Category Archives: #How-To

5 Things to Know Before You Foster   

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Fostering brings with it many joys, but also many challenges. One should only decide to foster after much careful consideration, so here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering foster care.

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How to W.R.A.P Around Foster Families

Fostering is made possible not only by the families who choose to care for these children, but also by the community that rallies around them to provide help and support in a number of ways. You may not be ready to foster a child right now, but there is plenty you can do to make their journey as a new family smoother and more enriching.

Walk Alongside

No matter how strong the foster family is, or how they’ve got everything under control, they still need a trusted group of people to be there for them in this journey of fostering.

Be a listener. There will be days when the parents feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Be there to listen to their anxieties, longings and frustrations, allowing them a safe space to share any pent-up emotions.

Be an encourager. Drop a note of encouragement via a phone call, message, or handwritten card. Let them know that they are doing a wonderful job simply by giving a child a loving and secure home.

Be a companion. Sometimes all the family needs is the presence of friends who care. Offer to accompany them while they look after the child at home or when they have to go for checkups or appointments.

Celebrate milestones and successes. A proud parent will naturally want to boast about the child’s accomplishments, be it when he starts to walk, wins a competition or graduates from school. Rejoice with them and congratulate them on these achievements, no matter how small.

Respite Care

Taking care of a new addition to the family round the clock can take a toll on the parents, so giving them an opportunity to take a well-deserved break every now and then can be much appreciated.

Be a stay-in babysitter. Offer to stay over for a few days so the family can take a short holiday. This would invariably mean you should already have a good relationship with the child, where he feels safe and comfortable with you.

Babysit for the day. You could also volunteer to look after the child during the day. Taking over typical parenting responsibilities like feeding the child, putting him to sleep or helping with his homework can make a big difference.

Take the child for outings. You don’t necessarily have to babysit at home – occasionally taking the child out would be fun and beneficial too. Be it to the zoo, the park or just the playground, children of any age usually enjoy exploring new places and getting out of the house. This way, the parents will get some downtime for themselves, too.

Acts of Service

Families who decide to foster are usually mentally prepared for the added responsibility, but the daily grind of household activities and child-minding duties can still overwhelm. Serving the family in small, practical ways can go a long way.

Bake or cook for them. Though buying food from the nearby coffee shop doesn’t take a lot of time, nothing beats a home-cooked meal made with love. Cook a meal (or meals) for them to enjoy in the comfort of their own home, or bake some cookies for the child’s birthday party or simply to brighten up their day.

Help around the house. Does the family need help with washing the never-ending pile of clothes, cleaning the toilet, or mopping the floor? Offer to do these daily household chores for them so that they have one less concern to think about.

Provide tuition for free. Tuition is an additional expense that some families struggle to afford, so offering to tutor the child free-of-charge would be much appreciated. This will also allow you to build a relationship with the child, opening the door for you to provide help in other ways.

Practical Necessities

Family expenses will definitely increase, especially if the child has existing medical conditions or special needs. Other than offering physical help, you can also provide for the families’ material needs.

Support them financially. If accepting cash may raise several questions for the foster family as to the reason for the gift, giving vouchers for the purchase of specific items like groceries, books or stationary might be a better option. Alternatively, offer to sponsor certain needs, like the installation of window grilles for their home.

Donate required items. Help obtain items that you know the family needs for their new child, such as a baby crib or school bag. Brand-new purchases aren’t always a must – you could source them second-hand or even pass them your hand-me-downs, so long as they are of acceptable condition.

Shop for them. With an additional child to look after, time to do even simple grocery shopping can be scarce. Ask them for a list of household items and foodstuff they require and make the trip to the supermarket to get those items on their behalf.

These are just some of the little ways you can play your part to care and support the many children in need of foster care. Every little act of kindness matters, as we collectively become the “village” that raises a child.

Speaking Words of Affirmation to your Teen

When you say something encouraging to your teen (or tween even, for that matter), does it feel like water off a duck’s back? Despair not, for your words matter. In fact, one of the 5 Love Languages is Words of Affirmation. Remember that your words have a lasting impact on your children. Here are 3 areas that we can focus on when speaking words of affirmation to our children:

+ Character
When your child demonstrates positive traits such as honesty, generosity and kindness, highlight their actions and praise their character. Such compliments will encourage them and spur them on to continue doing good.

+ Contributions, big or small
Simple things, such as the older sibling helping to pack up the younger one’s toys, may not seem important. However, by acknowledging and appreciating their efforts, it reinforces the message that what they do matters.

+ Courage
In a world that seems so big, trying and doing new things can be daunting. Applaud their courage for trying new things, and cheer them on as they do so. Having Dad and Mum’s support is reassuring, and means more to them than you would know.

Teaching young children respect for others

My husband and I were driving the kids to school one morning. We were in a middle of a conversation when my 3-year-old son suddenly shouted, “Stop talking!” It turned out that his favourite song had come on and he couldn’t hear it over our voices.

I chuckled, and was tempted to shrug off his cute outburst. But instead, I seized that teachable moment to explain that what he just did was disrespectful. Then I had him repeat after me, “Excuse me, Papa and Mama, I cannot hear the music.”

Children are naturally self-centred, and respect for others is not instinctive. Neither is respect easily defined in words. Here are some ways we teach our young ones respect:

Demonstrate respectful behaviour

Photo Credit: MyTudut via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MyTudut via Compfight cc

Our children are watching us all the time – we are their first and most important role models. So there’s no better place to teach respect than in the home. Do children see their dad and mum speaking kindly and being considerate to each other? Do they see us working as a team in taking care of the home?

When speaking to my children, I try to be mindful of my tone of voice, not to talk down to them, snap at them or shout. I also try my best to listen attentively when they have something to tell me, no matter how trivial it may seem. It is also important to validate their feelings with words of affirmation and encouragement.

Set ground rules
This will differ between each household. Some of mine include:

  • You don’t get what you whine for
  • “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” (it rhymes and your kids will get a kick out of reciting this phrase, try it!)
  • No interrupting
  • No name-calling
  • Respect physical boundaries

When rules are broken, appropriate consequences should be delivered. The key is to be consistent – you can’t enforce a rule one day and let it slide the next day.

Give children the words for good manners
In our household, we start our requests with “May I”. For example, “Mom, may I please have more juice?” or “May I please play with your toy?” This really helps a young child verbalise his thoughts, rather than whine or cry. I also teach my children to greet elders with the appropriate terms, such as “auntie” and “uncle”, and to look them in the eye when saying hello or goodbye.

Practice showing respect to others
I take my kids to visit their great-grandmother at the nursing home regularly. I encourage them to chat with her and give hugs. She is wheelchair-bound so they take turns to push her out to the garden or the common area to watch TV. This teaches them that everyone deserves respect, regardless of age or capabilities.

So, back to our car ride to school. Shortly after my son’s favourite song was over, my husband and I continued talking again. Lo and behold, we heard a sweet voice…

“Excuse me, Papa and Mama, I cannot hear the music.”

LJ and her husband have been married 7 years and have three delightful children. They keep the romance alive by putting the children to bed early and listening to their favourite playlist of 90’s love songs.

Perfection vs Keeping it Real

Full cascading hair, narrow face structure, almond-shaped eyes, and Angelina Jolie’s famous full lips – these are the ideal features of a beautiful woman. Or are they?

A recent survey found that one in three Singaporean youths feel it is perfectly acceptable to go for cosmetic procedures at their age. According to Dr Frederick Lukash, a New York plastic surgeon interviewed by The New York Times, many youths “do it to fit in.”

Images of ‘perfect’ men and women on advertisements and social media subtly influence us into thinking we need a specific product in order to look appealing. What youths are not consciously aware of is that many of these images today are edited computer composites.

Youths are at the phase in their lives where they are discovering their identities and are susceptible to conforming to society’s pervasive ideal values and beauty standards. Hence, it is hardly surprising that many of them believe it is not wrong to undergo plastic surgery as a ‘corrective measure’ in order to gain recognition from others or just to look ‘normal’.

It is unfortunate that many youths feel great dissatisfaction over their looks.

In our role as parents, guardians, relatives, mentors, teachers or friends, our role is not merely to shelter our next generation from negative influences that affect their sense of self-worth, but also to help them develop strong, positive values that can strengthen their self-esteem. We can do this by:

  • Connecting genuinely: Ensure that they are comfortable approaching you with any frustrations they may have about their looks. Be slow to judge or dictate how they should feel, and make the effort to truly understand their point of view.
  • Encouraging character development: Looks matter, but they are temporal. Remind them that what’s inside is most important. We are wholesome only when we balance presentation with positive character and values.
  • Providing meaningful affirmation: This is especially important when they are being teased because of their looks. During this sensitive period when a youth’s self-esteem is fragile, your reminders about their uniqueness and value will go a long way. Remind them that their worth is not based on attaining society’s seemingly ‘perfect’ images.
  • Setting a good example for a balanced, healthy lifestyle: Youths pick up habits, attitudes, and mindsets (good or bad) from you. Model a healthy self-image for them and implement family practices like eating healthily and exercising regularly together.
  • Role-modelling self-love and confidence: If you constantly express dissatisfaction with your weight or facial features (from the small grouses like “My tummy is so big!” to the “I wish my ears were smaller”) yet tell them that they are fine as they are, it sends across mixed signals – and your actions will eradicate the impact of your words. Being confident and loving yourself as you are will give the youths you are interacting with an example to follow.

To quote Zoe Kravitz, an American actress and model: “Beauty is when you can appreciate yourself. When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful.”  Let’s be there to sincerely say to our youths, “You are beautiful even when you think you aren’t, and I love you for who you are.”

Editor’s note: Are you curious to know what youths think about plastic surgery? We asked an undergraduate to pen her thoughts, and her unique yet heartwarming perspective is definitely worth reading. Keep a look out for it this Saturday!

Confessions of a WAHM (Part 2)

Earlier this week I shared my challenges, joys and struggles in my journey as a WAHM, and if that hasn’t deterred you from considering becoming a WAHM, there are some things I’d like to share with you as you contemplate your decision.

I haven’t figured out all the answers, but in the course of my journey I’ve learnt 9 things that I hope will make yours a little bit easier.

Get family support / external help
Help can never be enough. No mum is meant to be a supermum. Recognise that you’re just one person and that you want to be in this for the long haul (and not burn-out halfway).

Establish designated work spaces
Get organised and put a bit of thought and planning into your work spaces. Invest in the right tools for your trade, like a laptop or a particular software. If you work best when you’re out of the house, try to get help so you can spend some hours at a café or library.

Seek support and advice from mums who’ve been there, done that
There is something precious about learning from others who have travelled the path before you. There is wisdom to be found, not to mention friendship as well.

June and Work around kids’ routines
Plan to get major tasks done when the kids are at school, having their nap, or when help is at hand.

Be prepared for interruptions
Kids being kids, at times they just won’t take “no” for an answer. Sometimes it helps to give them a bit of attention, guide them to engage themselves in drawing, or playing with their siblings, and then go back to your task once they are happily busy.

Tip: Keep a stash of ready surprises in the storeroom as part of your weaponry if you need to whip something out for them in a jiffy. Bubbles, puzzles, or even an old box of toys will to the trick. If you’re really desperate, throw some ice into a tub and let them have some sensory playtime!

Be flexible
Be prepared to give and take where work is concerned, and recognise that you’re still a team player even though you see the team less often.

Prioritise and learn to say no
Recognise that you have a finite amount of time and energy to invest in both your work and family. When faced with new opportunities, ask yourself, is this in line with my long-term goals? Can I commit without putting unnecessary strain on myself? How will this impact what’s already on my plate?

Have a positive mindset
Look upon challenges as opportunities for creative problem-solving. 
There was once I felt guilty for not bringing the kids out to different places. Now I try to schedule small pockets of time for intentional bonding, through art, reading, exploring museums or running about in open spaces. I realised it’s not possible for me to be focused on them 24/7, so I start with 20-30 min of bonding time each day. This helps me to plan for meaningful activities, be it making a gift or designing a card, or encouraging my eldest to write/design a simple book.

Schedule regular me-time
As a WAHM, it’s easy to forget your own needs amid all the responsibilities you juggle. Taking time off to relax and do things that you enjoy is thus really an essential, and not just a nice-to-have. Having some me-time will help you to refresh and rejuvenate your tired soul, and give you renewed strength for the journey ahead.

I hope the tips above have given you practical insights into tackling the challenges that are part of the WAHM journey. If you have tips to share, do leave a comment below!

This guest post comes courtesy of June Yong, a writer-mum of three and creator of mamawearpapashirt.com. She shares grace-filled stories, lessons learnt, and ideas on how to live a simple and playful life with our families.

3 Phrases Your Children Should Learn From You

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach

Parents, our children watch and learn from how we act – and this includes what we do and say. They will reflect our behavior subconsciously (i.e. not deliberately) so we need to model the behavior we want to see in our kids.

To create a positive home environment and be a role model for your kids, here are 3 phrases that you should use:

+ I’m Sorry
Although our children believe we are perfect and/or superheroes, the truth is that we are only human – and will make mistakes. Your hunger can cause you to be worse than Oscar the Grouch, you may blurt out something wrong by accident, or you could forget your child’s all-important performance in school … many things can happen, and it can’t be helped.

So instead of trying to run from it, deal with the mistakes instead by learning to say sorry. And when your children see you stepping up to apologize, they learn that (a) it’s okay to make a mistake and (b) saying sorry isn’t as difficult or intimidating as they think it to be.

Tip: If saying sorry is difficult, think about this: what matters more, being right or making amends?

+ I Love You
The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman are widely known: quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

Even if your family’s love language is not words of affirmation, it is still important to say “I love you”. Most people still need to hear “I love you” in order to feel that they are loved, and by verbalizing your love for your family members, especially your children, it reassures them and reinforces the fact that you love them,

Tip: If you can’t bring yourself to say “I love you”, why not send a message or leave a note for them somewhere obvious (like in the toilet)?

+ Thank You
Showing your appreciation is a powerful way to affirm your family members, and also shows that you recognize the efforts that they have put in. When you say “thank you”, you send a message to your children that showing gratitude for those around them is important, and they will learn to do the same as well 🙂

Tip: When you start saying “thank you”, go beyond the things that people do for you, but start thanking them for who they are!