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Failure to adequately address anxiety in young children may exacerbate separation anxiety

Parenting Tips

Parents Zone

Written by: New Horizons Development Centre, Certified Educational Psychologist Pang Chi Wah

As the school year begins again, many children cry when they first go to kindergarten. However, there are also children who can go to school without any adjustment period because their parents can prepare them mentally and practice simulations. For children, entering kindergarten may be their first major challenge because some children are separated from their families for the first time when they enter kindergarten, but once they have enough time to become familiar with the school environment, they will feel safe in kindergarten life and will not cry.

What bothers parents and teachers the most is that after a few weeks of enrollment, children continue to cry or expressly resist going back to school. In better cases, they may not like to participate in extracurricular activities, and in more severe cases, they may refuse to go to school, and in some extreme cases, they may not allow their parents to leave their sight. These are all separation anxiety problems.

In fact, there may be deeper reasons why children do not adapt to being separated from their families that need to be understood in depth. For example, some children are admitted to the intensive care unit when they are newborn because they are underweight or have physical problems, or they need to be hospitalized or undergo surgery because they are sick. Although such medical support is necessary for them, it may also lead to traumatic psychological experiences for them, and since then they may be afraid of strangers or unfamiliar places and easily develop separation anxiety, and their sense of security is lower than other children.

In some even worse cases, parents are not allowed to work, or that the child needs to be left with a babysitter, but the children do not want to be left behind, so the parents consider the reality of their needs and have to forcibly separate from them or lie to them. As a result of parents’ misuse of inappropriate methods, their feelings of insecurity during infancy and early childhood are reinforced. The so-called traumatic experiences are actually events that cause them to be psychologically afraid.

The main reason for the lack of security in young children is the separation from their families and the failure of parents to handle the situation properly. Ironically, some caregivers do not provide a safe and adequate living environment in their daily lives, and more importantly, there are frequent changes in caregivers or places, and there are strong contrasts in caregiving practices, causing them to go through psychological adjustment tests before they start school.

How to choose the right multimedia e-learning product?

Parents Zone
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Written by: Director of Program Development, Carmen Leung

There is a wide range of teaching animations or online children’s programs for parents to choose from, but many parents ask: “Are these animations and applications good or bad for children’s learning? There are some points to note when using multimedia electronic products for children’s learning, including the age of children and remembering not to rely solely on electronic learning modes. Now let me go on to explain the other points that should be noted.

How to choose the right multimedia electronic learning product?

  • It is best if the product does not have non-learning components that children can download or open on their own. For example, if a child is learning on an iPhone or iPad, parents should never let the child open other programs to ensure that the child is learning and not having fun.
  • Learning products with segments or sections can be used. Many parents say that their children have a tendency to react badly when they are asked to stop using electronic products. Therefore, I suggest that products should have an interactive element and require children to respond in different ways.
  • Products should have an interactive element and require children to respond in different ways. A multimedia product is not a good product if it only provides a one-way teaching model. For example, a product that only allows children to sit and listen to information, or to watch and not respond to it, is called “one-way learning” and should be avoided. Products that allow children to sing together, do actions together, string words together, and read aloud and answer questions are the products to choose.
  • For example, there are some products that allow children to respond, but the answers are of the same nature every time, for example, they have to press a button to answer each time, so children’s responses will be slower and they will become “robotic” learners, which will affect their motivation to learn and their ability to think from multiple perspectives in the future.
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Time to use electronic devices

 

Children should not use electronic devices for too long period of time for learning, and parents should set a daily or weekly time limit for their children to use electronic devices. For example, children can only use the computer for a maximum of half an hour after homework each day. If the half hour is up, the child must keep the promise and stop using the product. Parents can also work with their children to set a daily schedule, allocating time for homework, fun, hobby classes and electronic devices, so that children understand that everything needs to be planned and restrained. This not only can train children’s self-management skills (Self Management), but also can effectively limit the use of electronic products time.

 

Reward the use of electronic devices

 

If a child enjoys learning with electronics (and often does), parents can consider rewarding them with the use of the product, for example, by promising them 30 minutes of electronics each time they finish a meal within half an hour, or each time they finish a lesson with quality.

Wear face mask for long time during Epidemic.
How to make children learn to “look at people’s eyebrows and eyes”?

Parenting Tips

Parents Zone

Written by: Hong Kong Speech and Swallowing Therapy Centre
Senior Speech Therapist Eunice Siu 

In our daily interactions with others, we not only observe others’ behaviors, but also “explain” and “predict” others’ behaviors. Theory of mind is the ability to infer or substitute other people’s mental states, such as their thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions, etc., and to use this ability to explain other people’s thoughts, perceptions, and predict their behaviors. Theory of mind can be subdivided into “emotion recognition”, “beliefs” and “pretend play”.

The developmental period for children’s theory of mind is from approximately 3 to 7 years of age. However, before the age of 3, children need to master the following skills to effectively develop theory of mind skills.

1. noticing and imitating the behavior of people around them
2. recognizing the emotions of others and using words to express them (e.g., happy, sad, angry, surprised)
3. participates in pretend play
4. understands that different people have different desires and preferences
5. understands that people will act to get what they want (e.g. reach for candy)
6. understands the causes and consequences of unsympathetic emotions (e.g. if I hit my brother, my mom will be mad and then she will scold me) 

Ways to improve theory of mind are:

1. Use more psychologically relevant words when talking to your child

Using psychologically related words to communicate with children can help children understand their own and others’ psychological conditions more specifically. Examples of psychologically related words are “think,” “pretend,” “know,” “believe,” “feel,” and words related to emotions. Pay attention to what your child is trying to say and then respond. For example, “Ah! You want cake”, “Don’t be afraid! You think I’m gone, but I’m still here,” and “Mommy’s mad at you for hitting your brother. Parents can also explain to their children the psychological situation of others, e.g., “Mei-mei is smiling so much when she receives a birthday present, she should be very excited.

2. Participate in role-playing games with your child

Role-playing games encourage children to put themselves in different situations and characters’ perspectives to draw inferences about their behavior. To begin, children can pretend to be common everyday characters, such as mothers, doctors, teachers, and drivers. Parents should pay attention to the fact that both the words and behaviors in the game should be substituted for the role played. This activity helps children experience a variety of emotions, thoughts and interactions in different social situations, and learn to observe, imitate, anticipate, review and adjust their thoughts and behaviors. 

I hope parents can make good use of the opportunity to share and communicate more with their children in daily life, so that they can learn to “look at people’s eyebrows and eyes” (meaning read people’s faces) and become a “mind-reading detective”!

Source:

Hollin, P., Baron-Cohen, S.,& Hadwin,J.(1999). Teaching children with autism tomind-read. West Sussex, England: Wiely Press

Lowry, L.(2015).” Tuning in” to others: How young children develop theory of mind. The Hanen Centre.

Spastics Association of Hong Kong (2005). Connecting: Developing social skills in children with autism. Spastics Association of Hong Kong. 

To love children, first to love themselves, 3 moves to teach you to maintain the best mental state

Parenting Tips

Parents Zone

Written by :Family Dynamics Child Play Therapist
                   Marriage and Family Therapist, Ms. Lee Wai Zi

In today’s society, it is indeed not easy for parents to maintain a good state of mind and body. I have met with many parents and found that the difficulty most parents face is not that they do not understand their children’s feelings and needs, or that they do not know how their behavior affects their children, but that it is difficult to maintain a trusting and optimistic attitude towards their children when they are in a situation. Often, parents become increasingly anxious as they worry that their child’s problems will continue and worsen, and repeat ineffective ways of dealing with their child’s problems.

So, how can parents maintain the best mental state to face the stress and challenges of disciplining their children? Here are some tips for parents to consider:

1. Be more sensitive to your own stress levels
Parents are human beings, so there will be times when they are depressed or physically and emotionally exhausted. The purpose of parents being sensitive to their own mental state is to remind themselves that they need to take care of their own needs first. It is difficult for parents to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of their children when they are in a highly stressed state. Conversely, inappropriate responses may harm the child and damage the parent-child relationship.

2. Use resources effectively to relieve stress
When parents feel stressed, they should try to explore and make good use of their own internal and external resources to regulate their negative emotions. For example, find family members or friends to talk to, do things that can relax you, and find positive thoughts and beliefs to encourage you. The purpose is to give yourself a proper rest and temporary relief from stress.  

3. Turn your mind around and reflect
If a parent’s stress continues and increases, professional help is needed. Sometimes, these pressures come from more than just external influences. Parents’ self-worth, worldview, and perceptions of things can affect how we parent. For example, some parents worry that they are not doing enough to fulfill their parental responsibilities and end up pushing their children to study or participate in activities, or even that they are not flexible enough to respond to their children’s needs when they are stressed and negative.

If parents are aware of and take care of their own feelings and needs, they can prevent their negative emotions from affecting the next generation.

Therefore, parents who love their children must first love themselves. Only when parents are healthy and happy can their children grow up healthy and happy.  

Drawings peek into the inner world of children

Parenting Tips

Parents Zone

Written by: Unleashing Mind Professional Counselling Academy
Psychotherapist Lee Wai-Tong

Painting can give us room to express our feelings. I use a brush to create a dialogue with myself in another language, soothing my emotions or gaining insight and unlocking my heart.

Crying over trivial stuff

In my past child counseling sessions, some parents came to me for help. They did not understand why their son, Ming, often cried over trivial things, such as being late for TV, late for dinner, or when his father came home late, etc. They mentioned the situation to Ming, but they did not understand why, which caused them trouble. Therefore, I suggested conducting a drawing assessment for Ming to understand the environment in which Ming grows up in his mind, which may help to understand the reason why Ming loves to cry.

Drawing reveals the reason for crying

Ming drew a “family story”. While drawing, he expressed his feelings that his parents were busy with work all day, so he often played alone at home. When his parents came home, Ming wanted to play with them, but his father soon became impatient. In Ming’s mind, it seems that his father is always angry; whenever his mother sees this situation, she will argue with him. In Ming’s eyes, his mother always looks sad when she argues with his father. In Ming’s mind, he knew that his parents loved him, but when he saw that his father was angry and his mother was sad because of him, he felt sad.  

A peek into the inner world through paintings

Later, I met with Ming’s parents again. They never imagined that the quarrel in front of Ming was deeply engraved in their son’s heart. In addition, the father also found that his tiredness after work affected the quality of parent-child interaction. In this regard, I taught the father some relaxation methods and suggested setting up a “calm zone” at home to give everyone a space to relieve their emotions, and the parents promised to avoid arguing in front of Ming.

A month later, Ming no longer cried over trivial matters and the parent-child relationship was better than before. Painting can reflect children’s inner world view. In the process of creation, children project their inner world intentionally or unintentionally, so that we can understand their inner world and help them grow up healthily.