This is not your usual hip-hip-hooray-Father’s-Day piece, but hopefully it would offer something to think about and encourage a more mindful way of celebrating.
I suppose I speak on behalf of many children when I say Father’s Day is a bitter-sweet time. I say this because as we celebrate this day to honor and say thank you to dads, an absence in many children’s lives is made even more magnified.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not devaluing what fathers do. In fact, as an educator I appreciate seeing dads drop off or pick up their children in school, reserving an early slot or fighting traffic to make it to parent-teacher conferences, or frantically delivering lunch or snacks to their kids. It also warms my heart to receive messages from them asking how they could support their children’s interest or understand the lack of it.
As a mom, I can’t help but smile when I see dads holding hands with their children, or pushing their trolleys at the malls, playing with them at playgrounds, riding bikes, reading them a story, or picking out a book for them at a store. I am also touched when dads proudly share on social media their (Steam or Dry) Iron Man duties or their date with the wok!
When I ask children what they like about their dads, I get such responses as:
“He carries me.”
“He loves me and mommy.”
“He buys me milk.”
“We play football.”
“Daddy is brave. He protects me from angry dogs.”
“He tucks me in bed.”
“He shares his noodles with me.”
One time though, I was taken aback by a girl’s response of: “Daddy says must fight!”
Concerned that she’s being exposed to violence, I clarified: “Really, in what way?”
The child then blurted, “Fighting!” as she slightly swung up a clenched fist while flashing a smile.
Then again, I’ve also seen children look away when their friends’ dads kiss them, or ask how their day went. Others bury their heads between their knees, or quietly leave Circle Time to stay in a corner, or refuse to speak the whole day when the mention of dads becomes more than they could bear. In a number of occasions, I’ve had to sit quietly beside these children offering a pat or a hug. A silly face, a joke, a happy song or a snack also came in handy sometimes.
In all this, nothing has been more unsettling for me than running after a teen who stormed out of an ESL class. He was angry because he couldn’t find words to describe his dad during a group exercise. His peers, meanwhile, had no trouble giving praises to theirs. I suggested simple adjectives to use, but it soon dawned on me that language facility was not the issue. The young man needed space, and he needed to grieve.
These are some of the children I work with. Their dads have been made absent by work commitments, incarceration, death, indiscretions or reasons I will never fully know. They are the ones I hope we would also remember and support not just this Father’s Day but every opportunity we get.
Together, let us help them feel that even if their own dads are not around, there are grandpas, uncles, older brothers and friends who are standing in and care about them.
The Father Wound: What it is, its effects, and how to heal
Why We Need to Break the Cycle of Father Absence
The Father's Song
Let’s face it. With or without social distancing or lockdown, children may act up, display aggressive behavior, not listen to what you say or withdraw from interaction. Here are five ways to help manage the situation.
1. Observe and identify the triggers. Try to observe your child and try to identify things or situations that cause the behavior. Note the time of the day and the people present. Be aware of your own role, reaction or tendencies when the behavior or attitude is displayed.
You may have to do this a number of times before a pattern presents itself. Is it when a sibling dominates your attention or the family conversation, or you giving praise to someone? Does it happen when the child is being corrected for a mistake or being told what to do? Does s/he clam up when the topic is about school, a certain subject or a person? Especially for younger children, some basics such as hunger, sleep or being overly stimulated can be triggers of challenging behavior. Addressing them, addresses the behavior.
2. Choose a neutral time, place and disposition. When your child is in a better mood, find a good time and place to talk to him/her about his/her behavior. Just the two of you. That way, your child would feel more at ease to share his/her thoughts and feelings.
Depending on your child’s age, personality and readiness to talk or engage, you may consider talking directly about the situation, initiating it by saying you noticed such behavior and wondered if there’s anything your child wants to talk about or if there’s anything you can do to help.
You may also consider the indirect approach by perhaps mentioning that there’s a child you want to help and describe the challenging behavior. Then ask your child what may be causing it and what could be done. Sometimes providing a cloak of anonymity helps children talk more freely because they do not feel quizzed or have to defend their own actions/behavior. You have to exercise wisdom and good judgment in doing this, however, particularly with older children so the whole thing comes across like a casual conversation instead of forced and staged.
3. Label the behavior or situation, not the child. Whether you take the direct or indirect approach, make sure to label the behavior or situation and not the child. What this means is to use terms that brings the attention on the behavior or situation that needs to be addressed instead of shaming or labelling the child. For instance use “the child is being angry” instead of calling him/her an “angry child”, or that “the child speaks disrespectfully” instead of referring to him/her as “a disrespectful child”.
Remember, feelings are powerful emotions, and just like adults, children struggle with them and show them too. But because they are also not as mature, they need more help in regulating and expressing them more constructively.
4. Identify ways to resolve the matter. Getting your child’s input on how to improve the situation gives a sense of being heard, understood and being in control over the situation. Be ready to acknowledge your own mistakes should this become evident in the conversation or is pointed out. Doing so teaches your child how to be gracious and helps him/her understand that even adults are still learning and want to be better at certain things.
Some children can be more expressive and forthright than others and can say outright how situations can be remedied. If your child is not one, then consider presenting scenarios or suggestions about appropriate and workable solutions:
Make an effort to explain to your child why you do certain things such as why you guide or correct them (for their safety, security, health, etc.) or why you are unable to or would not buy them that toy or why they cannot go out? That way they understand the reason behind your decision and not feel they are just reduced to following rules or whims.
Of course some children may be too young to even talk, in which case be guided by what you observed and identified in item 1, and try out different ways to improve the situation.
Commit to these steps/agreements and share them with the other significant people in your child’s life so that your child can be consistently supported whoever s/he is with.
5. Celebrate big and small accomplishments. Things may work a few times and then not, and then you’ll have to try over again or you may have to try another approach all together. That’s okay. The important thing is you keep at it, and celebrate the big and small things that you try and make work.
Keep in mind that every child is unique and that some things take longer to work out than others. So give both yourself and your child the time and grace to do so.
As we await lockdowns to be lifted and social distancing to be eased, just how do you keep our sanity, match our children’s energy, get some work done and still have time for ourselves? Think ARA and PNP.
I learned these acronyms while earning my double credentials for teaching, child care and development from Singapore and the U.K. They have since helped me better support children and their families.
ARA stands for Active-Restful-Active. The idea is when scheduling a day with children, we get them to do active stuff first such as exercise or physical play. Young children especially need to use up their energy so they can quiet down and focus. After which, get them hydrated and follow up with a quiet activity such as reading and doing lessons with them. How long this restful time takes would depend on your children’s age, attention span and interest. So observe how long they are able to sit through, then do another round of fun physical activity. For this, you may consider having them do a bit of action songs or easy children yoga that they can just follow along on YouTube or on TV. This should also free up some time for you to work on files, send an email, or clear your head and recharge.
Just some word of caution. Make sure to activate your child safe settings so inappropriate materials don't get through. Do limit screening times, too, as studies show that if children are habitually left watching moving screens for too long, when the movement stops, they tend to compensate by moving around too much, which may then give rise to disruptive behavior and lack of focus.
As for PNP, it stands for positive, negative, positive. During these times wherein children may feel more restricted, or sad that school is out and that they can’t be around friends that much, some behavior issues may crop up. The way to help children understand this is to mention something positive about the children first—a trait, a habit or an interest—that you know them to be caring or love to be around friends. Then perhaps mention how the negative behavior is affecting or hurting them and those around them. Ask them, too, what they are feeling and how they think things could be made better. Then acknowledge what they say or positively affirm their ideas. Assure them that just like them, everyone else has things they are feeling sad/frustrated about and trying to work things out too. Encourage that with everyone’s help in the family, things can get better.
Remember in these trying times, we are all learning to enjoy and not just endure, and that we can lean on each other to make things better.
We may be new and small, but we took some really bold steps last year, including launching our start-up!
Here’s a look back at our involvement in programs, social issues we helped address in 2019, and a peek at what’s to come.
Before the year-end, we provided copies of We are Amazing!/Kami ay Magaling! to the National Library of Cambodia. By doing so, we not only aimed to add to its collection of quality children’s books and encourage reading but to also expose children to English, a widely spoken language and to Filipino, the language of Cambodia’s ASEAN neighbor and friend, the Philippines.
We also gave out copies of our books to children, did one-on-one storytelling to help foster the love and habit of reading, and encouraged parents to bond with and read to their children.
For sure 2020 will roll by pretty fast, but you can definitely expect our team to keep doing our best! We are set to add to our existing children’s book titles, make them available in Khmer, Chinese and other languages, have them in libraries and stores, and enjoyed and read by more children and families. We also have fun activities lined up for children, schools and families. So stay tuned!
Here’s to learning, bonding and problem-solving!
Watch our Lookback video!
Over the weekend, I joined a study group of teachers representing different schools in Phnom Penh and supporting children aged 2. 5 to 11 years old. Part of the discussion revolved around their concern about children not being interested in reading, or reading but not comprehending, and how these eventually lead to poor academic performance.
So how exactly do we get children to read, learn and succeed in school?
Here are some ways that have worked for me:
“It is easier to raise strong children than restore broken adults.”
As a young child, I came across an ad that said something to this effect. And while I didn’t fully understand what it meant at that time, something about it just spoke to my spirit.
I work with children of different ages, races, beliefs, social standing and abilities. Whether in developed or
developing countries, one thing remains constant: children who are supported by nurturing and responsive adults thrive. Loris Malaguzzi, the father of the Reggio Emilia approach to education, says how adults see children will influence the way they interact with them. If they see children as weak, they'll treat them as such, and the learning experiences they’ll prepare will cater to that image. But if they see children as competent, they'll support them to rise higher. Malaguzzi adds that observing children and reflecting on daily experiences with them powerfully clues teachers in on how best to support and teach children with intentionality.
While we may not all be called to a teaching profession, we may find ourselves playing the role of a teacher to a child that may be our own, our friend's, our neighbor's, or a stranger's. May those times be filled with opportunities that let the child see himself through the lens of a champion so he could grow up to be one.
Developing your child’s self-esteem
You raise me up
What every child needs
Your image of a child: where teaching begins
Jean Alingod-Guittap is a mother, educator and journalist. She loves working alongside local and multinational companies, I/NGOs, national and local governments, illustrators, publishers, and schools to support children. She has done so in the Philippines, Singapore and Cambodia.