Supporting Children

What Our Children Need More Of

BY JUNE YONG

18 March 2022  |   6 min read

Our children need…

More of our time

Today’s ever-connected world means that all sorts of responsibilities and distractions are eating away our leisure time and mental space.

We need to take charge of the things that come into our daily lives and set aside some time every day just to spend with our kids. Try to keep that time unadulterated from the worries of their academic progress or other concerns.

One way is to let your child know this is their time, and ask what they would like to do together.

More of our attention

Our children are practically fighting for our attention with gadgets, screens, and work. I know because it happens in our household too. I know the inertia and the amount of willpower it takes to turn off my handphone screen and answer the cry for attention from one of my kids.

As a work-from-home mum, it is even more of a struggle because you could be there but mentally miles away.

But we need to make a conscious effort and start with small pockets of time to play, bond, and assure our kids of our love.

More play

In my teaching and intervention work, I come across students who have their schedules packed from Mondays to Saturdays.

They often sleep late (past 10 p.m.) and have little free play. They usually exhibit signs of inattention, an inability to focus, tiredness and irritability.

If we don’t make changes to their “input”, such as rest, nutrition, play and strong bonds, we are not going to see that much difference in the “output”, such as how well they do in class.

Children need time and space to play, tinker and explore. And I think we all need to constantly re-examine and re-calibrate the balance of play versus work in our children’s lives.

More nature

We recently took a family trip to a forest resort in Malaysia.

My son, who has some behavioural issues, remained calm and engaged throughout the trip. And I believe nature (as well as the presence of his cousins as playmates) had a big part to play in this.

Less hovering, more autonomy and chances to problem-solve

On our nature trip, there was a river that wholly captured the imagination of our kids. They spent many marvellous hours there navigating it, splashing around, and also working together and solving problems. It was a wonder to witness.

During the three days, I did not hear the usual cries of “Mummy, can you help me…(fill in the blanks).” They did most things themselves and roamed the resort grounds freely. It gave me a glimpse of the kampong life of yesteryear.

It took conscious effort to deliberately sit back and not do a thing. (This is especially hard for mums.) But while I could not bring the river home, I could certainly allow them the chance to let them hone their independence and autonomy.

Just try it the next time you visit a playground. Don’t rescue your child from every sticky situation, but coach them through it and remind them that you are nearby to help. (This, of course, does not apply if they’re about to hurt someone or themselves, or be hurt by others.)

The end result of a confident and can-do spirit is worth it.

Don’t rescue your child from every sticky situation, but coach them through it and remind them that you are nearby to help.

More affirmation

I will be the first to confess, I’m not particularly great at this. I come from a family where my parents are not very expressive in their show of love.

But I use my strengths in writing to compensate where I fall short in the physical affection department. I write little notes of love to them, highlighting the efforts I see them making, or any admirable qualities that I see them demonstrating.

And I try not to let a day go by without lavishing a hug, smile, or word of affirmation to each of my kiddos.

Our children need us to call out their strengths.

The words we speak can either be life-giving or destructive. They can either add or take away.

Our children need us to identify and call out their strengths, as well as give them opportunities to use their strengths to serve or bless others.

Photos taken in collaboration with Deborah Quek, featuring one of our ParentWise families

Instead of focusing on or harping on their weaknesses, take the opposite approach and help them use their strengths in their tasks, or for friends and family.

If it is in music, play a song to bring cheer to an elderly person. If it is in cooking, give them a chance to plan the family meals.

If it is in expressing their thoughts, encourage them to draw out or write positive notes to friends, or craft stories to share about a recent outing or holiday.

If it is in helping others, get them to help a classmate who is struggling in a task.

The possibilities are endless, once you start to think about it. And the impact is great, as our children start to see that they are given different gifts for a purpose, that they aren’t just chasing accomplishments for a medal or an award, but an achievement that will one day enable them to be in a position to give.

As they grow, they will then start to think about how to contribute and give back to society, rather than just be focused on themselves.

This article was first published on ParentWise. Developed by Temasek Foundation in partnership with SEED Institute (subsidiary of NTUC First Campus), ParentWise is a programme that offers curated evidence-based learning programmes and resources that parents and caregivers need to support their children. For more parenting tips and resources, please visit ParentWise at https://parentwise.sg/.