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Be cautious about home safety to prevent accidents from happening

Source: Emergency Room Specialist Dr. Cheung Hei Lok

There are hidden dangers in the home, and children can easily get injured with just one careless moment. What should be taken into consideration when arranging the home to prevent children from getting injured?

One common household accident is children getting their fingers caught. Sometimes, due to strong winds, doors may slam shut or someone may accidentally close the door, resulting in finger injuries. Therefore, it is important to always lock the door when entering or leaving, or at least keep the keys out of reach. Parents can also use adhesive materials to secure the door latch so that even if it closes, fingers won’t get caught, or use door stoppers to reduce the risk of finger injuries.

In the kitchen, it is advisable to install a kitchen gate or ensure that the kitchen door is securely closed, preventing children from entering the kitchen. Parents should also teach children about fire safety from a young age. Fire is both useful and dangerous, so it should be handled with great care.

In addition, medications can also pose a danger. Sometimes, even consuming a single pill can be risky for children, so medications should be stored properly, especially in a medicine cabinet. Medicine boxes should be placed in higher positions that are out of reach of children, ensuring greater safety.

We should also be cautious about children climbing on things, such as bunk beds, higher beds, and sofas, as they may fall. In addition to educating them, we can assess which areas pose a higher risk and place some cushioning there, so that even if they fall, it won’t be as severe. Of course, education is always the most important aspect, and we should also try to prevent them from accessing these dangerous areas.

In Hong Kong, living spaces are often small, and we tend to use tall cabinets to store many items. When there are too many things, it can increase the risk of the cabinet toppling over. Therefore, we should personally check whether the cabinet is easily swayed. When placing items, it is important to put heavier items at the bottom and lighter items on top, so that the cabinet is less likely to tip over.

Another important aspect of home safety is to install window grilles. Children may climb on windows, which poses a greater risk compared to general home safety issues, as it directly involves the risk of life-threatening situations.

How can parents help young children adapt to primary school life both psychologically and physically? 

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Source:  Professor Chiu Wing Kai, Chair Professor of Sociology at the Education University of Hong Kong.

It’s already been 5 months into 2023 and summer vacation will be coming soon, followed by the start of the new school year in September. For K3 students to start their primary school life. However, these students have spent most of their 3-year kindergarten education in online classes due to the pandemic, with little face-to-face interaction. How can parents help them adapt to their new academic and social life in terms of their psychological and physical well-being.

Students who are promoted to Primary 1 are at most at K2 level because they have not returned to school for at least one full year. There are many things they need to adapt to when transitioning from kindergarten to primary school. These include school schedules, daily routines, and learning styles that are vastly different from what they are used to. Kindergarten classes typically last for around 20 minutes, after which they move on to another subject, but in primary school, classes can be 35 minutes or longer, making it difficult for them to maintain their focus. All of these issues can create significant adaptation problems for young students.

So how can parents explain these changes to their children? Firstly, parents should not be too anxious, as many primary schools offer simulation courses and adaptation weeks for new students, as well as school visits. Primary schools are usually much larger than kindergartens, and young students may be excited about the various facilities and opportunities available to them. However, it is best to start talking to them once they begin school, as too much information too soon may be overwhelming. Simply telling them, “Yes, this is what school is like” is often enough.

Additionally, some things that young students may not be capable of now do not mean they cannot accomplish them, they just need time to grow and develop. Parents need to remember that every child has a different growth rate. After starting school, observe their emotional changes when they return home from school, and if you notice any issues, pay close attention to them.

It takes time for young children to adapt, but sometimes parents also need to adapt. In kindergarten, we refer to it as the Homeroom (regular class location), where one teacher leads the class, and children usually only see one or two teachers. If parents need to participate or collaborate with the school, they can simply find that teacher. In primary school, each subject has different teachers, so if any issues arise, parents need to consider how to communicate with each teacher.

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Can children strengthen their limb muscles at home?

Source: Registered Physiotherapist, Hui Wing Yee

Children have a heavy academic workload and spend more time at home, losing many opportunities to exercise. However, the development of children’s limb muscles is very important, and some stretching exercises for the waist and upper limbs can be done at home.

The first set of exercises is the lunge and twist, which helps to exercise the core muscles and lower limb muscles. First, open your feet to hip width, place your hands on both sides of your body, step out with your right foot to maintain a 90-degree angle on both knees, open your hands with palms facing forward, slowly turn to the right, and hold for two seconds. Then return to the original position with hands hanging down, repeating on both sides ten times.

The second set of exercises is quadruped limb raises. These exercises help strengthen our back and limb muscles. If possible, use a yoga mat to avoid putting pressure on your knees. First, start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Lift your right hand and left leg straight out, creating a horizontal line. Tighten your back and abdominal muscles, hold for two seconds, then switch to your left hand and right leg. Alternate between both sides for a total of ten reps.

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How do you teach children correct pronunciation?

Source: Speech therapist, Miss Carley

When children learn a language, pronunciation is also an important aspect. There are many pronunciations in English that are not found in Cantonese and are difficult for both children and adults to master. How can parents teach children to pronounce English correctly? What are some tips to use?

The English tongue’s sounds can be difficult for children and even adults to master. We can try to use different cueing techniques to teach children to pronounce the sounds correctly. For example, parents can use visual cues, such as looking in the mirror with the child and showing him the tip of his tongue, placed between the two rows of teeth.

In addition, parents can also use verbal cues to clearly tell the child, “Put your tongue in the middle of your two rows of teeth,” so that they know what to do. When necessary, parents can also provide tactile cues, such as using a popsicle stick or spoon to touch the tongue and showing them where to place it for different sounds.

Parents can also try playing simple games with their children to train their listening skills, such as whether they can distinguish between right and wrong in terms of hearing. For example, intentionally mispronouncing a word: “Is ‘fank you’ correct? No, it’s not.” “Is ‘thank you’ correct? Yes, it is.”

This time we have to bite our teeth on the tongue or write the words “free” and “three” on a piece of paper, and then the parent reads out one of the words “three” “You show me which one” and reads “free”, “You show me which one”. If he knows how to distinguish, it will be clearer and easier for him to express himself.

What should I do when confronted with dishonesty in children?

Written by: Family Dynamics Psychological Counselor, Lai Shun Mei

Every time a child does homework, he or she falsely claims to have a stomachache, to go to the bathroom, or to go to sleep. Thousands of lies and excuses. Parents who value character development are naturally outraged because they have zero tolerance for dishonesty in their children. But why do children always avoid doing their homework? Why do they have to lie to cover it up?

Often, children avoid doing homework not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. Children want to be good and smart, but when they find out they can’t do their homework, they think they are not smart enough. They can’t accept this and will lie to cover it up and avoid it. Generally speaking, children with normal intelligence but learning disabilities will have their academic performance affected to some degree, but they can excel in other areas as well. And regardless of their intelligence level, as long as they use the right approach, coupled with the right amount of training, they can also build the corresponding ability.

But why do people lie? When a person feels that he or she is in an uncomfortable situation, he or she will activate the defense mechanism to protect himself or herself. Lying is one of the ways to cope with a crisis by avoiding it. If parents want to help their children, they should allow them to tell the truth so that they can understand what their children really don’t understand.

How do you instill in children the courage to speak the truth? You have to let your child know that even if he is not smart enough, you will still love him so much, take him as your joy, be patient with him, and find ways to help him solve his problems together, thus building up his sense of security and making him feel at ease to reveal his inner uncertainties and difficulties. On the contrary, if his experience makes him think that he is not smart enough, which will lead to his mother’s anger and complaints, he will not dare to tell the truth and even activate his self-protection mechanism to protect himself with lies that adults can uncover at first glance.

At this point, the child will not only fail to protect himself but will also get into more trouble because the mother will be rehabilitated and will take the initiative to admit her mistake and promise not to lie again. But in fact, his homework difficulties are not resolved, creating a vicious cycle. Therefore, we encourage parents to learn to accept their children’s shortcomings so that they will have confidence in you and feel safe to open up to you.

“Does learning mindfulness help in rediscovering the strengths of children?”

Source: Registered Clinical Psychologist, Yiu Fong Lee

Parents often encounter various behavioral problems with their children, which can be very troubling. For example, they ask their child to do homework, but the child doesn’t do it; they ask the child to eat, but the child sits there playing instead. When children display many uncooperative behaviors, parents become very angry and may use blaming or punishing methods to deal with them. In times of great distress, children become even more uncooperative because they feel their parents are annoying and only have negative evaluations, causing their behavior to become increasingly uncooperative and disobedient. In the practice of mindfulness, parents can learn to carefully observe what is happening at the moment without any criticism, and then try to connect with their child wholeheartedly and notice any good qualities.

In the mindfulness parenting group, we encourage parents to use their five senses, including sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, to experience mindfulness while eating. For example, taking a piece of raisin and putting it in your mouth, feeling its texture at that moment, and noticing any changes. Through our careful observation, we will discover that raisins are actually very sweet, and they will slowly melt in our mouths.

We can apply this mindset to our interactions with children in daily life, meaning that in addition to their uncooperative behavior, tantrums, or emotional outbursts, we should observe them carefully to see if there are any other things that other parents might not notice. In the mindful parenting group, one mother shared that besides being angry when her son didn’t listen to her, she also noticed that he was willing to help her carry heavy objects or food at times, showing that he cared for her.

Some mothers even mentioned that their sons may be sensitive to certain sounds, but during the New Year’s vegetable-grabbing game, they would try their best to grab the vegetables and bring them back to their mothers because they wanted them to be healthy and safe. The mothers felt that their children loved them very much, so they paid more attention to the good things their children did or the times when they cooperated. For example, if a child refused to do homework ten times but then was willing to do it or quietly read once, the mother would appreciate and tell the child, “You were very focused today, and I appreciate that.” Over time, the child will realize that he or she can do well, and the mother won’t be so annoying or only focus on the bad things the child does. Instead, the mother will focus on the good things the child does, and the child’s behavior will gradually get better.

In clinical practice, we often see that in parent-child interaction, when parents can sense the subtle aspects of daily life, such as what their children are willing to give, cherish, or when they exhibit good behavior, it can greatly help improve the interaction and relationship between the two. Additionally, when children feel positive about themselves, their confidence will also improve.

Learn English from games without difficulty

Source: Speech therapist, Miss Carley

Often, we want children to learn English vocabulary, which may be difficult and boring for them. In fact, parents can try to create some simple games for children to learn these English words through the process of playing.

The first game is called “Covering the Card.” It is similar to the card game we usually play. Parents can write some words that children need to learn on white paper and draw more sheets with laughing faces. How do I play it? To begin, we must mix the cards and distribute them evenly to each player; for example, each parent and child will receive four cards. Then, take turns playing the top card. For example, if this card is drawn, read out the word, explain its meaning, and use the word in a sentence. But if a laughing face is drawn, the player needs to quickly slap the card. If the player is slower, they must take all the cards and keep them in their hands. The player with no cards in their hand wins.

The second game is called “passing three levels.” It is actually similar to the game we usually play, but this time we have pre-written some vocabulary words in the nine squares. Then, we take turns with the child to draw some crosses or circles. For example, if I draw a cross here, I need to read, explain, and make a sentence with the vocabulary word in this square. Then it’s the parent’s turn; they might use a circle, just like in “passing three levels.” The first person to connect three cards in a straight-line win.

The third game is a memory matching game. Parents can write some Chinese characters that children need to learn on white paper and write each character twice. Parents can randomly place pairs of word cards on the table. Then parents can ask the children to take a look and remember them, and then flip the cards over. Parents and children take turns flipping over two cards. If they match, the child is asked to use the word to make a sentence, explain its meaning, and read it out loud.

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When there are differences in parenting, remember that “avoidance is not shameful and can be useful.”

Source:  Family Dynamic Psychotherapist, Yuen Wai Man

Parents’ upbringing backgrounds, education levels, or family of origin may differ in parent-child interaction, so it is quite normal for parents to have differing opinions on something.

When there are indeed different opinions, parents should find a calm environment to discuss their own perspectives and views on the problem. In any situation, we don’t want parents to argue directly in front of their children. For example, Dad can explain to Mom, “When I’m unhappy or under work pressure, I use my phone to vent and reduce stress, so I don’t think it’s a problem for kids to play with phones.”

And the wife can also express this to her husband: “Actually, I hope you can support me and understand that taking care of children is also very difficult for me.” Everyone can discuss calmly and equally in a peaceful environment. In fact, in the parenting environment, parents’ steps must be consistent.

Parents, for example, are like dancing partners in parenthood. When the father steps forward, the mother should step back. When the father raises his arms, the mother should spin around. This is a natural rhythm. If they can work together effectively, not only the dancing couple but also the onlookers can enjoy the dance. But if everyone insists on their own stance without compromise, the dance will be a mess.

In the family environment, children are often the most faithful and loyal audience, always standing in the center of the hall watching how their parents dance. So if the parents dance poorly, the audience will also be restless, the atmosphere will become tense, and more problems will arise. On the dance floor, parents will also trample on each other, causing more pain.

If there is a situation where the parents cannot see eye to eye and are in a heated argument, we would suggest that one of them leaves the scene. It’s not a matter of winning or losing or saving face, but rather allowing everyone to catch their breath and take a break. In a family environment, it’s not a competition between parents because the real victim will always be the child. So when parents are in a heated argument and cannot compromise, one of them should step back, cool down, and leave the scene. This would be better for everyone involved.

What can parents do when preparing their children for elementary school?

Source: Unleashing Mind, Psychotherapist, Dr. Lee Wai Tong

Next semester, K3 children will start to prepare for elementary school. Apart from getting to know the new school, preparing stationery, and learning to wear school uniforms, what else can parents do to help their children transition smoothly and make a good transition to elementary school? It is often the case that children will feel anxious when they encounter many unknown things. To deal with the anxiety of children, it is best to prepare for the situation in advance.

What’s for preparation? Open the schedule before school and remind the children, “Look, there will be a recess after these two classes, and then another recess after these two classes.” They will know in their minds when there will be a short break, then lunchtime, and then the school will be over after a while.

In terms of teachers, they don’t know who the teacher is, so we can say, “This teacher should be a male teacher, and this one is a female teacher.” This is the advance preparation so that the children know more about the things that have not happened and are better prepared. In particular, many elementary schools will hold orientation activities. Parents should not think that they don’t need to participate now because they are busy and their children will only return to school in September. If you can participate, you should do so, as it actually helps children know more and be well prepared for the unknown.

With all the preparations we have just made, what are the other minor things that we need to pay attention to? We say that children are anxious when they enter first grade because they are unprepared for something that has not happened yet, and then they feel worried. When they have a good grasp of what they need to do in each class, their anxiety will be much less.

Some issues are beyond the control of the parents, namely, his classmates. Children face some situations, such as when classmates next to them make a lot of acts like going to the child’s place to take a look at his things suddenly. These are not good times for children, but there is no way to prevent them, so they need to be nurtured, especially if they have just entered the first grade. Talk to them more after school and ask them if they have encountered any unpleasant things so that they can express themselves. They will find that even if they are worried, they can talk to their parents after school, and they will be comforted by their parents, and their anxiety will be reduced a bit. Then, the next day, when the unhappiness is over, they will be happy to go back to school again.

Every parent wants to ask their children more when they come home from school and know more about the school picture. Parents should learn more questioning skills so that children can say more and the picture is more complete. Some children are more extroverted and talk more, so it is easier for parents to understand; some children are more introverted. A major characteristic of an introverted child is that he or she has not yet grasped the situation internally and therefore does not know how to express it.

When dealing with introverted children, you can make it simple by drawing a poster with many different emotions and asking them what they are feeling today. When they see the pictures, they will think about them, and sometimes they will point to “angry,” sometimes to “sad,” and sometimes to “happy.” This way, they can be asked what they are happy, angry, or sad about. They will then have room to express these emotional things.

Do children need to take nutritional supplements?

Source: Senior Dietitian, Ng Yiu Fun

Many parents ask me, “Does my child need to take supplements?” For example, would fish oil or DHA be better for him? I have children myself, and I don’t let them take any supplements. But some parents say, “Is it really smarter to take supplements?”

In fact, if you have a balanced diet, you don’t need any supplements. Why? For example, if you take too much fish oil, it will have an excessive blood-thinning effect, and you will easily bleed out. So we say that if you take too much fish oil, it may not be good for your child.

We may have to figure out how to add a little bit of fish to our food. For example, if he doesn’t like eating fish, we can dip the fish in batter and bake it to make it feel crispy and tasty. Or when cooking spaghetti, you can add some crustaceans, such as clams, which are easy for children to absorb. Also, simple foods such as seaweed have ingredients that make them smarter.

As for the parents, they may think that if they take more calcium supplements, their children will grow taller. This is also not necessary, because if you take too many calcium tablets, it will be very easy to give him kidney stones. We can let children drink milk, tofu, or soy milk to help them absorb calcium without the need for special supplements.