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Monday, October 09, 2017

Social Media Strategies for Children

Is Social Media bad for you?

This question has been going around in my head for quite a while now, and of course there are many articles that discuss social media or SM on our timelines at all times. Here are my 2 cents on how I try to make sense of things as they are today, and how I enable my kids.

Can Social Media be a waste of time and keep us away from other important tasks? Yes.

Can it lead to mood-shifts and disenchantment with the way things are? Yes.

Can it sometimes mean a dangerous level of over-sharing details of our lives? Yes, very much so.

Does it offer quite a few positives including getting and staying in touch with friends and family, and learning about the joys and triumphs in others' lives? Also a yes.

Does it give me a chance to share my happiness? Yes it absolutely does!

The challenge is about how to balance those scary first few questions with the latter more positive impacts that SM has had in most of our lives. I think the answer is a simple one. Self-regulation. Knowing when to indulge and when to stop. Sounds like most "vices" doesn't it? And that's how I treat it.

The world around is us constantly changing. The way in which our kids approach most things, starting with homework to communicating with friends instantly has hugely changed fro when we were their age.

Do my children have an easier time with their schoolwork, and the required research, thanks to the Internet? Yes.

Does that give me more responsibility to keep them safe in the big bad online world? Yes!! 

What is it that might work best as a strategy for kids? 

A total ban except for when I can look over their shoulder? Obviously not! This is not a realistic expectation, and I realise this even more strongly as my older one is on the verge of becoming a teenager. It needs to be a balance of regulating time spent online and using controls (and open communication with them, which is vastly underrated as far as I'm concerned) to keep them safe.

As of now, these steps have been helping with my 12 year old. My 9 year old is still not allowed his own phone or to be on SM (including WhatsApp), and surprisingly he hasn't felt the need for it as well :).

1. WhatsApp is allowed only with cousins and a close set of friends. In fact, I wonder if I've made her a bit too aware of the dangers of sharing her number indiscriminately, and she doesn't even give it to her classmates for project discussions. This means I end up doing a lot of the coordinating of seeing messages and responding (hmm maybe that's her strategy ;)).

2. All other social media outlets, and email as well, will only be allowed when she's 13 and over (which is actually what is stated according to the terms of service anyway). We are currently in discussions as to why I think we should put off FB especially until a bit later, and maybe start only with an Instagram (private) account.

3. I recognise that there will be a point beyond which I will just have to trust D (and later S), and give them a lot more privacy in her online interactions. This is why talking, talking, talking about it, until I see that some of what I'm trying to say has made an impression, is my best ongoing strategy :).

4. Not specific to social media, but regulating device time in general. This means I need to remain aware of where all the devices at home are, at all times, but so be it :P. They have got into the habit of asking permission to use devices, so that's good for as long as it lasts.

What kind of steps or strategies do you use for Social Media use by your kids? Do share in the comments :).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Important Alert for New Parents

This is something I wish I had been warned about about a decade back.. ;) so thought it might be useful for some of the new parents out there.

S is practicing a song on the piano.. the tune is very familiar to me and I found that I was humming the end of the line before he finished playing it.. couldn't quite place it so went up to him and asked what song it was.. it was called "The more we get together.. ". Sang it with the words added in a couple of times and still couldn't figure out where I'd heard it before..

After about half a day of it being stuck in my head, I thought checking online might help as it may have been it had been used in an ad/jingle somewhere and that's why it was familiar. No such luck. Then I saw this video:

And it struck me! It was from a Barney DVD that I used to play a LOT for D when she was 1.5 or 2.. which is 10 years ago..  She was a tough kid to feed and this dvd was one of my saviours at the time.. and apparently the tune has been in my memory ever since!

So new parents - Beware! Those kiddie songs and cartoons and tunes.. are going to take up space in your head for a long time to come.. and believe me, when you're 40 and trying to remember important stuff and wondering why your brain doesn't seem to have space, this will feel like an important discovery. So maybe you could sing along a bit less with the videos now and save that precious brain bandwidth for later ;).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dealing with Disappointment: How to Enable your Child

When you're a child, disappointments feel like the end of all hopes, a dark and gloomy day, and if you have an imaginative daughter like D, possibly also like "the cruellest cut of all" and other dramatic references.

It does happen once in a while, and the most recent was just a few days back. D had the preliminary heats for her Sports Day events and came back mightily disappointed that she didn't get selected as the teacher made her run an extra round by mistake, when she had already done the required number. The teacher was "so" unfair, life was unfair, and so on.

As a parent, my first impulse was to message the teacher :P.. yes yes as non-"tiger mom" as I usually am, I was feeling particularly protective and tigress-like in that moment. Then, I reminded myself that one of the most important things I will do as a parent is to:

1. Let them fight their own battles: Sometimes it might not even be a battle anyway. In this case, she was not too keen to be forceful about it or "fight" with the teacher, which is a sentiment I understand. I did manage to advise her though to not give up completely and go and enquire about her timing at least in a mild manner to reassure herself that the other teacher on the field also hadn't noticed her additional round.

Some other learnings along the way, for me as a parent, to understand what it is that works (hopefully!) in a situation like this:

2. Reassure your child that you believe her and understand why she is disappointed: As an adult, one of the first impulses is to ask "Are you sure?" but I'm pretty sure that this would have been the wrong thing to say at this point ;). All it needs is to put yourself in their shoes and think how you would want to be treated. In this case, she was very clear as to why she thought a mistake had been made (she sprinted throughout, many others walked part-way, and no one passed her at all until she had to repeat the round). To her credit, she even expressed some doubts later after calming down that maybe she'd made a mistake!

3. Talk about unfairness and how to handle interactions: I make sure to discuss with the kids whenever I come across a labelling of teachers for any reason - too strict, too lenient(!), not good, or as in this case - unfair. I was sure the teacher must have been busy handling multiple events, and definitely no ill will was intended towards D in particular. I told her that the teacher might have made an honest mistake, and might have been a bit sharp in responding to D while she was running as she was busy trying to keep track of everything and couldn't spend time on her in the middle of the race. Also, D is a new entrant to the school's athletics events so no one would have expected her to do well (I know this is bordering on unfairness, but I also know that it's realistic). She has started athletics classes in the last 2-3 months so has really improved and picked up a passion to prove herself in the area, but how are folks at school to know that?

4. What next? Set some goals to focus on: After she calmed down, she of course still hoped that she might have been selected for one of the athletics events. And it's good to have hope. But I also tried to prepare her for the result that she might not have been shortlisted for anything, and that's ok as she really did try her heart out which is the most important thing. We also talked about what else she can focus on - there's an event coming up at her athletics class so we agreed that that could still be a lot of fun and she can train towards proving herself there.

I started this post a few days back, and now I also know that it's definitely nowhere as easy as just following the steps. Though D calmed down that day, she did spend a fair amount of time on "Why me?"s and "So unfair!"s in the next few days. After all, she's 12. But reinforcing all the above definitely helped, and she's looking forward to the actual Sports Day event even if all she will participate in will be the marches and dances. And we will be there cheering her on :).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Malaysia - Our First Cruise Experience

The most restful part of a holiday for me is definitely the break from planning every meal ;). And what better place to do that than on a cruise.. where food is so plentiful you really need to be careful to not overeat and gain a few pounds. After wanting to try one for ages, and thanks to mom-in-law who was also keen to go on one, I finally zeroed in on one by Star Cruises to Malaysia that fit our schedules and dates. So in the 2nd week of July, to Penang and Port Klang for 4D/3N we went :).

First impressions on Day 1: Seeing the huge ship docked before we got on it was a revelation, all the photos you see in the brochure and online can't really do it justice. I realized it's pretty much a floating hotel, and this feeling persisted and was justified throughout our 4 days on board. Even finding our rooms took some time, especially on the first day as we learnt to negotiate the decks and passages, and though the rooms/cabins felt a bit small at first, we quickly realized that the view looking out at the ocean makes up for it :). I took many photos and videos trying to capture the beauty of looking out at the open seas, but will not torture you with too many of them ;)..

The cosy room

Colors of the ocean
Activities on board: There are quite a few shows and other activities that you can take part in, such as a free magic show (this was a bit more sophisticated than our usual birthday party fare ;)) and many planned activities for kids, including paid ones. We didn't make use of too many on board as we were on shore for half a day at both destinations.

Basketball court on board
First Day Explorations.. How high can we go?
Food on board: On this cruise, there were 3-4 restaurants that were free of charge i.e. inclusive in the fare. As the majority of passengers turned out to be Indian, there was no dearth of familiar cuisine, but we also tried out the european/continental fare for a couple of meals and found it of a good standard.

On the highest deck - Deck 12
Natural hair styling - on Deck 12 :)
Shore excursions: As we had only about 6-7 hours at both destinations, we decided to make use of the planned tours rather than try to negotiate the taxi system, as we wanted to make sure of getting back in time. While time management was definitely to our advantage, it did feel a bit rushed at some points. The end learning was that a cruise may not be the best way to explore a new place, it can only give you a "feel" of the city :). The rest mostly in pics below..

  • Penang on Day 2: The tour covered a few points, but the most memorable was the peak of Penang Hill, that we reached by traveling on the Funicular Rail. Lovely views all around made me want to plan a longer and more relaxed trip in the future :). We also had a great tour guide, who gave us a lot of interesting info about the history of the area.
View from Penang Hill
At a Ginger garden on top of the hill
Penang night lights just before boarding the ship

  • Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur on Day 3: Since the journey to KL city takes a bit more than an hour, the tour only consisted of the KL Tower (the world's 7th highest at 421m), where we headed to the top and clicked the customary view photos, followed by a mall situated at the base of the KLCC Twin Towers.
At Independence Square

My best click of the view
And of the Twin Towers as seen from KL Tower -
though it looked as though the KL Tower was higher, this is because it is
situated on a hill that adds to the height (info from our tour guide)
The Petronas Twin Towers, just before we set off back to the ship 
Day 4: Just a relaxed last half day on board, with time for a few more meals ;), and we were safely back in Singapore by 2 pm.

Note: Though we were a bit worried about sea-sickness, due to varying experiences with motion sickness for me and the kids, it turned out to not be a concern at all! I was probably the most affected, with a bit of vertigo every time I saw the open water, but it was easy to adjust to, and nobody else even mentioned the movement at all :).

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Letter to My Near-Teen

My dear darling D, 

As you are on the verge of becoming a teenager, I can't help but think about

- The baby that you were, the one who cried the loudest of all the babies in the hospital, but was also the most inquisitive and active one with the loveliest smile when you quietened down. You hated the act of going to sleep, and made me hate it wholeheartedly too, but also gave me a surprise by started to sleep through the night at 7 months. Now, it's the waking up in the mornings that's the problem :).

- The little bundle that was a terror to feed, whom I sang songs to and probably even had to do a dance or two just to get a few spoonfuls into your mouth, is now a completely non-picky eater who's always interested to know what the menu is for the next meal - Not completely sure what I did right there but I'm taking the credit for it ;).

- And the young lady you are turning out to be, taking on challenges and finding some times that you might even enjoy an activity that you weren't too keen on to begin with.

You turn 12 tomorrow.. I can't quite wrap my head around it.. but then I see you in front of me and I have to believe it's happening. My cute little baby has turned into a long-legged teenager, and one with strong opinions ;). You are so different from me in some ways, yet we are also a lot alike I like to think.

- You draw, and love to create something fresh. I can copy a picture (very well, I should add with no humility whatsoever) and the occasional zentangle fascinates me, but ask me to draw a tiger or a human face, for example, and I'm stuck. You on the other hand, seem to effortlessly draw anything from a birthday card to a nature scene for a school project.

- You write.. oh can you write! With the added support of a lovely and encouraging English teacher at school last year, your creative writing has just flourished. You read like crazy, sometimes to the exclusion of things like homework.. but then so did I at your age, so I know your writing talent doesn't stem from just that ;). I am really fascinated by the ideas that come out of your mind. For a recent A-Z challenge that many bloggers took up, you decided that you wanted to give it a try, and I was amazed by the short stories you came up with. 
* Waiting for her to finish the "Z" entry, and then wondering whether I should make that blog public.

- You imagine. Ok, this is probably the part I find toughest to handle as a parent. You do or say something, sometimes impulsively, and then later think about (in great detail) the impact it might have. Or you just worry about something that might probably never happen, because "What If?". I remember similar situations when I was young, but in your case, I think the possible results are like a complete story in your head so somehow bother you more. It is sometimes tough for me to put myself in your place to try and understand, but I try my best. I tell you "Life is not made of What Ifs".. but I'm guessing this is not something that you're going to just accept because I say it, and I hope you will learn, and gently, from experience.

- You share. A LOT. With me and with your Appa.. and it surprises me when you even tell me something that you know I might not approve of. I might sometimes react angrily, but then I immediately realize that it's more important that you come to me with these things. I end every such discussion with "I'm glad you told me.".. and I hope that's the memory that stays with you.. because not having this bond, this communication, with you is just not an option.

Here's wishing you always soar high my darling..
I am super proud of you, my dear "first" baby. Stay funny, stay imaginative, stay creative, stay YOU.

With lots of love,

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017: Fitness and Focus

3 months of 2017 have already gone by, and this post has been lying in my drafts much too long. Much too late for a resolution, but no harm in aiming at April for a fresh start right ;)?

Last year was my year of #fitbyforty and it felt like I got so much closer to my goal of getting fitter. 2017.. well, not so good so far. Too many small niggles with health and a lack of motivation. Every time I have a slip-up or a gap with working out like this, I can feel the stamina getting lower and it doesn't feel good.

We saw an elderly person in a motorized wheelchair the other day, and I had the following conversation with my 8-year-old athlete:

S: Amma, would you like to use one of those when you get old (he thought it would be like a cool new toy I suppose)
Me: (slightly aghast) No darling! I hope I can be walking around all by myself even when I'm quite old.
S: Oh ok (considering this new light thrown on his simple question)

S: So when you're a 100..
Me: 100?! I don't think I want to live that long baby!
S: Of course you must!
Me: But then you'll end up spending all your time looking after me!
S: That's ok. I'll just tell my teammates that I can only run important races, and will spend the rest of my time looking after you.

Me: (Reminding him that he'll be close to 70 by then, but he is sure he'll still be "racing" around then)

I can feel that as I enter my forties, I am having to work a lot harder to retain a decent level of fitness. I know that strength training is even more important now for bone health after this age. While weight has never been a major issue, there are definitely certain fat deposits that I would like to get rid of. I KNOW all this in my head, so I need do-able workout plans for the rest of this year which will help me be consistent.

This is it. I can feel it. My turning point. My Now or Never. If I don't get my act together and make it happen now, the downslide will begin. Bad knees, joints and other aches and pains will take over. I absolutely do not want to go there, and that will have to be motivation enough.

"Focus" is something I am beginning to think of as my Word of the Year. It definitely doesn't feel like "my" word yet, but it needs to be at least by the time the year ends ;). Not just in fitness, but in so many other parts of life too.

  1. For fitness, I'm going to start small. Aim at doing some form of exercise everyday - It maybe even just a 15 min walk on some days, but I need to set that schedule again and then build on it further. 
  2. Daily planning with the Bullet Journal is something that I have been trying for a while, but have not been consistent with. I even tried using the nicest of planners for motivation, but then I didn't have the heart to write in it too much ;). I am beginning to feel that a weekly format will work better for me, though some details might still need to be on a daily level. I am going to restart with this in April and see where it takes me. Maybe that elusive menu planning will finally make it into my life at last ;).
  3. Life just seems to get really busy with regular weekday and weekend activities and I need a reminder to take time out and explore more around Singapore, and of course as always - take more photos as well! Hoping to set a reminder and do something once a month at the very least , and ideally as a family. With school holidays coming up, there's no better time than April to start. Putting it down here is also good for accountability, so let's see how it goes.

Thanks for reading this far! If you have any fitness or planning tips for me based on your experience, do let me know in the comments.