Parents Zone

How to cultivate a positive learning attitude in young children from an early age?


Source: Dr. LAU Yee-hung, Associate Professor and Deputy Head, Department of Early Childhood Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Many parents hope that their children will develop a love for learning from a young age. However, children don’t automatically develop a liking for learning; it requires parents to gradually nurture them, bit by bit.

Encouraging Children in Interactions

Children won’t initially learn to persevere on their own. It’s the parents’ responsibility to encourage them to persist in the process, instilling in them an anticipation of success. When a child succeeds, parents can review the past with them, allowing the child to feel the valuable outcomes achieved through perseverance and encouraging them to continue exhibiting positive behavior.

Providing Intrinsic Motivation

Often, children need some motivation to excel in certain tasks. Parents should emphasize what the child gains without making comparisons, such as satisfying their sense of achievement, enjoying the process of effort, and receiving appreciation from parents. This helps children experience the joy of learning and establishes intrinsic motivation, enabling them to engage in learning activities willingly from the heart.

Parents set a good example

Learning knows no age limits, and parents can demonstrate proactive learning and curiosity in front of their children. For instance, parents can learn to cook new dishes online, expressing to their children that, even if they don’t understand initially, they persevere and learn from various sources. Even if the outcome isn’t delicious, they commit to improving next time. Allowing children to see their parents’ initiative and curiosity in learning through real examples is much more effective than mere verbal instruction.

There are no children who don’t love learning; there are only parents who don’t know how to teach their children to learn. A love for learning is inherent in children. Correctly instilling a positive learning attitude in children, can only be achieved through the parents’ persistence and continuous efforts, reinforcing the child’s motivation for learning through various everyday experiences.

Parents Zone

Growing up, but not willing to walk. How to improve the children’s twisting and hugging habits?


Source: Psychotherapist, Lee Wai Tong

At the age of one, children gradually learn to walk. At first, children will be very excited to explore everywhere. But gradually, they will ask adults to hold them and not be willing to walk by themselves. Parents will be feeling headaches, sometimes the child may be really tired, and sometimes they just want to be held out of a sense of affection. What can parents do when their children ask for a hug?

Some parents have mentioned to me that their children couldn’t walk when they were one year old, but they wanted to walk very much. When they learn to walk later, they especially like to walk at that time. The parents were happy that the stroller could be left at home, thinking that the child would walk in the future. However, after the children became familiar with walking, they would want to be held by their parents, and even the parents would need to take a stroller and go everywhere in the stroller.

If you don’t have a stroller, it’s a big test of the parents’ physical strength. Of course, parents want their children to walk again, and some parents say, “If you don’t walk, we won’t go out.” Parents actually want to go out with their children, have fun, and walk around, so why not set a goal with them? For example, if you go there, you will hold them, and if you go there, you will walk, and you will make this commitment before you go out. For example, when the child is just out of the lift door and says he wants to be held, we have just said that we have to go downstairs, from the entrance of the estate down to the gate, before we can hold him. We have a goal for the child; the child moves naturally downstairs to hug, and the parents promised to carry him to the gate and place the child back on the ground. 

Sometimes children would suddenly say they wanted to be hugged; parents could tell their children to walk to the other side of the light before hugging. On the one hand, we all enjoy parent-child fun, and secondly, children have a goal, know where to walk to hug, and are naturally more willing to walk a little more. Sometimes children are really tired, or the feeling of hugging is actually very intimate, so they want to hug to get the intimate feeling. So we need to let the children know that we will hug them, but there is a goal, for example, to walk there and hug them at that time, so that everyone will be happy.

Parents Zone

How to help children who are rather clumsy?


Family Marriage & Art Therapist, Ko Wing Oi (Wendy)

Parents often mention that their children are clumsy, often tripping or dropping things easily. This is related to hand-eye coordination and even the development of finger muscles. Many toys are now designed to train a child’s finger muscles from as early as a few months old.

Many parents are aware that various games can train finger muscles. But besides finger muscles, how can we train children to handle, grasp, or manipulate objects using their fingers? Balance is also crucial.

In fact, many toys can help train balance, and finger muscles can be developed in the process. For example, stacking games with different shapes, sizes, colors, and numbers can be used. When a child picks a die with a green side and the number 2, they have to find the corresponding green piece with a 2, and then pick another die, let’s say it’s blue with a 5, and find the blue piece with a 5, and continue stacking. This trains children on how to stack the pieces to maintain balance and prevent them from toppling over.

Another toy is the Russian stacking block puzzle, which is more complex in terms of layering and might be more interesting to children. Children can move the bottom block and then stack the Russian block puzzle pieces. This toy presents a certain level of difficulty, training children’s fingers, critical thinking, finger muscles, and balance.

Of course, clumsiness and accidents are also related to their level of concentration. For example, when a child is holding a cup of water, but their eyes are not on the cup; they are watching TV or listening to the adults around them. So, in addition to training their hand-eye coordination and balance, it’s also essential to train their concentration.

Parents Zone

Dual Efforts Lead to Faster and Better Learning for Children


Written by: Education Expert, Principal Kenneth Law

We all understand that each student is an independent individual, so the speed of learning varies. However, if there are methods that can make children learn faster and better, it is undoubtedly something both parents and teachers would be pleased to see. How to help children learn faster and better is also a topic of research for many scholars.

One key factor affecting the speed of a child’s learning is the amount of existing knowledge they possess. Existing knowledge refers to what the child has learned and mastered, not only the knowledge acquired in school but also part of the knowledge gained in daily life.

Learning is like building a scaffold, gradually laying a solid foundation. Lev Vygotsky, a modern psychologist highly regarded, believes that the learning process is like constructing a “scaffold,” progressing from low to high, from small to large, using one metal rod at a time. The term “scaffold” is equivalent to the bamboo scaffolding commonly used by the Chinese. Of course, in the context of learning, it’s metaphorical.

Describing learning as constructing a scaffold brings several insights. Firstly, laying a solid foundation is crucial. Secondly, learning must proceed step by step; if one rushes and neglects certain aspects, the knowledge won’t be firmly established. Furthermore, as long as one diligently learns step by step, they will surely accumulate more and more knowledge. Additionally, different individuals can construct different shapes of bamboo scaffolding, and knowledge is not static; it evolves continuously with the development of the times.

Once the learning theory of Vygotsky is understood, the importance of existing knowledge becomes self-evident. Existing knowledge is like a bamboo scaffold already constructed, and new knowledge is added on top of the existing scaffold, making it higher and larger. The more existing knowledge one has, the more reliable it becomes, and learning new things becomes easier. There’s no need to look around distractedly, and the learning speed becomes faster.

Make good use of spare time to broaden the scope of knowledge

The content learned and the time spent in school by students may not be extensive. Therefore, making good use of spare time becomes relatively important in enhancing a child’s academic performance. Making good use of spare time does not mean participating in more training classes or doing additional supplements. On the contrary, because schools already provide comprehensive and systematic courses, it is even more crucial to focus on expanding a broader range of knowledge during spare time, making the foundation of the “bamboo scaffold” broader.

Reading books, visiting museums and exhibitions, and traveling along nature trails can all broaden a child’s horizons and expand their range of knowledge. Parents can allow children to have more autonomy, letting them choose activities they enjoy. Providing children with the space to make choices can also cultivate their ability for self-directed learning, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility, which are essential for their future.

Parents Zone

Children Falling Ill While Traveling


Written by : Doctor Cheung Kit

The year-end is a season of mixed emotions, with both joy and pain. The pain may come from children having exams or working parents being busy with the year-end matters for their companies. The joy lies in having a longer holiday, providing an opportunity for travel and relaxation. However, many parents are actually anxious because they have planned a trip with their children, and the concern arises: What if the child falls ill during this time?

If it’s an accident or a serious illness, the trip will inevitably be canceled. The bigger issue is when the child gets a minor illness, and there’s a fear it might affect the travel plans. First and foremost, the author suggests “prevention.” Some may wonder, how can illness be prevented? The answer is yes, as long as strict measures are taken in the two weeks before departure. Firstly, the author recommends getting the flu vaccine for the child at least two weeks before departure, as the vaccine takes half a month to take effect. Among many fever-related illnesses, only the flu has a vaccine that can be administered.

Next, among the most common simple infectious diseases in children, such as viral gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections, chickenpox, and acute gastritis, the incubation period is generally within a week. Therefore, parents must try to avoid exposing their children to the sources of such diseases, including indoor play centers, swimming pools, hospitals, and playgrounds, among others. Although the measures may be stringent, if travel is the goal, some sacrifices may need to be made. Moreover, if unfortunately, the child falls ill within the two weeks before departure, theoretically, there should be enough time for recovery.

If the child falls ill just before the trip, the first thing to do is, of course, to see a doctor. When it is confirmed to be a minor ailment, pay attention to the following five points:

  1. Ask the doctor to prescribe enough medication until the end of the journey.
  2. If the medication (such as liquid antibiotics) needs to be stored in the refrigerator, consider the storage between hotels.
  3. Ask the doctor to prepare a letter or record of the course and diagnosis results in the health handbook for local medical personnel to follow.
  4. If you need to bring liquid medication on the plane, inquire with the airline first. When necessary, the doctor should notify the airline in writing in advance.
  5. Inquire with the travel insurance company about local arrangements for emergency medical care.

Sometimes, children falling ill cannot be completely avoided, but there are always things that can be coordinated.

Parents Zone

Being a parent can be stressful; it’s important to manage anxiety promptly


Source: Psychiatrist Dr. Wong Chun Yin

As parents, we have to juggle work and family responsibilities. Under significant stress, it’s easy to experience anxiety. Anxiety is a natural, built-in response, and it can protect us when our lives are threatened. However, excessive worry can lead to physical discomforts like a racing heart, stomachaches, muscle tension, rapid breathing, headaches, trembling hands, sweating, or frequent urination. If not addressed in a timely manner, it can lead to more serious emotional issues and can also affect family relationships.

Here are three ways to reduce anxiety symptoms. First is practicing relaxation through deep breathing, using diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4, letting your abdomen rise for 2 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 4. Pause for 2 seconds and repeat this process 5 to 10 times.

The second method is muscle relaxation exercises. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, gently close your eyes, and relax all your muscles. Start by shifting your focus to your feet, tense the muscles in your feet for 10 seconds, and then release. Proceed sequentially, tensing and relaxing the muscles in your legs, arms, neck, and facial muscles.

Lastly, there is imagery relaxation practice. In a quiet place, close your eyes and imagine a comfortable setting, visualizing what you see, hear, smell, and feel for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually return to the present reality.

Additionally, it’s important to cultivate a positive thinking pattern in your daily life. Try to see the bright side of things at all times rather than dwelling on unhappy thoughts constantly, which can reduce the chances of developing mood disorders.

Parents Zone

How to deal with young children who are unwilling to sleep on their own and wake up in the middle of the night looking for their parents?


Source : Registered Clinical Psychologist, Yiu Fong Lee

Many parents experience headaches when their children have trouble sleeping at night. This could be because the children either refuse to sleep or insist on having their parents with them while they sleep. Some children even wake up in the middle of the night and cry unless they find their parents. What methods can help children learn to sleep better or fall asleep on their own?

First, parents need to understand that a child’s poor sleep habits or refusal to sleep can create a vicious cycle of excessive dependence on parental comfort. In this cycle, children require things like being patted, held, or soothed by their parents in order to feel sleepy. Parental presence and soothing become prerequisites for their sleep, and without these conditions, children may wake up in the middle of the night and seek their parents.

Therefore, it’s important to help children learn self-soothing techniques or to teach them how to fall asleep independently. Research indicates that around three-month-old infants gradually begin to develop the ability to self-soothe. By about nine months of age, 50 to 80% of infants can sleep through the night. Parents should have confidence in their child’s ability to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, and they can assist in this process.

However, what we need to help them develop is to establish a bedtime routine, including the bedroom environment. It’s best to have a completely dark room because darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, a substance in our brain that helps us feel sleepy and speeds up our sleep. Secondly, we should try to establish a specific bedtime ritual for the child, which could involve cuddling them to sleep, singing, giving a massage, or telling a story – but it should be just one designated activity. You can discuss with the child what this designated activity should be, something they would enjoy. Every night at that time, we perform this designated activity, then turn off the lights and go to sleep. This designated activity will signal to the child’s brain that it’s almost time to sleep.

Thirdly, it’s important to remember that blue light can have a significant impact on children. Blue light can disrupt the secretion of melatonin in our brains, which can affect sleep and lead to insomnia or poor sleep quality. Therefore, parents should ensure that there are absolutely no electronic devices in the bedroom, and children should not be allowed to use any electronic devices in the hour leading up to bedtime. This can help children sleep better.

The fourth method is controlled comforting. This method involves providing comfort to the child but gradually reducing the comforting time as they grow older. For example, you can engage in a conversation with the child, saying, “I’ll stay with you for 5 minutes, and then Mommy will leave. After 5 minutes, I’ll come back to check on you. If you can try to close your eyes and stay quiet here, Mommy will give you a kiss.” Then, slowly increase the time before leaving the room, maybe 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, allowing the child to gradually learn to fall asleep on their own and develop self-soothing abilities.

What should we do if the child wakes up in the middle of the night and seeks their parents’ presence? The same principle applies here: stay with the child for a while and then encourage them to fall asleep independently. If possible, keep extending the time until they can fall asleep on their own.


School-based Learning Activity of Chinese Culture


Parents Zone

How can I avoid being biased when caring for two children?


Source: Registered Clinical Psychologist, Yiu Fong Lee

Parents are sometimes overwhelmed when faced with two children. For example, when the older sibling comes to you, the younger sibling is crying. Often, we only care for the younger sibling and neglect the older one, who may say that the parents are biased and only care for the younger one. How do we try to balance the care between the two children and make them feel equally loved?
In the case of the above, perhaps when an older sibling comes to see you, your mother should tell him, “I need to take care of the younger sibling now because he may not be feeling well or he is crying. This will let the older sibling know that his mother needs to look after his younger sibling, “but mom is also very concerned about your situation, so why don’t I come back to you later, when mum has had some time to see what you need or to talk to you?”

Of course, if both parents are at home, the work can be divided. The father will stay with the older child and the mother will stay with the younger child, but Hong Kong people are busy and there may be only one parent at home, so there is a need to prioritise. When to take care of older children? When to take care of younger children?

The second scenario is to invite older brother or sister to join you in caring for younger sibling, for example, “Why don’t you come and help me and we’ll try together to see if we can calm him down together. For example, pat him, sing to him or talk to him. If the older brother or sister does this, the mother can give recognition and encouragement: “You are really doing a good job, you are a very good brother or sister, I am really happy to have such a good little helper. This makes him feel that he can be a part of it and that he can be a big brother or sister to help us out!

But after we have comforted the junior, we need to go back to the older sibling, asking him why he was coming to me. Does he want to talk to me or play with me?

Also, the most important thing is bedtime, as this is the most intimate time for bonding. If both children are also in a stable mood, we can have a nighttime routine for the three of us before bed. For example, we can sing together, listen to stories, and give each other a pat or a back massage. Mum may be able to pat both children while singing; we may pat one child with the left hand and one with the right, and invite a bigger brother or sister to join in the patting process. Maybe he pats his mom with one hand and his younger brother with the other, so that there is an intimate moment shared by the three of us, and sleep is like a relationship with the parents, but at the same time a time when the three of us are together.

We need to create regular and separate one-to-one special parent-child time, for example, mom with the older child on Monday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and dad with the younger child on Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In this way, the roles of the parents are switched and they spend time with different children, one on one, so that they can feel that their parents have a close time with them during this special parent-child time and so that the child can choose what he likes to play with, and then the parents follow the child’s suggestions and let the child take the lead.

For example, if he wants to play with toys, be with him; if he wants to play board games, be with him. At that time, just accompany him wholeheartedly. You may describe how he is feeling at the moment or what he is doing, so that he can feel that his parents are willing to give their time and love to him, and you may also plan for his siblings to have this special bonding time so that they can feel that their parents love them equally. We hope that the above methods will help parents manage the relationship between the two children so that they can feel equally loved by their parents.

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