Do you find yourself feeling tempted to quell your child’s boredom and/or tantrums with more screen time? Here’s why you should think twice about using your phone as a digital pacifier.

These days, the ‘new normal’ for many of us is struggling to master balancing a busy work-from-home schedule and taking care of our little ones.

Often times we find ourselves at our wits’ end as multiple objects at home compete for our attention at the same time. You find yourself thinking: Do I answer that call from my boss, or do I appease my child who is currently throwing her worst tantrum to date?

At this point, many of us might instinctively turn to smart devices to calm our little ones down. They never fail to do their job – they almost always brighten our children’s moods, and instantly at that. However, as research shows, their boredom- and tantrum-quelling abilities are too good to be true.

Here are 3 reasons why using screen time as a digital pacifier is never a good idea:

1. You are failing to address your little one’s feelings

Every time you hand your smartphone to your unhappy or misbehaving child, you are acting reactively. That means, you are most likely not getting to the root cause of the problem; the ‘why’ of it all.

Often times, tantrums act as a signal to let you know that your child is tired, hungry or feeling uncomfortable in any way. And when you fail to take into consideration their emotions and simply mete out a smartphone that seems to magically solve the problem, you are effectively using a short-term solution that can incur bigger problems in the long run. Consequently, you will have to do a whole lot of ‘undoing’ later in their lives.

What are these problems?:

2. Their device dependency may develop into addiction

The early years of every child’s life are indisputably their formative years. These are the critical stages in their lives where their routines and habits that they take with them into their adulthood take root. And as you can imagine, resorting to screen time to ‘pacify’ your children is a recipe for disaster later on in their lives. Why?

Screen time from an early age can lead to device dependency.

When your child receives a digital device whenever he is restless and moody, he/she may start to form a dependence on them. Screen time starts to become a coping mechanism and a habit which might snowball into an unhealthy routine (which will most definitely be hard to break!).

Device dependency can even take a toll on your little one’s mental health! In fact, research shows that excessive dependency on digital devices, particularly smartphones, can lead to internet addiction and increases the risk of anxiety and depressive symptoms!

3. It may cost them their physical health

Beyond the mental health ramifications, your child’s device dependency may also take a toll on his/her physical health.

Prolonged periods of near-work and excessive screen time are risk factors associated with myopia (near-sightedness). Moreover, research shows that three hours or longer of screen time per day is linked to an increase in the likelihood of developing dry eye in children, one of the symptoms of eye strain, by more than 13 times! Reasons for this are complex but include reduced and incomplete blinking while staring at screens.

Beyond that, long periods of smart device use on a daily basis can lead to muscular pains and strains which include, rounded shoulders, tenderness, stiffness, soreness and weakness in the neck, back and shoulder muscles, as well as reduced neck mobility, among others.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

An inanimate object can never and should never be a substitute for good parenting. While digital devices are arguably the most convenient ‘solution,’ they may not be the right way to go about addressing your child’s boredom or tantrum.

At the end of the day, handing them a phone every time they cry today may result in device dependency issues which can cost them their mental and physical health later on in life. Ultimately, that will be more difficult to ‘undo.’

However, it is important to remember that technology itself is not to blame for this. In fact, our children can benefit from digital devices to a large extent, provided they are used in a healthy manner. That is where we come in.

When your little ones do engage in screen time do remind them to adhere to these device-use guidelines: take breaks between periods of device use (15-minute break after 2 hours of device use), adequate face-to-screen distance, i.e. at least 60cm between the face and computer screens and 30cm when using smart devices, a screen location of 15 – 20 degrees below eye level. 

It is our parental duty to empower our little ones to develop a healthy relationship with their devices. The journey may be tough and is one of trial and error, but the lessons, memories and experiences that result from it will be all worth it!

It’s official – Singapore’s circuit breaker has been extended, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to an extension of screen time for the little ones.

The big question about screen time this circuit breaker.

Classes have migrated online, workouts are being screened via Instagram TV and YouTube, extra-curricular learning can be done through a wide range of apps (Duolingo, anybody?). Technology has made Circuit Breaker an easier one for us all. Pivoting online has been one of the best ways for our children to keep up to date with their schoolwork and connect with their friends despite being apart.

Yet, the big question remains: are we parents relaxing our rules around screen time a little too much during this time? A year ago in 2019, reports have found that 12 year old children in Singapore spend about 6.5 hours on screen time a day. Now that Home-Based Learning (HBL) has been introduced and almost all forms of entertainment and education have pivoted online, one can only imagine the tenfold increase in screen time. We’ve had to make a 180-degree turn on our stance on screen time and accommodate to the long hours our children have to spend on the screen for classes. Now, we ask ourselves, what’s the right balance?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, however, there are irreversible consequences and repercussions as a result of prolonged screen time such as device dependency and myopia.

Sometimes, the screen is necessary.

From education to entertainment, the screen’s got them all. And truth be told, it’s difficult to survive without it in the 21st Century. So while screen time is necessary for us all for different purposes and aspects, it needs to be managed in healthy doses. With the circuit breaker cutting through our children’s mid-year holidays in Singapore, it’ll be tempting to extend a few hours of screen time for our little ones to enjoy, unwind, and keep them occupied. While you relax a few screen time rules to accommodate to your child’s HBL or online school holiday activities, it’s important to also lace in device-free activities to keep your little ones off the screen when you can. This creates a healthy habit of taking a break from the screens occasionally so that your little ones don’t become heavily dependent on their devices.

Here are 3 steps you can take to manage screen time this circuit breaker:

1. Create screen time limits

Once the school holidays kick in to full force and HBL has been completed for the semester, try to limit screen time to a healthy amount. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), children of the following ages should be limited to the corresponding screen time allowances:

  • 0-2 year olds: no screen time at all
  • 2-5 year olds: 1 hour of screen time a day
  • 5 and above: A little more screen time can be introduced, but moderately. No more than a few hours of screen time a day.

2. Remind them to take device breaks

If your child does need to use their devices for any reason, remind them to take a break from the screens every 30 minutes. Resting their eyes for 2 minutes for every half hour on the screen can help relax their eyes and prevent vision conditions like myopia from progressing.

3. Engage in creative device-free play

Even though we have to minimize going outdoors for the time being, that doesn’t mean we can’t bring that outdoor fun indoors! There are a great number of ways to get creative indoors and keep our children occupied. From arts and crafts, to baking, and even an indoor obstacle course – you can bring the fun anywhere you go, even when you’re just at home. This could even make for great family bonding time where you play around with your little ones just like when you were kids yourselves!

Yes to screen time, but in moderation.

There’s no need to explain how much technology has helped us during this Circuit Breaker. For our children especially, the HBL measures put in place that were facilitated by technology have greatly assisted their learning. Once the school work’s completed, let’s make it a point to switch those screens off and spend some quality time with our children away from the screens as well.

Connect and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more updates from plano about screen time, device use, and parenting!

It’s easy to just hand your little one a phone or a tablet to accompany them during this stay-home period, but it’s not so easy to handle the repercussions that may come afterward – think device dependency, screen addiction, and even myopia.

When there’s nothing but screens.

An episode or a movie for a day is no big deal. But multiply that by a whole season of a show or a movie marathon to keep your kids occupied throughout the day and that turns into a big deal.  

For us parents working from home, we’re all probably guilty of handing our children the tablet to keep them occupied and silent while we focus on our work at hand. Once we realised the wonderful magic the screen had in keeping our children calm and quiet, the more we used it. With the help of the screen occupying our children’s time, we’re better able to concentrate with laser-like focus on our work. Go technology!

Even for our school-aged children whose lessons have migrated online, it’s still important to take note of the time their spending on the screen throughout the day. Are they staring at their computer screens for every minute of the day? Are they taking adequate eye breaks in between lessons? 

The repercussions.

Yes, technology has been a huge help tiding us over during our time indoors, but as the saying goes, “too much of a good thing can be bad”. It’s important to moderate our children’s screen time amidst ongoing stay-home measures. Spending too much time on the screen can lead to the following consequences:

1. Device dependency

Our habits become our daily routines. If it’s a habit for you to hand your little one the screen every time he/she starts to get restless, it’ll become a habit for your child to depend on the screen. These habits silently snowball into daily routines that your child will get used to. What was once a tool to just give you and your child a moment of peace, will become a crutch for your little one to pass his/her time, to communicate, to find information, etc. The heavier their screen use, the more dependent your little one will be on his/her devices.

2. Screen addiction

Our school-aged children are going to find the screens extremely to be helpful in connecting them with their friends and helping them with their homework. With all these conveniences packed into one screen, what reason would they have to leave the screen? But when it’s time to take the screen away, you might find your child throwing a tantrum, screaming or crying. They might feel strong feelings of resentment and could withdraw from the family. Screen addiction could also lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

3. Myopia

Screen time and excessive near work activity are risk factors associated with myopia. Device usage is increasing exponentially as a result of work from home measures and online learning. If your children are constantly using their devices throughout the day, their eyes will constantly be under the weight of strain and stress. Resultantly, this could lead to the progression of myopia, especially in our little ones whose vision hasn’t fully developed.

To prevent the above repercussions from happening, it’s important that we, as parents, remind our children to take device breaks every 30 minutes. These breaks don’t necessarily have to last very long, just 5-10 minutes will do. Just closing their eyes for a little while or simply talking to them without the screen in the way will help them take a break from the screens every once in awhile.

Go device-free when you can!

The best way to prevent your child from the above repercussions, is to go screen-free! There are a bunch of amazing screen-free activities for your child to enjoy and for you to join in the fun as well. If your child has lessons online, be sure to switch off all devices after their lessons have ended and spend some well-deserved quality time. It could be as simple as cooking a meal together, playing board games as a family, or even working out together. The choices are endless.

Our devices are here to stay and they’re extremely helpful in entertaining us and making our lives more efficient. However, it’s important to take some time off away from the screens and disconnect to connect with the people around us.

DO: Give your body and mind the due nourishment they deserve. DON’T: Overwork yourself and your kids.

As of April 7th to May 4th this year, the Singapore Government has implemented its most serious safe-distancing measures to date, to pre-empt escalating coronavirus infections. 

Life has changed.

For many of us right now, the abrupt change in pace of life and the fact that most of our lives have shrunk to the confines of our homes can be rather stressful and challenging to adapt to.

On top of that, the influx of news updates on the pandemic can be a little confusing and a lot overwhelming. How do you ensure that you remain sane and healthy all while making sure you are abiding by the government’s latest measures? 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you get through this month.

DO: Follow all government guidelines

  1. Stay home. Only go out if necessary:
Image via Gov.sg

2. Be socially responsible. Limit social contact to immediate family members. Those who are unwell, even with mild flu-like symptoms, should see a doctor immediately.

3. Mask up: it is now mandatory for you to wear a mask outside of your home. However, if you are exercising outdoors (in open, uncrowded places), you are allowed to remove your mask. Remember to put your mask back on after your workout! 

*Guidelines as of 14th Apr ’20. For all the latest updates, sign up with Gov.sg WhatsApp here, or visit Gov.sg

DON’T: Overwork yourself or your kids

As the lines between our personal and professional lives become more blurred, it might be harder than ever to untangle yourself from work obligations even after you have put in the hours for the day. The same goes for your child’s daily Home-Based Learning (HBL) sessions.

Instead, when it comes to both you and your little one, keeping it simple makes all the difference in the world! This means ensuring that both your workloads are manageable and easy to follow through on. 

You will know if your schedule is truly effective and adaptable if it allows you to ‘clock out’ and switch from work mode to rest mode after your regular work hours have ended.

If you find yourself working into the wee hours of the night, it would be worthwhile to take a beat to pinpoint exactly what aspects of your work are taking up much of your time and energy.

Similarly, help your children create a routine tailored to their learning needs and speed. Do not be too hard on yourself or on them if they are unable to stick to their HBL routine at first. Remember, learning on their own is a new, challenging process, so give them enough wiggle room to adjust to their new lifestyles!

DO: Practice good self-care habits and encourage your little ones to do so as well.

What does self-care during these uncertain times entail?

  1. Giving our eyes the due protection they deserve 

Other than during work or school (for our children), the confines of our homes have forced many of us to turn to our digital devices for entertainment purposes. Screen time is increasing and the health repercussions of the unhealthy relationships we form with our devices can be significant. 

These risks include: myopia (short-sightedness) and digital eye strain, which may arise due to using digital devices for prolonged periods of time at a close distance, and musculoskeletal disorders, like neck, shoulder and hand pain, which may arise from the unnatural posture experienced during device use.

Adhering to these guidelines is an important way to avoid the aforementioned health risks:

  1. Adequate face-to-screen distance, i.e.  at least 60cm between the face and computer screens and 30cm when using smart devices.
  2. Take at least a 15-minute break after 2 hours of device use
  3. a screen location of 15 – 20 degrees below eye level 

2. Keeping our bodies and minds strong through exercise, meditation and eating right

How do we stay active even amidst the circuit breaker measures put into place?

As per the rules, you can work out alone or with members in your household in open, uncrowded spaces. If you lack the motivation to work out by yourself, this is the perfect opportunity to get yourself a workout and/or meditation buddy in the form of your spouse or child.

Hit the yoga mats, blast your favourite playlist and get your #beastmode on as a family! Do not forget to nourish your body with good home-cooked meals or get your meals delivered to you through services like Foodpanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood.

Your perception is your reality

Navigating the new normal can be hard, especially if you are a parent, just trying to do your best to juggle it all.

In these uncertain times, the greatest tool you have to overcome the challenges is your state of mind. Remember, above all else, remaining positive, hopeful and compassionate is key to our overall well being and that of our loved ones!

No always means ‘no’, yes? Not anymore. With so many reasons for children to be on screens nowadays, the answer, ‘no’ just isn’t going to work anymore. So here’s what to do instead.

The power of the word, ‘no’.

The word ‘no’ means to refuse or deny something. When we were kids ourselves, every time we asked our parents for desert for breakfast, or if we could go out past 8pm, we’d be met with a hard ‘no’.

Now, if we say ‘no’ to our children when they ask for more screen time, we’re going to be headed for tantrum town and anger island. Times have changed and we’re living the digital world now, so ‘no’ just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Most of our kids and their friends love playing online games and we wouldn’t want to deny them of bonding with their friends, even if it is online. And we’re living in the ‘just-Google-it’ age so if you need some answers, just Google it.

Our children can find everything at the swipe of a thumb now. But the risk of becoming heavily dependent on their screens is an alarming one.

Device dependency and what you can do about it.

Device dependency is a real phenomenon that happens when people are far too engrossed in their mobile devices that they forget about everything else going on outside of the screen. Time seems to blur and hours just slide away as quickly as you swipe through Instagram.

Health experts have reported that children between the ages of 8 to 18 are spending at least 7 hours a day on their screens and for what purpose? Everything. Gaming, information, socialising, you name it, it’s on the screen. It’s common to see our children responding to every ‘ping’, vibrate, or just checking their phones unnecessarily.

It’s a worrying thing to see our children grow up with their eyes glued to the screen so here are 3 ways you can help manage their device use:

1. Create a schedule

Plan, plan, plan. It’s always good to have a plan. For our children growing up digital, screen time is going to be a necessary part of their lives. To prevent an overuse of their devices, mark out certain times when screen time is allowed, and times when it is not. For instance, if they need their phones or tablets for homework or research, let them know that they’ll only be able to use it for an hour. You can also factor in downtime and allow half an hour for games or other forms of entertainment. Outside those hours? No screen time allowed.

2. Bring them outdoors instead

“I’m bored.” It’s 99% guaranteed that our children will utter these words when they find they’ve got nothing to do. Encourage your little one to head outdoors for some fun in the sun to curb their boredom. Sure, playing games on their phones or tablets may be really fun, but nothing honestly beats playing and laughing under the sun all day. In fact, experts have recommended that children ought to spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors to safeguard their health! Going outdoors is not only fun, it also keeps your children healthy!

3. Use parental control apps

If the phone is the problem, transform it into the solution. Downloading parental control apps like plano can help monitor your child’s device use. You can use the app to schedule no-device times on your child’s phone. For instance, if you set a no-device schedule between 12 noon to 2pm, your child won’t be able to use his/her phone during that particular duration. The app even reminds your child to take a device break every half hour   for at least 2 minutes. This way, your child will be able to factor in adequate breaks during his/her device use.

The best part? If your child follows these device break reminders to a T, he/she will be able to earn points which can be used to request for outdoor activities, like football classes or outdoor adventures*! A win-win: practice good device habits, and get rewarded for it.

Beyond ‘no’.

Even if the good ol’ fashioned ‘no’ doesn’t work, get creative and find ways to help your child curb their reliance on their devices. Going outdoors, some indoor fun, and even parent apps can help them develop safe and healthy device habits that will last them a lifetime in this digital era.

New stay-home measures have been implemented and with our kids being unable to go further than the front door, they’re bound to feel a little restless. The solution? Bring that familiar outdoor fun, indoors!

Within these 4 walls.

All work, learning, and play are now confined to the 4 walls of our house given the ever-evolving situation with COVID-19. It’s more pertinent than ever that we practice responsible social distancing even if it means staying at home all day, every day.  

With these new stay home measures in position, thankfully, technology has helped us to seamlessly adapt to the situation. Most of us have been given work from home mandates and our children’s daily classroom lessons have been shifted online. Our screen time is only going to increase exponentially during this period. While research has suggested that spending at least 2 hours a day outdoors helps to protect one’s vision health, it’s going to be a challenge to do so in the coming few weeks.

The shift to stay at home may have also came as a shock to your little ones who are used to going out to play every day. But that doesn’t mean to say that the fun ends there. In fact, you can use this chance to let your imagination go wild and bring that outdoor fun, indoors. Additionally, it helps keep your child keep busy in a way that doesn’t involve their phones or tablets so you can help them cut down on that screen time too. 

Get creative and crafty.

Just think about the things your little one loves to do when you bring him/her to the park. Sure, there are some activities you can’t exactly bring indoors (like football. No football in the house, ever), but there are a lot of other activities you can do indoors that you used to do outdoors:

1. Adventure time with an obstacle course

If your nearby park has got a huge playground area decked out with slides and crawl-through tunnels, consider creating one at home for your little one with the furniture you have around you. Drape a blanket over 2 chairs and ask your child to crawl underneath it or lay a mattress on the floor and get them to roll over it twice! It’s up to you to create an obstacle course jam-packed with fun!

2. Scavenger hunt around the house

Does your child love a good scavenger hunt? You can place little objects around the house and give your child clues to find them! Of course, place the objects in safe locations and not atop a high shelf. You can keep your child active just by sending him/her on a grand hunt around your house for that gold treasure.

3. Fort fights

No, not like physical fighting. Rather, set up 2 forts with some blankets and mattresses and get your kids to stay behind one fort while you stay on the other. Grab some socks and wrap them up into balls and let the fort fighting begin! Your kids are sure to have a whale of a time. Be sure to wear a pair of goggles too to prevent any injuries to the eye. 

Keeping our kids healthy and safe

That’s our top priority as parents – not just safe from the virus at large, but also safe from mental health issues, vision health issues like myopia, and physical health issues. Keeping them active and away from their devices are great ways to keep their minds and bodies healthy as we collectively join our hands in the fight against COVID-19. Remember to stay safe, stay calm, stay indoors, and practice good social hygiene wherever you are.

Please remember to take steps to continuously protect yourselves and your loved ones. Follow the necessary healthcare guidelines pertaining to your country.

Adapting the new normal is hard, especially so for our little ones. For most of us, figuring out the right answers to their burning questions can be overwhelming.

If you thought getting used to navigating your newfound remote life is hard for you, think about how much more jarring this process is for your little ones! From the initial excitement of the prospect of not going to school, to the panicked realisation that this isn’t a drill, the rollercoaster of emotions your child is going through can be immensely stressful.

Knowing the answers to the hundreds of questions that often times come in bursts throughout the day is half the battle. Being able to tactfully communicate your answers to quell their anxiety, make them feel supported and give them clarity on the current situation? That’s a skill yet to be mastered by many of us.

To help parents out on this endeavour, we have narrowed down 3 questions our children tend to ask us these days and how to communicate the answers effectively.

  1. When can I go back to school?

Now here’s a question you would have never thought your little one would ask. It usually comes after the excitement of staying home everyday has died down and the seriousness of the unprecedented circumstances sets in. For children, school represents a daily routine and removing that routine, coupled with the absence of social interactions with their friends and teachers can be rather confusing and may even induce anxiety.

The answer:

For starters, keep abreast of updates from your child’s school on the status of the open dates and let your child know that you are on top of this. Beyond that, ensure that you communicate to your child why exactly he is not able to attend school right now. This means having a conversation about the pandemic with your child. While this presents a good opportunity to educate your child about the current situation, this is also where it can get tricky.

Before having this conversation, it is necessary for you to sieve the credible information about the pandemic from the fake news that is constantly being circulated. When you do choose to talk about it with your child, it is important that you remain calm, so as to not unnecessarily pass on any fears or anxieties.

For younger children, stick to the positives and make them feel supported by letting them know that the current circumstances are not permanent. Explain that school will commence once the situation has been solved, but that can only happen if everyone does their part by staying home and staying safe.

2. Why can’t I meet my friends?

Staying cooped up at home all day with only their parents and (if they are lucky) a family pet for company can be downright depressing for most children. After several days of not seeing their friends, they might start to get upset about the situation and raise this question.

The answer:

As with the previous question, communicating the whats and whys of the pandemic in a positive and encouraging way is key.

Beyond that, stress the importance how, by following national health and safety guidelines, they are ensuring that the road to eradicating the pandemic remains smooth and easy. This is a good opportunity for you to help them understand that their actions hold weight and form a big part of the nation-wide plans to flatten the curve.

You can also schedule virtual play dates on Zoom or Skype for your child and his friends! But do remember to limit your child’s screen exposure in these instances.

3. I’m so bored. Now what do I do?

Often times, the mad scramble to fulfil your professional obligations all while addressing your child’s boredom may force you to wing it on the daily. You may find it rather challenging to create a structure for your child’s routine as you do not seem to have the time, much less the energy to formulate a quality timetable for your child. As such, you may turn to mobile devices for their wealth of entertaining and educational resources as a quick fix to occupy your child’s time.

However, as children start spending more time on devices to quell their boredom, they may be susceptible to the adverse health effects of too much screen time.

These include, digital eye strain, musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder and hand pain, and short-sightedness. So, what do you say to your bored child who is hunched over his mobile phone for hours on end?

The answer: It is not so much a verbal one. Rather, it requires a little creativity and simple planning on your part.

Start by making a list of the tasks and activities you do daily that you can involve your child in. For instance, you can work together with them to complete your domestic duties; make them your tiny sous-chefs as you cook for the day, do a little spring cleaning or even have them join you on a parent-child workout or yoga session!

Engaging in such activities together each day not only makes for beautiful bonding sessions, it can keep your little one occupied for hours. Having the extra help around the house and a permanent work-out buddy doesn’t hurt either!

When you do allow them some time on their devices (including during their Home-Based-Learning sessions), ensure that they practice healthy device habits to protect their still-developing eyes.

Adequate face-to-screen distance, i.e. 30cm of distance when using smart devices like phones or tablets is key. Also ensure that they take at least a 15-minute break after 2 hours of device use.

Put yourself in your little one’s shoes

Before you throw your hands up in defeat as your child asks his hundredth question, consider this for a moment: The pandemic’s mental and emotional impact is likely even greater for our little ones than it is for us, simply because they lack the maturity to fully understand the circumstances.

It is our responsibility and priority as parents to address their questions, allay their fears and help them feel safe in these trying times. Granted, adapting to the new normal can be extremely challenging for our little ones, but remember: we hold the power to make their transition easy!

School’s (kinda) out, but it’s not the time to scream and shout. Most of our children have been told to practice Home-Based Learning (HBL) and we parents need to know how to help our little ones cope during these erratic times.

“Mom, I’m home.”

Yes, they’re home. Our children are home, thankfully. With COVID-19 blazing through the months of March and now into April, many schools have announced the introduction of HBL. Just recently, the Singapore government has mandated that schools will be shifting to a full HBL plan from April to the beginning of May. This will be a whole new world to our little ones who have probably never experienced online-based classroom learning, especially those who just started schooling this year.

While it’s a great initiative aligned with social distancing measures that have been implemented during COVID-19, HBL does pose its own set of challenges for both students and teachers alike. The switch has happened so quickly and students and teachers have to swiftly pivot from classroom teaching to online lessons. This means that students have to be extremely disciplined to stick to HBL schedules that have been given to them – by no means does online learning mean more time to surf the net during lesson time. Teachers also have to prepare daily online lesson plans and restructure their classes to suit the allowances of a digital classroom for at least 30 students at a time.

Supporting your child during HBL

There are a lot more challenges that go unseen and unheard. As a parent, here are 5 things you need to know to help your child cope with the challenges of HBL:

1. Prepare and plan ahead

Get all the Wi-Fi passwords ready, all the account details, all the school timetables ready and within reach every single day. Then, plan out what your little one will have to do for the day. Schedule in some breaks throughout the day as well to prevent your child from feeling too stressed and overwhelmed by the sudden change. A great rule of thumb is a 5 minute device break every 30 minutes for your child to rest his/her eyes and mind.

2. Talk about it

Ask your child how he/she felt about these new HBL arrangements. Is he/she coping well? Is he/she getting used to it? Is there anything you could do as a parent to make it easier? Get to know your child’s needs and wants when it comes to HBL. It’s new to all of us, and much more so for your little one who’s experiencing it first hand. Checking in on your child helps them feel supported throughout this brand new experience.

3. Encourage, praise, support

Speaking of supporting your child, remember to encourage and praise them whenever you can. Let them know how proud you are of them taking in these new changes like a champ and soldiering through HBL no matter how challenging it got. Praise him/her for the efforts he/she puts in every day to show up on time to that online class and complete the designated homework for the day. A few words of affirmation can go a long way and help boost your child’s morale during these tough times. 

4. Make time for quality family time

While it’s important for your little one to keep up with school homework and revision, it’s equally critical that your child gets some well-deserved rest to re-charge at the end of every school day. Use this down time to set aside those devices your child may have been using for the entire day and make time for family. Whip out those old board games like Monopoly or The Game of Life for some of that wholesome family fun!

5. Don’t get mad if they don’t get it right

We’re all trying our best to adapt to the ever-evolving situation that is COVID-19. And for us working parents, we know more than anyone else the challenges that working from home can bring. The same goes for our kids who are trying the best they can. Some may even have trouble adjusting to the new HBL measures – they might miss their friends from school, they might be upset about the situation at large, they might not be able to adjust to the new form of teaching. Whatever it is, don’t get mad and try to empathise, comfort, and soothe your little one. After all, they need your support now more than ever.

Both our children and ourselves are trying our best to cope and adjust to the ever-evolving situation. As parents, it’s important we support our little ones more than ever during these unpredictable times. While HBL may be a completely novel concept to many of us, it’s up to us to help our children adapt to this and make the most of it. At the end of the day, these little actions all add up in strength against the fight of the global pandemic we’re living in. And through it all, we’ll be there by our children’s side.

Please remember to take steps to continuously protect yourselves and your loved ones. Follow the necessary healthcare guidelines pertaining to your country.

Many of us have the privilege to telecommute (work from home) and while it does come with some perks, it can also take a toll on our mental health. Here’s how to safeguard our mental health while working from home.

Working from home: the pretty and the ugly.

A good majority of us have been given the privilege and opportunity to work from home. For those of us in Singapore, it’s become mandatory for most employees to do so. Working from home does come with a few perks such as being able to wake up an hour later than usual, being able to work in your pyjamas for a whole day (except during online meetings), and not having to fight with the early morning crowd the moment you start your day. Honestly, it sounds like a real treat.

However, as great as working from home seems, research published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that working from home could take a toll on an employee’s mental health. Working in isolation can cause employees to feel left out and lonely. These latent consequences that manifest themselves in anxiety, worry, and loneliness can be damaging to an employee’s mental well-being. Employees working from home may also experience the added stress of having to regularly seem “busy” and “productive”.

If you’re a parent working from home, the additional list of household chores to complete places an additional load of pressure on your shoulders. Mixing a concoction of never-ending to-do lists, finite time, and the need to keep in constant communication with your co-workers can definitely make your head implode and take a mental toll.

Keeping your head leveled and high

When things at home begin to snowball it becomes all too easy to fall under the weight of an avalanche of responsibilities. But you can help yourself to prevent this from happening:

1. Plan and prioritize

With our working hours bleeding into our personal spaces, planning is now more necessary than ever. Grab a notepad and pen at the beginning of every work day and write down your priorities for that day. This is different from having a list of things to do – writing down your priorities for the day helps you visualise what urgently needs your attention that day. Focus on slaying those big dragons first before moving on to other tasks. Your priority list could look something like this:

  • Call client about THAT presentation and hash out all the details by 11am
  • Cook kids lunch and break time snacks after client call (nobody likes to be hungry)
  • Complete that budget sheet today!

After prioritising what needs to be done for the day, the rest of your tasks can fall beneath that:

  • E-mail colleague about that presentation deck
  • Short meeting with the boss about our business trajectory
  • Look over poster design and give feedback
  • Do laundry

Remember, it’s all about prioritizing and planning. Focus your head space on what requires your urgent attention first, then get to the rest once you’ve ticked off the more important ones.

2. Stick to your hours

Working from home can undoubtedly blur the lines between business and personal hours. So, it’s important to establish boundaries between your roles as an employee and as a parent/spouse. If you planned to work from 9am to 6pm, work only from 9am to 6pm. No excuses.

But once it’s time for you to clock off, don’t give yourself the excuse of ‘just one more email’ or ‘one more presentation deck’. That way, you condition yourself to be a productive worker during the day time, and give yourself adequate rest to re-charge in the evening to conquer the following day.

3. Keep those devices away when you have the chance to

Working from home necessitates the use of technology, but it’s important to know when to take a break from our devices when we have the chance to. You’ve spent the entire day answering every ‘ping!’ from your phone and opening every e-mail possible. In fact, using your devices excessively can contribute to anxiety. So, when it’s time to call it a day, try to make it a point to put those screens aside and spend some quality time with your family. Switch your mind off work and just focus on the comforts of being at home with your loved ones.

One step at a time.

Telecommuting is a new ball game to many of us so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed given the drastic number of changes we’ve all had to adapt to in such a short period of time. Giving yourself time and space to adjust to these changes is key to maintaining composure. It’s important to first accept that things are different now and to be patient with yourself as you shed off old habits and adopt new ones along the way. We’re all learning how to cope with new changes as they come along, so let’s take it one step at a time and be kind to ourselves.

Please remember to take steps to continuously protect yourselves and your loved ones. Follow the necessary healthcare guidelines pertaining to your country.

When it comes to discipline, every parent has a different style. But what if your ‘style’ just isn’t working out for you?

Parenthood is never easy. It is a journey of trial and error filled with meltdowns, tantrums, timeouts and lessons.

When it comes to disciplining your little one, no day is like the last. Just when you think you are making progress, your child has their biggest outburst ever. And every time this happens, you might defeatedly wonder, “Why is this always happening? What am I doing wrong?”

The good news is, there are simple solutions to your problems. The first step is to identify your mistakes.

Here are some of the common mistakes you might be making and how to fix them once and for all.

1. Not a ‘one-size-fits-all’

 What is more important then being consistent in how you discipline your child? – Knowing when to enforce the rules and when to take it easy on them.

Sure, you may have developed a disciplinary system that you plan to follow strictly so that the rules and regulations you enforce is taken seriously by your child. While having a clear and comprehensive plan is key, it is our responsibility as parents take note of their behavioural cues and adjust to the situation.

For instance, when your child is misbehaving, ask yourself why he/she is doing so. Often, tantrums act as a signal to let you know that your little one is tired, hungry or feeling uncomfortable in any way. And when you fail to take into consideration their mood and the circumstances and simply enforce mete out the disciplinary action, well that’s when tempers really flare.

The fix: It is vital to constantly remind yourself to take a breath and make a careful judgement of the situation. Enforcing discipline should be on a case-by-case basis and not a one-size-fits-all.

2. When discipline turns into punishment

Imagine this: After spending a couple of long hours cooking for your family and laying out the meal, your little one says that he/she does not like the food and does not want to eat dinner. According to the rules you have implemented, he/she is not allowed to leave the table without finishing dinner. But they simply will not touch a morsel! Do you (A) force him/her to sit down all night as punishment or (B) let them leave without eating?

If you picked (B), you answered right! As parents, situations like these can be really frustrating. Sometimes, you may even find yourself motivated by your feelings of anger to mete out punishments that extend beyond your little one’s ‘crime.’

The fix: In these instances, it is so important to remember the difference between punishment and discipline. The whole aim of disciplining is to serve to teach your child how to be more responsible with their actions.  Instead of being reactive whenever your child misbehaves, take the first step of addressing your own feelings, calming yourself and your child down and communicating why his/her behaviour is not ok.

In the above scenario for instance, it is especially important to not force your child to eat their food by punishing them. In fact, research shows that using punishment as a means to get your child to eat can create a picky eater or even result in weight issues! So, what should you do instead?

As frustrating as it can be, simply clear their plate and tell them that you will prepare food for them if they are hungry at a later time. It is also important to explain to them why eating on time is important and why food wastage is never right.

3. Being a ‘negative’ role model

Children are our biggest copycats – from the way we walk to the way we talk, they model their behaviour after ours. Unfortunately, they internalise our ‘bad behaviour’ as well. And there’s nothing worse than hearing, “But mommy does it too!” when you are trying to get your child to stop misbehaving.

The fix: Remember this throughout your parenting journey: “Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.” – Anonymous

Simply lead by example! Don’t want your child to use their phone during family time? Don’t whip out your phone yourself. Don’t want your child to use rude language or yell when they are frustrated with something? Always maintain your composure and remain calm in frustrating situations.

This, even the most successful parent can attest to, is easier said than done. When you do find yourself slipping up, make the conscious effort to vocalise to your child that you were wrong to act that manner. This will help him/her realise that everyone is held accountable for their negative actions and also gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about how to address such situations.

It shouldn’t be a complicated process

At the end of the day, all we want is the best for our children. A good disciplinary system should not be a struggle to figure out or implement. All we have to do as parents is to listen to our instincts, be open to the non-verbal signals our children constantly give us and have open, honest conversations with them.

It is no cakewalk but finding the right system that works for you can make all the difference in your parenting journey and will lay the groundwork for developing your little one into an all-round wonderful human being!