From lauded educators: 5 tips for handling young children and those with special needs

(From left) Award recipients A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, Sulochanah Kanapathy, Lee E-Lyn and Wong Jia Min at the Leading Foundation Teacher Award ceremony last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

Managing a child well is no easy feat, especially if he is very young or has special needs.

On the sidelines of last year's Leading Foundation Teacher Award, given out on Nov 24, some of the year's recipients shared useful tips to help parents understand their young children better.

1. Invest time in your kids

Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, who teaches at PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Block 246, said spending dedicated time with one's children was crucial to their development.

However, some parents fail to spend enough time with their children, as they are often too caught up with their job.

She said: "If you are a working parent, spend at least 10 minutes a day with them. Try to send them to or pick them up from school. As little of a gesture as it may seem, you are still spending time with them."

Spending uninterrupted time communicating with them or doing an activity together is necessary to developing a more personal relationship, so that the child feels comfortable enough to tell you about his day or the challenges he faced or overcame.

If parents start developing this habit at a young age, it is easier to become their friend during their adolescent years. Eventually, this leads to developing a better understanding of your children.

2. Watch your own negative expressions

If your child is throwing a tantrum, there is always a trigger or reason behind it.

Find out what is the cause by asking them, said Ms Neshanthini.

She added: "Children want to be heard. Saying things like 'Stop crying' or 'Boys don't cry' only adds to the chaos and dismisses their emotions.

"Instead, offer them options such as 'Do you need anything?' or 'What can I do to help?'"

3. Have realistic expectations

Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, from Fei Yue Community Services, said parents should avoid having high expectations of their children, especially if the child has special needs.

A common example is the high expectation some parents have of academic excellence in their children. This exerts pressure on their children, as these parents fail to understand that their children have learning difficulties, which means they may not even be able to understand these instructions.

If need be, seek help from professionals or members of the extended family, she said.

4. Don't be afraid to show your love

Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy, 47, a teacher at Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, feels that the way parents show love to their children is key to a child's growth and development.

Maintaining an emotional and physical connection shows that they are valued, loved and cared for, she said.

For instance, to form an emotional connection, a parent can take his child to a corner and provide him with his full attention when he is feeling emotionally affected by an issue. On the other hand, an example of a physical connection could be a pat on the back.

She added: "These gestures help to convey that 'it's okay', as crying goes a long way for a child.

"Children are like a sponge. They observe and learn through their parents' words. Instead of saying, 'What did you learn at school today?', try asking your kids if they enjoyed themselves at school."

Using word play - such as puns or humour - can also create a less formal relationship and makes your child feel more relaxed around you.

5. Ask for help

Sometimes, what parents need is to take a minute to process all that they are going through. A mother herself, Ms Neshanthini knows that parenting can be a challenge, especially when you feel like your child is difficult to handle.

She said: "Do not be afraid to reach out for help if you need any. There are many parenting forums and childcare tips found on Facebook where parents come together and share experiences regarding parenthood. You are not alone."

Winners of the Leading Foundation Teacher Award 2021

Early Childhood category:

Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Block 246

Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy, 47, Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten

Special Needs Educator category:

Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, Fei Yue Community Services

Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, Methodist Girls' School (Primary)

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