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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Don't tell kids why their veggies are good for them

Posted: 22 May 2014 05:50 PM PDT

Study suggests that children equate healthy food with food that isn't so tasty.

A recent study led by Dr. Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business indicates that children who are told certain foods will make them stronger, smarter or taller are less likely to want to eat them.

"We propose that young children infer from messages on food instrumentality that if a certain food is good for one goal, it cannot be a good means to achieve another goal," Fishbach explains in an article slated for publication in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

"As such, if food is presented as making them strong ... these children will conclude the food is not as tasty, and will therefore consume less of it."

In short, the study concludes that the best way to foster healthy eating habits in young children is to avoid telling them how fruits and vegetables will make them stronger, taller or smarter.

To reach these findings, researchers carried out five experiments on a sample population of 270 preschool-aged children (ages three to five). The study found that children ate more of a food when it was presented without commentary or when it was presented simply as tasty, without any indication of its "usefulness".

Meanwhile, a separate study published last year in the journal Psychological Science explored a different approach and found that teaching kids about nutrition through books could boost their vegetable intake. Scientists from Stanford University in the US found that even very young children, aged four and five, could benefit from a conceptual framework, built up over a period of three months, that encourages them to understand why eating a variety of foods is healthy, the researchers said. Over time, kids chose to eat more vegetables. – AFP Relaxnews

Old is Gold: These heels are made for hiking

Posted: 22 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The limits to what senior citizens can do can be stretched.

NOT many 60-year-olds climb mountains, especially those with a thick file of orthopaedic complaints. Some years ago, my bone scan showed an inclination towards osteoporosis. My knees gave me some problems. I swept them under the carpet and accepted them as regular ailments of people on the wrong side of 50.

Being somewhat restless, I did not wish to sit and wait for more ailments to come my way. I wanted to be an active retiree. So I began to climb the little hill near our Taman. The first time I tried to climb the 1,000-plus steps to the top, I nearly gave up halfway. My heart almost jumped out of my mouth as I huffed and puffed all the way. When I reached the summit, I was mighty proud of myself.

Little did I expect that coming down was much harder. After a few flights of steps, my knees began to wobble. I held on to the railing and came down one painful step at a time. When friends told me they couldn't do any climbing because they had bad knees, I didn't believe them. Now I know better.

When I went back the second time, the same thing happened. I got myself a pair of knee guards, which helped immensely. Over time, my knees stopped hurting. Many climbs later, I noticed that my legs had grown stronger. What started off as a struggle soon became an addictive activity. I began to enjoy the rewards of my hard labour – my legs had never felt better.

One day, a young friend posted on Facebook her successful climb up Mt Kinabalu. I was inspired but dared not imagine myself doing the same. Then, I met a group who called themselves Freewill Hikers. They were planning to climb Mt Kinabalu, and I eagerly signed up for the climb.

When I told my family about it, they threw their support behind me.

The leader of the hikers advised that I train by hiking up Gunung Lambak, and later Gunung Ledang. The team members were from Johor Baru, so they climbed the little mountains there on a regular basis. I trained on the "littlest" mountain in Batu Pahat where I am based. I joined the team on my maiden climb up Gunung Lambak.

Gunung Ledang looked threatening. I looked at videos posted on Facebook and freaked out! This grandmother of five had never climbed with ropes before! Buoyed by prayers from every quarter, I miraculously survived the Ledang hike. The only injury I sustained was a dent in my pride – I took much longer to finish than the average climber. Nonetheless, my confidence moved up a notch.

May 1 arrived. We flew to Kota Kinabalu in high spirits. When we arrived at Mesilau, we settled down to a sleepless night. The next morning my companions and I set out on the first leg of the climb, and arrived many hours later at Laban Rata, our "base camp".

Kind teammates who had arrived earlier prepared hot soups and refreshments for us. Though I was starving, I was just too tired to swallow the nice kuih-muih – something I've never experienced before.

I passed another sleepless night bunking in with five restless ladies on double-deckers. We went to bed at 8pm, wrapped in layers of clothes in preparation for the 3am onslaught.

I ate very little at breakfast. Climbing in the dark was scary. I could only make out the illuminated patch in front, thanks to my head torch. Before I knew it, altitude sickness had set in. My tummy turned and I gasped for air. In my heart, I cried out: "God, help me. Please let me reach the top. I've worked so hard to get here." God was good. He sent angels to help me. Teammates stopped to encourage me and the guide kindly took my backpack at my request.

Sunrise at the peak was on everyone's mind when we began our ascent. For some like me in the "snail team", we could only enjoy the day breaking in glorious splashes of colour while we were yet some distance from the top. For me, the ascent was unbelievably difficult: I couldn't breathe well, and the terrain was mostly unfriendly.

Thank God for my patient and skilful guide. He saw my anxiety and pointed out footholds to me. Finally, he took me by the hand and literally hauled me up the final stretch! I couldn't have done it without him.

Most of us made it to the top, and posed for that precious picture on Low's Peak. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Maybe, if my knees still hold, I will come back again, God willing.

My story is for those who, like me, might have found anything other than sitting down, too strenuous. It is also for those who too readily accept the limitations of age or even take pleasure in rehearsing their ailments to all who care to listen. There are limits to things senior citizens can do in terms of physical activities. But these limits can be stretched. I owe it to my children and loved ones for their unconditional support. Our bones are made for moving, so get off that couch, dear fellow senior citizens.

Do you like hugs or cringe when they happen?

Posted: 22 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

While many older Singaporeans squirm at being touchy-feely, parents these days openly cuddle their children.

GRACE Tan, 29, has not been hugged or kissed by her parents since she was 12. "They just stopped," the public relations officer says, referring to the hugs and kisses.

Even on her wedding day two years ago, she recalls that the photographer had to request that her parents put their arms around her. "If not, they would have just stood stiffly next to me," she says, with a laugh. "We are a very traditional Chinese family."

Singaporeans aged 30 and older interviewed also described their parents as "conservative", "old school" and, in some cases, "typical Chinese" to explain why they have received little physical affection from their parents.

Customer relationship management consultant Andy Lee, 40, recalls receiving just one hug from his mother in his life thus far – the day he returned home with good results for his Primary School Leaving Examination.

On his wedding day, he received a mere "congratulatory pat on the shoulder" from her.

Parenting blogger Meiling Wong-Chainani, 42, initiates hugs with her mother, but the older lady maintains "space in between them".

Jerlyn Long (middle) is uncomfortable when her parents Shirley and Patrick try to hug her.

Jerlyn Long (middle) is uncomfortable when her parents Shirley and Patrick try to hug her.

Explains her mother, housewife Elsie Siew, 68: "My parents used to project a very serious demeanour, so I also feel the need to maintain an authoritative, serious air with my children."

Actor Edmund Chen, 52, has such memories of his parents too. "I grew up in a typical Chinese family, where my mother cooked and worked, and my father put bread on the table. In my mind, he was this highly intimidating, stern figure who kept words to a minimum. There was very little physical contact."

William Wan, 66, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, cannot recall his parents giving him any physical affection. "They were busy and I was left to my own devices," he says.

While it may be a sweeping generalisation to suggest that older Singaporeans are not demonstrative in expressing their love for their children, experts agree that parents today are more expressive than in previous generations.

Professor Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist and a Families for Life council member, says younger, better educated parents are less inhibited in expressing their love physically.

Fazlinda Faroo, a member of the Family Life Education Expert Panel and centre manager of PPIS Vista Sakinah, which runs marriage preparation classes for remarrying couples, agrees things are changing.

"In today's context, with parents being more exposed to different parenting styles, we do find that parents, even fathers, are a lot more open in expressing their love for their children through hugging and kissing. Today's generation of parents are more inclined to engage, interact and play with their children."

Lee, who grew up in a "conservative Chinese family" where open displays of affection were absent, now hugs and kisses his four children often and also holds their hands.

"I see these acts as a form of assurance to my children, to let them know I am there for them," says Lee, who also runs the blog Sengkang Babies.

Prof Tan says these transitions could be a result of parents' exposure to "huggy" cultures through the media, travel and cross-cultural interactions.

For Lee, he feels the lack of affection from his parents is what propels him to express physical affection to his wife and children today.

Rachel Lee Siang Ju, 46, senior assistant director at Fei Yue Family Service Centres, says physical touch is important. It is one of the five love languages described in the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. She says: "People respond to hugs and kisses as they are comforting and show care and love for the person."

In some younger generation families, physical affection is given not only to the children, but also to the spouses.

Public relations executive Kamsina Alfia Jumari, 44, and her driver husband Ramlan Ishak, 46, hold hands in front of their two daughters.

"We want to show our children we are still in love and that this is what a family is about," she says.

Wong-Chainani and her husband go one step further. They hug and kiss each other on the lips in front of their two children.

She says: "I believe this prepares them for future discussions on intimacy in a relationship."

Quips her son Krysh, 10: "I've seen movies where the couples kiss on the lips anyway, so it's okay."

The children of Ching Wei Hong, chairman of the Families for Life Council, say their parents' open displays of affection for them and each other have helped them be "cohesive" as a family.

Says his son Christian Ching, 17: "While most guys shy away from physical contact with their parents, I am not as awkward about it."

For some families, the hugs and kisses that younger generations exchange with their children have warmed the older generations up to those practices.

Actor Chen, who likes to kiss his wife and two children on their lips, says the "ice has been melting" between him and his parents, who do not display physical affection. Over the last few years, his parents have been receptive to his hugs and even an occasional kiss on their foreheads.

Another person who reaches out to her parents is civil servant Kimberly Chia, 31. Together with her two sisters, they envelop their mother regularly in a group hug.

She says: "My mother is usually the one who puts an end to these hugs by saying, 'It's very suffocating'. I guess she is a little shy, but this is my way of letting her know I'm here for her."

Corporate communications head Patricia Campbell, 46, has a different experience growing up. Her mother has been giving her good-night hugs and morning kisses for as long as she can remember. She says: "Until today, even though the roles are reversed and I help to change her diapers, she still gives me hugs." Her mother is frail and suffers from heart failure.

Campbell showers the same type of affection on her 13-year-old daughter. On the other end of the spectrum from Chia and Chen are a handful of younger Singaporeans, such as public relations associate Jerlyn Long, 24, who are not demonstrative.

Long's parents say they try to initiate hugs with her, but she usually receives them awkwardly and always looks uncomfortable.

Her housewife mother Shirley Long, 58, attributes it to her daughter's personality being "more reserved". In response, Long says: "I'm just not the 'huggy' sort. I prefer to show my love and care through gifts."

Lee says a family can still have a "healthy and warm relationship" without physical touch, as long as family members are able to feel the love from one another in other ways.

Agreeing with her, Prof Tan says: "Hugging and kissing are just expressions of love. Different cultures may express love differently."

There are those who say it is never too late to initiate physical affection.

Dr Thang Leng Leng, 49, president of Fei Yue Family Service Centre, recalls hugging her late father-in-law only once. "To this day, I still have a tinge of regret for not expressing my affection for him. The one time we hugged was when I found out my mother-in-law died. I don't remember ever hugging him again after that."

Her father-in-law died 10 years after her mother-in-law's death.

"While we held hands quite often and I would pat him on the shoulder as he turned frail, I could have given him a kiss on the cheek and told him 'I love you' in his final moments in intensive care." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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