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Monday, May 26, 2008

Stress and Children

Stress is the body's natural reaction to a stimulus and it disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of a person. Simply put, it is the pressure one feels when confronted by a challenge or problem.

Given the fast-paced nature of modern living, higher expectations are being set for children than days gone by. The main causes of stress in our young children today include:

*Peer pressure and competition;

*Changes in familiar routines or faces:

*Expectations to perform well academically and in extra-curricular activities.

Signs of Stress in Children

Here are some tell-tale signs that your child could be suffering from stress:

* Sleep problems;
* Anxiety or panic attacks
* Refusal to have proper meals;
* Bouts of moody and irritable behaviours;
* Constant sense of being hassled and pressurised;
* Being sad and depressed for no good reason; and
* Occurrences of headaches, stomach problems etc.

Do note that different children have different ways of acting out their stress. Some children develop rage fits and may take it out on others. Others may keep to themselves and become withdrawn and reserved all of a sudden.

With proper guidance and advice, children can be taught to manage stress properly and turn it into a motivating force instead. Unfortunately, for children who are not guided adequately, they can suffer consequences such as a weakened immune system, which leads to health problems, and negative self-esteem.

Ways to Help Children Cope

Here are some ways by which you can help your child cope with stress:

1. Listen to him
Set aside some time everyday to talk to your child and ask him about his day. Probe him deeper to find out issues that he has been worried or anxious about if he seems particularly withdrawn or quiet.

2. Talk to him about managing stress
Through careful observation, you would gradually know what brings your child down and makes him anxious. With this knowledge, you can teach him to anticipate and be prepared to manage stressful situations, like doing homework or taking a writing test that is challenging.

3.Plan proper rest time
Sometimes the simplest solution can be just proper rest. If your child is frazzled after a long hard day in school, send him to bed earlier than normal, so that he can have adequate rest and "recovery" time.

4. Assure him constantly
Tell your child that it is okay to feel stressed at certain times and that it is a common emotional experience in people. Remind him that you are always there for him, no matter what.

5. Look out for fun and relaxing activities
Encourage your child to participate in fun activities that take his mind off his problems. Be it swimming, cycling around the park, or playing a game of friendly soccer with his friends - let him sweat it out and have some good fun.

6. Be careful with your words
Never use words like "stupid' or "slow" on your child if he does not perform academically or do something to your satisfaction. Many factors can contribute to his inability to do something expected of him. Try to find out the reason and work together with him to help get back on track.

7. Don't compare!
Never compare your child with his siblings, friends or relatives. Recognise that he is his own unique individual. Comparisons will only add on to his stress and lover his self-esteem, rather than motivate him.

8. Who's the ambitious one, really?
Ask yourself: Does my child really need those extra tuition classes and enrichment lessons? Or do I need to help him achieve a good balance between work and play?

Generally, children do learn to handle stress better as they grow older but it is important for parents to teach them stress management skills from an early age.

By teaching children simple and effective tips for managing stress, we are also equipping them with problem- solving skills and helping them to become resilient and independent individuals.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How To Teach Your Children Courage

I came across this informative and useful article by Alvin Poh, who is the founder of Learning Champ, a parenting wesbite that provides information and resources to parents, who want to help their children develop the important skills and mind set for a brighter future -> http://www.alvinkh.per.sg/learningchamp

Courage means doing the right thing when it is hard, even when it means being called a "chicken" by others.

A person with courage dares to attempt difficult things that are good. He has the strength of a leader and ability not to follow the crowd, to say no and mean it and influence others by it. He is true to conviction and follows good impulses even when they are unpopular or inconvenient.

You can teach your children courage through stories, games, role-playing and discussion. However the most powerful and effective approach is to have it and show it through your personal example and through your generous praise of their example and attempts.

Here are some guidelines on how you can teach honesty to your children

Praise Their Attempts

Take notice of every little effort of your child and reward him for the slightest evidence of courage. This applies to children of any age.

For young children to demonstrate courage, it takes the overcoming of thumping heard and mind full of uncertainty. Hence you child make an attempt, he truly deserve your lavish praise. Your praise should be for his attempt, regardless of the outcome of his action.

For example,
- praise your child for trying a new way to doing things,
- trying new food,
- initiate making friends with people he just met,
- trying a new activity

Among all, the most important one is to praise for his moral courage i.e. not going with others who were doing something wrong, telling the truth when it is easier to tell a lie etc.

Teach By Your Example

Children learn best from what they see rather what you say. Give your children a parental model for courage. Share stories with your children about difficult things that you do ? this is not to boost or brag about yourself but a way to tell your kids that even adults have difficult things.

If you have a tough project or decision to make, tell your children about it. If you said no to some peer pressure or make a decision that is morally and ethic right although it will make you unpopular, tell your children about it. Your children will learn a lot from your stories.

Teach Them the Difference between Courage versus "Loudness" and Lack of Courage versus Shyness

Courage is a quality of character and not personality. If you have children that are shy, help them to understand that you are not trying to teach them to be louder or assertive but courage.

Talk to them about "quiet courage" ? the courage to say no to something that is wrong, the courage to make friend with another child who has no friends. Explain to them that everyone can be a little scared but we can all do what is right anyway.

Help Your Children Understand the Makeup of Courage

The most important factor to teach courage to children of all age is to realize that preparation and faith makeup courage.

Our children will have courage if they are properly prepared, whether it is by thinking through decision, teaching them to say no with confidence, doing something new and helping them to feel confident that they can perform well. The key to courage is to help your children build up faith in themselves that they are able to do what they know is right. Your kids will realize that faith lies not believing that something will turn up but in believing that they can turn something up.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mood Disorders - recognising and helping children with mood disorders

We have all felt sad or melancholy from time to time. But when a child reaches a point where the ache of sadness becomes chronic and intolerable, then he is likely to be suffering from mood disorder.

These can only be diagnosed if the sufferer's mood disturbance results from an excessively high or low mood over a period of time.
Such disorders are pervasive and don't disappear with time.

Without interference or proper treatment, children and adults who suffer from mood disorders cannot cope well in society. The condition can disrupt all aspects of their lives, as well as the lives of people around them.

Some possible causes for mood disorders in children include:

* Stress or pressure from the family, school or social environment;

* Low self-esteem or self-worth;

* An inability to cope with a given situation;

* Exposure to traumatic events;

* Lack of support, care, love and understanding; and

* A chemical imbalance within the brain.

Signs And Symptoms

Basically, there are two types of mood disorders: depressive disorders and bipolar disorders ( also known as manic depression).

Depression can be defined as a deep overriding sadness and feeling of despair. If a child suffers from depressive disorder, he may:

* Feel Depressed;

* Lose interest or pleasure in daily routines, usual hobbies, etc;

* Lose weight significantly;

* Either sleep too much or be unable to sleep;

* Feel fatigue or loss of energy;

* Feel a sense or worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness;

* Be less able to concentrate; and

* Have recurrent thoughts of death, self-harm or suicide.

A bipolar disorder is characterised by wild mood swings ranging from depression to manic behavior. If a child is experiencing a manic episode, he may:

* Tend towards inflated self-esteem or grandiosity;

* Sleep less than usual;

* Be more talkative or feel the need to keep on talking;

* Have flights or ideas or racing thoughts;

* Be easily distracted; and

* Increase his involvement in activities.

What Parents Can DO to Help

# Understand and work within your child's needs, abilities and strengths;

# Be understanding and supportive;

# Talk to him regularly (e.g) ask him how his every day goes;

# Play with him or do some relaxing activity together;

# Listen to him - do not ignore any plea for help.

# Watch out for signs of self-harm or suicidal thoughts;

# See issues/problems from his point of view, not yours;

# Avoid putting unnecessary pressure or stress on him;

# Do not compare him with other children;

# Do not scold or threaten him; and

# Monitor his behavior and decide when professional help is required.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Making Literacy FUN for Preschoolers

Here are some simple ways that are fun for your kids and at the same time help them to improve their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

Introducing / Recognising Alphabet Letters for READING

*Magic / Feel Bag:
What you need - A bag full of Alphabet cut outs
Get your child to take out one cut out letter at a time with her eyes closed and then try to recognise it. Or she can put a hand in the bag and feel a cut - out letter to guess what it is.

*Guess The Letter:
Using a board, hide one large letter at a time behind the board. Slowly reveal the letter a bit at a time, so that your child can only see part of it and have to guess which one it is.

*Bingo Game (Best played in a group of 3 or more children)
Each child has a card with numerous alphabet letters on it. Call out a letter and the children will have to see if they can find and identify the letter on their cards.

*Matching cards:
Play the "Snap" card game or other memory games likes "Pairs" etc.
You could also get your child to match pictures with similar beginning letters, later advancing to match pictures with correct ending-letters or even medial sounds.

*Word Wheels:
Prepare simple blends such as /it/at/ip, on the outer wheel, and letters on the inner wheel that will make simple three-letter words. To make a complete word, let your child spin the inner wheel to match up the letter sound with the outer wheel sound.

*Letter Fans
Let your child hold small cards with letters or sound blends on them. Call out an object or a letter, and prompt your child to hold up the correct letter or blend.

Introducing Simple Writing Techniques

*Sand / Sealed Bags of Paint:
Allow your child to trace letter shapes in the sand, or watch paint smudge around the inside of a large plastic bags as she make letter shapes - please make sure that the paint bags are sealed tightly...

*Guess The Letter

This game is easy and fun and needs NO equipment except for your fingers and the palm of your child.
Trace a letter on your child's palm of her hand with her eyes closed or you could choose to trace it on her back. Then ask her to guess the letter.

*Describe The Letter
Describe how a letter is written, and then have your child follow your verbal instruction to write that letter correctly. For e.g. for the letter /n/, say : "Start at the top and go down, back up to the top and around and back down again.

Encourage more Speaking and Listening

*Sing / Say:
Sing along with your child nursery rhymes, recite poems and read stories.

*Silly Rhymes
Encourage your child to create her own rhymes or silly sentences. There is sure to be lots of laughter and fun while your child learns to associates like sounding words.

*Story Time

Once you have read a story to your child or read the story together with her. Ask her questions about the story. This will encourage her to listen and pay more attention whenever a story is read. Encourage her to retell the story. Change the start of the story and ask her to come up with her own ending etc. - This encourages her to use her imagination and creativity.

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