Friday, June 14, 2019

Puberty - Supplementing What's Taught at School

My elder daughter has completed the Puberty segment of the health sciences curriculum that the Hong Kong Education Bureau requires all schools to teach to their fifth-graders. Her Longman General Studies textbook devotes less than 20 pages to this subject and uses large illustrations and even larger text. The curriculum is so general (literally "general" studies!) that I worry it will leave students with more questions than answers. And so, we have supplemented at home with these excellent non-fiction titles that contain age-appropriate details:

Robie H. Harris is the best-known author in this subject area and has sold millions of books. She has a whole series of books for various age groups. Her book, It's So Amazing, is stated as being suitable for children ages 7-10. It covers how babies are made, and is definitely not for reading alone because each page is filled with paragraphs of text and information. I would suggest reading it aloud to this age group only if the child is curious and has already begun asking questions. I believe this book may be easier to digest for children ages 10-12, to read with parents or alone.

Harris's book It's Perfectly Normal is for tweens, and covers changing bodies and sexual health. It elaborates on the subjects covered in the Hong Kong curriculum.

Kelli Dunham is a registered nurse AND a stand-up comic. The fifth editions of her two books, The Girl's Body Book and The Boy's Body Book, were just published last month and contain updated information relevant to tweens and teens in 2019 and beyond. Not only does Dunham cover physical changes and their accompanying emotions, she also writes chapters relevant to growing up in general. For example, she provides tips on study skills in the chapter "Your Changing Body in the Outside World", and shares advice on how to protect yourself from peer pressure and cyberbullying in the chapter "Staying Safe IRL and Beyond".

I love that her chapter on getting along with parents and siblings is titled "What Do These People Want From Me?" The tone of her books are casual conversational rather than laugh-aloud funny; she's wearing her "nurse's hat" to give tweens and teens the information they need to take care of themselves. I think the stand-up comic side of her helps enhance her connection with readers through her choice of language and the flow of the chapters.

American Girl's publications for girls, The Care & Keeping of You, are such a hit that there is also one for boys called Guy Stuff. Book 1 is for younger girls and is easy to read. The book is categorized by different parts of the body, starting from the head (braces and acne) to torso (underarms and breasts) and below (body shape & nutrition, pubic area & periods).

Because the two girl publications are mostly about physical changes, there is another book titled The Feelings Book that covers the complicated and ever-changing emotions of adolescents. It starts with "When you were little, your emotions were simple. You smiled when you were happy. You cried when you were scared or hurt," and goes on discuss being on an emotional roller coaster.

We don't have any American Girl dolls at home, and my daughters are not interested in dolls in general. All I know about this brand is that its dolls and accessories are super-expensive, so I didn't expect much from the "Smart Girl's Guide" series published by American Girl. My set is a hand-me-down from my girlfriend whose daughter loved it as a tween.

I've been reading these books with both my daughters, the younger one being only eight years old, and they are a hit in our home! The format is easy and direct, with simple language, and covers relevant topics like Drama, Rumors & Secrets. Other books in this series include Digital World, Friendship Troubles, Money, Worry, Sports & Fitness and Boys.

And finally, for girls aged 11 and older, HelloFlo: The Guide, Period. approaches puberty from an angle of empowerment. In addition to covering everything related to menstruation, including comparing the different products available, this book also explains all the other aspects of puberty. It's nice that the last chapter encourages girls to develop good friendships with other girls, and discusses the importance of girl power when girls stick together.

Was it really more than a decade ago that I read and re-read my dog-eared copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting? with all my highlights and Post-It tabs? Heidi Murkoff has so many other titles in this series, I wonder why she hasn't come out with a What To Expect The Teen Years?

Surfing the Internet, I see so many funny titles for real books on parenting teenagers:

Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall
Have a New Teenager by Friday
The Grown-Up's Guide to Teenage Humans
How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk
He's Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself
Dial Down the Drama: Reducing Conflict and Reconnecting with Your Teenage Daughter
Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle

I have not read any of these parenting books, because I hope that my current formula will continue to work: applying my Canadian humour when dealing with my kids + spending time with husband, friends and other adults + gin & tonics.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"It Takes A Village" - Chinese version





但是如果孩子的考試成績比預期差,我當然會不滿意。但我會表達出關愛而不是憤怒。我會和他分享我的擔憂和無知:「媽媽擔心這會影響到你的呈分試。」「我真的不知道如何能夠幫助你準備考試,你能告訴我如何幫助你在下一次考試做得更好嗎?」 「跟媽媽談談發生了什麼事,如何在下一次考試提高你的分數?」

與孩子檢討和討論考試成績後,我會轉換話題至生活上和其他重要的事情:週末計劃,假期計劃,孩子在視藝課中的創作,或者在閱讀時間所看過的書... ...還有很多事情需要我去關注,我不會讓考試成績影響親子時間和親子關係。








"It takes a village to raise a child." Reach out, learn, seek advice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"It Takes a Village"

My children attend a local school in Hong Kong. This means so much more than simply Chinese being the language of instruction, because "local school" implies rote learning and standardized testing. And with that comes the stress of being tested. 

In Finland, students are tested at the beginning of a subject module to see what they know and don't know. Then they are quizzed at points over the ensuing weeks to check that they are learning the things that they don't yet know. But enough about Finland. I have not posted on my blog for more than one year, and what has spurred me to action is not a desire to do a comparative study of education systems. 

The reason I feel compelled to write is that kids at my children's school are feeling stress because this week they receive their exam results, and I want to share my thoughts with other parents.

If my child does better than expected, I will praise his efforts, not his IQ or talent. Yes, of course I will be happy and proud, but instead of "Wow, my awesome boy, so good, so smart!", experts suggest saying to him, "Wow, you really tried and your efforts were rewarded. You're lucky the exam covered things that you studied hard for, and good for you for getting such a good mark!" 

If my child does worse than expected, it's okay to be unhappy. But my unhappiness will be expressed with concern rather than with anger. It's okay to share my worries and my lack of knowledge with my child: "I worry that this will affect your acceptance to high school." "I don't know how to help you prepare for exams, can you tell me how I can help you do better on the next exam?" “Let’s talk about what happened and how you can improve your score on the next exam?”

After my child and I review and discuss exam results, I will move on to the important things in my life and my child's life: weekend plans, holiday plans, what my child has created in art class or has read during Reading Time... I have many things to focus on, and won’t let exam scores affect my time and relationship with my child.

If the school calls to tell me that my child was so upset with his exam result that he attempted suicide during recess, what would be my reaction? Shock? Premonition? Embarrassment?

(1) If I feel shock, then I don’t know my child very well. Yes, maybe my child is a skilled actor purposely hiding his feelings. But if I spend quality time with him, I should know his personality, capabilities and coping skills. If I feel shock, then it means that both of us need professional help.

(2) If I had a feeling this may happen, then I must already know that my child is over-anxious and/or capable of suicidal thoughts. If I am not surprised to receive this call from the school, then it means that I need to find professional help for my child right away. 

(3) If I feel embarrassed about what happened, then I am only focusing on what the school and other parents will think of me. If I think about my own reputation more than my child’s attempted suicide, then I need professional help.

So, it seems that, no matter what my reaction is, the answer is professional help. Seeking professional help doesn’t mean that I am a bad parent or that my child is defective. Seeking professional help means that I am willing to admit that I cannot handle everything by myself, that I want to improve: my parenting skills, my child’s emotional state, and our parent-child relationship.

I cannot wait for something serious to happen before seeking help. I should not let “face” prevent me from seeking help. 

Foodies love recommendations about good restaurants. Yoga enthusiasts love to improve their technique from good teachers. Feng shui believers want advice from masters. If I love my child, if I am enthusiastic about my child and if I believe in my child, then I need to talk to people. 

"It takes a village to raise a child." Reach out, learn, seek advice.