Get Involved in your Child’s Activities, Hobbies and School

It’s probably no secret that children who have involved parents are more happy, healthy, and well-adjusted and excel at their educational and extracurricular pursuits.  It can increase their cognitive development, keeps them motivated, strengthens the parent-child relationship, and has a direct positive influence on their overall academic achievement.  In turn, it can also help parents achieve a positive outlook on their parenting, increase their own self confidence and self esteem, and will most likely feel more satisfied with their child’s educational experience at school.

But where do you get involved?   With today’s busy schedules between home, work, and school, it may feel that the average family has very little quality time to offer.  However, different options and levels of commitment are available to fit every parent’s availability, and with some careful planning and dedication, you can make ifile9141338162937t a positive experience for both yourself and your child.

First of all, discover what your child is most passionate about.  Maybe you’ve thought about volunteering for the school bake sale to raise money, but your child is actually more actively involved in her local Girl Scouts troop.   If that’s the case, then get together with the other Girl Scout parents and see what you can contribute to help the troop.  Maybe you could organize a bake sale to benefit their next summer outing.

It’s also important to consider what skills, talents and abilities you can bring to the table.  Maybe your child’s school is in desperate need of your help organizing a fundraiser, but your skills in sewing and designing might better serve the school if you were to help in making the costumes for the school play.  Remember, you want this to be a positive experience for both of you, and if your child senses that you’re not happy with what you’ve chosen to become involved in, then they likely will not be happy as well.

But the bottom line is get involved and stay involved.  Children of involved parents are less likely to get into mischief, have emotional problems, or have problems in school.  You benefit by connecting with and staying connected to your child.  It’s a win-win situation for you both.

How to Treat Your Baby’s Cold

Baby ColdYour baby’s cold can be just as hard on you as it is on her.  But you can help ease your baby’s discomfort and keep the infection from worsening by ensuring she gets sufficient rest and liquids, which would include breast milk or formula if she’s less than four months old.  Older babies can have a little water, and by six months she can begin drinking juices.

To relieve congestion, try squeezing some over-the-counter saline solution drops into each nostril, then suctioning with a rubber bulb syringe after a few moments to remove the mucus and liquid.

This works well about fifteen minutes prior to a feeding if it’s difficult for your baby to breathe nasally while nursing. A bit of petroleum jelly to the outside of your baby’s nostrils can help reduce irritation.

Sitting with you in a steamy bathroom while the hot water’s on in the shower for about 15 minutes, or using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to increase the moisture in your baby’s room should also help provide some relief for her.  A warm bath could also work, and might provide her some additional comfort.

Sleeping at a slight incline may also help relieve postnasal drip. However, don’t use pillows in her crib to accomplish this; the risk of suffocation is too great.  Try placing a couple of rolled up towels between the crib springs and mattress, or you might also want to try allowing her to sleep in her car seat in a slightly upright position.

Be sure to contact your pediatrician at the first sign of any illness in an infant less than three months old, especially in instances of a fever of 100.4 degrees or if she has a cough.  Your pediatrician can give you guidelines about what constitutes a fever in older infants.  If baby’s symptoms don’t improve within five to seven days, her cough worsens, she’s wheezing or gasping (possible pneumonia or respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV), or tugs at her ear (possible ear infection), your pediatrician should also be notified immediately.

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What is Homeschooling?

home sch

The term ‘homeschooling’ basically refers to the process in which one or more children of not more than 2 families are instructed by parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household. The laws that define homeschooling vary from State to State. The legal requirements for establishing a homeschool also vary with the State.

For most children, the actual process of learning begins much before school. Many children already know their alphabets, the names of animals, colors and other more complicated stuff before they reach school. This is mostly due to the hard work of a member of the family who has taken the time to teach the child. Homeschooling is just a natural progression from here. Instead of sending their children to a public school, parents make their own curriculum and teach their children in ways that best suit the child. This is homeschooling, in its most simplistic form.home sch 1

Before you decide to go in for homeschooling, there are certain important matters for consideration. First off, meet with parents of other homeschoolers. Find out the pros and cons of homeschooling. Then ask yourself why you would want to adopt this method. This is a very important aspect, as the success of the program depends on the clarity and sincerity of your purpose.

Next, it is time to consider the expenses of homeschooling. It may cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand every year. More importantly, you are also effectively shutting out any job opportunity for one of the parents. It is only obvious that one parent will have to stay at home full time to manage the homeschool. A home-based business however is a great alternative.Are you qualified to take on homeschooling for your children? Teaching is a continuation of your own learning process. With the advent of the internet, information is aplenty. There are various books and resources for those interested in homeschooling. Go through the various methods of homeschooling and choose one that is most suited to you. It helps if you know what kind of learning style your child has. Also, find out what your child feels about before you start.

Every state has its own laws regarding homeschooling.For instance, in North Carolina, you must first file a ‘Notice of Intent’ to start a home school. In this you have to mention if the school is a ‘Private church’ school or a ‘qualified non-public school’. The persons providing the education are required to have at least a high school diploma. You have to maintain an annual record of the child’s attendance and disease immunization. Every year, the child is required to undergo a standardized test. Each student attending the eleventh grade has to take a nationally standardized test. These are the requirements in North Carolina, but it is enough to give you a good idea of what homeschooling entails.

home sch 2

Homeschooling may seem like a lot of fun and freedom from the outside. However, things are seldom as simple as they seem.Homeschooling is a lot of added responsibility and hard work. But, if successful, it will forge a strong bond of love and respect between parent and child, while providing your child with the best form of education he needs.


Celebrate your Child’s Uniqueness

happy kids

Just like a snowflake or a fingerprint, every child is unique in their own special way. Every child has a unique way of feeling, thinking, and interacting with others. Some children are shy, while others are outgoing; some are active, while others are calm; some are fretful, while others are easy-going. As a loving and nurturing parent, it’s your job to encourage them to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individual qualities. 
Allow your child to express themselves through their interests. They may find a creative outlet in theatre, dancing or art, or they may be exceptionally talented in the sciences. Encourage them to embrace what they like to do, what interests them, and what makes them happy. Help them realize that they don’t need to worry about being ‘like everyone else.’
Teach your child to make positive choices, and praise them for good deeds, behaviors and positive traits they possess. Encourage them to become actively involved in their community, and introduce them to activities that promote a sense of cooperation and accomplishment. Be firm yet fair when handing down discipline for misdeeds or misbehaviors, and make certain the rules and consequences for breaking the rules are clearly defined. Show a cooperative, loving and united front with your spouse when it comes to discipline.
Accept and celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Remember that your child is an individual. Allow your child to have his or her own personal preferences and feelings, which may be different from your own.
And finally, encourage your child to be true to themselves by doing the same. Show your child how to make positive choices with the choices you make, and that nobody is perfect and you too make mistakes. Show your child that mistakes can be a great learning experience, and that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed about making them. 

Computers for Kids

image 3 computersGoing to kindergarten in this new age is a lot different than it was when we were children.  Modern children are more aware of the adult world, more sophisticated and certainly more aware of technology and the internet than was imaginable even a few years ago when that youngster was a newborn.  So we have to take that into consideration when we begin to prepare a child for kindergarten because there is really no level of schooling that is untouched by computers and technology.

The first step for finding out how much your child needs to know about computers and the internet day one in kindergarten is to visit the school and talk to the teacher.  It really isn’t a matter of kids being forced to learn about cyberspace.  Schools are simply using the internet for teaching because kids are showing up already knowing all about it.  As you look around any modern kindergarten class, you will see dozens of computer kiosks so the kids can connect to the internet and use the internet for anything from research to communications to learning games to exploring the galaxies.

image 2 computers

So much is made about the dangers of the internet and those are certainly real.The next step is to find out just how much your little angel already knows about computers and the internet.  If you have a computer and you allow your child to wander around the internet already, she may know more than you imagined or wished she knew.  But by having a conversation with your child or by sitting online and exploring some basic web sites together, you can gauge her level of skill and knowledge.  It will be an unusual meeting between parent and child because its very possible that at times you will be teaching her things and other times she will be the teacher and you the student learning the most modern things that young people, even very young people like your child, already know about the online world. But there are tremendous resources that the kindergarten teacher will take advantage of to take that new class to wonderful new places using safe and carefully prepared web sites that can enhance the child’s education.

 Be sure when you begin to expose your youngster to the internet that you have also made sure the internet is a safe place for her to be.  You can create specific account on your computer just for your child that is heavily restricted. You can get some excellent tools that are often called “net nannies” which will keep your sweet innocent child from accidentally going to sites they should not see.  You can even set up a set list of web sites you will allow them to be on and restrict their browser so only those sites are authorized.

 Helping your child build internet search skills will jump start her into the modern world of school wonderfully.  But there are other computer skills that being online will help her develop to make her more efficient even in this very basic level of schooling at kindergarten.  If you can open the world of email, instant messaging and chat to your child on kid safe web sites where she will be talking to other children only, your five year old will actually develop fairly well developed typing skills being motivated by the fun of online conversation with other kids.

There are other computer tools that will of tremendous value to your child that she can begin to get exposure to in the months leading up to kindergarten.  The Microsoft office suite which is so useful to adults will be an important tool set for any student even in elementary school.  Learning to use the powerful resources of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint will give your child ways to accomplish their school assignments that are fun because they are on the computer and so much more efficient than the old pencil and notebook method.image 3 computers

By thinking like a twenty first century parent, you can start even at the kindergarten level to see your child’s school experience as one that will be heavily influenced by computer skills and the internet.  And by equipping your child to be ready to use those tools from day one at kindergarten, she is jumping into school way ahead in terms of being equipped to be a big success in her academic career.

Planning Playdates and Sleepovers

Remember the time you asked your mother for permission to spend the night at a friend’s house and she exclaimed “No, of course not! You can play during the day, what is the need to spend the night there?”

Times have changed since then and today, parents are more accepting of sleepovers.

play-Dates1-300x195What about playdates? When we were young we simply played with the neighbourhood kids in the evenings after school, coming back home sweaty and tired, ready for dinner and sleep. But today, our children have ‘playdates’, where parents schedule the play activity on a particular day and invite other children to it. In fact, playdates are fast becoming yet another avenue to showcase the creativity (and wealth!) of the parents, involving as they do organised entertainment, catering and even return gifts!

But if you are one of those parents who believe in keeping it simple, with the primary objective of a playdate being to get children to have a good time in a safe way, then read on…

Play and the socialisation process

Playdates are very important to the social development of today’s child. Urban children brought up in nuclear families lack many elements of the socialization process that characterized earlier generations who lived in joint families. Busy parents, aloof neighbours, lack of space (no more gully cricket!) and time (dance class and abacus class and handwriting class and phonics class…..) …these have taken away an important element of childhood – romping around with friends and free play. Playdates give the child an opportunity to interact with her friends outside the formal environment of school, to learn sharing, collaboration and teamwork skills in a socially acceptable manner, and simply, to enjoy her free time with her friends.

Sleepovers take this a step further, fostering a feeling of independence in children and allowing them to feel ‘grown-up’. Plus, they are a lot of fun!

Playdates can be organised for children of pretty much any age, even those as young as one. Of course, be prepared to accompany your child on her playdates for the first few years (until she is around five), after which time she can be dropped off alone at her friend’s place, with a parent to supervise. An added bonus of playdates – parents can also have fun, making new friends with other parents, and getting a chance to indulge in some adult conversation beyond the usual baby talk!

Sleepovers, on the other hand, are difficult to organise for very young children. Your child must be toilet-trained and used to sleeping alone before she is ready for a sleepover. Most importantly, she should have no strong anxieties – about the dark, night time noises, etc. – that will prompt her to wail for you in the middle of the night! Children aged 10 and above can generally be expected to make the most of sleepovers.

Playdate ‘fun’dae

What to do: So it’s your turn to organise the playdate. First, decide whether it’s going to be an indoor or outdoor one. If you plan on an outdoor one, be sure to enlist the help of other parents, and maybe maids, so you can monitor the children and the different activities. Also decide the timing and duration of the playdate upfront so parents know at what time they need to pick up their children. The duration of the playdate depends on the age of the children – for toddlers, anything more than an hour could be tiring, whereas for older kids even three hours will not satiate them!

What to feed them: With younger children, it’s better to serve some dry snacks which will not make too much of a mess. Older children can stay over for dinner, especially if it’s a Friday or Saturday. Do ensure that you check with parents about allergies and any strong dislikes/food preferences. Keep the food simple and easy to eat. It is better to serve all the children on similar looking or neutral tableware – you don’t want the children all clamouring for your child’s Cinderella mug or Winnie the Pooh plate!

Safety precautions and rules: Attention to safety is a very important aspect of organising playdates. Firstly, no matter what the age of the children is, it is essential to have adult supervision in the vicinity. This is not just to mediate between children in the event of disputes, but more importantly to ensure the safety of children. You can also set rules upfront for the session that all children need to follow – clearing up after each game and before beginning the next activity, no rough games inside the house, no shoes inside the house, no jumping on the furniture, no playing with scissors, etc. Children should be made to understand that these rules are for their own safety and any child not following these rules will not be allowed to continue playing with the others. Do ensure that you have the contact numbers of all the parents in case of an emergency.

Sleepover ‘fun’dae

Sleepovers are more complicated to organise than playdates – you are actually committing to taking responsibility for some highly excitable children whom you cannot admonish or punish! And that too at night – the time when most things seems to go wrong! This is why sleepovers are usually organised only for older children who are independent and have some amount of maturity and understanding – typically 10 years and above.

Whom to invite: This is a no-brainer – it is your child who will decide whom she wants to invite. Your role will be limited to controlling the number of people invited so as to keep the sleepover manageable. Decide before-hand whether you want to invite only one other child or whether you are brave enough to handle a whole menagerie of kids!

What to feed them: Generally, starting the sleepover after dinner time makes better sense since it cuts down on the effort involved in serving dinner and catering to differing needs and preferences. But don’t think that this means you don’t have to arrange for food – far from it! An essential part of sleepovers is the fun food (read junk food) that the kids will look forward to. Staying up most of the night will make them ravenously hungry, especially post-midnight when you, the parent, are just settling into bed. So arrange for all the fuel (popcorn, chips, chocolates, etc.) before-hand. And you will also need to plan for breakfast – keep this simple, but be ready with both Western (bread and cereal) and Indian (idly/dosa) options for varying palates.

What to do: Generally children of this age can be trusted to organise their own entertainment. But here are a few suggestions for fun things to do at a sleepover:

• Board games

• Lateral thinking games

• Singing songs and Karaoke

• Telling scary stories after midnight with lights out

• Playing Hide and Seek in the dark

• Video games

• Makeovers and playing at dressing up

• Watching good, wholesome movies – TV is a bad idea since you will not be able to control what they are watching; it is advisable for you to rent an appropriate movie to watch

Ideas for outdoor playdates

• Paddle pool / swimming pool

• Gardening

• Beach

• At a hobby centre – art and craft

• Play areas in malls / game arcades for older kids

• Parks (do keep in mind that if you go to a park with swings and slides, the children may prefer to play independently on these equipment than with one another)

• In open spaces, where you can organise team sports or games like cricket, football, etc.

Ideas for indoor playdates

If your playdate is at home, your list of probable activities can be much longer – have the children play a variety of games, tell stories, read books, sing songs, catch bubbles, draw and colour… you can also play popular indoor games like Blind Man’s Bluff (after moving the furniture to the side), Hide and Seek, Dumb Charades, Antakshari, etc. Allow some time for unstructured play as well, to encourage children to play independently and decide for themselves what they want to do– this will give free rein to their imagination. Even playing with Barbie dolls, kitchen sets and cars can be beneficial, allowing them to indulge in story-telling and role play.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Keeping children motivated

Initial enthusiasm in after school activities tends to wane after the first excitement is over. This is but natural. The trick is to keep up the hard work even after this. How do you keep your child motivated? This is of particular importance when the child goes in for educational after school programs.

Elementary school pupils running outside

Make the career-academics connection early on

 Let your child understand how important studies are. Let him know that an excellent career is wholly dependent on wholesome learning. To develop his interest in studies, plan family activities that are connected with his studies. Emphasize the real-world connection to academics whenever possible.

Set goals:

Let your child know, through example, that hard work will be rewarded. If your child believes that achievement is a natural by-product of effort, he is more likely to put in hard work. Such children are also less likely to drop out of programs and college at a later stage.

Reward success:

When a child achieves something, it is necessary to praise his hard work. Positive reinforcements enhance confidence and increase self-esteem. Conversely, beware of criticism. It can ruin the frail ego of children and play havoc with their minds.

Helping your teen with career explorations

Helping your teen with career explorations

There are two kinds of children in this world, it appears- one that seem to know exactly what they want to do in life and the second, larger group that is still trying to figure things out.

As such, all parents are keeping their fingers crossed, as their child steps into high school, and hoping she makes the right calls with regard to higher education and career.

In this post, I am putting down some ideas and suggestions based on how we approached this for our two children:

• Reassure your children that it’s ok to be unsure: While my son was sure he would stick to the Math Physics combo as early as middle school, all through high school he was still uncertain about exactly what he wanted to do. When he started his undergrad program he thought he’d major in engineering, but by the time he finally decided to do a double major in Physics and Math(in his third year) he had changed his minds 3 or 4 times. But it did not quite matter, as he seems to be on course now.

My daughter on the other hand, even as late as when she was in Grade 9, was quite unsure even about whether she wanted to do Humanities or the Sciences or a bit of both. She became pretty anxious especially as her peers seemed to have better clarity. It was up to us to reassure her that she still had the time to make up her mind, and that it was more important to focus on doing well at school.

• Be open about the choices your children may make: Remember, the whole idea is to help your children explore options. So, as wild as their choice may seem to you, do not dismiss it off. Keep an open mind and try and understand why they are thinking about an area. It can happen that a few discussions can lend clarity to both the child and you, and for all you know, she may either outgrow the idea, or identify new areas to explore. Alternately she may convince you on its merits! In our case, my daughter, while trying to hone in on her options, happened to listen to a talk by a British archaeologist and came back convinced that this was her thing! I was quite stumped- she had never expressed an interest in the subject before though she had always been quite fond of History. But, rather than brush it aside, I decided to help her figure out if it really was her passion.
• Take outside help: As I knew next to nothing about Archaeology as a profession, I spoke to someone I knew who put me in touch with an eminent lady archaeologist in Chennai. So we met her, and while she lauded my daughter’s interest in the subject, advised her to rethink about making it a career choice- she was forthright in saying there was little or no money in it, and while the situation abroad may be better, it was not too different. Instead she said, choose a career in some other area but pursue Archaeology as an interest. Since my daughter was anyway quite interested in Biology, this conversation set her thinking and she is now exploring the option of a Biology related major with a few courses in archaeology thrown in for her undergrad.
• Think of ways to ascertain interest: Many children do not have the exposure to really decide whether they are passionate about a subject while they are in high school. Our school system does not really lay emphasis on projects outside school. And so, often times, they pick on subjects they do well in. No harm in that, but it may also be good to explore further. In our case, to check if this interest in Archaeology was really deep, I suggested to my daughter that she do a summer project. She loved the idea and decided to study medieval South Indian temples of two different kingdoms and draw some insights. She started the project in her Grade 10 summer vacation and is still working on it. It has definitely been one of her more interesting and deep learning experiences; it also gave her an idea of the rigor and extensiveness of work needed to put something worthwhile together.

• Do your own research: One of the challenges that parents face today is lack of understanding of the choices available for our children as we did not have even a tenth of these as we grew up. So, many times our fears and uncertainties are because of insufficient knowledge. To equip yourself better, as your child approaches high school or ideally even before, become more well-informed. Talk to people. Read a lot. Assimilate what is before you so that when the time comes you can actually facilitate the process.
Remember, for the child, this is one of the most crucial decisions she will make. Irrespective of what she says and how serious she seems, she is as anxious as you are; she does want to make the right choice. As a parent, be there for her and work with her and help her make the “right” decision.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.


Now he sits down, now he runs, now he is here, now he is not !


I’ve often heard parents talking about how difficult it is to get their child(ren) to sit down for a project or to do homework. Back then, with just a toddler on my hands, and my only experience of homework being the one I did 25 years back, I simply couldn’t understand. Now, as my son juggles with “Integrated Primary Science” and “Communicative English” in school, I’m surprised at how much he learns everyday. One day, he came back from school saying he had to take 3 objects for demonstration on the concepts of “transparent, translucent and opaque”. Another day, he needed 5 fun facts on any planet ( he chose Saturn). While I truly enjoy doing these quick 5-minute projects with him, I wonder how he will react when these projects become bigger and take longer. You see – my son ( as most kids this age ) has severe problems sitting down to doing anything which needs him to think constantly on one topic for more than 300 seconds. We have spent endless days of school holidays – zipping from one game to another – Scrabble for 5 minutes, Monopoly for 10, book cricket for 3, UNO for 2, Colouring for 5 (you get the gist) – and still feeling bored :) Then, finally, I decided to take matters into my hands and “prepare” him to learn to concentrate on any one topic for 15 minutes at a stretch. Our project was the “Atlas” ! We took a big world map which he has and I asked him to draw each continent, write down the names of the countries with their capitals along with places of interest. While I painstakingly drew each minute country in Africa, he took up “South America”. To his credit, he drew each country neatly, coloured them, labelled them and proudly added it to his “map” collection. But all this was done in exactly 7 minutes and he refused to sit down to another. There went my experiment down the drain. But, I’m a staunch follower of King Bruce and I plan to be at it till I succeed ! Do you think I will ?? Do you think my son will finally learn to sit in one place and work ?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.


The power of family meals

This blog has been contributed by Meera Srinivasan, our resident expert on health and nutrition.

asparagus-soupBeing a nutritionist I have always paid attention to what my family eats. But until recently, I was not aware that how they eat is equally important. Research has shown that eating together as a family is key to inculcating healthy eating habits in children.

Researchers at Rutgers University have looked at 68 studies that have examined relationship between family meals, eating habits and children’s health. Amazingly all studies pointed to a similar trend – families who had “meals together” during the growing years had children and teens who ate more fruits and vegetables, other nutrient rich foods and less of soft drinks. The research also indicated that they had a lower BMI (body mass index) than kids whose families did not eat together! Of course, this is not a magic bullet but with so many studies confirming this trend it will be good to pay attention to these findings.

So you may wonder about relevance in India – well the situation in urban households is no longer different, with both parents working long hours and juggling work and children’s schedules. Sitting down together for dinner in most homes is becoming increasingly rare and eating together has become a weekend activity and invariably not at home …

Along with healthier eating habits and lower instances of obesity, there are other significant benefits of family meals:

  • Dinner together serves as an anchor for the family, nurtures the sense of belonging. It is a time for everyone to share and reflect about their day
  • Conversations around meal time help increase children’s vocabulary making them better readers.
  • Children actually do better in school/academics!
  • Children become aware of current events and have better social skills. They learn to make conversations and also become good listeners!
  • Teens who eat dinners at home regularly are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs!
  • As mentioned in the January 2013 issue of ParentEdge children learn by observing and experiencing and not by being instructed. If parents have healthy eating habits children tend to have similar eating habits!

How do we make it work?

  • Meal time has to be a priority for everyone – make your family understand and once they start doing it, the benefits will ensure that there is no turning back!
  • If dinner is not possible, explore breakfast and to start, target a minimum of three meals during the week.
  • Make the meals interesting, get the family involved in menu planning and if possible even cooking. Many children these days are showing an interest in cooking and we can be thankful to the Master Chef programmes!
  • Turn off mobiles, television during meals, so children understand you are making meal times a priority.
  • Conversation starters can be as simple as “what was the best part of your day”, “what went well for you today and what did not?” – and before you realize children are talking and telling you things which may be difficult to get out from them otherwise!

At our home we have dinner together and I find this the most gratifying time of the day!

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.