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‘All You Need Is Love’…the simple, inside-out wisdom of parenting…

AYNIL for blog

I have read books on parenting before, and I have written about books on parenting before. But I have not journeyed before with an author, as she talks, from a lived and honest position, about the highest highs and the lowest lows, the trials and tribulations, the complexity but also the refreshing simplicity…of the most human of experiences, that is parenthood.

In this book, Shelja brings together the life lessons from her years of lived experience, both as a parent and as a therapist, and combines this with the results of research on what works and does not work, and gives us, in simple and relateable language, the five anchors of parenting:

  • Connect: The relationship that is the foundation of parenting
  • Coach: Building the necessary skills in our children through an understanding of their unique wiring and temperament
  • Care: How to nurture yourself for a more wholesome life
  • Community: Building caring ecosystems for children to thrive in
  • Commit: How to sustain your courage and compassion through it all.

Most importantly, this is a book that makes us look within as parents- delve into our deepest recesses to stay mindful of our own vulnerabilities and pressure points, but also to be able to draw out, from these very depths, our most deep-seated reservoirs of love and connection and wisdom, to give to our children.

I would most unfalteringly claim that there is something in this book for everyone. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will resonate with some of your deepest experiences as a parent, but also as a child. It will make you drop your jaw in awe that parenthood could be so vast and complex, but it will also make you shake your head in disbelief that it could be so simple. As simple as saying and believing that…all you need is love, really.

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Bridging the Gap: Ideas for a More Inclusive Sexuality Education Programme

The question of addressing the need for sexuality education for children and young people in our country is itself intimidating to parents and educators alike. My years of working with children and young people with intellectual or developmental disabilities has made me further question how that schema manages to come together for them, given that some of the basic intellectual, social and emotional capacities that brought it all together for some of us, may be missing or simply different. At the same time, the basic curiosity about sexuality and need for sexual exploration, both at the intra- and interpersonal levels, is intact. How, then, do we attempt to ‘bridge this gap’?

I was recently asked to put down my ideas on creating a more inclusive sexuality education programme. Read my piece on the TARSHI blog here.

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Living and Learning With Our Children

Often when we think of children and learning we think of schools and classes that they can join to learn this skill or the other. A music class to develop an affinity for music. Or a storytelling workshop to learn to enjoy the magic of stories. Truth is, however, that children, more than adults, have a natural affinity for the creative arts. They are naturally wired to enjoy stories and music and fun games. And whatever learning happens from participation in these pursuits, needs to happen in a spirit of playfulness and fun.

Children naturally love stories!

Children naturally love stories!

The first Sunday of our new year started with a Kids’ Open House at our place. All kids we know were invited. If parents could join in, they were most welcome to. If not, they could drop their little ones and go do their Sunday chores. And what did we do? If you’re thinking this was an event that needed a lot of planning and thinking up child-friendly activities, you’re mistaken. All we did was sit and sing together some good old songs that everybody was familiar with, with some of the kids who were learning this instrument or the other, providing some accompanying music. By the end, we even replaced the lines of one of the songs to make up our own version! We built stories together, each one adding on a line to what the previous person had said, and then laughed ourselves silly at the crazy stories that got created as a result! We made some simple homemade yet exciting hot dogs and burgers, which the kids helped to assemble and serve.

Here’s what it took. A couple of adults taking out a few hours on a Sunday to create a space that was for, and about, and with, our children. That is all.

And here’s what we got. Moments of wide eyed wonder, and the magic of stories, and a whole lot of laughs. Not just at what children can and will do, but what we adults can and will do when we let the child in us simply come out and play. All in a day’s work. Of living and learning with our children 🙂

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Child Friendly News

A newspaper that is truly child friendly!

A newspaper that is truly child friendly!

In an age where news of bloodshed shares cover space with condom ads in every leading daily, how do we ensure that our children get their daily dose of news and current events in a language that they understand, and without having to make their way through reams of explicit content?

Enter Child Friendly News, a newspaper written keeping young readership and their needs at its centre. Child Friendly News was co-founded by Anita Mani, and born very much out of the need to explain news and current events to her own seven year old. As she says, “Every issue is written with children in mind. Each issue is in fact read by my son and his friends – no losing sight of the target audience here! ”

Besides presenting news and current affairs in a simple and reader-friendly language, other exciting features of CFN include The Book Nook, which introduces a children’s book in each edition, bits on sports and technology, as well as interesting little word scrambles and other games.

I love seeing young readers in our clinic’s waiting area sitting right next to their accompanying adults, one reading the adult newspaper and the other engrossed in CFN, and then comparing news and headlines in an atmosphere of utter seriousness and ‘grown-up’-ness!

Subscribe to CFN today and read-along with your 7-13 year old at home or as you drop them off to school. CFN is now available for free at most children’s organisations and schools too 🙂

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Why Connect?

How are milk and water alike?

What is common between a glass window and a bottle of ink?

How would you connect a carpenter and a cook?

And WHY connect?

Because looking for connections between things, concepts and categories taps into what are known as our higher order thinking capacities. Each time we encourage children to link ideas with one another, we are facilitating a deeper level of processing and engagement with those ideas. Simply put, the ideas or concepts are likely to be understood better, remembered for longer, and generalised to broader areas of their lives.

Chalk and Chuckles has created a wonderful game to teach kids to connect the dots. Based on the format of a visual scrabble, ‘Why Connect’ contains 90 picture tiles containing familiar objects (milk, honey, wood), occupations (carpenter, cook) and concepts (fire, sand) that two to four players can take turns connecting with each other. The game contains two levels of complexity (red and blue marked tiles) for use with younger as well as older kids, and also offers higher levels of challenge by allowing you to place a single tile in the middle of three others and make a plausible connection with all three!

A wonderful game to learn to connect the dots!

A wonderful game to learn to connect the dots!

What’s more, it also encourages reasoning and communication skills as you have to not only state the connection aloud but also get other players to agree with the logic of your connection. The best part about this highly addictive game is that it is not bound by a board and can be played on any flat surface. So have fun connecting these tiles on your family dining table, or take it along with you on a picnic to the park!

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Planning A Child-Friendly Diwali

child friendly diwali

Diwali is right around the corner and we are in the midst of planning our annual Diwali party. While drawing up the guest list, I realised that many of our favourite invitees are ‘little people’, and I started wondering what kids usually do at these adult-centred Diwali parties. Play on their gadgets? Watch TV?

Many adult taash parties do not include kids, but I have attended many that do have a few kids turning up, especially if there is nowhere else to leave them. Secondly, most kids find crackers to be the most fun part about Diwali, but with the concept of a cracker-free Diwali becoming more and more popular, we do need to find new and exciting ways to make Diwali celebrations fun for them.

Here are some ideas I’m trying to play around with in my attempt towards a child-friendly Diwali this year:

  • If you are inviting a family that includes kids, make sure there is a kids’ invite too. It makes them feel ‘seen’ and valued as guests to the party, not just add-ons, who “couldn’t be left at home”. You can get your child to draw or write out this invite, or it could mean simply adding a line to the main invite addressed to the child, letting them know what fun things you are planning specifically for them.
  • Set up a separate space for the kids’ activities. Make sure they are not in the same room as the adults’ playing cards or drinking. They will, of course, be in and out but it is important to bring home the message that some Diwali activities for adults and kids are different.
  • Fun Diwali-related activities for kids could include working on a big rangoli together, making cards or paper lanterns, and painting diyas and candles. Setting up a work station lined with newspaper, with enough supplies and on-and-off supervision by an adult, usually works well.
  • A great follow up from this would be to use what they have made for decorations and even giveaways.
  • Leaving around some nice and age-appropriate books about Diwali for them to read is a good idea. If an adult or older child could volunteer to conduct a Diwali story-telling session for the kids, that would be great too. We found a lovely and most beautifully illustrated one called ‘Amma, tell me about Diwali’ by author Bhakti Mathur that we have ordered online this year for our ‘little’ guests. They make excellent Diwali kids’ giveaways too.
  • Co-creating some little rituals with them and incorporating these into the Diwali puja will help them connect with this part of the festival too.
  • Saying no to the excitement of firecrackers is tough for little ones. However, kids respond well to stories and causes that involve the welfare of other kids, and also help them bring out their compassionate side. Here are some great links to educate yourself and your children about the story behind the anti-firecracker movement .

Festivals are a great way to help children connect with traditions and culture, but this is only possible if this ‘connect’ is made relate-able and meaningful for them. Wishing you and your little ones a happy Diwali!

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Palatable Parenting Advice in A Book

“What can I do to get him out of his shell?”

“If only she would spend half the time she does on boys and dressing up, on her studies!”

“Why does every conversation between us turn into an explosive nightmare?”

These are just some of the questions I hear exasperated parents of teens I work with, battling day in and day out. Parenting dilemmas can leave parents feeling guilty and dis-empowered, as they wade through these turbulent seas, trying a hit and miss strategy of sometimes firmness, sometimes confrontation, sometimes giving in; and at other times, simply giving up!

As hard as it may be to believe, these tussles impact teens too. Behind the high walls and “I don’t care”s, we often find a teen who is feeling misunderstood and helpless too- “Nothing I do is good enough for them”.

Parenting teenagers is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing parents today, as we live in what Faber & Mazlish aptly describe as a  “meaner, ruder, cruder, more materialistic, more sexualized, more violent than ever before” world.

how to talk 2

So how do we end these endless tugs of war and screaming marathons and begin to evolve healthier patters and ways of being with our teenagers? Faber & Mazlish’s book tells you just how. Packed with true stories, typical scenarios, instructive comic strips, and reminder pages that highlight the ideas in each chapter, ‘How To Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk’ demonstrates the communication skills that will give parents the know-how they need to enjoy a mutually respectful relationship with their teenage son or daughter. What’s more, all of their strategies are non-preachy and very do-able. Get yourself a copy today. Easily available online and in bookstores.