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OCT / NOV 16



When junior doesn’t act his age: How should you react?

Are you pushing your kids too much?

My child doesn’t want to go to school: 5 possible reasons and solutions

Be a kid again! 10 fun ideas to do with your kids

table of contents


CONTENTS 04 Editorial Note 08 Pregnancy

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

10 Health

5 Habits of Healthy Happy Families

12 Dental

Icky Sticky Sweets

14 Preschool

Schooling Your Tot I Don't Want To Go To School!


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18 The New Age Parents Coverpage Contest

22 Growing up

Be A Kid Again! TTYL. OMG. LOL. FTW. When Junior Doesn’t Act His Age

30 Special Needs

We Are Humans Too Managing Older Kids With Sensory Issues And Language And Speech Needs

38 For The Parent

Are You Pushing Your Kids Too Much

editorial note

I KID YOU NOT Studying for the PSLE was one of the most stressful periods of my life. Not because I wanted to get into a certain Secondary School or had high expectations to live up to, but simply because if my grades continued to drop, my mother proclaimed it would mean saying goodbye to Snowy, my pet rabbit. My 12 year-old self was devastated. Looking back, I believe my mother meant well. She wanted to motivate me to do better and thought, maybe using my pet rabbit as a wager would be a good push. As parents, we can do a lot of things with the intention of helping our kids realise their full potential. But how do we know if we are overworking or stressing them? In Are You Pushing Your Kids Too Much, we spoke to experts on the tell-tale signs of overstressed kids. Is your tot heading to school next year? Start prepping them with pointers from our expert in Schooling Your Tot. If they’ve started school and seem reluctant to go, we’ve listed possible reasons and solutions to help you out in I Don't Want To Go To School. Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to spontaneity. When was the last time you had a pillow fight or played with water? Children’s Day falls on 7 October this year. We challenge you to unleash your inner child with your kids in Be A Kid Again! We owe this much to our kids and ourselves to stay young at heart. Wishing all kids a Happy Children's Day! P.S. Have you seen our enrichment and preschool resource guide? "Find out more in the next page!

Editorial Team EDITOR Michelle Ang WRITERS Dorothea Chow, Som Yew Ya & Jenny Tai

Art & Design ART DIRECTOR Michelle Ang COVERPAGE MODEL Kaylee Woo & Natalie Woo PHOTOGRAPHY Yew Kwang from Photography By Yew Kwang

Marketing & Advertising MARKETING HEAD AND ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Elaine Lau For advertising enquiries, email us at

Web Administration WEB DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Seow Poh Heng FEATURED EXPERTS The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre, The Dental Studio, Kinderland, Julia Gabriel Education Centre, Sid Hamid & THK Therapy Services (The Children’s Therapy Centre) If you wish to contribute to the magazine, email us at For past issues, go to

Do you have any stories, tips or any feedback to share? DROP US AN EMAIL AT CONNECT WITH US AT FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM:

While every care is taken in the production of the magazine, the publisher, editor and its team assume no responsibility for any inaccuracies and omission, which might arise. Opinions by the contributors and advertisers are not necessarily those of the publisher and the editor. The articles in the magazine are for references only. If you have any queries on any health condition for you and your child, you should seek professional medical advice.

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OBSTETRICS & GYNAECOLOGY Dr Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone Dr Dharshini is a specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre, a subsidiary of Singapore Medical Group. Experienced in antenatal ultrasound, performing natural childbirth, assisted delivery and Caesarean Sections, she has extensively trained in gynaecological surgery, laparoscopic procedure and has a keen interest in Hysteroscopic surgeries.

DENTISTRY Dr Stephanie Yap Dr Stephanie Yap is a Dental Surgeon at The Dental Studio (TDS), a Singapore Medical Group (SMG) clinic. An experienced dental surgeon specialising in all aspects of general dentistry and aesthetic dentistry, Dr Yap obtained her Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from

the National University of Singapore. Earlier in her career, she served as a dental officer across government institutions.

EDUCATION Fiona Walker Fiona joined Julia Gabriel Centre in 1991 as a teacher and is now the Principal of Schools and CEO of Julia Gabriel Education. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education and is a qualified Montessori teacher with more than 20 years of experience in providing quality education for young children. She is committed to the ongoing development of teachers and curriculum in Julia Gabriel Education. Prama Devi Prama Devi is currently the Principal of Kinderland @ Ministry of Education. Holding a Degree in Early Childhood Care and Education, she has a total of 32 years of experience in the preschool sector, with 9 years as a centre leader.

SPECIAL NEEDS Sid Hamid Sid is a Consultant Occupational Therapist and Founder & Director of Oxytoseen Pte Ltd. He has more than 10 years of clinical experience as a consultant occupational therapist and is a transformational coach, author, speaker and trainer. He has dedicated his life’s work to unearthing the hidden potential of children with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning, behavioural and performance challenges. Clare Shannon Clare is a Speech and Language Therapist, working with Thye Hua Kwan Therapy Services serving children in the community in mainstream schools. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Speech and Language Studies. She moved to Singapore in 2015 to work with children with speech and language needs.

Georgina KnightHassel Georgina is an Occupational Therapist currently working at THK Therapy Services, THK Children Therapy Centre. She graduated from Oxford Brookes University, UK with a Bsc (Hons) degree in Occupational Therapy. She has worked in special education schools, private clinics, hospitals and in the community providing therapy for children with various developmental conditions.

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What To Expect When You’re Expecting First time mum with a bub in your belly? Here’s what to expect during your visits to the obstetrician or gynaecologist.


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Expert: Dr Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone Practice address: The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, 38 Irrawaddy Road #05-34/35 Singapore 329563

The First Trimester: 4th - 12th


Take it easy: During this period,

you will be advised to take it easy. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 women may not proceed to the 2nd trimester. Some mothers-to-be may encounter blips in the form of bleeds or cramps. But with good medication and support, they will be able to make it to the second trimester. Morning sickness kicks in: Expect possible aches and pulls, and you may suddenly question everything you eat, use and do. This is also the time to ask your doctor all the questions you have, and to start increasing your folic acid, iron intake, along with other vital supplements. Your doctor will be the best person to evaluate other preexisting medical conditions and decide on the necessary medical interventions and pregnancy-safe medication choices. Tests to undergo: A basic antenatal blood test to evaluate your basic blood levels, blood group and immunity to rubella or hepatitis. There is also a need to discuss the Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) and One-stop Clinic for Assessment of Risk for Fetal Anomalies (OSCAR) Test to assess for risks for Down Syndrome, other trisomy and rare genetic abnormalities. The Second Trimester: 12th - 24th week Baby’s gender: This is what I call

the honeymoon period. You are blissful with the calming hormones of pregnancy. Your pregnancy has passed the first worrisome 12 weeks, and you can finally get to know the gender of your baby! The scans are clearer and you can even make out tiny baby fingers and toes.

Important Fetal Anomly Scan:

There is the crucial 20 weeks fetal anomaly scan, where the sonographer looks at each and every organ closely to assess the structures of the brain, heart, spine, palates etc. It assesses

DR DHARSHINI 5 TIPS FOR EXPECTING MOTHERS 1. Take it easy 2. Be aware of what to expect during your clinic visits 3. Write down and ask your questions at every visit 4. Trust that you and baby are in the best of care 5. Be confident and know that you’re going to be just fine!

the blood flow from the womb to the placenta and the placenta to the baby, to check if there are any possibly issue to blood supply that may need to be addressed. Some patients may be started on Aspirin if the growth or blood flow is not adequate. Your Baby is Viable: Once your baby reaches 24 weeks, he or she is termed “viable”. This means your baby will be able to survive the outside world, and every possible intervention will be done should he or she decide to arrive after 24 weeks. During this

trimester, you will be seeing your doctor every 4 weeks for urine tests, blood pressure and weight monitoring and scans. The Third Trimester: 24th - 38th or 40th week More Tests: At 28 weeks, I usually advice patients to undergo the Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), a test for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). If you are diagnosed with GDM, you will need closer supervision, insulin injections and visits to an endocrinologist. If you are Rhesus negative, you will be getting your Rhogam injections at 28 weeks and 34 weeks. Also after your delivery if your baby is Rhesus positive. Hi Doc, it’s me again: From 32nd week onwards, you will be seeing your doctor every 2 weeks. You will get a growth scan during this time to monitor how well baby is growing. From the 35th week onwards, you will be having weekly visits to your doctor. GBS: At 36 weeks, you will have a vaginal swab to test for Group B Streptococcus (GBS). This is a common and mild bacteria found in your vagina. If it is present at 36 weeks of your pregnancy, you will be covered with antibiotics during labour to protect your baby from chest or brain infections resulting from GBS. Planning for your birth: This is also the time where families make a simple birth plan, about what would make their delivery special to them, such as who would be mum’s coach during labour, pain relief, music and lighting and postnatal rooming in and breastfeeding plans. These will be discussed and typed up for the big day.

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THEY STAY ACTIVE TOGETHER They make it a weekly affair to go outdoors and play with their whole family. Whether it’s a hike to MacRitchie Reservoir or a stroll at the Botanic Gardens, regular physical activities help to relieve stress and anxiety. Why? When you engage in these activities, your body produce endorphins (brain chemicals that help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure).


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Consider doing something new each week, switching from moderate to high intensity active play activities and sports. Hit the trampoline park or go rock climbing. Sports that makes you sweat is beneficial to your body system. According to experts, sweating helps to release toxins, improve blood circulation and speed up metabolism. It also enhances your child’s immune system and is associated with improved heart and lung functions.

As much as each person plays their own role in the family, it’s also very much a team effort. What habits do healthy happy families keep?

For daddies who spend long hours at work, try PlusHealth M-Plus ($26.50). This supplement contains Maca, Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali), Siberian ginseng, Panax ginseng, Arginin, ingredients that helps strengthen your body and increase general resistance to daily stress.


THEY HAVE MEALS TOGETHER A study done by the University of

Michigan discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. According to the study, mealtime was even more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports. But make sure that the dinner is a gadget free zone. It would defeat the purpose of eating together if everyone were glued to their phones. Give your family a healthy digestive and immune system - try Plushealth 30 Billions Probotics. It contains multiple strains of live bacteria that can lead the way to a healthy digestive system, stronger immune system and efficient weight management..


THEY EAT WELL Be the one who decides on what food goes into your kitchen. The key is to start your kids from young, and introduce other choices of healthier snacks available. Make it a point to eat healthier choices in front of them too. Instead of chips and sugared biscuits, take healthier options such as unflavoured nuts, fresh chopped fruits and veggies. Instead of soft drinks, go for freshly made juice. Instead of icecream, make your own by creating fruit popsicles using fruit purees. Did you know that most of the vitamins we obtain come from the food we eat? A balanced diet usually provides enough of vitamins A, B, C, D and E. But due to our hectic work schedule, sometimes our diets may be compromised.

Packed with all the vitamins and important minerals from a blend of 40 fruits and vegetables, PlusHealth Complete-Vita ($19.50) ensures you get your sufficient dose of vitamins daily.


THEY PRIORITIZE SLEEP Want to reduce your stress levels, have better memory, live longer and spur your creativity? Get enough sleep. Studies have shown that adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more. In a 2009 study, the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. Children who go to bed at the same time every night are also less likely to be obese. Not enough sleep and feeling drained from juggling work and family? Give PlusHealth Coconut Oil 100s ($28.00) a go. Coconut oil is a source of antioxidants, and improves energy, endurance and metabolism. The Coconut Oil 100s from HealthPlus does not utilize any solvents in the manufacturing process.


THEY ARE CLOSE WITH THEIR GRANDPARENTS/PARENTS AND IN-LAWS Connections between generations can have long-term benefits for grandparents, parents and children.

A study done by the Journal of Family Psychology found that adolescents who had more grandparent involvement in their lives had fewer emotional problems and were more social than those who had less involvement. Be sure your kids and parents and parents-in-laws have plenty of time to connect and interact. The next time you pay your parents or in-laws a visit, don’t go empty handed. Bring along a bottle of PlusHealth Garlic Parsley ($15.20) for them. It is a unique blend supports heart health and helps maintains healthy cholesterol levels. Garlic is also known as "nature's antibiotic" for its compounds and parsley promotes digestion.

All mentioned supplements are available at EMED Pharmacy, Blk 505B Bishan St 11, #01-422 Singapore 572505. They are also available online at www.emedsg. com EMED Pharmacy is a community based pharmacy, with online shopping services, aimed at providing affordable pharmaceutical drugs, health and nutritional supplements, over-the-counter medications, skin care, and medical devices to the general population. Their vision is to provide each consumer a holistic and value add approach to better health. This article is supported by EMED Pharmacy.

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What types of candies are the worst for your teeth? Here are 4 types to refrain your child from eating excessively.

Expert: Dr Stephanie Yap, Dental Surgeon The Dental Studio, a subsidiary of Singapore Medical Group (SMG)

Practice address: The Dental Studio 11 Collyer Quay #03-28 Singapore 049317

Candies that are sticky and chewy in nature

Taffy, toffee, honey, molasses, caramel, jelly beans The sticky, chewy goodness that comes in the form of a taffy or a gummy bear may be your child’s favourite sweet treat, but the sticky nature of the sweet treat makes it more difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. WHAT NEXT? If your child does not practice good oral hygiene habits, frequent consumption of sticky sweets could cause dental decay very quickly.

Sour candy

Warheads and sour skittles Sour candies are popular treats among young people. They are colourful, fun and are flavourful. However, sour candies like warheads contain high levels of citric and ascorbic acid, with a pH acidity

level ranging from 1.6-2.4. The acid within the candy demineralises the hard outermost tooth surface called the enamel. If the acid exposure to the tooth is short, the saliva can help to replenish the lost minerals in the enamel and the tooth can regain its hardness. However, if your child is sucking on sour candy for a prolonged period of time, the saliva is unable to work against the acid attack, and the enamel gets eroded away. Teeth without enamel are prone to decay, tooth sensitivity, and erosion cavities. WHAT NEXT?


Coke, Sprite, Sports drinks such as 100 plus and Gatorade Sodas, like regular coke or sprite contains high amounts of simple sugars. If your child drinks soft drinks frequently, the sugar

constantly bathes the tooth surfaces without allowing time for saliva to contact the teeth for repair. WHAT NEXT? Dental decay can occur quickly. In addition, sodas, like sour candies are acidic in nature, and prolonged exposure of teeth enamel to soft drinks can lead to dental erosion or cavities.

Dried fruit Many parents may think that dried fruit are a good substitute to sweet treats because they are packed with vitamins. However, dried fruits not only contain high amounts of sugar, their chewy nature has a high tendency to get lodged in tooth crevices and in between teeth.

No sweets at all? The key is to give your child treats at the right time- during meals. During mealtime, saliva flow is the highest, so the protective capability of the increased saliva volume helps to neutralise the acids and prevent teeth from decay. However, frequent snacking of sweet food and drinks in between meals causes the mouth to remain in an acidic state, which provides an environment for decay to occur.


Try to limit snacks as much as possible. If your child wishes to snack, you could try substituting high-sugar foods (complex and simple sugars included) with foods that help stop the progress of dental decay. Think cheese, sugar-free candies, or sugar-free chewing gum, depending on how old your child is.

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not being chosen, or not getting the toys they want, or that they are not going to be able to play for the entire day at school. These are essential as rules are set in preschools too.

Do you exposure your tot to different social settings? Bring your toddler out to various community places where they can learn by observing and interacting with people of different race and background. Anxiety usually arises when they are faced with unfamiliar settings. This may result in behaviours where they exhibit distress or reluctance by clinging to parents.

Schooling Your Tot Expert: Ms Prama Devi, Principal of Kinderland @ Ministry of Education

Prepping your toddler for their first day of school takes time. Here are important questions to ask yourself before school begins.

Does your home environment have structure? Like adults, children need time to adjust to changes. A home


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environment that is predictable and has a routine or structure with allows for easier transitioning from home to preschool. Toddlers would be able to see the similarities of the activities at home and school, which will help them get into the rhythm by the first week of orientation. A home environment with structure would also mean that parents set limits. Saying ‘no’ teaches your toddler that things aren’t always open-ended, and there are going to be limits. They need to be emotionally prepared to handle

Do you provide ample prep time in the morning? Take time in the morning to do preparations tasks together with your toddler before heading out to preschool. This sets the tone for the day. Make it a daily routine where your toddler can practice self-help skills where they dress themselves. Rushing and herding a sleepy child to rush to school and work would put a damper in anyone’s day.

Do you include an arrival time routine? Be punctual and arrive during morning assembly. Teachers are there to greet your child warmly and interact in an informal setting during health screening. This simple act of arrival galvanizes the concept of trust. When your toddler sees you and their teachers in a respectful and trusting relationship, it creates rapport and a sense of familiarity. Children who usually arrive late to school miss that special window of interaction richness that assembly routine can provide.

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“I Don’t Want To Go To School!” Why is your little one so reluctant to go to school? Jenny Tai lists down 5 possible reasons and solutions to tackle them.

#1 THEY’RE NEW TO THE ENVIRONMENT Your child could be experiencing separation anxiety at a whole new level when they transition from home to school. Home is where they


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feel safest – and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with preferring the comfort of the home and a parent or caretaker’s presence; as adults, don’t we feel most at ease in our own household too?

WHAT YOU CAN DO Allow them to miss home. At home, your kid knows where everything is: which light switch to reach for, which door leads to which room. They have


their own toys and bed and they’re free to sit, sprawl, and do as they wish. Of course they would miss that freedom and comfort while they’re at school! Wouldn’t you? Be patient with them. If your child is anxious about going to school because it’s a new place, empathize with them and give them time to become familiar with the pace of events at school. Gradually as they become accustomed to the faces of their teachers and peers, and learn the layout of their classroom and campus, their separation anxiety should lessen.

#2 T HE SCHOOL DAY FEELS TOO LONG WHAT YOU CAN DO Reassure them that no matter what, they’ll get to come home. It sounds obvious, like something they should already know, but as children they could have an irrational fear that you’re leaving them at school forever. “Ensure that you explain clearly beforehand what they can expect and what they can expect from you. For example, that you will come back at a certain time – and make sure you are on time. Whatever you say to your child, be sure to always follow through. Building trust in your child is paramount to enabling them to feel safe and confident,” advised Fiona Walker, Group Manager Director of Julia Gabriel Education.

#3 THEY DREAD THE LESSONS AND FEEL ACADEMIC PRESSURE Perhaps they feel like they’re falling behind on schoolwork. Maybe they’re demotivated because they

don’t understand everything that’s taught. WHAT YOU CAN DO Talk to their teachers about their struggles and progress. Cooperate, rather than interfere with their teachers, to come up with ways for your child to better understand the material. “Think about how your child learns best. Most children are capable of learning most things – how they learn is what makes the difference!” said Ms Walker. “Young children especially must enjoy what they are doing in order to feel inspired and motivated to learn. Find a way to make the activity something they can relate to. In all cases, avoid chastising your child! Praise their effort and the fact that they have tried.”


Kids – especially groggy kids – don’t do well when they’re being rushed and told, “Hurry up! You’ll be late! ” several times. It also sounds like the recipe to a morning tantrum. WHAT YOU CAN DO Establish a clear morning routine. Make sure they’re going to bed early so that they get substantial sleep. If they don’t get enough rest, they’re bound to wake up cranky, and that could contribute to their refusal to go to school. Aim for a slower morning, not a tense one. An earlier wake-up time gives them more of a buffer to brush their teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast – and even have some time to play before leaving the house. For

working parents, precious morning time with bub can do wonders in setting their school day off to a good start. If it’s an option to let your little one go to school a little later, you might consider letting them sleep in so that they wake up naturally. However, if they have to be at school on time, then rather than letting them sleep in, consider starting their morning routine earlier (again, just make sure their bedtime is early, too).


According to Ms. Walker, “As children’s understanding of the world around them develops and their experiences increase, they start to feel affected by the attitude of their peers, so you are more likely to witness anxieties in your child, especially as they move from kindergarten to primary school. “ Perhaps your child is afraid of going to school because they feel unpopular. Friendship fall-outs might occur, but unless there’s bullying involved, try not to get involved. It’s heartbreaking to see their feelings hurt. WHAT YOU CAN DO If they come to you crying that they have no friends, let them know that they are loved and supported within their family. Your family is their home base; that’s where you give 100% in making sure they feel valued. Encourage them to express themselves openly, and empower them to share their thoughts; that way, they will be “less likely to feel phased by any new experiences or group situations,” Ms. Walker said.

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growing up

Be A Kid Again!

Becoming a parent doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to spontaneity. Dorothea Chow lists 10 ways to stay child-like and enjoy life with your kids to the fullest.


Sing in the rain

Which child doesn’t like stomping in puddles and catching rain on his tongue? Once in a while, ditch those brollies and have a splashin’ good time with your kids in the downpour. Also, it makes for the perfect excuse to snag those awesome wellies you’ve been secretly eyeing…


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Play with water

There’s nothing quite like some water play to make the most jaded and cynical of adults a little child again. And you don’t necessarily have to go to a fancy water playground to make that happen – the best of water play can be got in the comfort of your own home! Think fingerpaint on bathroom walls, blowing soapy bubbles, or even

taking some water guns down to the park. Just make sure you look before you shoot.


Join in their games

Most children enjoy all sorts of pretend play, ranging from masak masak to role-playing at doctors or superheroes, or copying their favourite cartoon characters. Don’t settle for only being a spectator. Leave your ego at the door and jump into the fray! Feel free to be part of other games like Hide-and-Seek, What’s the time, Mister Wolf? or Tag. Your children will love the added thrill of looking for mummy or daddy, who

would have found the best hiding spot!


Make a little mess

Every home has house rules, to be sure, but a little mess can be fun for the whole family. Whether it is baking in the kitchen, chalk drawing along the common corridor, working with glitter art in the living room, or even making gooey slime on the dining table, the main thing is spending fun times together and leaving the clean up till later.


Pillow fight

Let your bed be the pillow ‘ring’ and be prepared to fluff it out with your kids. Use small pillows, bolsters, cushions, and stuffed toys. Lay extra pillows, mattresses and mats on the floor around the bed, just in case someone takes a tumble.


Follow their lead

Once in a while, let your kids make the call, and get ready for some exciting adventures! Parents can take this as an act of faith in their kids. Let them choose where to go one weekend, and let them decided how to get there and what to do there. I know one mum who brought her son the bus stop, and asked him to pick a bus number. They boarded that bus, alighted wherever her son wanted to get off, and explored the area where they had alighted from. They ate whatever they saw that caught their eye, and stopped to admire bits of nature along the way. Nothing complicated, just a simple day out around Singapore, but such a great way to relearn and to enjoy

the simplest of things again – like a child.


Shout at the top of your lungs

Make a list of all the things you are mad or worried about and literally let it all out someplace safe. Possible venues can be a breakwater on the beach, but not on weekends unless you want everyone to stop and stare. You can also try them in your car, while driving along the expressway, with the windows down. And of course, avoid doing so at the peak hour.


Make funny faces

Anytime, anywhere - funny faces are a quick fix to that cynical adult attitude, and lighten up the mood right away. Plus funny faces with your kids can make for some unforgettable moments when least expected.


Plan a party together Birthdays are a great time to

celebrate, but you don’t really need to wait a whole year just to have a party almost any occasion can be an excuse really, like the start of the school holidays, Christmas, a long weekend or Children’s Day. As adults, we often have some preconceived notions of what a ‘successful’ party should look like, but our children may often have something completely different in mind. So begin on a blank slate and plan that party with your kids, and you might just be amazed at what it feels like to think from a child’s perspective once more.


Re-live your childhood

Introduce your children to the momentos and experiences of your own childhood. Bring in games you used to play as a kid and have fun together. Or pack the picnics your mother used to pack, visit places you used to go and share your childhood stories with your children.

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growing up





Expert: Fiona Walker, Principal of Schools and CEO of Julia Gabriel Education

Has social media and texting has changed the way we speak and write? Will this affect our children when they come to formal writing and speaking?


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OMG! Can u imagine if 2days technology resulted in 2morrow’s gen growing up w/o the skills 2 write or speak properly coz they only know how 2 comms P3r50n 2 P3r50n like diz! That wud b a tragedy! LOL! E-shorthand, cyber slang and chat acronyms are the norm of social media and high tech gadgets today. Our fingers and thumbs do the talking in ways unimaginable 15 or so years ago. Children who are able to use these gadgets are also getting increasingly younger. But here’s the thing. As long

as schools continue to teach the conventions of writing and speaking and the adults in a young child’s life model good communication skills too, e-shorthand can be a positive addition to a child’s literacy repertoire. It is up to us to ensure that our children are not learning to write on a smartphone.

Short and Sweet

Social media conversations are meant to be quick, easy and familiar; applications are purposefully designed only to allow a certain number of characters. When space is limited, there is little choice but to get

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growing up

creative. A social media conversation today might even simply be a line of pictograms - enter the emoji. The fact is that short form writing has been around for a lot longer than we imagine. OMG as an acronym for ‘Oh My God!’ first appeared in a letter written by Admiral Lord Fisher to Winston Churchill in 1917. LOL has been in use for decades, with various meanings over the years: ‘Lots of love’ and more commonly today, ‘Laughing out loud’. Both these terms have evolved into modern mainstream vernacular.

It Can Help Your Child Speak or Write Better

Through exposure to high tech communication gadgets our children have the advantage of growing up ‘bilingual’ given the right conditions. A joint study by Coventry University and the University of Tasmania indicates that text messaging does not damage young children’s grasp of the English language, it may actually help improve it. According to Clare Wood, Professor of Psychology in Education at Coventry University, the reason behind many positive associations between texting slang and spelling outcomes is due to the similar phonetics used in the text abbreviation. Many of such short forms are phonetically based. For example, ‘gr8’ and ‘1daful’.

Switching Interchangeably

The ability to code switch between text speak and more formal language is


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similar to when a young child who has been immersed in several languages or dialects from the earliest age understands when to use Mandarin and with whom and when to switch to English, for example. At some level, we have to trust that our children can work out for themselves the purpose of their communications. My son, who is 13 years old, keeps in touch with many friends through short messages on apps like Instagram, yet I never worry that when he speaks to grandma his conversation is going to be a string of abbreviations and acronyms!

Laying Strong Foundations

The key to ensuring this balance of skills is down to us parents. Problems will arise if we do not expose children to formal literacy models when young. They have to acquire solid communications skills - how to write, and speak, with whole words and in full sentences, for school, face to face communication and later for their professional life. How to lay strong foundations for formal writing skills: Provide plenty of opportunities for art and craft, including scribbling - an early form of writing. Make sure your child learns how to hold crayons and pencils correctly. Help your little one with their writing practice, as they trace the dotted outline of letters. Use different coloured pencils or crayons and practise with them.

Ensure your child is surrounded by a variety of quality print media; books, newspapers, brochures that expose them to whole language and different scripts. Model appropriate communications skills to your child. Read with and to your child, using as much expression as possible. Let them hear the colour and depth of whole text. Encourage your child to create hand-written thank you and birthday cards/letters for friends and relatives. In this age of real-time communication, it is such a joy to receive an envelope in the post! Ensure your child is introduced to a quality phonics programme when very young. E-shorthand is a from of language that has a place in the way we communicate today. While it is an advantage for children to grow up linguistically bilingual, that is, to be able to switch comfortably from text-speak or cyber slang to formal written and spoken language, for this to happen successfully there is no substitute for teaching formal writing conventions and most importantly, laying the foundations for strong literacy skills as early as possible. When we do this, we can view casual social media language as another genre of writing - not wrong, not bad, simply different. And it is up to us - parents and teachers - to role-model, monitor and remind our children that each language form has its rightful place.

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growing up

When Junior Doesn’t Act His Age

It is not uncommon for children to regress and act younger than their actual age. But to what extent is such behaviour acceptable? Som Yew Ya raises potential red flags and what parents can do about it.


Children regress for a myriad of reasons. Your 6 year old may lapse into using incoherent language, or your usually independent 8 year old suddenly wants to sleep in your bed for the next few nights.


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Progression through developmental milestones is not necessarily linear. There can be developmental ups and downs or surges during childhood. Children under stress may revert to behaviour which soothes or gives them back control.

Transitional factors come into play as well. A change in environment (i.e. new school or city), the arrival of a sibling, loss of a loved one, and divorce, are examples of unfamiliar situations. Most difficulties are age-appropriate and reflective of a

child’s developmental stage. Responses to stressful situations are normal, and in most children, the behaviour fades over time.


Dr Karyn Purvis, American psychologist, researcher and author of The Connected Child, advises parents to refrain from turning away their children when they come with needs, even if they are expected to be able to do it themselves. Don’t say: “You are supposed to know how to do this, you are a big kid”, or “Aiden is also 7. He doesn’t need his mum to walk him, how come you do?” or “What’s wrong with you?” Do Acknowledge and accept the feelings underlying the behaviour. The feelings can be reflected by saying something like “Seems like it is tough to be X years old. I suppose sometimes you wish you were younger again” or “I wonder with all the attention the new baby is getting, does it make you wish you would like to be a baby again too?” Acknowledgment of your child’s feelings also provides insight for them into why they are feeling that way and may provide an avenue for expression in other ways. It may not be always easy to decipher the reason for the regression but usually the behaviour is a call for attention and assurance. Parents need to appreciate that in times of need, your children turn to you. A balanced approach would be to patiently be with them and explain or guide through the situation. You may worry that by responding, you are condoning or encouraging the behaviour. This is not true. By

showing understanding, it may alleviate your child’s efforts to continue the behaviour. Ignoring the behaviour may exacerbate the situation and parents may miss out on the potential issue.


There may be times when such behaviours may require help. Ms Eliza Leong, Educational and Development Psychologist practising at the Thomson Paediatric Centre (The Child Development Centre), lists some helpful factors that parents should look out for: 1. Duration of the behaviour Parents should consider whether this is a one-time behaviour or has been persisting over an extended period of time. If it is the latter, parents are recommended to seek support. 2. Intensity of the behaviour This depends on the child's age and temperament. If the parent has noticed that the behaviour is extreme compared to the child's typical behaviour, and is not age-appropriate, they should seek professional help. 3. The impact of the behaviour on the child in various settings Observe the impact of the child's behaviour across various settings. For example, if the behaviour is impacting the child's functioning across more than one area (e.g. personal, family, school), the recommendation would be to get professional help to see whether there are additional underlying issues attributing to the child's behaviour.

4. Age appropriateness of the behaviour Whilst it is normal for children to develop skills at different rates, extreme deviation from ageappropriate behaviour (e.g. having 2-hour meltdowns when a child is 8 years old) is a cause for concern.


 Withdrawal from activities

which the child used to enjoy  Frequent temper tantrums which last for a long time, and is high in intensity  Intentional defiance and refusal to obey rules  Intentionally causing harm to animals or people  Self-harm  Verbalized thoughts of selfharm or suicidal ideations


If something is developmentally wrong, Ms Leong recommends parents to seek professional help so as to get a better understanding of the child’s developmental delay. A paediatrician or a psychologist can conduct an assessment on the child’s developmental needs. Depending on the assessment results, they may be referred for further intervention such as to a speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist or even an early intervention program. Early intervention has been found to be most effective in the long term and helps prevent further complications in the future.

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special needs

We Are Humans Too Many children and adults with special needs feel isolated, discriminated and abandoned. A few individuals with special needs and their parents open up to Sid Hamid.

“I felt like an alien living in this world. Every day is a challenge, everyday is about coping. The worst is in 2014, during the transition from Primary to Secondary School. In secondary school, unfortunately my friends grew up to become rude, mean, unfeeling and impatient. I have a hard time catching up socially. The whole class is so adamant about accusing me for touching some girls’ hand and shoulder. They felt so vindicated that they found a


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common enemy in class so that some boys can be deemed a “hero” to do what they have done in a class Whatsapp chat. This malevolent action to me, was tantamount to a ‘Cyber Gang Rape’. I was deeply affected by ostracism and abusive words, but I never gave up. Everyday, I will go to school and be nice to everyone, hoping that they will accept me” The above is a recount of James* experience at school. James is fifteen this year and diagnosed with Aspergers. He is currently studying in a local mainstream school. James's mother, *Pam, 43, shares how she was affected when she found out about her son's experience. “This horrific incident has left a deep scar on me emotionally. I was in depression for the whole year, fearing that people will mistreat him or misunderstand him. The guilt in me was rampant. I blamed myself for not paying enough attention on his transition from Primary to Secondary school. I blamed myself for being a single mum until I met my wonderful husband. I blamed myself for everything under the sun. However, every cloud has its silver lining, my husband suggested that we change his school. That’s when things turned around for the better which he excelled and matured in the current school. Everyone, to a certain extent, does get impatient with him socially because of the awkwardness, including myself. As his mother, sometimes, I do get impatient trying to teach him the survival and social skills in this practical world. After all, he has to adapt to the world, not the world to him. I have gradually learned to just focus on

the attitude and perspective of him and our family because it is the only thing within our control”

Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

It takes a lot of effort for children and adults with special needs to fully participate in life in an equal and meaningful way. Besides their medical and therapy needs, they also need to overcome barriers in the society that constantly dis-able them that may come in the form of stigma, myths, negative attitudes and assumptions made by people without special needs of what they can do or cannot do. *Fifi Coo, a 9 year old boy with autism, expresses his struggles that are invisible to others through one of his FB posts:

in their own lives in some way. We never struggled to respect who he was as a person. We only struggled to understand his uneven sensory profile and his many odd and bizarre behaviours which often prevented us from understanding his true personality and character as a unique individual. There is a general lack of empathy. Our society is taken in by an obsession with high achievements in children when they are young. It is a natural assumption that in a meritocratic society, all children, when given sufficient opportunities are supposed to shine. Little is said however, about those lacking in natural abilities that people take for granted, not for want of trying. This is compounded by a lack of understanding as to what causes these problems in the first place. How often have we as parents been blamed and scolded

No person will ever comprehend, how hard it is when I hardly feel my hands. Unless you have autism you won’t understand, why we sit for hours just sifting sand. I only want to play, in such a way, to awaken my senses, it sometimes takes all day. I need help, I need to be consoled, trapped in a body that I cannot control. Fifi Coo’s mother, *Dong, 52 year old talks about how she dealt with her son’s obstacles: “As parents, we feel sad for our son who continues to be misunderstood by people around him outside his family. We hope that society will one day be able to look beyond his behaviours. People here generally do not seek to try to understand individuals with autism unless they themselves are touched by autism

Image extracted from Fifi Coo to showcase his Facebook page. Produced with permission.

for the way our child behaves!”

"We Share The Same Desires And Aspirations" Children and adults with special needs share the same desires like others. What they want in life is to go to the school, have friends, play, succeed in their

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special needs

passions and what they are good at so they can contribute to their own personal development, well-being and have equal opportunities to contribute back to society. Given the right environment, support and most importantly, belief in their abilities, strengths and talents, they can thrive in life! Malcolm Lim, 13-year-old boy with

Malcolm’s caregiver, Cindy Chee, a 40-year old single mother echoed her son’s sentiments: “We want people to treat us as a person and have the awareness to allow us to feel safe, enjoy good health and become prepared in life especially when I am no longer around to shadow him”

"Include Us In Your Lives And See Us Succeed"

Malcolm writing his answers to my questions during the interview. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Lim.

autism, non-verbal and currently studying in Rainbow Centre - Yishun Park School (RCYPS) was clear about what he wants: “I want to tell people that I can do it ! I have started writing my journal in May 2016 about the things I do and feel. Besides that, in order for people to start to understand, I will try to talk to people with my mouth and be the same as others. I want to demand people to treat us with respect. They can sit with me, play with me and be my friend. I want friends..I don’t have friends at all” What is his dream? Malcom claims: “I want to be a baker who bake cakes for my families and my friends. I want people to love my love and passion for baking”


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Being accepted, valued and celebrated as a person and a human being should be the enabling factor for children and adults with special needs to thrive and lead a respectful life. Derrick Tan, 35-years old, Head of Operations, Sunny Heights Dog Daycare Centre grew up and identified with his special needs where he displayed traits of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) such as being inattentive, impulsive and overactive across all areas of his life. When he was younger, his family did not have the financial means to send him for assessment and intervention. Over time and having people

recognizing and supporting him with his special needs, he learnt to overcome his challenges and is currently making strides to help other children with special needs to be able to express themselves therapeutically with cats. From his experience growing up with special needs, he shares this nugget of wisdom: “Being able to accept myself for my special needs has always been a challenge. However, if I am able to accept how different I am, then I don’t need to care what other people think about me. Accepting myself is a big thing for me – if you cannot accept yourself as someone with special needs, then how do you expect people around you to accept you?” Perhaps we need to reset our expectations and aspirations for children and adults with special needs. By embracing inclusive attitudes, we celebrate the transformation of children and adults with and without special needs in our communities, together with their families. *Names have been change. Derrick engaging his animals in the daycare centre. Photo courtesy of Derrick Tan.

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special needs

Managing Older Kids With Sensory Issues And Language And Speech Needs How do you bring out the best in your child, who has sensory or speech and language issues as they grow up? Make it as appealing and cater to their interest, says our experts.


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Clare Shannon, Speech and Language Therapist, Thye Hua Kwan Therapy Services Georgina KnightHassell, Occupational Therapist, THK Therapy Services, THK Children Therapy Centre

SENSORY STIMULATION Explain The Why If you want them to listen to your suggestions, make sure they have an understanding of why they are doing what they are doing. Older kids may already have a developed sense of what they like and what they do not like. “Booster” therapy or counselling may be helpful as this enables them to understand the “why” and “what” they need to do. This is particularly beneficial when faced with new situations and challenges such as new colleges, schools, clubs and getting to know new friends.

What Interests Them? It is important for you to look at each person individually and seek ways that best suits them. Interests and activities must be relevant to that age group. At a stage where they are seeking to be independent, getting them to complete tasks in an Occupational Therapy (OT) gym or in a 1:1 session with a Speech Language Therapist can seem rather “babyish” or too familiar. What might be more useful is to get involved in outside interests,

clubs, classes, groups, sports and training centres that are suitable to meet their sensory challenges and speech and language needs. Like most pre-teens or teens, they want to fit in and not stand out. Consider community and special interest groups such as, hip hop, skate boarding, robotics, art, or drama, they help provide movement to help with sensory modulation and processing.

Set Goals Once they are interested in participating in an activity, make sure they are motivated to keep it going. Get them to set their own goals (e.g. completing in sports events such as tennis tournaments or dance and drama shows). Above all, encourage them to try to achieve their goals and aims. On the market, there are many devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone watches or inbuilt cardio apps on phones to help monitor their own progress which can help them to get out and moving.

Sensory-Based Home Activities At home, consider sensory activities as part of their daily routines i.e. daily stretches and the types of food they eat to help with regulation. Provide sensory areas in their rooms e.g. bean bag chairs or headphones for music where they can self-regulate and exercise in private. Provide alternative furniture and equipment to help provide more movement whilst in their study room working on assignments. Simple ideas such as a gym ball or even a quirky shaped bean bag chair can make a difference.

DEVELOPING LANGUAGE AND SPEECH SKILLS Although language is still developing during through the teenage years, it may not be possible to close the gap between skill level and grade level. This can be difficult for your child. Focus on teaching ways to compensate for language difficulties instead. The key to developing language skills lies in reading, social experiences and exposure to education.

Emphasize On The How Be sure to emphasize how to learn rather than what to learn. Some strategies used in teaching older children with language difficulties include; inferring and identifying main ideas from conversation and written text using context, learning complex words and vocabulary associated with certain school subjects (e.g. history geography, science etc), graphic organisers to plan assignments (e.g. schedules, checklists) and spell check and grammar check (in electronic format).

Is The Mode Of Communication Accessible? Each individual is different, and each child may use a different mode of communication e.g. speech, sign language, speech generating devices, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) devices. When you are choosing activities for your child make sure that they are activities in which they are able to access

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special needs

their mode of communication. If they are using PECS or a computerized AAC device, it is vital that they have access to the appropriate vocabulary that is related to that activity, so they can communicate their wants and needs effectively.

Do The Activities Appeal To Them? Look for activities that are internally appealing and motivating for young people. Older children like to try things out, explore and weigh the pros and cons before coming to a decision. That way, they get to know and understand what works for them and what does not. Not everyone likes to be in groups, some prefer individual attention, some like outdoors, whilst others prefer to stay indoors. Consider their personality, or their own preferences and skill level. Tap on their interest in social media, encourage them to look at websites, such as workouts and dance steps on “YouTube”, which incorporate sensory movement and input especially for those who are not good being in groups or dislike being in crowds When encouraging them to achieve their speech and language goals, you can motivate them by using materials that interest them. For example, reading and discussing articles about a hobby they are interested in, books about their favourite TV character or engaging in conversations during activities that they enjoy.

Extra Help Needed Older kids with speech and language needs may need further support and education regarding different social media platforms as each of these social


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media platforms come with their own vocabulary and a variety of social ‘rules’. Those who are using these platforms may require specific education on how they are used but may also require education about what is socially ‘appropriate’ communication on these platforms. Be sure to check in with their teachers or Speech and Language Therapists to devise an appropriate education plan when using social media.

Speech And Language Home Activities Speech and language activities are part of everyday communication at

home. You may like to establish a work table or work space for your child where they can work on ‘worksheets’ or table top tasks that help them with their language development. Make sure that they can use their mode of communication effectively at all times of the day. If they use an alternative communication mode to speech, always have their communication book or AAC device at hand so they can express their wants and needs as easy as they can. Use strategies such as repetition of vocabulary, modelling and demonstration of use of vocabulary, sentence types and check understanding

for the parent

Are You Pushing Your Kids Too Much? We do a lot of things with the intention of helping our kids realise their full potential. But if we’re not careful, we might miss the signals that our kids are overworked and stressed. Jenny Tai asks experts for the signs.

Think back to the days when our children were merely newborns. It didn’t take much for them to amaze us. We were won over by their sleeping faces, their burps and yawns and crooked smiles, their ability to hold their lolling heads upright for a fraction of a second. We celebrated it all. But at some point, we developed expectations, and as our children grew, no longer babies, they were supposed to meet them. This is especially true when the schooling years approach and with it, a heightening sense of competition and fear of being behind.


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Suddenly, it’s not enough that our kids are happy and well-fed, that their basic needs are met. Now it’s about getting them to perform and excel too. Motivating our kids can be tricky. You want to encourage without over-praising, lest you rear a peoplepleaser. You instill a strict “study time” for them, but get exasperated when they rely on your reminders and supervision so much that they’re unable to do their homework independently. Perhaps you establish a rewards system every time they get top marks. But what do you do when they

fail? A punishment could be a blow to their self-esteem.


Not all stress is equal. We asked Dr. Vanessa von Auer, clinical psychologist at VA Psychology Center, to differentiate between good and bad stress. Beneficial stress, known as “eustress,” motivates children to be productive and accomplish tasks. “This type of stress is usually short-term and within a child’s coping abilities,” she said. Unhealthy stress or “distress” can lead to increased anxiety, hopelessness,

and decreased performance. According to Dr. von Auer, “This type of stress is perceived to be outside a child’s coping abilities or control, which is why many children then usually give up, shut down or act out, behaviourally or emotionally.” The long term effects of being overstressed could result in the child’s body reacting physically. “When a child feels over-pressured, the body responds by releasing a series of chemicals that affect their hearts, blood pressure, brain and metabolism… When this happens too often, children can experience serious illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other conditions, as they grow up,” said Dr. von Auer. Fiona Walker, Group Manager Director of Julia Gabriel Education adds, "Research strongly indicates that rigid schedules, oppressive learning practices and harsh criticism when young children fail to live up to expectations, leads to low esteem, demotivation to learn and a lack of selfconfidence. Pushing too hard can lead to burnout and depression in children as young as 9 or 10 years old - and even suicide in early teens in the worst cases."


How do you know when you’re pushing your child too much? Dr. von Auer shares a few signs to look for: A change in behaviour: your child is more irritable or negative about themselves, their lives and their studies Sleeping problems Stress eating or under-eating


What about instances when your child is facing a task within their coping abilities - but they’re not responding well to the least bit of difficulty at all? Learning isn’t mean to be 100% easy, after all. So, going back to the topic of “good stress” there must be a way for parents to better empower their children to cope with short-term challenges within their reach. But how? According to Ms. Walker, pressuring your kid in these instances could add to their feelings of stress and fear. You don’t want this opposite effect to take place. So what should you do? “Stop and allow your child some down time,” Fiona said. “In fact, allow them plenty of regular down time and quiet time. Allow them to switch off and relax. This may mean going outside for a

walk, getting some fresh air or watching their favourite TV programme before returning to the activity.” When educating your child, always aim for firm and nurturing support. If you're still worried that you're pushing your kid too hard at an early age, here is a list of questions from Ms. Walker to help you re-assess your priorities and approach: Are you flexible about your child’s schedule? Do you consider your child’s academic achievements to be more important than their self-esteem? Do you offer positive, nurturing feedback when your child makes a mistake or do you criticise harshly and punish? Do you focus on your child’s weaknesses rather than their strengths? What activities does your child enjoy most? What makes them light up? They are most likely to succeed at what they enjoy! Are the goals you set for your child realistic? Do you demand or encourage your child to complete tasks? How does your child respond to your approach? Does pushing them motivate them to want to try again or have the opposite effect? When working on a problem or activity, it’s natural for kids—or anyone for that matter—to feel frustrated that they don’t “get” it. If your child reacts poorly to being corrected over and over, or is stubbornly refusing to continue, the more you insist that they complete it there and then, the more likely they will resist. Remember the above tips by our expert and reflect on your approach when you notice your child stressing out.

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