Isnin, 31 Mac 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Active mums breed active children

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Study finds link between physical activity performed by mothers and their preschoolers.

PARENTS who are physically active are more likely to have children who are physically active, but a new Cambridge-led study is the first to indicate a direct link between the activity level of a mother and that of her child.

The study analysed the physical activity levels of 554 mothers and preschoolers, using activity monitors that were attached to participants and worn continuously to ensure accurate data. The mothers and children were monitored all day for up to seven days.

Research found that how active the mother was each day was closely linked to the activity level of the child. Yet, the activity level of the mothers overall was quite low, with only 53% of mothers performing at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least once a week.

The study shows that children aren't "just naturally active" and take cues from their parents in regards to physical activity and other measures that make up a healthy lifestyle.

"We saw a direct, positive association between physical activity in children and their mothers – the more activity a mother did, the more active her child. Although it is not possible to tell from this study whether active children were making their mothers run around after them, it is likely that activity in one of the pair influences activity in the other," said study leader Dr Kathryn Hesketh.

"For every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity a mother engaged in, her child was more likely to engage in 10% more of the same level of activity. If a mother was one hour less sedentary per day, her child may have spent 10 minutes less sedentary per day. Such small minute-by-minute differences may therefore represent a non-trivial amount of activity over the course of a week, month and year."

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. – AFP Relaxnews

Heart & Soul: Open your heart to happiness

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A group of disabled kids teaches the writer that happiness is not the sole privilege of the strong and the rich. It's for the weak and the poor, too.

I was sitting there, minding my own business, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the resort, when a group of people pushing wheelchairs and helping others on crutches appeared. There were Malay women in headscarves, Indian women in saris, Chinese women and men. It was a very Malaysian scene.

I saw some sleek wheelchairs that looked as if they belonged in a Formula 1 race. Others had buttons and levers enough to operate a space shuttle. There were also some simple crutches. Those in wheelchairs or on crutches were clearly disabled in some way. Some didn't look mentally-challenged, but others were evidently so. I felt as if I was judging a pageant. Some of them looked at me without embarrassment or as though they were trying to get some sympathy from me.

Their caregivers, probably their parents, had one thing in common: concerns about bringing up a child with cerebral palsy. The children looked excited and eager in anticipation of what lay ahead. It's the kind of feeling those of us with our full faculties have probably forgotten how to feel.

They smiled, giggled, talked and laughed out loud, though their words sounded incoherent. They fidgeted in their wheelchairs, and they looked as if they would have sprinted across the grounds if they could stand up. I smiled awkwardly, unsure of how to react. I tried not to appear condescending. I was happy and sad at the same time – sad to see so many disabled people, but happy perhaps because I was absorbing the happiness they were radiating.

This picnic was special and it said so on their faces. The group played some physical games on the field, including tug-of-war. Most of the games involved the caregivers. There was cheering and laughter. I rushed to my room to get my camera, but when I got back, the group had disappeared into the vast hot spring park. Some of them were by the pool, by themselves or in the arms of someone supporting them. Others who weren't physically able to join in, were sitting in their chairs at the edge of the pool.

I was right behind a few of them. I couldn't tell how old they were. Two of them were talking to each other in what seemed like gibberish. But they understood each other well enough. The conversation had rhythm, cadence and emotion, like how all good conversations should be. An adult came by and joined in, and the conversation became more interesting because now I could understand it. The kids didn't notice me, but being invisible allowed me to share the space with them.

The caregivers fascinated me, too. Their lives must be full of concerns over their loved ones whose future seem written in the stars, or perhaps written off. Every day is probably more of the same pain, without much hope for a better tomorrow. Yet, they all seemed bright and positive.

The younger ones seemed more intense and focused, trying hard to make the most out of the day and the occasion. The older ones were more relaxed. All of them seemed to appreciate the escape from their everyday weariness, and shared in the joy and happiness of their charges.

If you think things like race, religion, money and positions in society are the most important things in life, they aren't. Or rather, they don't have to be. It's about focusing your energy and efforts into what's really important – the happiness of those you love. Happiness is not the sole privilege of the strong, the able and the rich. It's for the weak, the disabled and the poor, too.

Maybe they're more open to it and are wise enough to know when they're experiencing it. They don't take it for granted. Maybe even with our able minds and bodies, we can't understand this – or maybe we're not that able after all.

Do you have any real-life, heart-warming stories to share with readers? E-mail them to We'd love to hear from you.

One teacher’s mission: Buy back violence and burn it

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

To stop kids' exposure to violence, teacher Jackie Chism has created a programme to wean students off violent games and movies – she buys them and burns them.

Jackie Chism, a teacher at Jackson Heights Middle School in Florida, has long believed that violent movies and video games make teens more accepting of violence. But on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, Chism says she had seen enough.

"I just lost it. I said to myself: 'This has got to end,'" Chism says, as she remembers the anger she felt after hearing that a 20-year-old man walked into the Connecticut school and fatally shot 20 children and six adults. He also shot and killed his mother.

So Chism came up with the idea of Peace Buy Piece. She buys students' violent movies and video games with the hope that they will watch less violence in the media. Students also have to pledge they won't use the money to buy other violent games or movies.

She began using money she had been saving for a spring-break vacation. Chism has bought back more than 200 DVDs and games to date. After the buyback, she and her students then destroy the discs. In the coming weeks, they plan to create an art mosaic using fragments from the broken discs. "We buy back guns, so why can't we buy back movies and violent games?" Chism says.

The programme has become so popular – not only with her students, but others at the school – that Chism plans to launch Peace Buy Piece as a nonprofit organisation that she can expand beyond Jackson Heights. "If I can get my students to just change their habits, then I feel I've accomplished what I set out to do," says Chism, who teaches graphic arts and video production.

Courtney Ring, 14, an eighth-grader who recently turned in PlayStation and Wii games, says some of today's games are "too extreme". "I think it definitely does make someone lose their sense of reality," Courtney says.

But Chism agrees that not all violence in movies – such as slapstick humour – is harmful. For example, is Moe poking Curly in the eyes in a typical Three Stooges episode too violent? Chism says she leaves it up to her students to determine whether a movie is too violent. Still, she thinks a movie is excessively violent if it doesn't contribute to the story line.

"Does the violence help tell the story? Is it there for comedy? Or is it there for shock value?" she says. "It's mostly the gangster movies and the action movies. And these are 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds watching these."

In a 2010 study, researchers reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience that teens who watch violence portrayed in movies and other media may be more accepting of violence. In the study, 22 boys ages 14 to 17 appeared more desensitised after playing mildly and moderately violent videos than after playing the ones with the lowest level of violence. Boys with the greatest level of exposure to violent media seemed to show the greatest desensitisation, according to the study. The study, however, did not test girls.

Clay Calvert, a professor and Brechner Eminent Scholar in mass communications and media law at the University of Florida, says studies support the theory of a correlation between students playing violent video games and becoming desensitised to violence or acting more aggressively. "But we can't really show that playing a violent video game causes a student to do violence," he says. "It may be that people who are inherently violent seek out violent games."

Steven Cox, 60, whose son, Mark, 14, is one of Chism's former students, says it's more than just video games and movies. "I think the American culture is more violent overall," Cox says. "And I think bringing this programme to the classroom draws attention to the issue."

Jackson Heights Principal Winston Bailey says middle-school students start watching violent video games at home, then come to school and discuss them with friends."Students in middle school see watching video games as 'cool' and are therefore more accepting of violence in movies and games," Bailey says. "Many violent activities, including shootings, have been linked to video games, and it is believed that more than 50% of video games are violent."

Chism, a former TV news reporter, says she has received few negative comments about her buyback programme from parents. Someone likened it to burning books. "I have had a couple of people say: 'Like, what is the point?' Or: 'What is the big deal about violence in movies?'" Chism says. "But I definitely think that most of us are more desensitised to violence." – The Orlando Sentinel/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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