Should I Follow My Feelings?

Tween Years (10-12)

Ever seen a toddler smack another because they were upset? Or snatch a toy because they also wanted it? How did the adults around them respond? We would explain that the behaviour was wrong and teach them not to take action simply based on their feeling a certain way.  
As you enter your teen years, you too may find yourself experiencing strong emotions. These may sometimes include unfamiliar emotions like romantic crushes  
Following these feelings may be like behaving like a toddler who lashes out on impulse.  
Maturity then comes when you learn how not to be controlled by your feelings. Think of it as inserting a pause between how you feel and how you act.  
Our feelings are often indicators of something deeper going on inside. The child who snatched the toy could have been experiencing jealousy and envy. But at that age, children may not understand such complex emotions.  
Some useful questions to ask yourself when you experience strong emotions include: Why do I feel this way? What am I upset about?  
The pause you insert between your feelings and your actions can protect you from being swept away by emotions and acting in ways you may regret after.

Teen Years (13-15) 

Feelings are like signposts of our inner well-being. They help tell you if you are doing well or not quite. When you are not doing well inside, it’s unlikely you will experience positive emotions. So if we follow our feelings blindly, we may end up hurting ourselves or the people around us.  
Developing self-awareness is about learning to recognise why you feel the way you do, and acting on the cause, not just the feeling itself. 
It’s like a spider and its webs. If one day, you find your room full of cobwebs, you will clean the cobwebs but if you don’t find the spider, the cobwebs will be back.  
Acting on your feelings without first understanding the cause is like dealing with the cobwebs and not the spider.  
The cobwebs are the feelings. The spider is the actual problem or reason behind those feelings.  
Our feelings can point us to the problem and move us to seek help. But being able to identify the root causes and needs behind those feelings is a crucial step towards getting out of a rut.

Late Teens (16-19)

What you feel may be real, but is it true?  

For example, in the heat of jealousy, that toddler may have felt that the other child is preferred because he has the toy. Or the toddler may have felt unloved because he wanted the toy but didn’t have it.  

The feelings are real. But they may not be based on truth.  

So even though we value our emotions for acting as signposts to our inner world, we do have to acknowledge that feelings are poor leaders. We have to learn to lead our feelings.  

Self-regulation is a great way to do this. 

When experiencing strong emotions, practise taking a pause before you respond. A common trick many people use is to count to a certain number. This shifts your attention away from the difficult emotion, and provides a space to calm down to focus on the facts instead.  

You can also remind yourself of simple truths to “ground” you. Depending on the scenario, these could be: 

  • “I am in control.”  
  • “I am valued.”  
  • “I don’t need to mirror their response.”  
  • “I won’t take this personally.”  

If you are experiencing conflict or feeling emotionally attacked, you can imagine a shield around you or the person’s words falling to the ground before it touches you.  

These reminders can be powerful anchors in times of distress. 

Managing strong feelings can be hard. If you are experiencing consistent, difficult feelings about a person or a recurring situation, do speak to a trusted friend or family member. This person should be able to add perspective and lend strength to you.

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

How Do I Relate to My Friend Who Identifies As LGBTQ?

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

The big question to understand first is, what is LGBTQ?  
Speak to adults you know and trust about anything you are unsure of. Seeking advice from your parent or trusted caregiver means that you know for sure this person has your best interests in heart.   

So don’t just google for answers! Remember the internet is made up of many sources of information with different opinions. Many of these are opinions, not factual information from experts. Some of them may also be biased because they want to convince you to take a certain viewpoint.  

If you sense that your friend may see you as more than a friend, it may make you feel awkward.  
A helpful tip to remember that you have a choice when it comes to dealing with unwanted crushes and affections from anyone in the same way. Regardless of the sex of the person, you should feel safe enough to voice how you feel and if need be, put distance between you and your friend.  
But just like how it would not make sense to speculate over crushes unless the other party has announced their intentions, it is unnecessary to worry about a scenario that has not materialised.  
You can remain friends and even ask questions like “What are the reasons behind your identifying as LGBTQ?” if they are comfortable talking about this.

Teen Years (13-15 Years) 

It is natural for good friends to ask questions about each other’s convictions and behaviours. After all, that’s what you do when you are trying to understand any new topics or differing opinions.  
Just because you ask someone why they think they are LGBTQ does not mean you are being bigoted or judgmental, if you are genuinely interested in understanding more about your friend.  
Discussions that enhance connection stem from a sincere desire to understand the other better, so be clear of your own intentions.  
Understanding means empathy and a sincere desire to know someone better and see their views as valuable. But it doesn’t always need to result in agreement.  
You may find it hard to express your own opinions in the face of strongly opposing views but remember, you are not trying to win a debate. Your opinion is equally valuable.  
If you feel uncomfortable with where a conversation is headed – whether in topic or tone it is also perfectly okay to say you would rather talk about something else. 

Emerging Years (16-19 Years)

Does loving someone mean accepting their beliefs even when they clash with yours? We have many friends and family whom we love, each of them with differing beliefs. If loving them means we have to adopt all of their beliefs, it can get pretty confusing.  
Loving someone does not mean you have to agree with everything they believe or do. 

What makes a good friend? Someone kind and caring? A good listener who seems to understand you? How about someone with the same hobbies so you can spend time together on shared interests?  
Would you expect your good friend to change their convictions to follow all of yours? No, that is not a usual ingredient for friendship  
In our teenage years, we often look for something bigger than ourselves as we work out our own inner convictions and how to express them externally. This is part of the identityforging process.  
What makes up our identity? There are many factors, such as our biological sex, our family of origin, upbringing, past experiences and more. While sexual orientation can also be a factor of how people view themselves, it need not be the biggest defining factor
A person is infinitely more than their sexual orientation. If we care about the people dear to us, we should see beyond their sexual orientation too 
As a friend, you may want to bring up some common teenage relationship concerns like physical boundaries, sexual consent, and sexual boundaries within relationships to help your friend think about what is acceptable for them.

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

What Do I Do If My Child Identifies as LGBT?

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

The tween years is a period of remarkable growth in every way – Physically, emotionally, mentally and even socially. As your tweens hit puberty, you may find yourself surprised not just by their height but by their emotional outbursts and interest in new subject matters. This is all part of a period of intense growth and discovery, as they learn more about the world and decide what they are passionate about as individuals.  
By this age, you may have already explained where babies come from, how does a girl get pregnant and touched on boygirl relationships.   
If you have not shared your family values and beliefs on love and relationships with your tween, this is a good time to do so. One possible way is to use scenes that you may come across in the media to talk about it, so you can help them connect their internal values with external behaviour.  
It is important to remember that you have great influence over your child. So if they come to you with statements expressing their confusion over their gender identity, it’s good to stay calm and ask questions to help you understand where these thoughts are coming from.  
Explain what romantic attraction is: A desire to be physically close with someone and not just liking someone and wanting them to like you. Share with them that sometimes in growing up, we may greatly admire someone of the same gender, and that is not the same as romantic attraction. 
Help ask thinking questions – How do you want them to like you? What activities do you hope to do with this person? Is this someone you see yourself dating or marrying in future?   
Some of these questions may seem “heavy” to a tween and you don’t need to overly dwell on them but they can help your child understand the difference between a crush and serious attraction.  
We are all social beings and influenced by many sources including friendships and media consumption. If you don’t already know what your child is watching or their favourite celebrities, it may be good to find out.

Teen Years (13-15 Years) 

In their early teens, our kids are gaining further independence and part of this growth involves figuring out their own personal convictions on family values.  
Topics to have by this stage include: when they can have a boyfriend or girlfriend, physical boundaries and sexual boundaries within relationships. 
Romantic feelings open up a whole new (and at times, confusing) world for your child. Your constant love and care not conditional upon grades, behaviour or even sexuality – is a grounding influence. Keep seeking opportunities to keep the parent-child connection strong. 
Keep an open door with your teen about all topics and matters. If your child brings up questions or even announces they have an alternative sexual orientation, remember to stay loving and unfazed.  
A parent’s love is stronger than their children’s choices. Loving someone doesn’t mean accepting all their choices. A difference in opinions cannot negate love that is established on a strong foundation of trust and openness.  
Be honest in your conversations with your teen, ask thinking questions, while also making your stand clear. Reassure them on how your love for them remains unchanged.  
In sharing your own emotions, be frank but not judgmental. Use “I” statements such as, “I feel worried” instead of “you are worrying me”.  
Set boundaries for safety without fearmongering. You may also want to factually explain the repercussions of big decisions like this and ask your teen to give him or herself time to evaluate how they feel. It may be helpful to set regular check-in times but make it clear that it’s an ongoing conversation you are happy to have.

Emerging Years (16-19 Years)

As our children reach their late teens and grow into independent young adults, our role becomes more like coaches or guides. However, that doesn’t mean we take a hands-off approach. On the contrary, we become more intentional in nurturing the connection with our teens.  
Staying interested in their world, wanting to meet their romantic interests, weighing in on decision making processes and yet respecting your teen’s wishes all this can feel like a huge balancing act!  
Some topics to cover include: sexual abuse and sexual consent. 
When you and your teen disagree on a topic, it is important to be the one who reaches out in love. Try not to shut your teen down out of fear; rather, practise non-judgmental listening. The ability to toss around different ideas and explore pros and cons, while maintaining mutual respect, can help you empower your teen to make good decisions 

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

How Do I Know If My Crush Really Likes Me?

Primary Years (7-9 Years)

Crushes are normal. But what exactly is a crush? A crush is a fleeting liking for a member of the opposite sex that goes beyond just liking him or her as a friend. You may want to see them more often, or write them little notes or give small snacks.   
Crushes at this stage usually develops quickly and fades. They tend to be short.  
In primary school, such feelings may come and go as you make new friends and your social circle expands. Since everyone comes from a different family with different cultural norms and expectations, friends may tease you when they sense you like somebody.  
You may feel embarrassed but also drawn to the idea of being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s natural since we all want to be liked and in relationships where we feel loved.  
Besides Boy-Girl-Relationships (BGR), we need to remember that we also feel loved in other relationships, like parent-child relationships, sibling-hood and also good friendships. All these, especially familial ties, tend to be relationships that will stand the test of time and continue well into the future.  
So if you are getting teased about BGR or if you are having unfamiliar feelings about someone at school, you can always consider talking to your family about it. They do have the benefit of experience so when they give you advice, it’s based on what they have learnt and walked through themselves! 

Tween Years (10-12 Years) 

How do you know if someone really likes you? Everyone communicates feelings differently. Someone shy may avoid interaction while someone with a more outgoing personality may decide to engage in more interaction.  
Instead of trying to guess the intention behind another person’s actions, the best thing to do is to not overthink. Overthinking causes you to read into every interaction. When that happens, it’s like putting on a pair of magnifying glass as spectacles… everything you see is magnified and this may not always be good  
In a crush, the feelings normally fade away after a while as you choose not to focus on it. Another sign of whether it is a crushInfatuation usually values aspects we can observe easily from the outside, e.g., good looks or talents.  
If the other party is obviously declaring they have a special interest in you, e.g., admitting they like you, sending you gifts or letters or overt actions along this line, it’s better to try to take a step back and relate to this person as a regular friend first. Don’t build up a relationship in your head… it could be only an illusion.  
Every great relationship is built on a strong friendship so focus on being a friend. A good friend is someone we can trust, be honest with, laugh with, and who has our interests at heart. 
You can also have the talk with your parents on when you can have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Teen Years (13-15 Years)

At this age, some of your friends may be in romantic relationships and you may feel some peer pressure to be in one. However, the best thing you can do is not to get in one just to be in one!  
Romantic relationships are special and it’s special because it’s with a great person who reciprocates. So if you are not sure if your feelings are reciprocated in the same way, it’s good not to commit to a relationship since you will have different expectations.   
When you are unsure if the other person feels the same way, it’s always good to hold on and hold off. 
Unless you want to confront them and ask them about their feelings, there is probably no way to avoid the “unknown” stage of a relationship.  
But because this stage is ambiguous, you probably don’t want to obsess over it. Choosing to take a step back helps you avoid emotionally committing yourself especially since the romantic relationship you will like to have actually does not exist yet! 

It is also a good time to assess if the feelings are based on outward traits like appearances and gifts rather than inward traits like strength of character and values.  
If a person really likes you, as long as you remain your usual friendly self, you are leaving them space to get to know you. Until they do give a clear signal, put your focus on developing yourself to grow in your full potential and confidence to be uniquely you. 
As a teenager, you would probably have seen kissing or other acts of physical affection on screen and maybe even in real life at home, in public spaces or amongst your friends.  
It’s good to remember that everyone has different expectations on physical boundaries in a romantic relationship. You can also ask yourself how your family and personal values line up with different expectations in this area and what you personally want.  

Remember that you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to feel valued or loved. Build great friendships and enjoy your family. Think of these as gems you are gathering and one day when you are in a great romantic relationship, you can also share these gems with your significant other and both your lives will be enriched.  

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

I Found My Child Masturbating! What Do I Do?

Preschool Years (4-6 Years)

Young children often are not fully aware of how their behaviours may be perceived by others. They may pick their noses or touch their genitals without thinking twice. Avoid shaming or humiliating your child. Their actions are innocent and not sexual in nature as they are experiencing what a self-soothing behaviour feels like.  

Explain that just as picking their nose in public is not something we do, we do not touch our private parts, except when cleaning them in a bath or shower, or at a check-up with a doctor. You can say something like: “Let’s put our hands on our laps where everyone can see them.” 

Children at this age may be curious about their sexuality, Take time to explain how our body parts makes us distinct as a male or female and there are no bad body parts. 

If the self-stimulating urge becomes more frequent, find out why your child is touching himself or herself more often. For some children, it could be arise from the desire for more affection.  Parents can offer alternatives such as ruffling their hair, rubbing their back, holding or hugging them. 

Primary Years (7-9 Years) 

As kids enter school, they become more socially aware of their behaviours. Beginning a conversation now about masturbation tends to be easier because kids are more likely to talk openly.  

Masturbation is sometimes used as self-soothing behaviour for school-age kids, especially if they feel lonely or rejected by classmates. When kids self-soothe in this age group, though, they will begin to hide their behaviour from adults. If we avoid the topic because it is awkward and uncomfortable, guilt and shame may start to build up.  

Conversations with our children about masturbation do not have to be descriptive, but they should not be so vague that kids do not know what is being discussed. Talk about masturbation in a natural tone of voice and explaining simply how certain parts of the body feel good when touched can help parents pave the way for open and honest conversations later. 

You may ask your child a question like: “I see you touching your penis a few times. Can you tell me why you are doing that? How does that make you feel?”  

Avoid condemning messages, such as looking horrified, or yelling things like: “Don’t ever do that!” Punishing a child for masturbating is another form of shaming, as is telling him that masturbation is going to ruin his future sex life, prevent him from having children or other untrue myths as a scare tactic. 

Instead, explain that this kind of pleasurable touch is something husbands and wives can enjoy with each other as an expression of love. 

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

By the time your children reach the tween years, they would have attended sexuality education in school. It is important for parents to unpack what was taught and allow your child to ask questions which they may not have a chance to ask.  

Parents should continue to give their kids a context for what they see or hear at school or in the media. If it feels unnatural to have an official sit-down talk, look for spontaneous conversation opportunities prompted by something seen on television or when your child is entering puberty. 

Explain what masturbation is objectively to your child. Provide him or her factual information that the sensitivity in genital nerve endings is how our bodies are made to enjoy sex, which is reserved for marriage.  

Inform them that they can approach you with questions because there is a lot of misinformation and what they read from the internet may be harmful information. For example, you can ask them, “What do you already know about masturbation?” 

What you say to your tween depends on the strength of your relationship with him or her and your comfort level. If parents are uncomfortable talking about the subject, the child may pick that up and interpret it with guilt or shame. Therefore, it is best that parents practice talking about this subject with each other first. Dads should talk to boys and moms talk to girls. This isn’t a topic just for boys or just for girls. 

Be ready for long silences and embarrassed looks when talking to your tween. Don’t hurry through the uneasiness as something you need to check off. Even if you must continue the conversation another time or are faced with a question you do not know how to answer, assure your child that you will talk about it again and that you will answer any questions he or she has. After all, if we are silent, the only voice our children hear is culture’s voice. 

Adapted from What to do when young kids masturbate by Ann Byle © 2015 All rights reserved. Used with permission from Focus on the Family. 

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

What Is Puberty?

Primary Years (7-9 Years)

Puberty is when a child’s body starts developing and changing as they grow into adulthood. Typically, girls reach puberty at around 11 years old and boys do so 1 to 2 years later. However, increasingly, there has been a trend of this age being lowered by 2 to 3 years.

At the lower primary level, you should normalise talks about sex and the difference between boys and girls. You might even have answered questions like where babies come from. As your child mature, they may start being curious about how Daddy and Mummy’s bodies are different from theirs and that is when you could start the conversation on how puberty prepares them to become a Daddy or a Mummy.

An easy way to introduce the talk on puberty is to do it with biological diagrams and explain how the functions of a male and female body are different. You can also talk about how much they have already grown compared to the time when they were toddlers and introduce puberty as simply the next stage in their growth.

Ensure that your kids cherish their body, not just in the form of modesty, but also in appreciating how they look and accepting the way their bodies are. As parents, try to avoid body shaming of any sorts, for example, calling someone fat or commenting on a part of someone’s body in a negative way. Our positive attitude towards the physical body helps set the stage for our children to welcome subsequent changes in puberty.

Tween Years (10-12 Years) 

The earliest signs of puberty is often breast development for girls and enlargement of the testicles for boys. About one or two years after this, they typically approach a period of growth spurt as their bodies start to change to look more womanly or manly.

By 11 or 12, most girls would have started hearing about their classmates’ personal experience of periods. Some boys’ voices might crack as their voice deepens. Other changes from puberty can include pubic hair and more active sweat glands which could cause acne and body odour. For boys, they may encounter wet dreams and you may want to explain such nocturnal emissions the context of how their bodies are now able to produce sperm for reproduction.

Part of the parental guidance at this stage also includes teaching your budding teen about products like training bras, deodorant, sanitary pads, facial wash and pimple cream.

Since everyone’s body is unique, the changes they are going through may be at a different pace from their peers. Be sure to assure them that they are not abnormal and if they are feeling self-conscious about something, do not brush off their feelings but teach them what to do to manage it.

During this stage, the pre-frontal cortex in their brains are growing rapidly. This growth brings about a surge of emotions as the part of the brain associated with emotions and impulse takes the control seat. This is why you may find them getting moody or emotional suddenly without reason. You may want to help them understand that these strong feelings are also a part of their growth. Help them identify what they can do to avoid being carried along by feelings. This can be as simple as Stop, Ask, Pivot, for example, when they realise they are getting very angry over something not going well, to pause and ask why they are feeling furious and then after logical evaluation, to pivot or make a conscious effort to turn away from impulse responses. Emphasize to them that they can always come to you to talk about their feelings and you will not judge them for what they are experiencing.

This will also be a good time for you to start sharing about sexual abuse as they become more aware and conscious about their bodies.

Teen Years (13-15 Years)

By now, your teen is well and truly going through puberty. Puberty can take two to five years to finish and by the time it does, they may well be taller than you! They will also sound different. Both boys and girls will have deeper voices due to enlarged voice boxes. Boys may have developed some facial hair and both genders may have developed underarm hair too.

They may also start to experience sexual attractions but not know what they are. Continue to be the parent coach to guide your teens through all these new emotions and sensations and have open conversations on topics like masturbation and how girls get pregnant. Address any questions they may have about dating and relating to the opposite sex, and how those issues fit into your family’s beliefs and values on marriage and family formation.

During these teen years, your teen may still go through insecurities about their appearance so do remain loving and assuring. Your attention to them and input as a parent is still very important. Assure them that their identity is based on a large number of factors and not just on how they look.

You may also want to celebrate this milestone with your kids. Some parents take this opportunity to bring their child on a weekend get-away or have a special meal to commemorate this season of rapid development. It is a good time to bond and to affirm the child’s identity even as they grow into a young adult.

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

How to Get Your Teens Off Their Screens and Into the World

“Hooked on screens” – the phrase might be an apt description of the silent “epidemic” that has crept surreptitiously through our busy lives, straight into our homes, and smack into the faces of our children.  

Getting our teens off their screens is somewhat of a modern-day conundrum. After all, they are Gen Z, the generation hailed as true digital natives and born in an age where devices fit almost like appendages to our bodies.  

“Put down your phone.”  

“No electronic devices at dinner please.”  

“Wait, can we have a conversation face to face rather than via text?” 

Don’t these statements make us sound like a broken recorder? 

Our teenagers are lapping up today’s media offerings voraciously. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that kids aged 8 to 18 spend about 7 hours and 38 minutes online. That’s equivalent to a 9-5 job, 7 times a week.  

TikTok, Discord, Instagram, Valorant, Stream and the like are cosy bedfellows which offer our teenagers a plethora of virtual escapes and online social communities. They toggle effortlessly between their real life and virtual platforms effortlessly where they spend a bulk of their time “media multitasking,” using more than one medium at a time—watching YouTube and scrolling through social media simultaneously.   

When the study considered the children’s multi-tasking efforts, teens were found to be exposed to about 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content each day. It is an ostensibly distracted life. 

Parents are concerned, and rightly so.  What with the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of our youth, reduced interaction time with family and friends, obesity, attention disorders, learning issues, and sleep problems.   

How can we draw our kids out from their digital shells and engage and connect with them meaningfully in the real world? 

1. Practice what we preach  

That’s right. We need to watch OUR own screen habits. Like it or not, we are our teen’s most significant role model when it comes to screen time.  

Our teens can sniff out hypocrisy and they are watching how we use our screens. We can’t tell our teenage daughter to cut back on screentime if we are watching endless hours of K-dramas online and scrolling Facebook, or answering “work” emails during dinner because they are “important”.   

The truth is parents who have healthy screen habits tend to raise kids with healthy screen habits. In short, if you set household screen-time rules, you also need to follow them. 

Parents who have healthy screen habits tend to raise kids with healthy screen habits. 

2. Set tech-free times and zones 

It’s probably unrealistic to expect our children NOT to use their screens. Rather than solely restricting media use, we can schedule blocks of screen-free time comprising meaningful face-to-face activities.  

We may need to explore outdoor or class-based interests and hobbies such as cooking, dance, or martial arts classes.  

Playing team sports can also help foster camaraderie and teamwork, while channeling their energies towards a shared goal.  

It is also useful to build technology-free zones into our daily lives. While technology is certainly important, teach that there is an appropriate time and place for it.  

Set reasonable limits: no phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom when one is winding down to sleep or when someone is talking to them. Have regular family nights every weekend to bond over communal activities that does not involve sitting in front of the television. Board games, hiking, night cycling and a beach outing may seem old school but provide that essential and life-giving balance. 

Instilling healthy habits surrounding tech use in our teens cannot simply rely on rules and restrictions. 

3. Teach values for productive screen use 

Finally and most importantly, we need to help our kids understand the difference between passive consumption and productive use of screentime, so that they can be in control of the time they spend online rather than to be enslaved by it. 

“Remember that [teens] have been lured to their screens by masters of their craft, highly paid communication experts whose sole responsibility is to secure kids’ eyeballs and keep them watching day and night,” writes Bill Ratner, author of Parenting for the Digital Age.  

When we educate our children to think critically about the media they consume, more than half the battle is won. Train them to ask pertinent questions about the content, advertisements, or sponsored posts they see: What are they selling? How is it done? Who does the advertiser want to attract?  

By installing in them such a critical lens, they can grow to wield technology skilfully and meaningfully. Who knows – A technologically savvy teen today may develop a productive passion tomorrow, such as coding or animation skills. 

As you can see, instilling healthy habits surrounding tech use in our teens cannot simply rely on rules and restrictions. But with intentional modelling, open conversations and an understanding of what makes our teens tick, parents can certainly play a part in this journey towards safe, critical, and productive media use.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.  

How Do I Impart My Family Values to My Children?

If a friend or another parent were to ask what your family stands for, are you able to instantly give an answer? 

Like it or not, we live in a time where there are many voices vying for our children’s attention – Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, and even the advertisements on social media platforms are subtly shaping their lives.  

As societies become technologically advanced and people become more liberal in their thinking, moral and social values will change to reflect that on a cultural level.  

It is thus increasingly important to be intentional about thinking and talking about family values. If parents do not take charge of raising their children using their playbooks, then the world will.  

So how do you decide what family values are important to your family? 

Every family’s list of values will be different. Some examples of family values include:  

  • moral values – honesty, dependability, taking personal responsibility, diligence, and justice.  
  • faith values – reverence for God, praying as a family, stewardship of resources, chastity, loving others, wisdom.  

Family values are influenced by one’s upbringing, worldviews, religious beliefs, and cultural and societal circumstances. The process of designing a family mantra or family values can be different for every family.  

Family values are like a compass. They outline what is important in your family and inform your decision-making process. 

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

1. Have an honest and open conversation with your spouse about what your family’s ideals are. 

Ask questions to jump-start the discussion: 

  • What is important to me, to us, and the family? 
  • What kind of adults do we want our children to become?  
  • What values from our family-of-origin do we want to pass on to our children? 
  • How do we want our family to be remembered?

2. Talk to couples who are already consciously living out their family values and learn from them.  

3. Find like-minded couple friends who are interested in charting their family values – start a group and do it together.  

4. Get your children and teenagers involved in crafting your family values. Listen to their concerns, aspirations, and thoughts on what is important to them.  

 5. Print out and display your family values in strategic spots in the home as reminders.  

Affirmation is an essential ingredient to building a young child’s confidence and encouraging them to learn and grow. 

How do I instil family values to my children? 

There are many ways to instil family values in your children. Be as creative as possible and find the methods that suit your children’s needs and learning styles.  

Here are three ways you can consider:  

  • Talk about family values  

“Train your child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” a Jewish proverb 

Whether you like it or not, your children already have many strong and effective teachers of values at an early age: social media, movies, schools, books, peer groups, and religious institutions. 

While some of these may communicate positive and affirmative messages, others may teach values that are antithetical to your beliefs. Thus, it is important for us to assume the responsibility of teaching our children.  

Consider these ideas:  

  • Share stories of everyday unsung heroes (teachers, neighbours, relatives, friends) who demonstrate your family values.  
  • Use movies or books to discuss values portrayed by the characters. 
  • Display family values on your screen savers on your computer. 
  • Have family activities or conversations on values 
  • Walk the talk  

Values are more caught than taught. Model the behaviour for your children to live out the values you want them to internalise. Children and teenagers are perceptive. They observe what you do and draw conclusions about what is important to you in life.  

  • Provide positive reinforcement  

When you notice your child demonstrating a family value, recognise them for it, and be as specific as possible. 

  • “I am so proud of you that you chose to take responsibility for what happened instead of blaming someone else for the mistake.”   
  • “Your kindness shone through when you donated your pocket money to help the poor.”  
  • “I appreciate your honesty and telling me the truth about what happened between you and your project group member even though you know you will be disciplined.”   

Lyndon B. Johnson, a former president of the USA said it best, “The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitious, and the values of the child.”  

As parents, we play a pivotal role in shaping our children’s values. Make time as a couple and family to discuss and decide on the core family values that would serve as a moral compass to help them navigate life in good and tough times.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Why Am I So Stressed by My Child’s Exams?

“I am sitting for the PSLE/ “O” levels exam this year.”  

“I am taking 3 months of no-pay leave to coach my child for the national exams.” 

Do these statements ring a bell?  Whether they are communicated in jest or in a serious tone, parents definitely feel the heat whenever the exams are approaching.  

As parents we want the best for our children; we want them to succeed in school and in life. And there is nothing wrong with making sacrifices to support our children to do well in major exams.   

But why are some parents highly strung and unduly stressed when exam season comes around?  

We might not like to admit this, but if we are feeling more anxious than our children who are taking high-stake exams, it is usually more about us than about our children.   

Our fear of failure or worries about our children’s future can keep us on the edge, and we may unwittingly project our fears onto our children even as we help them in the exam preparation.  

How do you know if you have reached your tipping point? 

Consider these tell-tale signs:  

1. Being easily angered 

Some parents become demanding and set unrealistic expectations for their children. They fly off the handle when the child cannot complete the assessment papers assigned by the school and/or the tutor to prep for the exams. Or they hit the roof when they perceive the child to be disinterested in the exam revision and prefer to spend time playing internet games. 

2. Nagging incessantly or lecturing  

Some parents may give children threats about a bleak future if they don’t do well and scold them for their tardiness in completing assessment papers. 

Our fear of failure or worries about our children’s future can keep us on the edge, and we may unwittingly project our fears onto our children. 

3. Promising gifts or monetary rewards as incentives  

“If you get all ‘A’s, you can have your Tik Tok account.”  

“If you do well, you can upgrade to the latest smartphone model.”   

Rewarding a child for putting in effort to attain academic achievement is usually a genuine display of parental affection to motivate the child to do well in exams.  

But when you frequently “dangle a big carrot” out of sheer desperation, the approach can backfire. Your children may associate learning with external rewards and know that they have a “bargaining chip” in the future: they can have whatever they want if they just do well in their studies.

4. Guilt-tripping    

“I am sacrificing my work leave to help you prepare for your exams, so make sure you put in the effort and study hard and get good results.”  

When parents feel helpless or want to get the child to comply with their demands to revise or prep for their exams, they may resort to unhealthy tactics such as guilt-tripping.  

These strategies may be effective in motivating the child to study in the short run, but they tend to have negative long-term consequences if used frequently.  

Your child may develop a sense of shame or guilt when he disappoints you, and consequently learn to seek external validation and approval in life. It may also teach the child to take responsibility for matters that are not theirs to own.  

As you support your child in exam prep, focus on helping them keep on track with their revision, and coaching them on stress management skills instead of worrying about the outcome. 

 Parental stress and uncontrolled anxiety can have detrimental effects not just on the relationship but on your child’s emotional and mental health too. So, be aware of your “hot buttons” and take proactive steps to manage your stress.  

What can you do if you lose it?  

Here are some practical steps you can take:  

  • Step back (detach) and give yourself emotional space  

It is important to keep one’s emotions in check. Unchecked anger has negative effects on you and your child.  

Your outburst is likely to increase your child’s stress level and hinder him from concentrating on his exam revision. Remember that your child is the one sitting for the exams, not you. 

  • Identify unhealthy or unhelpful beliefs 

“If she doesn’t do well academically, I am a terrible mother.” 

“I cannot lose out to my siblings. All my nieces and nephews always do well in major exams.” 

“My child will lose out in life if he doesn’t succeed in school.” 

These are some examples of disempowering self-talk.  

In a previous article, I shared the Find It, Fix It, Flip It techniques to support your anxious child. You can apply these techniques on yourself too.  

  • Fill up your “emotional tank” 

Whether it is having a cup of tea at a nearby café or walking around the neighbourhood, find activities to calm your frazzled nerves.  

  • Re-engage and refocus   

When you have regained your composure after losing your temper at your child, apologise to your child for your outburst. Then explain that there are better ways to manage your anger and what you intend to do the next time you sense your anger rising. Through such modelling, your child will learn about taking personal responsibility for one’s emotions and adaptive ways to manage anger. 

As you support your child in exam prep, focus on helping them keep on track with their revision, and coaching them on stress management skills instead of worrying about the outcome.  

  • Talk to a trusted friend   

If you notice that you are unable to support your child without constantly losing your temper and are experiencing heightened tension in the home, talk to a trusted friend or consider seeking counselling help for support and perspective.  

Preparing and sitting for major exams can be highly stressful for children, so they need your support and encouragement during this time. But if you hit the roof each time you help them, you will also elevate their stress level. So be aware of your boiling point and take proactive steps to keep your emotions in check. Remember, if your child sees that you are staying calm and optimistic even in the face of challenges, they will also learn to do the same for themselves. 

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Identifying Burnout Before It’s Too Late

Is it stress? Is it just a tiring season that’s not yet ending? Or is it burnout? For Sharon Ow, full-time working mother of two, a busy life was the only normal she knew. She was the type of person who enjoyed doing many things, and who even relished feeling tired from doing many things. So when she was diagnosed with burnout, it was a reality check. “I felt like I had suddenly fallen off the cliff,” she described.

More than stress

While many people may mistake stress for burnout or use the terms interchangeably, medical burnout is an actual medical condition that can result in serious consequences.

How do we tell the difference?

It’s impossible to avoid stress, explained Sharon but one can avoid getting burnt out.

She described her experience with burnout as a time when she “just couldn’t get out of bed and get through the day.”

“I had panic attacks, once when I was driving. It made me seek help and ask what was going on in my life. At first, I thought I was having a heart attack but as I sought help, I realised I was burnt out, I was depleted.”

It has been over a year since her first panic attack, but Sharon now realises that even though it felt sudden, she had probably been headed towards burnout for quite some time.

“Just like how you don’t immediately grow your muscles, you don’t reach burnout so quickly,” she said.

She went on to explain that the early warning signals would look different for each person. And for her, it was quite generic things like getting tired more often than normal, disrupted sleep, and getting more irritable easily.

Frequently experiencing such symptoms can be like the amber light at a traffic junction, signalling you to stop and evaluate if you are just going through a stressful period or if these signs are pointing to something more.

Even though it felt sudden, she had probably been headed towards burnout for quite some time.

We can also get blindsided by how much we enjoy doing many things.

As Sharon shared, “I love hospitality. I love having people over, I love making food, making the home look nice, bringing different groups of people together. Even though I enjoy doing these things, overdoing it can lead to burnout as well because it adds to everything else.

“One of the ah-ha moments for me was that getting burnout was not just about work, or doing things you don’t like… It can also be from things that you genuinely enjoy.”

The super-mum myth

Sharon, who works in the people development business, feels that parents can sometimes push ourselves to our own detriment.

“It’s easy to just get on with it because everyone is busy. I am not the only parent who’s working and managing home and community, so who am I to take pity on myself? On hindsight, I realise I didn’t know how to rest and recuperate.”

Terms like “super-mum” may also unintentionally push us to feel like we must have it all when we all have different circumstances, aspirations and capacity.

Resilience is also not just about pushing through challenges.

“When you talk about resilience, it’s not just the doing aspect but the resting aspect too,” she said. Thus, making space for rest prevents us from reaching the tipping point.

In her recovery period, Sharon learnt more about different kinds of rest. “There’s more than one rest. There’s physical, emotional, sensory, spiritual, mental, creative.”

Recognising what you need helps you scratch the itch where it is.

She cited the example of her two daughters. The younger likes hugs and physical touch, while the elder likes conversations and is more cerebral. So if she has had a day of very cerebral work and has to interact with the elder daughter, she may feel more taxed. “This is because I am already tapped out in that area and it has nothing to do with her,” she explained.

So it is important for us to grow in self-awareness and to figure out which aspect of you is running dry and needs attention and recuperation.


Making space for rest prevents us from reaching the tipping point.

Rebuilding boundaries

Sharon attributed her recovery to her supportive family and community.

”I remember once we had some friends over and my husband said to me, ‘you don’t do anything’. And he just ordered chicken rice and my friends ordered the drinks and we had a wonderful time!”

She also made deliberate choices, such as going for regular walks and being mindful of what she consumed as well as what to stay away from, such as incessant tech time.

“Not everyone can be a safe person to speak to about what you are going through so choose wisely,” shared Sharon, who acknowledged that she had a good support network of trusted friends.

The 3Rs for recovery

Sharon shared her 3Rs for recovery.

The first is rest, and that includes all the different types of rest.

“For me, it was also resting in God and my beliefs,” she added.

The second is recuperate, which means allowing yourself the time and space to recuperate.

The last is to regroup. This is when you begin planning again and restarting your engines.

She warns against regrouping too quickly without giving ourselves time and space to rest and recuperate. She reiterates, “Give yourself time to come back stronger.”

For a working parent, we tend to be the last priority because there’s so many things to take care of. But remember that if you are not taking care of yourself, it affects everything else, including your ability to care for others.