punished for a wrong-doing, or even trying to save enough to buy the new Barbie. The constant demands of their exciting lives may burden them to the extent of exhaustion. In this case pets can have a therapeutic effect. With a pet, children feel a mutual affection that is pure and unbiased. The gratitude they may receive from the lick of a dog, or purr of a cat, might just be the positive reinforcement they seek. And since talking to a pet is non-threatening, children can share their secrets and stories to get the loads off their chests.f
  • Touch therapy is widely known for its effects to relieve stress. When you cuddle with a pet, the sensation can help reduce the amount of anxiety in the body and contribute to relaxation. Further, the company of a pet helps one remember that they’re not alone and can always count on a friend.

Animal-assisted Therapy for Children with Special Needs

Animal assisted therapy can provide a child with the required physical and/or emotional therapy. The success of the therapy stems from the relationship a child develops with the animal, which provides him comfort and an avenue for learning. The confidence a child gains from confiding in a pet and knowing they’ll have a companion to fall back on has the capacity to produce phenomenal results.

Further, the responsibility a pet helps bestow upon a child is capable of instilling confidence within him. As quoted by Adrian Sandler, a Mission Clinic Provider,

“Mastering something new is great for children with developmental and behavioral challenges”.

Animal-assisted therapy has been known to help mostly in the following ways.

  • Playing with an animal can help improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination and contribute to motor development which can facilitate recovery from any physical disability encompassed under neuromusculoskeletal dysfunctions.
  • Children with speech impediments can be encouraged to practice simple orders to the pet, including ‘fetch’, or ‘jump’. With time the child may feel confident enough to translate these into sentences and practice his speech alongside.
  • Pets have also known to produce behavior modification amongst children with autism. The focus during such a therapy is to increase the attention span of the autistic child to help be aware of his surroundings. When an animal asks for attention it automatically translates into assumed responsibility. The prolonged need to be attentive to the animals’ needs helps in improving the attention span of the child.

Combating health hazards of owning a pet

Be careful of any scratches and bites.

Animals when aggressive may choose to claw or bite their owners, and transmit a potentially dangerous bacterial infection.

In order to reduce any danger from such an incident, parents should help keep the animal’s nails trimmed and seek to vaccinate the animal to prevent transmission of diseases in case of an animal bite.

Stay away from pet food and animal poop.

Dry pet food and animal feces may contain bacteria known as salmonella. Infecting the small intestine, salmonella causes nausea and may cause the affected child to seek professional medical help.

Preventing a case salmonella infection requires parents to keep their children away from the dry pet food, including the utensils in which it is served. Also children should be supervised to wash their hands after every time they play with the animal. It should be noted that feeding the animal raw meat increases the risk of salmonella.

Closely watch for fleas and ticks

Pets, especially those with fur coats including dogs and cats, can harvest fleas and ticks if not kept clean. These are parasites that can cause fatal diseases and can easily spread from the animal to a human.

To minimize such incidences the animal should be kept clean by bathing the animal every week using a veterinary recommended shampoo, brushing the animal’s coat regularly and using fur-based products to reduce shedding. The animal should also be regularly inspected for ticks which should then be removed using the appropriate tools.

Be watchful of Zoonotic diseases

These diseases have an animal to human transmission via parasites and can cause diarrhea, muscle aches and fever. Animals may be harvesting such parasites within or outside their bodies. Examples include transmission of hookworm via a dog’s poop or ringworm thriving inside its fur coat.

To combat such a hazard parents are recommend to adopt a lifetime parasite control, which includes routine medical check-ups by a veterinarian, who may prescribe the required oral or topical medication.

Are you ready for a dog? Think again.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on Pexels.com

Pet ownership, like any other relationship demands commitment, responsibility and consideration. Before you decide to adopt entitlement to a pet, understand the responsibilities associated with it. As a pet owner, you are responsible for,

  • selecting a pet that will suit your lifestyle and residential premises. An impulse purchase to buy a pony for your daughter may turn out to be a bad decision if you can’t afford to keep it in a stable. The quantity of the pets should be gauged from your capacity to provide them with ample food, shelter and pet services.
  • investing in maintaining the animal’s lifestyle including monetary expenses like health care and emergency requirements, as well as emotional involvement including your time and affection.
  • providing the pet with ample exercise and mental stimulation to help it release its energy and maintain the status quo of a domestic animal. If left untrained your pet may pose to become a danger to the society he may be living in.
  • keeping it clean and prevent it from becoming a health hazard to the family members.
  • drafting contingency plans in case the animal falls ill or goes missing.
  • either providing the animal with an avenue for its sexual needs (and provide resources in the case of offspring), or seek to spay/neuter the pet.

Human nature is compassion and love. Animals exist in this world to remind us of that.

Children are the vessels we breed in the present to shape the tomorrow that is the future. If we teach our children to stay true to their intended human nature, our tomorrow can become peaceful.

Animals can prove to be the tool for such a future. Free of selfish traits, pets help a child reconnect with their real self and feel empowered to make a change.

Introduce an animal to your children. Its loyalty, affection and obedience will defeat the evil to only fuel the good inside of them.

Featured

What Kind of an Animal Parent are You?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting. As a parent our responsibility is to provide our children with a secure environment in which they feel validated and heard. This can be done through different parenting styles; styles that may seek to attain goals that are often culturally and socially developed and accepted.

LIke humans, animals too have unique ways of parenting. This article is inspired by the varying parenting styles found in the Animal Kingdom and the similarities that have emerged between how humans  parent and how animals do.

So, which one are you?

Tiger Parents

Photo by Alexander Isreb on Pexels.com

Roots of tiger parenting are usually found in the Eastern (specifically Chinese) Culture, particularly amongst mothers called “tiger moms”.

According to Amy Chua, a Yale Law School Professor, in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”,

“tiger parents are highly controlling and authoritarian. This style of parenting is seen as harsh, demanding, and often emotionally unsupportive”.

This may lead to parents taking control of a child’s motivation, who may become clueless in the absence of directives. Such kids are often obedient and good at following instructions.

The objective of this parenting style revolves around raising high-achieving children, where parents place an increased importance on high levels of success, especially academic. This often means foregoing sleepovers, parties, and other leisurely activities to help children focus on their studies.

Such high expectations have seen to help children realize the importance of hard work, which becomes a default behavior well into adulthood. Setting a high bar also means that parents help instill a strong work ethic in their children, which culminates into self-discipline.

However, setting such high standards for (academic) success may become burdening for children. Children often forego developing any social connections or finding a creative outlet, as they have been taught to focus on school before anything else. This one-directional mindset also contributes to hampering the development of autonomy, to help children set goals for themselves and make independent decisions.

Children of tiger parents are also more prone to develop aggression and depression.

Psychological control is a feature of tiger parenting that involves restricting a child’s autonomy through manipulative acts, like withdrawal of affection. According to a study, children of parents who scored higher on psychological control experienced higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This is concerning because higher levels of cortisol are linked to more physical, mental, and cognitive problems.

Elephant Parents

Photo by Katie Hollamby on Pexels.com

Opposite to the Tiger Parent, Elephant Parents believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.

Like the animal, Elephant Parents hover over their young to protect them under any and all circumstances. Often, other females in the herd rally to assist the mother in ensuring the youngest members are protected. When young elephants do encounter the dangers of their habitats, their mothers are quick to intervene.

Elephant parents allow their children more flexibility and choices rather than definitive and strict guidelines. Basically, they “let a child be, and explore their childhood”.  Creating a carefree childhood environment offers feelings of comfort and support, but at the same time creates overly dependent children.

Elephant parents may have the advantage when it comes to the emotional well-being of their children because that is their primary focus. With elephant parenting, children may build strong emotional intelligence and develop a strong sense of who they are. However, such children lack the ambition to excel at school or “become the best” in a certain area of life.

Panda Parents

Photo by Diana Silaraja on Pexels.com

Being a Panda Parent means being involved in your children’s life but not forcing them to do something they don’t want to.

According to Esther Wojcicki, the author of Panda Mama, “to raise happy and confident children, the parent-child relationship should be based on trust, respect, independence and love”.

Panda parenting is all about “gently guiding your little one, as opposed to shoving them down the parenting path”. In other words, a panda parent is one who gives their kids the freedom to do things their own way. Such a parenting approach helps children become more independent and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

Unfortunately though, such parents are seen as lazy, as there is a lack of a structured approach to the style of parenting.

However, according to Esther, “panda mums aren’t lazy. What they do is give children scaffolding to let them go free. Instead of always intervening, you only help when they need it”.

In the same interview given to Dailymail, she further adds that,

“your control over your child is over by the time they’re 14. After then, all you can do is ‘respect your kids’ ideas and preferences, otherwise communication shuts down, just when they most need your support”.

That’s the primary trait of a panda parent: patience; patience to accept and respect your child’s decisions, even though it may not be lining up with what you may have planned for them.

There are, though, reservations about this parenting style. When you are making a child too independent to rely on themselves only, they may be reluctant to seek their parent’s help if they have not been supported as such since the beginning. There has to be a balance then between productive support and empowering independence.

Jellyfish Parents

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jellyfish Parents, like the animal, are free-swimming and unanchored. Such parents adopt a permissive parenting style, where there are few rules or expectations.

Jellyfish Parents also often overindulge their children, and because of this their children tend to lack impulse control

Such parents project high warmth and communication but take little control, tolerate inconsistent daily routines, and provide few clear expectations for their kids.

Because there are few rules, expectations, and demands, children raised by permissive parents tend to struggle with self-regulation and self-control

Dolphin Parents

Photo by Daniel Torobekov on Pexels.com

Like the body of the dolphin, these parents are firm yet flexible.

A Dolphin Parent is a collaborative (authoritative) parent. Such parents are responsive to the child’s emotional needs while having high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing boundaries.

According to Shimi Kang, author of “The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids-Without Turning into a Tiger”, “dolphin parenting means maintaining balance in children’s lives to gently yet authoritatively guide them toward lasting health, happiness, and success”.

Dolphin parents have rules and expectations but also value creativity and independence. They are collaborative and use guiding and role modeling to raise their kids.

Dolphin parents are not overprotective but supportive and might not be strict but are firm. They are not sheltering. This means setting rules but not instructing children on every small thing. It also means being flexible under exceptional circumstances.

Dolphin parents are also firm in assigning a punishment for their children if they make a mistake. Such behavior focuses on identifying the reason for failure instead of being harsh.

Try out the quiz below to find out what kind of an animal parent are you?

It is the weekend and your children have no school, and you are down with a cold.

A) You order them to play in their rooms quietly and put a do not disturb sign on your bedroom door.

B) You come over to let them know you are present for them, so they don’t feel the need to miss you.

C) You give them three board games to choose from and make a decision on their own on which one to play.

D) You let them do as they please while you sip some tea on the sofa.

E) You explain you’re feeling poorly and ask them to play nice while you have a rest.

You bought a new playhouse for your children. It needs to be assembled, and comes with instructions.

A) You order your children to leave you alone and come back once the playhouse is complete.

B) You ask them what do they want to do: build it together with you or on their own.

C) You hand them the instructions and encourage them to give it a try on their own. You let them know you will help them if they think it is too difficult to build on their own.

D) You let them take the lead on how and when to go about fixing the playhouse.

E) You sit down with them, and involve them in the building process; asking them to read the instructions and prompting them to follow what it says.

Your child has pending homework after a week of quizzes, but has plans to hang out with his friends.

A) You disallow him from leaving till he finishes his homework.

B) You let your him go, understanding that he needs a break from the hectic week.

C) You ask him to understand how the homework is important to his school performance and contributes to the final grade.

D) You let him decide which is more important: school or friends.

E) You make him promise to complete his homework once he’s back, and update you on the status.

You are dining at a fancy restaurant and suddenly your toddler starts throwing food on the floor.

A) You stare at her angrily and tell her the security guard will lock her up in the bathroom if she doesn’t stop crying.

B) You offer her your food, and ask her if there is something else she’d like to eat.

C) You take her out of the high chair and let her roam around the restaurant.

D) You do nothing and try to pretend she’s not with you.

E) You take her outside for a walk and ask what was the reason she acted up; and once she calms down, you bring her back.

Your child demands an extra hour of screen time.

A) You say no, and tell him to study for the next quiz.

B) You say no, and let him know you can play with him a game of his choice.

C) You say yes, and let him know he can watch something educational only.

D) You say yes, because it’s a holiday.

E) You ask him if there is anything else he’d like to do instead, like going to the park or going over to a friend’s house.

How did you do?

Mostly As          Tiger

Mostly Bs          Elephant

Mostly Cs          Panda

Mostly Ds         Jellyfish

Mostly Es          Dolphin

Featured

You need a break, Mama!

Motherhood is hard and it is a job that never really ends. Constantly in rush and hustling, every mom has likely at one point felt she cannot give it anymore. Being stressed with kids and other responsibilities make mothers feel like losing it all. This is the point of them having mothering burnout.

Burnout is defined as loss of energy, enthusiasm, perspective, and purpose. It is a state of total exhaustion (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) where stress exceeds the personal resources to cope it.

WHO has made burnout a official medical diagnosis noting increased mental distance from ones job, feelings of negativity and energy depletion. It is one of the most widely discussed mental health problem today.

Causes of motherhood burnout/How to prevent them:

There are many contributing factors to mom’s burnout. But here are most common stressors:

  • Perfectionism:

Study shows, the fear of not being a good enough mother is central to the experience of maternal burn-out. This fear comes from high demands and a great sense of duty. Mothers often feel they cannot make mistakes, or they have to do it all well, and hence they get burned out.

Experts recommend doing more things ‘with’ your children, rather doing things ‘for’ them. This is also important for children to know about house chores and make them feel responsible about work.

  • Lack of support:

Lack of external support (family, friends, childcare providers) and from co parent makes it difficult for mothers to do it all by themselves. It is truly impossible to perform all tasks daily without any support.

What you can do: 

Ask for help: You can simply ask your partner, friend, or a paid support person when you think you have too much work.

Delegate the jobs as much as you can, utilize paid help, discuss openly with your partner about parenting duties you both can reasonably handle.

  • Unrealistic Expectations/ Cultural Ideas

Internalised beliefs about mothers are unrealistic and often harmful. What mothers should or should not do, put mothers in a lot of pressor of being an ideal mom all the time.

Unrealistic expectations also come from society, culture, and media. Messages that make mothers feel bad about themselves and question their capabilities.

It’s important to analyse and examine those messages coming from culture and media. Discuss with other mom friends about the messages that make you feel inadequate and see how they are beyond reality and no mother have everything sorted all the time.

  • Not having ‘me time’/Break

Motherhood not only involves physical workload, but it also has mental and emotional load in many invisible ways. An end less list of to do items running in mind along with self-doubts (of what’s the right way, what others will say) takes toll too.

According to Dr. Katayune Kaeni, (psychologist) “Our physical, mental, and emotional physiological systems actually need downtime to function properly.

That means when you delegate tasks or put kids to bed, you don’t have to do all the remaining things, it simply means to reset and recoup by doing activities you enjoy.

Allow yourself to take rest, get a massage or go on a walk. Anything that can make you feel recharge will help make you a better parent in long run.

     WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO

  • Take care of your body

Taking care of your physical well being play a major role in reducing burnouts. Getting enough sleep, exercise/meditating, and nutritious diet helps preventing physical and mental distress.

  • Talk it with a therapist

Taking help with therapist will manage your feelings and help you reflect on your needs and health better.

Featured

How can we help our children overcome their fears?

Unlike adults, children are unable to emotionally regulate themselves. They are constantly being bombarded by stimuli that at times may make them feel out of control. So, even if they face a minor inconvenience, they may feel overwhelmed and see it as a challenge in which they were defeated. This generates a mindset where they believe they can’t find a solution, and may therefore, develop a fear of failure.

How can we help our children counter this?

Let us break it down using an example.

What happened to Humpty Dumpty when he was sitting on a wall?

He fell and he cracked. Do you think he will try to climb the wall again now that he’s experienced a fall and gotten hurt?

Unless he is persistent and has supportive friends and friends, probably not; and most probably his adventurous spirit has now been replaced with a fear of climbing and sitting on walls.

But what if Humpty Dumpty tried to use a different, safer strategy? Maybe, he wouldn’t fail this time. Because, this time he may choose to use a ladder to assist him when (something is hard, like) climbing a wall.

Humpty Dumpty using a ladder

This ladder is the “Learning Ladder”, which breaks down your learning into steps.

When we learn something new we go through what’s known as the learning ladder

To begin with this, we need to encourage our children, why they think they are afraid (of failure, or any other thing). They need to think about their thinking.

The word for this is metacognition; which is having the knowledge about what you think, and why you are thinking about what you’re thinking.

It is a combination of metacognitive knowledge (knowledge about thinking) and metacognitive regulation (regulation of thinking).

For example, if I am thinking about food, metacognitive knowledge will include me trying to figure out why I maybe thinking about food. It may be because I am hungry. 

But I just ate. So there has to be another reason. I may be thinking about food because I may be bored or I saw a picture of a burger that prompted me. This is called metacognitive regulation. Using strategies to question my thinking and coming to the right conclusion.

We can use the same process to help our children analyze the reason behind the fear and where it is stemming from. For instance, our child may say,

“Math quiz makes me anxious”.

We can ask our child, and explore, “what is it about the math quiz, that is making you anxious?”

Metacognition is a skill that can be developed with intentional practice and helping our mind work towards asking questions about our thinking.

Thinking about thinking

As parents, we can help develop metacognition by:

  1. bringing our kids out of the mindset of being either “good” or “bad” at something. While encouragement is helpful, avoid using finality words. Use words that focus on perseverance and training as importance. Let them know that their efforts matter more than the end and this is the attitude to focus on.
  2. avoiding criticism that often culminates into negative talk.
  3. helping our kids focus on the outcomes; and what will happen if they succeed or fail? (Basically a solution-focused approach).
  4. focusing on factors that are making them think they will fail and addressing them using learning ladder (being process-oriented).

Just asking the questions gets the metacognitive work going internally, even if it’s not visible to the parental eye.

Tamara Rosier, a learning coach who specializes in metacognitive techniques. Explains that the benefits are the same, even if all you get is a grunt in return.

Encouraging metacognition by asking questions

If your child is struggling to work through a long paper, ask questions that help him use his metacognitive skills to try a different approach.

  • What do you think is making it hard for you to work on this paper right now?
  • What are some strategies that have helped you do well on similar papers in the past?
  • Can you use those insights to help you with the work you’re doing now?

Asking metacognitive questions will help him clarify his process, manage his anxiety, and find a better way to approach his paper, but the benefits don’t end when the assignment is done.

Metacognition helps see which strategies work.

Such an approach is often absent in households in which parents are authoritarian, or attend schools in which teachers or administrators demand obedience. Under such influence kids may struggle to develop productive thinking skills. This attitude robs children to make an effort to reflect on their thought processes.

Same can be witnessed when parents over engage with their children and become “helicopter” or “drone” parents.

Kids need to be allowed to make their own decisions, reflect on their thought processes, and develop their own set of problem-solving skills

Summary

We can help our children overcome fear by encouraging them to develop a learning attitude. Sounds simple, but it may take up to months to do it. Therefore, as a parent your best friend during this process, is patience. Metacognition is a process that makes you think about your thought process. Such a process is effective is addressing any fear and managing it. Asking our children the right questions and helping them climb the learning ladder can not only help them navigate their skills but also address how a problem can be approached and managed differently.

Featured

Parents’ Guide to Surviving Homework

Homework shouldn’t mean spending hours staring at books and watching your child’s tears roll down blank pages.

Parents who take an active interest in helping their children with homework are often successful when they demonstrate a supportive behavior. This means that parents should encourage children to think critically. Children learn from mistakes and that is part of the process.

However, often parents are pressed for time and can’t afford losing it with correcting those mistakes.

Unsuccessful attempts at completing homework often lead to frustration at both the parent’s and the child’s end. This may lead to poor self-esteem and also eat up the time that could’ve been used to engage in extra-curricular activities.

Here are a few suggestions that can make homework less frustrating and more exciting.

Set up a homework friendly area

Designate an area of the house or a desk where your child can do their homework.

Keep stationery and supplies within reach.

Try to make it a distraction free zone, far from TV or noise.

If it’s a desk, you can encourage your child to set it up with their favorite things to help build a sense of ownership.

Turn off your cell phone

Okay, this may seem extreme, but try to put away your phone. Any notification you may get, can distract your and your child’s focus, and it may take longer to get back in the flow.

Plan and make a list

Before starting randomly, try to prioritize and assess how much time each subject may take. You can then help your child assign realistic time to complete an assignment and plan breaks accordingly.

Once done, encourage your child to cross the task off the list and feel happy about achieving the goal.

Help your child decide what homework is hard and what is easy, and then encourage them to work on the hard stuff first so they’re most alert for challenging work. This approach can help children develop metacognition.

Metacognition is the knowledge one has about their thinking process.  It involves self-regulation and self-reflection of strengths, weaknesses, and the types of strategies you create.

So if for example your child has a math test tomorrow and they are unable to study, instead of saying, “math tests make me anxious“, encourage them to ask themselves, “what is it about math tests that makes me feel anxious and what can I do to change that?’”

Asking metacognitive questions will help them clarify their process, manage their anxiety, and find a better way to approach their paper

Set a timer

Making a list helps break down homework into manageable chunks. Setting a timer will help your child focus on the assignment to finish it in the assigned deadline.

Set a timer on your cell phone between 10 to 25 minutes, depending how old your kid is. When the time is up, take a break before getting to the next assignment. During this time your child can have a snack (a hungry child is a distracted child), or get up and walk, or if they are up to it, talk about their day.

An effective way to boost productivity is the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro Technique

Link real life with homework

Encourage your child to look around and observe their environment: why do leaves change color with the seasons; how much will the grocery items cost in total at checkout; ask them to label the food on the table in English.

If your child is learning a new language, ask them to practice a sentence with the natives in the park.

These practices will help children understand why and how what they are learning at school is important.

Use homework as an excuse to connect with your children

Children get distracted easily. Let them. But then help redirect them back to work.

During homework your kid may want to show a trick or tell you something from their day. Sit with them and share what they have to show you but keep an eye on the work and remind them of the timer that is ticking away.

Be a monitor not a helper

Make yourself available for questions and confusions; but don’t do the work for them. Ask leading questions that can help your child figure out the problem and if it’s too tricky, give them options to choose from.

Why is my child struggling with homework?

Besides being disinterested at times, a child may be facing genuine issues that aren’t letting them find the motivation to do homework

Prepscholar has developed a short quiz to help identify the obstacles that may be between your child and homework. Take the quiz with them and discuss how both of you can overcome it.

Using online games to help children with homework

There is ample information online to help parents with their kids if they are having trouble with homework. One way to help develop a positive attitude towards homework is through interactive activities.

PBS Kids Hero Elementary Games

Below is a list of websites that offer free games according to age and grades. You can also use them as a reward to completing their assignments.

Math

Math Game Time

Math Playground

Coolmath Games

English

Game Zone

ESL Games

English Club

Science

Sheppard Software

PBS Kids Hero Elementary

Turtle Diary

General Knowledge

The Learning Apps

A website Khan Academy is a holistic free online resource that has short lessons in the form of videos along with supplementary practice exercises and materials.

Summary

Homework should not seem like an unpleasant experience. Many see it as unnecessary, unavoidable and dreadful. However, it does not have to be so. Parents and children can make use of simple tricks and changes that can help them look forward to homework daily. Figuring out what discourages a child from doing their assignments is also a positive step. In addition, online games and resources can also help make it a positive experience.

Featured

Preparing a healthy breakfast (for picky eaters)

Breakfast, dear? No, Mom!

If it were a baby’s world, toddlers would be its kings. Children not only have constant demands, but are also very particular about what they’re asking for. Food is one of them.

Toddlers are definitely picky eaters because after tripling their birth-weight within the first year, their metabolic rate slows down and food intake automatically decreases. However, their level of activity increases and snacking is then more preferable to their on-the-go lifestyle. This in any case is not an excuse to allow your child to skip breakfast.

For the picky eaters, here are a few tips and tricks to indulge them in the early morning meal:

  • Become a role model: Include your kid during breakfast in the morning and eat in front of him. If your children see you having breakfast they will realize it as an essential part of the day.
  • Start with small servings: Try a portion of fruit or a cup of yogurt and then include additional servings of various fruit items each week. Don’t try to force your kid to eat. Give them a spoon when they turns one and let them experiment on their own.
  • Excite the food palette: Like a king, toddlers get bored easily. Therefore, attempting to feed them the same meal everyday will eventually tire their taste buds and make them refuse meal time completely.

When serving breakfast to your child, use a compartmentalized dish or an ice cube tray and stock it with a variety of food. To make it more interesting, give each item a creative name.

Dr. Sears suggests the following:

  1. banana wheels
Banana Wheels

2. apple moons (thinly sliced)

Apple Moons

3. broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets)

4. carrot swords (cooked and thinly sliced)

5. cheese building blocks

6. egg canoes (hard- boiled egg wedges)

Egg Canoes

7. little O’s (o-shaped cereal)

  • Self-involvement: Teach your child how to use a table knife to spread cheese, butter, jam or peanut butter onto pieces of toast or crackers. You can also let her pour milk directly into her cereal bowl or peel an orange by herself.
  • Gulp it down: if your toddler is absolutely refusing to eat, try making them drink the breakfast. Combine the breakfast elements to present a delicious smoothie!

Don’t just limit yourself to milk and fruit. You can also include a spoonful of peanut butter along with some yogurt and honey. To make the treat even more interesting try experimenting with different coloured and animated Sippy cups or use swirly straws to start off her day with a big smile.

  • Change the menu: Often toddlers get bored of the monotonous routine of eating eggs and toast for breakfast. They then just might insist on the club sandwich leftover from the night before. Do not try to resist their assumingly awkward request. As long as they’re having breakfast containing essential nutrients, the food form doesn’t matter.

Not every breakfast is a healthy breakfast

Cereal alone does not make for a healthy breakfast, nor does a glass of milk.

Once you’ve accomplished the first step to instil within your child the habit to have breakfast, proceed to conquer the task of serving a well-rounded morning meal.

A healthy breakfast includes all the food groups, namely protein, fibre, calcium, a bit of (healthy) fat and slow-release carbohydrates. Offer foods from at least 3 food groups at breakfast. One of these groups should be the Vegetables and Fruit Group (slow release carbs).

Protein

Eggs are an excellent source of protein (and a traditionally approved breakfast item), as protein in eggs is 97 percent digestible, making it easier for your kid’s stomach to process and keep hunger at bay for prolonged periods.

By the time your child is one, try to include eggs as part of his diet (if he doesn’t show any allergic reactions to either the white or the yolk). You can cut up hard boiled eggs into thin slices and introduce eggs as finger foods. Another way to familiarize your toddler with the taste is to include raw egg while cooking his porridge, gradually increasing the amount.

Beyond the introductory stage you can give your toddler scrambled eggs with cheese and use bread to cut out eyes and a mouth to give the palette a smile.

Fibre

Include fibre in your toddler’s breakfast by choosing whole-grain foods. Whole grains retain their fibrous outer covering, or bran, so whole-grain foods contain both digestible carbohydrate from the grain’s centre as well as fibre.

A whole-grain, dry cereal with milk is an excellent option, as is a bowl of oatmeal. Brown bread, while not as nutritious as the options mentioned above, should always be substituted with the processed white bread.

Calcium

Milk, yogurt and cheese are the best breakfast options to give your child one of the required two daily servings of calcium. If your toddler is allergic to milk or lactose intolerant, you can move on to non-milk sources including oranges, baked beans, dark-green vegetables like peas and broccoli, or calcium fortified cereals.

Without vitamin D, the body can’t absorb calcium. That makes vitamin D just as important as calcium for toddlers. Breakfast choices that are fortified with vitamin D include processed milk, cheese and egg yolk.

Healthy Fat

As soon as your toddler identifies the capacity to explore either by crawling or walking, he engages in a lifestyle that demands ample calories. Good fats are responsible for providing that fuel. In addition, healthy fats are important for brain development.

Peanut butter is not only high in catering to the body’s need of healthy fats, but is also a delicious indulgence. Prepare a peanut butter sandwich for your toddler and top it off with a little fruit to give him that extra kick for the day.

Slow-releasing carbohydrates

When feeding your toddler, learn to recognize the difference between quick-release and slow release carbs. Quick-release carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugars, and cause a sharp and rapid rise in blood sugar levels, increasing risk of weight gain, as quoted by a 2002 article in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

Some fruits and vegetables are ideal sources of slow-release carbs. Slow-release carbs are healthier options to keep blood sugar levels more stable between meals and maintain a healthy body weight.

An easy way to inculcate this food group in your toddler’s breakfast is to abide by the code of a rainbow! Think of the colors of the rainbow and then think of the vegetables and fruits that match those colours! 

Here are a few suggestions:

Red – Apples, Cherries, Strawberries, Watermelon, Tomatoes

Orange – Oranges, Peaches, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots

Yellow – Bananas, Summer Squash, Pears

Green – Green Beans, Zucchini, Mango, Papaya

Blue – Blueberries

Purple – Grapes, Eggplant

Significance of Rainbow Diet

If you’re still having trouble mixing up a balanced combination for your toddler, here are a few recommended breakfast menus for toddlers.

Combo 1   Combo 2  Combo 3  Combo 4  
Apricot juice 40 ml
Oats porridge 1/4 cup Honey 1 T
Milk ½ cup  
Orange juice 40 ml Cornflakes, ½ cup Brown sugar 1 T Millk ½ cupBanana ½ mashed Egg 1 hard boiled Toast ½-1 slice Margarine 1 t
Milk ½ cup  
Apple ½ grated Creamy meal 1/4 cup
Honey 1 T Yoghurt, ½ cup  

Conclusion

They say that all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. Morning is the time when you’re full of optimism and a number of possibilities lay ahead of you. You have time on your side to conquer your battles and change your life.

For children, it’s a new day every day. They have agendas of their own which for them hold their own personal importance.  However, for their resolution, they need to be equipped, and breakfast does exactly that. It provides your toddler with the essential nutrients and boosts her metabolism not only for the morning, but by helping her make healthy food choices throughout the day.

So the next time you’re having breakfast with your child, tell her to list all the impossible things she plans on doing today; and then watch her gulp down that last sip of milk.

Featured

Help your child develop a positive attitude towards learning

By Rubina Sarfraz

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” – Winston Churchill

Learning begins when children are encouraged to believe in themselves, and their abilities. However, this is not a one-man job. Children require a support system that helps them view learning as an opportunity to find out more about things, rather than experiencing it as a boring lecture in class.

While there is a strong correlation between child involvement and learning, as parents and teachers we need to become role models as well. We can guide them towards looking forward to school, instead of dreading it by identifying what “not” to do during the learning process.

Here are some pitfalls we can avoid that may be preventing your child from developing a positive attitude towards learning.

Failure to help understand the topic relevance

Schools usually follow the course outline that is developed considering the aptitude of an average child. However, at times a child may excel at one subject and fail to show interest in another. This does not mean that the child is not giving attention to both; it means that he/she is more interested in one subject than the other. As a teacher or a parent, we need to understand the relevance of the course content to a child’s personal interests and more importantly their career goals. Only then we can motivate him/her to learn instead of focus only on getting good grades.

Monotonous teaching methods

A single class session usually lasts from forty minutes to an hour. This is a long time for a child to be seated forcefully in a class that is dominated by either non-stop facts or a power-point presentation with slides being paced through. However, if we encourage students to share their views and experiences it may allow them to participate actively. Therefore, teaching should be a combination of different methods instead of being narrowed down to one approach. A single teaching method becomes predictable and allows children to anticipate what they can expect in the next class.

Insolent attitude towards children

In my opinion, the leading cause of concern within a classroom is the derogatory attitude elders may adopt towards children. One may be highly skilled at imparting education and also boast of worthy qualifications; but if they are targeting their students with indifference or disrespect, they are unintentionally forcing them to lose interest and also hampering their confidence development. A teacher should not engage in sarcastic remarks or taunt students if they fail to give the right answers. Instead a classroom should be a place where children feel secure enough to voice any opinion they may hold.

Inability to communicate with stakeholders

Often teachers are intimidated to communicate with the parents of their students, to avoid confrontations and questions. It is then the parents’ job to make a proactive approach in questioning the teaching methods their child is exposed to. Communication is always the key to a successful relationship. Talk to your child. Analyze if he/she is experiencing any difficulties at school. And then talk to his/her teacher. This way you will have a strong 3-way alliance to help monitor your child’s educational development.

Rubina Sarfraz has a teaching experience spanning more than 30 years. During this period she has held the position of Coordinator and has been involved in the development of syllabus outlines.

Featured

Places to (or not to) take a baby along

At times, it may become difficult for mothers to manage children when they need to step out of the house. Although there have been significant advances in promoting a child-centric culture and much has been done to create child friendly public areas, there are still places where children may be too young to participate. As parents, if our circumstances allow, we can choose to acknowledge that at such places our children may feel uncomfortable and subsequently become anxious and act out.

Apart from children becoming unsettling, there are also some places where adults find loud kids screaming and crying irritating.

Are there places we just shouldn’t bring our kids? The answer, maybe, yes.

This is how Sara, the protagonist of our story found out, when she got a phone call from a friend, four months after having her baby.

“Hey Sara, where have you been lost girl?”

‘I… Uh.. oh”, Sara was dumbfounded.

You see, Sara, was quite the social butterfly. Always on the move, always the life of a party, she never failed to attend an event she was invited to. Now missing in action for the last four months, the world had started getting worried.

Even Sara acknowledged the anomaly. She missed her pre-baby social routine.

She thought to herself that maybe she could take her baby along where she went.

Salon

Before she became a mother, Sara considered salon time as ‘me’ time. This time around she had the same resolve, only that she was tagging along a latest accessory, her baby girl.

As she moved past the ladies seated in front of the mirrors getting either their face or hair done, she couldn’t help but notice their expressions, as if exhibiting annoyance.

Sara chose to ignore false assumptions and got excited at the manicure she had planned for herself.

It was only when the manicurist was working on the second last finger that Sara’s baby woke up with a howling scream. Boy, was she hungry!

A woman with hair foils shouted for attention in the efforts of lodging a complaint against the chaos the baby was apparently causing.

Sara looked to the left, then to the right, and then at her stiff fingers, the nail polish on which was still wet. She was caught in a conundrum: either to ignore the anarchy with a flip of her hair; or sacrifice her love for nail art and pick up her baby and leave.

Sara chose the more dignified way and left the salon with an embarrassed sigh and a baby caught between undone fingers and nail polish laden clothes.

Yoga Class

It’d been a few months since Sara had attended her yoga classes. Since her baby could now settle in the stroller, she thought it a good excuse to restart yoga.

Sara had made the preparations to leave with the baby. However, what she’d forgotten to account for were the ‘accidents’ babies are capable of making. After washing the surprise poop from the baby’s bum, her clothes and her carrier, Sara was already 45 minutes late when she got to her yoga class.

She was a deer in headlights – no clue what to do and how to go about it. So she took care of the basics first. Taking out a pacifier from her bag she popped it in the baby’s mouth and sneakily parked the stroller at the corner of the room. Then she chose the nearest spot and acted to join in on the instructions. It’d been a while since Sara exercised and her body was refusing to cooperate either. So each time she attempted to strike a pose she fumbled and ended up making her baby laugh. The others joined in, and made the most of a young partner starting early in her life.

With everyone being so supportive, Sara had more fun than she anticipated.

Maybe the baby could join her more frequently at yoga.

Coffee House

Sara got a call from a friend to meet up and she gladly agreed to meet up for coffee.

A little chat here, a little gossip there, after a while it seemed that things never changed between the friends. The one thing that did change however was the additional friend in the form of a baby who was clearly enjoying the mini party. She remembered how good her friends have always been and how once again they were making her feel so comfortable.

Movie Theater/Cinema

Sara was surprised when her husbnad bought tickets to the cinema, including one for the baby as well. She was a little skeptical but her husband convinced her otherwise.

The baby kept sleeping as they walked out the house. The baby was snoring out loud on the way to the cinema. The baby was asleep even when they were getting drinks. But, as soon as the couple seated themselves, the baby popped open her eyes and let out a cry.

An ear piercing cry so loud that one could hear echoes bounce the walls of the hall.

Sara and her husband were then politely asked to leave for apparent reasons.

Looking back at her week, Sara realized that it wasn’t that tough to go out of the house with a baby. However, the choice of the place mattered now.

Sara realized that with a baby, she may need to judge whether the places are baby friendly, like a park or a restaurant with play area, and if the people there will be comfortable with a young baby being there.

With a confident smile, she picked up her baby and said,

“Hello little friend. Let’s explore more of what the world has to offer, only this time letting you make the shots”.

She planted a kiss on her forehead watched her baby smile back.

Conclusion

The idea that babies have to stay inside the house for several weeks after they’re born is false In fact, as long as your baby is healthy, getting some fresh air can be great for the mother and baby if you take a few precautions.

For a quick and easy trip outside, plan an outdoor photo shoot with your baby. Head to a park and have a picnic with your little one.

If you have the option, leave your baby with a baby sitter once in a while to reconnect with your old self.

Featured

Cooking with kids: a guide to kitchen tasks by age

Every child should learn to cook. Besides helping children become self-sufficent, cooking also helps in developing a healthier lifestyle (when takeout is often an easier alternative).

There is always an age to start cooking. However, the tasks a child can take up in the kitchen vary according to age. We have treid to compile lists of kitchen tasks that kids can take part in and develop an early and positive relationship with food.

Ages 2 to 3

Kids aged 2 to 3, are often interested in eating the art they make. They want to explore using all of their senses, including taste. Simple kitchen chores, children during this age can take part in, include:

  • washing fruits and vegetables in the sink.
  • helping find ingredients and items in the cupboard and/or fridge.
  • watching and smelling the food, and asking questions while you cook.
  • kneading or rolling dough with you.
  • mixing and stirring.
  • sprinkling seasonings.
  • playing with pots and spoons on the floor!

It is often a good idea to help children this age to understand the importance of washing hands before handling food.

Ages 3 to 4

Kids this age become more curious and are now able to express this through questions. You can turn the kitchen processes into science experiments and lead kids to answer their own questions.

Children this age can be asked to:

  • remove shells from hard boiled eggs or peel oranges.
  • juice lemons or limes.
  • pour from small packets or measuring cups.
  • assemble a sandwich.
  • describe the color, shape and taste of food.
  • mash soft foods, like bananas or potatoes.
  • empty a bowl using a spatula.

Ages 4 to 6

This age group includes a group of children who are now learning to develop their preferences, and are able to express their likes and dislikes. During the cooking processes, you can encourage them to participate and let know if they have a better idea of how to go about it.

Children this age can be asked to:

  • mix together ingredients, like while baking a cake or making an omelette.
  • slice fruits and vegetables, or soft cooked foods with a plastic knife.
  • assemble foods, like a sandwich.
  • crack and beat an egg.
  • grease a baking pan.
  • turn on the kitchen timer.
  • set the table

You can also plan a cooking playdate with a friend and ask the kids to help each other and use their own idea of cooking.

Ages 6 to 8

If the child has been involved in the kitchen for a while now, they should be able to do simple kitchen chores. Children this age can:

  • use kitchen equipment under supervison, like can opener, blender, toaster, grater etc.
  • toss a salad.
  • garnish/decorate dishes.
  • make a shake or smoothie.
  • make a grocery list by checking for inventory in the cupboard and fridge.
  • make a simple breakfast like cereal with milk, or a nutella sandwich.

Ages 8 to 11

Children in this age group are mature enough to grasp the concept of safety. However, they still need to be supervised, but can execute tasks independently.

Children this age can be asked to:

  • use a knife with easy to cut foods (under supervision).
  • use the microwave.
  • pack their own lunch.
  • make their breakfast using a stove under supervision , including an omelette or pancakes
  • place food on skewers.
  • put away groceries.

Ages 11 and up

Children aged 11 and older are able to make an entire meal with help and under supervison.

If they have enough practice in the kitchen, you can ask them to make the grocery list by understanding the recipe and the ingredents required.

However, it is still very important practice stove, oven and knife safety. You can also teach your children about food safety, such as how chicken and eggs can cause salmonella, and how to store fruits, vegetables and cooked foods for safety and longevity.

If your child shows continued interest, consider a cooking school

Before involving your kids in the kitchen and cooking process, do remember that the most important ingredient during this process will be your patience. Kids will make a mess; that is what beginners do.

Be careful to not talk down to your kids when they are doing it wrong . You may word it differently like, “let me show you” or “hurry up”, or even “let me take over”. At times, it can simply be our tone.

If you aren’t “feeling it” then skip the teaching moment. Make cooking an experience that children want to have again, instead of considering it a punishment.

Take the first step and try these easy recipes with your kids.

This guide was developed using resources available on the following websites:

Oregon Live

UnlockFood.ca

The Monday Campaigns

Featured

Are fathers confident in their role as a parent?

Fathers undoubtedly have a significant impact on a child’s upbringing. This has also been substantiated by multiple researches and studies that highlight how involved fathers not only benefit their child, but themselves as well.

Beyond the physiological, safety and security needs, fathers play a critical role in building a child’s self confidence, their self-esteem and helping them achieve their full potential.

However, most fathers are unable to express confidence in their parenting.

In a survey conducted in 2017, 63% of fathers expressed that they spend too little time with their kids, compared to 35% of mothers who said the same. In addition, fathers are also less positive about their own parenting abilities than are mothers. Just 39% of fathers said in 2015 that they were doing a “very good job” raising their children, compared with 51% of mothers.

Despite understanding the importance of their role in their children’s lives, why are fathers not confident enough to participate and claim an equal role in childcare?

Let’s explore.

Work-Life Balance

Despite overall increasing gender equality, a survey of 20 countries named financial provision as the primary responsibility of fathers. In essence, this makes employment the minimum requirement for father involvement and in more traditional settings, the only requirement.

In times of today, when the lines of gendered roles are diminishing, young couples may attempt to establish equal divisions of domestic work.

However, it has been observed that after the child is born, parents slowly end up taking on more traditional roles of parenting. One of the major factors, contributing to this is the disparity in the parental leave.

Out of the 195 countries around the world, more than 120 countries provide paid maternity leave and health benefits by law. On the contrary, there are 92 countries where there is no national policy that allows fathers to take paid time off work to care for their newborns. This discrepancy involuntarily compels mothers to establish patterns of primary health care, while the father’s attempts at care slowly wane when his performance is seen as not on par.

Granting paternity leave has been proven to prevent this slide into gendered parenting and promote more equality in child-rearing. Fathers who take any paternity leave at all are much more likely to change diapers, feed the baby, and get up in the night with the child than fathers who do not. Conversely, it was also found that fathers who work longer hours report a decrease in these activities.

Apart from the labor laws, there are also stigmas surrounding extended leave that influence men differently than women. Many are reluctant to use paternity leave for fear of being seen as uncommitted and unmanly. In addition, perceptions about paternity leave are also linked to lower performance evaluations, increased risks of being demoted or downsized, and reduced pay and rewards. Men also fear potential career consequences: specifically, fathers who are seen by bosses and coworkers as engaging in higher than average levels of childcare are subject to more workplace harassment and more general mistreatment as compared to their low-caregiving or childless counterparts. Finally, men who interrupt their employment for family reasons earn significantly less after returning to work.

Besides the discrepancy in parental leaves, maintaining a balance between work and family is a challenge for many working fathers. About half of working dads (52%) said in 2015 that it is very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family life. And about three-in-ten working dads (29%) said they “always feel rushed”. This may be because most fathers face a lot pressure to provide financially for the family. About three-fourths of adults (76%) said in a 2017 survey that men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially.

Men with more traditional views of the provisional father role tend to work longer hours and experience greater amounts of work-family conflict.

Maternal Gate-keeping

Just like mothers need acceptance and emotional support, fathers do as well. However, many a times, women may unintentionally discourage men from parenting, just because they see it as not ‘fit’ to their parenting style. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way, said Marsha Kline Pruett, a professor at Smith College and a co-author of the new book “Partnership Parenting,” with her husband, child psychiatrist Dr. Kyle Pruett.

This phenomenon is known as ‘maternal gatekeeping’. Maternal gatekeeping refers to mothers acting in ways to discourage or promote father-child interactions. It includes a mother’s protective beliefs about how much and whether a father should be involved in their children’s lives.

According to Sarah M. Allen and Alan J. Hawkins, mothers control the father’s household responsibilities and/or interactions with their children because of 3 reasons:

  • Reluctance to hand over responsibility to another family member. Mothers may show hesitation in handing over a child’s responsibilities because fathers may not exhibit the confidence to assume responsibilities. Taking care of children in short episodes does not make men as competent as women to carry the invisible load of parenting. It is also a hard and undervalued work and men often feel relief once handing the child back to the mother.
  • High standards mothers set for execution of tasks and how to interact with children.
  • External validation of a mothering identity. Culturally, mothers face immense pressures, most of which make them feel as though they could and should be better moms, no matter how well their children are doing.

“Gatekeeping really seems to depend on how much a woman internalizes societal standards about being a good mom,” Schoppe-Sullivan said. “The more you care about (being viewed as a good mom), the less likely you are to give up control over that domain.”

The strength of the marital relationship also contributes to this phenomenon. The way in which a mother uses gatekeeping to marginalize a father’s role can be much more conscious and deliberate in a dysfunctional family, especially with a highly controlling mother at the helm or one in which marital tensions run high. Men then withdraw to protect themselves.

The more gatekeeping from mom, the less parental involvement from dad.

“Just by saying maternal gatekeeping exists doesn’t mean all the responsibility should be on women to manage men. But it still serves as an impediment to the quality of the relationship between fathers and their children … and is part of the very complicated puzzle of how gender plays out in families,” said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of human sciences and psychology at Ohio State University who has studied maternal gatekeeping.

Institutional Sexism

According to a study, by Children North East, there are prevalent subconscious practices that disregard the needs of men and fail to recognize the role of fathers.

Joy Higginson, director of Children North East says that, “Fathers are important for families, yet almost all formal support to parents is offered only to mothers – with deep-seated sexism in social and health services actively discriminating against men”.

Fathers are fearful of how they are viewed as a subordinate parent and how that view is generally reinforced by the family courts. Many fathers feel that they are viewed as second-class parents, who may be granted limited “access” to the lives of their children, even where they previously shared parenting responsibilities with their partner.

This bias is evident in cases where the immediate family is not involved. When a father becomes a sole parent as a widower, and it is our brother, our uncle or our cousin, we do not immediately assume that a father cannot be a good parent because in this case he is our relative. It would seem that it is only when we are angry or in conflict that powerful current societal norms rise to the surface, and push fathers back to a secondary or lesser role as a parent.

Despite being capable providers, husbands, and fathers (within the context of a family), men have been inaccurately portrayed and encouraged by the media.

According to recent shows (especially American sitcoms) the father of the family is shown to be a man-child; a little more than children, mentally speaking, unable to valuate or think critically about anything beyond the basic drives (sex, food, and entertainment).

A classic example is that of Homer Simpson whose “personality is one of frequent immaturity, frequent stupidity, dim witness, selfishness, laziness, and explosive anger”. With the representation of such a negative stereotype, the responsibility of child can then not be assigned to an irresponsible adult.

Peter Griffin from Family Guy

Lack of Tools for Measuring a Father’s Involvement

Over the past 50 years, there has been nearly a threefold increase in the time fathers spend with their children.

It can easily be declared that compared to the previous decades, the involvement of fathers is at an all-time high at the moment. The roles of fathers have shifted from a focus on being a “breadwinner” to involvement in childcare, emotional nurturance, and co-parenting.

The prevailing model of father involvement introduced over 30 years ago posited that father involvement consists of 3 main components: accessibility (availability to spend time with child), engagement (father’s direct interaction with his children), and responsibility (planning, monitoring, and supervising roles). Although, it was researched that the 3 components are equally important, the ease of measuring the engagement of fathers with their children took precedence and revealed a misleading picture. So if a father reads to their child every night, he would be considered involved, as opposed to a father who may be working 2-shifts in a day to meet his financial needs. The aspect of availability was then ignored.

This approach was critiqued, and a new father involvement model was developed. This model of father involvement consists of 3 domains – positive engagement activities, warmth and responsiveness, and control as well as 2 auxiliary domains – indirect care and process responsibility. This added depth to fatherhood models by proposing that father involvement is generated by motivation, skills, self-confidence, social supports, and the absence of institutional barriers. However the study of this model faces a number of challenges, including the shift in gender roles in modern families.

There is then a need to develop multidimensional measures of father involvement that also take into consideration the evolving gender dynamics. Such all-encompassing measurement tools will be able to provide an accurate representation of the involvement of fathers and reveal how much engagement has an impact.

Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.

Summary

While it has been established that fathers have a significant impact on the upbringing of their children, fathers are still not confident about their parenting skills. Factors that have been preventing fathers to actively get involved include: discouragement from the mother’s end (maternal gatekeeping), work-life imbalance, subconscious practices that disregard the needs of men and fail to recognize the role of fathers, and inadequate measures to evaluate the involvement of fathers and its effects.

Featured

Cooking with Kids: 12 easy recipes to try this summer!

What age should a child start cooking?

Whenever they are ready!

And by ready we mean every time a child shows their interest to get involved in the kitchen.

Parents are almost always scrambling for time and trying to wrap up work, with cooking mostly taking a big chunk. If during this time, our children come to supposedly offer ‘help’, it may translate in our minds as an additional chore (since we may be doing most of the cleaning later on). However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Along with involving our children in the clean-up later on, we can also help them become familiar with pots and pans, spices and sauces. Let them help us turn cooking into fun!

That way our children will not only develop an interest in cooking but also gain the confidence to experiment with food. Who knows, one of them may even become the next Gordon Ramsay!

We have tried to compile a list of easy recipes your children can take lead in and prepare in the kitchen.

Strawberry Watermelon Slush

Summers and watermelon is as perfect a combination as Burger and Fries! Perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 cups ice cubes

Find the recipe here.

3 Ingredient Nutella Brownies

Nothing can go wrong with Nutella. And the fact that these brownies take less than 30 minutes to get ready makes it even better!

Ingredients

  • 1  1/4 cup Nutella
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

Find the recipe here.

2 Ingredient Strawberry Ice Cream

2 Ingredient Strawberry Ice Cream

If you have a young chef who wants beginner’s lessons, try this easy recipe with just two ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 4 bananas
  • 250g / 9 oz strawberries

Find the recipe here.

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken

Substituting as a snack or a quick lunch fix, this recipe takes less than 10 minutes. Perfect for teaming up with uninterrupted play!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts boneless and skinless
  • cup (28g) crushed Cornflakes cereal
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240mL) buttermilk

Find the recipe here.

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Yogurt bites are the perfect healthy snack, also doubling as a treat! You can also use different silicon moulds to give fun shapes.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fruit puree
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey

Find the recipe here.

Frozen Yogurt Bark

Watermelon Yogurt Bark

Another way you can use yogurt to make an appetizing snack is making a yogurt bark. Yogurt bark is slices of yogurt dotted with toppings and frozen in the freezer to create a handheld treat.

You and your children can use red and green food coloring to make an eye-popping watermelon yogurt bark.

Ingredients

  • Plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
  • Red and green food coloring
  • Large chocolate chips
  • Pipping bags (or you can use plastic zipper food bags)
  • Parchment paper

Find the recipe here.

PB&J French Toast

PB&J French Toast

A French Toast that is also a Penaut Butter and Jam Sandwich? Two breakfasts in one!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup jam/jelly of your choice
  • 8 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Sugar or maple syrup

Find the recipe here.

Whipped Pineapple Popsicles

Whipped Pineapple Popsicles

These are the creamiest popsicles and absolutely refreshing for kids running under the sun all day!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium lime/lemon
  • 5 cup pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Find the recipe here.

Basic Banana Muffins

Basic Banana Muffins

Basic ingredients and easy recipe; perfect way to help ease your child into the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Find the recipe here.

Spring Flower Pancakes

Spring Flower Pancakes

Involve your kids in making different shapes and flowers out of fresh fruits, so they look as amazing as they taste.

Ingredients

Pancake Batter

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Decorating the pancakes

  • ¼ cup Greek Yogurt, plain or flavored (plus more for topping the pancakes)
  • Favorite fresh fruit (strawberries, mango, blueberries, blackberries…)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips for melting or chocolate sauce
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Circle cookie cutters or kitchen scissors
  • Small zip top bag

Find the recipe here.

Mango Pineapple Sorbet

Mango Pineapple Sorbet

Introduce your children to different food textures, with this cool and easy 3 ingredient recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen mango
  • 2 cups frozen pineapple
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or honey)

If you want to freeze fresh fruit, peel and cut the mangoes and pineapple. Place them in a plastic ziplock bag and squeeze out all the air. Let it freeze for 6 hours before cooking.

Find the recipe here.

Cookie Cutter Fruit Salad

Probably the easiest and most fun. All you need are fruits you like and cookie cutters of choice, and let the shapes take over!

You can cut stars ..

Star Watermelon Salad

.. or crescents and mosques ..

Ramadan Fruit Salad

or even make flower bouquets!

Fruit Bouquets
Featured

How should we talk to our children about global conflict and crisis?

What do you think children see on the TV, when they watch a toddler running across the rubbles of a bombarded building, panicked and confused, looking for his mother?

He possibly sees himself in a similar situation that in his mind can become his reality.

According to Dr Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area,

“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things, that logically don’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?’”  

While older children can engage in more complex conversations about the reasons and consequences of global conflicts (or as part of their school curriculum or exposure to social media), for younger children, information needs to be presented differently.

According to Parenting Expert, Samantha Kemp-Jackson, it is best to be open and prepared with children.

“In today’s digital era, the days of hiding the frightening truth about global world events from our children are gone,” she says.

Ivany says that, “especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.” 

So how do we talk to our children about global conflict and international rivalries without instilling a fear in them about personal safety?

  • Make topics around war easy to talk to

You can initiate conversation by bringing in the topic, but let your children’s questions steer the conversation. You can begin with a neutral question like, have you heard about a country named Palestine?

Try to be as factual as you can be. Do not assume they are too young to understand. If still that is a concern, you can use stories, or examples from real life they can relate to. If they feel comfortable, try to explain through drawings and/or paintings, and encourage them to participate to help understand their perspective.

  • Find out what your child is overhearing

Your children may have heard bits of information and they may be struggling to make sense of things. Or they may have seen media coverage that you weren’t aware they were watching.

To get an idea of what your child knows already, ask questions like, “where did you first hear about this?” or “what are your friends saying about this matter?”

Listen sincerely and patiently and try to understand where they are coming from.

  • Reassure your children of their safety

Respond to your child in a supportive and sensitive way. As a parent you may immediately worry of the information they may reveal to you, and be concerned of how they found out about it. Try to communicate instead of demonstrating silence. Children pick on cues, and your silence may be disturbing as they will perceive the subject to be too scary or upsetting to be talked about.

If children assume that, as parents, we are unable to navigate around the topic of war/global conflicts, we lack the ability to take care of them. Young children especially, need to feel secure in the knowledge that the adults in their lives can manage difficult topics and deep feelings and are available to help them do the same

Explain what you as a parent and others will do to keep children safe. Explain how far away the military action probably will be and if need be, use a map to give an idea.

  • Encourage compassion

Try not to ignore the possible consequences of armed conflicts: poverty, loss of family members and medical emergencies. Studies indicate children care about people in their own country, as well as other countries. Support this caring attitude.

Even a small act, like donating loose change to a charity that helps children in war-torn countries or making a care package for volunteers going in to help, can go a long way toward helping your child feel like he’s able to make a difference.

How do we talk to our children without leading them to develop prejudice?

  • Try to be impartial when speaking about two sides opposing each other

Let know of what is happening and why one side may be dominating the other and vice versa. Help them understand the rationale behind every action, instead of labeling it for them. Choose to give facts only and statistics if necessary.

  • Avoid harmful stereotypes
  • We should be careful when talking about a certain group of people or a specific country. Children don’t naturally reject other kids based on their parents’ political affiliations, race, religion or nationality. They are taught to do so.

    If we choose to encourage tolerant behavior towards those who may seem at fault according to the facts, we will be pulling our children away from developing vengeance.

    • Respect your child’s views

    Every child has the right to understand a situation from their perspective. Therefore, it is very important to state as many facts as you can to help them understand views of countries and/or people that may be at war with each other.

    At the end, whatever point of view your child develops, try to respect it, even if you vehemently disagree. Do not attempt to overpower your child and compel him to form the same opinion you may have. Maybe your perspective is lacking an element that his doesn’t,

  • Monitor your emotional state
  • Your child will learn how to cope with news about war and global conflicts, by watching your reaction and behavior. A big part of ensuring your children remain calm is keeping your own mental health in check.

    What does this mean in practical terms?

    According to parenting expert Ann Douglas, “It means figuring out what works best to bring your anxiety levels down when the news is just plain stressing you out.”

    She believes there’s a massive difference between being “informed” and being “immersed” in current events.

    How much should my child be exposed to media violence?

    While it is always healthy to talk about global issues and help children understand, it is a good idea to limit a child’s media exposure especially involving graphic images and violence. There is ample research which says that viewing television coverage of violent or tragic events is correlated with increased chances of post-traumatic symptomology later, so it is important to limit the amount of television coverage children watch, regardless of age. It is especially important to limit young children’s exposure to graphic images of violence.

    Summary

    According to Dr Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area, “Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things, that logically don’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults.

    A conversation that may seem intelligent for a teenager may be too scary for a 5 year old. It is important to recognize this difference and understand the way war is spoken about to children aged differently.

    When talking about global conflicts it is necessary that we ensure children of their safety by making topics around war easy to talk to; responding to our children’s queries and reactions in a sensitive and supportive way and encouraging them to contribute in any way they can, may it be a simple donation.

    It is also important to eliminate the element of bias when speaking around this topic. As parents we need to be as factual and as impartial we can be and encourage our children to develop their point of views, and respecting them. We should also pay attention to how news is impacting our mental state as children tend to emulate their parents.

    Featured

    Building adaptability and resilience in kids

    By Zeina Habib ICF ACC Coach

    Change is the biggest constant in today’s world. From the rapid technological advancements and the rise of social media to globalization and pandemics, the world is constantly evolving.

    It does not wait for us to be ready for it, so we have to harness the skills needed to handle the challenges it throws our way.

    We need to be equipped with the tools needed to manage our inner world no matter what is happening around us and we need to train our kids to have these skills too. 

    We want them to step outside of their comfort zone and take risks while still being grounded and resilient. We also want them to develop the flexibility needed to deal with anything we might face.

    So in this article, I want to share with you some strategies and tools that can be used with kids to help them be more adaptable and resilient.

    Embrace the discomfort 

    I want to start by sharing one of my favorite quotes addressing the topic of emotional and mental discomfort written by  Brenee Brown in her book Rising Strong

    “I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”

    I was both angry and excited reading this quote. It was clear that in order to live courageously, we have to accept a life of discomfort.

    If we want to have new experiences, we have to take risks, if we want love we have to be vulnerable and risk heartbreak  and if we want the career we always  dreamed of, we have to push ourselves to work hard to achieve it. 

    In conclusion, if we really want to live, we need to be in the arena where it’s scary, uncomfortable and filled with unknowns. More importantly, if we want our kids to live the life they deserve, we have to let them get into the arena. We have to fight our inner parental instincts and push them towards discomfort. 

    This is difficult for most parents since by nature, parents are wired to protect their kids. They want them to be safe and happy.

    But what is the best way to be present for kids? Should parents shield them from life’s experiences and save them from every uncomfortable situation ? Or should they leave them  to experience life as it is ?

    I believe it’s a range going from being overprotective to being negligent and as parents you want to be somewhere in the middle. You  cannot save your kids from life and live it for them, because they will grow up unable to handle it. At the same time, you cannot leave them to struggle through it all on their own because they may grow up feeling alone and unable to ask for help. 

    So what should you do? Find your own balance. 

    Encourage your kids to get into the arena while you sit in the front row cheering them on and letting them know you are there.

    But how do you achieve that? Here are some practical tools and ideas to help you support them. 

    1- Build their decision making skills by involving them in the decision making process. You can use different ways depending on their age. For example, if you have an 8 year old, you can have them pick trip destinations,  if you have a 2 year old , you can have them pick their outfit from a choice of 2 or 3. 

    2-Expose them to discomfort gradually. It can range from pushing them to perform a dance routine to encouraging them to make new friends by involving them in new social activities.

    3-Make sure they know love is not related to their achievements. It is important that parents’ actions and words show unconditional love no matter what. When a kid knows they will be loved even if they fail, it makes failure easier to face since they will not be facing it alone.

    4- Help them deal with difficult emotions. (I will elaborate on this in the next section).

    5- Turn failure into a lesson. Make sure that after they deal with the emotions related to their failures, you sit with them and analyze  the lessons learned and what could be improved. 

    6- Lead by example. If you want kids to face failure, you have to make sure you’re pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone too. Kids are very observant and they can tell if you are living what you are preaching.

     Dealing with emotional discomfort

    A big part of embracing change is handling the emotional turmoil it causes. 

    In his book, the Yes brain , Daniel Siegel talks about 3 emotional states people move in and out of: the green zone (i.e window of tolerance) , the blue zone (i.e lower edge) and the red zone (i.e upper edge). 

    To help you understand the function of each, I want to share an excerpt from his book explaining each.

    “Window of tolerance” is a term Dan coined to mean the width of a span of activation in the brain within which we can function well. Beyond the upper edge of the window our mind becomes chaotic; beyond the lower edge we become rigid. When the window for a given emotion, like sadness or anger, is quite narrow, it’s easy in that emotional state to ‘lose it’ with a small provocation.”

    As adults, we function at our best when in our window of tolerance as we have trained ourselves to hold it together even when we are at the edges. Kids, on the other hand,  have not yet developed these skills so they cannot function normally when pushed outside of the green zone. Therefore, it is the job of parents to help them regulate and then teach them how to do it themselves.  

    First of all, you can help them regulate by holding space for their emotions, empathizing with them, and being present in the moment. 

    For example if your child is throwing a tantrum or being unresponsive, yelling at them or using logical arguments will not work. You need to help them come back to their window of tolerance and then address the facts and their behavior. It’s the concept Dan Siegel calls “connect and redirect.”  Connect to them emotionally and then redirect them to the behavioral logical reasoning.

    Secondly, you need to help them build the skills to start self-regulating.

    In order to do so, they need to become aware of it and know how to express what they are feeling.

    There are multiple areas we can practice awareness . The below four categories are the ones that I have found to be  most helpful in this case. 

    1- Awareness of sensations. This is related to the state of the body  (warm, cold, tense, relaxed, etc). The easiest way to help kids develop that skill is by enrolling them in martial arts or any type of dance class. They both develop high body and breath awareness.  You can also practice body awareness through games. One of the games we use is the gingerbread man body scan. To do a body scan, you need to stand up tall, breath in and out slowly while focusing on each part of your body gradually. Then,  you can draw a gingerbread man on a piece of paper,  and color on it what you are sensing and where (i.e if there is tension in the shoulder, color the gingerbread man’s shoulders in red and so on) .  There are also many online resources with lists of body sensation vocabulary for kids that can be helpful too.

    2- Awareness of thoughts. Thoughts are opinions or phrases that we tell ourselves (“I am going to fail”, “I am pretty”, “this day is long”…).  Thought awareness can be practiced with a child by setting time aside and asking probing questions (i.e. “why do you want to quit tennis?” “What are you thinking about?” “Why are you sad?”). Using books, art, and storytelling help your children express their thoughts. 

    3- Awareness of emotions. Emotions are what we feel in response to our thoughts, sensations, or environments. You can find great lists of emotions online to help enrich your kids’ emotional vocabulary. You can also create an emotional wheel where they can use pins to point out their feelings as they change throughout the day or week.  You can also check  Dan Sielgel’s book The whole brain child which has great tools and games to help kids understand how the brain works and how emotions affect them. 

    4- Awareness of breath.  Helping kids become aware of their breath is tricky but activities such as martial arts, yoga, and dance can really help. There are also some meditation tools for kids online. 

    Once kids are more self-aware, you can start working with them on self-regulation, i.e. the ability to move from one state to another.

    Here are some tools and resources that may help. 

    • Being present and empathizing is the easiest way to help them regulate. This can be done by giving them a hug, having a conversation or spending time with them. It should be adapted based on your kid’s personality.
    • Helping them have good posture. Research has shown that having a good posture has a huge impact on self-regulation and mood. If you want to learn more about this subject, I suggest reading Your Body is your brain by Amanda Blake.
    • Practicing gratitude. Gratitude has been shown to have huge impacts on mood. It helps remind kids of the good in them and around them and changes their perspective on the world. 

    You can check out both of Daniel Siegel’s books mentioned above for more ideas. There are also books and movies addressing these issues that can help kids grasp these concepts; “Inside out” for example. 

    In the end, what really matters is being present, getting to know your kids and using whatever tool that works for them. 

    You do not have to be a perfect parent, you just have to care. 

    Featured

    Does your child need supplements?

    With all the colourful gummies and hundred other multivitamins available in the market, parents often question the diet and nutritional sufficiency of their children. With their growing age, they need to get sufficient vitamins and minerals each day to ensure optimal health.

    American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not recommend supplements over and above the recommended dietary allowances for healthy children who eat a balanced diet.

    NUTRITIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN

    Children usually need a small amount of every vitamin and mineral for proper growth and health, but exact amounts vary by age and activity. Older children need different amounts of nutrients than younger ones. 

    Nutrients like iron, zinc, iodine, choline, and vitamins A, B6 (folate), B12, and D are crucial for brain development in early life.

    Infants have different nutrient needs than children and may require certain supplements, such as vitamin D for breastfed babies 

    Nutrients that help build bones and promote brain development are significantly required in childhood. As children grow, they need to get adequate amounts Calcium and Vitamin D that help build strong bones.

    While most kids get sufficient nutrients from their diet, vitamin and mineral supplements often get necessary under certain conditions. 

    CHILDREN WHO MAY NEED SUPPLEMENTS

    Most kids who eat a balanced diet do not need nutritional supplements, but there are specific circumstances. If you think your child may need a vitamin supplement, talk to your doctor first, especially if your child is:

    • Having a restricted diet (For example Vegan diet) 
    • Eats a lot of junk food.
    • Do not drink enough milk.
    • Drinks too much milk and not enough food. 
    • Having food allergies
    • Having a medical condition (Such as absorbing difficulties, inflammatory bowel disease)

    Children on a vegetarian diet are often at the risk of deficiency of Calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 and have to be replaced through supplements. 

    Inflammatory bowel disease causes difficulty in absorbing Vitamins and minerals by damaging the areas of the gut that absorb micronutrients. 

    Children with cancer and other diseases have increased nutritional needs and may require certain supplements to prevent Malnutrition

    Supplemental nutrition gets essential if the child is having one or more exceptional conditions. It is important to consult a healthcare provider to get the suitable multivitamin prescribed. 

     SUPPLEMENTS AVAILABLE FOR CHILDREN

    Gummy Vitamins

    It is easier for parents to give colorful gummy vitamins because of their sweet taste. However, most gummy vitamins have no iron and very minimal amounts of calcium that many children may require if they take supplements.

    It is also important to keep a check on children to prevent overdose.

    Probiotics

    Probiotics work by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the GI tract and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

    Probiotics are a popular supplement for the kid. Though the proven benefit of probiotic is only in stomach virus and diarrhea. 

    Vitamin C

    It is the most common Vitamin and almost all multivitamins include Vit C. 

    Most parents use extra Vitamin C for immunity boosting purposes to prevent cold etc. Still, children do fulfil their requirements of Vitamin C from their diet in the form of fruits and juices.

    Vitamin D 

    It is an incredibly important Vitamin for kids. It helps in developing strong bones and protects adults from osteoporosis. 

    If your child is not getting enough food that is fortified with Vitamin D, most pediatricians recommend it accordingly with the doses. 

    Fibre

    Fibre supplements and gummies are available for younger kids and doctors recommend them to children having problems like constipation and stomach pain. 

    If the child is taking a low fibre diet, additional supplements may be given to balancing the requirement.

    The latest recommendations are that kids should eat about 14g grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories they eat. 

    Adequate nutrition does play a vital role in the development of children and failing to incorporate it through diet or supplements may result in developmental delays. Hence it is important to discuss with your health care provider for nutritional replacements and adding supplements to your child’s diet. 

    Featured

    A Lesson in Childism: A Coherent Narrative of the Experience Around Body Image

    By Aizah Ashraf

    Last year I stumbled upon a gold mine that opened a can of worms for me. Yes, you read that right. I am a parent of 3 beautiful children mashaAllah for the last 6.5 years and been on the parenthood journey of turmoil and self-doubt, exhaustion and exhilaration, imperfection and acceptance, all at the same time. Never in my life did I imagine to come across my most basic human need in such a profound realisation interconnected with each other: safety. Safety in my body, safety in my emotions, safety in relationships with my children, spouse, family, friends, religion, food and most importantly, safety in my relationship with me. And that’s where the can of worms opened for me in that gold mine of knowledge and clarity.

    I learnt how I felt about myself, how unaware I was of my dislike towards me and how connected (or disconnected) I felt to myself that has led me to exist in a reality that is only my truth.

    My ongoing self-discovery and self-healing journey has brought me here today discussing childism and its effects on societies, cultures, my own family and myself. I am a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn most effectively by doing. I can listen to affirmations, I can read up on new concepts, but I will undoubtedly absorb and internalise my learnings when I have experienced it. My knowledge of the stark difference in treatment of children vs. adults in similar situations is deeply rooted in my own past and childhood. The environment, system and culture I was raised in has helped me understand the dynamics that exists between parent and child and how and why we grow up to be the way we are. Everything stems from our view of the world, our relationships, our sense of self-worth and our working model of self that is created between the ages of 0-7 years, specifically 2-7 years.

    Here is an example of what I am saying: I have a very unbalanced, negative relationship with food and a relationship full of shame with my body. Hear me out. The earliest memories I have of some of the remarks / comments / musings that were passed to me about my body when I was a child were:

    • She has a very soft body type. She will grow fat very quickly
    • Oh my God! She is growing so fast! Please buy her appropriate undergarments ASAP
    • Did you just make all of these fries?? These are at least 5 kg! Are you going to eat them all alone (No. I made them for everybody)
    • That’s a big plate full of rice. Eat less or you’ll become fat
    • She’s the youngest????? Looks like the oldest!
    • She will become fat after having kids

    To the point where it became norm for me to hear that I will become very fat very soon. Let me tell you something funny, I was stick thin. I shed off all the “baby fat” at around 14 years and then I was further stick thin. But I never looked in the mirror and decided I was going to become fat. I listened to and believed all the words. During my teens, I would have people tell me “Wow. Seems like you have the body type in which nothing you eat seems to have an effect on you.” And I didn’t believe them because hey, I was going to get fat very soon. I heard all those remarks full of blame and shame so frequently as I was growing so I created a working model of myself and a sense of worthlessness around those beliefs (among many other, both life-enhancing and limiting) that I am not good enough.

    November 1995, Grade 7. Thats me in the back with the wedge Bob. Even with the school blazers, it’s easy to gauge that I was tall, thin and lanky. But in my head ai had already lost the battle of obesity

    I remember declaring happily and cheerfully as a teen once (when McDonald’s had just entered the Pakistan market) that “French fries is my favorite food!” Only to be met with “Yeah, but it is so oily and not healthy at all and will make you fat”. I didn’t stop liking French fries after that but a. I started disliking myself further for liking them and b. I started keeping my other likes a secret too lest I’d be met with rejection again. Now I know what most of you must be thinking “Well, if french fries was your favorite food… ahem ahem… obviously you were bound to get fat”. I’m trying to make a point here, I promise and it has nothing to do with judging my childish choices and likes. It also doesn’t have to do with judging my primary caregivers. I know in the hearts of my hearts that they were trying their best and have alwasys tried their best from the knowledge and experience that they had. It does however have everything to do with what I heard, felt about it, thoughts I stored in my mind, needs that went unmet and beliefs I created around my body: My physical state of being is shameful. I’m horrible and ugly. I’m unworthy, I’ll never measure up to the gold standard. It’s those limiting beliefs about myself that led me to make choices that proved that I couldn’t take care of myself or my body.

    A Texas mom sent her son to daycare with a note looking to “make him smile at lunchtime,” only to find a disturbing return missive instructing her to “put him on a diet and go away!”

    In one of her ground breaking talks, Brene Brown says that “Appearance and body image are still the number 1 shame triggers for women so when we make up stories about ourselves, they are often about that.”

    And I understand now that that’s what I did. All. My. Life. Make up stories about my shame for the day that I WILL become fat. To the point that decades later I met my then fiance’s (and now husband) house keeper. She looked at me and said “She will become fat after having kids”. There was still a dull ache listening to that comment but I had definitely internalised that belief as the ultimate truth that WILL happen.

    Fast forward to 2014 and I had my first baby. A caring family member looked at me 2 months post partum and said (you guessed it right): “Please start walking or exercising or you will start looking like your mother”. I love my mother. I love how she looks. But… Oh well.

    This is me with my then 9-month new son. I truly believed from the bottom of my heart that I HAVE become fat. All my life I had been told that I WILL become fat when I have kids and now the moment had come and there is nothing I could do about it because that is what I had told my mind. I am officially FAT. In my mind, I was fat. My brain was assuredly sending out this message from the working model of myself I created between the ages of 2 and 7 years that I HAVE BECOME FAT. When in actuality, it wasn’t true.

    Here’s what I believed and told myself henceforth and made the choices I made based on my beliefs (Not the actual truth, but the truth in my mind)

    • Nothing I do will help
    • I am already fat. I might as well eat what I please and not take care of my body
    • It’s too late
    • It’s no use. I’m supposed to look like this after having a baby (living the truth and role created for me when I was a child as a self-fulfilling prophecy)

    All the body image related industries including clothing, makeup, workout places, supplements, pharmaceuticals do not create body shame. Body image (or shame) doesn’t stem from only what we see in the mirror. These industries bank on the shame already inside of us.

    They advertise and sell their products or services to us that will temporarily make us feel better but that’s surface level and dies fast. In my corporate life of marketing and research, that’s all we did; look for insights that would ring a bell, touch the consumer’s heart or simply hit a nerve that has been there as a well-kept secret. And that shame about our bodies is created in or childhood.

    It’s taken me 36 years, 3 children and an on-going self-healing journey to learn, understand and appreciate slowly and surely that I am enough. Exactly like I am. I am worthy. I am amazing and I will measure up to my health standards, if I continue to work hard and give myself grace when I fail or make a mistake. These things are so deep rooted that it is terribly hard to break free from our default patterns and survival mode state because while it is true that it takes 67 days to prune an old limiting belief, it definitely seems to be taking much longer for me.

    Survival mode? Well, that’s a story for another day.

    And that is how children develop intensely entrenched beliefs and value system and a working model of themselves when they are treated with emotional negligence, shame, blame, guilt damaging their self- confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. They are treated with a prejudice against them that they are our property and can / should be controlled and ridiculed and it doesn’t matter what is said to them when they are young, because well, they’re just children and don’t understand anything.

    With the “power over” mindset, most parents end up having singular focus: to control the relationship. There’s no judgement to any parent here because that is what we have seen all our lives and most of us believe it to be the absolute truth. It is our reality from our own childhoods. Until someone questions and challenges it and takes on the hard task of breaking and ending the generational patterns of emotional / physical abuse and trauma and changes the narrative of their family forever. In an excerpt from his new book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Dr. Daniel Siegel explains:

    The best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to his parents as children, but rather how his parents made sense of those childhood experiences. And it turns out that by simply asking certain kinds of autobiographical questions, we can discover how people have made sense of their past— how their minds have shaped their memories of the past to explain who they are in the present. The way we feel about the past, our understanding of why people behaved as they did, the impact of those events on our development into adulthood— these are all the stuff of our life stories. The answers people give to these fundamental questions also reveal how this internal narrative— the story they tell themselves— may be limiting them in the present and may also be causing them to pass down to their children the same painful legacy that marred their own early days.

    If we as parents are able to make a coherent life narrative of what happened, where we came from and make sense of our experiences for ourselves, there is absolute hope that we will not pass it down to our children. We have to stand up and break the generational cycle of childism and emotional neglect for generations to come and that is the best gift we can give our children.

    Closing with Dr. Siegel’s statement of hope and courage:

    Parents who had a tough time in childhood but did make sense of those experiences were found to have children who were securely attached to them. They had stopped handing down the family legacy of non-secure attachment.

    Sources / More Readings:

    1. Daniel Siegel, Making Sense of Your Past Creating a Cohesive Life Story: An Excerpt from Dr. Daniel Siegel’s New Book – Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
    2. My Self-Healing Journey
    Featured

    A Lesson in Childism: Why Is It Difficult for Parents to Give Up Control?

    For the longest time mainstream parenting has included treating children as inferior to adults, and failing to give them the respect we would give to any adult.

    This includes the assumption that what we say about our children (even jokingly, especially in their presence) won’t have an impact on them;  the assumption that we have the inherent right to choose and declare our children’s behavior; and the assumption that children are not worthy enough to have their opinions valued and their choices recognized.

    While it is important to realize that children need their parents (and are highly dependent on them for survival), it does not give them the autonomy to chart out a life that the child may be uncomfortable with.

    If your daughter does not want to wear a frock on a hot day, and insists on jeans, as parents we can choose to listen to her.

    If your son is picking on his food, and wants to finish it later, we can give him the leeway to come back to the table in an hour.

    This is not disrespect. Your children are not refusing to listen to you. They are merely trying to communicate what they want, and are seeking your approval in doing so. In such cases, you can facilitate your children in making a decision that is comfortable and acceptable not just to you, but to them as well.

    When you choose to listen to your child, and understand the rationale behind their request, you are not relinquishing your position. You are empowering your child.

    However, there is often the question, should you even be empowering kids?

    Children by default are assumed to lack the ability, awareness and intelligence to make informed decisions. Often the parent chooses to speak on behalf of the child to the different stakeholders in their lives, especially relatives and teachers. This apparent control of a child and the assumption that they lack the capacity to do so, comes under the realm of childism.

    What is childism?

    Childism is the idea that children need to be respected as human beings. As simple as this concept may seem, it can better be understood by comprehending its opposite force, “adultism”.

    Adultism is the assumption that young people are inferior to adults simply because of their young age. Adults often act on this assumption by limiting a child’s access to decision-making, information, resources, human rights, and opportunities to voice their thoughts.

    Because adultism is targeted towards children, who may not have the thinking capabilities to comprehend fully what behavior should and should not be accepted by them, it becomes an oppression that they are unaware of. And since majority of parents follow this, it becomes a normal.

    by Peace I Give

    However, instead of shaming, manipulating or coercing our children into doing what we or others may want them to do, we can choose to consider our children as partners in the decision making process.

    But how can we partner with our children in the parenting process, when we are exerting control over their behavior with the assumption that they are unable to make autonomous decisions?

    The conflict between a child’s autonomy and compliance

    Many parents report that obedience is a principal childrearing objective. While compliance has been noted to play an important part in a child’s self-regulation of emotions, it should not be an outcome of parental control.

    According to a study, mothers’ supportive behavior predicted children’s willing compliance. In addition, it also revealed that if children are exhibiting resistance to behave in a certain way requested by parents, it means that the child is motivated to control his life events, developing a sense of autonomy and an ability to assert themselves in social interactions.

    In no way is such behavior indicative of poor parenting or strained parent–child relationships.

    Unfortunately, in many social settings, resistance to a parent’s demands is seen as disrespectful. This creates an undue societal and peer pressure to make attempts at controlling the child’s behavior, and transform it into submission to parental authority. The onset of parental control initiates the crisis of autonomy versus shame and doubt. If children are encouraged and supported in their increased independence, they become more confident and secure in their own ability to survive in the world.

    If children are criticized, overly controlled, or not given the opportunity to assert themselves, they begin to feel inadequate in their ability to survive, and may then become overly dependent upon others, lack self-esteem, and feel a sense of shame or doubt in their abilities.

    Autonomy Supportive Parenting is a balance between helping children realize their abilities and also benefit from being taught how to behave, by their parents. Children are given space to feel their feelings, and to understand rules. 

    How can we adopt an Autonomy Supportive Parenting style?

    1. “Choice within limits”

    Involve kids in the decision-making process, while providing safe and age-appropriate boundaries.

    2. Communicate, instead of just telling

    Tell your kids the reason behind what you are asking them to do, or not to do. Help them understand the consequences, instead of quoting the notoriously popular sentence, “because I said so”.

    3. Be empathetic

    “Help your kids feel unconditionally loved by talking to them calmly and without judgment, even when they mess up”, writes Psychologist Tali Shenfield in a Fine Parent. That way, kids develop confidence in their choices rather than fearing they’ll lose parental acceptance by making the wrong one. 

    4. Be patient

    Know that your child will say no! When you give your children the freedom to do so, you will need to prepare yourself to give them time to understand why you are trying to convince them otherwise. It will take a while before they meet you halfway and start to understand your point of view.

    How childhood trauma leads to internalized childism

    Childhood trauma lives in our symptoms: depression; panic attacks; eating disorders; obsessional worries; catastrophic anxieties, and relationship fears. It can be an outcome of multiple causes.

    When children are traumatized they become internally split: part of them struggles to overcome the trauma, and part of them internalizing the childism (considering themselves inferior to adults) that comes with the trauma.

    Childhood trauma can culminate into transgenerational trauma if it is left unresolved. Such behavior can damage generations, who internalize the dislike directed at them from the grown-ups who run their lives.

    Jim Walker, an independent social worker and psychotherapist, says in a Community Care Inform guide to unresolved loss and trauma that a traumatic childhood in itself, “is not predictive of maltreatment of children. What is predictive is if the adult has not been able to come to terms with their traumatic experiences”.

    The guide says a common reaction to unresolved trauma is parental dissociation, with parents “likely to neglect the emotional needs of their children and/or have difficulty in assessing risk in their partners”.

    Essentially taking the form of childism.

    This is further substantiated by the concept of repetition compulsion. Proposed by Freud, it is a psychological phenomenon, where we have the tendency to repeat “patterns of behavior which were difficult or distressing in earlier life”.

    This does not mean that there is something wrong with us or our parenting. As children, we were exposed to such behaviors, and being vulnerable we picked them up. However, we can choose to identify these behaviors and rectify them so they don’t affect our children.

    When our traumas are unresolved, our brain isn’t fully integrated. When we grow up, we may assume that we have overcome our traumas, but any triggers in our present life may throw us back in the unstable emotional state we may have experienced as a child.

    Dr. Jack Kornfield recommends an approach called “RAIN,” to help us mindfully deal with these triggers. The steps include:

    • Recognize – Pause and notice what you’re feeling.
    • Accept/acknowledge/allow – whatever strong emotion is occurring in the moment.
    • Investigate – Start to investigate your internal experience. Try what Daniel Siegel calls SIFTing through your experience, noting Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts that arise.
    • Non-identification– Don’t allow the thoughts, feelings or experiences to define you. If a memory arises, remember that the memory is not happening to you now and does not define who you are.

    When we learn to approach our memories with calmness and curiosity, we are less likely to be triggered.

    Many times therapy is also helpful.

    Childism, codependency and the need for control

    Why is it that we have been conditioned to realize the impact our actions may have on others, instead of wondering how they will affect us?

    There’s an entire industry around “emotional intelligence” and re-teaching adults how to look into themselves to better understand how to relate to others. We wouldn’t need to be trained in emotional intelligence if we learned about it organically as children.

    Although empathy is a learned behavior, the capacity for it is inborn. This means that every child has some level of understanding how their actions can affect those around him; and this trait can be nurtured by being receptive to a child’s needs and having his or her emotional states recognized and responded to.

    Unfortunately though, many times parents react to a child’s behavior. By react it means that parents attach their emotions to the child’s behavior, instead of trying to understand the reason for why the child behaved the way he did. As parents, we tell the child how he made us feel, but don’t ask him how he may be feeling.

    As a result, the child,

    1. Overrides what he or she is feeling,

    2. consequently, failing to label his or her emotion and

    3. replacing the true emotion with a supposedly “corrective” behavior that is aimed to please others or avoid upsetting them.

    This cycle of ignoring one’s emotional needs with that of adopting acquiescent behavior breeds codependency.

    According to Dr Renee Exelbert, a licensed psychologist and author based in New York,

    “Codependency is a circular relationship in which one person needs the other person, who in turn, needs to be needed. The codependent person, known as ‘the giver,’ feels worthless unless they are needed by — and making sacrifices for — the enabler, otherwise known as ‘the taker”

    This is highly problematic and contributes to emotional instability. Children who may be taught to sideline their own emotional needs and give preference to the needs of their parents, develop codependent relationships. Such relationships have the capacity to diminish self-esteem because of an imbalanced power structure.

    Control is one of the defining characteristics of codependency, whether it has to do with controlling oneself or others. Since codependents struggle with empowering themselves and being assertive, they tend to seek control and power from external sources in order to feel good. A codependent may try to change others in order to find happiness, and this at times may apply to their own children as well.

    Conclusion

    As parents, when we choose to ignore the opinions, choices and emotional needs of our children, we engage in anti-child biases. We may assume that such behavior is helping discipline our child, but at times it may be forcing kids to override their needs, and submit to the will of their elders.

    This form of childism is the need to control the behavior of children.

    Childism is the idea that children need to be respected as human beings. It can better be understood by comprehending its opposite force, “adultism”. Adultism is the assumption that young people are inferior to adults. To counter this unintentional abuse we can partner with our children in the parenting process and involve them in the decisions affecting them. This can be done by Autonomy Supportive Parenting – a balance between helping a child realize their autonomy and also benefit from being taught how to behave by their parents. Children are given space to feel their feelings, and to understand rules. 

    However, before we choose to end childism, it is important we address our childhood traumas and resolve them. Unresolved childhood traumas, alongwith repetition compulsion, can most likely lead us to seek stability by controlling our children.

    Many times when parents react to a child’s behavior, it means that parents attach their emotions to the child’s behavior, instead of trying to understand the reason for why the child behaved the way he did. As parents, we tell the child how he made us feel, but don’t ask him how he may be feeling. This may develop high levels of codependency in a child, who later on in his life, may seek to control the behavior of others to find assertiveness and happiness.

    Featured

    Why do we need to be more inclusive now more than ever

    Written by Humaira Piracha

    2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year.

    If it was tough for us, it has been tougher for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental challenges. Unfortunately any differences we see amongst our fellow beings are subject to a predefined set of thoughts and beliefs. These views, beliefs and thoughts determine our behaviour and communication with the differently-abled. Our assumptions made about “normal” and “different” in the society, may contribute to the display of negative attitudes towards any individual who may not fit into our idea of what should be and what should not. Instead of adapting inclusiveness, communities often exclude, bully and pity people with physical or mental challenges. These negative daily interactions may result in exclusiveness not only in schools but also in the society. The differently-abled are still largely segregated socially all over the world, and the barriers are not only because of the community but also because of the support from the family and the government, which poses difficulties for them to thrive socially and succeed in any chapter of their life.

    “When you hear the word ‘disabled,’ people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.” -Teri Garr

    The contribution and role of parents of the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (IDD) children cannot be left unrecognized. The parents work to improve the life of their child by understanding their needs and cater to them more effectively and collaboratively with schools and other institutions. According to a research, parents of the differently-abled put in more effort by working less hours or work from home to be available for their child when needed. If we think about parents of these children, they work hard to keep a balance of their life, work and support their child in their journey. They not only bear the high cost of child care but also face many challenges to include them in the community wholeheartedly. As an advocate of their child, they focus more towards non-academic skills such as social interactions; coping mechanisms and maturity which can build confidence and help them thrive in the community.

    @uppingthedownsgame is celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by encouraging everyone to wear mismatched socks, run or walk 3.21 miles and donate to organizations helping people with Down Syndrome achive their dreams.
    Picture by @rubabgetsreal

    Overall, the role of the community and educators is as important as the role of the family, in the upbringing and education of children. The acceptance of physical and mental challenges depends on many factors including how the family perceives it and how well they are educated regarding it. If the family itself labels the differences as a disability, it will bring a pitiful image to the community. The way we can support them is by keeping aside our personal beliefs, attitudes and biases regarding the physical and mental challenges, and include and create opportunities to support full participation of all children with tolerance and acceptance.

    The pandemic has brought an added stress which might not be realistic for IDD children and their families. With social distancing widely promoted, school closures for longer periods, and the anxiety of sending your child back to school, makes it challenging to maintain previous routines.

    Here are some tips to manage stress at home during these hard times.

    1. Help your child understand the situation.
    2. Connect with loved ones by reaching out to grandparents, family and friends.
    3. Try to help your child feel in control by explaining how to effectively wash hands, sneezing/coughing into elbow and related protocols to avoid contraction of Covid-19.
    4. Try to keep routines at home by creating a visual schedule.
    5. Take breaks by spending some time outdoors.
    6. Schedule fun activities with your child by playing games, watching movies.
    Featured

    How has the pandemic transformed fatherhood?

    The Covid-19 imposed lockdown last year included a large population experiencing self-isolation to prevent the spread of the virus. For many families, this included parents either working from home or spending lesser hours at the office, and more at home.

    A study published by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation has found that, “fathers feel closer to their kids during the COVID-19 pandemic, and want to create a new normal going forward”.

    For many fathers, the lockdown was seen as an opportunity to connect with their family and try to engage in family-centric activities. But how exactly were dads breaking down their time with family? The following infographic gives an idea.

    To get a more personal point of view, we asked 3 dads from across the globe, to share their experience and how their life as a dad changed during the lockdown.

    “Spending time with the kids hit very differently in 2020”

    Abdullah Osman, an accountant and business consultant from Australia. Father to a daughter and son.

    The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns reshaped the family routine and though challenging, it presented an amazing opportunity. As a father striving for presence and a front row seat to this show we call ‘Life with Kids’, it was a blessing. I usually work from home 2 days a week, but I found that having the kids home motivated me to improve my own productivity because the reward became tangible… spending quality time with the family in a whole new way.

    Time and energy management were essential to the process. I found myself working later in the evening or earlier in the day so I could free up more time with the kids which ultimately made me more productive. The lockdown reminded us of what is truly important in life so spending time with the kids hit very differently in 2020. The fear and anxiety of the pandemic forced us to reflect on our priorities and facilitated the perfect environment for spiritual learning and growth particularly to address the mental health aspect of the pandemic. Increased productivity, quality time with the kids, lots of Dhikr, meditation and introspection were key in finding the silver lining to this uniquely challenging global event

    Abdullah is an accountant and business consultant who works from home and out in the real world. He lives with his wife, son and daughter in sunny Brisbane, Australia. He loves reading non-fiction, is obsessed with productivity and always has a coffee in hand. When he isn’t in front of his laptop he’s usually out in the backyard kicking a ball around with the kids or cleaning the pool. He shares his thoughts Faith, Fatherhood, Family, Facial Hair, Food and Fresh Brew on his blog (http://modestmanstuff.com/) and Instagram @modestmanstuff.

    “A disruption that was unexpectedly positive for my relationship with my children and wife, and work life”

    Shakeel Karjieker, an entrepreneur and business coach from South Africa. Father to 4 daughters and a step daughter.

    My experience of covid -19 imposed lockdown was a disruption that was unexpectedly positive for my relationship with my children and wife, and work life.

    The forced time off during the hard lock down came with its fair share of anxiety due to the level of uncertainty in the air. Running a small business consisting of 25 employees meant that I had to shoulder the concerns and anxieties of the staff, their families and that of my own family as well, due to me being the sole breadwinner.

    Having a supportive partner and a good leadership team we assured all the staff that we will ride this storm and come out stronger. This disruption in business was loaded with new opportunities that we quickly jumped on.  As a compliant business, we could register on a government database and supply 3 ply fabric masks, thus keeping our full team employed and the business operational. 

    On the home front, I took the hard lockdown as a partial time off, bonding with my kids, wife and cooking every other night. I enjoyed this very much and during this time I realized that spending time with my family brought me more joy than spending time at work. 

    This new insight resulted in me starting a dad blog, as a support for parents and especially dads, because as fathers, we often think that our role as breadwinner is to work and provide. We lose sight of the other equally important aspects of parenting. Success is not making tons of money and neglecting your loved ones. To a large degree, the covid -19 pandemic helped me to see what is valuable and made me appreciate my business and family. I think this perspective was received by my staff as well and so the anxiety and uncertainty was leveled with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for life and a sense of purpose.

    I know for others it was a very negative experience, that of job losses and losing loved ones. It certainly was NOT an easy time for me as you might think. As a father to 4 daughters and a step daughter in her tweens the home space was turned upside down most times with everyone being frustrated and in each other’s faces. I lost my dad, my hero, to this pandemic. 

    If I may, I would like to lovingly suggest that you ask yourself this question. What did this crisis come to teach us? For me it was that time, freedom, health and living fully is more important than slaving away making lots of money.

    Shakeel is an entrepreneur, business coach and his best title is being a dad.
    He has a blog on positive parenting, @dadlife_adventure on Instagram. After doing a positive parenting course at the Parent Center, and being the only male in the workshop, he made it a mission to create awareness on the role of father towards positive and responsive parenting. 

    “It’s hard when a 3 year old comes to you, and asks, ‘what does this button do Papa?’, presses it and runs away!”

    Muhammad Owais is a businessman from Pakistan. Father to 2 daughters.

    Hey everyone this is Muhammad Owais, father of two princesses Hawa and Fatima.

    First of all a BIG shoutout to all the mothers out there. It took a pandemic to make me realise how tough their life/job is. The work we men do at office is nothing compared to the hard work and stressful jobs they have to do. Mothers know such tactics and have mastered such small techniques which would take fathers ages to get or even figure out. Women are amazing!

    Have you all seen how small and weak animals hide themselves and their babies from the strong and savage ones in the jungle? That’s how I hide when I work at home with my kids and my laptop is my baby.  I’m the type of dad who doesn’t even answer any business calls once he comes home but this lockdown has changed everything and to be honest it’s pretty hard since you don’t have a work environment and plus if you have a three year old who comes to you after every 2 minutes and asks you, “what does this button do papa?”, presses it and runs away!

    But there are some perks to it as well, you get to be with the kids the entire day, I’ve made a very special bond with my daughter Hawa during this lockdown; otherwise usually I’d get up in the morning leave for office when she’s asleep and come back in the evening, when she has to go to sleep after 2 to 3 hours. So we didn’t get to spend much time together. But since the lockdown we are like best friends now.

    Owais is a businessman from Karachi, Pakistan. Father of two, he is also a blogger (@dadiaries)

    Featured

    I’m a girl and I will change the world

    By Zeina Habib ICF ACC Coach

    In every youth leadership camp I led, there was at least one girl whose narrative was something like that “I wish I could play football or climb trees or etc. but I wouldn’t  be good at it and my parents don’t think I should, since I am a girl”

    It breaks my heart that these amazingly talented girls don’t get to develop their skills because of gender constructs imposed by society.

    Some parents seem to forget the stories of amazing women like Jeanne D’arc and Marie Curie and only remember Disney princesses and the list of “allowed activities” for girls.

    It is sad that beliefs like these are denying these girls their identity and preventing them from changing the world.

    I was lucky. My parents never shied away from me wanting to play basketball or volleyball. They never rejected my love for physics and math but not all parents share that view. So I am writing this article to shed light on how big of a role parents play in raising successful resilient girls; girls  who believe they can have any career they want anywhere in the world. 

    Addressing bias

    I am an outspoken feminist advocating for women’s empowerment, so you can imagine my embarrassment when in a course on diversity and inclusion, I failed my own beliefs. My first assignment in that course was to answer the below riddle.

    A boy and his father are involved in a horrible  car accident in which the father is killed. The son is rushed to the hospital, but just as he is about to go under the knife, the surgeon says « I can’t operate on this boy – he is my son! ». 

    Who is the surgeon ?

     My first reaction was that the surgeon was his dad and his parents were gay. I was so proud of myself for having figured it out , till I realized that the point of this riddle was that the surgeon was the mom, a woman. I deleted my answer before anyone could see it; It was embarrassing. I can’t be a feminist and still think like that. Then I realized that this was not a reflection of my current beliefs but rather a compilation of years of conditioning turned into a deeply rooted unconscious bias. 

    Our brains put people into categories the moment they see them or hear them talk , to make it easier to remember things and make associations such as “surgeons are males”. This was the case for me, having grown up in a country where surgeons are mostly male.

    We all have our own version of this story and our own unconscious bias and the question is what are we doing about it? And why is it important or relevant to this article?

    It is important because to raise our kids differently we need to see things differently and address our own biases. We also need to explain to our kids what these biases are, how they manifest and how to deal with them.

    They need to know that this bias and this social construct regarding women and ”…” (take your pick of words) is in no way an indication of who they really are or the level of their skills.

    They should understand that they may be judged for simply being girls but this does not mean that they are less qualified for it or that they should give up on their dreams. 

    There may not be many girls who are scientists or football players or nascar drivers but there are still amazing women out there who have changed the world. There is Saniya Vashist who founded CodeHer at 13 years old, a non-profit empowering girls in tech; there is Kamala Harris, the first Vice President who’s a woman  in the USA  and there  are the  women in your girls’ lives who  may be  accomplished  business women or doctors or engineers. 

    We have to believe in them and remind them that they may be judged or disrespected but that does not make it ok and it does not mean they are not capable of achieving whatever it is they dream of achieving. 

    Choosing the right education

    Education at school or through books and movies,  plays a huge part in what girls believe about themselves and the world. With the right education, they can be exposed to a diverse environment  that advocates for equality and women’s rights. . 

     They can also get the right support and resources to explore different things they may be passionate about. 

    As parents, when choosing schools, you need to ask questions about inclusion, talk with the teachers and make sure the school offers a diverse curriculum to all the students. 

    I had first had experience with the importance of education and teachers on girls’ careers.  I became an engineer because I had a physics teacher who thought I was a natural in physics and pushed me to ask more questions and be curious and excel.

    On the other hand, parents should also be mindful of the books,  TV shows and movies they expose their kids to. Choosing books with girls superheroes or scientists can make a big difference in how your girls view themselves. . 

    When I was around 9 years old, I was obsessed with a french book series called “Fantomette”, it talked about a superhero teenage girl who saved people’s lives and protected them so  I never had any doubts that girls could be superheroes or that they could be physically strong. 

     To make the quest for good books and TV shows or movies easier , I have added a few articles below that address that issue. 

    The strategist , Save the Children , msmagazine , Romper , Bustle

    Encouraging diverse experiences and commitment 

    Discovering ourselves and the world is a lifelong process. We start experimenting when we’re toddlers by  learning to talk and keep on learning even when we’re old and retired. So it is important to teach your kids how to learn and experiment properly.

    I have a strategy that has worked for me for many years and I am going to share with you the steps I follow so you can work on it with your girls. 

    1- Research affordable and available activities or learning opportunities together (ie. cooking, dancing, football, violin….)

    2- Select one or two  that they  feel interested in and try them out

    3-  Evaluate with them how things are going. (Do they like it ? Do they want to change ?Why? Is it hard? Do they want to  learn more about it?)

    4-Adjust according to the discussion 

    While doing this with your kids,  there are a few things you should be weary of. While you want your kids to let go of things that do not fit them, you also want them to learn commitment. So it is important to have deep discussions with them to understand the reasons they want to quit a certain activity. If it is fear of failure or insecurities you should push them to commit and help them face their fears and accept failure as part of the process. However,  if it is simply disinterest in the activity  you should help them let go. 

    Some kids  may have difficulties committing to certain activities especially if they are afraid of failing at it while others may have difficulties letting go and it is your duty to support them in overcoming both. 

    Another thing to look out for is making sure kids have some free time to get bored and be creative. You do not want to overwhelm them with activities and deprive them from the chance to create on their own. 

    Finally and most importantly, you should not push your children towards gender complying activities. It is easy to let your upbringing take over and encourage your  girls to play with dolls and dance and your boys to play  with trucks and practice football but you should fight that impulse and keep all options open. You  need to help them choose what works best for them as individuals regardless of their gender.

    All the above will play a big role in raising resilient girls who are long life learners, who pursue the career they want regardless of the norms  and who can embrace failure and criticism and learn from it. 

    Volunteering/ mentorship

    In today’s world, volunteering, being part of a non- profit or receiving mentoring are  great ways to support girls in their quest for a meaningful career. 

    In this article by Initlive, the company discusses the benefits of volunteering for youths  in developing their skills, networking and gaining access to events for free.  All of these provide them  with exposure to new ideas and new people which could facilitate their access to good universities, provide them with new career choices and improve their leadership skills. 

    In addition to that, through volunteering, the youth get the chance to find meaning in what they do.  It helps them answer these two questions 

    Why am I doing what I am doing? How does that benefit the world outside of me? 

    As for mentoring, In an interview with Harvard School, Dr. Mentor talks about the importance of mentoring in developing the youth’s self-confidence, attitude and relationships with peers, all of which are great qualities for leaders. Mentoring also gives youth the opportunity to connect with adults other than their parents and teachers to get a different perspective on the adult world and get inspired.

    Leading by example

    I was lucky to grow up in a family with empowered women. My mom had a masters degree in business and was still running her father’s shop while 9 months pregnant with me.My grandmother refused to have any man do any painting job around the house since she always did it better.So I never doubted that women could get things done and succeed. 

    You don’t have to be a scientist or a working mom to set a good example for your kids.

    You just have to believe women can achieve anything in any field, sharing with your kids your achievements and other women’s achievement and encouraging them to pursue their passion no matter what that is. 

    Leading by example is rejecting the gender norm and celebrating women in any field. 

    This is not just for mothers but also for fathers who need to acknowledge the bias and privilege that patriarchy brings.

    I had a boss who would not let his sister design the columns of his house because she is a woman so I cannot imagine how difficult it is for his girls to choose their careers. You cannot reject treatment from a surgeon who is a woman or be afraid to fly with a female pilot or ignore your colleague’s opinion because she is a woman  and then encourage your girl to become a  surgeon. You need to believe women can do anything so your girls believe that,too. 

    My favorite portrayal of this is a scene from Full House (episode 7×20)  where Michelle a young girl believes girls can’t race or build cars because she heard her aunt, uncle and father say so. Girls choose their beliefs based on yours so if you want empowered successful daughters you have to believe that women can be successful and empowering. 

    In the end, with the society we live in, girls will face criticism and patriarchal behavior and it is our duty to advocate for them and work to change the status quo.  But, most importantly it is our job to raise empowered resilient girls who believe they can choose any career they want  and create change in the world.

    Featured

    Why did Matilda fall in love with reading?

    By the age of five, Matilda, a character from Roald Dahl’s book titled the same, had developed a passion for library trips. Quoting from the book,

    There once was a young girl who loved to read books. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.

    The excerpt very articulately describes the pleasures of reading – how books are a gateway to imaginative thinking and inspiration.

    Unfortunately though, we are not a reading nation. Most times we do not engage in literary pleasure and eventually fail to inculcate the habit of reading amongst our children.

    So, what’s the big deal about reading?

    Reading modifies the brain structure

    Reading exercises our brain and physically changes the brain structure by strengthening connections and at times even building new ones.  In a 6 month daily reading program from Carnegie Mellon, scientists discovered that the volume of white matter in the language area of the brain actually increased. Further, they showed that brain structure can be improved with this training, making it more important than ever to adopt a healthy love of reading.

    Reading helps develop imagination

    This may sound clichéd but reading helps develop a child’s imagination. When we read, we translate the descriptions of people, places and things and log them into our brains as mental images. Reading allows us to develop a virtual reality experience of events illustrated in a book. When we read, the brain does not make a real distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it. Whether reading or experiencing it, the same neurological regions are stimulated.

    Reading helps in improving concentration span

    Reading requires determination, much like when completing home work: if you pay attention you’ll be able to focus on the content and understand the underlying plot. The demand for complete attention forces a child to ignore distractions and single-mindedly engage in reading. As he grows up, the child develops this ability to prolong for increased periods of time. In addition, stories have a sequence: beginning, middle and end. The structure encourages our brain to think progressively, attempting to link cause with effect. This type of thinking helps develop the mental characteristic of reasoning. Unless the cause is correlated with effect or vice versa, the mind will be in a constant state of frustration. The desire to seek the relation between the two helps in expanding the attention spans.

    Reading helps develop a higher aptitude for learning

    I may sound selfish when quoting this reason, but reading helps instil within a child academic excellence; and who doesn’t want a smart child! Books introduced to toddlers and preschoolers helps develop a higher aptitude for learning within them. Because they identify books as friendly tools, they are not intimidated to familiarize themselves with the literature again at the school level. While reading children develop the ability to put together words and sentences, which later expands to other subjects as well.

    Reading is a constant attempt to educate oneself

    As quoted by Alvin Toffler, an American writer,

    “the illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”

    People who distance themselves from information and education are easier to control and manipulate because they lack the power of a personal point of view. Opinions are derived from information, which in turn is an outcome of extensive research. Encourage your children to read, so they are able to filter bad ideologies from the good ones and learn to choose for themselves. Else, they might fall prey to the dominant thinking of a self-proclaimed monarch.

    How do we persuade our children to develop a reading habit?

    Here are a few ways to encourage reading amongst children:

    1. Begin by identifying your child’s interests. Look for cues when discussing different topics and see what excites them. If your child is in the early phase of developing a reading habit, start by discussing the pictures in books. Then move on to the text gradually; and later encourage them to research more on a particularly favourite picture.
    2. Become a role model. Read in your spare time so your children pick up the habit by watching you.
    3. Share with your children reading-related games, including crossword puzzles, spellings or even board games like monopoly or the mad magazine, that require players to read directions and cards.
    4. Encourage your children to set aside time for daily reading. This does not have to be an hour but simply 10 minutes daily. The ritual then becomes part of his daily routine.
    5. Ask your child to read to you an important section from the newspaper, or an extract from her school textbook. Reading aloud will not only help you correct your child’s enunciation, but contribute to the development of her confidence.
    6. Besides pocket-money, give your child a book allowance.  A book allowance signals that the money is specific to the purchase of reading materials alone. Not only will children be personally obliged to divulge in buying books and magazines but also realize the importance of expenditure.
    7. A subscription to certain children’s publications is a good idea. This allows them to feel a sense of “ownership” as the publication is delivered especially for their reading pleasure. In addition to reinforce that sense of ownership, reserve a spot in your child’s room for stocking books. This will help them organize their reading material by interest and also contribute to a desire to collect more books of the sort.
    8. Include book fairs and trips to the library as part of your family outings. These places are flocked by book lovers whose enthusiasm will inspire your child to engage in browsing through the wide array of books and eventually landing upon a topic of his interest.
    9. If your child refuses to adapt to paperbacks, introduce to them gadgets like eBook Readers or Kindle. Websites like freebookspot.es and getfreebooks.com provide easily downloadable versions of different books for free.
    10. Read to your child. Like we talk to an infant to help him talk, we read to our children to motivate to do the same.

    Why is it important to read to your child in their first year?

    The first year of a child’s life is a highly formative time, during which he learns the basic skills that contribute to his cognitive development.

    • Reading is the best way to help develop your infant’s language skills. During the first year of their life, babies are like sponges; if tutored they have the capacity to adopt dialects of up to two languages. Likewise, when you read to a baby, he listens to the individual sounds in the stream of sentences and forms a network of words in her memory: the more you read, the more she will be exposed to new words which will help in developing her vocabulary, and expedite the process of language development.
    • Establishing a bedtime ritual of story-telling does not only help inculcate the habit of reading, but also gives babies the security of routine. Babies are comfortable with predictive patterns. If parents attempt to associate reading with bedtime, the baby will automatically be signalled to call it a day and head to sleep. In addition, amongst toddlers, the habit of prompting a child to recall a story from where it was left the night before forces them to jog their memory and consequently increase their concentration span.
    • Reading can also be a source of comfort for babies. Snuggle up with your tiny ball of pleasure when reading. This helps in creating a bond between the child and parent. When you place your child in your lap, get close to him, and read in his ears, he associates all the positive emotions with reading. Books then become a source of connection.
    • When a baby hears you tell a story, he not only listens to the words but also observes your facial expressions and the variations in your voice, when you express excitement or sorrow. All these aid in the development of a child’s emotional intelligence. Children with a high emotional quotient are empathetic and socially skilled to interact with people belonging to different backgrounds.

    Choosing the right reading material for your child

    A book may be widely acclaimed, but it does imply that it is suitable for every age. When choosing reading material for your children, beware of their capacity to comprehend the text and essential features of the book.

    Here is a guide to choosing books categorized by age:

    • Newborn to age 3
      • Board books: Durable and long-lasting books printed on thick paperboard, to avoid damages caused by small children
    • Ages 3–8
      • Picture books: Include visual and verbal narratives in a book form
    • Ages 3–8
      • Colouring and activity (C&A) books: To engage children in mini activities and stimulate mental development
    • Ages 3 and up
      • Novelty books: Books with special built-in features such as pop-ups, foldout pages, liftable flaps, or hidden sound chips
    • Early, leveled readers: Ages 5–9
      • A collection of books organized in levels of difficulty
    • Ages 6–9 or 7–10
      • First chapter books: Books with short chapters, illustrations, and simple storylines.
    • Ages 8–12
      • Middle-grade books: Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character, who in most cases is relatable to the reader
    • Ages 12 and up or 14 and up
      • Young adult novels: Have increased characters with more storylines and complicated plots.

    Dyslexia: The Developmental Reading Disorder

    Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Dyslexic individuals have no other physical, medical, or psychological conditions sufficiently serious to account for the inability to process written material.

    Dyslexia is not a disease and can be treated by specialist remedial programmes. However, the foremost step is to recognize the symptoms of dyslexia in order to address the issue.

    Following are the warning signs of dyslexia, categorized by age.

    Importance of Phonemic Awareness in learning to read

    Phonemic awareness is a critical pre-reading skill. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. For example, separating the word ‘sad’ in to three distinct phonemes (sa/aa /de) requires phonemic awareness.

    Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware that speech is composed of different sounds. It is important to help develop phonemic awareness to help in reading. The skill helps build a foundation to understand the rules of a language. This in turn allows a child to apply these skills and increase his or her oral reading fluency and understanding of the text.

    Children can be taught this at the pre-school or elementary level. Some of the ways to engage children in the activity are described below.

    Nursery Rhymes

    • Help children recognize rhyming words as you read out a nursery rhyme. Begin by identifying some of the rhyming words yourself. Then pause at the end of a rhyming word and encourage children to guess what might rhyme with the previous word and come next.
    • You can also try asking your children if they can recognize rhyming words. Check by dictating pairs of words and asking them if they rhyme: Cold-bold. Twin-win. Pen-hen. Buzz-was. Wiggle-giggle. Fish-dish. Zoo-flew. Sound-pound. Throw in some that do NOT rhyme: Picture-carpet. Man-cat. Grass-ball.
    • Explain to your children that words rhyme when they have the same ending sounds. For example, slap and clap both end in the sound /lap/, and so they rhyme.

    Clapping

    • Help children break up words by clapping. For example, a teacher can show a child that the word “balloon” has two syllables by clapping twice while reciting the word (/ba/ -clap- /loon/ -clap-). Once children understand the activity they should be encouraged to perform it independently on a regular basis. This kinaesthetic connection allows children to become actively engaged with words.

    Sound Recognition

    • It is easier to identify sounds when you guide your children to realize their source. When teaching your child to recognize sounds, ask him constantly, what is your mouth doing? Begin with initial consonant sounds that are continuous (f, l, m, n, r, s, v, z).
    • Start with a game of ‘I spy’. “I spy, with my little eye, something that begins with (make a letter sound).”  Ask the children to find something in the room that begins with the given sound. 
    • Another way to help categorize similar sounding letters is to gather objects beginning with the same sound; for instance a spoon, salt, soap and to dodge the kids, a shampoo. Then ask them which of the objects begin with the same letter sound.

    Read. Not because we’re asking you to, but because reading is the basic tool for improving life. Read and encourage your child to do the same to prevent falling prey to self-chosen ignorance.

    Read to explore, to dream, to discover.

    Featured

    What do your children do when you fall out of love?

    Often the birth of a child flips your life upside down. You lose sleep, you lose freedom and you lose independence: elements that were previously helping you gain a sense of control over your life and subsequently your relationships. Add to it postpartum depression, and it becomes a chaos of emotional and physical challenges.

    The wife may think, “Why am I struggling with raising a baby I was so excited about a few months ago?” She may also feel alone when she is trying her best to juggle multiple roles and feels unappreciated.

    The husband has his own set of challenges. With the addition of a new family member, the expenses increase and many times the wife, who was previously working, chooses to take care of the baby and leaves her job. This adds a financial stress to the relationship. The new baby is also competition for attention, as the wife is now completely devoted to the needs of the baby who is highly dependent on his parents.

    The wife and the husband slowly start settling into their new roles which are demanding to say the least. The couple has less time to engage in activities they used to do together, and there may come a time when they feel that intimacy has been lost. Forty to seventy percent of couples report huge stress in their relationship after a baby is born.

    Self-care becomes a luxury and one starts to rely more on their partner to rescue them from the situation they have been thrown into. If they are unable to do so (logically because of the additional stress the new roles have brought to their lives), one may then start to wonder, has my partner fallen out of love?

    Asking this question is being unfair to your partner.

    Unfortunately, there is a strong cultural misconception that love is something that happens to us. In other words, it is our partner’s job to make us feel alive, loved, and happy.

    This is not true.

    While we do need a partner to share our happiness, our feelings and thoughts with, we are responsible for our own feelings. We cannot get love from someone. What we can do is share the love we may have for our partner, and in the process, thrive in a relationship that is based on independent emotions and feelings.

    Reigniting love or feelings of affection requires work, and evolving lifestyles may leave no time or capacity for the partners to do so. Sometimes there are other factors damaging a relationship as well: lack of communication; misunderstandings; varying interests and personal and mental growth. Over the years this may snowball, and children may start noticing how distant their parents are from each other.

    While you may be trying to maintain your relationship and help it sail through, what are your children supposed to do?

    Teach your children that love is not a fleeting feeling, but proactive loyalty

    When we fall in love, often times we imagine ourselves in a sea of emotions so overwhelming, that it blinds our decision making ability. It is a feeling so warm, so young and so supposedly fulfilling, that we forget how selfish it is as well. It is selfish because once (if) it fades, we start believing that the reason we were with our partner has also diminished. This is not true. Marriages are a lifelong commitment and when we have children, it becomes a responsibility.

    Therefore, explain to your children that love is “proactive loyalty”. Loving someone is committing to the role you choose in the relationship in every possible way. Help your children become aware of the challenges and struggles that come when one chooses to start a relationship. It is not just fairytales and serenading to songs; it is also running errands over the weekend, when you would rather be playing video games; or cooking dinner every day, not just when you feel like it. It is the decision one makes to take care of their partner, especially during times when it may not seem easy, or attractive. And during this time, they may feel like escaping, but that is absolving oneself of the commitment to stay loyal to the responsibilities that come with a relationship.

    Tell your children that romance is part of a relationship, not the whole relationship.

    Help your children become emotionally independent

    Emotional independence is an outcome of emotional regulation, which is a requirement for healthy relationships. This is because once children are taught to become aware of their emotions, they are able to label them. This allows for dealing with them or managing them in a healthy way. Such an approach eliminates codependency from any relationship.

    According to Dr Renee Exelbert, a licensed psychologist and author based in New York,

    “Codependency is a circular relationship in which one person needs the other person, who in turn, needs to be needed. The codependent person, known as ‘the giver,’ feels worthless unless they are needed by — and making sacrifices for — the enabler, otherwise known as ‘the taker”

    Research shows that codependency is learned in families and passed on generationally. It prevents the development of healthy, independently functioning individuals.

    These patterns are developed during early childhood years, where the children often witness the mother being ‘the giver’ and the father taking the role of ‘the taker’. At times the opposite may be true. Either way it is a highly unhealthy dynamic, because the ‘giver’s’ emotional stability is dependent on the ‘taker’s’, who may at times exploit this power, or become dependent on it to regulate his own emotions. This is emotionally destructive from either end.

    Besides learning codependence from their parents’ relationship, children may also be taught to sideline their own emotional needs and give preference to the needs of their parents. Parents may refuse to acknowledge the concerns of their children when they may come to them to complain or report any major incidents in their lives. Parents may ask their children to put their issues aside, or may not be available to their children to help them navigate through their emotional traumas.

    In order to prevent the development of codependency in a child, parents can make use of two tools: communication and self-esteem development.

    Communication:

    • Answer your children’s questions, even if they may seem inappropriate. As a parent, you are their first point of contact; and if your children are noticing a disruptive spousal relationship and are curious about the reasons, explain to them the reasons. Not talking about the issue or dismissing your child’s questions will only lead them to doubt their perceptions about reality.
    • Communicate rules for conducting behaviors. Be fair in their enforcement and develop appropriate punishments that have a reasonable rationale. This helps develop a sense of what is acceptable behavior and what is not, in a relationship.
    • Affirmations go a long way in letting your child know that you are there to provide them with love, support and understanding.

    Self-esteem development:

    • Respect your children and their behavior. This means that you listen to them and take them seriously, even if their conversation seems trivial. If you pay attention to them this time, they will develop the confidence to respect their concerns and validate them on their own.
    • Allow your children to feel their feelings instead of encouraging repression. This is highly problematic amongst boys, who are told to not cry as, ‘boys are not emotional’.
    • Respect your child’s boundaries. This extends to listening to their “no” the first time, instead of unconsciously coercing them or manipulating them into saying yes.
    • Allow your children to make age-appropriate decisions and assume responsibilities. Children resist control because they seek self-control. They naturally push for independence, which isn’t rebelliousness and should be encouraged. Age-appropriate limits teach them self-control.

    Teach your children that a relationship is a two-way street

    Relationships are not a one-man burden. For young children, this concept may be alien to understand, especially considering they are dependent on their parents for survival. To begin with, an element of negotiating can be introduced in the household dynamics, where the child may be asked to clean up their room, in return for additional screen time. This may help cement the idea, that there is a price attached to everything. A counter argument may be that this may rob the child of their generosity, which is still a developing trait. However, becoming generous at your comfort, or on your expense (where one keeps giving, and receives nothing), is putting yourself at the lowest rung of a ladder.

    You can also help your child develop empathy, by modeling it yourself. If your child is struggling with homework, let them know how you too got stuck at the same math problem they are right now, and how you took your time to learn it.

    If you think assigning chores is not a good idea, let them know why you would want them to help you out. Talk to them how after a day of work, you can use the help to wrap up household chores, to spend more time with the family; play video games with them or read a story. Do not shrink yourself behind the burden of work or emotional negligence because this is what your children will model. Taking on burden that you may not be able to manage, will only build feelings of resentment. If your children look at you doing so, they may develop aggression that is passive and keeps bubbling under the surface till it explodes and becomes devastating for any relationship.

    Critical thinking over Emotional Extremism

    Critical thinking is the ability to make logical and informed decisions based on facts, to the best of one’s knowledge. It is the polar opposite of emotional extremism, where one bases their decisions completely on emotions (including anger, jealousy and passion), and dismisses the acknowledgement of logical factors.

    In a world where children are exposed to cartoons, shows and movies showing stereotyped characters, and gender biased roles, it is important that we help our children understand the rationale behind the decisions we make when we are in a relationship. The concept of love may propagate that a partner is supposed to dismiss their needs and always attend to ours. But this is practically not possible. To pull our children out of the depicted concept of love and relationships, it is important we help discourage the inculcation of emotional extremism and develop flexible minds that can readily absorb new information and respond to complex problems, which are often part and parcel of any relationship.

    To help develop critical thinking skills, educator and teacher trainer Brian Oshiro, proposes the activity of asking questions.

    1. Go beyond the “what” of a question, to also ask “how” and “why”

    If your child overhears an argument between you and your spouse, he may ask, “What is going on between you and mom/dad?” Be honest in your answer, to the best of your ability where you believe the child can safely comprehend the answer. But don’t stop there. Ask your child, “how does it make you feel?”, or “why do you think this is bothering you?”

    Including the “how” and “why” to the “what” of a question can not only give you an insight into how your child is perceiving the situation, but also helps them understand the importance of their feelings and why they are necessary to be addressed.

    1. Follow up with, “how do you know this?”

    Oshiro says, “They have to provide some sort of evidence and be able to defend their answer against some logical attack.” Answering this question requires kids to reflect on their previous statements and assess where they’re getting their information from.

    So if a child lets you know how they are feeling after they hear their parents fight, they can be led to explore the symptoms of what they are feeling and put a finger on the reactions.

    1. Help your children understand that their perspective may differ from others

    Tell your children that it is completely alright to be feeling the way they are feeling, and it is not necessary to emulate the behavior or emotions of someone else (in such a case their siblings). Their perception or reaction to the situation is justified and acceptable.

    Let your children know that at times, relationships don’t always last

    Along with stressing on the importance of commitment, dedication and loyalty (without pushing yourself down the list), help your children understand that relationships do fall apart. Let them know that as people grow, they may learn different things about themselves and their partners, which they may not agree to as a couple. In that case it is always the best decision to respectfully let each other go. If both partners tried their best to make it work, and it did not happen, there is nothing wrong with having outgrown a once happy and healthy relationship.

    This becomes very important especially for young girls, who at times may be emotionally and financially dependent on their partners. In such a case it is necessary to provide support to them in every form.

    Conclusion

    When we say that we fall in love, we are choosing to propagate an idea, that love is magical and that it just happens, without the involvement of a choice or a conscious decision to start a relationship. This is an alarmingly unrealistic, but highly appealing idea. People choose to become fascinated with the idea of love, instead of understanding that love encompasses more than going out on a date, or taking pleasant pictures during a vacation. It is a commitment which needs to be respected, and if circumstances do not work in favor, to be let go. There is nothing wrong with that. People fall out of love, and that is okay. But what is not okay is the inability to equip the children who may be a witness to the process. If they are not guided appropriately, they may lose faith in committing to a relationship. Therefore, as parents it is our responsibility to acknowledge a child’s emotional needs, as trivial as they may seem, and help them become intelligent enough to face emotional challenges.

    Featured

    Online Safety in 2021

    Written by: Adeeba Jafri

    In the age of a pandemic, much of the world is now functioning on various virtual platforms. This reality has shaped every aspect of human interaction, from the way that we work, the strategies we use for teaching and learning, the way we behave with one another when face-to-face, down to the way we parent our children. It is now impossible to ignore the new reality that social media is the primary method of communication for teens and tweens. Even parents that had previously disavowed any form of social media in their home have found themselves caving in to their child’s plea for a Snapchat, Discord,  TikTok, YouTube or Instagram account.

    This virtual territory of social interaction has its benefits, no doubt, but it also has its drawbacks. As teens and tweens spend longer hours behind locked passcodes and closed doors, there is less face-to-face contact and thereby less opportunity to read and understand social cues.

    As a result, racist terminology that teens would once feel socially inhibited to say becomes easier to type behind a closed camera. Compliments that might seem innocent in text take on a more sinister meaning when paired with an inappropriate emoji or image. Threats, physical or virtual, are easily executed when carried out under an anonymous username.

    The internet is the perfect breeding ground for harassment. Unfortunately, the majority of incidents (in all schools) tend to go unreported. Below are just three common forms of cyberbullying that parents and educators should know about. We need to work together to create awareness in an effort to address issues before they escalate and lead to any type of social, emotional or even physical harm.

    Trolling

    This is a term that many parents are aware of. It refers to actions taken to get a rise out of someone online, usually for the troll’s own amusement. This can involves leaving a series of hurtful, sometimes inflammatory, comments on something your child posted.

    What an adult can do

    Not everyone is a troll. It’s important for you to teach your child that in life, there will be people who disagree, debate or critique what they say.  To reduce trolling, encourage your child to ignore them. The silent treatment is most often the most effective.  If that doesn’t work, change the settings to moderate comments on their feed and if all else fails, delete and block the troll. While some trolls are harmless annoyances, repeated contacting from someone with insults or disturbing images is a more serious matter and should be considered harassment. In that case, reporting them is the way to go.

    Sexting

    It’s typically a consensual act where people send sexual messages or images to one another because of their mutual attraction. If someone attempts to initiate a sexting conversation without the other person’s consent by sending them graphic messages or pictures, that’s not sexting, that’s just sexual harassment. This form of harassment is most common on direct message social media sites, especially Snapchat, which allows users to send photos for a maximum of ten seconds before they self-destruct.

    What an adult can do

    Sadly enough, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent your child from viewing the sext in the first place. A 2009 UK survey of 2,094 teens aged 11 to 18 found that 38% had received an “offensive or distressing” sexual image by text or email. Those sending photos over Snapchat believe they will disappear without consequences so they feel more secure about sending them. There are, however, social and legal ramifications that are now in place all over the world, which every parent and educator should be aware of in case their child is subject to this form of harassment.

    Doxxing

    Openly revealing sensitive or personal information about someone without their consent for purposes of embarrassing or humiliating them.” In other words, “dropping docs.” Once used only on famous celebrities, journalists or social media influencers, doxxing is now commonly used to out someone you simply don’t agree with. It becomes a form of harassment if your child says something controversial and another person threatens to reveal their location.

    What an adult can do

    From the beginning, discourage your child from putting any personal information online including images and locations. Read through the privacy guides by platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube so you’re aware of what personal information of yours they are using to ad companies. Technically, doxxing is not illegal as long as the information is of public record.

    What else can you do?

    1. Talk about it: Sometimes, parents find out later that the real bully is their own child. Have open discussions with your child about what types of behavior are acceptable, both on and offline. Remind them that any behavior that causes a person to feel belittled, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, hurt or marginalized can be considered harassment.
    2. Establish consequences in your own home: Behaviors aimed at threatening or harming someone are considered bullying. It is not acceptable to pick on another person, call someone inappropriate names, push and shove, hide things, tell dirty jokes, or tease anyone in a discriminatory manner. Make sure that you set boundaries with your child so that they know that such behavior will not be tolerated anywhere.
    3. Work with your kids’ school: My kids’ school has launched an anonymous feedback form (on our student-life page) to solicit feedback from students. This means that students can anonymously report harassment that happens on and off-line without feeling intimidated. The first step to creating a safe online space is to first be aware of what kinds of harassment are taking place.
    Featured

    Removing the stigma around Reproductive Health Counseling

    Daughters see their mothers as a role model and someone they can trust as a safe space. Teaching them about their reproductive/sexual health and willing to break the culture of shame is a part of our responsibility.


    Research shows that teens who have regular conversations with their parents about reproductive health are more likely to be healthy and safe and less likely to take risks. In developing countries, social and cultural norms restrict the youth to get specific and timely reproductive health information. As a result of which many young girls (and boys) approach adulthood with insufficient information and their overall health gets more compromised by embarrassment and silence.

    WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

    Prevention of sexually transmitted infections and diseases

    Timely discussion about sexual health helps in gaining confidence in healthcare.


    It ensures early diagnosis and treatments of health issues like infertility, uterine fibroid, PCO, endometriosis, and gynecologic cancer.
    Young women are more vulnerable to STI and if left untreated, STI can cause serious and painful health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can result in infertility.

    Most reproductive health issues are easily treatable if detected early, but because our girls feel the need to hide sexual problems, they often go undetected and sometimes lead to life threatening situations.

    Helps in promoting self-care practices.

    Unhygienic practices during menstruation and childbirth lead to reproductive tract infections that could result in serious consequences such as infertility.
    Mothers providing daughters with comprehensive reproductive education allow daughters to ask questions and they tend to understand better about puberty, menstruation, and more likely to maintain hygiene and sanitation.

    Ensuring a healthy pregnancy and childbirth

    By focusing more on reproductive health and reducing the stigma associated with the sexual aspect, women could make an informed decision about their pregnancy and childbirth including family planning, antenatal and safe delivery care, post-natal care, and services.

    Reproductive health counseling also allows women to nurture the new-born to the best of their capacity.

    Stigma and lack of awareness stop girls to talk to a trusted member or even getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

    Helps in preventing violence against women and children.

    An estimated one in three women and girls report suffering physical or sexual abuse. This violence also takes place within schools, the place where children should expect to be safe.

    Normalizing relevant and effective conversations between parent and child allow girls to protect themselves and seek help if they feel threatened.

    Prevents teen to go for questionable sources.

    Providing them with an age-appropriate answer and correct information would prevent them to go for questionable information sources, For example, social media and friends. It will also help you gain their confidence and trust and they would know where to turn to discuss their problems and find answers.

    Teenage girls equipped with correct knowledge and confidence are less likely to fall into societal pressure and be able to discuss their health issues with parents and health care providers.

    Discussing relevant reproductive issues is essential for sexual health and wellness. By getting the right information, girls feel empowered to make safe and educated decisions about their health and protect themselves from risks that they may be exposed to due to lack of knowledge.

    Featured

    Are Zoomers the Latest Generation to be Misunderstood?

    The problem with the younger generation today is…

    How will you choose to finish this sentence?

    Is your reason even valid? And if so, who’s to blame?

    Definitely not the children. Because they are a by-product of their environment. They do not choose the surroundings they grow in. They are provided with it. Before we go ahead and criticize the younger generation of today, we need to remember who raised them.

    Apparently the younger generation of today (also called Zoomers or Generation Z) are criticized the most for their habits and behavior.

    But if we think a little harder, wasn’t it the same thing that was spoken for us as well by a generation before?

    This behavior is so valid that there is actually an English word for it: Ephebiphobia, the psychological and social fear of youth.

    This phobia manifests itself in different ways. For example, you can fear teens because you cannot trust them, or the phobia might exist because a parent feels inadequate to parent in today’s world, or it might exist because as a parent/adult you will have to have conversations about difficult topics such as relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, body image, bullying, and so on.

    While ephibephobia has existed almost entirely, the intensity of it however, is growing and consequently having an impact on teenagers and younger children today.

    But why are we afraid of a generation that is struggling itself?

    Evidence suggests that rates of depression, self-harm and anxiety among young people are at extraordinary levels.

    Youth unemployment is more than 13%, the cost of higher education is rapidly rising, a drought of affordable housing coupled with low pay is keeping many young people sealed under the parental roof and trapped in what one report called “suspended adulthood”. 

    Maybe then it is not that there is a problem with them. Maybe as an older generation, ‘we’ have a problem with their behaviors. These habits and social behaviors may come naturally to them, but considering how we were raised, they may be alien and therefore uncomfortable for us to experience.

    What are these behaviors amongst Generation Z which are considered to be so disappointing?

    1. They are Always on Their Devices

    iGens, the First Generation to Have Spent their Whole Adolescence on Smartphones

    Teenagers today were born in a world which included digital devices. They do not know of the time that existed before that. That is the reason Generation Z are known as digital natives, because they have little or no memory of the world that existed before smartphones.

    For that reason alone, Dr Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, names the generation born between 1995 and 2012, as “iGens”, for their ubiquitous use of the iPhone.

    To learn more from iGens themselves, THV11 hosted a discussion at Maumelle High School with 9th through 12th graders.

    When asked what they do on a typical Friday or Saturday night, the answers were all similar.

    “At home, probably playing video games,” said Rochen, a 12th grader.

    “Probably watching YouTube videos,” said Chandler, a 10th grader.

    “Either on Netflix or on my phone texting or calling somebody,” said Mason, an 11th grader.

    However, they also said their generation is undervalued and deserves more credit.

    “People underestimate our maturity because we are always on our phones, but they don’t see what we are looking up on our phones. I could be looking up the extremely complicated molecular biology of photosynthesis. You don’t know what I’m doing on my phone,” said Keeley, another student.

    “We’re trying to get ready for college, most of us. We’re really trying to get college done and move on with life. We spent most of the time on our phones because that’s just life. We all are always on our phones,” said Rochen.

    Drone Parenting: Helicopter Parenting on Steroids

    Part of this behavior is to be blamed on the emerging parenting styles as well.

    Today’s teens are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th graders in 2015 were going out less often than 8th graders did as recently as 2009.

    According to Dr Kathleen Gerson, sociology professor at New York University, “Today most families, regardless of their income or education level, want to keep their children as safe as possible.”

    This also means that millennial parents have preferred to become more involved in their children’s lives. This is a consequence of how they were raised themselves. Majority of millennials were raised by parents who were pushing their kids to get the top grades, focus on rankings and make money.

    Millennials’ own parenting includes doing the same things their own parents did, just more intensely.

    This implies that the ‘involvement’ of parents today is translating into ‘control’ of their children’s lives. This is called ‘drone parenting’, which is an upgrade to helicopter parenting, something which the millennials have experienced at the hands of their parents.

    Millennial parents are consciously manipulating their child’s environment to produce the results they want, which also means removing any obstacles and making the goal easier to reach.

    With minimal hurdles and work to put in, teenagers today do not require much time to complete as task or fulfill their required duty.

    So this means the kids save more time which they choose to spend on devices.

    Peer Pressure

    Even if a teenager today chooses to put their phones aside, they will face an unsaid peer pressure to revert. This is because the lives of their friends and associates have transitioned to online profiles and social media spaces where majority of events are taking place.

    Plus, technology use is becoming increasingly common for educational purposes, so getting teenagers to avoid them is difficult.

    2. They are More Selfish

    Generation Z grew during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Children during that time witnessed parents losing jobs and facing financial insecurity. Witnessing their parents’ struggle has therefore made many of them more pragmatic when it comes to earning, spending and saving money.

    This is also evident by the ‘kinds’ of brands they are inclined towards. Zoomers look for products and messaging that reflect a reality rather than a perfect life

    Growing up in an era of global instability has driven them to value personal resilience, financial conservatism and hard work. They save and are focused on the future.

    Apart from being financially conscious, the teenagers today are realizing the potential for entrepreneurship and how it can contribute to financial prosperity. Entrepreneur seems to believe that no other generation ever held ambitions of being more than just employees.

    According to Rony Zarom, CEO and Founder of newrow_, “The defining traits of Gneration Z, that is being self-motivated, entrepreneurial-minded and outward-focused are, in essence, a blend of the best traits held by preceding generations. This is an ambitious generation that has placed a profound importance and personal responsibility on preparing for their career while in college or even earlier”.

    So maybe they are not selfish as much as they want to become financially independent at an earlier age.

    3. They are Growing Too Slowly

    According to Twenge, “Today’s 18-year-olds are more like what 15-year-olds used to be. Fewer of them are driving. Fewer are dating. Fewer have jobs. Fewer of them are going out without their parents and are less likely to have tried alcohol or have had sex.”

    Delayed Life Events

    We often compare ourselves to the age our children are, letting them know we had a job by this time. But what we need to understand is that putting off the responsibilities of adulthood is not an iGen innovation. Gen Xers, in the 1990s, were the first to postpone the traditional markers of adulthood. Young Gen Xers were just about as likely to drive, drink alcohol, and date as young Boomers had been, and more likely to have sex and get pregnant as teens. But as they left their teenage years behind, Gen Xers married and started careers later than their Boomer predecessors had.

    In the discussion hosted by THV11 at Maumelle High School with 9th through 12th graders, majority of the students said they are waiting longer to make big life decisions, like getting a driver’s license.

    “I didn’t see it as very important at the time. I didn’t have that much going on. There wasn’t really a need for me to drive,” said Mason, a student at the school.

    “I don’t know why I would need it. I don’t have anywhere to go. I can do everything on my phone,” said Keeley, another student.

    Less Equipped to Handle Uncertainty

    According to an Australian study of 800 respondents, teenagers today are less able to handle uncertainty.

    It seems that, like the computer programs they were raised on, Gen Zs tend to process in a binary way.

    Early digital exposure has compromised their ability to grasp life’s ambiguities. Teenagers today play video games, where you can learn patterns and restart if you make a mistake and talk to Siri which provides answers to virtually any question or Google Maps. These tools have been designed to eliminate ambiguity, and therefore maybe it is possible that technology has compromised a generation’s ability to manage uncertainty.

    Parenting Styles

    The global trends have slowly shifted to place an increased value of higher education. With the pressures to excel academically as well as socially, parents may be inclined to encourage their kids to stay home and study rather than to get a part-time job. Teens, in turn, seem to be content with this homebody arrangement—not because they’re so studious, but because their social life is lived on their phone and they have no catalyst that can stimulate their mental growth to pursue independence.

    Conclusion

    Apparently the teenagers of today (also called Generation Z) are criticized the most for their habits and behavior. Behaviors that are seen as disappointing amongst today’s teenagers include an increased time spent on devices, being selfish and growing too slowly. However, as parents we need to understand the reasons behind these. If a child is spending more time on their phone, it is because he was born a digital native, and does not know of a world which did not have digital devices. In addition, today’s parents have adopted ‘drone parenting styles’ which are giving children more free time which they spend on these devices. Also, if a teenager chooses to put aside their device, the peer pressure does not let them.

    Teenagers today are also criticized for becoming selfish. However, growing up in an era of global instability has driven them to value personal resilience, financial conservatism and hard work.

    Finally, the Generation Z is seen to mature slowly because of delayed life events, and evolving parenting styles. They have also been observed to be less equipped with handling uncertainty.

    Featured

    Winter Activity Guide: 33 fun ways to celebrate your pandemic holidays

    Winter brings fresh snow, holidays, and seasonal celebration. Though this year’s holidays are arriving amid the pandemic, we can still enjoy the absolute best things this season has to offer. Whether you are celebrating Christmas or not, we have found for you the best ways to celebrate holidays at home. 

    It is that time of the year that we all look forward to. However, many families have decided to celebrate individually rather than in a large group. If that is the case for you, then put your creative hat on and take these winter activity ideas that you and your family will love.

    Involve in creative DIY and crafts

    Christmas is the opportunity to decorate your house and get children to go creative as well. Even if you are not celebrating Christmas, seasonal décor will help mark winter as the time of year worth celebrating. You can decorate your house or make DIY gift boxes with kids. Some more ideas for wintry crafts are:

    • Create a birdfeeder using pinecones and place it on the window
    • Make a holiday wreath
    • Build a gingerbread house
    • Learn to knit and start by knitting a small scarf
    • Make paper facemasks using paper plates (use them as fun props for a photoshoot)
    • DIY gift toppers (you can choose Christmas theme)
    • Decorate table napkins (use small bells, colorful threads and yards)
    • Cut folded paper snowflakes for windows (could also be used for gift toppers)
    • Make Reindeer place cards

    Enjoy socially distanced outdoors

    • Go sledding
    • Make snowman and snow forts
    • Have an epic snowball fight
    • Try Ice skating
    • Go on a walk or drive to see Christmas lights
    • Visit a socially distanced outdoor event

    Bring your family to the kitchen

    • Bake and decorate cookies
    • A cup of cocoa with marshmallows and cream is always fascinating
    • Make cozy cocktails and drinks
    • Simmer different homemade soups
    • Start a sourdough project and baked delicious pieces of bread after a week
    • Make interesting breakfasts to start the day ahead (E.g., Cinnamon rolls, baked apples, and pie, Eggnog French toasts, Avocado toasts)

    Make sure you shop for plenty of cutter, frostings, straws, and decorations beforehand.

    Reconnect with family and loved ones

    Despite being indoor with family for many months, we compromised a lot on the quality time with children or partners. It’s time to bring each other closer by doing things together.

    • Put together a huge holiday puzzle
    • Send gratitude message/ecards to front line health workers, post office outlets, those working in pharmacies, restaurants, and stores
    • Put on Christmas pyjamas and do a mini photo shoot of the family
    • Watch a movie with caramel popcorns.
    • Host a virtual party with friends and relatives (Make it a game night, storytelling, etc)
    • Be sure to send a gift to the friend/family living alone to show them you care.

    Start a new tradition

    The best way to connect with your children and family is to begin a new habit together. A small ritual will help to make your family bond stronger.

    • Start a family gratitude journal
    • Cultivate a 5-minute yoga habit
    • Encourage each other to make a new year resolution.
    • Start a few seedlings and ask everyone to look after them. (You can read about the plant growing process, so everyone keeps putting in their efforts)
    • Learn a new language together
    • Decide a time and learn the similarity and differences of other religions and faith. Make sure to talk honestly about traditions you do not celebrate

    Nothing about 2020 has been what anyone expected. While the pandemic has cancelled on many things, do not give it the power to cancel your holiday festivities.

    Featured

    I’m a girl not a “human giver”

    By Zeina Habib ICF ACC Coach

    In her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, philosopher Kate Mann talks about  2 types of humans in the world; human givers and human beings.

    In her view, human givers exist to give their humanity to human beings.

    Women being the human givers, in the way our world has been functioning for centuries, are supposed to shape their lives around men’s lives. Their sole existence is to please, serve and love men no matter the consequences to their being.

    I want you to pause here for a minute and read that first part again, and this time ask yourself, is that how I want girls to live ? 

    I know my answer to that question, I am not nor do I want girls to be solely human givers. I am my own independent person and my goal as a writer and coach is to help as many women and girls achieve that. 

    But how do we do that? How do we raise independent, assertive and caring girls?

    There is no straightforward simple answer to that question but rather multiple concepts I believe parents can live by to support their girls in their journey and I’d like to share a few with you in the hope that this will help you in your role as parents.

    Creating Meaning 

    In their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagozski discuss how finding meaning in life contributes to healing from the “human giver” syndrome.  It ensures girls know their role in this world is bigger than being a caretaker. They are here for more than serving; they can dream big, have career aspirations, shape an independent life, change the world, and  be mothers and wives. 

    So how do we as parents support our girls to find their identity and create meaning?

    We encourage them to read, travel and self reflect . We pick books and movies that support growth rather than fairytale love; for example Frozen instead of Cinderella. We highlight the importance of education in their development  and encourage them to volunteer and engage in social activities. We help them pursue their dreams and watch  the magic happen.

    Setting Boundaries  

    In her book  We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamande Ngozi Adiche writes,

    “We use the word respect for something a woman shows a man but often not something a man shows a woman”

    Women are taught they need to respect men while most men are taught respecting women is optional and conditional. Women’s boundaries are considered flexible and can be crossed whenever a man deems it convenient while men’s boundaries are set in stone.

    The system is rigged and some women pay for it by being abused and we need our girls to know this is not OK. They have a right to set their own physical and emotional boundaries, just like men do, and we should raise them with that idea in mind.  

    We should give them a say in who they let into their space and allow them not to be affectionate to every adult they know. We also need to make them aware that no one is allowed to touch their bodies without their consent and explain to them what harassment is. 

    Saying NO is their right and it is not a source of shame. 

    We should also help them define their emotional boundaries. 

    This one is a bit trickier since it requires parents to work closely with their kids and help them identify their emotions, thoughts and personalities. In doing so, they understand themselves better and know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to them in their relationships. 

    A really good resource to rely on for emotional exploration and boundaries is the “ The Whole Brain Child ” by Dr Dan Siegel.

    Improving Self Confidence 

    In her podcast unlocking us, Brene Brown talks about the difference between how  male students and female students assess their performance in her class. Apparently most of her female students tend to underestimate the grade they deserved while the males tend to overestimate it.

    This confirms the trend shown in many studies; women tend to be less confident than men.  They are more likely to underestimate their capabilities and question their decisions. They tend to be less assertive and don’t always speak up.

    And this impacts the kind of life the lead.

    So, our role here is to encourage assertiveness and decision making from an early age. We should also make sure we praise our girls when they deserve it so they know their strengths and work on developing them.

    There are many small things we can start with early on. We can have our 5 year old pick her own outfit or our 10 year old decide what type of hobby they want to sign up for, teaching them slowly how to make decisions for themselves. 

    We should also make it a habit to listen when they say no to us instead of shutting them out. Having a conversation about differences in opinion and parental boundaries is important for a child not to feel dismissed. 

    Another thing we should practice is admitting when we are wrong and apologizing  when needed. When parents refuse to admit when they are wrong, their children  question themselves and their realities. This is even worse when  parents refuse to apologize for  their mistakes.

    They are missing the opportunity to teach their kids that people make mistakes and that does not make them bad decision makers or bad people.

    Educating Girls about Patriarchy and Diversity

    We live in a world where inequality towards women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ communities and many other marginalized populations is very common.

    Those inequalities are at the basis of our legal systems and our social standards and some parents work hard to protect their kids from having to experience them or knowing about them. While this is done from a place of love, hiding the status quo from our girls will cause harm.

    Young girls need to know their legal rights and the society’s harsh judgment and expectations, to be prepared to handle them and fight against them.

    Not to mention that eventually, they will hear about them from friends or the media and both can sometimes twist the facts while we can make sure they hear the right story. I know that this conversation may be difficult but it’s a must and I say that out of experience.

    Being born in Lebanon, I’ve had first hand experience with patriarchy, a concept I didn’t fully understand. No one told me as a woman working in construction, I will probably be dismissed by men and  I will  have to raise my voice to be heard. No one told me men would dismiss my ambition for being a leader simply because I am a woman.  I figured that out the hard way and saw many women around me struggle with their worth because of that. This is why talking about it is very important; it reduces the struggle, the assumptions and the shame all of which have a detrimental effect on mental health and ego.

    Living What You Preach  

    Kids are constantly absorbing everything we say and do, they will see the world through our eyes and it is important we live by the values we want them to integrate . If I want my daughter to have meaning in life or to have clear boundaries, I need to be mindful of what kind of meaning my life is creating and what kind of  boundaries I am setting.

    If I don’t want her to tolerate abuse, I should not accept abusive relationships; if I want her to listen to her inner voice instead of societal standards I have to make sure I stay true to myself and make my own decisions.

    As Glennon Doyle puts it her book Untamed,

    “I unbecame a mother slowly dying in her children’s name and became a responsible mother: one who shows her children how to be fully alive[….] My children do not need me to save them. My children need to watch me save myself”.

    We cannot expect our girls to be assertive, independent and alive if we don’t show them the way forward. They don’t need us to be “human givers” and let go of our humanity for their sake; they need us to demonstrate courage and resilience.

    There are many things we can do as parents to ensure our girls are fulfilled and  I know most parents wish they can do all of them but just remember you are not expected to be perfect. You  just need to show up, be brave and real so your girls have someone to lean on and rely on when they need to be reminded of their place and worth in this world.

    In the end, we want our girls to exist in an ever expanding world that can fit all people; not in a world that requires them to give up their humanity and shrink themselves so others feel “respected”.

    Featured

    Stay Home, Stay Safe and Then What?

    The year 2020 will be remembered for the coronavirus outbreak that affected almost everyone during the time. The primary solution to the pandemic has been social isolation and self-quarantine measures (in case of infection).

    Staying at home can take a toll on you. During these times of uncertainty it is necessary that we seek coping mechanisms.

    Following are a few suggestions that can help you and your children overcome the challenges of isolation more easily.

    STRUCTURE YOUR DAY

    Developing a routine or scheduling your day can help bring a sense of control in your life. Having a routine can benefit the entire household especially children.

    According to Child Psychologist, Danielle Kaufman of Melbourne Child Psychology and School Psychology Services,

    “Building routines with your children help them feel safe. They know what to expect when they go home, and it provides them with clear boundaries, expectations and consistency”.

    Here are a few ideas how you can develop a routine:

    • Plan your day a night before and list down things to do for the next day. If planning day-to-day is difficult, try planning for the week instead.
    • List things by priority or urgency.
    • Break big to-do items into smaller tasks to help fill out your day.
    • Include things that you used to do regularly (like putting on make-up, or having a coffee break mid-day).
    • Identify a space in your house for working, create a pleasing environment with all the things you’ll need, and then only work there.

    It is very important that during your scheduled day you set boundaries and not let tasks overlap. If you plan on cooking during the morning, and your children want to play with you instead, help them understand that right now you are occupied with another task, and play time is scheduled later in the day.

    Keeping things organized will not only help in efficient time management but also prevent you from sliding into excessive work and eventual burnout.

    REPLACE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS WITH PRODUCTIVITY

    You can choose to look at this time as an opportunity to work on yourself and grow.

    Enroll in a Course

    Enrolling in a course can help you and your children build up your knowledge-base. One of the platforms for doing so is Learnovate.

    Learnovate offers skill-based live virtual courses, specialized workshops and one-on-one programs for remedial education. They have made efforts to reach out to a wider audience by providing courses at affordable prices and offering discounts.

    Some of the courses are as low as 10 CAD.

    You can choose to enroll in their courses from anywhere around the world.

    The instructors make the use of innovative tools to encourage students to participate. It is fascinating to watch the instructor here, use puppets to keep the children interested.

    Most courses are designed for children aged between 3 to 15 years. There are also courses available for adolescents and adults.

    Learnovate offers a wide range of foundation-level and advanced courses ranging from Virtual Kindergarten and Phonics Art, to Graphic Designing. You can register here and find out more information.

    To avail a 5% discount on their online courses, you can use the code “PARENTING2119”.

    Learn a New Skill

    Besides engaging in academic or interest based learning, you can also try learning a new skill. Playing an instrument, learning how to play chess or even trying out new recipes can prove to be productive. If you already know how to write, you can go a step further and learn how to become a professional in creative writing. For someone who cooks, they can try inventive ways with the ingredients and create a new dish altogether

    Journaling

    It is an unusual time we are living in. When we will look back at this time we will wonder how we were able to maintain our sense of mind. Keeping track of your thoughts, activities and leanings can be a good idea to not only commemorate this unique period in our lives but also help us remember how the whole world was turned upside down by a microscopic organism.

    You might look back at this time and process your memories or even process your thoughts for the day or the week that has passed. You can choose to journal the classic way of recording in a notebook, or privately on your computer or cell phone.

    If you are open to sharing your experiences set up a personal blog that takes those daily experiences and turns them into weekly or monthly posts for others to read and learn from.

    TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

    During this time it is very important that we take time out to put ourselves first.

    Zeina Habib, an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, highlights five ways we need to adopt during the pandemic to promote self-love and self-care:

    1. Manage Your Expectations: During this stressful time, our bodies are affected, and we are not as productive to do everything at the same time. So, lower your expectations and make them more realistic. This will help avoid the vicious cycle of failure.
    2. Fight Anxiety: Social media and increased screen time is affecting us and is causing us to become anxious. Take a break from social media either for a few hours daily, or every two weeks.
    3. Do Things That Help You Relax: Set time aside to do things that help you rest/relax. This is different for different people. Do what ‘you’ enjoy instead of looking at others for reference.
    4. Physical Activity: When we are stressed, our body builds up more energy to fight through the crisis. The increased energy build up can be released through physical activity. Engage in sports or running, or become active to help control the stress.  
    5. Connect with Family and Loved Ones: The current crisis is making us miss contact with people. Set time aside to catch up with them through video or a phone call. Laughing helps and so does having a conversation.

    TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN IN AN HONEST WAY

    Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make you feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. When you feel this way, your children may feel it too, and they often sense the way you are feeling. Talking to them about what is going on can be challenging.

    Some questions you can help discuss with them include:

    • What it is?
    • How it spreads?
    • What is being done about it?
    • How can we keep ourselves safe? (including effective hand washing, social distancing and quarantine measures)
    • What to do if someone in the family gets exposed and/or falls sick?

    It is possible you may not know the answers to some questions, and that’s completely fine. Let them know this, with the understanding that you will make an effort to find out the answers and get back to them. If they are older you can help them search for the answers online from reliable sources.

    To make the conversation more effective, choose a time when they will be more likely to listen and ask questions. Interrupting them during cartoons is probably not a good idea. Instead, try to bring up the topic during meal time when the whole family is together. You may start the conversation but let them take control with their questions and steer it in the direction they seem willing to.

    SEEK PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT

    During this time it is very important to pay attention to any hidden symptoms that may be evident of a mental health concern. These may at times manifest as physical symptoms amongst children.

    If you or any of your family members are struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, know how to seek and provide support and link up with available resources. This is especially important for those who require mental health and psychosocial support.

    Summary

    Although the world has witnessed many pandemics before, the covid-19 crisis has caused the most damage in terms of emotional suffering, physical pain and financial trauma. The social distancing and lockdown measures, coupled with crisis and uncertainty is leading to an increased fear and feelings of anxiety. During these times of uncertainty it is necessary that we seek coping mechanisms. Some measures include organizing your day to instill predictability in your life; engaging in self-love and self-care habits; providing our children with detailed and accurate information about the coronavirus; channeling our energy towards productive outlets including journaling, enrolling in online courses or learning a new skill; and in extreme circumstances, seeking professional help and support.

    Thank you to Learnovate for collaborating with us and helping provide productive outlets during these tough times.
    Featured

    Covid-19 Lockdown: Children at risk of becoming silent victims of the pandemic

    During the current pandemic, parents and adults are experiencing an unusual uncertainty in their lives. These feelings of helplessness are magnified amongst children because they mirror the vulnerability of the caregivers they live with and are dependent on.

    Coupled with the fear of falling sick, children are worried not only about being able to see their friends and relatives again, but also the resumption of school and their old routines.

    It is often difficult for parents to calm their children’s anxieties because their own worlds have also been shaken to the core.

    Evidence suggests that children are less vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, and exhibit mild symptoms (largely) if they contract the disease. However, while children have a lowered probability of becoming infected, they are experiencing effects of the virus equally.

    It has been indicated that compared to adults, the covid-19 pandemic may continue to have increased long term adverse consequences on children. The associated lockdown and social distancing measures have impacted children both directly and indirectly.

    DIRECT IMPACTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON CHILDREN

    1. Closure of Schools

    For children, schools are not only a source of mental stimulation, but also help them in developing a social circle, along with contributing to physical development. For many, although the dissemination of education has shifted to digital platforms (many still lacking, thereof), the window for the scope of interaction with friends and peers has become limited.

    Even a short-term shutdown of educational institutions and home captivity for children is indeed troublesome and anticipated to have detrimental effects on children’s physical and mental health. It also shatters the sense of normalcy that schools provide.

    With the closure of schools and a lack of routine in place, children are adopting aberrant dietary and sleeping habits which are likely to disrupt children’s usual lifestyle and can potentially promote monotony, distress, impatience, annoyance and varied neuropsychiatric manifestations.

    According to Anne-Sophie Dybdal, Senior Child Protection Advisor at the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Unit of Save the Children,

    “People who are outside regularly have a lower activity in the part of the brain that focuses on repetitive negative emotions. This is one of the reasons children can slide into negative feelings or even depression during the circumstances they are living in now.”

    According to a report, more than half the children who were not in touch with friends reported feeling less happy (57%), more worried (54%) and less safe (58%).

    On the other hand, children who were able to interact with friends in person and virtually, reported considerably lowered percentages including only 5% who were less happy, 5% who were more worried and 6% who felt less safe.

    Photo: Save the Children

    2. Increased Risk of Online Harm

    A survey of more than 3,000 parents found that screen time for their kids had increased by 500% during the pandemic. This has increasingly become acceptable considering children have limited options to occupy themselves with. However, more important than monitoring the screen time is the regulation of the screen time children are being exposed to.

    During the covid-19 lockdown, the regulation of social media and the internet has been compromised through different ways.

    Rise of Online Learning

    The closure of schools has compelled the schooling system to make an online transition. Further, there has been an influx of online courses that parents are signing up their children for, to help them use the time at home productively.

    The use of the internet for learning and socializing with friends may lead to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualized images, while increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying.

    Zoombombing’ is a term that has hit the headlines since the covid-19 outbreak, and it refers to the disruption of Zoom conference meetings by unauthorized participants.

    In Singapore, during the first week of lockdown, the streaming of a geography lesson was interrupted with inappropriate pictures and comments from strangers, and forced the suspension of Zoom as a tool for home-based learning. Schools in China and California (USA) have also witnessed hacking attempts and racist or sexist interruptions of live streaming sessions, with school communities also suspending the use of the tool. 

    In addition, while it may seem like hackers won’t target children or that online learning websites can seem harmless, anyone, young or old, can be a target for identity theft, computer viruses or online scams. And by breaching any secure password, hackers get one step closer to accessing secure data.

    Transition to Automated Monitoring Systems

    As most of the online social network companies have shifted their in-office employees to ‘work from home’ mode, the regulation and review of potentially harmful contents have gone automated from manual. This automated content moderation has multidimensional fallacies and the resultant response may be late or inapt.

    In simpler terms, it means that the content that was previously monitored by a human team, to report and clean questionable content, has now been replaced by automated monitoring systems to flag and remove inappropriate content. The automated response is not as effective and the discrepancy is being exploited by offenders to abuse children online.

    Suppressed Security Mechanisms

    Parents may suppress security mechanisms to facilitate their children to have access to an unlimited and uncensored time online, to help them cope with their monotonous routine. This is also an opportunity being taken advantage of by cyber criminals.

    A report released by Europol, titled Pandemic Profiteering, stated that there was an increase in online activity by those seeking ‘child abuse material’. The report found a correlation between this increased activity being consistent with online postings in forums by offenders.

    The rise is attributed to children being expected to be more vulnerable, less supervised, having more online exposure and are thus easy targets.

    3. Unfair Distribution of Household Chores

    During the covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the inequity in the distribution of household chores between the genders has become pronounced.

    Compared to boys, girls are becoming more burdened with increased responsibilities. Disease outbreaks, like the coronavirus, increase girls’ and young women’s duties caring for elderly and ill family members, as well as for siblings who are out of school.  

    According to a survey, 63% of girls are more often tasked to do more chores around the house, compared to 43% of boys. More than half of the girls interviewed (52%) reported they were spending more time caring for siblings compared to 42% of boys. 20% of girls reported that they have too many chores to do to be able to learn, compared to 10% of boys.

    4. Improved Parent-Child Relationships

    Amongst the multiple negative effects of the covid-19 lockdown, parents and children alike have noticed considerably improved relationships.

    A survey conducted amongst parents/caregivers reported that 39% of them had an improved relationship with their children since the outbreak, including that their children show more love and affection to them and/or that their children are happier spending more time with them.

    The reporting of improved relationships with their children by these parents/caregivers varied significantly across regions though, with greater improvements reported in North America (65%) compared to the lowest reported improvements in the Pacific (16%).

    Parents have reported that they engage with their children through different activities including reading, art, music, playing and watching TV.

    Spending more time with parents/family and having a stronger relationship with family were also the primary themes highlighted by children when asked what they had enjoyed the most during the pandemic.

    Grant McCracken, PhD, (a cultural anthropologist with decades of experience studying American families), conducted a research where he found that roughly half of American families believe they will come out of covid-19 stronger than they went in, while only 5% think they will be weaker.

    Over 60% of families reported a much more connected bond between mothers and daughters since the pandemic began. According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Alisha Sweyd,

    “Mothers now have more time and energy to commit to engaging in conversations with their daughters. Thus, the mother is actually engaging the daughter’s brain in the most effective way possible to strengthen the relationship”.

    However, this is true majorly for younger children.

    Adolescents and teenagers are experiencing an increase in their sense of isolation, depression, and loneliness. In addition to navigating schoolwork at home, many students have taken on new responsibilities, including childcare, housework, and part-time jobs.

    Impact on Children Whose Parents are Frontline “Covid Warriors”

    While children have been enjoying the increased presence of their parents at home, a group of children is experiencing the complete opposite.

    The pandemic has witnessed an insurmountable burden on nurses, doctors and medical experts who have been asked to deliver beyond their capacity. Being present professionally has meant these parents to be absent at home most of the time, to attend to the needs of their children. There is also the fear of contamination which further limits their interaction. Basic necessities for raising a child, like breastfeeding, are being jeopardized, if the mother is a frontline healthcare worker.

    Young children may not understand why their parents are not returning.

    Older children and adolescents with more mature thinking may offer respect toward their parents for being involved in the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

    While medical professionals are being hailed as heroes on one end, there is also a polar reaction being displayed by a segment of population that is fearing the disease. Covid Warriors are threatened with possible eviction to avoid the potential spread of the disease. The unfair and unjust behavior being witnessed by children of these frontline healthcare workers, may lead to long-term psychological consequences like anger, aggression and generalized disregard for the society.

    Roxane Cohen Silver, a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, specializes in human responses to mass trauma. According to her,

    “The impact on a child’s sense of safety depends on the extent to which the family is affected. If there is a drastic change in their economic consequences, this event would shape the children’s view of the world.”

    5. Psychological Implications

    In one study out of China, researchers examined a sample group of 2,330 schoolchildren for signs of emotional distress. The kids had been locked down for an average of 33.7 days. After that single month, 22.6% of them reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% were experiencing anxiety.

    Studies have identified interrelated sources of distress children may be experiencing during the current times.  These include, but are not limited to:

    • Stress associated with the fear that family members, friends or they themselves will become ill/infected
    • The fear associated with stigmatization, if exposed to the virus (particularly for children of health care and other essential services workers)
    • Feelings of loneliness, which are pronounced if a family member falls sick. The effects of being alone are also reinforced by physical distancing measures.
    • Stress associated with uncertainty around the duration of the pandemic
    • Stress resulting from intensified media coverage

    Younger children are more susceptible to picking up cues around the house. Findings reveal that during the covid-19 lockdown, children have felt uncertain, fearful and isolated. According to a study, younger children, aged 3 to 6 years, have been more likely to exhibit symptoms of clinginess and the fear of family members being infected than older children (6 to 18 years old).

    Older children were more likely to experience inattention and were persistently inquiring regarding covid-19.

    Although, severe psychological conditions including increased irritability, inattention and clinging behavior were revealed by all children, irrespective of their age groups.

    The toll the pandemic has taken over psychologically amongst children, is also presenting itself as physical manifestations. According to a study, children have experienced disturbed sleep, nightmares, poor appetite, agitation, inattention and separation related anxiety.

    This has also been substantiated by a research implemented across 46 countries by Save the Children, where 46% of parents/caregivers reported observing changes in children’s behavior, with around 1 in 5 parents/caregivers reporting changes in appetite (19%) and sleep (24%). 1 in 6 (17%) reported changes in emotional regulation in their children, 8% reported more aggressive behavior and 4% reported the use of violence against others since the outbreak.

    INDIRECT IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON CHILDREN

    Besides being directly affected by the pandemic, children have also landed on the receiving end of how the adults they live with are reacting to the social distancing and lockdown measures.

    The impact on the children’s families has trickled down to them, in the form of increased domestic violence.

    Increased Domestic Violence

    The unemployment crisis and the economic uncertainty, along with feelings of restlessness and irritability, whilst stuck at home for long periods of time, have led to heightened tensions in the household. This has resulted in children facing multiple forms of abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers.

    Social isolation is known to be a risk factor for child abuse . Researchers have found that all types of child abuse become more frequent during school holidays, summer breaks, and natural disasters (disease outbreaks, hurricanes, etc.). Women in an abusive relationship and their children are more likely to be exposed to domestic violence and abuse when family members spend more time in close contact with each other and when families have to cope with additional stress, financial problems, and/or unemployment.

    Some forms of violence that children are being exposed to during the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown include:

    • Yelling or shouting (including verbal abuse)
    • Physical punishment (including hitting the child)
    • Aggressive behavior towards the children

    The situation may be worsened if the virus causes the loss of parental care due to death, illness or separation.

    Further, systems that were in place to prevent and report child abuse have also been disrupted. Measures to contain the virus have affected delivery of vital support and treatment services as well as contact with informal support networks. During the crisis, identifying children at risk is inherently more challenging given that many adults who would typically recognize signs of abuse, such as teachers, childcare workers, coaches, extended family and community members and child and family welfare workers, are no longer in regular contact with children.

    IMPACT ON UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN

    The pandemic lockdown has not only highlighted the need to put in place efficient social structures but has also worsened the pre-exiting social inequity.

    The most affected group during the covid-19 outbreak are underprivileged children, who will take years to recover from the negative consequences of the pandemic.

    Increase in Child Labor

    The covid-19 crisis could lead to the first rise in child labor after 20 years of progress. The global number of child laborers decreased by almost one-third since 2000. But this progress is seen to be at risk because with the loss or reduction of household income, there may be an increased need or expectation for children to contribute to their families financially by engaging in work (which may include exposure to hazardous or exploitative forms of work).

    Increase in Child Marriages

    Child marriages are often encouraged primarily by financial incentives. During the covid-19 lockdown, when there is rampant economic uncertainty and an unemployment crisis, families may view child marriages as a potential means to gain financial security. This practice may be hastened by the closure of schools where the education of girls has been interrupted, and they are being viewed as a liability to the family.

    Nutritional Deprivation

    Children belonging to underprivileged families already faced the threat of malnutrition. The covid-19 crisis has further led to an acute deprivation of food distribution.

    According to a survey conducted in 122 villages in India, the nutritional status of children and pregnant and lactating women of underprivileged sections in Madhya Pradesh has been poor, with their nutrition (food) intake in terms of net calories showing deficit of 51%, 67% and 68% respectively. This meant that the kids got less than half of required nutritious food while the women got only one-third of what is recommended for them.

    In countries where children relied on school meals, are now facing shortage of food. In the UK, in 2019, 1·3 million children were eligible for free school meals, and a further 1 million children (deemed ineligible for free meals) were estimated to be living in food insecurity. In the USA, rural counties have been hit hardest by restricted food access; during the covid-19 pandemic, rates of food insecurity have doubled from 18% to 35%.

    Increased Domestic and Sexual Violence

    In the absence of any monetary sources to sustain the household, many poor families are feeling helpless which is leading to increased frustrations.

    By the reason of displacement, the frustration and family conflict may manifest itself in the form of violence towards children. Further, with restricted movement because of the lockdown, children have become the most accessible and vulnerable targets of exploitation and sexual abuse

    The Deputy Director of ‘CHILDLINE 1098’ India, announced that India saw a 50% increase in the calls received on helpline for children since the lockdown began.

    Likewise, children without parents or guardians are more prone to exploitation.

    Summary

    The covid-19 outbreak is impacting children both directly and indirectly. The associated lockdown has led to closure of schools which is interfering with the mental, physical and social development of children. This has also meant the transition to online learning, which is putting children at risk of potential threats prevalent across the digital platforms being used. There are studies that have highlighted how the fear of the virus, and the quarantine measures are causing increased levels of depression and anxiety amongst children. On the positive side, parents working from home has meant an increased time spent with family, which children are declaring a highlight of the outbreak. However, on the flip side, children of frontline “Covid Warriors” are experiencing the opposite, because of the increased burden on medical professionals.

    There have also been reports of increased domestic violence directed towards children, as a consequence of adults targeting children to cope with their frustrations.

    The most affected group during the covid-19 outbreak are underprivileged children, who are experiencing increased involvement in child labor and increased domestic and sexual violence. There is also a rise in child marriages to help poor families gain financial security. The covid-19 crisis has also led to an acute deprivation of food distribution.

    Featured

    Covid-19 Lockdown: What are adults struggling with other than the virus.

    The covid-19 outbreak has affected everyone in one way or the other. Whether it is the children or adults. It has given a strong strain on mental health, financial aspects, and family relationships more than ever. It is quite true to say that this pandemic has completely changed our lives.

    Being in lockdown for months has been challenging for adults. Many families have suffered from the virus physically as well as a lot of them coping up with the loss of a loved one. This condition has significantly increased the risk of mental stress and negative emotions in adults.

    Here are a few areas to see how lockdown has impacted adults in different aspects of life.

    Added Responsibility for Parents

    Parents are going through the exceptional challenges of managing children alone. With schools and day-care services have been suspended, they are called to take the role of the teacher as well as caretaker round the clock while continuing their work commitments. Not only this but parents also go through the day to day challenges that include:

    • Struggle with establishing a healthy routine which includes academics, extracurricular activities, and bedtime.
    • Finding age-appropriate indoor activities for children and a balanced screen time.
    • Ensuring hand washing and other hygienic aspects to protect children and other family members.
    • Challenges of virtual learning.
    • Counseling about distant learning, social distancing, lockdown, and safety protocols.

    Impact on work-life balance:

    The ability to work effectively has been reduced by working parents due to lockdown and working from home. 47% of fathers reported that children are impacting the ability to do work from home while 31% of working mothers also reported the same.

    Most adults are going through employee burnout because of overwhelming job demands, exhaustion, and improper routines.

    Finances

    Covid 19 lockdown has put a major financial burden on the families. Households with children are more likely to report difficulty paying for usual expenses. Parents are also worried about educational expenses, their savings, and future expenditures for the family.

    A lot of people have gone unemployed due to the economic crisis. Others are worried about losing their jobs. Employees at workplaces are forced to take leaves to prevent overcrowding. The pandemic has given a drastic effect on the economy and both employees and employers are suffering the effects.

    Emotional and Mental wellness

    People are constantly worried about the risk of being infected as well as concerned about the loved ones getting infected. 53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

    • The fast spread of the virus and insufficient trust in treatment led people to continuously suffer from anxiety.
    • Having indoors for months has become mentally overwhelming for adults.
    • Adjusting into the new normal phase of continuously following safety protocols get exhausting, both physically and mentally.

    Worry of future

    The coronavirus pandemic is a difficult time for everyone. The uncertainty about the future is making it worse. People are still unsure about the normalcy of life when they will be able to travel safely and see long distant family, economic stability, and everything that the future holds. People also rethinking their investment plans and income strategies to manage financial challenges.

    Featured

    Diary of an Annoying Baby

    Dear Diary,

    I always thought I was my parent’s sunshine. Or at least that’s what they’d led me to believe.

    Doting upon me every now and then, attending to my every need, and choosing only the best there was possibly available.

    So when the other day I heard my parents complaining to their friends about how they are finding this parenting business a bit frustrating, I was taken aback. I admit that bedtime could prolong a little and my crying may become sort of annoying, but finding out that all this while my actions were slowly becoming irritating gave me the shock of my life. I had no clue as to what had happened and why.

    So here I am dear diary, writing an account of the past weekend in the attempts to identify what wrong had I done to gain such ill wills?

    Saturday

    I spent the day at my grandmother’s (nono) house where I usually feel like a king.

    The royal treatment included playing with her all day, where she made no forceful attempts to put me to nap and catered to my nonsensical whims whenever. However, like always, it was only later that I realized something fishy was going on. I mean, how could a parent let their baby play with the drawing room’s crystals? Only nono was cool enough to care more about me than that fancy piece of crystal I kept throwing on the carpet.

    Something was definitely wrong.

    As I snapped back to reality, I figured the missing piece to the puzzle. A parent would never let their child have so much fun. Unless, they weren’t there in the first place.

    My parents (which I later found out) had gone out for dinner, leaving me in the custody of my caring nono. The treachery slowly started to take over my senses and I showed signs of distress by exhibiting no interest in any sorts of games anymore. I refused to eat and said no to every toy.

    When the bell rung I knew who’d it be.

    Mama came forward to hug me. Instantly I let out a scream so high pitched that she had to cover her ears. Within seconds tears were rolling down my eyes and my limbs were frantically moving all across the floor.

    I was officially throwing a tantrum. Incessant crying, spontaneous bouts of wails, and breathless sobs were the highlights of the outburst.

    It took a good one hour for my parents to calm me down and even then I had the sad sniffles. I was angry and hurt at the same time and I made sure my parents knew this. However, by the end I was so exhausted that I’d fallen asleep in the car on the way back home.

    Identified annoying habit #1: Mysterious crying aka temper tantrums

    My rationale: I hate when my parents betray me like this. Each time they pull a stunt like that I feel the need to make them feel guilty for their actions. After all I am their child; their progeny; their lifeline!

    Sunday

    7:00 am

    I woke up to the humming of the fan, snuggled cozily between my mama and abba (dad). Through the curtains I could see it was still early. The car ride last night had helped me go to sleep early and hence the reason for my unexpected early rise.

    However, it seemed from my parents faces that they’d gone to bed quite late. Mama had two pillows under her head (a practice she usually follows when she’s got migraine), and abba had drool all over his chin (an indication that he was in deep sleep).

    I fumbled around a bit trying to make myself more comfortable. I was still prickly. So I pushed a little more. It so happened, that mama was at the edge of the bed and when I arched my back she rolled down on the floor, opening her eyes to a rude awakening.

    I giggled.

     My legs needed some more space so I pushed them high up in the air. They came down to plop on abba’s head. He got a little startled and wiped his face with the back of his hand in a funny manner.

    I giggled again.

    I plopped my legs again. This was fun.

    Abba, however, did not seem pleased. He frowned every time I landed my legs between his neck and head. He took a pillow and put it over his head.

    ‘Abba. Abba. Abba’

    I kept chanting till mama pulled me from behind and took me outside. She told me abba was up the whole night singing lullabies to me because all that crying from last night had given me gas and a tummy ache.

    I giggled again. To me all this explanation was mumbo jumbo. It was fun while it lasted.

    Identified annoying habit #2: Sleep sharing, which becomes worse when I go to bed at an odd time

    My rationale: I just don’t feel comfortable sleeping alone in the crib and feel protected lying between my parents. Also, who doesn’t want to take advantage of all that cuddling from mama and abba?

    9:00 am

    I was still chirping like a happy bird when mama placed me in the high chair. I didn’t want anything to dampen my happy spirit.

    So when mama placed the bowlful of sliced bananas in front of me I felt cheated. How could she ruin my mood by offering the same monotonous breakfast?

    I was half expecting soda, or a slice of that chocolate cake in the fridge or even a bowlful of m&ms. But no, she chooses to offer a nutritious meal that will keep me full till lunch – no room for useless snacks.

    I was furious. Yet again I put my vocal chords to work and started wailing.

    ‘This is all you’re going to have for breakfast’, she said and got back to scrambling eggs.

    I had to do something else to get her attention. Actions speak louder than words. So I slowly tilted the bowl and gave it a gentle push.

    *plonk*

    It landed face down on the floor, scattering the food all over the floor.

    *gasp*

    Mama turned around to witness the accident and smacked her head.

    I giggled again because mama seemed too funny doing that. It seemed that the trick worked because she slowly approached me and asked me in a sweet tone.

    ‘Tell me baby, do you want an apple?’

    I shook my head.

    ‘Fruit loops?’

    I shook again.

    ‘I know!’

    She ran across to the fridge and took out some peaches. She hurriedly peeled the fruit, chopped up long slices and then even diced them so my non-dexterous baby fingers could easily grab them. With a triumphant smile she placed the finished dish in front of me. Then she waited in anticipation.

    Her desire to watch me pick up a piece of those peaches prompted me to pull an act of mischief. So I tipped the bowl yet again.

    *plonk*

    I giggled once more as mama shook her head in despair.

    Identified annoying habit #3: Food throwing

    My rationale: The first time I didn’t like the bananas. The second time, mama’s eagerness forced me to act naughty. Otherwise when she ignores my silly actions I feel less prompted.

    11:00 am

    I was sitting on the floor taking out one book at a time from the drawer. I had exhausted my toys supply and there were no more toys for mama to take out from the cupboard.

    And oh, did I mention that the two sets of blocks I own were all scattered across the floor?

    Even after all this effort I still couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for.

    Aha! Just as I was about to throw the last book out of the drawer my eyes looked at the object of my lifelong search: the pink color pencil!

    I wanted to put the pink color pencil on top of my stacking blocks and witness how it’d look falling down. But as I turned around I saw mama putting back the toys in the basket.

    I screamed in horror and crawled over hurriedly to snatch the half-filled basket from her hands. Immediately then I emptied the basket on the floor to non-verbally declare that I wasn’t done playing. Mama shrugged and walked out of the room mumbling under her breath.

    I think I just made her mad.

    Identified annoying habit #4: Creating a mess

    My rationale: I lay out all my toys and books just because I am curious to find out about everything. How can I differentiate between an alligator and a crocodile if I can’t compare the one in my toys to that in the numbers book?

    2:00 pm

    When I saw mama drawing the curtains and switching on the bed lamp, I knew she was putting an end to my playtime. It was time for the afternoon nap but I wanted to play more. If only she wouldn’t be so cruel and let me race my cars around the whizz-around-garage.

    I started to yell, with absent tears rolling down my cheeks.

    She came forward to give me a hug and whispered in my ear,

    ‘Do you want to read your favorite book, Elephant’s Trunk?’

    She had me at that question – she always does. I don’t know how she knows how much I love to look at the elephant’s colorful friends and move my fingers over his soft trunk. Either way, I squealed and twirled my legs to let her know I was excited. Mama came to lie beside me and started reading,

    ‘Elephant loves to blow his trunk at the start of everyday …. ‘

    She flipped to the last page and then announced,

    ‘The End’

    I looked at her with demanding eyes and tapped the book, a signal that I wanted her to read it again.

    She pleasingly obliged.

    Once again, she finished the story and closed the book. I tapped the book one more time.

    She vehemently said, ‘no’. I started crying.

    It seemed that my tactics were working, because she immediately opened the book to the first page and started reading again.

    It was when mama was reading the story book for the seventh time that I heard her voice drift off. I looked at her worriedly and saw half her eyelids closing. Was mama falling asleep?

    My suspicions were confirmed when the book slid from her hands.

    *smack*

    It landed right on top of her face. She seemed baffled.

    I kept tapping the book with my closed fists again and again and again.

    Half asleep, she kept reading the story till I could hear her voice in the distance as my eyes slowly started to feel heavy. Even then I nudged her each time I heard the story end, forcing her to keep repeating it over and over and over.

    Identified annoying habit #6: Repetition

    My rationale: I ask mama to repeat the story because at times I can’t remember the words she reads out loud. So when I hear it over it helps me remember. Also, I love to hear mama’s voice when I am going to sleep.

    Image by Christopher Wright <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/zwVew&gt;

    Dear Diary,

    There you have it. I successfully identified five of the most annoying habits I may have seemed to develop. However, in my defence, these are not intentional. I am still at an age where I am learning. This comes from asking questions, exploring and identifying the effects my actions have on those who live with me. If in the process I tend to hurt someone I am always sorry. This apology though I cannot convey effectively. So I may come off as annoying and stubborn. I want my parents to have as much fun as I do when I am doing whatever they think is frustrating. If they see it from my eyes they’ll realize how much fun it is to be a baby.

    Featured

    Body Connection and Self Love

    By Zeina Habib ICF ACC Coach

    Do you  feel on some days you’ve  been  holding your breath and you didn’t even realize it? Or you’re tensing all your muscles or clenching your teeth and are not even aware of it?

    There are also days when you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see; too many cellulitis, or your skin color is not perfect, or you’ve gained a pound and hate how you look. The list goes one and you can find many things you either hate or haven’t even noticed about your body.

    Many of us have learned to be this disconnected,  as if our body has no role in our daily life unless we’re sick. We may have also been brought up loathing how our body looks or fearing the sin and  shame it may represent.

    However, recent studies have confirmed that self love, self expression and self care are not possible if we don’t love and care for every part of our being, including our body.

    We cannot be creative and curious if we don’t feel safe and connected to our own skin. 

    Communication is more than 50% body language, our self worth is linked to how we view our body and  our first impressions of people are based on their bodies. Our brains make assumptions about gender, age, culture and race, the moment we see someone; and the more we know about our body and that of others, the more likely we are to be curious and compassionate instead of judgemental. 

    This brings us to me writing this article for all the women  and mothers who want to embark on that self discovery and make sure they teach their kids connection instead of disconnection.

    The first step in loving our bodies is getting to know it. What is our body like when I am stressed, hurt, happy, angry or relaxed? How does my body help me express my emotions? 

    Just like emotional awareness, body awareness is all about asking ourselves these questions and using tools that will help us figure out. 

    So in the next part of this article, I will go over a few tools I have learned from being a coach and from several books and conferences I have attended.

    1- Body awareness and grounding 

    Body awareness and grounding are very important and simple strategies to connect to our bodies. 

    Body awareness is the simple act of  feeling every part of your body in space and time. How does your butt feel on the chair? How does your core feel? Is there any tension in any of your muscles? How about your fingers and your toes?

    You’d be surprised how many times we realize we have been holding tension in our core or shoulders without being aware of it.

    You can do this exercise any time during the day while you’re seated or  stretching out or walking.  I suggest taking a slow inhale from your nose using your abdomen and then exhaling through your mouth  slowly (i.e longer exhales than inhales)  while focusing on how each area of your body feels. 

    If you feel any tension anywhere in your body, make sure you relax it or stretch it out for a few minutes. 

    Grounding on the other hand, is a simple technique that allows you to bring your mind to the present. It is mostly used when feeling anxious, stressed or fearful. When you are having feelings that make you feel  lost inside your head, grounding helps  you  reconnect to your senses and to  the  present moment. 

    The best way to do this is to put your feet on the ground and focus on feeling connected to  earth by using the breathing technique described above. Sometimes, looking around the room for items of a certain color or shape helps calm you down and bring you to the present. The basic idea of this is to reconnect to your senses so you are back in reality in the present moment. Needless to say, if you are experiencing chronic  anxiety or panic attacks, you should consult a therapist or coach.

    2- Stress release 

    In their book “ Burnout, the secret to unlocking the stress cycle” Emily and Amelia Nagoski talk about the stress cycle and the role our body plays in releasing stress. In summary, they say that  even when you’re no longer in contact with the stressor (i.e whatever is stressing you out), it is not enough to relax,  you need to finish what they call  the stress cycle.

    Your body does not feel safe until it has released all the stress it has built up.

    So, leaving work may remove the stressor of that day but your body will stay in stress mode until it has released the stress. They talk about multiple techniques to do so, the most important one being physical activity. It can be  any type of movement from running to  walking to dancing etc. Just don’t lift heavy weights since this  adds more stress instead.

    In the end releasing stress comes back to us being connected to our body. There are many other useful techniques besides movement you can resort to such as a 20 second hug and creative art and you can find all these details by reading the book. 

    3- Demystifying body standards

    In her book “ The body is not an apology”, Sonya Renee Taylor talks about the importance of the body in our life. In her opinion,  the one thing we all agree on is that we all  have a body that we exist through and no one can deny that, no matter what God you believe in or what country you live in, this truth applies.

    However, over the years, beauty standards put in place for  marketing purposes have been used to make us feel our body is not enough.

    White skinny barbies or models on TV and magazines are used to make us all believe this is what we could look like if we try hard enough. They  removed all signs of cellulitis or wrinkles using photoshop so the women would look flawless. The problem with that is that it’s impossible.  Needless to say,  it still drove many women to try and achieve the perfect body, hating their present one in the process. 

    This is why we need to change our perspective. 

    We need to learn to love our bodies and teach our kids that there are many types of beauty out there. I am not just speaking about body shape but also about race, gender identity and disability. If our kids grow up hearing stories about people from different races with different body shapes or having disabilities, their normal will be different than ours.

    This point in my opinion is the most crucial, it either sets kids  for the development of shame, fear and eating disorders or for the development of  curiosity, acceptance and self love.  

    So what should we do to change our perspective and then that of our kids?

    • Take care of your body in the way you see fit.
    • Do gratitude exercises everyday including gratitude for body features.
    • Follow and buy from brands who support body diversity and have all types of beauty standards.
    • Join support groups that empower all body shapes and types. 
    • Read, and watch movies especially with your kids that support body diversity. This is very important for kids to grow up seeing this diversity and creating a new normal for themselves.
    • Watch out for the quality of self talk or the way you talk with your kids. Try to exclude body shaming language (i.e instead of I look fat, say  I’m beautiful I may have gained a pound and I can do something about that if I want to)

    4- Respecting your body limits

    This one is very important  especially when raising kids.

    Growing up in the Middle East, there was always a neighbor or  a family member who wanted a hug or a kiss from me from me as a little girl . You’d hear my mom say, “ Go ahead honey, give teta (grandma in Lebanon) a hug” and so on. As a kid, I felt forced sometimes if I was not in the mood or simply uncomfortable around that person. Now when I look back on it, it felt as if I had no control over my body.

    Forward a few years later I hated affection. I didn’t want anyone hugging me or kissing me and felt suffocated by it.

    Affection is only stress relieving when it’s safe and wanted.  It is important as parents to give our kids the choice of where they want to be friendly and affectionate and with whom.

    We need to also model that for them, as an adult woman, you have the right for your own limits, your own decisions when it comes to your space, contraception, your health and your body safety.

    The same should be passed on to our kids whether it’s affection or later on decisions about their sexual life or their health. 

    5- Expressing feelings

    For me, being a dancer, my body is how I express my feelings and communicate them to the world. I speak through every movement. The same goes for people who paint, write, act or do any form of art. You don’t have to be a professional to express yourself through your body, it can be any hobby you pickup. It is important to feel safe moving and to notice if any shameful self talk comes up. Art is only liberating when we let go of shameful talk that could be limiting us from accessing our full potential. 

    So monitor that self talk and connect with your amazing body. Let it all out. 

    In the end, there are many books and studies that link trauma healing, self image and a healthy life with how connected we are to our bodies. So, we have a responsibility as women to face the discomfort and  shame that we may feel when moving  from being disconnected from our bodies to finding that connection again. We owe it to ourselves to live and love fully and we owe it to future generations to plant seeds of love, connection and care. 

    Featured

    Find Yourself amidst the Chaos of Parenting

    Parenting is exhausting.

    To some it may seem like an unpopular opinion but there is some truth to it. Raising children demands our complete attention and dedication, and often times in the attempts to fulfill our responsibility as a parent we may get lost.

    With the influx of ‘too much information’, it is difficult to gauge whether how and where we are going with our lives is acceptable or not. Family, friends, books and the internet, all are sources of information that tend to influence our decisions. These unconsciously enforce performance standards that compel us to ignore our innate sense of right or wrong, and influence our confidence to do so. Our confidence then is reinforced by outside of ourselves (what others think of us) rather than what we want to do.   

    In this cycle of validation and trying to do what is the absolute right, we often ignore ourselves and what we want.

     ‘Who am I?’

    I am a daughter to my parents, a wife to my husband, a mother to my children and a writer to my readers. However, these are merely roles that I play to the interactions in my life. None of these encompass who I truly am.

    Ask yourself: who am I?

    If the question makes you uncomfortable, you are content with being assigned the roles you play. However, if you are curious, you are on the path to self-discovery. This is the first step to finding yourself.

    To know yourself is to know your purpose, your values, your visions, your motivations, your beliefs and what exactly you want out of life.

    During the initial years of motherhood, I was often left confused trying to figure out why I was in a constant state of anxiety. After graduating from business school, I was able to land a job which made me feel that all those years of late night studying and stressing over career goals was worth it. But then when I chose to become a stay at home mom, I figured there was something missing: a validation from my own self. While I did not consider myself to be an inadequate mother (and my child was also thriving) I wanted something to help me remind of myself beyond the role of a mother. Thanks to the internet, I started to pen down my thoughts and share it with an audience. Apparently people were interested in reading what I wrote, and they encouraged me to write more. Slowly I started to find pieces of myself that were part of an identity I had pushed aside.

    The moral of the story is that instead of depending on any external force to intervene and guide you to a happier state, it is an individual’s own responsibility to acknowledge and adopt an internal locus of control.

    That’s what I tried to do, and thankfully I succeeded. This by no means implies that I find no comfort in being a mother. I love being a mother to my children. At times my heart swells with so much love that I pray I am reunited with them in a better place after life.

    But I also love myself. My identity that once was; the one that I would like to keep.

    Self Awareness: What do I want?

    For some, the process of self-discovery may be easy. For many, not so much. Discovering yourself requires a high level of introspection and self-awareness.

    Self-awareness is the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us. It is categorized into internal self-awareness (how well you know yourself) and external self-awareness (how well you understand how others see you), and a balance between the two implies high levels of self-awareness.

    Self-awareness is the mindset that encompasses your feelings, values and core principles. It is the process of understanding your own character, motives, and desires. All these elements provide the basis for the facts we may be seeking during introspection.

    These take the form of repetitive patterns in our daily life through how we assume our identities. For example, if you find yourself often being praised for being responsible to your parents, responsibility is likely one of your inner values. If you feel a compelling need to always be there for your friends, reliability is probably an important value to you. If you are regularly late in submitting your work and this is creating professional problems, you are suffering from a habit of procrastination. These behaviors have an immediate effect on our relationships. Some may have a lasting positive impact, while habits like procrastinating may cause more harm than good.

    The good thing is that self-awareness can be learnt through simple exercises. These exercises can calm our minds, quiet our thoughts, relax our bodies, and make us more in control of ourselves. They help in escaping an impulsive reaction to events and emotions and facilitate in choosing our response to any situation.

    • Exercise # 1: Feedback

    Actively ask for feedback from people you interact with and listen to what piece of advice they have to offer.

    • Exercise # 2: Physical Activity

    Engage in movement that requires thought.  Exercise that requires you to be mentally present helps hone your self-awareness. These include competitive team sports like football, which demand analytical thinking on-the-go, and yoga which places an emphasis on mind-body connection.

    If you can, give a go at extreme sports. Challenging sports teach you that physical limits are breakable. They teach you that your limits are not fixed but temporary. And most importantly they show you that everything holding you back is in your head. 

    • Exercise # 3: Record your emotions

    Keep a journal of your feelings. Write down what was happening, what you were feeling, and how you reacted. Was there a physical reaction, such as racing heart, body ache or nausea?

    • Exercise # 4: Identify your emotions

    Imagine going into a situation and predict how you will feel. Practice naming and accepting the feelings. You might say “I may feel angry”, or “I may feel frustrated”. Naming the feeling puts you in control. Try to choose an appropriate reaction to the feeling rather than just reacting to it.

    • Exercise # 5: What’s beneath your identities?

    Make a list of your roles and write down the feeling connected to each role. Your feelings for each role might be happy, frustrated, anxious etc. Think of as many feelings as you can.

    Rumina is a mother of 3, who wanted to give undivided attention to her children. At the same time, she was interested in implementing her knowledge about Marketing in a productive way. She looked for options to work from home or through an outlet that would not compromise her choice to be with her children. Rumina made a conscious effort to become self-aware of what she wanted and how she would be able to manage it. With a renewed focus and determination, she put her skills set to use and started writing reviews about restaurants for different websites and also contributed to MuslimMoms.ca. She continued to pursue her expertise in marketing and made an Instagram account which has built over the years and helped her become an influencer. She has successfully collaborated with multiple restaurants, brands and local businesses in Canada. Today she has a registered business under FoodiliciousMuslimmom, and is working extensively with a vast number of Bloggers around Canada and the United States. The name of her business is a representation of her passion and her identity.

    Self-Awareness Helps in Connecting with Inner Self

    Self-awareness helps in uncovering our inner self and at times may lead to a conflict between who we really are and what we are expected to do, i.e. our inner self and identities.

    As parents trying to pursue our interests and our passions, we may often feel that we are not doing complete justice to our role as a mother or a father. We may question yourself whether the time we spend on ourselves could be used to read another book with our children.

    This unsettling feeling stems from the pressure to conform. Conformity is an outcome of peer pressure to perform according to the standards as set by our external environment. The will to battle conformity leads to inner alignment.

    Inner alignment helps us in exploring our true self. This means that once we align our inner selves we tend to uncover our true potential and find out the qualities that help us differentiate from others. This does not mean that we try to find out whether we are better or worse than other people; it means that we acknowledge the fact that we are different. Just like everyone else is from each other.

    Courtney Brown was a stay at home mom, who was passionate about fashion. Having a young daughter, Courtney has always looked for productive shopping solutions that could save her time and money. She noticed that friends and family members often asked her how and where she dressed so fashionably. It inspired her to create a place where women could freely ask for advice and find affordable fashion solutions. In 2007, she pursued her interest and found Cents of Style. Today, it is a multi-million dollar company

    When you align what you feel inside as being you with the identity you present to the outside world, you will no longer need to constantly “remember” what you need to project to the world. This lies in identifying qualities that we display to the word and that we feel within us. These qualities then genuinely belong to us. For example we might boast of being good at baking and at the same time are able to make absolutely breathtaking cakes. This alignment between our outer and inner identities then clearly recognizes our quality of being a potential baker. However, if you say you find interest in reading and are unable to finish a book without forcing yourself, then this discrepancy indicates a mismatch between the outer and inner identities.

    Whatever your inner identity rejects, you need to let go of. Whatever your outer identity rejects from your inner identity let it go. They are both lies that keep you from being authentically you.

    Trust yourself. It might seem a daunting task – especially in times of distress and doubt when you are going out on a limb to feel better. But that is when it is needed the most, that sense of self-reliance. Learn to trust your instincts, the inner voice that is suppressed by the screaming world outside. Once you find this voice it sets you on a path of discovering the true you. That is when you will feel confident and let go of the fears you’ve harvested for yourself.

    Featured

    Is the Use of Social Media Turning Us into Bad Parents?

    Every parent is over the moon when their child takes their first step. Some cheer, some cry happy tears and more so make a video and upload it on Facebook.

    Any of these actions seem acceptable in an age where social media has become an integral part of our lives. As parents, it is often difficult to judge whether our interactions with social media are justified or not.

    These are still the times when we are experimenting and learning how social media may have affected our parenting.

    While it may be a while before concrete conclusions are drawn, what we can do is, adopt a moral compass to gauge whether social media may be doing more harm than good.

    https://www.instagram.com/edmon_deharo/?hl=en

    For that we need to ask ourselves some questions.

    Am I Invading My Child’s Privacy?

    When we upload a post about our children, we are creating their digital footprint on the World Wide Web. Often times this digital footprint is created without the consent of the child, because at such a young age they trust your decisions and believe they have no power to question them.

    Parents may often overlook the need to seek their child’s consent or adhere to the protection of their privacy. They may choose to indulge in sharing the child’s personal information or photographs on social media. This behavior has become so common that the Wall Street Journal encouraged the creation of the word “sharenting”, where they called it “oversharenting”; a combination of “over-sharing” and “parenting”. The practice stems from the connected nature of social media early-adopters, who are comfortable sharing their lives online. When they had children, they began to share large numbers of pictures of them online.

    This practice has been examined and has led parents to question it. According to a survey, 24% of respondents said that they worry that the post will come back to haunt their child as a teen or an adult, while 32% have deleted a post about their child that they feared was oversharing.

    Am I Neglecting My Child?

    Social media is taking precedence over essential family communication. A recent report (conducted by the communication watchdog in the UK, Online Nation and the regulator Ofcom, as well as research by the online parenting magazine KinBox) has revealed that social media as well as other types of technology are leading families in the United Kingdom to feel increasingly disconnected from one another. This is causing families to become emotionally distant because the opportunities for possible interaction are being replaced with technology. For instance, when a child aged 3 or 4 years old throws a tantrum, they are quickly handed over (most times) a cell phone. This is instead of allowing the toddler to manage his emotions and regulate his feelings.

    “If your child is allowed on the phone regularly this can result in a lack of opportunity to talk and connect as members of the family. Family relationships are being diluted by the presence of this third party,” says Ní Dhraighneáin, a Specialist Child-centered Play Therapist based in Clonakilty,

    According to an anthropological study it was observed that family interactions during meals at fast food chains included 73% of parents using mobile devices during dinner and often appearing to “zone out” their children.

    Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Psychologist says that, “We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”

    This overuse of technology is making children feel neglected.

    When we are constantly on our phone checking social media, we are sending an unsaid and unintended message to our children that they are not our priority.

    They learn to internalize the fact that our attention is being divided between their live presence and a lifeless device.

    Am I Encouraging My Child to Become a Narcissist?

    Social media has given its users the opportunity to showcase literally anything. From sharing a thought they may have had during the day, to posting about their accomplishments. The same behavior extends for their children when parents choose to highlight their children’s achievements online. Sixty one percent of Parents’ survey respondents believe parents brag too much on social media. Parents who brag online are often seen not only as obnoxious but also because the onlookers to feel a sense of inferiority and engage in a competition that may be false to begin with.

    As we upload our child’s achievements or their photographs we are subtlety teaching our children to depend upon the validation from the number of “likes”, “shares” or “followers” we get. This can develop into a lack of empathy and feelings of entitlement.

    Further, the implications of online bragging (about the child’s achievements) may affect their  emotional state. This is leading to the creation of a generation with “high arrogance and low self-esteem“.

    The parents’ over affirmation in the early years include rewarding the child at possibly everything they do without much effort. However, this kind of reward system becomes absent once the child ages and starts witnessing individuals smarter than him. They then start questioning their perception of affirmation and start doubting their capabilities.

    There is also a class of parents who want to sound humble yet boast about their children. This is called “humble bragging”, a term coined by a writer on Parks and Recreation, Harris Wittels, and it describes a way to brag about your life and accomplishments in a covert way that allows you to avoid shame or guilt. This type of bragging is worse than being bold.

    “But humble bragging is disingenuous,” says social media expert Karen North, Ph.D., Director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California.

    “It’s manufactured modesty as a guise for overt bragging.”

    And it’s this dishonesty that bothers people. The opposing nature of a humble bragging post (my friends want me to come to the beach but all I want is to chill at home) is provoking because it asks readers to go in two directions at once, reaction-wise.

    Am I Spying on My Child?

    With multiple social media platforms available, and our children signing up for a majority of them, we are given the access to our children’s personal lives. If we want, we can choose to stalk them from the comfort of our couch. We can witness their every day life, their friends, their hangouts, and even check every financial transaction they have made. Parents may even tear down boundaries and browse through their phones for more information.

    Photos, stories and videos of their actions may stream on our timelines in a way that it might become difficult for parents to resist. However, it is then important to realize that as parents we need to give space to our children. Spying is not a healthy way to keep up with the lives of our children. Bonding with them and listening to what they say and what they might not, helps develop a strong relationship between parents and children.

    Do I Trust My Child with Social Media?

    The uncontrollable penetration of social media into our children’s lives is forcing the integration of trust in a parent-child relationship. This trust is translated as the choice to monitor your child’s activities instead of choosing to spy on them.

    As opposed to spying (which diminishes all forms of protection of one’s privacy) monitoring helps promote an open communication between the child and the parent.

    The parent’s oversight is a safety measure that allows children, in most cases teens, to engage independently with technology. They are able to prove their responsibility and gain valuable experiences while maintaining privacy. It serves as merely a preventive technique for protection against predators and cyber bullies.

    Monitoring provides lessons in communication and offers parents a chance to connect with their children. The ideal way to monitor technology involves parents actively and openly communicating with their teens. This method requires a lot of dialogue, intentional interactions and proactive education.

    According to the PEW Research Internet Project, it is estimated that 68% of parents claim to have incorporated rules about the types of internet sites their teens are allowed to visit. Most also have guidelines regarding what personal information gets shared online. Games are monitored as well with 67% of parents restricting what kinds of video games are or are not allowed to be played.

    Am I Communicating With My Child?

    The irony of using social media is that parents and children are distant when they are together, but are more present when they are apart. This is often seen when parents and children despite being in the same room choose their screens over human interaction, and while at school or at work, they will text, send photos or share updates about what is going on with them.

    In this manner, social media is facilitating communication between children and parents, especially teenagers who are often times harder to reach considering the demands of their social and school life. However, this does not mean that parents have a right to infiltrate their child’s online space. Parents should understand that their child’s digital presence is as sacred as their real life, and includes their peers and friends. Social media gives parents the opportunity to empathize with their children and understand the importance of communicating effectively. Social media helps parents to pause before responding or commenting on their child’s posts and realize the impact it may have.

    Conclusion

    When we pick up our phones, we may find ourselves to be making the excuse that this is for only a minute. While it is no sin to catch up on global updates, or squeeze in a few minutes to check up on your friends’ life events, it does make a difference once those minutes turn into hours and your children wait for their turn to be attended to. Parenting in the age of social media is making everyone question how it has altered the concept of being a parent and how its use can be managed effectively.

    Show leftover some love; Reuse meals properly.

    It is always a good idea to reduce waste and conserve resources. By adopting a sustainable lifestyle we can save money, time, and a good number of resources for the community.

    When it comes to food waste, almost half of the food waste comes from households. Making use of leftovers with proper planning, storing, and repurposing can help with reducing food waste. Also, by using leftovers creatively you can make it appetizing and would not get bored.

    FOOD STORAGE AFTER MEAL:

    Storing leftovers properly makes a lot of difference in the taste and quality of food. Below are few tips for proper storage of leftovers or meals cooked in batches.

    – Storing food in airtight containers (with lids) prevents odors and air to seep in and affect the texture of food.

    – Stored food in the fridge should be used within 3 days.

    – If you cook in batches or planning to use it for a week, put the food in the freezer within the same day.

    – Label everything before putting in the freezer.

    – Choose to cook meals that you can freeze easily without compromising on the taste and texture.

    – Before freezing food, be sure to let it cool properly.

    REHEATING LEFTOVERS/STORED FOOD:

    – Reheating leftovers on the stove is always better than a microwave. It helps with preserving the texture of food.

    – Use the same equipment where you cooked it, be it oven, air fryer, or stove. (If it’s a baked food, reheat it in the oven, covering properly with foil).

    – It is best for the liquid leftovers such as gravies, soups to be boiled properly while reheating.

    REPURPOSING LEFTOVERS:

    There are a lot of creative ways to repurpose and transform leftovers into totally different meals. You can switch up a lot of meals from leftovers considering your own and your family’s preference.

    – Grilled chicken/Salmon can be used in salads.

    – Rice can be repurposed into fried rice

    – Chicken/turkey can be used in wraps and fajitas.

    – Leftover sauces can be used in pasta/pizza or can be used as a topping.

    – Using just a topping or garnishing can also help freshen up leftovers and make them feel new.

    Repurposing dinner from a few days back can turn into an easy quick lunch that will save you time and effort.

    As much as we enjoy our meals, it is also important to reduce food wastage by normalizing leftover use. Making sure to consume all food that we prepared helps saving time and conserve resources

    Sibling Rivalry: How can we encourage siblings to get along

    Why they just can’t get along? is the question of every other parent having more than one child.

    It is not fun to watch your kids fight all day. Teasing, conflicts, anger, and disputes often leave the parents exhausted. Even though sibling fighting is common in families, parents need to equip children with the right techniques to minimize conflicts and help them get along.

    Why siblings fight:

    There are several reasons why siblings have disagreements and fights:

    • Environmental factor – Children learn a lot by watching behaviours in their surroundings
    • Temperaments – Children are born with different temperaments. while it is easy for some kids to be flexible, others are not able to control their feelings of anger.
    • Competition between each other.
    • Age – Young children and toddlers are seen as more aggressive because they don’t have the skills to sort out disagreements. However, with growing age, they have improved their skills of resolving conflicts.

    Managing Sibling Rivalry and Fights:

    While understanding the factors gives a lot of insight into sibling rivalry, it is essential for parents to develop a healthy relationship between siblings, so conflicts do not affect the long-term relationship.

    • Model Respect:

    There is no better role model for children than parent themselves. Children need to see their parents working out on differences respectfully and calmly. This will help them get along and understand the difference of opinion.

    • Set Boundaries:

    Having clear rules and limits will make it easier to remind children about what is acceptable and what’s not.

    Involve children in making rules so they remember them and politely remind them if they break or bend them.

    • Nurture them as a team

    It is important to explain to children that the whole family is a ‘team’. Cultivating the sense of team will make them responsible for their behaviours and more sensitive towards each other.

    • Individual Space:

    A bit of private space and time is essential for each child to spent without sharing with a sibling. It could be their things or activities. Providing them with personal space helps to make each of them valued.

    • Play it fair:

    Children often compete for parents’ attention. One on one time with each child would make them feel equally loved.

    Also listening to each of them individually after a fight or conflict will help them vent out their frustration and anger.

    • Minimize Comparisons

    Children who are constantly being compared will develop feelings of inferiority. Appreciate each child for his attributes and accomplishments and not in comparison to his siblings.

    • Let them work out on their own.

    Sibling fights are a great opportunity for children to learn the social skill of resolving conflicts. By letting them argue or negotiating on their own would help them understand each other’s point of view. Parents could ignore the small disputes but be sure to step in if the fight escalates or children find it difficult to work out.

    Reducing Back to School Anxiety

    By Nimerah Faruqui (Occupational Therapist)

    The excitement of kids returning to classes is high, but so is the anxiety!

    Back to school anxiety is very normal. We’ve all felt those jitters on the very first day of classes. It’s normal for parents to experience this anxiety, as well as children, especially during a pandemic!  As a parent, I’m happy that my children will finally go back to in-person learning after so many months (and hopefully stay in school!). I’m happy my kids will be able to see their friends and teachers, and go back to a normal school routine. However, I’ll be honest, the fourth wave (in the country where I live in) is making me nervous! I’m also worried about how my kids will cope with long in-school days after months of online learning.

    Anna_Isaeva/Getty Images/iStockphoto 

    I’ve had some parents reach out to me recently regarding transitions and back to school anxiety.

    Will my child who only attended a few months of JK (when COVID-19 hit) be able to socially adjust going into Grade 1 a year and a half later?

    Will my child who has asthma feel stuffy and tired wearing a mask throughout the day?

    How do I get my child excited about going back to school?

    So many valid concerns!

    Children may be anxious regarding some of these concerns and others, but they will often not talk about their anxious feelings. The back to school anxiety may present itself in different ways: more clinginess, more whining, feeling more tired than usual, acting up, and in some cases extra energy and nervous chatter.

    Here are five things you can do to reduce back to school anxiety:

    1. ROUTINES

    Work on a consistent night-time and morning routine with your kids. After months of being at home, and then summer vacation, bedtime routines may have become very relaxed.

    I know with all the changes in our home with the baby, and our recent move, this is something we have been working on. Practice a good bedtime routine in the few weeks leading up to the start of school. Even if you haven’t started this already, it’s not too late to get into the swing of things before school starts. Set a soothing night time ritual that involves for example: grooming (brushing teeth & hair), bath-time, cuddling with parents, quiet time/prayer/meditation and story time/quiet reading depending on the age of the child.

    When children get into a soothing night time schedule, they get better sleep, and with better sleep, dealing with school worries is much easier. If the child has been going to bed several hours later than usual and sleeping in during the holidays, slowly get your child to a reasonable school-day sleep wake cycle by rolling back the clock by 15-30 minutes every day. Work on this routine until the child has a consistent and reasonable bedtime, and is able to get up and out of bed at the expected time every day. Using a visual schedule can be helpful so children know what to expect for their night time and morning routines. Ensure that your child wakes up at the same time daily and has a nutritious breakfast.

    2. CONVERSATIONS

    Have conversations with your children about returning to school. Let them know that back-to-school anxiety is a very real and normal thing.

    Talk to your children about: what they are looking forward to at school and if they are excited to see their friends. Also talk to them about their worries, and really listen to them!

    Acknowledging anxious thoughts by a parent can really help the little ones calm down. Try to have conversations with your kids a few times to understand their concerns. Sometimes these worries may seem trivial to us as adults, but for children these may really be a big deal. Having open ended conversations will help to determine the root cause of the anxiety. If for example, the news about the fourth wave is making them nervous, talk to your children about wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands/sanitizing frequently, and other safety protocols at school.

    3. POSITIVE THINKING

    Focus on the positive aspects of the conversation such as the excitement of meeting friends or playing outside for recess. Positive thoughts and affirmations are really helpful when dealing with anxiety, not just for adults, but also for kids.

    Start early and encourage your children so they begin to develop a growth mindset, normalize making mistakes, and make asking for help a good thing!

    4. COPING PLAN

    Develop a coping plan for anxious and overwhelming feelings. Brainstorm with your child different ways to create solutions to different situations.

    Talk to your child about what to do if they are feeling overwhelmed, scared, or anxious.

    This coping plan can also involve reading social stories and role playing different scenarios. Go over different coping strategies with your child like taking long slow deep breaths, for example. Other techniques like grounding (thinking of things that they can hear, smell, feel, taste around them) can help with anxiety as well. An age/class appropriate comfort item (like a small note from mom) or a fidget toy may also be helpful as a coping tool to take to school.

    5. PREPARATION

    Involve your child with back-to-school preparations to encourage excitement and reduce anxiety. Ask your child to help plan school lunches. I know my kids love doing this because they get to choose what they like for lunch and they look forward to their “fun” snacks at school!  Make a list of school supplies and lunch items and plan a fun shopping trip together! Plan out outfits for the week or uniforms so that they are ready to go in the morning! Try out different kinds of masks and attach them to lanyards to make children more comfortable with taking masks on/off during lunch time. Lay out clothes ready for the next school day so it takes less time to get ready in the morning. This also helps to create a predictable routine for kids at night. For children that are younger, driving by the school and perhaps going into the school yard can help them feel more comfortable and familiar with their surroundings making the transition back to school easier.

    Hope some of these strategies are helpful. It’s never too late to get started. It takes time for everyone to adjust to changes and school routines. Just remember that our children are resilient and strong! Praying for a wonderful and safe school year for all our children!

    Create your website with WordPress.com
    Get started