Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
People enjoy the thrill of watching scary and adventure movies because they are filled with excitement and suspense. Parents are also tempted to bring along their kids to cinemas. Some hope it would be an invigorating experience for them. Others do so because the kids keep asking to watch the movie.
Is it okay for primary school-aged children to watch such movies, especially if these movies are classified as PG-13 (parental guidance suggested – some material may not be inappropriate for children under 13)? Some parents say these movies are deemed too violent for a minor to watch. Others think it is almost impossible to protect a child from the harsh realities of life.
Two parents share their opinions here:
Homemaker Tina Shahir, mother to Alysha, 14, Armand, 12, Arieff, eight, and Amelia, three:
“I usually check the movie ratings to make sure that a movie is appropriate for my children. Despite some movies being rated ‘U’ I am still on the lookout as sometimes the movies may be too gory and the language questionable.
I don't generally think it is okay for my kids below 13 to watch PG-13 movies as I believe the rating is there for a reason. As parents, we are also aware that negative factors can be picked up from school, friends and other public areas. However, I try to guide them and keep them away from negative influences.
I find that 'scary' films by Disney and Pixar are well received and enjoyable to both kids and adults. I have no problems with my kids watching them. They especially love Monsters, Inc and even Ghostbusters. They are afraid of watching the gory horror shows, including some local productions.
Because I have children from different age groups, I generally rely on the ratings. Comedies are great for the entire family to watch. Of course, there are times when they view scary movies on TV but so far they have not had nightmares after watching them. In some cases, my younger children may sleep with the night light on.
If there is a good movie to watch but with some scary scenes, we usually watch them when the younger ones are asleep, usually after 10pm on weekends. So far, our older children Alysha and Armand can handle them well enough and we have no issues.
Every parent should know their child before choosing scary movies. It is important to know how much your child is capable of handling. Generally, we prefer not to watch movies with too much bloody scenes and violence. Even as adults, we are appalled by some of the scenes, so I don’t want to expose such material to my kids, as well.
I think the best thing to do is watch movies or television with our children, taking the opportunity to explain that a lot of the violence that occurs on television is not real. We are always on the lookout for questionable scenes though. Sometimes we explain about the CGI (computer graphics imagery) effects which look realistic. If we notice a show on television that is going into areas that are unacceptable, we would normally change channels or switch off the TV. We then explain the reason for doing so and try to make our children understand why such programmes are not acceptable.
As far as scary movies are concerned, I think there is a fine line between what is acceptable to kids and what is not. Every child is not the same and each child will react differently while watching a scary movie.
As parents, we choose a movie that even the youngest would enjoy and usually it works well for all of us at home.
For parents who allow their children to watch PG-13 movies, my advice would be to keep a lookout on how a child acts or reacts when, and after, watching these movies. You will know what works for your child and what doesn't and how to be selective about choosing movies from then on.”
Yusry Abu Samah, chief operating officer of Suria FM and father to Yuzwan Yusuf, 17, and Nuradilla Narisha, 13:
“I always check if the movies are rated 'U' before my children can watch a movie. It should be the responsibility of all parents to check if a movie is viable for kids to watch. As a parent, I do not want my children exposed to films that can distort their view of life or frighten them.
I always use the movie ratings as guidance to see if my children can watch a particular movie. Sometimes, however, I also use my own discretion in allowing my kids to watch a film although it may not be rated ‘U.’ This is done after making sure the contents of the film are not going to be detrimental to them.
They have always enjoyed Disney movies - even the ones that have spooky scenes. I think Disney movies are always a good choice, but some of the more adult horror films are too frightening, like Poltergeist and Jurassic Park.
Often, I try to pick movies that are suitable for my teenagers. It can be difficult sometimes, as I think older children don't always want to watch films for younger children.
My son generally is not as scared as his sister. I think all children tend to be prone to having nightmares and as a parents, it is our responsibility to put their fears to rest and assure them that there are no 'real monsters.'
A good parent will always know their child, too. There will always be a point in time when children are exposed to violence and gore in films. It's part of life to see such things. If my children react badly to seeing bloody images, I will do my best to keep such movies out of the house. Having said that, I believe it can be detrimental also to protect children too much from the harsh realities of life.
However, I believe it would be responsible of parents to sit with children, when watching a film that shows violence, blood or other frightening themes. If the film becomes too violent, I would definitely consider walking out of the cineplex or stopping them from watching it.
Different parents have different levels of education, aptitude and responsibilities. I think it is irresponsible to expose a young child to horror or gory films. I also think it's irresponsible to shield your child too much - it is a question of using one’s discretion to see the level, and the sort of movies that are suitable for your child.”
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger
By SHAMALA VELU
Sharing a room with a sibling has its ups and downs. Some parents believe it will foster better relationships while others are forced to put their kids into one room due to space limitations. How long can you expect a daughter and son to share the same room? While most parents believe they should be separated after puberty, a few parents think it's all right for a girl and boy to share the same room as long as they know how to respect each other's privacy.
Two parents share their opinions:
Noor Azurah Anuar with daughter Sawda
Noor Azurah Anuar, entrepreneur and mother to sons Umar, eight, and Hamzah, six, and daughter Sawda, four:
“My three children share a room. Initially, I had set up a room for Umar when he was seven. However, he had trouble sleeping alone in the room. Now, he shares the room with his younger brother and sister. There are a lot of advantages for siblings who share a room. They feel safer being together and it also improves the quality of sleep.
Sawda learns to be more responsible from observing her older brothers. She has learnt to respect other people's belongings and also to keep the room tidy. Sawda participates in a lot of activities with her brothers at the moment. I think that is a good thing. I realise that the boys have learnt to cooperate and have become more tolerant, especially with Sawda.
At night, they spend time reading together and reciting prayers. Umar keeps his personal items in a place his sister cannot reach. He tells Hamzah and Sawda not to touch his belongings.
There are many times Sawda wants to sleep next to Umar in the same bed, but he does not allow it because he doesn't like to share his bed. There are times when Sawda prefers to play alone, like when she's using the computer in the room. However, most of the time, she likes to be in the company of her brothers. She's closer to Umar and they play all kinds of games in their room. With Hamzah, she does roleplaying as they are closer in age. In fact, Hamzah doesn't seem to mind playing with her kitchen set and being 'school teacher' with Sawda.
However, as my children get older, they will need some privacy. I think generally a good time to give them separate rooms is by age seven. However, I will wait until they are ready. Umar and Hamzah can share a room while Sawda needs a separate room because in Islam, we are supposed to separate boys and girls. When the time comes, we will allocate separate rooms for the boys and Sawda.
When a girl reaches puberty, she can expect of a lot changes to take place. In Islam, the girl will need to 'tutup aurat' (cover parts of the body that should not be exposed according to Islamic belief), wear 'hijab' (head scarf), and perform prayers as it becomes obligatory. Sawda is looking forward to having her own room as she wants to paint it pink and purple - her favourite colours.
I will talk to my kids and prepare them for puberty. Everything has been outlined by the Quran and hadith, so I don't see any problem about it.
Separating the siblings can also mean
giving each boy and each girl a separate bed, even if they are in the
same room. Being with another in the same bed is considered morally
wrong. Thus, if one cannot provide a room for each child, we may
practise the 'hadith' by giving each child a separate bed. As for
now, I will just let my children enjoy each other's company.”
Pepper Lim, teacher and father to daughter Paprika, three, and son, Saffron, one:
“There are many advantages for siblings who share a room. The one good thing is that they will always have someone to talk to and, if a child is afraid of the dark, he can turn to his brother or sister. Paprika and Saffron have a close bond and learn a lot just by playing together. As an older sister, Paprika learns to adjust to Saffron's ways. It's not always easy, but they learn to adapt.
Paprika is now at the age where she has started to feel possessive about her toys and will snatch a toy from Saffron if he is playing with it. We keep an eye out for such incidents and take the opportunity to teach her about sharing. Paprika likes jumping on the bed when her brother is sleeping on it. We try to teach her to be patient and more considerate towards Saffron.
It is a joy to see them both waking up together. When they wake up, they start playing together in the room. There is nothing better than to hear my children's laughter in the morning.
There are times when there are tantrums and conflicts between them but they are still very young and we cannot expect them to control their temper. That's when we, as parents, need to intervene and guide them.
One disadvantage of sharing a room is that sleep is sometimes interrupted. When one wakes up crying in the middle of the night, we sometimes have to pacify both children.
As they get older I think it would be nice for them to have their own rooms. I think it is better for older children to have separate rooms. However, not all of us have the luxury of doing so.
Right now, my kids share a room but eventually I hope to give them their own rooms if I can afford it. I personally don't think there is anything wrong for young boys to share a room with their older sisters or vice versa.
Some parents might say it is not right. It's really how we are brought up. For example, what happens if the sister wants to change her clothes while her brother is in the room? Well, she can simply ask her brother to leave for a few minutes. The time taken to change clothes is only a few minutes so the sibling can wait outside.
There's no reason to have separate rooms for each child and use screens for changing areas. Children learn to negotiate and it teaches them to respect each other. I wouldn't mind my daughter sharing a room with her brother.
Sharing a room with a brother or sister may have its advantages, too. Maybe, they will talk about the different sexes and not grow up with distorted views of the opposite sex. I am puzzled as to how some parents will go out of their way to protect their daughters from boys.
Parents are naturally protective of their children with outsiders but we cannot make the assumption that every guy we see has bad intentions, right? It's really in the upbringing. We should tell our children not to put themselves in a position where they can be harmed. I want to be very open with them and discuss things like puberty and self-development. But, I do not want to be overprotective and turn my children into introverts."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
Many fathers today take parenting very seriously and are totally hands-on, even when it comes to diaper-changing duties.
These fathers want to be involved with their children and view parenting as a shared responsibility. But, are public places usually father-friendly? The lack of baby amenities available to dads poses some interesting challenges for them.
Two fathers share their opinion on diaper changing rooms which are found inside the ladies' toilet.
Ameer Suresan Abdullah
Ameer Suresan Abdullah, engineer and father to Alysha Yasmin, 14, Armand 12, Arieff, eight, and Amelia Yasmin, three:
"I've always helped out with diaper changing duties when my children were babies and I have had no qualms doing it. However, I do find it a problem sometimes when I go to certain malls. Access to common nappy rooms are sometimes hard to find.
Sometimes, I need to get my wife to change our child's diapers when the changing rooms are attached to the ladies' toilet. Otherwise, I have to find other places to do it. I have even done nappy changing in the car when my wife was not around.
Malls with separate nappy changing rooms will definitely make it more convenient for fathers.
However, this is not a deciding factor for me when choosing malls to visit. It is more for the sake of convenience.
I think the nappy changing room should be a common room. That will suffice. It is not fair to get shopping mall managements to provide specific rooms just for dads as these might be under-utilised.
Having said that, I feel special rooms for nursing mothers (restricted only to females), need to be made available. It should not be shared with the diaper changing rooms to ensure the privacy for nursing mothers.
In my opinion, malls must create a more father-friendly environment with access to baby amenities as many fathers today are more hands-on and share a lot of responsibilities with their wives.
A play area where father's can hang out and keep an eye on their children, while mothers shop would also be good. Fathers would appreciate play areas in shopping complexes especially where children can have fun since many children (and fathers) do not enjoy shopping.
Quite a few fathers I know are very much into sharing the responsibilities when taking care of their children and this is evident when you visit malls or parks. It is not uncommon to see fathers mixing milk formula, changing nappies and feeding their children nowadays. This is a good and healthy approach for father-child bonding."
Service delivery manager Yogeswaran Govindarajah, who has one daughter, Satyajothey, aged four:
"Fathers usually find it inconvenient to take their children out to public places because there are no proper facilities which are gender neutral to encourage fathers who tend to the needs of their children. From my experience at the places I frequent, the nappy changing area is attached to the ladies' toilet.
I normally head out to hypermarkets for grocery shopping and weekend hangout at malls. My position at the workplace allows me to work from home, hence, there are times when I need to rush out during regular office hours with my daughter in tow for the sudden need of supplies. This can be challenging during unexpected toilet emergencies. I normally get stares if I have to bring my daughter into the men's toilet and there have been times I have had to request a female stranger to accompany my daughter to the ladies' toilet.
This has not only created inconvenience for me; it has also attracted a lot of unwanted stares.
I have been working from home since my daughter turned a year old, so having a father-friendly baby changing room in public places is certainly welcome. The malls need to have one baby room for each men's and ladies' toilet. If the malls can afford to build toilets for adults at every nook and corner of the building, they should be able to include a baby room, too.
Given my bad experience in the past, I now pick and choose which malls and hypermarkets I visit. In addition, I'm willing to venture farther out as long as I know the place is father-friendly.
Many fathers nowadays share the responsibility of taking care of their children. We have heard of dads who work from home to help with their children's upbringing. It's becoming the norm these days. The mindset is rapidly changing and there's a more balanced view when it comes to family responsibilities.
However, having said that, Malaysians in general are not open to this concept no matter how modern and open-minded we think we are. Fatherhood has always been associated with making a living for the family and there is still some scepticism when it comes to stay-at-home dads. We juggle both our careers and our children - yet there is always a question of whether we are good enough in comparison with mothers. We may not live up to the expectations, but given a chance, we can prove ourselves and pull through in our own way."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
Parents and children always have many interesting conversations but perhaps the most important one is on "the birds and the bees."
At some point, children who are intrigued by cooing babies will surely ask the question, "Where do babies come from?"
Rather than looking surprised, it's best for parents to be prepared with some practical answers.
While many have different views on when they should broach the subject of puberty and sex with their children, everyone agrees that kids need to be taught. Some children may be extremely mature and want to have a grownup conversation before they are eight while some 13-year-olds are still not ready.
So, when is a good time to talk to your
children on this important issue? Two parents share their views.
Manager Andri Iskandar Nadzri, father to Rania Hanim, four, and Ines Sofea Hanim, two, says:
"I think it is absolutely important to talk to children about puberty and sex although at this point in time, it is more relevant to my four-year-old Rania than my two-year-old Ines. Although my children are girls, the responsibility of talking about puberty and sex lies with both me and my wife Asmahan, rather than only leaving one parent to do the talking. Both of us can talk to them from the perspective of a man and woman.
I think as time progresses, exposure to sexuality is starting much earlier, which of course has its pros and cons. I already notice my four-year-old being curious about female private parts and her friends of both genders. But, I attribute that to being curious, rather than sexual in nature.
I grew up in a time where sex education was almost non-existent and society was not prepared to talk about it (even though this was the more 'liberal' and free thinking society of the late 70s/early 80s). However, I do vaguely remember my parents talking to me about puberty, in a very subtle approach. It has to be said though, from my teenage years onwards, I began to learn more from friends due to the fact that I lived in boarding schools for most of my teenage life.
Media, most especially print, social networks and the Internet can be considered ubiquitous in our lives in this day and age. The role of the media, in my opinion, represents a double-edged sword. Most of the content can be seen as positive. However, in the last few years, the issue that is frequently raised by concerned parents is the over-sexualisation of children at an early age, fuelled by irresponsible corporations, network television and print editors.
Children and young adults today are increasingly being bombarded with material that is of a sexual nature. To me, this is one of the biggest challenges in trying to decide which content is suitable for my children.
Parents certainly play an important role in discussing sex and sexuality with their children. Our society is advancing at such breakneck speed that parents need to be constantly evolving in their methods to approach a subject like this. What worked (or didn't work) back then may not work today, so parents really need to get involved in the education of sexuality.
We are already starting to educate our eldest, not so much on sexuality per se, but more on a fun biology/science angle on the human body. It's hard to say how much they are absorbing or whether their minds can comprehend, but that shouldn't stop anyone from trying to approach the subject. You just have to customise it according to your child's maturity.
In our household, 'sex education' is going in the direction of fun biology. For example, what happens when you feel the need to go to the toilet and the importance of hygiene and cleanliness. We even assign funny names for body parts, too! Going by our own personal experience, allowing kids to learn from friends always leads to bigger mischief and this is not what we want.
Teaching children to protect themselves is by far the most important aspect of why we must educate our children. This is especially true for parents who have kids at daycare or in schools. We need to constantly remind our children that certain things are not allowed and nobody should do funny things to them. Children should immediately inform parents if they feel insecure or frightened about someone."
Entrepreneur Dayang Lily Abang Muas, mother to Mohamad Hakeem, 15, Nur Hannah, 13, Nur Hanees, nine, and Mohammad Harraz, eight, says:
"We are guided by our religion, which is Islam, when discussing the issue of sex and sexuality. Pre-marital sex is not permissible in our religion, so we emphasise this to our older children. When it comes to specific matters like puberty, then my husband will talk to my son, and I will talk to my daughter.
This is done at the appropriate age (above 10 years old) when they are ready for it. In Islam, puberty comes with responsibilities. It is compulsory for them to perform their five daily prayers, fast during Ramadhan, 'tutup aurat' (cover parts of the body that should not be exposed according to Islamic belief). This is an important milestone for them, so we will get them prepared early for that.
To me, children should be informed about their bodies as early as two years old. At this age, I started telling my children that their private parts are not for others to see or touch, except certain people who will help them clean up. I tell them if someone touches or hurts them at any time, they must speak to me. This way, they are aware of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to their bodies.
As Muslims, we also start to instil modesty by telling young girls that they should cover themselves when other people are around and not go around without clothes on. In Islam, we believe strongly in modesty.
When children are older, we start talking about changes that will take place in their bodies. In Islam, women who are menstruating are not allowed to fast or pray, and as such young children will naturally be curious as to why mummy is not praying with them. At this point, I will explain how a woman's body is created to hold a baby in her womb (just call it 'tummy' for the smaller ones) and if there is no baby, the blood that was in the 'tummy' has to be expelled. The details of 'how' a baby gets into the tummy will be explained when they are older, like when they are 11 or 12 years old.
I believe talking about this topic should be done in stages, depending on the child's development. In my opinion, we as parents should talk to them first, as we want them to understand and follow our values and belief.
Again, we use religion as our guide to explain to children that sex is only allowed after marriage. The reason being, sex comes with responsibilities so Islam wants to make sure only those who are ready to shoulder those responsibilities are permissible to do it, and that needs to come with the vows of marriage. However, I came from a traditional family and our parents didn't talk about the birds and the bees to us.
In my opinion, children learn a lot from the media and it has a lot of negative influences on them. Most of the western movies encourage boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and pre-marital sex. As a result, many teens are engaging in pre-marital sex nowadays. I think young adults feel it is 'okay' since it is widely promoted on TV and in movies.
Parents play an important role in discussing the issue of sex and sexuality with their children. For me, it's important to start early in getting them to be aware of their bodies and protecting themselves.
At home, I teach my children that their bodies are precious. It is not for others to see or touch and that they should stay away as much as possible from situations that will put them in a vulnerable position.
Parents should build a good relationship with their children from young, so they are comfortable with you and are willing to be open with regards to discussing this topic. In Islam, we have a saying that for the first seven years of your child's life, you should play with them. The next seven years (7-14 yrs), instil discipline, and the next seven years (15-21), be their friend. I use this as a guide with my children, too.
When children start to become curious about the opposite sex, we must tell them that it is a natural process of growing up. However, these feelings shouldn't be their priority at this point in their lives as their main responsibility is to study and think about what they want to do in the future."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger
By SHAMALA VELU
Mention the word sleepover and some parents become apprehensive. It's not unusual to have nightmares wondering whether your child is safe, or whether the kids are involved in activities that you don't approve of.
The truth is, kids have a wonderful time just being with their friends and having fun. At some point, your kids will be pleading with you to let them spend the night at their friend's house. So, is it a good idea or not?
Two parents share their opinions:
Manjit Kanesan, mother to Roshan, 21, Ashereen, 19, and Akash, 12:
"It's absolutely fun for the kids to have sleepovers as they get to spend time with a selective group of good friends. I don't have to worry about carting them from the cinema or futsal court or pool. They are in a safe, healthy environment where they get to spend an equal time indoors as well as outdoors. I can monitor their activities and ensure they are not in front of the TV or computer all the time. It's like a big indoor camping expedition. At bedtime, I sometimes overhear them laughing and talking about what they have done in the day and also about their favourite football teams.
However, the downside is that sometimes, it's not very easy to get them to sleep early. They will be chatting long after lights are out and may be tired after a sleepover. They can sometimes get into tiffs and end up a little emotional over small things. That can be very noisy.
In my opinion, a child will develop positively as they learn to share and how to give-and-take. They have to look after their own belongings and this makes them more responsible. It teaches them not only to be more independent, but also how to be more sensitive to others.
My sisters and I used to go for sleepovers very often when we were young and we used to really look forward to them.
I know that Akash also looks forward to sleepovers with his friends. Normally, he will organise a pool party at home, followed by playing ball in the garden. Next, they have snack time and TV time. Sometimes, they try to make a mini movie! They also play board games such as Monopoly or carrom. When they are finished with that, the Nerf guns come out and they run around the house!
Parents definitely need to monitor the activities during a sleepover. I personally do not encourage time on the computer or Xbox games. My husband sometimes sits with them and they chat about football and sports games. If I'm not around, I make sure that my eldest son keeps an eye on them.
I guess I am particular about where my son has his sleepovers and that his friends have more or less the same values as us. As parents, we are entrusted with keeping our friends' children safe, so having the same values is important. I will be able to sleep easily knowing that my child is in a secure environment and vice versa.
I try to get to know the parents first before sleepovers are encouraged. Better to be safe than sorry later.
Akash had his first sleepover when he was about nine years old. I think that is a good age to have sleepovers because they are old enough to be independent. The level of responsibility varies from child to child but in my opinion, most children are well behaved when they are in another person's house."
Azlin Ghazali, father to Aina Syasya, 16, Anis Syaza, 14, Ahmad Sirhan, 12 and Muhammad Alif Safwan, 7:
"Children do get to know their friends better when they go for sleepovers. Not only do they learn and understand more about their friend's background, but they also become more aware of how they live.
I'm sure in every household there are rules and norms that will differ to some degree. Assuming that a child is able to differentiate between good and bad, this can be a positive thing. It will be a good experience if a child is exposed to positive qualities as it will help to build his or her character.
There will also be a feeling of trust between parents, too. Parents hosting the sleepover will feel honoured that the visiting child's parents have entrusted their child to them.
However, on the downside, children may be shocked if the household rules and values are different from their own. This can be a negative thing especially if the child becomes confused and doesn't understand why there are differences.
Sleepovers can cause some degree of inconvenience to the hosting family as well. Having someone in the house requires some adjustment and might not be favourable to everyone at home.
For example, Muslim women are expected to wear the 'tudung' (head scarf) in the house when there are male visitors. I worry if my child will cause inconvenience to the hosting family, especially if they are not used to these rules and norms.
I worry about safety and that family values may be compromised when children go for sleepovers. In fact, there is no way to find out or determine the values of a hosting family.
I went to a boarding school (Royal Military College) in Kuala Lumpur as my parents are from Kedah. Occasionally, I would sleep over at a friend's house in KL during short breaks because it was too far to go back to Kedah.
I reluctantly allow my children to bring their friends home to stay. When they do, I always make it a point to explain to other family members what is expected of them to ensure that our guest is comfortable.
Basic things such as having good meals, eating on time, praying on time, playing safely and no fighting are important to me. I find it takes a lot of effort and commitment on the part of the hosting family.
When I send my child for a sleepover, I expect the hosting parent to do the same. However, I'm not convinced other people will go through the same trouble as I do. I can only assume they will take care of things. There is no way of finding out what happens in other people's homes, right?
I would be more comfortable if my child did not go for sleepovers. The other thing I worry about is that the values of the hosting family are different from mine. You may find things similar at the surface but who knows what goes on behind the scenes? I don't allow my children to sleep over at the relatives' and grandparents' homes without me or my wife.
Parents need to monitor the activities of children during a sleepover and ensure they have a positive learning experience.
When I'm not comfortable sending my children for sleepovers, I tell them it will be an inconvenience to the hosting family. I feel there is enough time in the day to do whatever needs to be done so sleepovers are not necessary.
I also ask them to give me a strong reason why they need to go for a sleepover. For me, having fun is not an acceptable reason.
I personally don't see the need for children to go for sleepovers. I believe night time is for the family to be together. Whatever the kids want to do, they can do during the day.
Having said that, the ideal age for sleepovers is 16 and above. At this age, they know how to behave and will understand what is required of them. I recently allowed my 16-year-old daughter go for a sleepover at her friend's house after being asked several times. My daughter's friend has been at our place twice and my daughter wanted to catch up with her school work, so I allowed it. (She missed school during the Haj.)
My advice to parents is to prepare their child and tell them what they can and cannot do at a sleepover. They should learn to respect the hosting family's privacy and values. Also, try to determine if the environment will be suitable for your child. I strongly believe the environment in which a child is exposed to shapes his or her character and values."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic pervasive childhood disorder characterised by developmentally inappropriate activity level, low frustration tolerance, impulsiveness, poor organisation of behaviour, hyperactivity and inattentiveness. ADHD children may sometimes seem like difficult kids at school or home.
It is one of the more common childhood disorders, occurring in 3-7% of school-age children and representing one-third to 50% of referrals to child mental health services, even here in Malaysia.
Some doctors consider giving medication to manage the condition after making an in-depth diagnosis. However, there are many parents and experts who look for other options to treat ADHD. Two experts give their opinions on whether ADHD kids should be medicated.
Sara Brenneman, learning specialist, teacher and director of The Learning Connection:
"Our centre has a range of students with varying abilities and disabilities. Many of our children are on the autistic spectrum. Others have global developmental delays and language delays. We do have children with ADHD, however this is typically in combination with other diagnoses.
I am not against the use of medication. However, I am an advocate for trying every alternative before I suggest the option of medication. Some students at the centre are on medication.
In my opinion, the following learning programmes or exercise techniques are best suited for children with ADHD:
- Very structured environment and routine - everything has a set time and place including daily activities such as meal times, homework, relaxation and play, bedtime, etc.
- Be clear about what your expectations are for each activity in your daily routine.
- Be consistent with behaviour expectations and with consequences and rewards.
- Work times which are broken up by 'down time' where the child can have a choice of activities.
- Minimal environmental stimulation - keep the work area neat and clean, with not a lot of distractions.
- Behaviour plans - reinforce positive behaviour.
- Break down specific tasks into steps - step 1, step 2, etc.
- Pay attention to the physical environment which may be affecting a child - lighting, air-conds, bright colours, noises, smells, etc.
- Pay attention to diet!
- Encourage movement in daily routine - sports or outdoor play.
- You may need to actually 'teach' some social skills and tasks that come naturally to many children, such as how to make friends, how to greet people, etc.
- Making things as 'multi-sensory' as possible will make learning easier. In traditional schools, most of the learning is through the 'auditory' mode. This is often the most difficult for ADHD children. Often, they learn best by using their other senses, such as visual, touch, smell, kinesthetic movement, that is going through motions of a task in order to learn it.
- Communicate with your child's teacher and work as a team to help your child. They may need to make individual accommodations for your child, that is the physical arrangement of class and where she/he sits, type and amount of homework assignments, etc.
My advice to parents is to first try every possible alternative. Find a doctor who you can trust and who you feel can explain ADHD, and how the medication will modify behaviour and attention span in a way you can understand.
Parents must ask questions if they don't understand and get a second opinion. Ask your doctor to give you information about side effects and use the medication exactly as prescribed and take notes on your observations of behaviours.
Parents must schedule regular followups with the doctor, especially at the beginning because the dosage may need to be adjusted to best suit the needs of your child. Each child reacts differently to the drug so careful monitoring is crucial. Also, make sure you are communicating with your child's teacher on a regular basis and give them information about the drug and side effects.
Ask the teachers for regular feedback as well, as they will likely notice different behaviours at school that you may miss in the home environment.
I would recommend trying all alternatives before medicating. Other therapies such as acupuncture, kid's yoga, diet, swimming or other sports, such as horseback riding, are some things that I have seen make a difference in the past.
Pets can also benefit ADHD children. They can help teach your kid responsibility and get him or her outside. They can also help to 'blow off steam.'
I think parents of special needs kids have a tremendous task and that they always need to be patient and strong, whether on medication or not. They need to look for the small positive steps they see from their children every day and celebrate those small things. They need to catch their child doing something right on a daily basis and offer specific praise for that. Children will appreciate knowing that the adults in their lives are supportive and notice them doing things right, because all too often the messages they get from the adults in their lives are that they are doing things wrong."
Dr Aili Hanim Hashim
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Aili Hanim Hashim:
"ADHD is a medical disorder and diagnosis should be made by a proper medical doctor and professional. It is made by taking a thorough history from the child and parents.
- In children, information is also often gathered from their educators. While taking their history, the clinicians often focus on:
- The presence of the symptoms of the disorder, the duration, age of onset, how frequent and severe, including the impact of the symptoms on the child and his/ her functioning.
- The child's academic/intellectual progress, looking out for symptoms of other difficulties, such as learning difficulties, symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- The history taking will also include looking for other mental health difficulties present and the family history and functioning.
There are no specific test(s) to make a diagnosis of ADHD. In making a diagnosis of ADHD too, additional tests (scan, neuro-imaging) are not necessarily done unless there are indications of other medical illnesses, or the presence of low intellectual ability or learning difficulties, for example reading and writing.
Doctors usually consider medication after gathering a thorough history, especially from the parents.
For me too, I often take into consideration the input of the family. I find that if parents are not keen or ready to consider using medication for their children, they would not usually cooperate in giving the medication to the children.
In younger children, most parents would like to consider non-medication options or therapy, such as behavioural therapy and school intervention before considering the use of medication.
At the Psychiatry Adolescent and Child (PAC) Unit at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre where I work, there is an increase in the number of cases seen as we have been conducting public talks to help teachers and parents recognise children with behavioural, academic, emotional and/or interactional difficulties. Many teachers have responded by using the knowledge gained, to pick and talk to the parents to consider having their children assessed.
Generally, there is an increase of children with academic, behavioural and/or emotional difficulties who are brought for assessment to see a general pracitioner or paediatrician and later a referral is made to mental health services.
Much attention has focused on the role of food components, in particular, food additives/ artificial colouring as an etiological link to ADHD. Thus far, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the above hypotheses, as only a small subset of children have been identified to have or is sensitive to artificial flavours, preservatives, and colouring.
Parents and adults need to understand that even if children are on medication, medication alone is not the answer. It is usually the combination of medication, and the adults working with the children that will result in the best outcome.
A lot of people now know about ADHD, mainly from the media including the Internet. It helps in some cases, but it can often be 'mis-information' rather than information.
People are scared by the amount of information regarding the use of medication in children, turning children into drug addicts - in these instances, it frightens them to even come seek assessment and advice or in many cases that I have, they drop out and only return years later when the difficulties in the children are very severe.
Critics claim that ADHD is over-diagnosed and that children are receiving unnecessary and inappropriate treatment. Contrary to this claim, research on treatment utilisation and from my experience, many more children are not being screened or even assessed. Worst still, they are struggling in schools, yet adults feel they are just lazy, they can do it, they will outgrow it or they should push themselves.
Some children can, but others either will turn delinquent or have emotional difficulties as they cannot cope.
There are now many more child psychiatric services in major public hospitals around the country. There are also increases in the number of private child psychiatrists, especially in major cities. Paediatricians too see and some manage children with ADHD, especially developmental paediatricians."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
Children love playing outdoors and it is one good way for them to release energy. As most kids like to take risks when they play, there is bound to be some minor bruises and falls.
However, what most parents really worry about is strangers lurking around the playground. Many kids these days venture out on their own, riding bicycles around their housing area and making new friends at the playground. Though some parents may give them the nod, there are those who are more cautious.
Do parents always need to follow and supervise their children at the nearby playground? Two parents share their opinion:
Avie Hainee Abas
Avie Hainee Abas, (accounts and administration executive) is mother to Dania Qarmila Ezzati, 9, and two boys, Harish Hazziq Iman, 6, and Hazzim Razziq Iman, 3:
"I don't allow my children to go to the playground on their own. I will always follow them when they go fortnightly.
Although we think that our neighbourhood is safe, nowadays it is really unpredictable. It may just be the opposite. To be independent doesn't meant we can allow and encourage our children to go to the playground on their own.
I worry about strangers and unfamiliar faces at the playground. In my opinion, children above 12 years of age should be able to play around their neighbourhood on their own as they can understand better and are more aware of their surroundings. I think nowadays children of 12 or 13 are more independent and want to go out on their own.
There are a few parents who do allow their young kids to roam freely in the housing area without proper supervision. However, I believe it is the parents' responsibility to ensure their children's safety. My daughter who is nine is able to cross the road, but my two young boys cannot do that on their own yet."
Noridayu Adzhar, (insurance agent) mother to boys Harith Sulaiman, 6, and Aaron Mikail, 9, months:
"My son Harith doesn't go to the playground unless his friends are there. However, he seldom goes to the playground. If none of his friends are playing there, he has to come home. I sometimes walk or drive there (although it is very near) to check on him. If everything is fine, I go back home and let him play. We live in a neighbourhood that is safe and so far, there have been no problems. I grew up in the neighbourhood of Taman Tun Dr Ismail where most people are elderly.
My son is becoming more friendly and is more responsible now compared to some children who just stay indoors. I think it's important for children to have their own space. However, as parents we must ensure their safety as well. It does not mean that we have to supervise them while they are playing. Monitoring them is the keyword.
Harith is able to cross the road himself after giving him some training so we are confident when he goes out to play. In my opinion, children should be able to play outdoors on their own at age six or seven. I always tell him to talk nicely to friends and parents but to be careful with strangers or unfamiliar faces. I remind him to avoid fights and to take care of his personal belongings such as bicycle, toys, etc.
I always keep tabs on who his friends are and ask him about new ones - their names and so on.
Sometimes, I go to the playground to meet up with his new friends. However, I tell him to watch out for teenagers who are a bad influence.
I always monitor my son's whereabouts. Sometimes, children feel uncomfortable if we are around them while they are playing. As parents, we still need to monitor them. I don't want him to think I'm spying, so I watch him from a distance."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger
By SHAMALA VELU
Children love toys and will light up in excitement when they receive one. Toys are not just entertaining tools kids enjoy; they also play an important role in developing their motor, social and language skills. As children play with toys, their curiosity is also enhanced.
However, what if your son reaches out to play with his sister's kitchen set or baby dolls? Would that be okay?
Are girls expected to play with teddy bears and doll houses because they are girls?
All parents certainly buy toys which are suitable for their kid's gender but there are some who believe that it is normal for little boys and girls to share each other's toys.
Two parents share their opinions on
what they think about gender-specific toys.
Fazlina Ahmad Fuad.
Unit trust consultant Fazlina Ahmad Fuad, is a mother of one girl, Fatin Syamimi, six, and two boys, Syabil Fikri, six, and Syamil Fikri, two:
"Currently they are into computer games and they usually play on their father's handphone and computer at home. I do limit the time they spend on the Internet and the types of games they play. The games downloaded are also checked. I don't restrict the boys from playing with their sister's toys but it is done with guidance, of course.
We have kitchen play sets which I bought for Fatin when she was four. The boys sometimes play with them, too. Syabil used to play the kitchen set for hours and seemed fascinated by them when he was younger. Now, he and Syamil sometimes play 'restaurant' with the kitchen sets.
I don't find anything wrong with that. In fact, it actually develops their observation when we dine out. We also once bought a remote control car for Fatin when she was younger. Kids have a very wild imagination and we, as parents, should just let them explore. You never know, maybe our sons will be the next renowned chefs!
I think most of us just want to conform to society's expectations. By labelling toys only for girls, or for boys, we tend to limit their potential to explore and learn new things. At this young age, children are not prejudiced and will play with toys that they like. However, as parents, we should join them during playtime to guide them.
I do let Fatin play with cars and guns with her brothers. I have no problems with her choice of toys. What I would restrict is the playtime hours.
I let my boys play house with their sister with her Barbie dolls. But in their house version, they include action figures like Spiderman and Ultraman. From my own observation, my boys are not particularly interested in who's who, but they have an interest in creating the storyline for their play.
My children enjoy playing house and playing with the remote control cars. I just let them be children and allow them to play with anything they want.
There are no restrictions as they learn a lot from playing together. However, I do not encourage my boys to play with girl's toys. It is more about learning to share, take turns and to negotiate as to whose story will be played. They learn new things from each other and more importantly, it strengthens their relationship.
Just let your children explore because the sky's really the limit. Let them know we are always there to guide them."
Salikin Sidek with his youngest daughter Ajwa.
Fashion designer Salikin Sidek, father of three - Ariq Siddiq, nine, Asila Sofea, seven, and Ajwa Saliha, four:
"I don't restrict my children from choosing their toys but my wife, Anita Anuar, is careful about the toys they play with. My girls like to play with kitchen sets, Barbie dolls, teddy bears and board games while my son is just the opposite. He likes cars, hot wheels and action heroes like Spiderman and Ironman.
Although he does not play with his sister's toys, Ajwa, my youngest plays with both her sister's and brother's toys.
My wife is particular when they share toys and she would explain things to the kids. I do think that if boys play with their sister's toys, it will help to keep them in touch with their feminine side a bit. However, we must be careful and guide our boys when they are playing. As parents, we need to explain the roles of men and women. Society places importance on gender-specific toys to give children a sense of identity. Playing with toys does influence the way children think and behave to a certain extent.
I believe children need to mix with their own gender and playing with toys is one good way. I wouldn't allow my girls to play with toy guns because I think that is really a boy's thing. I do know of some young boys who play with dolls because they have many sisters. In this case, parents need to monitor their sons. It is better to allow boys to play openly than to secretly play with dolls. This way, parents can also guide them.
In my opinion boys and girls should stick to their own toys unless they are board games or educational toys. Parents have to be smart these days when choosing toys for children.
I grew up with many sisters and was exposed to their toys. I think I have a better understanding of women thanks to being around them. As a fashion designer, it has helped me become more aware of what women want. I can say one must have a strong will in anything they do. Some male designers may exude femininity but they are strong on the inside."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this bloggerBy SHAMALA VELU
Sleep is good. That is, if you have a good night's rest and have not been muscled out of the bed by your kids.
If you are a parent wondering if you are doing the right thing by sharing your bed with your child, you are not alone.
There are many parents who wonder if co-sleeping with their children is the right thing to do. Co-sleeping with babies is deemed a controversial issue as many believe it puts young infants at risk.
Some experts say parents can hurt their baby if they accidentally roll over onto them. What will happen if baby gets smothered by a pillow or other bedding material?
That said, many parents believe sharing the bed with their brood helps to foster a bond between parent and child. It gives everyone a sense of security and everyone has a good night's rest. Experts are opposed to this, saying co-sleeping inhibits a child from becoming independent. So, should parents support co-sleeping?
Two parents share their opinions on
what they think about co-sleeping with their children.
Monika Ramasamy, mother of two aged 5 and 11:
"I felt more comfortable having my babies in the bedroom with me, as I was feeding them every hour initially and it was more convenient to have them right beside me. However, they slept in their own baby cots. I would not advocate sleeping in the same bed unless they are sick and need that extra comfort and closeness for recovery.
The first month I woke up every one or two hours to feed them. Of course, I did not have a good rest at all, but it would have been worse if I had to walk to a separate room each time! Also, in a way, it calmed me down having them close, as it was safer in case they suddenly had trouble breathing.
I definitely wouldn't want my baby to sleep in the same bed, as they are very vulnerable and automatically I wouldn't sleep well just for fear of hurting them in my sleep.
My son only moved to his own room because I was waking up so often for his newborn sister who stayed in her baby cot in our room as well. It was not feasible any more to disturb his sleep so we convinced him to move into his own room at age seven!
I am afraid our daughter still stays with us in her own bed but in the same room. We are working on the process of convincing her to stay in her own room but she doesn't seem to be quite ready yet (she is only 5).
It is my opinion that each child is different. My children don't have problems falling asleep on their own, as their bed-time is much earlier than ours.
I think if they go to bed with their parents at the same time, it will be hard for them to fall asleep on their own.
My children went through a phase where we had to be strict although they were crying their hearts out as we left the room. But that lasted only about a week and then they were fine.
One must create a sleeping habit which does not depend on other people. Children must learn to sleep on their own, whether or not they have a room to themselves or share the room with their parents.
I personally enjoy having my kids in
the same room, otherwise we wouldn't have allowed it. I think the
desire for closeness goes both ways. However, I think there comes a
time when parents are ready to have their own personal space in the
bedroom again. It is certainly more difficult to get a child used to
his or her own room when he or she is older than say, when they were
Nur Fathinatul Huda Md Nor
Nur Fathinatul Huda Md Nor, mother of two aged 3+ and 2+:
"I personally think co-sleeping with baby is a normal thing to do. My babies slept with me since the day they were born. I find it very calming. When they were newborns, I put them on my chest.
It is also very convenient to breastfeed the baby. Both the mother and baby feel warm and comfortable. I found out that sleeping with my baby stimulates more milk production and I can breastfeed on demand. I think it creates time for bonding as I can cuddle, kiss and play with my babies when they are next to me.
My first boy, Azmihani Al Rayyan Mohd Azmi, is 3 years 2 months, and my girl, Salsabeel Jannah Al Rayyan Mohd Azmi, is 1 year 6 months. They have been sleeping with me ever since they were infants.
With my first child, I had some difficulties putting him in a cot for the first few days. He did not sleep long and kept crying in the middle of the night. When he slept with me, it was much easier. I believe he was more comfortable and secure. Now, I practise safe co-sleeping by putting our bed next to the wall; my daughter sleeps nearest to the wall and I sleep next to her. My son sleeps between me and his father. This prevents them from falling down. It also prevents the father from rolling on the baby since she is furthest away.
I believe the first five years are the most critical period for a child. As young children, they need to be constantly hugged and cuddled. They also need close contact with parents. I believe giving children hugs makes them feel safe and secure. This promotes good behaviour and they will learn to respect their parents; not only when they are young, but as they become young adults as well.
My son sleeps with us because I still nurse him. ( I nurse them in tandem). However, we have started training him to sleep in his own small bed, beside ours. He tends to wake up at night and come over to sleep with us, but I believe he can sleep in his own bed, when he is ready.
We have provided a room for him and started talking to him about moving to his own room. He agrees, provided we buy him Upin and Ipin toys to sleep with! I think he is still young. In my heart however, I'm also not really confident to let him sleep alone yet.
I wake up about three times at night (at 1am, 3am, 5am) to nurse my babies. I don't find it stressful or burdensome as they are breastfed on demand while I am in bed.
Parents must see what works best for them, making sure safety comes first."
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger
Should children be allowed to go on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter? Every other teenager is on the social network scene, but do they need it? And, how much privacy and security will your child be compromising by going on social networks?
Two parents share their opinions on allowing their kids on social networks.
Anne d'Cruz, mother of two aged 12 and 14:
"Both of them have a Facebook account each. 'All' their friends and cousins were on Facebook and they pestered us to allow them to open accounts. We relented and allowed the boy to open an FB account after his UPSR exam. Then one day during the December school holidays at my parents, our girl opened a secret FB account using a pseudonym. Our son rang us to inform us. (He was upset because she didn't get permission from us.) We talked to her about it, argued over it and finally allowed it as as long as she used her own name. She did.
Our fear was and is predators, paedophiles, bullies, hackers, cheats, scammers. Some of the 'real world' issues move to cyberspace and take a different shape. E.g. some of their friends scare me because these kids have issues (a crisis at home, divorced parents, middle child syndrome) and their online venting I feel affects my children's wellbeing.
We told them from the get-go to sort our their privacy and security settings and set it up to avoid the pain of viruses and malware. And they have seen their share of 'oh-why-my-PC-slowed-to-a-crawl'. As for private information, they are careful not to disclose the home address and phone number. Ditto with information shared with friends of friends. It is a learning curve and we are still at it because you never know how the next mind schemes or thinks.
If parents want to allow their kids on social networks, maybe at the start they need to monitor their child's social network interactions until parents become comfortable about the kids operating in a virtual world. But it didn't work for me. Here's why: Our son was 'friending' women in dubious poses and more dubious names and that worried me. I'd get him to unfriend them because I didn't believe they were gamers (exchanging points/weapons/whatever). In the end, he 'unfriended' me! Boy, did I panic.
But later, I told him to separate his gaming girlfriends from his school friends and to secure his personal information. Most of his online interactions are an extension of his school interactions (back then we used POTS, now they use FB). The boy has an impressive set of friends lists which he tediously and carefully divided.
But I have access to him via other people who come back and tell me what he is up to. And it is largely positive, his interactions are equivalent of what to expect at his age. Last year, my sister-in-law (he blocked her from his wall finally) rang and complained that he was using the F word constantly on his page and gave me a long lecture about raising kids and religion. I just listened, held my tongue and told her not to worry, he is fine, no strange behaviour at home apart from raging male hormones and mood swings. Anyway, to be sure, I got a friend (a father) who is also his friend online to go take a look. He said it was normal teenage boy behaviour and remarked that my son wrote in beautiful English - with the F word within!
I am not friends with my daughter on FB either. We were but each time she got upset with me for saying 'No' to whatever it was, she'd 'unfriend' me. It got tedious.
But oddly enough, the kids and I 'talk' on FB via the messaging tool. For instance, if there is something interesting I feel they should be aware of or would be useful to them, I send them a message with a link about it. When I am out, I check on them via FB. And we have a conversation running back and forth.
There was an instance, I had sent both kids a link on the Idiot's guide to the July 9th marches as they were asking a lot of questions about it. We had explained why fair and free elections is necessary in Malaysia, but I thought the idiot guide was a cool and simple way to understand what was going on around them. Two days later in a completely different setting, they had a discussion over the word of 'idiot'.
That instance was one of more gratifying moments in dealing with children living in two worlds. It is good to know even though we aren't friends online, my views and fleeting entries are welcome. It is good to know our communication lines remain open. I am lucky that they tell us what they do online which is largely watch videos or participate in some dare (dumb as some may be), engage in girly talk - hair, skin, nails ....
I don't check what they do but I do ask what exciting thing happened on FB and more often than not, there is some story about some picture or video or dare or some person asking to be their friend (like a teacher) and should they say yes etc. Learning to manage people virtually is quite a task. I'm not adept but happy to dish out options on how they can do that.
I think it is inevitable that they go on the social networks. Why waste energy fighting it when you can invest time embracing it. I think each generation has mutated to include our learnings and experience within their DNA. Those beyond Generation Z are engineered differently.
A good age to let them get on social networks would be after they are reading as a habit. Because many people have forgotten you need to read when you look at a screen (even when you are watching a video on YouTube). And now you can read interactively with the iPad.
Precautions: Set reasonable limits for
online engagement. Expose them to other forms of real world
interaction (physical games, activities, a meal or movie together,
meeting people, parties, etc). Know when to be a parent and when to
be a friend and that's one tough balancing act."
Mazniha Mohd Ali Noh
Mohd Ali Noh, mother of three girls and one boy:
older girls are 16 and 17. They are on Facebook and Tumblr. All their
friends are on social networks, too.
Facebook friends so that I can advise them if I see them spending too
much time on the social networks doing unnecessary things.
and then I check what their friends are saying on the social networks
and tell them off if they use words they are not supposed to.
I think my
fears are that my children will spend too much time on the PC and
neglect their studies. I also worry about friends' peer pressure and
influence and that my children will become so used to virtual
communication that they lack face-to-face communication and
interpersonal skills. Of course, like all parents, I also worry about
paedophiles lurking on the Internet.
I think technology is a good thing; it's how we make use of it to make our lives better. We must always be there for our children, talk to them and spend time with them - to me that's the key."