Jumaat, 6 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

All-around champions


In conjunction with Milo's Fuel For Champions campaign, former national gymnasts Dr Farrah Hani Imran and Sarina Sundara Rajah talk about how being active in sports benefited them.

STRETCHING the hours and juggling different responsibilities were a way of life for former gymnasts Dr Farrah Hani Imran, 36 and Sarina Sundara Rajah, 31, from young.

During their competitive years, they had to deal with the demands of schoolwork, training and everything else teenagers had to contend with.

"Honestly, time was money, back then. We trained every day and we had to balance homework, housework, training and having a social life all in one.

"If you didn't find the time to complete your homework, your social life would take a fall. I missed friends birthday parties and other gatherings.

"When school holidays arrived, it was filled with training with the team or studying for exams," reminiscences Dr Farrah who is the Head of Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery in Hospital University Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM).

The pace was punishing, but Dr Farrah says it was a life lesson well worth learning.

"This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, because we learned to appreciate things better and not take everything for granted such as spending time with family and friends and connecting with siblings," says Dr Farrah who learnt to prioritise.

"As I was growing up, apart from gymnastics, I also got myself involved in a few other activities, such as ballet and the school choir. But I set achievable goals and reached them without overwhelming myself.

"My parents were very supportive. They would take turns sending me to my classes and helping me with my routines. My big brother too played his part by helping me stay focused and constantly being there for me through some hard times," she shares.

Aside from time management, both athletes agree that getting involved in sports during their school days helped build character, improve their concentration and work in a team.

"As a team, we worked together. But individually, we were competitive with each other. And because of that, I became competitive in school and always aimed high," relates Sarina.

Her parents were supportive of her involvement in rhythmic gymnastics, but they were also very strict. She knew she had to keep her grades up if she wanted to be active in sports.

Left: Sarina Sundara Rajah, a former gymnast, now trains young gymnasts at her school. Right: Sundara Rajah Gymnastic Club (SRGC).

"Being the eldest, I had to set good examples for my two sisters and brother. I think the idea is to create awareness and make parents realise that no matter how active a child is in extracurricular activities, they can still make time for their studies.

"In fact, it was the values I learned at training camp that helped me be more organised and to see the bigger picture," says Sarina who has set up a gymnastic school in Petaling Jaya called the Sarina Sundara Rajah Gymnastic Club (SRGC).

Sarina's parents weren't the only ones who encouraged and supported her in her endeavours. Her aunt too had become involved in her athletic passion and was a constant motivator.

"My aunt played a pivotal role and offered me the confidence I needed to achieve success. At times, when I thought I just couldn't handle it anymore and the pressure was getting to me, she was my rock and helped me overcome any obstacles I faced," says Sarina.

Dr Farrah says her parents played a crucial role in her development as they gave her the confidence to explore her capabilities.

"They made me feel confident about my choices by supporting the choices I made. My parents approached my interest with an open mind and were supportive from the very beginning," she says.

There were sacrifices Dr Farrah and Sarina had to make, such as forgoing an active social life.

"To me, I think it was mostly not having enough time to socialise with the opposite sex," says Dr Farrah.

While her friends were out dating during their teenage years, she was busy training. But, it was worth the wait, she says. "Today I am happily married to my orthopaedic husband!" she says.

Both athletes have no regrets though.

"I think things would have turned out rather differently if I did not join the gymnastic team in primary school. I don't know if I would have met my wonderful husband, or if I would have pursued my dreams of becoming a doctor," says Dr Farrah.

As for Sarina, she is grateful that she had opportunities many children only dreamt of.

"At 12, I was already travelling around the world and to a kid like me that was a big deal. There are certain lessons you learn in the field, which cannot be taught in class," she says.

Sarina also thinks that schools today should have a variety of sporting activities that will entice children.

"Kids today are exposed to a lot more as compared to many years back and no matter what age you're at, it's never too late to start," she encourages.

"Parents come to my gymnastic school and enquire if it's too late to enrol their kids in the sport. Even though I teach children as young as four, I still encourage parents to sign up their older kids, as I believe they should always support their interests.

As for Dr Farrah, she believes parents can form bonds with their children by taking an interest in their extracurricular activities. "I spent quality time with my parents as they attended competitions and drove me to classes. During those times, we learned from one another."

Fluent in parenting


THE old adage that "practice makes perfect" has never seems more true than when it is applied to parenting.

A commonly shared keen observation – or even a funny "urban legend" of sorts – is how a first child in a family is cared for completely differently from how the following children are raised.

Constant surveillance of every move child No 1 makes is soon replaced with a top-of-the-line video baby monitor for child No 2. And often, with the arrival of child No 3 and onward, the overly cautious steps are no longer taken and the constant vulnerability is replaced with a firm sense of confidence.

This confidence often is created not so much by the experience of parenting, but the actual parenting practice that varies from child to child.

The experience of parenting lasts a lifetime, but the practice of parenting is often for a more limited time, during the developmental stages of a child's life. And parenting practice has somewhat of a definitive end, when you can say you have indeed "parented," and watch your child journey into adulthood.

The process of learning a language is very much like the process of parenting, as it relates to experience versus practice.

When learning a language, practice is critical to fully embracing a language and getting to a point when you can say confidently, "I know how to speak this new language."

If you merely experience parenting, you could limit yourself to having just a biological link to your child and providing their basic needs. But you would not fully embrace the practice of parenting with its trial and error, and discover that the rules of engagement change for each child.

Again, this is much like the rules of learning a tongue that is not native to you. Learning "book Spanish" and then trying to use only book knowledge in Argentina, and then separately in Puerto Rico, without changing any of the rules of application and without having any practice, may leave you feeling like you may not have learned Spanish, none at all.

To exercise a language – to have the mere link to it through gaining a general knowledge of it – will never allow you to be truly fluent, unless you have an opportunity to practice in many different situations and settings. But through parenting practice in different settings, its language comes alive and becomes almost second nature.

If we approach parenting the same way as learning a language, particularly when it comes to parenting multiple children, we can save ourselves undue frustrations and feelings of vulnerability, by merely embracing the life exercise that has been thrust upon us through having the title of "parent," and realizing that we will never master parenting.

But we will be almost "native speakers" of the language of parenting by knowing that, indeed, practice makes perfect. Or at least as perfect of a parent as one can be. — McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Angela Jackson is the founder of the Global Language Project, a nonprofit programme that teaches youth a second language while preparing them and empowering them to compete in a global workforce. Learn more at www.globallanguageproject.com

Being present


Time spent with kids eliminates guilt in fathers.

PARENTING is all about balance, and it can be quite difficult to feel as if you're giving your children enough attention while also trying to balance work, life and good relationships. Well, it's all about finding the right balance and eliminating the dreaded feeling of guilt in relation to parenting. Remember: If you're doing your very best, you're doing it right.

Daddy guilt exists as much as mummy guilt does, just in different ways. I believe most dads think that they do not spend enough time with their kids. However, as with most guilt it is really an internal process, and the kids themselves are likely quite content with the level of attention they are receiving.

I've put together my top tips for alleviating the feelings of daddy guilt and being more engaged, involved and connected – even if you don't get as much time as you'd like with your kids.

> When in doubt, play: After having seven kids of my own and experiencing 50 plus years of life, I find I am a little less concerned about my guilt nowadays, and if I feel even slightly remorseful, I push those feelings aside and simply sit down on the floor and start playing with my kids.

Together, we like activities such as reading, building train track set ups, and just walking outside together to explore our surroundings. Building memories together, bonding and establishing a relationship is an important part of being a dad, and engaging in activities with your children whenever you have time will eliminate some of the daddy guilt you might be feeling from working too much or travelling.

> Give your undivided attention: For a working dad, or a working mum, the key to avoiding guilt and building relationships is undivided attention.

When you have the time to be with your kids, do so, without the smart phone nearby and without any other distractions. Even 15 minutes of undivided attention a day is better than an hour of being in the same room while distracted by a television, a computer or a phone.

Quality time is well spent sitting quietly, asking questions and listening to your children. Your kids will show you what they need from you; they'll lead you to their understanding of quality time, and you need to be ready to jump on that bandwagon. Engage your children, make eye contact and listen to what they're saying. That is 10 times stronger and more effective than force feeding activities or trying to simply entertain them.

> Make the phone call: When your kids are grown and out of the house it's important to connect with them, and that generally means logging onto Facebook, setting up a Skype call, sending them an e-mail or making that phone call. Your goal is simple: check in, ensure they know you are thinking of them and give them your love.

If you have little ones at home and your work demands you to travel and are away from you family for long periods of time, you would need to do the same types of things to stay involved and engaged. In our house we love Skype and FaceTime; it allows us to see each other face-to-face, check in, smile and even play with toys or read a story together.

Engaging in this type of activity – even when you're far apart – will alleviate the feelings of guilt that might come with being away from your family for work.

> Be Consistent: Be the man your family relies on and follow through. If you work long days and are only home at night in time for bath time and story time then be present, every single night, for those activities. If you work nights and only get to spend time with your children when they wake up in the morning then be present and make it count.

If weekends are the only time you get to connect with your children then be consistent during those times and be involved. Your kids will look forward to the time they get to spend with you, and when you consistently engage them you'll be making memories and building relationships that will last a lifetime.

So my advice is really this: if Dad is feeling guilty, he should just jump in and spend time with his kids whenever and however possible. It will benefit everyone involved. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of seven, offers advice to expectant and new parents at his Daddyscrubs.com blog.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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