Disadvantaged kids must feel the love

There are many factors that put children at a disadvantage resulting in the greatest detriment - the lack of a healthy emotional attachment with their main caregivers (Brainstorming ways to give disadvantaged kids a leg-up; Nov 28).

This also has lasting psychosocial impact on the children's learning and development.

There are many stakeholders involved in any leg-up programme: parents or main caregivers, the community, children and teachers.

In addition to equipping parents with appropriate parenting styles, and giving access to model parents as advocates who had successfully overcome barriers, we also need to help parents secure a job, where relevant, and provide initial financial support upfront to support the transition.

Under normal circumstances, parents rich or poor are intrinsically motivated to want to give the best to their children.

Disadvantaged children need a secure base and a sense of belonging, where they are not judged, but accepted.

Provide some free quality programmes or outlets for them to be creative (visual or musical), or sports or nature-based programmes, for example, woodwork, gardening or slap-drum cajon.

Give them a place to hang out, channel their focus and energy, and spend purposeful time to create or achieve something that builds their self-esteem over time.

Provide them with direct teaching in social-emotional skills, in self-regulation, and positive behaviour strategies.

The success to leg-up intervention is the human touch of love and acceptance. Until we learn how to love children, we are going to keep legging-up with new methods.

Teachers and the community need to exercise empathy and patience with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Teachers sometimes, intentionally or not, may bring down kids more than uplift them by comparing them with their peers in front of the class.

Therefore, teachers need constant refresher courses to keep in touch with their professional ethics, such as respect and equality, in providing quality education to all students.

Educate and involve the community by providing opportunities and activities to give back to society, for example, to inspire children by sharing their life stories in school assemblies.

For leg-up interventions to be effective children must feel the love first, because children's being and becoming thrive best on unconditional acceptance and healthy attachment.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2018, with the headline 'Disadvantaged kids must feel the love'. Print Edition | Subscribe