Wednesday | December 12, 2018
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How to Foster Lifelong Learning in Your Teen

The brain is rapidly developing in the teenage years.

​We all want our kids to enjoy learning and to make the most of their education. We place value in ensuring they work hard, study for their tests do their homework to the best of their abilities and appreciate the educational opportunities they’ve been giving. A good education truly is a gift.

This sense of curiosity might be even more important than parents realize. Research has shown that curiosity impacts performance as much as hard work. When you’re curious about a subject and study up on it, you tend to retain that information for longer periods. It’s also associated with positive behaviours such as tolerance for uncertainty, humour and out-of-the-box thinking.

​These are all skills associated with happiness, resilience, creativity and intellectual growth.

So how do we foster that sense of lifelong learning in kids? How do we ensure they grow up with a sense of curiosity that will motivate them to want to learn and explore throughout their entire lives? Here are a few tips:

Encourage your children to ask questions. If your child asks a question, don’t brush them off with a simple answer such as “I don’t know.” Don’t simply say “good question.” Go the extra step further and help them find the answer to the question they have asked.

Maybe it’s a matter of going to the library and finding a book that explains the topic. Maybe you can go online together and read the literature. Take them to a museum or help them interview someone who has the answer.

​There are so many methods of learning and ways to find answers. ​What is your child’s preferred method? Maybe they are more hands-on. Maybe they enjoy learning by opening a book. Let them know how much you value their curiosity and reward them by helping them discover the answer. They will enjoy the journey and not hesitate to approach you the next time they are curious.

Talk to your child’s teacher. When you communicate with your son or daughter’s teacher either casually or during more formal parent-teacher interviews, ask if they have noticed whether there is anything in particular your child is curious about. What is their favourite subject? What style of learner are they? Do they seem particularly curious about anything? If not, perhaps they have suggestions for how you can stimulate a sense of wonder. Your teacher will know things about your child that you might not have noticed and their experience in the education field will give them valuable insight into your particular child.

​Let your child’s teacher know how committed you are to being involved and in fostering an appreciation for lifelong learning in your child. You are a team dedicated to furthering your child’s education and you share the same goals. Don’t hesitate to speak openly to your child’s teachers about this topic.

Encourage your teen to do their homework well. If you step in and help your child right away, they might not have the opportunity to assess whether they understand the work. By helping, you deny giving them a chance to see how resourceful they are. You will also give them the chance to realize what questions their homework will spark. They might even discover they don’t understand the homework at all.  You’ll want to make yourself available, of course, to answer questions or suggest ways in which they might find the answers.

If you’re stuck on how to facilitate the process, here are a few suggestions:

  • If your child doesn’t understand what is being asked of them when you’re helping them with an assignment, you might want to read the question together and say, “What do you think the question is asking?”
  • If they don’t understand what they are supposed to do as they work on their homework, try asking them if they have any ideas for how to solve the problem.
  • If your child is unsure of the assignment, suggest calling a friend or reviewing their notes from class. Follow up the next day and make sure they understand or asked for help from the teacher.

Ensure learning happens outside the classroom, too. As much as we prioritize in-class learning, there is so much to be discovered outside of the class as well. The best way to foster additional opportunities is to encourage your child to participate in extra-curricular activities. Perhaps they like sports, music or want to learn a language. Sign them up for a class at the local community centre or in the neighbourhood. If they discover they aren’t interested in that particular activity, try another. Don’t give up. Extra-curricular activities are a great way to make friends, expand their skills, get exercise and figure out what they are interested in and what they aren’t.

Stimulating that sense of curiosity is very important and there are so many ways in which you can help build this sense of wonder in your child. Once you light that spark, there will be no stopping your child in their quest for lifelong learning.

December 6th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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New Trends in Education

Decades ago, when we thought of new trends in education, we would have perhaps moved between an inductive method to deductive, from instructional teaching to interactive learning.

Today, teaching has taken an e-turn where students want personalized learning methods and to reduce the dependency on teachers for instructions. Educators primarily play the role of mentors.

The dependence on digital technology by the youth of today can seem overwhelming to us. But we have to accept that these technologies are pushing the boundaries of learning and the way education is being delivered around the world.

For example, a recent survey by Research and Markets, “Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector 2017-2021”, predicts the use of AI in K12 and higher ed could grow 47.5 percent by 2021. Moreover, content is also available in varied formats, catering to diverse learning skills and dispositions.

 

Active participation

We cannot expect students to be passive recipients of lessons in a classroom. It is healthy to encourage them to be an active participant in framing the curriculum, choosing the learning resources and the method of learning that aids their understanding.

Each method of learning has a corollary cognitive impact. For example, a Wikipedia entry might generate more interest in a topic more than a traditional textbook or encyclopedia. Some children retain information through listening, others find visual-aid like videos, paintings or diagrams more useful. As parents, we need to help our kids understand what works best for them but most importantly, helps them learn.

While a lesson using Augmented or Virtual Reality might seem a wholesome experience and most importantly convenient, it might restrict imagination; a vital component in critical thought. We need to play the parent in such cases.

While being well-grounded in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and technical fields is critical for young people who will compete for the jobs of the future, a well-rounded knowledge of the arts helps them contextualize their education. So make sure your child learns is exposed to the arts and humanities and not just much mathematics.

 

The School

When choosing a school we need to keep in mind a few things.

  • How keen is a school in ensuring accessible infrastructure for children and their individual needs?
  • How much impact the school has had on the community. In short, is the school producing great citizens of tomorrow?

Gone are the days when soft skills were considered a part of upbringing at home or emotional well-being a personal affair. We are faced with a new political environment where schools have a worldview and they need to lead the way in sensitizing children to accommodate their sensibilities to a cosmopolitan space. There are bound to be stress, anxiety, and schools should be equipped to handle those. Hence a successful school would also invest in students’ social-emotional learning (SEL).

We need to assess a school based on how inclusive it is. Not just in terms of physical infrastructure but also in teaching tools. AR and VR will not be the same for children who have problems with vision.

Incorporating basic tech methods to interact with students over email, text, Google Docs, will facilitate shared learning and flexibility to work from anywhere they are. This cloud comes with a silver lining! We need to make sure the teachers are prepared to give a chance to the children, to understand that some children might be good at grasping texts, others might be good at digital-visual content. We should engage with the teacher regarding the cognitive skills of children.

 

The Career Conundrum

It would be a good idea to train children with the specificities of the industry early in their career while staying prepared for contingencies. For example, it might be great to learn the law as a subject, but a child might not have the temperament or interest to invest themselves in the demands of corporate set up. One might be interested in being a great publisher some day. But they need to be aware of the drudgery of proofreading a manuscript over and over again. In short parents/mentors need to be able to give a clear picture of the actual work that goes into making a career.

In meantime, as children are exposed to different circumstances, goalposts shifts, new interests surface. As parents how prepared are we for that kind of challenge? It would be wise to leave scope for rearrangement of career plans. While a bit of research on programmes and tour of the university would be a good idea, in many schools and districts, the power IoT (Internet of Things) is already being harnessed for keeping track of people, and their activities. Keeping track of performance and harnessing data to assess aptitude towards career could be of great help.

 

Assessment

How do we assess learning? We have to move beyond traditional parameters and employ newer metrics to assess learning. Its common sense that different people have different skills. Hence our standards of assessment should not be unfair in its basic tenets.

For example, Cheryl Morris, an English teacher at San Jose Middle School in the Novato Unified School District in suburban San Francisco, makes short videos of herself to discuss assigned texts. While a few students choose to watch Morris on video – either at home or in class – others prefer to read the texts themselves. Interestingly, by offering the flexibility to choose their preferred method of learning, Morris has been able to bring her students’ failure rate from 10-15% down to zero!

Thanks to these emerging trends in education, teachers are increasingly banking on online coursework and micro-credentials themselves to stay on top of rapidly evolving fields. According to a recent report by Blackboard, nearly forty percent of schools are now offering online professional development for their teachers, witnessing a two-fold increase in the figure available in 2013.

So our knowledge of new trends in education translates into actively participating in the process of schooling of our child. In the business of education, we are all stakeholders. The idea is to ensure holistic educational experience, assess challenges in reading, writing, comprehension or mathematics and always be on the lookout for fun-filled learning. Offering a slew of educational and interactive apps and games, companies like Kahoot! and Socrative have already made assessments more fun, affordable and accessible.

Big data is pushing boundaries in the business of education with more and more use of artificial intelligence to consolidate feedback as an additive factor to the understanding employed by the teacher or mentor.

October 29th, 2018

Posted In: Education, Parenting, Technology

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How to Effectively Talk to Your Teenager

Communicating with teens is a tricky affair which requires a great deal of mutual understanding between teens and their parents. According to Debbie Pincus, a relationship coach and creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program, teens and their parents are wired differently which makes communication a real challenge.

Due to the giant difference in their respective thought processes, parents should demonstrate empathy while communicating with their teens. However, in reality, many parents tend to push their kids, forcing them into a “zone” where they either erupt or completely tune them out. Unless parents follow a compassionate approach to talk to their teenagers, the communication gap widens, giving rise to mutual distrust and loss of respect.

So, here are a few tips for parents to consider while talking to their kids:

 

Understand and Empathize

Many of the so-called “helicopter parents” tend to push their kids into behaving in certain ways without even realizing the consequences of their actions. In all probability, such actions can be counter-productive.

As parents, you should always remember to walk in your child’s shoes before expecting them to share your concerns. Once you speak to them as their friends would, they will open up and listen to your point of view.

In fact, sometimes the best thing you can do is let them speak. Don’t feel you need to solve every problem they have. Sometimes being a sounding board is the all they want from you so you should go with that.

Everything from your approach, your tone and your choice words can go a long way in setting up the foundation for successful discussions.

The Melbourne Child Psychology Services share a variety of research-driven techniques for parents to develop empathetic conversations with their male and female children.

 

Don’t Make it About Yourself

As a parent, it’s hard learning the ways to effectively connect with your teen. But, believe it or not, it’s even harder being a teen. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, the human brain develops very rapidly during adolescence, which explains their sudden bouts of temper, sadness and frustration.

The study also found that the surge in hormones affect both their body and their mind, making teens behave the way they do, leaving them emotionally vulnerable.

A 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association also found nearly 30% of the 1018 teens surveyed were feeling sad, overwhelmed and/or depressed.

When you try to speak to your teens, it’s critical to treat them as teens, and not as adults. Teens might respond inappropriately during your conversations. However, parents should learn how to take the emotion out of the whole exercise to avoid taking it personally. The more you understand your teens, the less you’re likely to make it about yourself.

Unlike adults, teens don’t come equipped with the ability to make better choices right away. As parents, you need to help them develop the right perspective as they encounter challenges in life. This will help them make better decisions as they grow.

 

Decide on Your Response Patterns

You have been through a variety of conversations with your teens. The most difficult are when your kid is aggressive, impolite, and confrontational. It’s natural for many parents to respond to such situations aggressively. However, if you want to talk to your teens constructively, you need to learn the art of self-control and not giving in to your anger.

​When your teen says something that pushes your buttons, you may need to choose to step away rather than engage in a verbal duel with them. Remember, you can’t always control how your kids behave but you can certainly control your own behavior.

According to WikiHow, here are a few of things to avoid while handling conflicts with teenagers.

1. Tell them it’s not worth fighting over: Use an empathetic voice to tell your kids you understand their perspective and there are better ways to handle the situation.

2. Don’t yell at them: When your kid has done something wrong, control your impulse to yell at them. Instead, talk to them calmly about the consequences of their action and how it can affect themselves and others.

3. Give them space: Often it’s better to allow the kids to calm down before you discuss a conflict or approach a resolution with them. Let the raw emotions die down and your kid become their normal self before you start talking.

 

Tips for Teenagers

Most adolescent kids believe their parents are unable to understand them and it’s better to keep quiet or defend themselves. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Communication is a two-way process. Even as parents try their best to empathize with their teens, the kids themselves have a role to play as well. With a little bit of cooperation and understanding, you can establish a cordial relationship with your folks and lead a conflict-free life. Here’s how:

 

Understand Your Parents’ POV

At times, a small action such as patiently listening to your parents can help you understand their view points. However, teens that are increasingly skeptical of their parents’ opinions tend to avoid making any efforts appreciate their parents perspective. Sometimes, you both are on the same page, but all you need is pay a little more attention to your parents’ points and see if that’s something you can accommodate without making a huge compromise in your own point of view..

For example, if you want to stay over at your friend’s on the weekend, they are likely only worried about your safety. Instead of completely disregarding their POV, try to understand their concerns and help them become assured of your safety (i.e regular text check-ins).

 

Address Their Concerns Directly

Once you have developed the habit of listening to your parents, you are way ahead of most teens in terms of establishing rock-solid communication with them. However, it’s not done yet. If you understand what triggers their concerns about your choices, let them know you have thoroughly thought them through. Referring to the previous example, reassure your parents about your safety and whereabouts so they can reach out to you in case of an emergency. Such little (yet meaningful) actions can infuse mutual respect in your relationship with your folks and create a strong foundation for your interactions with them in the future.

 

Don’t Ridicule Their POV

While parents are not supposed to unfairly push their point of view on their teens, you should respect them for their opinions. For a healthy and positive relationship, you need to attempt listen to your parents without judging them. There’s no incentive for disrespecting parents that work hard to ensure your well being. You want to show them the respect you would want from them in return. Ridiculing their points of view won’t serve any purpose and ruin any chance of healthy interactions.

 

Make “I” Statements

While working on resolving a conflict with your parents, always use the “I” statements and try to avoid the “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “you have no idea about the challenges I’m facing…”, try to say, “I’m not sure if you’re aware of the challenges I’m facing”.

When you use the “you” statements, you’re putting the blame directly on your parents for any lack of understanding. With “I” statements, you can easily articulate your thoughts in a respectful manner, allowing a faster resolution of the conflict at hand.

 

Final Thoughts

While the tips above are a good starting point for both parents and teens, real-life situations can greatly vary, which requires parents to exercise their best judgment. However, no matter what, both parents and teens should restrain their emotions while resolving a conflict, without letting their ego derail the process.

​With active listening and constructive interactions, parents can pave the way for their teens to make choices without jeopardizing everyone’s collective interests.

 

October 25th, 2018

Posted In: Uncategorised


Sports: Are you Pushing Your Teenager too Much or too Little?

In today’s competitive environment, you want to make sure your kids keep up with the demanding academic schedule while pursuing sports among other extracurricular activities.

However, many parents find it really difficult to decide whether they’re being too harsh or too lenient in their overall approach.

Sports can teach your kids about discipline, unity, perseverance, and value of teamwork

When it comes to sports, there are compelling benefits for your kids. Sports can teach your kids about discipline, unity, perseverance, and value of teamwork, all of which enable them to develop into a successful individual in future.

Before talking about the potential dangers of pushing too hard, it’s important to remember the benefits sports offer to your kids.

 

​​Benefits of Your Teens Playing in Team Sports?

  • According to a survey, teens pursuing sports are a lot less likely to use drugs, smokes, have sex, carry weapons, and have unhealthy eating habits.
  • Research shows teens participating in sports are happier than kids who don’t pursue sports. While sports-oriented boys in the middle school were five times more likely to describe their health as fair/poor, the girls were 30 times more likely.
  • When your teens participate in team sports, they not only learn about the team spirit, stay motivated to work towards a common goal. When they stay in a team, the value of group effort is reinforced every day.
  • Learning to socialize with students from different walks of life during the middle school can be a challenging phase for any teenager. Team sports offer an opportunity to get along with different groups and nurture a sense of belonging.
  • Team sports teach your teenagers the value of cooperation, discipline, commitment, practice and, determination. The value of hard work and achievement is harder to learn in the abstract. Through setting goals and playing like a cohesive unit, your kids learn a lot more naturally.
  • Nothing makes your kids aware of leading a healthy life quite like athletics. Teens participating in active sports know the importance of staying fighting fit. Therefore, they’re more likely to follow an active lifestyle and healthy routine. What’s more, according to a research, kids pursuing sports are likely to avoid obesity and unhealthy eating habits.
  • When Kevin Kniffin, a behavioral science professor at Cornell University, conducted a study, he found kids who played sports in high school make better employees. In fact, the study also found that potential employers tend to favor jobs candidates who played active sports in their school career.

Encourage your kids to pursue sports for fun and leisure but don’t force them into rigorous and intense training.

​Are You Pushing Your Kids Too Hard?

As a parent, it’s only natural for you to have high hopes for your kids. You want to them to succeed academically, athletically and otherwise. However, in the process, you might be exerting too much pressure on your kids.

So, how will you know if you’re pushing your kids too hard to pursue multiple activities apart from studies?

According to parenting coach Elaine Taylor-Klaus, kids tend to show signs when they’re overscheduled and stressed. For example, pushing your kids to take up baseball practice, guitar lessons and art classes every alternate day can demotivate them, and even affect their grades.

While some kids express their displeasure openly, more reticent children may act grouchy and irritable.

Therefore, you need to make sure it’s fun for your kid and he/she is enjoying the extra-curricular activities. That’s how they’ll sustain their enthusiasm and pursue those hobbies in the long run as well.

As a matter of fact, Tiger Woods is probably a great example how the element of fun encourages your kids to get better at sports activities. In an interview with Washington Post, Tiger revealed that he fell in love with golf at an early stage, not because his parents pushed him into it but because his dad would keep it fun, light and competitive. He also said he’d be okay if his son Charlie didn’t play golf professionally.

 

​The Dangers of Pushing Your Kids too Hard

When it comes to sports, parents should be aware of the safety threshold for their kids. There are many who push their kids to a point where they become overtrained, stressed and burned out.

According to a national survey, nine out of 10 parents tend to underestimate the length of time their kids should take off from playing any sports during the year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) advise that kids should stay 2-3 months (or even a season) away from a specific sport every year. Moreover, it’s recommended that young athletes should take one day off each week from organized activities.

Parents who aggressively push their kids to an unrelenting sports regime, allowing little breaks, may end up harming their kids in the long run.

Fred Fornicola, health coach and fitness professional, warns parents against pushing their kids too hard and advises that they should follow an appropriate athletic program which allows ample scope for safety, progression, and recovery.

Ellis Cashmore, a professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University says parents should stop pushing their kids to become sporting heroes as most youngsters will never make it. Warning parents of potential downsides of encouraging teenagers to pursue a rigorous sports routine, he said overdriven kids could resort to performance-enhancing drugs among many other consequences.

 

​Final Thoughts

While sports offer a range of benefits to your kids both in the short and long run, pushing too hard could have potential implications for your young kids. Encourage your kids to pursue sports for fun and leisure but don’t force them into rigorous and intense training. After all, you want to keep your young kids safe from injuries.

May 8th, 2018

Posted In: Athletics, Community, Education, Nutrition, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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Recognizing Early Warning Signs of Child Depression

Depression

What if He or She Just Has the Blues?

In recent years, there has been a groundswell of activism and campaigning to reduce the stigma of depression and mental health anomalies. A number of celebrities and public figures have come forward to tell their stories of struggling with depression.

Though we accept what we hear about adults dealing with depression, it’s difficult to recognize the early warning signs of depression in children. When a child or teen is withdrawn, sullen or frequently sad, adults often assume “It’s just a phase he’s going through.”, or “She’s just hormonal!”

Maybe your child is growing through a difficult time, or their emotions are being affected by hormones. Maybe there is a long term mental health condition which you should recognize, and work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

Here is some guidance we’ve curated from professionals on how to determine:

  • If your son or daughter might have a depression disorder, or just have “the blues”
  • Common symptoms and signals you can watch for
  • When you should contact your doctor, social worker or other professional

How to Spot a “Black Dog” In Your Child’s Life

Australian author Matthew Johnstone published a compelling book living with depression called “I Had a Black Dog”. It has become a global phenomenon, and inspired an awareness campaign from the World Health Organization. It identifies depression as a mood disorder, but one which can be managed by therapy, medication or a physical wellness programs.

The “Black Dog Book” identifies many of the symptoms of living with depression like:

  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Severe spikes in appetite, and weight loss or gain
  • Anger, guilt, feelings of worthlessness and/or irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in activities your child usually loves to do
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and social events
  • Strange aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating, poor performance in school
  • General negativity or ambiguous thoughts
  • Lack of interest in personal hygiene, dress or being around people

If you find your child is expressing concerns about these symptoms, or if you observe them exhibiting these signs, try and start a dialog with them. Try not to be too confrontational about it, as your child may retract and hide their feelings. Concealing depression symptoms is another sign of clinical depression. Discuss your concerns with your child or teen supportively, not accusingly.

What if He or She Just Has the Blues?

If your child or teen is exhibiting some of these symptoms suddenly, or for a short term basis, they may just have a case of “the sads”. They may just need:

  • Fresh air
  • Exercise
  • A change in nutrition choices
  • A conversation with you that is calm and patient. Allow them the time to speak their feelings
  • To distance them from video games, social media or the internet
  • Space, understanding, and recognition that their feelings are important

There may be something happening at school, with relationships with friends or romantic interests that are causing “angst” or sadness. Try to help your child through what they are dealing with. If the symptoms persist, consider speaking with your family doctor about forms of treatment. There are also support resources at the school, either to “compare notes” on symptoms you are seeing, to get referrals to community programs, or talk to counsellors about options.

If you are noticing some of these warning signs of child depression, don’t despair. If you have been experiencing signs of sadness or stress yourself, your child or teen may be picking up on your emotional cues. Recognizing whether your son or daughter is suffering from a mood disorder, or just a temporary bout of the blues is important.

If your physician diagnoses your child as being mildly or deeply depressed, there are a number of pharmaceutical options which your doctor may recommend to treat their condition. Early detection often helps to diminish depression, and alternative approaches to medicine are often effective.

Other therapeutic options include:

  • Discussions with a therapist, social worker or psychiatrist/psychologist
  • Fitness programs
  • Family sessions with a mediator
  • Nutritional consultations

Regardless of the long term plan, starting with your family doctor is often the best first step. Other community resources like the CMHA, YMCA or peer groups might be a good next step. Your child’s future can be made drastically better if you open up a dialogue with them, help them feel safe, and work towards a mentally healthy future.

May 3rd, 2018

Posted In: Education, Nutrition, Parenting, Uncategorised

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