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Training Children’s “Brain Power” & “Intelligence”-Early Childhood Edition

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Written by: Ms. Carmen Leung, Specialist in Child Development Psychology

DHA only provides nutrients for children’s brain development. To make children smarter, their brains must receive proper exercise. This time, I will introduce some brain-training games that are very suitable for children aged 2 to primary school age!

1.Maze or Spot the Difference Brain Exercises

Although Maze and Spot the difference brain exercises were our childhood games, they are still good friends for children in this era. In addition to mazes and spot the difference, there are many different modes of brain exercises. In short, any image game that requires children to observe and focus to complete tasks belongs to brain exercises. Do you know Wally (translated as “Where’s Wally?” in Chinese)? It is one of the most popular brain games in the world.

In fact, brain games do not necessarily need to be purchased or printed in books. We can easily create brain games at home. For example, parents can place two Swiss candies in a pile of miscellaneous items, and the child will find them with great concentration!

2.Tidying Up and Categorizing Household Items

Everyday activities, such as tidying up and categorizing items, are excellent opportunities to exercise the brain. Organizing items systematically not only enhances children’s organizational skills but also stimulates their creativity. Sometimes, children’s methods of categorization may differ from those of adults, but they have their own logic. Parents should ask their children why they categorize items in a certain way, as this can reveal that children’s observational skills might be sharper than expected. They use the details they observe to categorize, so parents should avoid imposing adult methods of categorization to prevent discouraging their children’s initiative in problem-solving.

You might wonder, “What if my child doesn’t like tidying up?” If your child hasn’t yet developed the habit of tidying and categorizing household items, start with games to motivate them to complete the “mission.” For example, you can organize a “Room Tidy-Up Competition” or a “Cleaning Day” where family members help each other tidy up. These activities encourage children to tidy and categorize, while also exercising their “brain power.”

3.Memory Games

There are many memory game cards available, such as turning over a dozen cards and taking turns to flip two at a time. If the two cards match, you can keep them. Additionally, there are cards with different objects drawn on them. Parents can lay them out in a row, let the child look at them, then turn them over and ask the child to remember where a specific object is. These are excellent memory games, and both adults and children can get creative and change the rules to make the games more interesting.

Besides memory game cards, everyday life is full of rich memory games. For example, you can ask your child to find items they have seen you place somewhere before, or have them hide some items and then find them after a long period.

In summary, training children’s brain power and intelligence is not difficult at all. With a bit of thought and creativity, many everyday details can become opportunities for children to exercise their brains!

We should be grateful to others for being willing to ‘offer help’

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Written by: Dr. Cheung Kit

 

In this era, parents’ protection of their children surpasses that of any previous generation. This may be due to the decrease in the number of children and the improvement in living standards, leading to parents spending more time and providing more comprehensive care for their children. Under such (possibly excessive) protection, children often become very self-centered and disregard the importance of others. From the parents’ perspective, they are inevitably biased and more tolerant of their own children. When faced with their children’s inappropriate behavior, parents tend to make excuses for them. This common human behavior, however, may lead to children becoming unruly. Therefore, in the difficult situation of balancing right and wrong, if someone is willing to “offer help and guidance,” parents should be grateful. The following are “important figures.”

1.Teachers

Teachers are among the people who spend the most time with children. We would prefer teachers to directly point out the rights and wrongs to children during their daily interactions. This direct message can effectively “sink in” for the children. Sometimes, facing negative criticism, children will naturally feel unhappy, but it helps them understand the boundaries. Therefore, parents should appreciate the strict guidance of teachers and avoid casually complaining about their efforts.

2.Elders

Many elders may be very strict with their own children but tend to be much more lenient with their grandchildren, sometimes even more so than the children’s parents. However, the status and life experience of elders are actually superior to anyone else’s. Therefore, their “one word of praise” can be more effective than others’ advice. The question is whether they are willing to play the role of the bad guy. If they are, parents should be grateful for their assistance.

3.Medical Personnel

Medical personnel have always been relatively respected. However, children often have an aversion to medical procedures. Therefore, during consultations and treatments, children’s reactions often present a good teaching opportunity. If medical personnel (including doctors and nurses) are willing to provide guidance when children exhibit uncooperative behavior, the children will likely understand better. Although they may not correct their behavior immediately, it will certainly help in their life learning process.

4.Passersby

Sometimes, unrelated bystanders can immediately point out inappropriate behavior in children, which can have a startlingly effective impact. For the parents present, this might be a bit embarrassing, but thinking it through, it is beneficial for the child’s behavior.

Children in their growth and learning phase need proper guidance, especially when their behavior deviates. Therefore, if parents are unwilling to play the “bad guy,” we should be grateful and appreciative if others are willing to speak up and correct the child.

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Encountering a ‘mismatched’ child is an opportunity for parents to grow

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Written by: Lai Shun Mei, Family Dynamics Counselor and Global Career Developer

When a child is born, people like to discuss his appearance, using his resemblance to his parents as a topic of conversation, and talk about which attractive features he has inherited from them. As he grows older and his temperament begins to show, they also like to explore whose personality he resembles.

It is generally easier to get along with someone who has a similar temperament because similar personalities and preferences make it easier to connect. If a child has a temperament similar to their parents, it seems to make parenting easier. However, it often seems like God enjoys playing jokes on us by giving us “mismatched” children: an outgoing and lively mother ends up with a quiet and introverted daughter; a hot-tempered father faces a sensitive and sentimental son; a mother who doesn’t understand fun encounters a hedonistic son.

Parents who seek help often share the common issue of having difficulty getting along with their “mismatched” child. They cannot accept the child’s nature, do not understand the child’s behavior, and do not know how to properly guide their child.

The outgoing and lively mother “complained” to me: “My daughter dawdles, is hesitant, and doesn’t dare to make friends outside.” She couldn’t understand: “What’s so difficult about brushing teeth? What’s so scary about attending English class? What’s there to be shy about when meeting other kids?” Why is her daughter nothing like her but instead resembles her indecisive, introverted, timid, and unambitious father? As she spoke, she indirectly revealed to me that her problem was not accepting her spouse and projecting her dissatisfaction with her spouse onto their daughter. Therefore, the issue was not with her daughter but with their marital relationship.

The hot-tempered father had to come for advice because his son only got along with his mother and not with him. He deeply loved his son and did not want him to grow up being overly sensitive and tearful like a girl. The older the child got, the more anxious the father became. However, under insults and strict orders, the child did not become stronger but instead became more withdrawn, clinging to his mother and refusing to leave her side. It was only after understanding the situation that it became clear that this father had grown up amidst beatings and insults. He believed his own strength came from such an upbringing, not realizing that those painful experiences had become implicit memories affecting his relationship with his son.

The mother, who claimed she did not know how to play and did not need to play, was at a loss with her son, who was solely focused on playing. She said her son was careless with his studies but persistently focused on play. How could she change her son’s attitude towards his studies? I was curious about this mother’s claim—who wouldn’t like to play? Seeking happiness is human nature, so why did she insist she did not need entertainment? It turned out that she was also playful as a child but was strictly disciplined by her mother, who did not allow her to “waste” time. Gradually, her life lacked playmates, and when she played with her mother, her mother remained serious and uncompromising, often causing her to lose and feel sad. Over time, she grew to dislike playing games. Her mother “successfully” shaped her into someone who “did not like” to play, someone who appeared strong and focused on studies but was also rigid, insecure, and lacking in joy. No wonder she did not understand how to get along with her naturally joyful son.

It turns out that God “mismatched” children for us with a purpose. He wants us to reflect on our relationships with our spouses and parents, and our own growth experiences through the frustrations of interacting with our children, thereby sorting out these relationships and resolving these emotional knots.

Parents’ lack of acceptance of their children is a reflection of their lack of acceptance of themselves. A lack of confidence in their children is a lack of confidence in themselves. By taking care of “mismatched” children, parents feel challenged and then become aware of their own pain points. With the help of a therapist, they begin a journey of self-exploration. They clarify and straighten out their family relationships, gaining rebirth and growth in the process. Children are born as they are, and there is no mismatch. Let us make good use of this opportunity for growth!

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Stranger anxiety: Anxiety towards strangers

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Written by:  Hong Kong registered psychologist, Ching Wai Keung   

When discussing the formation of attachment, it is not difficult to observe that children, from infancy (approximately from birth to two years old), already exhibit feelings of anxiety, including stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. These anxieties typically begin to appear between six months and one year of age. This time, we will focus on discussing stranger anxiety.

Simply put, stranger anxiety is what parents often refer to as fear of strangers, and the behaviors derived from it are what we commonly call “recognizing people.” The intensity of fear of strangers can vary; mild cases may only show reluctance to be held by strangers or avoidance of strangers’ gazes, while severe cases can involve extreme discomfort or even crying loudly just from a stranger’s glance.

Firstly, I must explain that under normal circumstances, fear of strangers should be seen as a positive developmental signal, indicating that the child is capable of distinguishing between caregivers and others. Parents should not be overly concerned.

Secondly, an infant’s reaction to strangers often changes depending on the external environment, including the current objective environment, the stranger’s actions towards the infant, the distance between the infant and their primary caregiver, and the caregiver’s reaction to the stranger (Keltenbach, Weinraub, & Fullard, 1980). For example, if the primary caregiver interacts with the stranger in a positive manner, using friendly speech and tone, the child’s response is likely to be more positive as well (Feinman & Lewis, 1983).

Therefore, if parents want to reduce their child’s anxious behaviors when facing strangers, they can start by modifying their own behaviors. When interacting with others, they can increase their smiles, be more proactive, improve their tone of voice and body language. Don’t forget that parents are the lifelong teachers of their children! Of course, parents do not need to rush to change the behavior of infants and toddlers in a short time. As they develop the ability to self-regulate, their performance in managing anxiety may greatly improve!

The emotion of fear of strangers actually follows us throughout our lives. Are you able to speak freely in front of strangers? Do you feel anxious during job interviews? Therefore, a little anxiety is normal. The most important thing is how we can improve our performance when anxious.

Finnish Students Learn Home Economics in the “kitchen classrooms”

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Written by: Mr. Kwan Hin-Pan, Director of Curriculum and Training at the Financial Quotient Education Academy

Cooking, housekeeping, financial management—would you let your child take such classes? Learning to cook? Learning to do household chores? Learning economic management? What exactly are these courses? It turns out that these are the three main themes of the “Home Economics” class that starts from elementary to middle school in Finnish education, where we deeply understand the educational philosophy of Finland, which is to insist on letting students learn abstract theoretical concepts in experiential settings, truly learning by doing. What important insights does this provide for parents and students in Hong Kong?

Actually, this course is not directly related to economics; it is originally a life education course aimed at letting children master the daily life skills of cooking, doing household chores, and managing family finances. Mastering these skills not only teaches them to live independently but also helps sustain the environment.

The first skill is “learning to cook,” which includes cooking and baking. Students not only learn the knowledge and skills of food preparation and baking, such as preparing ingredients, understanding recipes, identifying the nutritional components of food, and using an oven to cook; they also learn about food culture, such as food safety, the food chain, dietary culture and religion, and how to properly set tableware, napkins, and cups. In practical operations, they gradually learn food knowledge and dietary culture. Surprisingly, doing this small thing has become a venue for Finns to cultivate students’ creativity and imagination.

To provide students with a real learning environment, every school has a “kitchen classroom.” In the morning, the first and second periods are not academic theory classes, but cooking instead. The food prepared in class is what they eat for lunch that day, which is very interesting.

The second life skill is “doing household chores.” The home economics class is not just about teaching children to do housework; it is also about cultivating sustainable living habits through these chores. Under the influence of this class, children develop the habit of promptly cleaning kitchenware, using the dishwasher to wash the family’s dishes, and knowing how to hand wash dishes in a water-saving manner; they also possess environmental awareness, understanding the importance of cherishing food and waste sorting; at the same time, they can read the washing instructions on clothes and use the washing machine more effectively.

The third life skill is “managing household finances.” This skill is profoundly meaningful: through these deeply involved household activities, children gain a comprehensive understanding of the structure of family consumption, how to plan, allocate, and arrange family life with limited money, instilling in them from a young age a sense of consumer awareness and financial management ability, thereby cultivating their financial intelligence.

It turns out that Finnish parents give their children an “allowance” every month, with some families distributing it weekly. If they take good care of their younger siblings or actively clean the house, they can also earn money.

For example, a pair of parents have five children. From the age of 10, they discuss with their children their own wages, how much money is needed to buy food, how much it costs to send their younger siblings to kindergarten, and how much money is left for hobbies. This way, the children can fully understand the structure of family consumption.

School teachers also teach students how advertisements can influence their shopping and how to better use the internet to be a rational consumer, to avoid being deceived by advertisements and buying things they do not need.

Finally, as family consumers, students start to understand a family’s income, budget, and expenses from junior high school, which is beneficial in guiding them to use money correctly and develop financial and savings skills. At the same time, learning how to buy items that are both practically valuable and aesthetically designed with appropriate money is a very practical course that can make life sustainable.

Finnish students can go from “kitchen classrooms” to home economics classes, allowing them to personally experience, understand, and master cooking, housekeeping, and family financial management. Through the learning process, they fully acquire life instincts and self-management skills, enabling comprehensive development in their lives.

What important insights does this provide for parents and students in Hong Kong?

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Chronic cough? Bronchitis? Or Asthma?

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Written by:Cheng Sui Man

The children can’t stop coughing, often continuing for an entire month, especially severe in the middle of the night, waking up from coughing, leading to insomnia, and then falling asleep from extreme fatigue. This is torturous for both children and adults! What exactly causes this persistent coughing? Is it sensitivity or inflammation of the trachea? Upon consulting a doctor, it turns out this is also a form of asthma!

Children are naturally more prone to having narrower airways due to their young age, making them more susceptible to nasal congestion, snoring, and even shortness of breath even with just a common cold. However, unlike bronchitis, a common cold usually recovers within a week, but the cough from bronchitis can last over twenty days, so it’s not surprising that the coughing continues for a month from the onset of the illness.

This leads to another question: Why does bronchitis occur? According to doctors, one common cause is the child contracting the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). This is a very common virus that spreads through droplets and air. It causes the airways to constrict and become inflamed, producing mucus that accumulates and further narrows the airways, stimulating the patient to cough and creating a vicious cycle. Doctors indicate that in these cases, bronchodilator medication may be prescribed to reduce symptoms and allow the child’s immune system to fight off the virus. However, once a child has been infected with RSV, the airways are somewhat damaged, increasing the likelihood of developing asthma in the future. As the doctor explained, my eldest son had indeed been hospitalized due to RSV infection in the past, and since then, every time he catches a cold and coughs, his recovery time is longer than that of my younger son!

“So it seems your eldest son might indeed have asthma,” the doctor’s conclusion was definitely the last thing I wanted to hear. Asthma, in its worst case, can be fatal! Wait, that’s the worst-case scenario. The doctor added that asthma is actually classified into four stages.

Stage 1: Intermittent Asthma

Usually caused by respiratory viruses such as RSV or filtrable viruses, occurring sporadically a few times a year, with normal conditions the rest of the time. Therefore, it is only necessary to use a bronchodilator during episodes of airway constriction and shortness of breath to relieve discomfort without significant side effects, and there is no need for long-term medication.

However, if the airway constriction is not properly relieved, the airways can become increasingly prone to narrowing, and the asthma could progress.

Stage 2: Mild Persistent Asthma

Patients have episodes about once or twice a month, and bronchodilators are insufficient to manage the condition. Inhaled steroids are needed to “treat the root cause” and control inflammation. Inhaled steroids come in different strengths, and the doctor will prescribe the appropriate dosage as needed.

Stage 3: Moderate Persistent Asthma

Patients have asthma attacks on average once a week and need to use a bronchodilator daily.

Stage 4: Severe Persistent Asthma

Patients need to use a bronchodilator daily, three to four times a day, while also using inhaled steroids to control the condition.

Following the doctor’s advice, I should no longer be afraid to let my child use inhaled bronchodilators! Relieving the child’s coughing and asthma symptoms early on can also hopefully prevent the worsening of asthma conditions in the long run.

I’m by Your Side

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Written by: Stage and TV scriptwriter Cheung Fei Fan

On a Saturday morning, I took my five-and-a-half-year-old son and three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to volunteer for flag selling for the first time. The little rascals were initially thrilled, but after the excitement wore off in three minutes, both of them started clamoring to go home. As parents, we of course understood; firstly, the weather was hot, and young children have limited patience; secondly, the streets were bustling with traffic and pedestrians rushing back and forth, and with their small statures, they were soon lost in the crowd. Passersby hurried on their way, paying no attention to them. The two little “emperors,” who are usually the center of attention, probably experienced being ignored for the first time in their lives. As a father, I secretly cheered, thinking this was a perfect opportunity for them to understand that they are not the center of the world. At the same time, it could also let them experience what it means to “every grain of rice is hard-earned.”

My wife and I observed from the sidelines, only intervening when absolutely necessary, letting the two little ones freely explore. Watching them go from being scared and disappointed to trying, failing, then helping each other, trying again, and finally succeeding, seeing the satisfied smiles on their faces when they received praise from passersby, my wife couldn’t help but tear up.

Coincidentally, that same evening, director Owen Jay invited my spouse and me to the premiere of his new work ” Distinction” The movie tells the story of a teacher (played by Jo Koo) at a special school preparing a musical with a group of special needs children, and a girl from a prestigious school (played by Jennifer Yu) who initially participates passively but eventually forms a deep bond with them.

The movie was certainly wonderful, but what moved me the most that night was after the screening, when the host invited one of the young actors to share his feelings about his performance. Without hesitation, the child loudly said in front of everyone, “I am very thankful to my mom for accompanying me during the filming of this movie.” At that moment, my eyes welled up with tears. For me, the most striking thing was the word “accompaniment.”

Special needs children may be slightly less capable in some areas compared to their peers, but they always possess an innocent heart. They are sensitive to love and can express their feelings candidly, and he just blurted out what is one of the most important responsibilities as a parent.

Sometimes, we may not need to ‘do’ something for our children; sometimes, simple ‘companionship’ may already be enough. This reminds me of when my son is at home building with LEGO, he often likes to ask me to sit beside him. Sometimes I wonder, thinking to myself, why do you need me sitting next to you while you play? But as I sit there, after a while, he suddenly turns his head, gives me a glance, and then continues to build his LEGO city with reassurance. In that fleeting moment, in his eyes, I saw panic, and then a fraction of a second later, he returned to calmness. It was then I realized that he had accidentally knocked down the LEGO building he had put together. But he did not ask for my help; he just wanted to confirm that dad was right behind him. It turns out, my ‘presence’ is his greatest pillar in overcoming difficulties. His big eyes seemed to say: “Great, you’ve been here all along, so I’m not afraid anymore.”

It’s important to know that companionship always has a time limit, and I only hope that we can live without regrets within that time limit.

Parental education, willing to learn and dare to do

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Written by: Dr. Chi-Yuen TIK, Chief Executive, The Hong Kong Institute of Family Education

In the journey of parental education, I love to listen to parents share their experiences and reflections on disciplining their children. Exchanging and encouraging each other is the most comprehensive content of parenting education. There is no place in the world that requires parents to pass an exam before they can have children. Everyone is learning as they go, realizing things later on, and gradually becoming “experienced” parents. Children have expectations of you, society has demands on you, and parents themselves cannot afford to be lazy, so they actively learn theories and techniques for disciplining their children.

I remember a father sharing how he dealt with his son’s request to buy sneakers when the son was in the eighth grade. He told his son he would give him four hundred dollars. Naturally, the son felt it was not enough, but the father told him that four hundred dollars could buy a pair of sneakers, and if it wasn’t enough, the son would have to figure it out himself. In the end, the son bought the sneakers he wanted, but the price was saving his breakfast and lunch money to make the purchase. He said although his son was happy with the new sneakers, he also experienced days of hunger, and in the future, he would think carefully before making a purchase. The father expressed that it was tough for him to see his son go through this, but he thought it was important for his son to understand the principle of living within one’s means, even if it meant letting his son experience it firsthand.

During a lecture on how to cultivate self-care abilities in young children, a mother of a K3 student shared that her son always relied on her to pack up his homework. Over time, her son’s dependence on her increased. After much reflection, the mother decided to apply what she had learned from parenting seminars. She told her son that he needed to take care of his own things and that she would no longer pack his school bag for him. She was also mentally prepared for her son to be reprimanded by the teacher for not handing in his homework. As expected, to avoid further scolding from the teacher, the son started to pack his school bag by himself every day. Although he may not yet fully understand the importance of taking responsibility for his own affairs, he has begun to take his own matters seriously and no longer relies on his mother’s “help.” The mother also stopped providing unconstructive help and care for her son.

After all, classroom learning is enjoyable, but practical application can be painfully insightful, with a mix of joys and challenges. While applying parenting techniques, it is also a challenge to the parents’ personal values and life experiences. Parents also need to have a balanced mindset and self-awareness. This is precisely the purpose of parenting education.

The underlying meaning of acne

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Written by: Dr Cheung Kit

I remember watching a terrifying TV show during my college days. It was about how a virus similar to Ebola spread among residents and outsiders in a certain area, leading to everyone’s death. In the drama, people infected with the virus would inevitably develop red rashes on their bodies even in the early stages. Therefore, many people have a deep impression that rashes represent serious diseases.

In fact, this is only half true. A rash is a symptom that can be a skin problem or a reaction to a systemic disease. Skin diseases can be simple skin sensitivities, mosquito bites, shingles, sunburns, etc. Systemic reactions can be due to drug sensitivities, infections, autoimmune disorders, etc. The previous statement “half true” means that among systemic reactions, some are more severe, while others are milder.

Severe examples include:

  1. Drug Sensitivity: Since a rash is only a sign, the reaction can be very severe. Therefore, if this is the case, we generally handle and observe with extra caution.
  2. Infectious (Acute): For example, measles, chickenpox, hand, foot, and mouth disease, German measles, mumps, etc. These diseases are highly contagious and also present with fever symptoms. So, in addition to worrying about the complications of the disease, we also worry about it spreading to others. Therefore, special care is needed.
  3. Autoimmune Diseases: For example, lupus erythematosus, allergic purpura, etc. Since these conditions can have more systemic complications, the treatment goal is not to treat the rash but to address the underlying disease.

So what are the “other half” of rashes that are not serious?

  1. Roseola: This is a type of rash ‘exclusive’ to young children. It is definitely a reaction after being infected with a certain filtrable virus. Whenever this rash appears, the fever has already completely subsided, which also indicates that the condition has stabilized. Generally, these rashes appear on the torso and then spread to the limbs and face. Since they are not itchy or painful, there is no need for special treatment.
  2. Heat Rash (Prickly Heat): This is the result of blocked sweat glands. It is mostly caused by the environment being too hot or wearing too many clothes. Although there may be a little itching, it is not as uncomfortable as eczema, so it is not a serious problem. On the other hand, as long as the temperature of the affected area is lowered, the condition will improve.

Infant Eczema

  1. Although infant eczema can be very itchy, it is time-limited. It generally starts from one month after birth and lasts until about six months. Moreover, it responds well to medication (such as medium-strength steroid creams). So, basically, as long as parents are willing to deal with it positively and follow the doctor’s treatment, there will be a good response.

Therefore, having a rash does not necessarily mean there is a big problem. However, if a rash occurs at the same time as fever, systemic symptoms, or poor mental state, it means it would be better to see a doctor sooner rather than later.