Read This Before You Reach for Your Snacks This FIFA World Cup Season

WORDS LIM CHAIN YIN

LIM CHAIN YIN
SEA Nutrition Lead
Mondelēz International
TIP 1
Portion Out Your Snack
  1. Be sure to pace yourself throughout the equal halves.
  2. Once you’ve decided what you want to eat, portion it out. This can help you slow down, so that you enjoy your snack.
  3. Check in with yourself to see if you’re full and satisfied before having another portion.
  4. To keep tabs on how much you eat, always check the serving size per package on the label and put your snack in a bowl or on a plate.
TIP 2
Alter Your Choices

If you’re watching the game late at night, you might have a craving for something to eat. Remember that your body works harder when it’s sleeping, so try to snack on something light that will give you energy to keep going, but won’t make it hard for your body to digest.

TIP 3
Enjoy Every Bite

Snacking while engaging in other activities—in this case, watching the game—can easily lead to unconsciously eating more than you should.

  1. Take a moment during the interval to savour your snack with all of your senses. To fully enjoy your snacking experience, pay attention to the smell, taste, texture, shape, and colour of your food.
  2. Take small bites and chew slowly and be sure to finish one bite before starting the next.
TIP 4
Put Your Snacks Out of Reach

When watching a game in your living room, make sure your snacks are beyond arm’s reach. That way, you will be less likely to keep going back for more and inadvertently grab more than you need.

TIP 5
Drink Water, Lots of It!

Your brain tends to trick you into wanting to snack more, but you might just be thirsty. So, drink a glass of water and wait for a couple of minutes before deciding whether or not you’re hungry.


Snacking mindfully is a simple way to tune into your body’s needs. It can be practised by anyone, anywhere, and at any age. It is a great habit in cultivating a positive relationship with food by making deliberate and conscious choices to promote your well-being as well as keeping a balanced lifestyle. But habits take time to build and change, so taking small steps is a good way to start out!

#YouMatter Promotes Mental Health Awareness and Creates Safe Space

WORDS LIM TECK CHOON

In conjunction with World Mental Health Month in October, Suria KLCC together with The Body Shop invites the public to be part of the change in temoving the stigma of mental health problems. Also coming onboard this year is the is Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA).

The campaign with the tagline #YouMatter will run until 10 November 2022.

A SAFE SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO GATHER AND CONVERSE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

A safe space is available Suria KLCC for people to come together and converse about mental health without the fear of receiving judgment and being stigmatized by the rest of society.

This safe space, called Safe Space @ Suria KLCC, will be open for the duration of this campaign.

SAFE SPACE @ SURIA KLCC

  • Located at Level 1, Ampang Mall (you can’t miss it)
  • Will be opened throughout the campaign (until 10 November 2022)
  • 10 am to 10 pm daily
  • Participate in workshops, talks, and panel discussions with mental health professionals
  • Talk to the stationed mental health volunteer for more information

The calm room in Safe Space @ KLCC allows one to de-stim and find peace of mind.
WELCOMING THE CALM AFTER A TURBULENT MCO

“The last two years marked a turbulent and uncertain time for all,” says Andrew Brien, the Executive Director of Suria KLCC Sdn Bhd. “With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, there’s no better time to reconnect and focus on recovery.”

He adds: “The Safe Space @ Suria KLCC is a welcoming space where the community can come together to share and learn. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved—we want people to leave the space feeling better and with more insight about themselves or others.”

A TIMELY EFFORT TO REACH OUT TO AND EMPOWER YOUTHS

YAM Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah, the Founder and President of the Green Ribbon Group, emphasizes that Safe Space and similar efforts are needed to show our support for those with mental health problems as well as to highlight an ongoing commitment towards doing more for the cause.

She adds that for this year, the focus is on the mental health of youth. “The focus on youth mental health this year is especially timely for the Green Ribbon Group. We are very fortunate to be able to pilot programmes in secondary schools and universities that focus on mental health literacy, self-management and peer support. This has always been a dream of mine—to reach out to our youth and empower them to prioritise their mental health.”

Founder and President of MIASA, Anita Abu Bakar shares a similar sentiment. “Looking after each other should be everyone’s responsibility and not just the health sector alone,” she says. “This is why we should strive to prioritise community-based mental health support—so that the burden of care can be shifted from being shouldered solely by our incredible frontliners to being shouldered by all of us. Through efforts like this, it is our sincere hope that the scale of our response to the issues surrounding community mental health can begin to match the scale of the challenge itself.”


For more information on MIASA, you can visit www.miasa.org.my (link opens in a new tab), while more information on the Green Ribbon Group can be found by visiting greenribbongroup.com (link also opens in a new tab).

See the map below if you’re unsure as to where KLCC Suria is.

Mommy, I Want a Pet!

Mommy, I Want a Pet!

May 8, 2022   Return

WORDS JENNIFER F. NETTO

From those that peep at us behind a glass to the four-legged furry ones that run between our legs, our friends from the    animal kingdom are no stranger to our homes. They’ve found a special place in the lives of many humans for centuries, and the multiple roles they play in our lives have proven how much of our world depends on them. Having a pet is like having a child. But what if it is our child that wants a pet? Should you venture into it?

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GETTING THE RIGHT PET

Having a pet to many children means getting their first best friend and getting the right pet is the key element to a “happily ever after” of your own which only means the wrong pet can complicate matters at home. So before you say YES to your child, consider doing this first.

  • Study before settling

Invite your child to do some research with you. List down the type of pets you can consider bringing home and why. Does the pet of your choice require special care and attention? Is it a pet that is more hazardous or hardy for your child? Would you have to spend a lot of time caring for it? Would it flair up allergies in your child? Would you have to allocate a special place for it? The questions can be endless but, in a nutshell, you need to make certain that the pet you get is compatible with your kid(s) and family, and the lifestyle you lead, not forgetting the cost it would incur on your monthly budget.

“PETS MAKE A GREAT COMPANION WITH THEIR UNCONDITIONAL NATURE, MAKING THEM A FRIEND YOUR CHILD CAN COUNT ON.”

Remember, your child’s pet ought to have the right temperament for life with little kids so you can be assured of your child’s care first and foremost. So, before you make your choice, and before your child falls in love with his or her pet, research must come first, because having to decide to give that pet a new home later if it isn’t compatible, would mean putting your child through a heart break.

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PETS ARE GREAT FOR KIDS

Pets can teach our kids values such as respect, compassion and empathy from a very young age. It is also proven that children with pets such as dogs and cats develop higher self-esteem and communication skills. Having a pet in your child’s early years can be a great way to instill responsibility in them as they are assigned to pet chores.

Pets make a great companion with their unconditional nature, making them a friend your child can count on. Some pets can play a deeper role as therapy pets for children and adults with special needs. You may also research on what your child can benefit from the pet you get for him or her and strengthen your relationship with your child through the presence of a mutual friend – the pet! HT

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Mommy, I Want My Blankie!

Mommy, I Want My Blankie!

May 8, 2022   Return

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Have you seen a kid walk into a restaurant with a little bolster tightly clamped in his arm, and wondered why his mum would let her child hold on to it when it was not even bedtime? Have you seen a kid in an amusement park, enjoying herself in the ball pit with a blanket stuck to her tiny mouth? Well, these little items we often see children lug around are known as security blankets. The term security blanket is defined as a comfort item a child is attached to.

If you are a Peanuts comics fan, you would have seen how attached Linus Van Pelt is to his blue blanket and how his blanket plays a big role in his life. Well, in reality, that’s pretty much how a child sees their comfort item – a BIG DEAL!

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What’s the big deal about a blanket?

Your child’s “smelly blanket” is just one example of comfort items, items that children cling on to to a degree that may puzzle their parents. Comfort items can be anything a child discover an attachment to, but the most common item has to be the pacifier. Other common comfort items are soft blankets, handkerchiefs or hand towels, stuffed toys, dolls, or soft pillows.

There are also kids who get attached to certain body parts of their loved ones, especially their mother. Parts that are appealing to them are earlobes, face, and arms and to a really odd extent, even the moles and stretch marks on their mother’s body can be a source of comfort for a child as they strum their little fingers on it.

Is my child “weird” for wanting a comfort item?

Not at all. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, the longing for a comfort item does not denote insecurity or weakness in a child; in fact, this carefully selected item embodies things that the child finds positive and comforting, such as his room’s scent or his mother’s soft touch. It acts as a coping mechanism for those moments when Mommy and Daddy cannot be by their side. It is their bosom-buddy, their confidant!

These comfort items provide emotional support, helping children cope as they transition to independence. It is a natural part of growing up. They usually pick their comfort item between 8-12 months old and continue to hold on to them for several years. Some children stay attached to the item right up to 9 years old or more before feeling absolutely secure without it (or too embarrassed to be seen with it in public!).

The degree of need for a comfort item also varies from one kid to another. Some constantly have to hold on to it, dragging it everywhere, while others want it by their side only at specific times such as eating, bedtime or travelling.

Parents and their child’s comfort item

While it’s all adorable seeing your child dragging their blankie around the house, there are some important pointers we should consider to ensure their safety isn’t compromised.

1. Presenting a choice

Since the selection of the comfort item is made naturally by the child from the things they come in contact with, at all times, parents should be cautious of what they surround their child with in the cot or playpen.

These objects should have qualities that can sooth the senses, e.g. soft fabrics such as fleece and satin. Avoid hard and small objects as a child may swallow them and choke– though this may sound too obvious an advice, many parents do over look this and have ended up rushing their kid to the emergency room

Be sure the items are not made with carcinogenic colouring and are safe for the child to put in their mouth (yes, sucking is a child’s primal way to de-stress), therefore purchase the items from trusted brands in the market.

2. Cleanliness is next to Godliness

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, make sure that your child’s comfort item is clean and free from germs. Wash it as frequently as possible with a baby-safe detergent. The last thing the child needs is to be hugging a ‘petri dish’ of infectious germs! If your child is reluctant to part with the comfort item, you can try exchanging the item with a similar one that is clean so the other gets a wash. Or do a quick wash and dry when the child is asleep. Suggesting bath time with the comfort toy is another option if faced with a temper tantrum – it can also be a fun way to get the child to learn the importance of cleanliness.

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It hurts to be separated

Parting is such sweet sorrow, literally for a child and their comfort item, therefore do not attempt to just force your child to part from their comfort item before they are ready to do so, even if they have grown to being a preschooler with it.

Remember the reason why they cling on to such an item is to help them cope with anxieties; therefore threatening or shaming them won’t stop their need for the item.

However, there may be moments when you may feel the need to intervene, such as when your child’s need for the comfort item affects their interactions with other children during school. When this happens, there are some things you can do to lessen the blow as you try to wean your child off the comfort item.

  • Take a positive, assuring approach so they can trust you when you tell them they can be without it. Talk to them and explain why the time apart is necessary – now that they are older, comprehension should come more easily.
  • Teaching the child to self-calm through singing, dancing, or talking to a trusted friend in school.
  • Also, assure the child that their comfort item will be waiting for them once they come home by having them place the item in their favourite spot at home or in the car, or in the hands of another sibling or Granny for safe-keeping.

Soon enough, you’ll discover that the “Lovey” they’ve lugged around from cot to classroom will eventually be a distant memory or a memorabilia tucked away in their closet.

References:

Baby Center. Available at www.community.babycenter.com

Baby Sense. Available at www.babysense.com

LiveStrong. Available at www.livestrong.com

Popsugar. Available at www.popsugar.com

SelfGrowth.com. Available at www.selfgrowth.co

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Smart Parenting in Modern Times

Smart Parenting in Modern Times

May 8, 2022   Return

Many of us remember how strict our parents were back when we were young, and it was not uncommon for many of us to be at the receiving end of a smack or a whack of the rotan. However, these days, what worked for our parents might not work for us when it comes to our children.

So said Zaid Mohamad, a well-known parental coach and author, during the recent Cita-cita with Wyeth Nutrition event at KidZania Kuala Lumpur. While presenting his talk Role Model: From Nagging to Coaching, he pointed out advances in technology have changed the way our children perceive the people around them (their parents included).

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What our children need

Parents who are present.

Children like approachable parents, according to Zaid. They feel comforted knowing that their parents would be there for them when they need love, advice or simply a listening ear. Thanks to modern communication technology, we do not have to be always physically there for our children – we can always be close to our children through WhatsApp and such even if we have to be at work.

Parents who support.

“Remember how we used to tune out when our parents nag?” asked Zaid. “Well, our children would do the same when we begin nagging!” Children of all ages dislike being talked down to, they prefer to be engaged by their parents.

To be such parents, we need to be good in communicating with our children, as well as in motivating them.

 

Little changes for greater impact

Changing our parenting style to achieve this does not require large overhauls – all we need are small simple changes that would make a big positive difference to our children.

Focus on actions, not the person.

By focusing on a child rather than his or her actions, we tend to pigeonhole the child into labels – “the naughty one”, “the rude one”, and such. Such action has a tendency to steer us into negative thinking. Instead, Zaid recommended focusing on what the child has done, and react to that.

Be clear and specific in your feedback.

If you are not happy with your child for a reason, Zaid said that you should make sure that your child knows why his behaviour is unacceptable.

To illustrate the above two points, let’s imagine that your child is making a loud racket during his bedtime. Instead of focusing on him and calling him a naughty child, point out that his action is causing everyone else to be unable to sleep. Point out that everyone else would be very tired due to inadequate sleep, Mom and Dad would be late to work, and such. This way, your child will understand why his action is not acceptable.

 

Use positive language.

Do not be that parent who only offers criticism and nothing else, as too much negativity can desensitise a child to what you are telling him. On the other hand, parents who praise as well as criticise can hold their children’s attention better, motivating them to improve on their behaviour.

Of course, sometimes it can be hard for us to stay sunny and upbeat in front of our children. Our mood may be darkened by incidents at the workplace, exhaustion, stress and even the traffic jams we have to endure on our way back home.

Zaid’s personal solution to this dilemma is that he would not enter his house until he has destressed. If he has had a bad day, he would stop by his favourite mamak shop to chill. After a cup of teh tarik – two, if necessary – he would chat with the owner and playfully ask the owner whether he looked cheerful or fearsome. Once he knows that he can put a smile on his face, only then he would resume his journey home.

“Don’t enter the house with a scowl or a bad temper. Like the late American poet Maya Angelou said, people would not remember what you said or do, but they would always remember how you make them feel,” said Zaid. “Your children miss you and want to spend time with you when you come home from work, so make every moment you have with them a special one.”

For more information on Zaid’s smart parenting courses and books, visit www.smartparents.com.my.

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A Terror in the Night

A Terror in the Night

May 7, 2022   Return

“Mommy, don’t let them catch me! They are coming to take me away!” screams the little boy as he jumps off his bed from his sleep, trembling in fear, dashing left and right in total confusion. His mother comforts him but he continues his loud screams, hyperventilating as he fixes his gaze on a corner of his room as if someone was waiting there to get him.

Does that sound like something out of a horror story? Except it’s not. That episode was one of the many experienced by a mother who had to deal with her 6-year-old son’s night terrors for 2 whole months.

Claire (not her real name), a mother of 3 children, had no idea how to deal with her youngest son’s sudden change in nocturnal behaviour, something she never encountered with her older children.

It all started 3 days after Joshua underwent ear surgery. She assumed that her son was just having a nightmare, but as nights went by, the magnitude of his night terrors became more dramatic. She even began to fear for her son’s safety, as he would nod off and then freak out at public places, making her worry that he would injure himself or other people.

She also discovered that Joshua had absolutely no recollection of his acts, until she showed him a video recording of him experiencing his nightmares.

Her elders insisted that Joshua might be possessed, and Claire should seek traditional healers to help her son. Claire, however, refused to entertain the possibility and went online in an attempt at finding the answer to her son’s problem. Her search led her to a condition with which she wasn’t familiar in all her 13 years as a mother: night terrors.

Claire spoke to many mothers in her community, even brought it to social media but no one in her circle could relate to it. However, there were many outside of Malaysia who discussed night terrors in parenting forums. Their experiences seemed to be related closely to Joshua’s condition and this realisation comforted her, letting her know that she wasn’t the only mother facing this problem.

“I did everything I could to get him to come out of this – I stopped him from playing on his devices, even forbade my older kids from playing on theirs around him,” says Claire. She explains that the last move was because Joshua occasionally screamed out that he was being attacked by characters in his video games during his night terror episodes. “I consulted the surgeon who did his ear operation, as I had read of some children developing night terrors after an ENT surgery, probably due to the anaesthetic. But, his surgeon had not heard of any such cases.”

She continues to tell us, “I eventually obeyed my elders – prayed and blessed him with sacred oils and water, but nothing brought it to stop until one night when he slept through peacefully.”

Startled by the unexpected development, Claire began evaluating the events that could have led to it. “Since the start of Joshua’s night terrors, I had gone back to sleeping with him, to protect him from injuring himself from his episodes. I recalled what I had done differently that day and realised he took an afternoon nap.”

It seemed so simple a solution that it was almost unbelievable, but to Claire’s joy, it worked. “Ever since then, I had made a point to making him sleep in the afternoon, no matter how busy my schedule is, and things have been under control since then!”

What could have made this difference? “Experts have said that exhaustion can trigger night terrors. I never realised until then that my son was lacking sleep. Now, even he reminds me to take him to bed in the afternoon because he does not want to have us endure another night of his terror! This is a wake-up call I guess. I was so habituated in our daily routine, waking up at 6 and rushing the kids to school and work that I did not realise I had neglected my preschooler’s crucial need – SLEEP!”

For more insights on night terrors and its differences from nightmares, visit The University of Chicago’s Pediatrics Clerkship website at this link:  https://pedclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu/page/night-terrors-and-nightmares or Mayo Clinic at www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/night-terrors/basics/definition/con-20032552

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My Child is a Bully…

My Child is a Bully…

May 7, 2022   Return

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When news of an 8 year-old boy in Klang who chose to snip his own tongue instead of taking a punch to his face from five bullies in his school spread all over the local media back in March this year, the public was outraged. While this boy is fortunate to still have his tongue (despite the trauma he will probably grow up with, thanks to bullying), what are be the thoughts and fate of the five bullies and their families? Many wanted to see those boys punished for their bad behaviour, but what made them behave that way in the first place? How does a bully become a bully and what if that bully was your child?  

Types of bullying

Bullying is defined as unwanted, hurtful, humiliating, and aggressive behaviour that occurs repeatedly in a relationship with an imbalance of power and strength. There are four types of bullying – verbal, physical, relational and cyber-bullying, each varying from mild to extreme.

What makes a bully?

Bullies are made, not born – that is something parents need to remember.

According to Tom Thelen, America’s top anti-bullying and motivational speaker, bullying is ultimately about power, the need to feel powerful and intimidating over another person (the victim). Research has found that a child tends to emulate the actions of the people they see around them. Their environment determines their behaviour, the way they manage crisis and their outlook on life.

Some of the environmental factors are:

  • Family values (eg, home with domestic violence, fractured or broken home, neglectful parents, parents or siblings who behave like bullies themselves).
  • Socio-economic status (eg, poverty which could lead to resentment and envy of those who are more privileged than the child).
  • Friends and associations in and out of school and in the neighbourhood (eg, living in a violent crime-infested neighbourhood or wishing to emulate a bully who is perceived by the child as ‘cool’).
  • Online interactions with other netizens (eg, hanging out with communities that encourage aggressive behaviour).

That is not to say that children in such environments are inevitably going to become bullies. It is found that parents who instill a strong moral and ethical foundation in these children would help these children become well-adjusted people who could tell apart good from bad behaviour. Hence, parental TLC and guidance are essential in helping children rise over circumstances such as poverty and broken homes.

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Signs of a bully

Bullies do not fit into a neat little box, but there are some traits that we can recognize to identify a bully..

When a bully lashes out, it is a cry for help, according to  psychology research. Bullies bully because they want something – be it emotional gratification or a material reward. Bullying has a distinctive pattern; if your child enjoys saying nasty things about others, making others feel bad about themselves, taking pleasure in teasing others, pushing and shoving others, threatening or possessing  money or toys that do not belong to them, you shouldn’t turn a blind eye – these could be tell-tale signs that need to be addressed. .

Then there is another targeted behaviour problem known as ‘The Jekyll and Hyde Child’. These children are capable of alternating between being a complete tyrant and a complete angel depending on the situation and their needs. Their charming ‘angelic side’ can fool parents, teachers and practically anyone, even causing them to believe that these children’s victims are lying.

When someone tells you your child is a bully.

If you get a call from the schoolteacher saying your son has bullied another kid, or if a parent comes knocking at your door with a complaint about something your child did to theirs, the first thing you need to do is to take the news calmly and do not at any point become defensive. You need to evaluate the situation by listening to both sides of the story, theirs and your child’s, and if required, pull in a neutral party to give an unbiased opinion about the situation. You need to understand what took place without letting emotions set in to see if it was a case of bullying or a mere misunderstanding, especially if you have never seen any signs in your child before.

There’s another important factor to also consider:is your child bullying because he’s a bully, or because he is standing up for himself against a bully. Or, does your child have any disability (eg autism) that might be getting in the way of his social behaviour?

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Dealing with the bully under your roof

If it is confirmed that your child has behaviour problems (not due to a disability), it needs to be addressed and stopped once and for all.

  1. Talk to your child. Let them know you respect them enough to hear them out and want to work with them to put an end to this. They need to believe they can trust you to let you in on their issues. At all times, do not be judgemental, do not compare and condemn your child. Instead, be firm and tell them that what they did was wrong, and thus they have made you unhappy. They need to know that there are higher authorities that would take drastic actions against them if this were to go on. Their behaviour would not just embarrass the family – it would affect and even damage their future.
  2. Be close to your child’s teachers and foster a good relationship with them. Therefore your child’s behavioural problems can be monitored and managed constantly and more closely.
  3. Get professional help. Seeking help from a family member or a counsellor at school school can help discover the deep-seeded cause of this ectopic behaviour in your child.
  4. Change your parenting style, especially if the problem is you. If you are neglecting your child’s need for attention, increase positive attention so that they do not have to go on bullying others for it.
  5. Discipline your child as soon as you notice signs of bullying immerging in them. Tell them that there would be consequences to face if they crossed the line. Putting anything on hold might make them think you can be manipulated and controlled as well.
  6. Teach your child how to respect and support their friends. Teach them empathy and how to get along socially with others. Include playtime or social time in their daily schedule if they are still young.
  7. Screen your child’s circle of friends. They spend a lot of time with their peers and the wrong ones can be detrimental.
  8. Help them to build their self-esteem. Get them involved in various activities such as sports, art, music, drama or robotics as this will build their confidence and make them feel less inferior.
  9. Improve your family bond by eliminating any form of abuse or violence that may be occurring in front of your child. Be a role model to them and keep their home as stable as possible since they could be lashing out at others due to fear, anger or depression caused by home events.
  10.  Provide positive feedback. When your child succeeds at handling a conflict well and shows compassion and empathy for others, praise them and recognize their efforts. Positive reinforcement can help improve their behaviour more effectively than punishment.
  11.  Pay close attention to their online activities. There are many psychologically insidious games online (eg violent ones) that could be influencing your child to be a bully.

Changing your child’s ways may take some time and a lot of effort, but do not give up. Use positive reinforcement to tap into their consciousness and soon you will see your child turn over a new leaf.

References:

Empowering Parents. Available at www.empoweringparents.com

NoBullying.com. Available at www.nobullying.com

Parents. Available at www.parents.com

Psychology Today. Available at www.psychologytoday.com

Raising Children. Available at www.raisingchildren.net.au

The Ravive. Available at www.theravive.com

The Star. Available at www.thestar.com.my

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Teaching Your Tot Table Manners

Teaching Your Tot Table Manners

May 7, 2022   Return

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When was the last time you ate out with your toddler? If you answer with a ‘never’, you aren’t the only one. For many new parents, eating out with their young child is a foreign and impossible notion. Why eat out when mealtimes with a toddler at home are already stressful enough, right?

Mind their P’s & Q’s

If you are a new parent, trying to coax your toddler into finishing their vegetables (and failing miserably), picking bits of spaghetti off the dining room walls, removing crumbs from their hair and wiping mashed peas off the carpet are all part and parcel of your mealtime experience. But as nightmarish as they may be, these mealtime misadventures can be tackled by introducing your tot to proper table manners.

The thing is you know exactly what your child should and shouldn’t be doing at the dining table (no chewing with their mouth open, always say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘excuse me’, no elbows on the table, etc) but teaching them is the problem!

Now, instilling good table manners in your toddler may seem an incredible feat but rest assured, it can be done. Be patient with them – after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Here are some suggestions which you can start off with:

It’s never too early

You can already begin teaching your child basic table manners when they are capable of eating independently in a high chair or old enough to sit at the dining table. Examples include teaching them to wipe their mouths after eating and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. As they grow, you can then introduce them to more complex dining skills.

Make it pleasant

Don’t reprimand your toddler harshly when they misbehave at the table. This will only cause them to hate mealtimes. Instead, gently explain why it’s important for them to practise good table manners. If your toddler tends to forget easily, use gentle reminders to reinforce what you had taught them.

No electronics!

It can be tempting to keep your toddler occupied at the table with an iPad but this won’t improve your child’s table manners. In fact, this can do them more harm than good. Overexposure to electronics can cause impaired learning and delayed language skills. Experts say that kids thrive when they are read to and talked to. Mealtimes are perfect for your child to have some one-on-one time with you so don’t let these opportunities go to waste.

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Should you really have to distract them, use cutlery instead. If your toddler has a habit of swiping at the spoonfuls of food that you try feeding them, let them hold a plastic spoon in each hand to keep their hands occupied.

Be encouraging

When your toddler shows improvement in their table manners, compliment them. This is a form of encouragement and can reinforce their behaviour. However, refrain from overdoing it as they might misunderstand that they are the center of attention whenever you sit down for a meal.

One at a time

Don’t pile your toddler’s plate with food; it will only result in a mess due to either their playfulness or their newly developed and still weak pincer grasp. Place a few morsels of food on their plate and only refill when they have finished.

Don’t force them

At their age, toddlers get restless easily so it’s likely that they will want to leave the table before everyone else has finished eating. Forcing them to remain where they are will only make them loathe eating at the table. Instead, allow them to leave when they are done eating and play quietly nearby.

Lead by example

It may sound cliché but you really are your child’s role model. You are the person with whom your toddler spends the most time so it’s a given that they will emulate you in many ways – and this includes table manners. Therefore, you need to set a good example for them. By having meals together, your toddler is likely to pick up good table manners more effectively.

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References:

Baby Center. Available at www.babycenter.com

Better Health. Available at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Eat Right. Available at www.eatright.org

Parenting. Available at www.parenting.com

She Knows. Available at www.sheknows.com

Today Parents. Available at www.today.com

University of California San Francisco. Available at www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org

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Bedtime Blues

Bedtime Blues

May 7, 2022   Return

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It is 10:00 pm, and your toddler insists on playing horse with her father. When the two of you finally convince the bundle of energy to go to bed, you can only groan when you feel a tug on your sheets, what seems like seconds after you have closed your eyes. You look through bleary eyes at the clock – 1.00 am – and try not to groan as your little darling tells you, “Mummy, pee-pee!!”

If you are like many parents, you may believe that you can finally get some reprieve from those late nights of night feeding and comforting your crying baby once your child enters her toddler years. However, you soon realise that you have just moved on to another phase of Parenthood: the Sleepless Years.

There are many possible reasons why your toddler does not seem to have an “off” button. Some toddlers give their parents a hard time during bedtime due to separation anxiety (as their parents often leave them alone for a while to complete their chores), while others may just be that way naturally, taking a while before they fall asleep. Some adults take a while to fall asleep while others drift off to dreamland the moment their heads hit the pillow – toddlers are like that too.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to establish a routine with your toddler, so that she would go to sleep at a reasonable hour and let you go to work the next morning without looking like a cranky zombie.

Wind your toddler down before bedtime.

Your toddler will be less likely to fall asleep when it is bedtime if she is an excited bundle of energy. Therefore, a few hours before bedtime, slow things down around the house. Keep a calm and quiet environment, make her put away her toys and switch off the TV or iPad ahead of bedtime, dim the lights a little and let her enjoy some low-key activities such as story time. As your toddler’s energy level slowly ebbs as bedtime draws near, you would have an easier time getting her to fall asleep.

Establish the “3B” routine.

3B stands for bathbook and bed. Each day, leading up to your toddler’s bedtime, establish a fun routine comprising bathtime, a bedtime story and then, tucking your toddler in, pulling the covers over her. You can also try singing your toddler to sleep if you need a break from reading her favourite story for so many times.

It may be a challenge to get your toddler to stick to this routine, so use the creativity and even, sneakiness that every parent instinctively has. For example, you can offer rewards such as an extra story if your toddler follows the routine without much fuss.

Initially, your toddler may call you to come back to read her another story or just to be with her a little longer. Break this habit gently by telling her that you need to be away for a while so she needs to stay in her bed, and you will check on her 5 minutes later. If she keeps calling you to come back, wait a longer time each time before you check up on her again. Once your toddler realizes that you are never far away, she will feel safe enough to fall asleep on her own.  

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Your toddler will also come up with other tactics to delay being sent to bed. Something will always need to be done right away, or a toy will be missing and you need to help her find it. You can anticipate these requests in advance and incorporate them into the daily pre-bedtime routine. For instance, placing your toddler’s favourite water bottle next to her bed will stop those repeated requests for water. You can also allow her one request before you leave her to sleep. This way, she will feel that she is getting her way and will be more inclined to go to sleep. 

Let the toddler make some choices.

Toddlers love to feel important and that they are getting their way, so play to your toddler’s inner diva by offering her some choices in certain matters, such as her choice of pajamas and the story she wants you to read to her. The trick here is to offer only 2 options, options that would make you happy regardless of whichever your toddler chooses. Yes, this seems sneaky, but parents are allowed to be sneaky when it comes to their children.

Be firm, hold your ground.

Like everything else in parenting, you have to be resolute and stick to your decisions despite the tears, pitiful begging, wailing and blubber your toddler throws your way. It may be tempting to give in just that once and let your toddler watch the iPad a little longer, but every time you cave in, your toddler becomes more confident of her power over you and subsequent bedtimes will continue to be power struggles.

However, try to be patient as well, as losing your temper will only make the situation worse. 

Have a comfortable bedroom.

Toddlers, like most adults, sleep best in dark and well-ventilated bedrooms. Make sure that your toddler sleeps on a comfortable mattress, and if she tends to kick off the sheets while she sleeps, let her wear some socks should she get cold at night. Also, make sure that sounds of the TV or other distractions cannot be easily heard from the bedroom. This will allow your toddler to continue sleeping while you sneak out to catch up on your favourite TV shows.

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If your toddler is scared of the dark, try comforting her by telling her that you are close and she is safe. You can also leave a small light on to assure her. If she manages to sleep well, praise her for her courage. Avoid belittling or mocking her fears, as this will only intensify her anxiety. In the meantime, try to find out possible reasons for her fear. She may be watching things that she finds frightening on the TV or iPad.

Who’s afraid of bedtime?

Some toddlers are afraid of the dark, sleeping alone or whatever they imagine is hiding under the bed – or sometimes all 3 at once. This is because, at their age, toddlers have yet to learn how to differentiate between what is real and what is not.

Eventually they will outgrow such fears, but there is a possibility that such fear can cause lingering psychological damage if handled poorly by the parents.

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If your toddler repeatedly brings up her fears during bedtime, try the following:

  • Be supportive. Even if the idea of a giant monster hiding under the bed may seem absurd to you, humour your toddler and comfort her by making a show of checking under the bed and saying loudly that there is nothing there before you tuck her into bed. If she is scared of the dark, keep a small light on or let her sleep close to you so that she can feel your presence nearby. If you have to leave her alone for a short while, keep the bedroom door slightly open so that she can see that you are still close enough to her.
  • Avoid frightening situations. Avoid subjecting your toddler to violent or scary stories – this may include some popular fairy tales! Keep a calm, quiet and soothing atmosphere around the house in the evening leading up to her bedtime to help soothe her nerves. You can also read her bedtime stories of children overcoming their fears to inspire her to overcome her own fears. 

Another tip you can try is to offer your toddler a symbolic talisman – such as a small torchlight for a toddler who is terrified of the dark, or a favourite doll for one who is scared of sleeping alone – so that she can hold on to it and find some comfort while she tries to sleep. 

 

References:

Aha! Parenting at www.ahaparenting.com

Parenting at www.parenting.com

Baby Center at www.babycenter.com

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Have No Fear, My Brave Little One

Have No Fear, My Brave Little One

May 7, 2022   Return

WORDS LIM TECK CHOON

Most of us have heard of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The version we are familiar with is one of many retellings that had been passed down from parent to child over centuries.But do you know that there is a lesser known version, as retold by the Brothers Grimm, which saw Little Red Riding Hood, having survived her encounter with the Big Bad Wolf, meeting another similar wolf in the woods?

She eventually sets a trap by pouring the water her grandmother had boiled some sausages in into a river. Lured by the smell of sausages, the trips into that river and drowns. Little Red Riding Hood then happily goes home, knowing that she will never be threatened by wolves ever again.

Real life isn’t a fairy tale, as much as we may sometimes wish it to be, and hence, children who are fearful may need a little help and support to deal with their fears. Clinical psychologist Shazeema Mashood Shah shares with us some insight as to how we can help our own Little Red Riding Hoods and Peter Pans overcome the Big Bad Wolves and Captain Hooks that cause them fears and anxieties.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF BEING AFRAID

Everyone feels fear. It isn’t just kids who harbour anxieties about the great and frightening unknown, we grown-ups and parents do too. Whether it’s a fear of flying or of heights, our fears are rarely rational. No matter how much we are presented with evidence on how statistically small our chances are of dying in a plane crash, for example, our fear of flying may remain a tough one to douse.

Shazeema points out that if we adults still have a hard time tamping down our fears sometimes, children often have a harder time. After all, they are still learning about the world, and there is still much that is confusing and even frightening about it.

Childhood is a time for many ‘firsts’ – first time at school, first time being away from parents and home, first time meeting strangers, first time making friends, first time using the toilet without aid from their parents… for many children, the idea of doing these strange new things may fill them with anxiety and even fear.

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FEAR

What we know so far about fear is that our brain has a ‘fear centre’ called the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe region.

Shazeema says that being afraid is not necessarily a negative thing. “Being scared is one type of survival instinct,” she explains, pointing out that we are often afraid of things that are inherently capable of causing great harm to us. “When we are afraid, our body is also primed to run,” she adds. Our heart races faster as it pumps more blood to our organs in anticipation of a burst of activity (either running away or fighting), and with that, we experience other sensations usually associated with fear, such as sweaty palms, nervousness, trembling and more.

Research has found that there is a consistent response to fearful threats across different species. The brains of rats and humans, for example, respond similarly to these threats. However, the types of threats can differ from one person to another. One child may be scared of the dark and can only be comforted by having her beloved puppy by her side, for example, while her brother has no problems with the dark but is afraid of dogs instead.

The bottom line is that fear is not a sign of weakness. It’s perfectly normal for a child (and grown- up) to have fears. It is only an issue when fear becomes so overwhelming that it prevents us from leading a normal life.

Reference: Dzierzak, L. (2008, October 27). Factoring fear: what scares us and why. Scientific American. Retrieved from www.scientificamerican.com/article/factoring-fear-what-scares

“MOMMY, I DON’T WANT TO BE A SCAREDY-CAT ANYMORE…”

If our children are often fearful, we as parents sometimes may end up worsening their fears by trying to downplay their fears as silly or becoming overprotective and over- coddling them. All these may cause the child to keep their fears to themselves instead, so that Mom and Dad won’t become angry or worried.

Shazeema has a few pointers to ensure that parents can help and support their children’s efforts to manage their fears.

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#1 COMMUNICATE WITH OUR CHILDREN

“Children may not always voice their fears to parents,” Shazeema points out. They may not know how to describe their fears, for example, or they may be reticent because of worry about how their parents will react.

One thing we can do is to open up more to our children. “Encourage frequent conversations with them,” Shazeema suggests. “Let them know that they can always talk to you about anything, no matter how silly it may be.” A good place to start is at the dining table, through conversations during family meals.

In the meantime, we should listen to what our children tell us. Let them speak, and we can let them know our thoughts once they have finished. If we are too quick to judge, scold or correct our children before they finish, they may feel discouraged from opening up to us in the future.

#2 REACH OUT TO OUR CHILDREN’S TEACHERS AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE CLOSE TO THEM

Our children may not open up to us readily, or prefer to keep things to themselves because they are worried about how people will react if these things come out into the open. When this happens, we may overlook signs that our children are experiencing emotional distress.

Therefore, Shazeema recommends building up a good rapport with our children’s teachers as well as our children’s friends and their parents. That way, we can ask them how our children are faring in their company. Sometimes, they may approach us if they feel that our children are having emotional issues.

#3 ARE WE INDIRECTLY FANNING OUR CHILDREN’S FEARS?

One thing that we parents sometimes overlook is that our children may be anxious or afraid as a response to our own reaction to various situations.

“If we let our anxieties show, our children will also behave the same way, thinking that it is the ‘normal’ way to react,” Shazeema says.

Therefore, it is worth taking time to discover whether we too are prone to being anxious and fearful. If our own responses are making our children anxious, it may be worth making the effort to manage our anxieties first.

#4 HELP OUR CHILDREN MANAGE THEIR FEARS, NOT SHELTER THEM

If our children are anxious or unhappy, it is natural to want to keep them from experiencing the source(s) of their fears. However, there is also a likelihood that, if we do this, we are only reinforcing their fears in the long run.

Shazeema suggests a better way: as parents, we can help them learn to tolerate their anxieties, so that they can still function to their best capability despite their emotional turmoil. This way, they will also learn how to deal with new or worrying situations in the future.

For example, our child is afraid to sleep in the dark. Instead of letting her sleep in a lit room, there are other things we can do. “We can place a soft lamp at the bedside table,” she says as an example, “or tell our child to try to sleep, and Mommy and Daddy will check up on them soon.”

Sometimes the child’s fears may feel irrational or silly, especially if we are already cranky or tired after a long day’s work, but we should remember that there are many things about this world that are still unfamiliar and hence frightening to our children. It is worth having some patience and keeping a good sense of humour when it comes to our children’s anxieties. Shazeema points out that, how we help our children cope with their fears and anxieties when they are young will be valuable when they become adults and have to deal with even more emotionally challenging situations.

TRY TO AVOID ASKING QUESTIONS OR SAYING THINGS THAT MAY INFLAME OUR CHILD’S FEARS. FOR EXAMPLE, IF OUR CHILD IS AFRAID OF AN UPCOMING CONCERT PERFORMANCE, AVOID MENTIONING HOW EVERYONE WILL BE WATCHING HER OR THE RISK OF FUMBLING DURING THE PERFORMANCE. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE, SUCH AS HOW PROUD WE ARE OF HER GETTING TO BE ON STAGE.

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#5 BE POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE, BUT DO SO WITHIN REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

We should not make promises that we can’t keep. For example, if our children are fearful of the upcoming examinations, we shouldn’t promise that they will surely pass the exams or the exams will be easy. If they don’t do well, this will only reinforce their fears and possibly even make them think twice about taking your future advice to heart.

Instead, we can tell them that they will be okay. It is the same with trying to get our children to try something new – instead of telling them that it will be fun (because they may not agree even after trying it), assure them that we will do it together with them, they will be fine, and if they still don’t like it, it’s fine; we can do something else after this. HT

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