Sabtu, 30 November 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

When lullabies fail


Developing a sleep routine is key to helping your child sleep well at night.

SARAH Ong was taken by surprise when her second child kept her awake through the night. The 34-year-old mother didn't know what to do as her first daughter had no problems sleeping through the night.

"I never had issues with my first girl as she developed a self-designed sleep routine. However, when my second child arrived, she kept me up many hours every night.

"That's when I realised, to help us both sleep peacefully at night, I had to come up with a solution," says Ong, whose daughters are five and two.

Ong then began researching and studying ways to help her daughter develop a better sleeping habit. She then decided to study sleep training and later received a certificate from the International Maternity Institute in California, USA.

Now she holds workshops and sessions to help other parents who are also struggling with their babies' sleepless nights.

Sarah Ong learnt about managing sleep routines when her younger daughter started having a problem sleeping at night.

According to Ong, the top three sleeping issues most parents come to her about are children waking up frequently throughout the night, bedtime struggles and children who do not nap.

Ong notes that some parents allow their children to throw tantrums when they can't sleep, which she calls the 'cry-it-out' approach.

The child will continuously wail till they are exhausted and eventually fall asleep on their own.

But the child will sleep in the next day to make up for the sleepless night. This contributes to a cycle of restless nights for the parent and child.

"This can lead to a grumpy household," says Ong, relating her experiences with her younger daughter.

Set a routine

Ong suggests parents take the time to set a sleep routine for the child with sleeping difficulties.

"You must be willing to clear away your schedule to work with your child for at least two weeks," she advises.

One of the first concepts parents need to understand is the 'awake-window', which is how long a child stays awake between each nap or bedtime.

Ong however stresses that each child will have different nap and sleep patterns depending on their age and daily activity.

"The awake time of newborns to six-week-old babies should ideally be between 45-60 minutes between each nap time.

"After each hour of activity, it is advisable to put your baby down for a nap for at least 15-60 minutes (60 minutes being the maximum amount).

"The longest awake-time for babies of all ages is toward dusk. This is because you want to allocate enough hours for your child to be tired so they can sleep throughout the night without interruptions.

"So, if your baby wakes from their nap at 6pm, try and keep them entertained till about 8pm or 9pm, which is when you put them down for bed.

"It isn't uncommon for babies to have a sudden increase in awake time as they grow. Once they have passed the four-month stage, their awake hours will be longer," specifies Ong.

Toddlers' awake-time may decrease overall and this may occur when they have had shorter than usual naps, are sick, going through a growth spurt or starting to have a more active lifestyle. In due time, parents will be able to tell when they should encourage their little ones to nap.

"You may still need to put your child down earlier than the scheduled nap-hour, depending on what sort of day he's had.

"For example, if you've taken your baby out on errands or have had visitors come over to play with the baby, the nap time changes of course.

"I still put my two-year-old down for a nap in the afternoon due to these activities or if she has woken up earlier than usual in the morning for no particular reason. The idea here is so she is still on schedule for bedtime, says Ong.

Restful nights

She also stresses other factors that can lead to interrupted sleep patterns.

"What and when you feed your baby are very important. For example, dinner should be about an hour before bedtime. Hungry babies tend to wake up frequently and over-fed babies will have restless sleep," she advises.

The condition of the child's bedroom also affects his sleep.

"It's easier for babies to sleep in a pitch-black room. Toddlers can be afraid of the dark as they'd have developed imagination. You can use a dim light to offer them some comfort," says Ong.

"Another way to help your child sleep peacefully throughout the night is to play white noises to drown out other sounds that could wake your child up during the night," she says.

White noise is a consistent repetitive sound. Parents can search and download them off the Internet or find available applications on the smart phone.

It's also important to dress your child appropriately for bed and according to the room temperature. Ong also notes that siblings can assist their young brother or sister with their sleep patterns.

"Once your elder child has developed his or her own sleep pattern, they can encourage the younger sibling to do the same.

"If their age gap is close, their sleep schedules can be synchronised," she suggests.

Ong truly believes that children should have restfull sleeps especially during the night.

"Sleep time is when your child's mind develops and bodies recuperate after a tiring day.

"Good sleeping habits will lead to better learning abilities and a healthier child, thus resulting in happy parents and a cheerful household," she concludes.

> For more information on dealing with sleeping difficulties, visit Sarah Ong's site

Alive in cyberspace


The writer's 14-year-old son died in a cycling accident just over a year ago. But his prolific use of social media has allowed her to relive moments they once shared and watch him turn from a young boy into a teen on the brink of adulthood.

I LOST my son last summer. Kadian was cycling with his father, family and friends in Wiltshire, south-west England, when his brakes failed coming down a country path and he collided with a van on a dual carriageway. He was 14. His death was instant, painless. The only sign of trauma was a bruise on his forehead. He had taken the bicycle into a shop only a few hours earlier to have the brakes adjusted.

I wasn't there, because I had to make a trip to the United States. Kadian was meant to be joining me four days later.

Those who knew him say he had an extraordinary mix of social skills and intelligence for his age. His immediacy, charisma and charm allowed him to engage with adults and children alike. He wasn't sporty. He preferred to spend every moment he could outdoors in woods, or on a river, or cycling through the countryside. He was obsessive in his interests, unique in his problem-solving capabilities. He was a young teenager on the brink of manhood and had all the promise of being an amazing contributor to the world.

This paragraph might make up his obituary and be the only imprint on record. But it isn't, because he was fluent in the language of social media. Kadian was a prolific Facebook poster. I allowed him to set up an account when he was 10 so that he and I could share our days with each other in a different way. I worked long days and often wasn't home until late.

Recently, I received a package in the post. It was a hardback book containing Kadian's Facebook Timeline, from 2008 – all the photos he posted, status updates, likes and responses to messages. (I had ordered this from one of the companies that provides this service.) As I turn the pages of his 10-year-old self, his prose is punctuated with a sort of philosophical wit, his signature humour:

"Why is it that when you want something to happen soon, it happens late, and that when you want something to happen late, it happens soon."

"Wonders if he is human sometimes."

"Would anyone like to come replace Kadian today? Lots of fun homework!"

At 10, he made a list of "25 random observations about myself" – one of those viral questions that used to go around on Facebook.

The home page of the Kadian Project, a social media platform that is keeping the memory of the 14-year-old Kadian alive.

In memory of: The home page of the Kadian Project, a social media platform that is keeping the memory of the 14-year-old Kadian alive.

"I have always wondered why we bathe instead of vacuum ourselves off."

"I aggressively attack sugar while my dog aggressively attacks his stuffed ducks."

And one that I turn to again and again: "My first word was Mumma."

(I like to believe that's where his real timeline began.)

He also set up a fan page for his beloved German shepherd, Duke, which had 80 subscribers.

There is not an event in the book that I didn't share with him at some point – except the announcement of his death.

We had moved to America when Kadian was four, and back to Britain when he was 12; and owing to Facebook's international reach, thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic heard the news within 48 hours. By the weekend, vigils were held in his American hometown, and in Washington DC where he'd worked at one of the shops I ran.

I avoid reading the announcement of his death when reading through his Timeline. It's hard to stomach the fact that this trivial medium was the bearer of such a devastatingly personal fact. But weighed against the absurdity of Kadian's death, Facebook's triviality doesn't matter.

My biggest concern with the book is where to put it. It seems too precious to leave on a coffee table – but also too precious to tuck away where it might not be seen.

Facebook was not the only social media site Kadian used to share his experience of the world. Another was YouTube. He left a treasure trove of short films he made with his friend Finn. Aged 11, they experimented with different camera techniques – stop motion, reverse and blue screen. In one MTV-style music video, Kadian takes his beloved Duke to a playground to play with another puppy. There are shots of him leaving the house, arriving in the playground, and of Duke playing with the puppy. Kadian runs; Duke follows.

In another, Kadian and Finn jump from various landmarks in town in reverse motion. It's not the action, but the poetry of their shared boyhood friendship that captivates me. Kadian had a gift of creativity in the moment, no matter how mundane. And this is what left us dumbstruck at his death. How could Kadian, so infectious, so alive, die because he couldn't clear the wrong side of a split second. He should have been able to ferry himself past that moment.

When we moved back to Britain in 2010, Kadian set up his AppleFanboy98 podcast channel. He reviewed Apple products, unboxed new purchases and discussed Apple's competitors. I recently went back and watched his unboxing of the iPhone 4S. Today, it has nearly 5,500 hits.

Five months later, in another YouTube post, his jeans are hanging saggy on his hips and his briefs are showing. He's grown four inches. His voice has dropped. His personality is captured beautifully. He engages with the viewers as if they were there.

Two days after Kadian's death, Finn posted a short film on YouTube. It was a montage of photographs and footage set against one of Kadian's favourite song's, Coldplay's Life In Technicolor II.

I recognised the stream of comic faces and pictures, so it must have been the music that triggered this first taste of a mixed horror and agonised yearning that I now know well.

But then came footage that I hadn't seen – footage that I might have watched with Kadian two days before.

In one cut, he's laughing and licking snow as if it's ice-cream as he turns into the camera. In another, he's dancing on the ice next to the Potomac River in Washington DC – which still makes my heart thud at the danger of it.

The sequence that leaves me breathless is a mirrored shot of the two standing over a counter, dipping biscuits into milk. Kadian begins dabbing the mushy Oreo over his face. And then breaks into giggles. This sound is one of the most precious gifts alive. My child was a torchbearer of joy, and I will never hear that laugh again.

I used to fear that if I watched it too many times, it might lose its power, the emotional impact might fade. But it hasn't. It's not a melody. It's not a memory. And he wasn't acting. He was just being.

If I ever want to share Kadian with people who didn't know him, I send them links. I often hear it's easy to get a strong sense of his energy, to mistake the experience for knowing him.

I have asked myself how much value there is to triggering these emotions over and over again. Do I imagine that if I replay these things enough, he is going to remain as real as he was when he was with me? I can't help but wish.

Several weeks before the first anniversary of his death, I switched on Kadian's mobile phone. It had survived the accident. I checked the last photos he took. There was a sticky bun in a window of a bakery, and the last ice-cream he ate with a friend.

The last text to me was an audio recording of a cow mooing in a field. My last text to him was: "Don't let them cut your hair." (His dad often talked him into it when I was out of town.)

I'm glad for this record, and for the huge library of digital memories. They are powerful and valuable. But I have other soulful moments and memories – in my head. Like the last time I ran my fingers through his hair, cupped the back of his head in my hand and kissed him goodnight, the same way I had done every night since he was a baby. It was before I went back to the United States. Kadian commented that he was glad he would be joining me shortly, so we could come home together.

Because we were never good at being apart. – Guardian News & Media

Smaller bowls help kids eat less


Study shows children ask for more after eating from bigger bowls.

A NEW study suggests that smaller bowls could be an easy way to help children eat less, and therefore weigh less.

Announced last week, the US study involved 69 preschool children who ate cereal and milk from 8- and 16-ounce (225g and 450g) bowls until they'd had their fill. Children who ate from the larger bowls asked for 87% more cereal and milk, the findings showed.

"The quickest way parents can help kids eat less might be to grab them a smaller bowl," said Brian Wansink, professor of behavioural economics at Cornell University and the lead author.

In a second study, involving 18 elementary school children, researchers used secret scales embedded within the tables to weigh each cereal portion before and after the kids ate to measure exactly how much they consumed. The kids with larger bowls requested 69% more cereal and milk and also ate 52% more.

"Bigger bowls cause kids to request nearly twice as much food, leading to increased intake as well as higher food waste," said coauthor Koert Van Ittersum of University of Groningen. "Based on these findings, using smaller dishware for children may be a simple solution for caregivers who are concerned about their kids' caloric intake."

The study was published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Previous research published in the Journal of Consumer Research last year supports the theory for adults too, finding that subjects who dined from smaller plates and bowls ate less. Another study published in the same journal found that people who use bigger forks also tend to eat less. – AFP Relaxnews


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