Jumaat, 27 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Steady on the ball

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Teacher uses exercise balls to control squirming students.

WHEN Seminole Springs Elementary teacher Stephanie Burnett told her colleagues she was going to issue bouncy, inflatable stability balls to her wiggly six- and seven-year-old students instead of desk chairs, the initial reaction was shock.

"When people realised what I intended to do, the first thing people said was, 'I think it's great, but I think you're crazy,'" said Burnett, 31, who is in her third year teaching. "'You're not going to have chairs at all?'"

But Burnett went ahead and purchased – on her own dime – springy, bright-yellow exercise balls for each of her squirmy first-graders this school year. She hoped the balls would get their wiggles under control so they could focus on school. It worked. Students who slouched in their chairs or even dozed during lessons changed dramatically after sitting on stability balls for several weeks.

The plastic exercise balls were first developed in the 1960s for physical therapy, but have since been used in gym workouts to rev up traditional push-ups, sit-ups or yoga moves. The idea is for the ball's instability to improve a user's own stability, coordination and posture. The same concept seems to work with a growing number of schoolchildren across the country, according to research, but with an added benefit – it keeps kids engaged during class.

"We spend from first grade, to college and university looking at the back of someone's head," said John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. "A ball allows for much better range of motion with your neighbours."

In 2008, Kilbourne replaced students' desk chairs for 14 weeks with stability balls and found that 98% of them favoured the ball-chairs. They reported positives such as improved posture and better attention levels. Kilbourne now fields daily questions from teachers about how they can do the same in their classes.

More recent research conducted by educators and medical researchers in Aroostook County, Maine, schools and released this year found 78% of teachers said handwriting improved in students who used stability balls instead of desk chairs. Students were also less squirmy and even improved or maintained test scores, according to the study. Other research from the University of Kentucky in 2011 suggests the balls can have a "dramatic effect" on students with attention and hyperactivity problems.

Kilbourne said the balls appeal to "our need for play and playful active learning," which represents a stark contrast to how educators used classroom spaces in prior decades.

"The whole notion of sitting in rows and in classrooms – that's really part of the Industrial Age in education and that hasn't changed in 100 years," he said. "I think what you're seeing now is a tsunami of change."

On a recent morning, Burnett walked about her classroom giving a reading lesson about story plots and main ideas as students bobbed atop their cushy yellow seats. Once in a while, a student would roll on his or her stomach or slouch, but the new seats were mostly just like having regular chairs.

"It really feels like you're sitting on a chair except it's a little squishier," six-year-old student Ella Cooper said.

Burnett keeps a strict rule of bottoms on the ball, feet on the floor to prevent injuries. Movement is encouraged during 10-second "bounce breaks" when students can wiggle to their hearts' content. She credits the balls for helping to cut discipline problems, improving interest and keeping kids focused.

"They're a lot more engaged," Burnett said. "They're a lot more focused, and it takes away the negative aspect of movement. A big push right now is, 'Sit down. Be quiet. Let's focus on your work'. And this helps get their wiggles out."

While Burnett hasn't yet persuaded any of her peers to follow her lead, she said she won't use chairs again because she's found something that works better for student learning.

"I do swear by them," she said. "They are so beneficial to these kids. Yes, have kids sat in chairs for 100 years? Yes, they have. But it's just like when you know better, you do better." – The Orlando Sentinel/McClatchy Tribune Information Services

Soothing discomforts

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Babies' feeding troubles could be due to various underlying problems.

IF your baby has trouble eating, chances are he could be having stomach problems. Often, these troubles will manifest into symptoms of intolerance such as excessive crying, fussiness, gassiness, spit-ups and diarrhea. Read on to find out what might be making your baby uncomfortable, and ways you can make your baby feel better.

My baby cries for hours, even after feeding. I have tried all kinds of ways to soothe her, but she is still fussy and uneasy. Is something wrong with her?

In general, babies cry to express their discomfort such as when they are hungry, tired or sleepy. However, if a baby cries excessively and/or is perpetually fussy, it could be a symptom of an underlying health problem. One of the common causes of excessive crying and fussiness is gassiness that causes flatulence.

Excessive crying leads to a baby swallowing more air. If the baby is not burped, this air can get trapped in the child's digestive tract, which results in a bloated stomach. This causes a baby to feel uncomfortable, which could cause them to cry even more.

The state of a mother's mental and emotional health could contribute to her baby's crying. For example, a mother who is experiencing postpartum depression may be inconsistent in caring for her child. She may not respond to her baby's needs, or may respond in a negative way.

Crying in newborns and babies is normal. However, if you're concerned or if your baby isn't eating, sleeping or behaving normally, contact your baby's healthcare provider. He will be able to help you tell the difference between normal crying and something more serious.

2. My baby's stomach looks bloated and he passes gas often. Could he be having a digestion problem? How can I help ease his discomfort?

Infant gas is often the reason for your baby's bloated stomach and fussiness. Flatulence is another common symptom of infant gas. Factors that could be making your baby gassy include:

> Incorrect feeding techniques: When breastfeeding, a baby who is poorly latched-on will swallow more air than a baby who is well latched-on. Swallowed air can get trapped in your baby's digestive tract and cause gassiness and flatulence.

If your baby is on formula, make sure you pick a bottle nipple size that is appropriate for him. A bottle nipple that is too big may make him gag, while one that is too small may cause him to swallow air or tire him out before he is full.

> Mother's diet: If you're breastfeeding, certain foods in your diet could cause your baby to become gassy. You may consider eliminating dairy products or allergenic foods such as cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and fish. Avoid these foods for up to a week to see if it makes a difference in your baby's behaviour.

> Baby's developing digestive system: The enzymes in your baby's digestive system help to break down the foods that he consumes. Some babies are intolerant towards milk because their digestive systems are immature or are not fully functional. The enzymes that are required to properly digest lactose and proteins are not fully activated yet.

If lactose and protein are not properly digested in the small intestine, then they pass into the large intestine and are fermented by "bad bacteria". This can cause infant gas.

Burping may help alleviate some of these symptoms.

3. My baby tends to spit up right after feeding. Is this normal?

Spit-ups are normal. About half of all babies experience spit-ups during their first three months as their stomach capacity is extremely small. A day old's stomach is only the size of a small glass marble or a hazelnut, and by day 10 the size of a walnut or a golf ball. Due to its small capacity, your baby's stomach is easily overfilled. They tend to spit up when this occurs. Gradually increase the baby's food as he grows. Spit-ups will usually stop by the time your baby is a year old.

Spitting up usually does not interfere with normal growth. But if your child isn't gaining weight or spits up green or yellow fluid, or blood, contact the doctor immediately.

4. My baby's stools have been more watery than usual. Does he have diarrhoea? What usually causes this condition?

Loose and watery stools are usually signs of diarrhoea. Your little ones could pick up these viruses or bacteria through contact with contaminated food, water or surfaces and then putting their hands into their mouths.

Food allergies, sensitivity to medicines, intolerance to lactose and/or protein can also result in diarrhoea. A sudden change in a breastfeeding mother's diet can also cause her baby's tummy to get upset.

Maintain good hygiene. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you change your baby's diaper to keep virus or bacteria from spreading.

Keep the diaper-changing area clean and disinfected.

If your baby experiences six or more episodes of diarrhoea in 24 hours, take him to a doctor.

5. I notice that some babies experience symptoms such as excessive crying, fussiness, gassiness and spit-ups. What can parents do to reduce these symptoms and/or to prevent them from occurring?

These symptoms are relatively common in babies, especially during the first few months.

Here are tips to make your baby feel better:

> Make feeding as relaxing as possible for baby.

> Keep your baby in an upright position during feeding.

> Make sure your baby is well-supported in a comfortable position.

> A baby's stomach capacity is small, so feed him in small amounts.

> Burp your baby during and after feeding to prevent air from building up in his digestive tract.

> Avoid bouncing and playing with your baby during and after feeding.

> Avoid disruptions such as bright lights or unusual noises during feeding.

> If your baby is crying from hunger, calm him before feeding. That might prevent him from gulping air.

> Make sure you pick a bottle nipple that is of the right size. When you turn the bottle upside down, the milk should drip and not gush out. Then the dripping should stop.

6. I breastfeed my child. Lately, his tummy has been looking bloated and he passes gas frequently. He has also been crying more than usual. What can I do to make my baby more comfortable?

Mothers should continue breastfeeding unless medically indicated. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies for the first six months of life. Breast milk also contains nutrients and antibodies that regulate your baby's digestive system. You can alleviate some of the symptoms of discomfort such as bloating and frequent passing of gas by implementing proper feeding techniques such as burping your baby. Mothers may also eliminate dairy or allergenic foods from their diet. Usually, breastfed babies experience fewer of such discomforts because breast milk tends to be more easily digested.

7. My baby is on infant formula, and has been experiencing spit-ups, gassiness and diarrhoea. She is also fussy and cries for hours. Will changing the formula solve her problems?

These conditions may not necessarily be due to the infant formula, although it could be a contributing factor. There are infant formulas with partially hydrolysed protein and low lactose that are designed to relieve symptoms of discomfort in babies. Lactose can sometimes cause mild symptoms of intolerance in babies.

However, parents should not eliminate lactose from their baby's diet as it is a source of carbohydrates. Low-lactose, lactose-free or soy-based infant formula may help relieve some symptoms of intolerance. Added rice starch formulas are normally indicated to only reduce spitting-up and regurgitation in infants. Parents should always consult a paediatrician or healthcare provider before they start their baby on any new formula or treatment options.

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to nurturing your baby, ensuring that he is happy, healthy, and comfortable will start him on the path to a bright and secure future.

This article is courtesy of BrightStart4Life, an expert-driven educational programme on infant and child nutrition initiated by Nutrition Society of Malaysia, the Malaysian Paediatrics Association, and the Malaysian Medical Association, supported by the National Population & Family Development Board (LPPKN). For more information, call 03-5632 3301.

Datuk Dr NKS Tharmaseelan is the Malaysian Medical Association President.

The magic of Christmas

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Is Santa Claus real? Or is he just a man in a red suit? What would you tell the little ones when they ask?

CHRISTMAS celebrations are steeped in traditions passed from generation to generation. Santa Claus is probably part of children's favourite Christmas memories because he brings presents on a reindeer sleigh for those who have been good all year long. A few families share how they celebrate Christmas and what it means to them.

Spirit of giving

WHEN Tristan turned six, his friends told him Santa did not exist.

"He got really upset. One day he just came home and asked: 'Is there really a Santa?' I wasn't prepared for that at all. I didn't know how to say, 'No, he doesn't exist', because that sounded so blunt. I had to quickly think up an explanation," says mother-of-four Sasha Joanne Wee, 36.

That was a year ago, and the former accountant decided there was no two ways about it – honesty is the best policy.

"I told him Santa exists. He was St Nicholas and he used to give to the poor. He was the one who started the spirit of giving. After he was gone, his spirit lived on. Everybody remembered what he did and that's how he remained alive during Christmas."

Thankfully, Tristan accepted that explanation (though he did tell his younger brother and sister, aged five and four, that Santa was dead). For a lot of kids who grew up believing in Santa, it is surprising to find out he is not real.

"My parents told me about Santa very early on. It was a matter-of-fact kind of thing, and he was just like a character in stories. It's the same for my husband. But I believe that for some people, what they remember about Christmas is the whole magic of Santa. There is no right or wrong, just what's best for the family," says Sasha. While Sasha prefers to go easy with the truth, her husband, Sheldon Wee, feels that it's only logical to cap magic to a certain age.

According to the 37-year-old entrepreneur, parents should keep it real.

"Children grow really fast these days and they're very smart. You can't hide them from bad words and bad movies because they are going to find out on their own. When your child questions the existence of Santa, it's always best to be honest and open. There's no need to hide anything because he's going to find out you're lying to him and he's not going to come to you the next time."

The message you should be sharing with your children is that Christmas isn't about Santa coming to visit; it's about the spirit of giving, adds Sheldon.

Countdown to Christmas

CHRISTMAS is the holiday the Jeremiah children look forward to the most.

Their excitement and anticipation start as soon as their family tree goes up. Michelle Long and her husband Raphael Sidney Jeremiah involve their children in the festive preparations; from decorating the Christmas tree to baking cookies and wrapping presents.

Hannah (left) and Aiden (far right) look forward to Christmas all year round with mum and dad, Michelle Long and Raphael Jeremiah 

Hannah and Aiden look forward to Christmas all year round with mum and dad, Michelle Long and Raphael Jeremiah.

Long and Jeremiah have explained to their children, five-year-old Hannah Marissa and two-year-old Aiden Zachary that Christmas is celebrated to observe the birth of Jesus Christ. Curious Hannah, however, cheekily questioned her mother recently, "How many times is Jesus born, then, mummy?" remembering that she has celebrated Christmas a few times with her family.

"We had to explain to her, that just like her birthday, Jesus has a birthday each year too," laughs her mother, who was quite tickled by her child's curiosity.

Both Aiden and Hannah believe that if they are good all year, Santa will leave them presents on Christmas Eve.

"If I am naughty, Santa won't come and visit. Santa also says I should be thankful and happy with any gift I receive. I shouldn't demand for this and that," says Hannah who is hoping to find Monster High dolls in her stocking this Christmas. Hannah is also curious about how Santa will come into their house, since it doesn't have a chimney.

Each year, her parents come up with creative answers. "We give her interesting answers because we think both Hannah and Aiden are too young to know the truth about Santa," says Long. "As long as they have fun with the idea and it doesn't cause them any harm, it's OK for them to still believe in the existence of Father Christmas.

"When they are older, they learn to figure things out on their own. For now, they are just too precious for us to tell them the truth," explains Long.

Hannah and Aidenare taught that Christmas is about giving, receiving and sharing.

They bake gingerbread cookies and distribute them to their friends and family. This year, the family distributed party bags to refugee children there.

Let the magic last

SHELDON'S aunt, Deirdre Theseira and her family, are happy to keep Santa well and alive.

The youngest two in her family, Miguel and Manuel Gomes, aged 12 and eight, are strong Santa supporters. Each Christmas Eve, the brothers would leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa. The reindeer, too, will get a carrot.

Come Christmas morning, there will only be crumbs and an empty glass left behind. And at the foot of the boys' beds would be Santa's gifts for them, taken off a wish list mailed to the North Pole.

Favourite day: The Gomes children loves Christmas celebrations. 

The Gomes children love Christmas celebrations. They would leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa each Christmas Eve.

"We started this tradition from the time my kids were born. We never really explained it. On Christmas Eve, we would just say that you have to go to sleep otherwise Santa won't come. If you've been good, Santa will come and bring you a present at night," explains Theseira, 47.

"There were a few times when we saw costumed Santas at different malls and my kids had asked why there were so many of them. My answer was: Well, Santa is really busy and those are his helpers, just like the elves."

She tells her children, "The day you stop believing in Santa, is the day the magic stops. Santa won't be coming by anymore after that."

But no matter how hard parents try, children eventually grow up and discover that Santa doesn't slide down the chimney.

Theseira's eldest, Tatianna, 15, was about 11 when she came to realise that Santa's gifts were probably from her mother.

"I remember I used to like reading this series of books. One day, my mum asked me which books I had and which ones I didn't. And on Christmas morning, I received the ones I didn't have, supposedly from Santa. That's when the realisation hit," Tatianna recalls.

"I was a bit disappointed. But after a while, the thought of a sleigh flying couldn't be real and I used to always wonder how Santa came into the house because we didn't have a chimney. So I just accepted that."

Tatianna still receives presents for Christmas, just not from "Santa" anymore.

"Compared to when I was younger, the excitement I'd feel about Christmas is very different. I used to have a tough time going to sleep on Christmas Eve. I used to try peeking to see if I could catch Santa. When I woke up I would quickly go to the end of my bed to see what Santa has given me. I would take everything and lay it out on my bed and then go running to my mummy and daddy saying: 'Look what Santa brought me!' I guess that's one of the childhood experiences I miss most. I think I would've liked it if I could still believe in Santa."

Tatianna has since kept the "secret" to herself. "I still feel that sense of magic when it comes to Santa. Whenever my brothers talk about Santa, there's like this special light in their eyes, and I didn't want to spoil it for them."

Theseira says: "My parents did Santa for us as children. It's something I've just passed down to my own children. I think it's a nice aspect of Christmas, that you're getting a surprise from Santa. If you've been bad, you obviously don't get what you ask for. So it also serves as a form of motivation to get them to be good the whole year, or make promises of wanting to be good.

"I don't feel like I'm deceiving my kids. I think when they do eventually uncover the truth, they aren't going to be angry at me, because that's the magic of Christmas. There are so many horrible things happening in the world these days, I think parents will go to any extent just to hold on to a tiny bit of magic, even if it's just for Christmas."

'The ghost of Christmas'

AMIDST the festivities, Sharon Bright is determined her sons Shawn Sanjay Raj, nine, and Shane Shanjeev Raj, three, learn the true meaning of Christmas.

"To my sons, Christmas really is about gifts, toys and cookies. It's a little easier with my elder son since he learns from his teachers and friends in school," says Bright.

But they have also been attending Sunday school and know about its religious meaning.

"The boys have also been taught to pray and think of the less fortunate on this special day," she says.

But Bright also encourages her younger son to believe in a little magic.

Sharon Bright with her two boys, Shawn (L) and Shane 

Sharon Bright with her two boys, Shawn (left) and Shane, to whom Christmas is all about gifts, toys and cookies.

"I don't see any harm for my boys to grow up with some made up stories. Shane is only three and I want his growing years to be memorable."

While Shawn is well aware that Santa is just a myth, Shane believes that Santa is really the ghost of Christmas.

"Shane's explanation is that Santa is all white and since bad children don't get presents, he must be a ghost!" she shares. Both boys agree presents is the highlight of Christmas and they usually write up lists of things they want.

"This year, my eldest son Shawn, slipped me a note telling me what he wants for Christmas is a Samsung S4, complete with smiley faces and a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, his request is going to receive a rather large 'No' note in return," exclaims the cheeky mother.

"We all really look forward to Christmas. I enjoy the day off and being surrounded by my family and children," says Bright.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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