How do I Reduce my Mental Load as a Mum?

According to BBC, mental load is about “preparing, organising and anticipating everything, emotional and practical, that needs to get done to make life flow.” It is like having ten tabs open and running at the same time in our minds, as we go about our daily responsibilities as mums.  

We can be preparing lunch while anticipating what picking up our child will be like, whether he will be moody because of the long hours in school or the lack of sleep from the night before, while also making dinner plans and trying to recall if we have paid the month’s bills.  

Mental load is one of the hardest things to accurately explain to people, and also one of the biggest sources of anxiety. We feel the need to be in control of what is happening and what is going to happen so that we feel sufficiently confident to handle the various situations.  

This mental load will not lessen until our children are independent enough to make decisions and take care of their own basic needs. Such a responsibility can sometimes cause us to feel overwhelmed and burnt out, if not handled with care. It is therefore important for us to learn how to cope well.  

1. Having fixed routines helps us anticipate with more certainty 

We often hear that children thrive with routines because they can anticipate what is coming and feel more empowered to carry out the task. Similarly, adults rely heavily on routines to carry out our daily responsibilities.  

Having fixed routines can help us anticipate with more certainty the flow of events for the day, which will also help us be more prepared even if unforeseen circumstances crop up. For example, if our children’s routine is to shower – dinner – play – sleep, it wouldn’t hurt to have dinner before taking a shower on days when we get home later than expected.  

Routines act as a baseline for both kids and parents, since they know that these tasks must be completed even if they were coupled with meltdowns and yelling. It takes away the “what’s next” while we deal with the meltdowns, and that helps to give us a sense of clarity amidst the chaos.

2. Schedule brain breaks

Whenever possible, schedule brain breaks during the day. This could be in the form of swapping out one homecooked meal for a  giving the kids fifteen minutes of screen time while we have a cup of coffee and take it slow. This is possible when our children are familiar with the day-to-day routines and have a certain level of independence.  

Short breaks may not seem like much but can go a long way when scheduled at the right intervals. For example, taking a break at midday can help us continue managing the various responsibilities till the children go to bed.  

3. Find community among fellow mums

Bearing the mental load by ourselves is difficult, but adequately describing it to others and explaining its effects on us can also be challenging. Therefore, finding mum friends who can relate is very important. They can be a great source of support and an outlet for you to share your frustration. 

Though our responsibilities haven’t changed, the emotional support our mum friends provide can sometimes give us that little push to last through a difficult day. 

It helps us feel understood and seen by people who have gone through what we have and know exactly what we are talking about, especially when mental load in itself is invisible. Though our responsibilities haven’t changed, the emotional support our mum friends provide can sometimes give us that little push to last through a difficult day.  

4. Give yourself a ‘mum’s day off’

Giving yourself an “off-day” sounds incredibly attractive, because of the sheer responsibility of being a mum. As a working adult, we can switch our phones off and choose not to log in to our emails when on leave, but we cannot turn our brains off and ignore our kids.  

We can only be momentarily free from caregiving when we intentionally step out and away from the family. When we can relinquish the role of caregiving to another trusted adult, be it our spouse or family member, we can turn our minds away from the needs and demands of our family and just focus on ourselves.  

This is absolutely crucial in helping us tune in to our own needs and do the things that we want to do. It helps us feel that our needs can and will be met. We are also a priority and are not forgotten amidst the chaos at home.  

The catch is that we must be intentional to take our minds off whatever is happening at home. It defeats the purpose if we are out but our minds are constantly worried about our children and their plans and activities for the day. 

We can better plan, schedule and care for our children when we are happy and well taken care of. 

Practical tips to reduce mental load

Try these practical tips to better manage your mental load: 

  • Think about which activities you can incorporate into a routine. Perhaps it is doing an emotional check-in at bedtime, or planning for the week’s meals on a Sunday evening. 
  • Schedule your brain breaks into your weekly calendar. Start with once a week and work your way up! 
  • Regularly share with your spouse/mum support group what might be weighing you down or causing you anxiety. 
  • Give yourself time off to do something you enjoy – once a month! 

The mental load of motherhood accumulates over time due to the changing seasons our children go through, and it is important for us to consider our own needs while giving to our children. We can better plan, schedule and care for our children when we are happy and well taken care of.  

The journey is long, but we are also training our mental resilience through the years as our children grow. Take heart, mummies! We can do this! 

© 2024 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

How Do I Know My Marriage is Ready for Kids?

After saying, “I do”, it is natural to desire building your nest, and enjoy the freedom of couple-hood. It is also not uncommon for some couples to focus on their career aspirations and goals. But there may come a time when you or your spouse are drawn to conversations with friends or colleagues about babies and parenthood. Or when your social media feed pops up cute images of babies and you dream about having children of your own, and decorating the room for a little one. You feel you are ready to expand your family of creation.  

But are you? 

It has been said that it takes two to tango. The decision to become a parent is a weighty one that should be made intentionally as a couple. Adding a new member requires the readiness of the husband and wife; It is not merely an individual choice.  

Thus, if you are considering parenthood, it is fitting that as a couple, instead of asking, “Am I ready for parenthood?” you might want to ask, “Is our marriage ready for parenthood?” 

If the marriage relationship is unstable, having a baby will not improve it; instead, parenthood may amplify the cracks in the relationship.

What are the factors to determine if your marriage is ready for a baby? 

1. Relationship strength and vitality 

The health of your marriage is crucial if you want to add children to the mix. Most marriage mentors or counsellors encourage couples to invest time and effort to work on their marriage issues, and strengthen their relationship before the baby arrives. Studies have shown that when the baby arrives, marital satisfaction will take a dip because of the transitional stresses, added responsibilities, and demands of parenthood.  

If the marriage relationship is unstable, having a baby will not improve it; instead, parenthood may amplify the existing cracks in the relationship. 

Here are some conversation starters for you and your spouse to reflect on and discuss:

  1. How do I envision our lives changing when we have a baby?
  2. What freedoms am I willing to give up that I have now?
  3. How will we make time for our marriage relationship?
  4. If we were to stop having sex for a few months, how would my spouse respond?
  5. How do we handle stress and conflict as a couple?
  6. How do I communicate when I am feeling sleep-deprived and overwhelmed?
  7. What would I want my spouse to do/say when I feel inadequate as a parent, or when my self-esteem takes a beating post-pregnancy?
  8. What comes to mind when I think of the father or mother I want to be?
  9. What are our values regarding raising children, and sharing responsibility and involvement in parenthood? If our values are in conflict, how can we find a middle ground?
  10. What is our parenting style? If they are different, how do we foresee this affecting the way we parent as a team?
  11. What family traditions do I want to carry over from my childhood? What do I wish to do differently?

2. Physical health

When planning to start a family, it is important that you and your spouse are in good health. Visit the gynaecologist or doctor for a health assessment and make the necessary adjustments so that you increase your odds of having a healthy baby. It is worthwhile to switch to a healthier lifestyle: Eat healthily, give up the smoking habit, start an exercise regime! These small changes can strengthen your overall physical health and prepare your body to manage the stresses of the transition to parenthood. 

3. Financial health

Having an additional mouth to feed means there will be an increase in the family expenses. It is important to ensure your financial preparedness for such a commitment. As to the financial cost of raising a child, it is very subjective. If you have a steady income as a couple, a budget that works, and the ability to effectively manage your finances, you are in a favourable position to start a family. That being said, it is always a good idea to take a serious look at your financial goals and commitments; if need be, consult a financial expert to advise you and your spouse.

4. Social support 

Taking care of a baby is physically, emotionally, and psychologically demanding. Today, not many married women want to be a full-time homemaker. Whether you choose to become a full-time homemaker or to balance motherhood and a career, it is important to ensure there is a good support system that you can reach out to in times of need. They can be your parents, in-laws, trusted friends, faith community, or siblings. These are the people who will make time to listen to you, encourage you when the going gets tough, or provide practical help to ease the stresses of caring for your child.

Becoming parents is a lifelong commitment that requires a couple to make the necessary attitude and lifestyle adjustments to navigate this milestone successfully.

5. Emotional and psychological stability 

Becoming a parent is life-changing, joyful, and rewarding. At the same time, caring for a baby comes with its fair share of ups and downs. For the mother, the nine months of pregnancy with its physical discomfort, such as morning sickness, fatigue, and back pain can set off unpleasant feelings of frustration or anxiety. Additionally, post-pregnancy bodily changes can cause a dent in a mother’s self-esteem, especially when she finds that she cannot expeditiously get back into shape after childbirth.  

For the father, having to share the wife’s attention and closeness with a new member of the family, the dip in sexual contact, and the financial commitments can pose a challenge mentally and emotionally. 

It would be helpful for the couple to be emotionally and psychologically stable In order to navigate such a major milestone together.  

For many couples, having children is a cherished goal, bringing joy and fulfilment. Having a baby is indeed a life-changing, exciting, and heart-warming experience. However, it is a weighty decision that requires deliberate introspection and reflection, and making the necessary attitude and lifestyle adjustments to navigate this milestone successfully. It is certainly worthwhile to make time to engage in honest and open conversations to determine if you and your spouse are ready to become parents. 

What is Sexual Abuse and How Do I Prevent it?

Primary years (7-9)

Sexual abuse like molest or rape can happen to both boys and girls. Since most perpetuators are known to the victims, children might be reluctant to “tell on” someone they are familiar with, especially if it is a person they respect or have affections for. This is why it is important to teach them that their bodies are private and they have the power to speak up when they feel uncomfortable with any form of physical contact, even if it is just holding hands or receiving hugs from someone they know.   

Statistics on sexual abuse show that shock and surprise keep victims quiet. To avoid this, role-play possible scenarios, for example, “Let’s say you are on the bus and someone sits next to you and touches your thigh, what do you do?” You can also equip them with sentences that they can fall back on, for example, “Don’t do that, I am not comfortable with it,” or “I don’t want this, you need to stop now” and establish a standard protocol of what they can do if something happens. This can be as simple as Speak Out, Walk Away and Talk to A Safe Adult. If you have not already done so, teach your primary schooler how to identify a safe adult, for example, someone in authority or a mother with kids. 

Tween years (10-12)

As your child grows in independence, it is critical for us to keep communication open and to be aware of the different ways a stranger could get in contact with them, such as through popular online games or social media platforms.  

Sexual abuse can also come in the guise of “fun” or “games”. The perpetuator might ask the victim to keep what happened as a secret, because it is part of the game or even use threats, blame or shame on the victim. To pre-empt this, talk to your child about these common tactics and teach them to raise the red flag if someone asks them to keep a secret from you. On your part, be on the look-out for anyone who is giving special attention to your child especially if the person tries to get your child alone with him/her. 

It is important to build trust with your tween, through showing your unconditional love and your ability to handle whatever is shared with you, for example, by staying calm and not becoming overly upset with them.

Your child needs the assurance that you will not fault them or dismiss what they share, but that they can depend on you to support them emotionally, give good advice and help resolve the situation.   
 
Watch both your verbal and non-verbal cues when you hear about sexual abuse cases because our children could pick up any negative attitudes we might have towards the victims, and that could make them feel unsafe should they need to share with us in future.

Teen years & Late teen years (13-18)

Continue to make yourself a safe place for your children to come to even as they grow into the teenage and emerging years. Even older teens can go into a state of shock when sexual abuse happens. They may passively go along with what’s going on because they do not know what to do or even disassociate and “blank out” the memory as a coping mechanism.  

If you suspect your teen has experienced something because he or she is suddenly withdrawn, depressed, or fearful of certain places or people, reach out to find out how your child is doing.

Let your teen share at their own pace. It may take more than one conversation to get the full story. 

At this age, our teens may have started romantic relationships, so it is a good time to talk about boundaries within relationships and respectful and consensual physical touch.  

Help your teen see that sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual touch, especially if he or she feels coerced. Coercion can range from “If you do not do this, I will…” statements to “I thought you said you love me…”

It can also involve grooming methods like buying things and paying for your teen over a period of time so that eventually, your teen feels like he or she “owes” the person and has to repay them.  

Empower your children to develop and believe in the power of their own voice. Emphasise that they can say “Stop” or “No” at any time and that it is okay to realise they have gone too far or made a mistake and insist on a stop. Help them avoid the trap of thinking they are in the wrong for being in a situation and thus, have no right to stop. “You can always stop” can be a very powerful belief.  

Any sexual activity that takes place when one party is unable to give consent—for example, being incapacitated, asleep or drunk—is also sexual abuse. Taking photographs or videos of someone in a state of undress like upskirt photos is also sexual abuse; possessing and/or distributing sexual images is considered a crime in Singapore.  

You can approach these conversations holistically, for instance, as you explain upskirt photos and why they are wrong, teach your daughters to be observant when wearing skirts, and your sons to avert their eyes if they notice exposure, and for them to step in to help someone if their modesty is threatened. Part of our children’s growth into adulthood may also include experiencing sexual desires. Acknowledge that and avoid letting them feel guilty or ashamed over it. 

Sexual abuse is a huge topic and one we hope our children will never experience. To safeguard them, chat with them regularly about sexuality and growing up. Help them gain a solid understanding of how love and relationships work. Knowing how sex is good in the context of a loving and committed relationship like marriage can help them understand why any form of sexual coercion is wrong.  

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!

Should I use Dating Apps in Search for a Long-term, Committed Relationship?

The question of whether to use dating apps or online dating platforms in pursuit of a long-term relationship is a tricky one. If you’re in a season of your life where your social circles are not expanding, and you would love to meet new people, dating apps are a great platform to meet other singles.  

On the other hand, dating apps have some very real limitations. One of the greatest limitations of dating apps is the illusion of infinite choice. Because the pool of active users on dating apps are so large, individuals are constantly facing what psychologists refer to as the paradox of choice. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when people are presented with too many options, the individual experiences decreased satisfaction, no matter the choice made. The reason is simple: There is a sense that there is always someone better out there.  

I would like to offer a set of questions to ask yourself, before you decide if dating apps are for you in this time of your life as you seek a long-term, committed relationship. 

A strong friendship built on trust and respect is a great foundation for the early stages of a dating relationship, and it’s much easier to strengthen an existing friendship than it is to build a new one from scratch.   

1. Why do I want to use dating apps?

Before diving into a dating app, it’s important to ask yourself ‘why’. Do you feel that none of your friends could be a potential partner? Evaluate your existing friendships honestly—perhaps there’s someone worth getting to know better. Building a strong friendship based on trust and respect forms a solid foundation for a romantic relationship. Strengthening an existing bond is often easier than starting anew. 

However, if none of your current connections seem promising, it’s time to expand your social circle. Dating apps aren’t the only option; consider joining interest groups, seeking introductions from mutual friends, or volunteering. These are great alternatives for friendships to bloom in a more organic fashion. 

The mode and manner of meeting people is not as crucial as the quality of your friendships.  Strong friendships are built on values of respect and trust. Focus on building meaningful connections and sharpening the soft skills necessary to build a healthy, long-term relationship, such as emotional intelligence and conflict resolution, rather than simply expanding your social network. 

The key to effectiveness in dating is to be clear about what traits you wish your potential date to possess, and what are certain red flags or dealbreakers for you.

2. Do I know myself, and what I am looking for in a potential date?

The second question to ask yourself once you’ve become aware of your motives, is to assess your understanding of self – your goals in life, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and your values.  

An important piece of a meaningful, long-term relationship is the degree to which both parties are able to make themselves known, by articulating their goals, needs, values, and their strengths and weaknesses, and have the other receive and reflect them back. It’s important to be aware of these facets of yourself before you commit to knowing another person. 

The other piece that makes a long-term relationship healthy and strong is the ability to accept and receive your partner for the totality of who they are. The key to effectiveness in dating is to be clear about what traits you wish your potential date to possess, and what are certain red flags or dealbreakers for you. This is to avoid unnecessary heartache and disappointment arising from the lack of clear communication of expectations from the onset.

Without the values of contentment, gratitude, and commitment, one will always remain dissatisfied with their match on a dating app.

3. Do I understand the business model, benefit, and drawback of dating apps?

Once you’re clear on your identity and the type of person you’re seeking, it’s essential to understand how dating apps operate, and their pros and cons. Dating apps, driven by profit, aim to attract and retain users through freemium models, offering limited free features, while tempting users with premium subscriptions promising better matches and visibility. These companies capitalize on the human desire to stand out, leveraging it to sell premium features. 

While this raises ethical questions, users must realize that relying solely on free features may limit their chances of finding a quality match. Even with premium features, users may face the paradox of choice and decreased satisfaction. 

Where dating apps excel in is their ability to connect individuals who share a mutual interest in a long-term, committed relationship—assuming this preference is indicated in their profile settings. This is a plus for many users who choose this avenue of meeting other singles over traditional meeting spaces.  

Ultimately, choosing to embrace the values of contentment, gratitude, and commitment is key to satisfaction in dating, regardless of the platform used.  

Thanks to technology, we can build friendships with people whom we may never have otherwise met, but it takes much wisdom and maturity for the interaction online to progress to a real life, genuine connection.

4. Can I use the features offered by a dating app to build a strong friendship — in an intentional and deliberate manner, while staying aware of its limitations? 

Once you understand how dating apps function and have weighed their pros and cons, consider if you can leverage their strengths to foster genuine connections intentionally.  

Dating apps excel in sparking conversations on diverse topics, allowing you to delve beyond the initial superficial conversations into something deeper. Once you have warmed up to each other over text, transitioning to an in-person meeting is crucial for developing deeper friendship, as online interactions lack vital nonverbal cues essential for deeper emotional connection. Face-to-face encounters also verify the authenticity of information shared online. 

One of the greatest challenges with maintaining a connection with someone over text is the difficulty in drawing emotional boundaries, and appropriately pacing the growth of trust and intimacy in the relationship. Trust is built over time, and as easy as it might be to rush an interaction, it’s more beneficial in the long term to exercise restraint. The true character of an individual, such as their values, beliefs, and direction in life takes time to be unveiled, through a variety of different scenarios and contexts. 

After committing to exclusivity, deleting the app helps maintain focus on your current relationship. This helps you draw a mental boundary with the thoughts that there could be someone better out there on the app, and if your current date is the best fit for you. 

Thanks to technology, we can build friendships with people whom we may never have otherwise met, but it takes much wisdom and maturity for the interaction online to progress to a real life, genuine connection. True relational satisfaction and fulfilment comes from the mature decision of mutual commitment, emotional health, and clear communication of expectations and needs, and this can very well be assisted by a dating app, but not replaced by it.  

Three Relationship Principles To Cultivate for a Strong Start to Marriage

The journey from engagement to marriage is like a wild rollercoaster ride, packed with twists and turns. From wedding planning to sorting out housing and navigating relationships with future in-laws, it’s a phase where couples face plenty of challenges. These challenges often bring out differences between partners, testing their communication skills and ability to resolve conflicts. The constant tension can leave couples feeling drained and questioning their decision to tie the knot.

May I suggest three principles for couples to consider building during this period?

1. Build trust with each other, not just love

For a rock-solid foundation before saying “I do,” trust is key. Love is important, sure, but trust is just as vital. Picture this: your partner showers you with love, but doubts about their character linger. Would you fully embrace their affection, or would doubt cloud your feelings?

Trust is like the safety net in a relationship, allowing love to flourish. It gives couples the confidence to share their deepest thoughts without fearing it’ll strain their bond. While it doesn’t guarantee total understanding during conflicts, it does provide stability and continuity in communication.

Trust isn’t built overnight; it grows through consistent actions over time. It’s about showing integrity and staying true to your values. Couples must understand that trust is reinforced through resolving conflicts. Without healthy conflict resolution, deep trust is hard to build. Which leads to the next point…

When relationships get to a point where there are no secrets or fear of upsetting our significant other, a deep bond of trust is built.

2. Prioritise relational repairs over avoidance of conflict

Conflicts are inevitable in relationships. It’s how you handle them that matters. Many couples think fewer fights mean a healthier bond, but it’s the honesty and willingness to work through issues that truly define a strong relationship. Listen without judgment, express your feelings openly, and validate each other’s emotions. 

When relationships get to a point where there are no secrets or fear of upsetting our significant other, a deep bond of trust is built. There is a sense of emotional connectedness and appreciation for each other that is unparalleled. It’s not easy to persevere through disagreements and to work through conflicts, but the reward of intimacy and trust on the other side is well worth the effort.

True intimacy goes beyond understanding how your partner thinks and sees the world differently, to delighting and finding the strength in these differences.

3. Reframe differences as points of celebration, not contention

No two people are the same, and that’s okay. Embracing differences is crucial. While agreeing on fundamental values is important, it’s normal to have differing views and personalities. Recognize what you can compromise on and what’s non-negotiable.

True intimacy is about cherishing these differences, not letting them drive a wedge between you. It goes beyond understanding how your partner thinks and sees the world differently, to delighting and finding the strength in these differences. It’s to reframe differences as points of celebration, not contention. This process requires open-mindedness, humility and teachability on both sides, and a strong foundation of trust established in the relationship.

By building trust, prioritizing healthy conflict resolution, and celebrating differences, engaged couples can strengthen their bond and prepare for a lifetime of love and understanding.

 

Planning to tie the knot soon? Build a strong foundation for your relationship by attending our upcoming Connect2 Marriage Workshop!

What is Good Touch and Bad Touch?

As part of our five senses, the gift of touch is a way we make sense of the world and send and receive messages. But in a world where touch can sometimes be less than innocent, how do we protect our kids especially when we can’t always be with them? 

Early years (0-3)

Teaching our kids about good and bad touch is a conversation that we can start from the early years. As you teach your kids proper names for their body parts and things like not walking around naked, you are laying a great foundation for their young minds to learn both social norms and body safety. 
 
At this age, you can also introduce the idea of good touch and bad touch as an easy-to-understand framework that you can build on as they grow. 
 
Good touch can be high-fives, handholding and even hugs from family and friends. Bad touch can be touches that leave bruises (hitting, pushing, kicking…etc) and any unwanted touch from another person, especially in the private areas.  
 
Avoid defining good touch as whatever makes you feel good since this can be used out-of-context. Abusers have also been known to exploit this ideal by first starting with innocent tickles, before moving on to sexual abuse.  
 
Instead, first define good and bad touch as areas that can be touched and areas that cannot. An easy visual reference for “no touch” areas is everywhere that’s covered when you wear a singlet and shorts. 
 
Then expand it further by helping to grow your child’s voice. Teach them that they can say no to being touched and to move away from the person or call for help if they feel uncomfortable. Nurture your child’s confidence to say no by also respecting their wishes. Never force them to hug or kiss anyone, even with relatives.  
 
Keep the language you use straightforward and simple:  
“Can anyone touch you in a no-touch area? “No!”  
“If someone hugs you and you don’t like it, what do you say? No!”   
 
You should also help them recognise the safe adults in their lives, e.g., immediate family members. If there are other adults in that circle, you may also want to define what is allowed and what is not e.g., a teacher can help bring you to the toilet but can’t touch your private areas.  
 
Make it very clear to your kids that no one should show their private parts to them and no one should see or touch their private areas

Preschool years (4-6) 

Your child may be attending daycare now and may need help with toileting so it will be good to run through some specific scenarios with them.  

Role-play is a powerful teaching tool for young kids. You may want to go through: 

  • What’s okay and not okay during shower time at school  
  • How to get help cleaning up if they passed motion 
  • What to do if someone peeks at them when they are in the toilet 

Find out from the school how they handle these scenarios too to avoid confusion. 

Empower them with handles on what to do if an adult does something they are not comfortable with, for example: 

Say “I don’t like that”, find daddy, mummy or a trusted adult and tell them what happened, and how they feel e.g., “I don’t like Uncle trying to kiss me”.   

Of course, these responses should change if it involves any touching of their private areas. You may want to tell your kids that if anyone touches your private parts, shout “Stop! Go away” and “Help” very loudly. 

Consistent repetition of these body safety rules will help them remember it.   

You may also want to teach them not to sit on other adults’ laps but to sit next to them instead. 

Primary years (7-9) 

By primary school age, you can also include the idea of peer pressure when it comes to expanding the idea of good touch and bad touch. Taper your questions according to their level of maturity too. Role-play questions now may include “If your friend says that a boyfriend/ girlfriend can touch each other in the no-touch area, what would you say?” 

They may also be exposed to words like “molest” from friends who have had such encounters. To ensure your child knows they can always come and talk to you about anything, never sound suspicious or fear-monger. Instead, communicate calmly and frequently, using movies and news to spark conversations. Listen attentively to them, without jumping to conclusions or judgment too quickly. 
 
Teach your kids that bad touch can happen unexpectedly so they should be conscious of their surroundings, especially when they are alone. Also talk about and role-play what to do if they are unexpectedly touched in a public place

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!

When The Parenting Tips Don’t Work

Screaming, yelling, shouting. Fighting, quarrelling, whining. Clinginess, grumpiness, and repeated defiance. As parents, we may wonder why our children fight us when we’re trying to meet their needs. It seems like an uphill task to keep the kids safe, healthy, and on time for school, while juggling our countless other responsibilities and demands.  

Meanwhile, you continue to be bombarded by parenting tips online that tell you to empathise and be gentle with your children. You give this a try, but are met with mischief, meltdowns, and defiance at the worst moments. Desperate, you resort to old tactics: Threats, yelling, caning, or bribing with screen time to placate them. Unsurprisingly, these old methods work, and you’re able to get on with the day.  

While it may be tempting to abandon the expert tips as you struggle with the realities of life, many of us continue to resonate with the ideas presented, as they inspire us to build a warmer and more loving home. Here are some ways I’ve learnt to adapt these tips into my own family life: 

1. Avoid unhealthy comparison

With today’s gentle parenting approach gaining popularity, it is easy to make comparisons with other parents who seem to have it all under control. However, what you see on social media does not necessarily reflect reality. You may be surprised to learn that almost every parent struggles with getting their children in line at some point, even the ones you look up to most!  

Knowing this, it is important to avoid black-and-white thinking when we encounter our failures. Instead of dwelling on thoughts like, “I lost my cool today; I must be a failure as a father,” it helps to reframe them more constructively: “I lost my cool today, but it was understandable as I was dealing with too much. I can have compassion on myself, and apply what I have learnt from this episode, tomorrow.”  

 

It takes time for new parenting strategies to prove its effectiveness, and for new habits to be cultivated in the family. 

2. Aim for improvement, not perfection 

As adults, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle keeping it all together each day. In many ways, our children struggle just like us as they navigate the challenges of growing up. Hence, we cannot expect perfect days and perfectly obedient children. It is not possible to correct every single mistake, as this can lead to resentment in both parent and child. We should, instead, identify red lines for discipline and keep to those.   

For example, my wife and I are stricter with maintaining discipline when our children are about to endanger themselves or others. We are less uptight if no harm is caused – such as if they scream, shout, or accidentally spill something – or if we know that the children are feeling overwhelmed.  

It is also important to note that improvement takes time, before any positive change can be observed. We may fail spectacularly when we first try something new – this includes new approaches to parenting. However, as we persist, our children will notice the new habits and language that are being cultivated, and eventually internalise them.  

One of my proudest moments as a father was seeing my 5-year-old son calm his younger sister down with one of the tactics I have previously used with him, instead of yelling back at her!  

“Be particularly mindful when our children are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT).” 

3. Learn how to prevent and defuse emotional triggers  

Is your heart beating faster and harder? Do you feel tension in your forehead or chest? Do you feel blood rushing to your eyes? These are some physiological signs that an emotional outburst is about to occur – a trigger. Leaving our triggers unchecked can cause us to act impulsively. Sometimes, this leads to doing or saying things to our children that we regret for years to come. It is thus important to learn to detect and prevent our triggers, which would help us be more intentional in our parenting.  

The same goes for our children. Just as adults are likely to lose control when they have unmet needs, younger children are as, if not more, likely to act up if they are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). By mentally reviewing our children’s HALT levels throughout the day, we are better able to keep behavioural challenges at bay.  

However, no one can completely avoid emotional outbursts throughout life. As such, I’ve found it helpful to learn the best strategies for defusing one another’s triggers. For example, I usually count to 3 before I act on my anger, and I try to envision the consequences of losing my temper before I act or speak. For my children, slow counting or play have been the best means for regulating their strong emotions. (Here are more tips on dealing with big emotions.) 

At the end of the day, parental discipline may involve being firm with our children. To keep myself in check, my guiding principle for managing meltdowns or misbehaviour is to always exhaust all “softer” approaches before moving on to “harder” ones.

 Live to love another day 

One morning, I yelled harshly at my son while getting him ready for school, leaving the family shaken and myself feeling guilty for the rest of the day. That same night, however, we went about our bedtime routine as normal. I read both children a bedtime story and the kids scrambled to sit on my lap. The night ended with giggles and smiles as I tucked them into bed.  

Family life is not meant to be perfect. It is unrealistic to expect ourselves or our children to handle all of life’s challenges, while maintaining perfect composure 24/7. What I’ve found to be most important is not building the perfect family, but a loving one: An environment where we are always loved, accepted, and learning to love one another better. It is on this foundation that each family member can work on themselves and make each difficult moment a little better, one day at a time.   

When Your Marriage is Overcast

Faced with gloomy skies, a person’s energy level drops and there can be worry about what those dark clouds can bring. Things can feel bleak when your marriage is in this weather. 

On the surface, everything is “business as usual”; some may even say how good your marriage seems! But you know that something’s not right in your relationship.  

Cracks in the marriage have widened into chasms. It could be that disagreements have peaked and can now threaten to break your marriage. Healthy communication may have come to a standstill, and you are in the quicksand of resentment or disappointment.  

Neglect is the key contributor for marriages moving into Overcast weather. Perhaps you both went on autopilot – life was busy and you were occupied with different things. There have been little quality and quantity time with each other, much less time to work through disagreements or unhappiness. 

Couples in this weather face one major decision: do we avoid the issues and let our marriage wither away? Or do we choose to have crucial difficult conversations, dig deeper to remember our “first love”, and commit to move out of this stalemate together? 

Think of it as the ultimatum. There’s just no waiting around, hoping the weather will turn for the better by itself. 

The hope in an Overcast marriage 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

A wife who feels unloved and unappreciated will feel rejected. A husband who doesn’t have his wife’s trust and respect will withdraw and disengage. 

What are some things that have undermined mutual love and respect in your marriage? 

If negligence drove your marriage to the edge, then making intentional decisions to nurture your marriage is necessary to turn it around. 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

If you feel that your relationship lacks fun and excitement, find common activities that both of you can enjoy. Or you can take turns to do what each other likes. This shows your spouse that you want to enter into their world and it can also help you better understand and appreciate what they are like. 

Pick up a marriage resource or attend a marriage enrichment programme to communicate better. 

Start small, but start somewhere. 

This is also where plugging into a healthy and strong community that supports your marriage is important and necessary. Is there a trusted couple you both are comfortable sharing your marital struggles with? Arrange to meet up, and invite them to journey with you and your spouse out of this weather. 

Overcast skies are here. But keep calm and start doing things differently, because all is not lost; there is hope for a turnaround. 

Making the best of an overcast marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • Conserve your energy (and word bank) for your wife, especially if you are a man of few words. Make effort to have conversation with her every day. 
  • Look out for the little things and let her know that you noticed them. Maybe she had a haircut or added a new ornament to the house; acknowledge them and compliment her. 
  • Learn new communication strategies to connect with her healthily. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Guard your heart. When you feel distant from your wife, it is easy to be drawn to other friendships where you feel understood and accepted or activities that take your mind off things or energise you. 
  • Do not look for quick fixes to your problems. In the same way that your marriage did not hit this rut overnight, it will take time and intentional effort for you both to walk out of it. 
  • “Cave time” may be necessary for you to recharge, but don’t retreat to it whenever things get tense. That can come off as stonewalling to your wife. Your presence speaks volumes of your commitment to her in the marriage—through thick and thin. 

Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem.

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Be quick to apologise if you are at fault, and be ready to forgive (and forget) when he apologises for his faults. 
  • Notice the small acts of service he does for you, your family, or in the home. Express gratitude, and tell him that it matters to you. 
  • Initiate intimacy with your husband and let him know that he is still attractive and desirable. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem”. Your husband will naturally become defensive and may choose to disengage. 
  • Do not compare your marriage with “better” marriages you see around you or on social media, or let your mind wander with the “what ifs”. 
  • Eliminate negative talk – which could come across as criticism, sarcasm, or ridicule. Speak kindly, even when you are upset, so that he will be encouraged to communicate with you. 

Couple conversations for this weather

  • When were the best years of our marriage, and why? 
  • What bothers you most about the current state of our marriage? 
  • What is one thing that you would like me to do to make you feel appreciated and loved? 

A thriving marriage in every weather

This is a difficult weather for you and your spouse to be in. Hold on to each other because there can be a turnaround in your marriage. 

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part. 

When the marriage hits a rough patch, or when you and your spouse no longer enjoy each other, consider how you can live out your vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love. 

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder 

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be. 

How do I Teach my Child about Safety around Strangers?

Preschool years (4-6 years)

Young children are mostly accompanied by a trusted adult such as their parent, caregiver, or teachers in school. The only scenarios where children may potentially encounter a stranger with ill intentions without the knowledge of a trusted adult, is if they get lost, or unintentionally separated from their trusted adult (e.g. while in a crowded shopping mall, or when a stranger approaches the child while the parent is on a phone call).

Sometimes, the person with ill intentions is someone they are familiar with, such as an older friend, family member, or relative. Beyond teaching your child to identify strangers, it’s important to help them identify and respond to threatening situations and behaviours from people they know.

 

The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in. 

Preschool-aged children do not yet have the cognitive or emotional skills to accurately identify the intentions of others, and they can be a lot more trusting of people, even strangers. At this age, children acquire knowledge and make sense of the world through pretend play. The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in.  

You can teach your child about safe/unsafe behaviours of older children and adults, through games and play, such as: 

  • Identifying good and bad touch
  • Being told to keep a secret
  • Being offered candy/money/an animal/soft toy/car ride
  • Being asked to follow someone away from their trusted adult  

It’s also important to teach your child simple rules about personal safety, such as their full name and address, and how to convey this information to a safe adult should they get lost. This can be done by pointing out places where they can receive help from a safe adult, such as a teacher in school, a policeman at a neighbourhood police station, or an information counter at a shopping mall.

 

Repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary.

The cognitive thinking skills of young children vary, and hence repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary before children can remember what you’re teaching them. Since younger children may not have the ability to distinguish the intentions of others, teach them to say “no” or to shout for help when they are alone in an unfamiliar situation, and are unsure how to respond. 

It’s good to have regular conversations with your child in a calm and honest manner, without frightening your child unnecessarily. We want to strike a balance between precaution and over-protectiveness. 

While there is no guaranteed method in helping young children ascertain all threatening behaviours and situations, an effective strategy is to teach them  to trust their instincts, and to immediately inform you if someone is making them feel uncomfortable. The best precaution to take is to be alert and attentive of your child’s whereabouts at all times, and to have a secure, trusting relationship with your child where they are comfortable to share everything with you.

Primary years (7-9 years)

Children in their primary years may have honed their ability to identify threatening behaviours and situations, and to discern the intentions of others. They are likely to be in more situations without adult supervision too, such as when they’re at the playground, or having a sleepover at a friend’s house. They are also better able to remember and practise the rules for personal safety, and are much better equipped to recount an unsafe situation they have found themselves in to a trusted adult, or to get the attention of others by shouting for help. They may also begin to have much more exposure to online content and will need to know the potential risks and dangers associated with it. 

When put in a tricky situation where they experience a tension of different needs and emotions, your child may be unsure of how to respond in an appropriate manner.

For example, when your child is playing unsupervised at a public playground where older children are present, one of these older children may approach your child to show him an image or video on their mobile device. The content makes your child feel uncomfortable, and it goes against his family values, but due to the strong need to fit in, your child may not walk away or inform you about the inappropriate content he was exposed to.

Another common scenario is where your child gets touched inappropriately by a trusted friend or relative, and they may feel shame, but also pleasure. The conflicting emotions they experience may leave them feeling confused and uncertain, and if they desire strongly to please or protect the adult who molested them, they may choose to remain silent.  

As parents, you should address and validate your child’s developmental needs for peer acceptance, friendship, and altruism, while creating a safe, non-judgmental space for them to share their views or experiences at home. The key is to cultivate an environment in your home where children feel safe to freely share their thoughts with you, without a fear of punishment or a sense that certain topics are off-limits.  

The best precaution for children at this age from the harmful intentions of both strangers and known relatives or friends, is the active involvement of their parents in their child’s social circles and online activity. Children can be taught to be assertive about their boundaries to both their peers and to strangers, and to walk away when these boundaries are crossed. Teach your child to recognise possible scenarios where another’s actions go against your family’s values, and how to respond appropriately in those instances.  

For children’s online safety, guide your children on how to change their privacy settings to disallow strangers from communicating with them. Be sure to install apps to monitor their online activity, and block potentially harmful content and people. Do remember that these measures are temporary measures and safeguards. As your child’s cognitive abilities develop, you can wean them off these apps and teach them to practise discernment when befriending strangers online.

Tween years (10-12 years)

Tweens are much more capable than younger children in their cognitive abilities to judge and evaluate a potentially dangerous situation. They are also gaining more independence and are spending more time unsupervised by their parents, especially online. The need for peer acceptance is much greater, and tweens may find themselves saying “yes” to tricky situations out of their need for acceptance. 

At this age, if you allow your child to play multiplayer games online such as Roblox or Minecraft, or use social messaging apps like WhatsApp, it’s inevitable for them to encounter strangers. These apps usually allow for direct messaging, even between strangers. It’s vital to teach your child to filter the personal information they share with strangers online, such as their address and handphone number, or even their full name. 

Besides the disclosure of personal information, cyberbullying is also common. Teach your child to spot signs of cyberbullying, and the features that an app or game provides to protect us from such people, for example, the option to report and to block someone. 

If your tween has his own mobile device, you can install the free app ScamShield, designed by Open Government Products in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), to protect against scam calls and SMSes from strangers. These filters may not work 100% of the time, but they do help in blocking most strangers from contacting your child. Regularly check in with your tween, to ensure they are interacting responsibly with technology. You may wish to check their social media account privacy settings, and ensure that they have accurately declared their age on these platforms, as safeguards have been put in place to protect minors.

Lastly, parents of tweens can set and enforce rules in the home and when interacting with others online or over a call. For example, if parents are leaving their tweens alone at home with no adult supervision, teach them to lock the doors and not to open it for anybody, no matter who they claim to be. If anyone were to message them through an online platform, teach them not to reveal any personal details such as who their parents are, where they live, or if there is anyone else at home.  

Your child will benefit from ongoing discussions of risks, different scenarios they may find themselves in, and the healthy modelling of online and personal safety. As much as we try our best as parents to protect our children from the dangers both online and in the real world, there are many new forms of harm and danger that we can’t possibly prepare for. The best form of protection for our children is to develop a healthy, trusting relationship with us, so that they feel comfortable coming to us at any point in their lives when they feel uncertain about anything. 

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!

Post-Natal Care: What Should I Be Ready For?

Being a mum for the first time can be exciting yet nerve-wrecking. As much as we look forward to finally holding the baby we’ve been carrying and growing together with for 9 months, we often grapple with doubts and fears on whether we will be good mothers. Here are some tips to help us ease into this new season of the 4th trimester. 

It’s the hormones!

After delivery, our body goes through a huge and sometimes traumatic change; after all a human did come out from us! Our hormones become highly dysregulated and that can cause us to feel varying emotions all at once. 

I remember crying for no reason on the second day of confinement and feeling happy the next minute, as if nothing had happened. I was shocked by my own emotions and thought that something was wrong with me.

I was also particularly upset with everyone in the household even though no one had done anything to provoke me. Everything somehow seemed to annoy me. After speaking with some mums, I came to understand that our hormones go haywire after delivery, and it will take some time for them to regulate. 

It helps when we expect these changes and recognise that it is often a phase that will pass in a couple of weeks. However, if negative emotions persist, do seek support from a trusted family member, friend or counsellor 

It is okay to say, “I don’t know either.”

Something that caused me a lot of stress was the expectation from everyone that I have all the answers. I did not know how anxiety-provoking it was until everyone around me asked all sorts of questions: When can I bathe the baby? What time is the next feed? How much should I feed? Why is the baby crying? Is he hungry? Is he feeling cold? Why didn’t he finish his milk?  

While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.

It felt like I became a “baby-encyclopedia” the moment my son was born, and all the answers had to come from me. However, we need to remember that we are as new to the baby as they are. While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.  

Coming up with a system that everyone could follow was helpful. We wrote feed timings and amounts on the glass door and everyone followed as closely as possible. We also included nap times and their duration as we observed them, and soon we got the hang of taking care of a newborn.

Real life vs. reel life

It is becoming a norm for people to exaggerate or overly beautify a part of their lives, especially on social media. As mums, it is inevitable that we compare ourselves with other mums, more so when we start scrolling on social media platforms and see other mums seemingly “having it all together”.  

This can cause us to feel insecure about ourselves and brings unnecessary stress. As we unwind on social media, we also need to be vigilant about what we are seeing and believing. 

I’ve always gone by the principle that what I see online is what others choose to show me. It may not be a full representation of their situation. This awareness is important so that we do not strive to “look-good-feel-good” online and ignore the struggles that we are facing. We need to acknowledge the place where we are at and be real with ourselves.  

When I was in the initial phase of breastfeeding my boy, I often came across social media posts of mums easily expressing breastmilk and how their babies were latching well. On the other hand, I was suffering from engorgement, my baby wasn’t latching well, and I struggled to even produce enough milk for a feed.  

I felt so terrible about myself, and thought that I must be the worst mum ever to not be able to breastfeed my baby. It was consuming me from within, and I decided to stop viewing such posts. Instead, I looked for community among mum friends who went through similar situations. It helped me feel much better since there were people to cry out to in the middle of the night as we journeyed together. 

You can ask for help

As mums, it can be difficult to ask for help. It could be because there is a lack of resources available, or you feel uneasy about the way others might handle your baby. We might also believe that we have everything under control. 

While it does seem easier to be the one taking care of your baby since you are the main caregiver, we also need to keep a lookout for our mental health. Transiting from a world where you get to decide almost everything for yourself, to one where it revolves around your newborn, is a difficult process. 

It is impossible for any mum to be able to meet both their baby’s needs and their own needs at the same time. More often than not, we forgo our needs because we are so caught up with taking care of our baby. However, a prolonged negligence of our own self-care can leave us feeling empty and resentful.  

We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby.

We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby. This could be in the form of approaching your parents, in-laws or close friends to come over and watch your baby while you take a short nap or even a stroll nearby.

There is no shame in seeking for support because we are all humans with physical limitations. Mums are not superheroes, we are also people who need to eat, sleep and bathe! 

My hope is that the above has helped shed some light on what to expect as a first-time mum, and even more so how to care for yourself. You can only give what you have, and not what you don’t!