I was once travelling through a hilly terrain by bus. It was supposed to be a long 12 hrs of journey. I was travelling from my hometown to reach the airport at a different city to board a flight to destination. The weather was bad, it was raining heavily. Half way through the journey, our bus stopped near a deserted place. There was a landslide, and our bus had to wait. We were in the middle of nowhere. Worried about food, water. There were few kids and elderly passengers too! Thankfully, the rain had stopped for a while. To our surprise, there appeared few volunteers from a nearby village. They bought with them a big bucket full of Khichdi, and drinking water. They offered to take the kids, and elders to their village so that they can rest there. Its almost 25 years that I was victim of mother nature, but still have memories of the kind souls who tried to do their best for the unknown travellers.
The kindness chatterbox reminded me of the story. It gave me happiness even today to think about that day; about the act of those villagers. To me kindness is contagious. In western world, there is abundant use of the word “THANK YOU”. When I first travelled to the United States, it took me time to consciously use the two words. And then, somehow, it became a habit over time. The other day, two of my students gave me way through a passage, and wished me for the day. The first words that I spoke to them were “THANK YOU”. And then they were almost gone when I turned back and wished them “You too have a nice day”. Few days back, I visited an orphanage with a friend on the occasion of her first anniversary. I accompanied her as her husband was away from the town on an official trip. We played games with the kids, they showed us their Yoga skills, and then we all sang together. I looked with happiness at the face of my friend. Guess what? All I could see were tears. Tears of joy because of the happy moments spent with the kids.
The theme for BloomBrite Painting Contest for the month of November was “World Kindness Day”. November 13th is celebrated as the World Kindness Day. Every day we role play, our moments are filled with good and bad experiences, that in turn reflects in our emotions. Kindness is an act that can make a sad person happy. This is what is reflected in the emotions, in the paintings submitted to BloomBrite.com/contest. Helping a blind person cross the road, the service provided by our soldiers during natural calamities, taking care of disabled all are noble acts of kindness as expressed by the kids.
Kindness starts at home. Children feel happy when we enable them to be receivers of kindness. It improves their well-being, reduce bullying, and enrich their friendships. They, in turn, learn to be givers of kindness. Thats what is reflected in another painting posted for the contest.
Who is our companion when it rains? Isn’t it the umbrella? Many a times, it rains at Bangalore when we are just about to leave after days work. And have the experience of sharing the same with a kind colleague. This is what came to my mind when I came across the following submission.
During visit to parks, we come across kind persons who distrubute grains to birds; bring pets for a walk. Why do they do this? Do they practice kindness, or is it in-built in them? Do they do it because they gain happiness by such acts? Here’s another painting that has all smiling faces while taking part in kind acts.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind. That reminded of an accident that I was in. I was driving in the highway. A bike with a pillion rider took a wrong u-turn and suddenly bumped into my car. The car front got totally damaged. I was thanking God that the bike riders, and myself didn’t sustain any injury. The bikers apologized, mentioned that they were hurridly rushing to visit an ailing relative at the hospital. They helped me get the car to one safe corner of the road; somehow fixed the loose parts with a rope. That helped me drive the car to a closest garage.
We are happy that the kids who participated in the BloomBrite painting contest BloomBrite.com/contest expressed their idea about the topic “World Kindness Day”. Each of them thought differently about what kindness means to them. And that’s what we wanted for our kindness chatter box. If you had fun making those during your childhood, why don’t you take this up as a fun activity with your child/children?
Being an older brother or sister can be tough. Having spent their whole life so far being used to the undivided attention you give them, it can be difficult coming to terms with having to share that with someone else. This interloper may be your child’s new closest relative, but they may not be too sure about the new baby just yet. Your child might be thinking ‘why are they taking up so much of mum and dad’s time? What about me?!’
As parents we’re all aware that it can be tricky bringing a new sibling into the family. Of course, your existing little ones are likely to be wary and potentially envious. But after a little time and encouragement most siblings end up embracing life with their new brother or sister. Of course, there are a few things you can do to ease this transition. Here’s our guide to introducing a new sibling to your child.
Things to do before the new baby arrives:
– One really important thing you can do while pregnant with your second (or third, or fourth) child is to plan and prepare as much as you can. The more you do before the birth the more time you’ll have soothing both the newborn and your existing children and helping their relationship to blossom. For example get all the basic, admin-y parts of parenting sorted like setting up a nursery, having the right equipment to hand etc. If you need info or guidance on things like how to sterilize baby bottles then have a look at the useful resources online. Indeed you can click here for tips on how to sterilize baby bottles and other handy help.
– Talk to your child! This is a really important one as a bit of warning goes a long way when it comes to new babies. Involve your child in the pregnancy, explain to them what it’ll be like when their new sister/brother comes along. Empathise with them that they might feel a bit jealous and that’s completely normal.
– Early involvement is a great way to get your child used to the idea of a new family member, and you can get them to help make decisions before he baby arrives. Simple things from choosing the baby’s first toy or nursery accessories. You never know, perhaps your soon-to-be eldest might have some lovely baby names at the ready.
Things to do after the new baby arrives:
Once the new baby has arrived it’s important to continue this ethos of inclusion. By getting siblings to help out, children are likely to feel part of the family change rather than an adjunct to it. You can even get your child to help feed the new little one, once you’ve readied and sterilized the baby bottles and prepped the milk of course! This kind of involvement will make your children feel like they too are there to help with and care for the new addition to the family, rather than fueling any sibling rivalry. Here are some other ways you can get your kids involved with the new baby:
– Choosing the baby’s clothes for the day
– Letting them hold the baby (if they’re old enough)
– Getting them to try and make the baby laugh/supervised playtime with the baby
Blog article by Katherine Mosquera, London
Bristi was brought up by her grandmother. They shared a special relationship. Her grandmother was her most trusted adult. When she was 9 years old, her grandmother seemed to be not keeping well. The house full of positive energy suddenly turned to a place where Bristi never wanted to go back after school. All the family members got busy with hospital visits, the concern could be seen in their faces. Bristi’s mom made sure to take care of her daily routine. She was sent to school on time, to the play area of her complex on time, meals on time. Everything was on time, but Bristi’s grade in school detoriorated. Her teacher called her parents for a meeting. The teacher felt that there was a change in Bristi’s behavior with her friends. The teacher felt that Bristi was not herself.
Aryan is a 6 year old kid. His grandfather had a stroke, and was hospitalized. One day, his grandfather passed away. Aryan’s mother could not share the sad news with him for many days. She feared Aryan will not be able to handle the loss of a dear one from the family. Aryan kept asking more and more about his grandfather. Oneday his mother had to break the news.
The wellbeing of family members plays an important role in the life of kids. Oftentimes, we feel that kids are innocent, they are weak in terms of handling negative emotions. If we’re feeling sad or upset, we feel like hiding our tears so our kids don’t get upset. We tend to shield them away from negativities. The reality is that regardless of how we may try to keep information private and family activities routine, children overhear conversations. However, experts feel that it’s important for kids to see their parents experience normal human emotions, both good and bad. Like Bristi and Aryan’s parents, we often find ourselves or our friends in a state of confusion about how to talk to kids about the serious illness of a family member. Here are my 5-tips:
1. Plan for the talk: There is no right or wrong way to begin such a difficult conversation. You could start by talking about what the doctors have told you. But in a kid appropriate way. You don’t have to go into too much detail and it’s best not to give children too much information. You can gradually build up, giving them small chunks of information over time. For example: “Your granny is not well. She requires hospital visits. You should not disturb her much. Also, mummy would be busy for sometime. So, you need to take care of yourself well. And take care of everyone in the house. Together, we will overcome this tough phase.” Incase of death ” Your grandfather was suffering because of his disease. God has ended his sufferings. He’d be better off at heaven. His memories will be with us. You need to be a good kid” etc.
2. Inform teacher and other care givers: All a kid need to get through a tough phase is “Love”. So its better to mention about the situation at home to his teacher, and other caregivers. This will ensure compassion at school, day care, hobby classes, or while playing with friends. If a kid is emotionally weak already, love and care can help him overcome the negativity.
3. Involve friends and extended family in the care of kids: You can send kids to your friends place, or request an extended family member to spend some quality time. That might involve a tour of the library, a visit to a park or museum, or activities that give them happiness.
4. Keep routines as consistent as possible: Try to maintain daily activities as routine as possible as a kid is used to. In case of anticipated changes, make them part of the process by giving choices. For example, if you are not able to drive them to school, mention how you are going to manage that. If you are not able to help them with project work, who should they seek support!
5. Spend quality time: Whenever you get time, talk to them. Understand their emotions, their concerns. Sometimes, young kids cannot label their emotions. They may express through actions. So be understanding of their actions. Actively listen to them.
Give children information but also give them time to process it. Observe your child’s reaction and respond honestly, in simple language. If you feel you cannot talk yourself, seek professional help.
In the early 1980s, developmental psychologist and educational researcher Howard Gardner verified that different children learn in different ways. He observed that children learn better in school when their individual learning styles are recognized and supported. He outlined seven different learning styles: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical-mathematical. Out of these 7 styles, parents and educators mostly concentrate to identify auditory, visual, and kinesthetic styles in kids. Knowing learning style helps to nurture academic growth in children, as well as choose after-school activities, and extracurricular classes. Here’s a peek into the three different learning styles.
Children who are auditory learners learn better by hearing stuff. They love music and can remember the words to songs they hear. If they don’t understand something, will often say, “Tell me again.” Auditory learners like to read out loud, rather than silently, even when they’re alone. They love to listen to stories rather than read it by themselves. They understand a concept better when it’s explained rather than when they’re given a reading assignment.
Children who are visual learners show an affinity for books and reading. As kids they love picture books, bright colors, toys and later love to learn from videos, demonstrations and classroom handouts. They like to draw and paint. Once they’ve read a story, they can retell it down to the smallest detail. They often say, “Show me,” when they’re trying to learn something new and like to see someone else perform a task before they try it themselves. These learners perform better when taught through role playing, narratives, charts, flash cards, or story telling.
Children who are kinesthetic learner love making building sets, model kits and interactive displays. If offered a choice in art class, they’ll choose modeling clay over pencils or paint. From an early age, they’ll reach for books that encourage interaction—pop-ups, little doors that open and close or books with textures that can be touched or petted. These learners usually have a strong sense of balance, and they learn best by touching or doing things themselves. So they are often termed as called ‘do-ers’.
Then there are learners who perform and understand better by working in groups (Interpersonal or social learners), studing alone (Intrapersonal or solitary learners), learns through speech and writing (Linguistic or verbal learners), through logic and reasoning behind a topic (Logical learner).
Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. And that, we have a mix of learning styles. While everyone learns individually in a variety of ways, we all — children and adults — do it best when using particular senses and ways of exploring the world.
Parents and care givers nurture babies and toddlers with different type of sensory inputs like lullabies and rhymes, colourful toys, blocks, expose them to the environment. Children get excited to see birds, and animals, trees around. All these are play a great role in the developmental milestones. Children remember things when they are repeatedly exposed to various stuffs around them. So, we can say that the leaning styles are mapped by the brain, but learning experiences do help in shaping or nurturing the learning styles?
So the first step in learning anything is the exposure, then its the interest level, and finally its the fruit of stong will and perseverance. If a child has good map of kinesthetics but is never exposed to a sport, do you think this trait will show up as a dormant one? I guess, not. And that’s why opportunities are important. And that’s where parents and educators can play a big role.
Here are our 5 tips to nurture the learning style in kids:
1. Identify the learning style:
Even at a very early age, observational clues can indicate a likely learning style. Once you identify whether your child learns primarily by looking, listening, or doing, you can help shape his or her educational experience. This can be a very important exercise while choosing the school curriculum also. Some schools focus more on lecture based learning, some orient kids to hands-on interactive learning. Same holds true in case of chosing extracurricular activities.
2. Consider your child’s interests:
A child’s primary learning style is normally reflected in his or her interests. Auditory learners may be especially musical and show an aptitude for playing instruments or singing. They are good listeners and often have verbal strengths. They may be able to remember all the words to numerous songs, while possibly struggling to remember what they just read in a book. A visual learner may have inclination towards painting, kinesthetic learner towards sports, playing musical instruments etc.
3. Incoorporate strategies based on learning style in day-to-day activities:
Auditory learners love to talk. They are also strong listeners — they remember information that they’ve heard before. If your child is an auditory learner, then conversations that include question/answer sessions, quiz, jingles etc may help him/her retain information. For visual learners, you can together watch educational videos that complement what she’s learning in class. Your child may also benefit from historical films, biopics, and other movies that relate to material from school. Also, posters, charts, and color-coded highlighting can also be helpful when he/she’s studying. For a kinesthetic learner, you may try break up long lessons into smaller chunks, change teaching locations, and letting them move around while learning things. Hands-on activities, tactile materials, and movemet helps these children retain informaion best.
4. Talk to teachers and people who interact with your child regularly:
Every child is unique. They have different likes and, interests. No matter how active you are as a parent or how closely you observe your own child, sometimes other people will pick up on tendencies and indications that you miss. A grandparent, day-care provider, teacher or pediatrician may provide keen insights into your child’s learning tendencies.
5.Practice makes perfect:
One important life skill that we can instill to children is to teach them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. They need to be told stories about perseverance, and goal setting. Whatever is the learning style, only practice makes a learning perfect.
Nearly every child has a dominant learning style that doesn’t mean they can’t learn in other ways. Learning styles also may change as time progresses. Thus, unless there is a concern about a potential learning disability or other issue, a child’s learning style is not something that typically needs to be professionally diagnosed.
BloomBrite conducted online painting contest on the theme “Thank You”. There were lot of entries from kids. They participated from various parts of India. They expressed gratitude for their parents, teachers, helpers, soldiers, environment, and God. After going through the paintings, a question kept haunting me. Kids have their studies, play time, story times and hobbies that they love to pursue, then why bother about their attitude of gratitude?
There are published studies that state that by learning gratitude, kids become sensitive to the feelings of others, develop their innate capacities for empathy and altruism. They make more friends, appreciate what they have, show responsibility, and in general more life satisfaction in later life. So, we need to focus on narturing an attitude of gratitude if we want our kids to be happy.
But how can we instill gratitude in children who are naturally self-centered and growing up in an entitlement-driven society? Here are the 5 tips to raise kids with an attitude of gratitude:
1. Model Gratitude: They say kids learn gratitude by seeing others display appreciation in everyday, unplanned moments. You can model gratitude by thanking God in the morning for a beautiful day, for health and happiness, thanking the environment, helpers. Convey your appreciation for others with hugs, words, and small thank you notes. Discuss acts of kindness that you come across, appreciate the good deeds of your kids. Respect people, things, and the environment. Remember the fastest way to boost character is through examples.
2. Appreciate what you have: The ability to know “what is enough” is one of the most important skills you can teach your kids. Through the understanding of this concept kids learn moderation, and self-control. They understand the value of eyes, when you make them interact with blind children. Understand the value of their toys when they see slum kids playing with stones. To learn to appreciate food, shelter they need to come across less previleged ones.
3. Teach Family Values: Many children grow up believing that life is about acquiring money, and material possessions. If your family values hard work, saving money and simple joys, make sure your principles are being communicated regularly. It’s important to involve kids in household chores so that they appreciate the hard work of other family members, and helpers.
4. Celebrate the joy of giving: Receiving gifts can be fun, but make sure your children also recognize the joy of giving. Around the holidays, focus on celebrating the joy of giving. Make visits to relatives, orphanages, organize fund raising drives. Face-to-face experiences can go a long way in helping kids appreciate their blessings.
5. Practice Mindfulness: It’s important to teach kids to stay in the moment. To breathe the fresh air while walking in the park, to appreciate the taste of food while eating a meal, actively listen when someone talks to them, persevere when it comes to adhere to a goal, etc.
You’ve probably heard it said that “happiness is a choice.” While it can be difficult to choose happiness in tough times, research suggests that happiness is, in fact, less the result of circumstance and more the product of our own thinking and habits. When we make our children mindful, aware of their blessings, and inculcate a habit of expressing gratitude, we not only make their path easier and happier, but also pave the way for a better future around us.
Christmas is round the corner. Kids are ready for their holidays. As parents, we want to make sure that they have a good time. And, the vacation gets exciting for them. Many of us have trip plans, many have already enrolled kids into various winter camps. And then, there are some of us who are going to stay back at our respective cities. What would be good ways of keeping our kids engaged, having fun, and quality bonding time? Here are the 5-tips to spend the Christmas holidays with kids:
1. Gratitude Jar: This is the time to bid goodbye to the year 2017. Any farewell is not complete without thank you notes. As new year is nearing, it is a good time now to orient kids to gratitude. Gratitude to the things that they have been grateful for. It’s actually great fun to decorate a gratitude jar. Then think of all the memories of the last 12 months. And write those down in small pieces of paper, and put that in the jar. That way, you and kiddo get transported to the memories, and all the things that you have been thankful for. Trust me, this is a great way to know your kiddo too! Later, you can pick a special time to pull out notes at random and ask kids to read them aloud. It leads to great bonding, and family fun.
2. Cooking Fun: Cooking is an important life skill for kids. It offers kids opportunities to use their senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. It helps build fine motor skills, self- confidence, perseverance, and bonding with adults in the kitchen. It orients kids to nutrition and self care. And in addition is a lot of fun. Christmas is a great time to have fun over baking cakes, cookies; and pan cakes!
3. Charity Work: A great way to reinforce charitable values in kids, is to make giving a family activity. This Christmas holidays, you can organize charity events for kids at your apartment, or in the neighborhood. Kids can sell stuff like pop corn, juices, or their baked items. You can help them by donating the raw materials. Finally, the amount collected can be used for donation to an orphanage, or for buying gifts for helpers who take care of the locality. Newspaper donation drive is also an enjoyable charity event. Charity events are great platforms to orient kids that they are part of a larger community and that we are responsible for everyone around us. I remember one such event when kids wanted to buy mosquito repellents, and warm clothes for the security guards of their apartment!
4. Story Time: We have grown up on stories narrated to us by our grandparents, parents and other elders in the family. Those stories helped us learn some important moral lessons of our lives. Now, with technology invading our lives like never before, nuclear families and working parents overpowering the social set up, the art of story-telling has become rare. However, kids love story time with adults. Story times encourage listening skills in kids, help develop ,vocabulary, strengthens emotions and thinking ability. Overall, kids bond very well with adults over stories. You can visit www.bloombrite.com for stories on life skills.
5. City Tour: Every city around the globe provides myriad options for fun and entertainment for kids and adults. You can take your kids to museums, botanical gardens, historical monuments, or other places that used to attract you as a kid, have a picnic outing, or stroll down the lazy roads!
These are just a few of my thoughts, but would love to hear yours! How have you decided to spend the holidays? Do write back under the comments section. Merry Christmas!
Recently, there have been a lot of debate in social media about autism. Scientific data show a rise in autism diagnosis rates in children. Many parents feel that doctors are over-diagnosing the disorder. So, what’s the truth behind the data? Here are the excerpts from a discussion with Dr Suhas Chandran from the Department of Psychiatry, JSS Hospital, Mysore.
What is autism?
– Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition. It affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. The terms such as Classic Autism or Kanner’s Autism (named after the first psychiatrist to describe autism) or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) have been used interchangeably to describe the disorder.
What is the prevalence and incidence of autism?
– According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 88 children under the age of 10 years old suffer from autism or autism like disorder. These are broadly called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The rate of incidence of autism is increasing 10-17% per year in the US according to the Autism Society of America. Incidence extrapolations for India for Autism are 11,914 cases per year, 250 per month, 57 per week, 8 per day, 1.4 per hour.
At what age do one start to see the symptoms of autism?
– The symptoms are first observed by the time a kid reaches 3 years. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be autistic. Autism is not caused by a person’s upbringing, their social circumstances or bad parenting and it is not the fault of the child with the condition. The disorder has a strong genetic basis, though the root causes are not completely understood yet. ASD is a wide-spectrum disorder. This means that no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms. The combinations of symptoms may differ. Also the intensity of symptoms may vary greatly. Many autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviours that are markedly different from those of typically developing children.
What are the common symptoms of autism?
The common symptoms are as follows:
-Aggressive, self-injurious behaviour
-Odd/ritualistic behaviour like rocking back and forth, waving hands
-Resistance to change in normal routines
-Language: not/ slowly developed
-The child prefers to spend time alone
-Has little interest in making friends
-Lack of attachment is often noted
-Less responsive to social cues, poor eye contact
-Lack of spontaneous / imaginative play
-Does not imitate other’s actions
-Hypersensitivity to touch and sound
-Sleep problems: Some children may have features suggestive of mental retardation (now known as intellectual disability) and a seizure disorder along with a combination of the above symptoms.
What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome is an ASD where the child generally has normative language development and skills, but struggles in other areas, such as social interactions.
What are the misconceptions and misinformation regarding autism?
– It is absolutely imperative for a parent, a teacher, and other caregivers to watch for signs of autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the sooner he starts getting the necessary treatment and care, the more successful his treatment will be. Long before receiving the diagnosis of ASD, parents do suspect that something is different about their child but what often comes in the way of an early or an accurate diagnosis could be misconceptions and misinformation regarding autism. These include:
-Autism affects only the rich.
-Individuals with autism do not speak at all.
-All children with autism are lost in their own world.
-Autism is a western disorder. It is rarely seen in the subcontinent.
-Autism is a result of poor parenting and a proper home environment can cure the child.
How early can the health care professionals diagnose ASD?
– Health professionals can reliably diagnose ASD in kids as young as 16 months old. They rely on behavioural observations, medical screenings and a child’s developmental history for their diagnosis. Then, families and experts work together to come up with a tailored integrated treatment plan. Children with autism shows significant development even in the core areas of impairment if the intervention provided is appropriate to the child. Reversing autism is one of medicine’s toughest challenges. Though there is no absolute cure for the core symptoms, drugs are available to treat overt symptoms such as anxiety, repetitive behaviours and irritability.
What is the role of behavioral therapy?
– Behavioural modifications are however the gold standard where therapists work with children to modify their behaviour and develop social skills with a combination of techniques, like positive reinforcement and chaining — breaking a skill down into small chunks so it’s easier to learn. Programs and services aimed at helping children with autism enhance their quality of life, like speech therapy and occupational therapy, which teach specific daily living skills. Remember adulthood lasts a lot longer than childhood and we must enable these children with these skills. Some children have special skills say ‘isolated islets of intelligence’ referred to as savant skills – heightened ability in math, music etc.
What is the goal of therapy?
– Not all people with autism have an incredible gift or savantism but the goal of therapy is to potentiate what a child can do rather than emphasize on what the child cannot do, to focus more on their strengths and interests rather than behaviours that negatively impact their life. The idea is if they can’t learn the way we teach, then we teach the way they learn. It is not surprising that parents, and some educators, would be taken with the possibility of a quick cure. In contrast, behaviour based education requires tedious hours of one-on-one work not just by professionals but also by parents who will be the child’s best therapist, once again reiterating why it is important to diagnose early.
What are the current needs in India in terms of dealing with autism?
– With the exception of a few parent initiated support groups, few families of children with disabilities in India have access to mental health professionals for correction of the myths or an outlet for their own feelings of grief and helplessness. There is urgent need for services to support parents with coping strategies to deal with the stress of parenting a child with autism.
What is your final take on autism and related disorders?
– Ignorance is not bliss: Early diagnosis and early intervention should be the mantra in Autism
– The most important thing to remember is that autism doesn’t mean a child isn’t smart, or won’t go on to do great things later in life. Researchers now believe that some of our greatest minds — people like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Mozart to name a few may have had a form of autism. Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing, but autism is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique.
To quote Dr. Temple Grandin, an American professor and a prominent Autism spokesperson “The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need; they’ll make their own boxes”.
When I was a kid, I used to observe this age old tradition. The tradition of laying down infants on the verandah of the house, in the morning. And that was for the dose of sunshine vitamin or Vitamin D. The practice has slowly vanished, mainly because of urbanization. When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time time at the playgrounds of our school. The playgrounds welcomed kids for unstructured play during 30 mins of lunch break daily. Today, schools have playgrounds. But kids are mostly allowed there during sports periods. At home also, kids donot get enough Vitamin D. This is because of the following reasons. Now-a-days, kids play mostly indoors, or at covered play spaces. The result is quite obvious from recent studies on Vitamin D. Today, doctors say 6 out of 10 children suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, due to less exposure to sun. Not only kids, several studies over the years have shown that more than 50% of the Indian population is vitamin D-deficient.
What is Vitamin D and how is it useful for our body?
Vitamin D is fat-soluble vitamin. It is needed for strong bones, muscles and overall health. Vitamin D is essential for calcium to enter our bones. This prevents rickets (dental and skeletal deformities, bone pain or tenderness, impaired growth) in children, and osteoporosis and osteomalacia (bones to become weak, brittle and more prone to fractures) in adults. Deficiency of Vitamin D is also linked to autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
What is Vitamin D deficiency?
The most reliable marker of vitamin D status is the serum concentration of 25(OH)D. In infants and children, it is desirable to maintain 25(OH)D between 15–20 ng/mL. To maintain that, Vitamin D intake of at least 400 IU in infancy and 600 IU during childhood and adolescence is essential. In adults, 25(OH)D < 20 ng/mL is considered as deficiency, insufficiency as 20–29 ng/mL and sufficiency as ≥30 ng/mL.
What are the sources of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is made when sun light reacts with a compound called, 7-dehydrocholesterol, in our skin. The sun emits light with varying spectra. The UVB (the B band of ultra violet rays) stimulates the production of vitamin D. In 30 minutes, around 3000IU (international units) of vitamin D is formed and absorbed into the body. Most people require only few minutes of exposure to obtain their daily requirements of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of food items. The richest natural source is cod liver oil. The other sources are egg yolks, some fish (mackerel, catfish, tuna, sardines and herring) [cholecalciferol] and certain mushrooms (maitake, chanterelle and morel) [ergocalciferol]. There are many fortified food items available in the market. These are milk and milk alternatives, cereals, orange juice, yogurt etc. Cholecalciferol causes a greater rise in vitamin D levels compared to ergocalciferol when given at a same dose.
We get almost 90% of our vitamin D from sunlight, and less than 10% of the daily requirement from diet. The duration of sun exposure required to produce optimal levels of vitamin D depends on skin pigmentation, proportion of body covered, time of exposure, latitude, season, and the level of atmospheric pollution. Here are 5-tips to boost sunshine vitamin for kids:
1. Avoidance of excessive use of sunscreens: Increasing sun avoidance and high-SPF sunscreens is a huge factor in declining blood levels of Vitamin D. So when you want to give a boost of Vitamin D avoid excessive application of sunscreen.
2. Clothing during exposure to sunlight: It is important to expose 18% of the body, that is bare arms and bare face; without protection with clothes. Post sun exposure, you can apply aloe vera or lacto calamine to sooth and calm the skin.
3. Duration of exposure to sunlight: We make enough precursors by exposure to the sunlight for 5-10 minutes every day or 30 minutes three times a week. This can be made possible in kids by encouraging them to play outdoors, or taking them for brisk walk over the weekend.
4. Timing of exposure to sunlight: UV-B radiation from the sun are most intense during mid-day. The best time of exposure is between 10 am to 3 pm. Outside this duration, little longer exposure may be required to produce the same amount of the vitamin.
5. Supplementation in diet: Most experts feel it is tough to get Vitamin D dose from diet alone. Along with sunlight, they recommend to provide Vitamin D rich foods and supplements. Children with fat malabsorption, and those who require long-term use of seizure medications may need higher dosages of vitamin D because of increased risk of deficiency.
Not only physical health, sunlight is an important indicator of our mental health too. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotnin is considered our happy hormone. Serotonin boosts our mood and helps feel calm and focused.
They say “When we open ourselves up to receive the light, our beauty shines forth”.
Can joy be cultivated? And, if so, can we teach our kids to be more joyful in their lives? There are research based practices like gratitude, emotion coaching, compassion that bring true happiness. These are proven to be best prescriptions for ones’ wellbeing. But the question is that why do we need to teach kids to be joyful? Aren’t kids born happy?
Research points to the fact that some people are born happier than others. Interview of parents with two or more kids also support the same. Scientific evidence pinpoints to the fact that personality is controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain. The left side of the frontal lobe is more active when people feel happy. Whereas, the right side of the frontal lobe is more active when people feel sad. Thus, the trick is to take what nature has given your kid and nurture him for a lifetime of happiness. By coaching what stimulates the left prefrontal cortex you can encourage him/her to be happier. Similarly, by practicing what calms the activity in the right prefrontal cortex you can train him/her to reduce sadness.
The question comes back again about how to teach kids to be more joyful in their lives? How can one stimulate the left prefrontal cortex or calm down the right one? Here are the 5-tips:
1. Emotion coaching: Every human walks around with with a basket that is full of emotions. Emotions like happiness, sadness, embarassment, anger, fear, joy etc. Emotional turmoil directly affects our mood, thoughts and relationships. Importantly, emotions play a vital role in our overall well-being. Life is ironic as it takes sadness to know what happiness is. Anger to appreciate the state of calm and content. Thus all emotions are important. Research shows that children who understand their feelings and learn about their emotions are able to control the activity of their prefrontal cortex, and stay healthy. So how to coach emotions?
The first step is to identify feelings by giving them labels. “I hear you laughing, are you happy?” “You look sad. It is because you broke your toy car?” “Are you angry because mummy didn’t give you the ice-cream?” “Nita fell down, how do you think she feels?” Such labels can be practiced by talking, drawing different faces with emotions, or emotion crafts like emoji ping pong balls, balloons, picture books or flash cards.
You must also talk about your own feelings and how you express those feelings. “Remember yesterday when the water in the sink would not go down the drain? Mommy got so mad and do you remember what the face looked like? Can you make a mad face like Mommy’s? What do you do when you get mad? When I get mad I take a deep breath, count to three, and then try to think of the best way to deal with my problem.” The idea here is not to try to suppress the emotion labelling. But label it, acknowledge that emotion, and find out ways to deal with it!
Praise your kid when she tries to talk about his feelings instead of just reacting. It is important to let your kid know how proud you are of her for talking about feelings.
Finally, support your kid when she goes through emotional turmoil. I know of a friend’s kid who had hidden his school diary in their car dicky. He had received a diary note about bad behaviour at school. He was so scared to discuss that with parents that he told everyone that he lost his diary. Once found out, the parents couldnot believe that their kid was capable of such an act. I was worried about the emotional turmoil that the kid had gone through!
2. Letting them do things that they enjoy: When I look back at my childhood, I remember the endless time that I had spent with my friends. The unstructured games like hide-and-seek, kabaddi, play dates with dolls were the most enjoyable moments. I spent lots of time on art and crafts, reading story books, gave performances from school etc. We kids had time and support from family to explore things around, and also time to become bored. Then figure out how to overcome boredom. We had the time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream. Now-a-days, the focus is given more to academic achievements, and adult directed sports and other activities.
Recently, kids came up with the idea to celebrate halloween festival at our apartment. They divided themselves into age based groups, dressed up for the evening with with little support from parents, and visited the flats to play “treat or trick”. Parents were over impressed with their efforts. And they started the discussion to have an structured event next year! Where’s the liberty for kids? There is scientific evidence to adress the fact that unstructured play helps children learn how to work in groups, to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions and behavior, and speak up for themselves. It is thus very important to let kids do things that they enjoy. And coach them to be self responsible by inspiring them with real life examples. Once, they understand why academic performance is important, they themselves will allocate time for studies and other activities accordingly! I had a friend who used to watch a movie before exams, yet excell in academics.
3. Gratitude: It is very easy to teach gratitude to kids if started early. As the practice is to learn to thank, help, appreciate others, notice own blessings, know our gifts, and serve others. Gratitude could be as simple as having eyes to see, food to eat, and air to breathe; thankfulness for having good friends or it could be someone offering an umbrella when it rains.
We once took our kiddo to a facility that house abandoned kids with cerebral palsy. There were kids of all ages. Most were seated in wheel-chairs. Only few were able to walk without support. It brought tears to her eyes, and she thanked God for all the privileges that have been gifted to her as birth right.
4. Kindness: Kindess is a practice that fosters life long happiness. Kids are innocent, once we coach the skills we actually prepare them for life. I had organized a newspaper donation drive with kids. They visited all the apartments at our society, and requested for old newspapers. The idea was to collect fund by selling those. And use that towards welfare of our supporting staff. “What shall we buy?” There were many answers that ranged from mosquito repellants for security uncles, earthern pot for water, to winter jackets. I was amazed at their thought process. We made the selling process of newspapers fun by giving points to teams that guessed the right weight of a bunch picked up by the vendor uncle. Overall, the process was joyful for all of us!
5. Friendships: Studies have shown good friendships convey a range of health benefits. So learning how to make friends is a critical skill that can take people far in life. When kids are younger, experts say parents should create opportunities for them to socialize with kids who share common interests. This could mean signing them up for activities they enjoy, help set up play dates, and model teach kids about how to be good hosts to friends, and how friendships bring in joy. And model tips to nurture and value friendships.
Whenever we teach our children—and ourselves—to shine a light on the good and to rest our minds on uplifting moments, we are strengthening the ability to empathize with others, feel more connected, build resilience, and be inspired to make this a better world. And that makes for a more joyful life for all!
A write up on promoting good mental health in children? This is what came to my mind as soon as I entered the hospital lobby. There were banners everywhere about the significance of the day. It’s October 10th today. The day is celebrated throughout the globe as the World Mental Health Day. The objective is to raise awareness to ensure that people with mental health problems can live with dignity. The awareness is very important as mental health issues are on the rise in the millennial generation. Take the case of India. According to studies, the prevalence rate of mental health disorders is 12.5 % among children aged 0-16, and 12 % among the 4-16 year-olds. Suicide death rates in India are among the highest in the world, standing at 36 for every 1,00,000 youth citizens.
What is causing mental ill health on such a scale? And what can we do about it? These are difficult but important questions. Is the modern life incompatible with mental well being for most people?Even if it is, what about children? Shouldn’t all children naturally have good mental health habits? After all, childhood is supposed to be a pretty relaxed time of life! Then why is the prevalence rate of mental health disorders high in children too? Is this because they live in this era of technology and globalization?
The other day I observed a mini school van entering my apartment complex in the evening at around 6 pm. The van belonged to a reputed preschool and day care. There were around 8-10 kids. They were of the age group 3-5 years. They are usually out of home for 9-10 hours. Two kids were dropped off at my complex. One kid was carried home by his grandfather, and the other went with his dad. They looked tired. In this era of technology, globalization and the trend of nuclear families, I understand the need of parents to send young kids away from home. On the other hand, I felt bad for the kids. At such a tender age, are not they getting used to some kind of an office schedule? As childhood is supposed to be a pretty relaxed time of life, are not kids exposed to stress because of our altered life style?
Every parent wants to give best to kids despite challenges. There’s a saying that children spell love as “TIME”. And that healthy parents don’t find family time, they make time. When 1,500 school children were asked the question, “What do you think makes a happy family?” “The most frequent answer was “doing things together”. Doing things together, spending quality brings in positive mental well-being in kids. The time parents spend so hard earning money for them, is actually the same time that kids crave from parents. So, what do we parents do to help kids avoid the blues? Here are my 6 ways the importance of 6 letters M-E-N-T-A-L to promote mental health in kids.
M: Mindfulness– The quality or state of being conscious of the emotions is called mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to improve our abilities to pay attention, to calm down when upset, make better decisions and social skills. There are many mindful exercises like breathing exercises, mindful posing, jar etc. that one can practice for the above benefits. It’s important to orient kids to various emotions, and let them know that it’s ok to feel happy, sad, embarassed, angry, scared etc. in day to day life. And then ensure that they pay attention to their daily chores. During brushing, let them notice how the brush moves over teeth and the taste of the toothpaste. During eating let them concentrate on texture, smell and taste of food. Encourage kids to notice their breath by putting their fingers under their noses to feel the warmth and moisture of the out-breath. Have them put their hands on their tummies to feel the rise and fall of their bellies as they breathe. Let them know that when they are angry, it can be calming to focus on what our breathing actually feels like.
E: Exercise and engagement– Overall, studies provide support for the benefits of 60 mins of physical activity daily in children and adolescents on executive function, brain activity, and depressive symptoms. This is because exercise releases happy chemicals in the brain. You can do Tabata, DanceFit, walking, running, or other partner exercises like ball exchange, badminton, table tennis etc. together with your kids for 10 mins to half an hour daily, or over the weekend as “Me Time with Kiddo”. Trust me its going to be very much fun. It creates bonding with kids.
N: Nutritious food– The brain and body work best when blood sugar levels remain steady throughout the day. Eliminating highs and lows in blood sugar levels can help eliminate ups and downs in your child’s mood and energy levels. The best way to do this is for your child to eat a diet rich in whole foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. A balanced diet with positive eating habits as a kid promotes long term mental health.
T: Time for play– Many a times kids miss out on their unstructured play time with friends because of academic pressures, coaching classes for academics, and other after-school activity classes. Studies have shown that unstructured play allows children to relax, and builds up their 4C skills like creativity, curiosity, communication, and collaboration skills and promotes emotional well-being.
A: Adequate sleep– Adequate sleep is required for giving rest to the brain. Kids need 9-12 hrs of sleep at night based on their age. You can instill good sleep hygiene in kids right from their childhood.
L: Love from family– They say confidence grows in a home that is full of unconditional love and affection. You can promote good mental health by the things you say and do, and through the environment you create at home. Take time off from your social platforms, be an active listener, and encourage the efforts of your kid whether he/she achieves or fails in goals. Read stories together, do role plays. Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health: Talk about your feelings. Make time for things you enjoy.
“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be”- Help your child find someone to talk to if she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you.
Having good mental health doesn’t mean kids don’t experience difficulties or worries. Feeling worried, sad or fearful is normal. Kids who are mentally healthy are equipped to handle many of life’s curve-balls that come their way. They also let go emotions easily. As a result they learn better and have more friends as well. And finally, excel in academics and succeed later in life.