Archive for January, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles to Parent Involvement

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Obstacles to Parent Involvement: Roadblocks and Detours
To make parents feel more comfortable visiting the school, post Welcome signs in all languages spoken at the school at each entrance and on each classroom door. Create a special place in the school that is set aside especially for parents, such as a parent center.

Not Knowing How to Contribute

Roadblock: Some parents believe they have talents but don’t know whether they are needed or how to contribute them to the school or PTA.


  • Don’t wait for parents to offer to help; seek them out.  Suggest a few different but specific options of ways they could volunteer.
  • Have teachers and administrators create a list of specific volunteer actions that are needed from parents.  Refer to this list and share it with your PTA.
  • Ask non-PTA parents as well as members what they’d like to do in the school.
  • Faculty and parents could share their list with each other and begin to discuss and form realistic expectations to more effectively use parents’ many talents.

Not Understanding the School System

Roadblock: Many parents are unfamiliar with the system and therefore do not know what their rights are or how they can become involved.


  • Create a simple, short parent handbook covering school rules, procedures, policies, and where to find answers to questions.  Use pictures or visuals as much as possible.
  • Include names and numbers of contact people who can answer questions in specific areas. Include pictures and names of school administrators, staff, teachers, PTA officers, and other contact people.

Parents in Need

Roadblock: Parents without adequate resources often feel overwhelmed.
Families suffering from economic stress must address their own needs for food, clothing, and shelter before they can see clear to become more involved in their children’s education.


  • Ask the parent or guardian about their situation and listen to them.
  • Assign a “buddy” who understands the situation or language to help connect the family to the school.
  • Provide information to help parents access and secure the health and social services they need for themselves and their families.
  • Schools can work out agreements with social service and health agencies to provide services at the school through school-based clinics or near the school in community-based clinics.
  • Schools can develop and distribute to parents a directory containing information on available services and resources in the community and how to access them.
  • After families’ personal needs are met, schools can then help parents become involved in the education of their children.

Child Care

Roadblock: Child care may not be offered at meetings or school functions.
At the same time, parents may be discouraged from bringing their children to events.


  • Find an available room and available caregivers for child care at the meeting site.
  • Ask PTA members, community members, school service clubs, or other parents to volunteer to provide child care on a rotating basis.
  • Hire high school or college students in child development classes or child-care professionals in the community to provide child care and, if appropriate, charge parents a nominal fee.
  • Adhere to state-mandated child/adult ratios to provide safe, quality care.

Language Barriers

Roadblock: Parents who don’t speak English may not understand newsletters, fliers, or speakers at meetings


  • Provide printed materials that are sent home and passed out at meetings in all languages spoken by the families in the school.
  • The school and surrounding community may need to identify and help secure interpreters and translators for workshops and meetings.
  • Another option is to have group activities and social times held in the same room and then have parents of the same language group break off into smaller groups in different rooms for more in-depth discussion. Have all parents come together at the end of the meeting and have the bilingual reporter for each group share what was discussed.

Special Needs

Roadblock: Parents with disabilities may find it difficult or feel uncomfortable attending and contributing at meetings.


  • Simply ask the person about their situation and listen to their responses.
  • Consider whether your school is accessible for everyone and hold meetings or events in a space that is accommodating to parents with disabilities.
  • Provide someone to sign for deaf or hearing impaired parents, if requested.


Roadblock: Lack of transportation or access to parking at the school keeps parents from visiting or attending school activities.


  • Work with the school to make a block of spaces in the parking lot “for visitors only.”
  • Bus parents to special evening events following regular bus routes or have group stops for pickups and drop-offs.
  • Form carpools to provide transportation to parents without cars. Hold events in community locations that are easy to get to and are near public transportation.
  • If parents can not attend, provide a home visit or a phone call to inform parents and keep them involved.

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Dangers of Ecstasy Abuse

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Ecstasy, officially known by its chemical abbreviation MDMA, is a synthetic drug that produces both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Also known as “E,” “X,” “XTC,” “go,” and the “hug drug,” ecstasy usually comes in the form of a small tablet that can be taken orally. Ecstasy can bring its users feelings of extreme euphoria and physical pleasure.

The drug can temporarily relieve users’ inhibitions and anxieties, giving them an enhanced sense of empathy and emotional closeness with others. Ecstasy can also cause increased sexual feelings, which, combined with users’ lowered inhibitions, may cause teens to make sexual decisions they might not ordinarily make. Ecstasy’s high can last as long as four to six hours, during which time the need to eat, drink, and sleep is suppressed. It is these effects that have made the drug so desirable for teenagers at dance clubs and all-night parties.

Immediate Dangers:
Ecstasy’s short-term side effects are alarming. Ecstasy interferes with the brain’s essential chemical functions. It can scramble the body’s temperature signals to the brain, which can cause hypothermia, dehydration, or heat stroke—especially dangerous for users who exert themselves with dancing. Ecstasy can also produce other harmful and frightening side effects, such as

  • High blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Faintness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Confusion
  • Panic attacks

In severe cases, people have died from seizures and strokes, as well as cardiovascular and kidney failure, from ecstasy use. As a result of the drug’s increased use, the amount of ecstasy-related emergency-room cases quadrupled between 1998 and 2000 alone. The amount of deaths involving ecstasy has also increased. “One of the biggest problems we’re having with ecstasy is people thinking if you die from it, you’re not using it right,” said Brian Blake, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Long-term Consequences:
Many of ecstasy’s dangers may occur in ways that scientists are just beginning to understand, however. Even first-time users have shown after-effects such as depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, paranoia, and sleep disorders, and may become psychologically and physically addicted to the drug. Conclusive evidence shows that ecstasy damages the nerve cells that produce serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, emotions, sleep, memory, and cognitive skills. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a study on monkeys showed that exposure to MDMA (ecstasy) twice a day for four straight days caused brain damage that was evident six to seven years later. The study suggests that people who take ecstasy may also be risking permanent brain damage. Ecstasy may be particularly harmful to adolescents, though, whose brains are still developing.

A Deadly Gamble:
Many users of ecstasy tend to mix it with other drugs, most commonly alcohol, which can exacerbate the drug’s harmful effects. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, 86 percent of all ecstasy-related emergency-room cases in 2001 involved ecstasy’s being mixed with other substances. Nearly half of these cases were when it was mixed with alcohol.

Ecstasy use skyrocketed in the late 1990s, from an estimated 300,000 new users in 1995 to almost 2 million new users in 2000, according to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Among high school students surveyed in a 2001 NIDA study, 12 percent of 12th graders, 8 percent of 10th graders, and 4 percent of 8th graders stated that they had used ecstasy in the past year. Blake said the current ecstasy rate appears to have reached a plateau, but that its widespread popularity has caused teenagers to now use ecstasy right in their own homes.

Kids are being told by their peers that ecstasy will give them the greatest high of their lives, that it’s safe, that it’s cool, and that the only ones who get hurt by it are those that misuse it. But, quite simply, ecstasy, like other drugs, is not a gamble anyone, especially growing kids, should take.

by Mark Bennett.

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Win-win games

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Encourage children to work together rather than strive to win all the time.

CHILDREN around five and six years of age are still very much into getting it right for themselves. They like listening to their own voices and think that there is only one way of doing things.

At this age, children usually have behaviours that in many ways typify the toddler age. They can be demanding and fussy at one moment and helpful the next. They may be able to play with others but find it difficult to be co-operative at most times.

In games, five- and six-year-olds reluctantly accept no-win situations. They want to show off what they have and they want others to heap praises on them as winners. Losing is the last thing they have in mind.

They may even cheat just to win. If others win, they may throw a tantrum and accuse them of cheating. Or they will protest that it is unfair that they should lose and others should win. Knowing this, parents and teachers must initiate games that call for co-operation and not competition.

Choose games that require them to help others in order to win rather than than compete with others to get ahead. More often than not, children who are told that winning is everything will become very competitive. They do not understand that losing can be an option.

Significant adults in children’s lives can change their views about themselves and their world. It is how you comment on their accomplishments or failures. Choose your words wisely. Your preschooler believes every word you say.

Rather than praising them for who they are (“You are such a clever boy”), criticising them (“You are so clumsy”) or telling them they are lucky to win, we can acknowledge their effort and their creative ideas (“You found an easier way to gather the sticks”).

Children clamour to win by pushing and shoving each other in traditional games such as musical chairs and hide-and-seek. Every child in the game wants to be the last person sitting on the chair. It is in everyone’s mind that there has to be a winner and a loser.

Try changing these games to ones that everyone can enjoy. In musical chairs, the players can all try to sit in one chair by coming up with creative movements.

Pass the message

One of my favourite games, Chinese Whisper has been transformed to getting the group to pass the message to each other and telling the first person the message. There is no elimination if the message is not the original one. All players can have a good laugh.

Treasure hunt

Children like to look for things. They can play nature hunt by making a list of things they see around them without telling. They can draw or write them down. When they finish they can all put their collections in a basket. The way to play the game is to find matches that other players have included in their list.

Family Fun

Children like the idea of what belongs together. They can match cards like parts of the plant, vertebrates and invertebrates, cities in a country, animal habitat. Make three to four cards in each group. Shuffle the cards and hand them out to a group of three to five children.

Have the children ask each other for the “family” they are building. Make sure every child gets a set of “family” cards that match at the end of the game.

Make a verb and a noun

Before starting the game, have the group sit down and write down the names of 10 household items (e.g. chair, potty, book and pillow) on 10 coloured 5cm x 5cm cards (one item per card) and 10 verbs (such as run, jump, skip, sit and hop) on same sized cards of different colour.

Each child must pick two different coloured cards. Players have to think of creative ways to act out what they have picked. For example, if one who picks “sit” and “bin”, he may want to sit on the bin. Since anything is possible, this will be one of the fondly remembered games.

by Ruth Liew.

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Preventing Alcohol Abuse Among Teens

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Statistics indicate that drinking among our nation’s youth (ages 12–17) has remained relatively stagnant over the past few years. Are you relieved? Don’t answer too quickly.

Consider the following statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey in 1999:

  • More than half of U.S. people age 12 and older report they drink alcohol.
  • Roughly 20 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds drank alcohol at least once last month.
  • 7.8 percent of this age group engaged in binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row).
  • 3.6 percent reported heavy alcohol use in the month before the survey.
  • Children as young as 8 and 9 years old cite alcohol as a problem in their lives, whether caused by the drinking done by other people in their lives or themselves.

You may not be relieved anymore. Underage drinking is a problem in the United States. It’s a problem for families, schools, and communities.

Helping children and youth just say no
Parents tend to believe that their teens drink because of peer pressure. But more than 50 percent of students said “getting drunk” and simply having a good time is the major motivating factor in drinking, along with stress and boredom. Parents can help prevent underage alcohol use by sending a strong message at home. Here are some suggestions:

  • Discuss expectations with your children. Then work with them to meet those expectations.
  • Keep communication open about alcohol use. If you overreact to bad news associated with alcohol use by teens in your community, you are likely not to get a full story when you bring up the issue the next time.
  • Help your children develop a strong sense of self-esteem, along with the social skills necessary to withstand peer pressure to drink. Let them know they are loved and valued.
  • Plan and spend time with your children on a daily basis. They need to see how the rules you have set work with the experiences they have outside of the home, at school, or with friends.
  • Let them know you are aware of alcohol use in the school community, you know they may be encouraged by their peers to drink alcohol, and you know they’ll have opportunities to drink.
  • Make an alcohol-free pact with your children through high school and college. Constantly remind them about the dangers of alcohol, including the possible lethal effect of binge drinking, and suggest other ways of dealing with stress and emotional problems.
  • Set consequences for your children’s actions. Do not allow them to think they are “getting away” with behavior that’s unacceptable to the family.
  • Adults who expect their teens not to drink alcohol have to be willing to listen to them talk about the pressures to drink. The more your teen is willing to talk with you about alcohol, the better the chances that he or she will not drink.

Above all, parents should set a good example, so that means analyzing your drinking habits and adjusting those habits to be consistent with the message you’re sending your teen. Be moderate or abstain in your use of alcohol.

by Alice R. McCarthy, Ph.D.,  the author of the newly released third edition of Healthy Teens: Facing the Challenges of Young Lives. (Bridge Communications, Inc., 2000. Phone (800) 808-9314 to order a copy; the cost is $14.95.) McCarthy also writes and edits three Healthy Newsletters for parents of students in preK-8th-grades, which reach more than 1 million readers each year. She may be contacted at the toll-free number above.

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Six Simple Steps That Can Protect Your Children From Harm

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Few sights are as disturbing as that of a young child being brought into court in handcuffs. It is a tragic event that most judges, lawyers, and court personnel would agree is not something one becomes accustomed to. The unsettling nature of this event is perhaps only equaled by the look of horror and disbelief on the face of a parent who witnesses it happening to his or her own child. Once the confusion, fear, and denial wear off, parents inevitably turn to those around them and ask, “How could this happen? Why didn’t I know?”

Children today are facing worse dangers than they ever have in the past. Gangs, drugs, reckless sexual practices, and violence have taken footholds in our communities. It is no longer enough to provide children with love, food, clothing, shelter, and a good education. Ensuring their safety and success requires a proactive approach to parenting. Parents must be willing to educate themselves about the threats against their children, and learn to supervise and guide their sons and daughters.

Six simple steps can make the difference:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the threats against your children. Know your enemy. Make no mistake, this is a war against the forces that seek to harm our families and hurt our children. Do you know what it suggests if your teenager sucks on baby pacifiers or lollipops, what drug is commonly transported in a water bottle, or which sportswear and designer clothing are used by gangs to identify their members? If not, start learning.
  2. Accept that all children need supervision and guidance. Children lack the knowledge, maturity of judgment, and experience of adults. Just because a child maintains a high grade-point average in school does not mean he or she is capable of making major life decisions, or resisting the negative influence of peers. Don’t mistakenly confuse physical with emotional development either. Your 12-year-old son or daughter may look 18, but he or she is still a child inside.
  3. Monitor the activities of your children. Parents have a responsibility to know where their children are at all times, who they are with, and what activities they are participating in. Fulfilling this responsibility includes setting guidelines, limits on children’s behavior, and expectations. Know all of your child’s friends and work together with their parents. Verify what your children are up to.
  4. Investigate anything that may be suspicious. It is important that you adopt a balanced approach. Don’t accuse your children of wrongdoing or mistrust everything they tell you. The level of your intervention should correlate with the severity of the situation. Some matters require only a basic inquiry, like calling the parent of your child’s friend to substantiate his or her reason for being late. Other issues, such as suspected gang membership, substance abuse, or reckless sexual practices, represent such an imminent threat to your child’s health and well-being that you may have to engage in more invasive measures. However, don’t let children know you are investigating what they are up to or you risk destroying the emotional bond between you. Resist the temptation to confront them with what you find and instead approach them with love and support.
  5. Look, listen, and learn from your children. You know your children better than anyone else. You should be able to recognize what makes them happy or sad, when things are going well, or when something is wrong. Listen, understand, and support them. Above all, treat your children with respect. Always be available for them. They will come to you with their problems.
  6. Yearn to help your children when problems arise. Don’t be selfish. This isn’t about you; it’s about helping them. Disregard what your friends, colleagues, or neighbors might think. Feelings of embarrassment or humiliation waste precious time that you could be using to seek out appropriate treatment and services for your children. Ignoring the problem will only place your children at greater risk.

by Carl A. Bartol, MPA, JD,  an assistant county attorney in Westchester County, New York, where he prosecutes cases involving juvenile delinquents and persons in need of supervision (status offenders). He also is the president and qualifying officer of Proudest, Inc., a New York state licensed private investigative company that specializes in family matters. In his spare time, Bartol heads the Prevent Delinquency Project, a nonprofit endeavor he founded to teach parents how to supervise and guide their children. He can be reached by e-mail at

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Safeguarding Your Children from Bullying, Gangs, and Sexual Harassment

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Helping Children Deal with a School Bully Bullying is often considered a “kids will be kids” problem. According to the National School Safety Center, however, bullying has become a pervasive and serious form of harassment in many schools. Dr. Dan Olweus, a professor of psychology and leading expert on bully-victim problems, reports that one child in 10 is regularly attacked either verbally or physically by bullies. Elementary school-age children are the most frequent target of bullying by older students. The best way to safeguard your children from becoming a victim of a bully is to teach them how to be assertive. This involves encouraging your children to express their feelings clearly, to say no when they feel pressured or uncomfortable, to stand up for themselves verbally without fighting, and to walk away in more dangerous situations. Bullies are less likely to intimidate children who are confident and resourceful.

Tips for Helping Children Deal with Bullies

  • Teach your children early on to steer clear of youth with bullying behavior.
  • Teach your children to be assertive rather than aggressive or violent when confronted by a bully. Instruct them to walk away and get help from an adult in more dangerous situations. Practice various responses with your children through role-playing.
  • Teach your children to never defend themselves from bullies with a gun or other weapon.
  • Keep communication lines open with your children. Encourage your children to share information about school and school-related activities.
  • Pay attention to the following symptoms that may indicate your child is being bullied: withdrawal, abrupt lack of interest in school, a drop in grades, or signs of physical abuse.
  • If your child is a victim of bullying at school, inform school officials immediately. Keep your own written records of the names, dates, times, and circumstances of bullying incidents. Submit a copy of this report to the school principal.
  • Respond to your children’s concerns and fears with patience, love, and support.

Teaching Children How to Avoid Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of violence that encompasses a wide range of offensive behaviors. These include touching, pinching, grabbing, and patting; comments about one’s body; degrading graffiti on walls and bathrooms; sexual remarks, gestures, and jokes that demean others; passing obscene notes; and spreading rumors. Peer-to-peer sexual harassment is one of the most widespread forms of violence in schools today. A recent study conducted by the American Association of University Women reported that 81 percent of girls and boys have experienced unwanted sexual advances. Because many of these behaviors are dismissed as flirting, few students report incidents of sexual harassment to teachers or parents. Young harassers learn their behaviors from adults, peers, and the media. Parents can model and teach their children to respect the rights, bodies, and property of others, and to reject gender stereotypes that say boys are expected to be dominant and aggressive while girls are expected to be passive and submissive.

Tips for Avoiding Sexual Harassment

  • Talk with your children about the difference between flirting and sexual harassment and give examples of each. Make sure your children understand that sexual harassment is a form of violence and that it is illegal.
  • Be alert to any of the following symptoms in your child: chronic anxiety, concentration problems, withdrawn or depressed behavior, insomnia, body image problems, fear of going to school, or wanting to drop courses. Discuss concerns with your pediatrician, family practitioner, religious leader, or mental health worker.
  • Encourage your children to tell you about any incidents that make them feel bad, embarrassed, scared, or uncomfortable. Keep a written record of the circumstances and submit a copy to the principal.
  • Request to see a written policy on sexual harassment at your children’s schools. If a school doesn’t have a policy in place, work with other concerned parents and staff to establish one.
  • Meet with the school principal to gain support for a sexual harassment prevention program in your child’s school.
  • If you report an in-school sexual harassment incident to school officials without getting results, contact your state department of education to file a formal complaint.

Protecting Children from Gang Influence

Gang activity and gang violence have become serious problems in urban areas and are rapidly spreading into suburban and rural communities as well. Gang members often engage in vandalism, theft, assault, and the sale of drugs in schools as well as in the community. As a result, many schools have become centers of violence and fear rather than safe centers for learning. Children and youth join gangs for a variety of reasons: the need to belong, low self-esteem, peer pressure, boredom, academic failure, and lack of employment. The American Psychological Association reports that gang members are as young as 9 and as old as 30, and males outnumber females by 20-to-1. However ominous the threat of gangs may seem, parents can prevent their children from joining. The support and nurturance children receive at home enable them to make good decisions and to find alternatives to gang involvement.

Tips for Protecting Children from Gangs

  • Spend time with each of your children every day. Show affection and make them feel special and important.
  • Contact your local police department to find out if any gangs are active in your community.
  • Children are attracted to gangs by their offer of friendship and support. Start teaching your children early—from age 4 or 5—that gangs are dangerous and do not provide positive support or positive role models.
  • Teach your children what to do if gang members approach them. The best response is to walk away and tell an adult.
  • Know your children’s friends and families and your children’s whereabouts at all times. Set definite curfews for your children.
  • Children with a history of academic failure are at high risk for gang membership. If your child has learning difficulties, work together with his or her teachers. Seek help from tutors and guidance counselors. Help your child with his or her homework.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of possible gang involvement: change in a child’s friends, change in dress habits (such as wearing the same color combination all the time), secrecy about activities, flashing hand signs, having income from unknown resources, having symptoms of alcohol and other drug use, and having a diminished interest in the family and school. If you notice these signs, contact your school principal or guidance counselor, juvenile justice workers, or law enforcement personnel.
  • Keep your children active in sports, clubs, volunteer work, and family and community activities.

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5 tips to keep your kids safe

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Not a day goes by that we don’t read about some horrific crime involving a child in the newspapers or online. Rather than locking up our children, it might be better if we equipped them with the knowledge they need to stay safe.

Safety activist and chairman of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association Capt K. Bala explains that while we cannot stop our children from going out, we can monitor them.

“Let them go out but have a family member go along to monitor them. Maybe they can go out with their mum or older sister.

“Monitor them, support them and tell them which areas are dangerous and what possibly could happen to them,” he says.

Although the buddy system is used a lot in everything we do, Bala warns of choosing the wrong buddy.

“How reliable is this buddy?” he asks.

“You might think that your buddy is a good listener (and this leads you to reveal information about your family) but you don’t know that your buddy is passing on the information to a third party. So, the buddy system can be good or bad depending on how reliable and trustworthy the friend is.”

He advises parents to ensure their children share their problems with the family. Often parents don’t know what happens when their child is at school.

“Most of the time the family doesn’t know what the children are up to. All they know is the child is in their room, on Facebook, on the computer …. Children have their stresses and own sets of problems which to adults is rubbish. When you are sitting on the problem you can’t see it. When you step out of it, then you can see it’s a small problem,” he says.

Citing an example, Bala says that a little girl who was molested in the kindergarten recently didn’t dare tell her family because she was threatened. She was warned she would lose her pencil box if she told anyone.

To that girl, losing her pencil box was a big issue.

Bala emphasises the need for parents to groom their children to be more alert and street smart.

A child who grows up near Jalan San Peng, Kuala Lumpur, and has to interact with tougher kids and adults is bound to be more street smart than one who grew up in a protected environment where he is chauffeured around.

“We need to give children ideas and groom them on what they can do and how they can survive in situations. Talk to your kids about crimes that you read in the newspaper and discuss with them what went wrong, how that victim could have protected themselves and options for safety.”

He says, children need to want to survive and do what it takes to survive. This means shouting, screaming or even biting and kicking if that is what it takes to break free from an abductor.

Here are some safety tips compiled by ParenThots:

Safety tips at home

1) Don’t leave your child alone at home.
If both you and your spouse are working full-time or have to be away, arrange for someone else to be at home to receive the children when they return from school. Alternatively, have them sent to a relative’s house or even the neighbour. Preferably, let your child be in a place / home where there is a responsible and trustworthy adult to supervise. Anything can happen if your child is alone at home – think: Fire, burglary, kidnap, rape.

2) Entrusting your child with the house keys.
It’s great to hand the house keys to your child but that is a big responsibility and children easily misplace items and might not even realise it for a long time. A child who has lost the house keys might not want to inform you, knowing how upset you will be. How do you know whose hands those keys will fall into?

3) Get a good and responsible bus driver or transport person for your child.
If you’re getting a school bus or someone to pick up your child and send him home, be wary about who you choose and how safe they are. A bus that doesn’t wait for your child to step into the home or one that drops off your child a bit farther from the home for their convenience is not ideal. In that one minute of walking from the bus to the safety of home, anyone can nab your child.

4) Lock up, secure your home.
Always ensure the front and inside gates are locked once you’re home. Ensure your whole family does this. Do not assume that your family is safe because the external gate is locked. It may be low enough for an intruder to jump over. A busy household might seem safe and you might be tempted to leave the gates unlocked, but it is also in busy places that you don’t notice when a small child goes missing. Better to be safe than sorry.

5) Don’t talk to strangers.
If people turn up at your door or gate, don’t be so quick to unlock the gate and door. They can hear you just as well from inside with both gates locked. And if they don’t have a permit for selling, soliciting or getting information, they have no business with you and your family.

Safety tips on the street and in the park

1) Don’t plug in or wear a hoodie.
Our ears and our eyes are our best sensors to keep us alert of who and what is around us. Train your children not to plug in or wear anything that covers their ears when they’re out and about. Also, teach them to stay alert for footsteps and movement around them. If they think someone is following them, they should run to safety. If someone tries to nab them, they need to scream, shout, scratch, bite, kick and do anything and everything to break free, then run to a safe place.

2) Know your route.
Remind your children to never go to unsafe places – dark and lonely roads. Stick to places and roads with more people and always know “safe places” they can run into along the way – police stations, hospitals, crowded shops, friendly and “safe” households.

3) Walk on the inside.
Remind your child not to walk near the road when walking on the pavement. They should walk as far inside as they can so it’s harder for potential abductors to attack or kidnap them. They should also walk against the flow of the traffic so they can see oncoming cars, vans and bikes.

4) Go with friends.
Advise your children to always walk with friends in a group. They are less likely to be attacked if they are in a group. They should also watch out for one another and wait for the slow ones when walking in a group.

5) Run and don’t loiter.
If your child has no choice but to proceed through a road which is extra quiet, then they should run to their destination. It’s harder for people to nab them if they are running. They should also not loiter between destinations. Whenever walking, walk with purpose and look like they mean business.

Safety tips in a shopping complex:

1) Keep an eye on your child.
If you have to turn away for a moment and your child is easily distracted, keep talking to her. This way she’ll always hear your voice and you’ll know where she is. The moment she doesn’t respond or is slow to respond, your warning bells should go off.

2) Remind your child not to wander.
Always remind your child you will NEVER leave the shop without her so if she thinks she’s lost you, she should go to the cashier and say “I’ve lost my mummy”. She must know to never step outside the shop to look for you because you will never leave without her.

3) Teach your child which type of people she can approach for help.
The cashier in the shop is a good bet. Another is the information counter if she can find her way there. A third would be families with children in tow.

4) Teach your child to shout for you.
Some children are very shy and dare not shout for you. Practise, practise and make them do it. A child who is lost should just stand still and shout MUMMY!!!!!! She will get your attention and everyone else’s too and somebody is bound to help her (if you’re not in the vicinity). Humiliation and embarrassment should be the last thing on your mind and your child’s mind if she is lost or thinks she has lost you.

5) Hold hands.
Yes, this is a tough one when your child is growing up and doesn’t want to hold hands in public. If that is the case, and if she is a bit taller, then consider resting your arm over her shoulder. Remember, this is just to know where she is and so she knows you’re next to her. You’d be surprised how many children get lost in crowds. Many times at a crowded shopping mall you will hear the announcements on missing children or found children and it happens every weekend!

Safety tips at school:

1) Stay within the school compound.
Remind your child not to wait for you and/or the school bus outside the school compound. They should only come out when you or the bus driver is there.

2) Be careful of who they befriend.
Teach your child to avoid bullies and children who could potentially be a bad influence. Initially, you could encourage them to stick with their siblings and cousins studying at the same school or the neighbourhood children you know well.

3) Check out your child’s school.
If you think it’s easy for anyone to walk in and out of the compound or there is a hole in the fencing, then voice it out to the principal or at one of the parent-teacher association (PTA) meetings. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up. What if nobody else does? While you’re there, check out the school toilet. How safe is it? Are the windows too low? Are there places for peeping toms to peer in?

4) Don’t talk to strangers.
Warn your child that the Abang waiting for his kid may just be a predator waiting to kidnap children. They should tell you or their teacher about any suspicious people in or around the school compound.

5) Tell you about it.
If they are being blackmailed or threatened in any way, you need to know about it. It may be a small matter, but you still need to know about it. As a parent, refrain from dismissing it as a small issue. If you dismiss that small matter today, your child won’t come to you when he or she has a bigger problem. No matter how small the problem is, talk it out with your child. Explore with them what can be done, get them to suggest ways to address the problem. Let them come up with solutions and think of what could potentially happen if they did A, B or C.

Safety tips on the bus:

1) Sit down.
Very often when you drive past school buses you will see the children standing up and playing around. If the bus driver needs to step on the brakes suddenly, the children may lose their balance and injure themselves. Children must be warned and understand the severity of sticking their head, arm or leg out the window. Accidents can happen so easily.

2) Listen to the bus driver.
When your child is on the bus, the bus driver is the man or woman in charge. Remind your child that the rules that the bus driver imposes are there for a reason. If he says, “Sit down”, then they should comply. If the bus driver is unreasonable, they should tell you about it so you can bring it up with the bus driver. They shouldn’t try to confront the bus driver.

3) If the bus breaks down or there’s an emergency, call you.
Remind your child that they should never endeavour to get home by themselves or deal with an emergency on their own. They should call you. If they don’t have a handphone, chances are one of the other children on the bus will, or use the bus driver’s phone.

4) Get on the right bus.
Make sure you child is familiar with the bus driver and the bus so that he or she doesn’t get on the wrong bus.

5) Public transport.
Your child should be able to take care of himself or herself before they are allowed to take public transport. Initially, when they start taking public transport, get an older sibling or cousin to go along to guide and monitor them until they are ready to go solo. When taking public transport, they should find responsible and reliable friends who take the same bus home and sit together. If they have to sit alone, then make sure they know to shout, scream and kick if anyone tries to touch them. They must learn to sit next to safe-looking people – the elderly distinguished looking auntie, the mother with child or another student. When standing up, your child should be wary of perverts standing too close and rubbing or pressing themselves against them. In such cases, shout at the pervert and move to stand farther away. If they can’t move away, use their school bag as a wedge between them and the pervert.

Safety tips at a party:

1) Drop your child and pick him/her up.
If your child is still a toddler, usually parents are expected to attend the party. However, if your child is of school-going age, you can just drop him off and pick him up later. Be sure you know who the host/hostess is and have their telephone number and that they have your telephone number. This way, if there’s an emergency they can immediately call you. Find out what time the party is due to end and ensure you are there punctually to pick up your child.

2) What type of party? Where is the party?
A daytime birthday party with games and activities should be good fun. If the party is going to be near the pool or at some outside venue, be wary of the danger points and risks and find out what precautions the host has taken to ensure all the children are safe.

3) Special needs.
If your child has special dietary needs or is allergic to any food, remember to tell the host. Don’t expect your child to speak up or find out the ingredients in all the foods served. If there are certain things your child can’t do, you should also tell the host or remind your child to speak up. And, importantly, if your child is prone to fits or is asthmatic, do inform the host. They will appreciate you informing them rather than finding out on their own and not knowing how to respond to it.

4) If you are organising the party.
Be careful when choosing party favours to put in the party packs. You don’t want the children swallowing small parts. Watch out for choking hazards and objects with sharp edges.

5) Teenage party.
Remind your child of the ground rules (if you have any) such as behaviour, activities and when you want them home, if they are getting a lift back. Make sure there is adult supervision or a chaperone at the party. If your child is uncomfortable at the party and wants to come home early, they should call you. No matter what trouble your child gets into, he or she should know that you will be there to help them out.

by Brigitte Rozario.

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How to be more honest in your communications and life in general

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

One of the hardest things to do at times is to communicate our feelings and opinions honestly. This is especially true for people who try very hard to always please those around them. If you are going to live an open and honest existence, you will have to rise above the fear of rejection by some people who either disagree with your opinions or who are simply put off by the truth (or, at the very least, your truthfulness).

It is clearly wrong to say something deliberately which will either offend or wound.

Still, it is hardly helpful to another to lie to them and hope they will feel secure in that lie. For example, is it ever alright to keep knowledge to yourself when you know that someone will most surely be harmed eventually by your silence? Honesty may not always be easy; in fact, it often takes more courage to be candid than to be careful.

There are times when you think that you would like to share a fact about yourself with someone so that you may grow closer in your relationship one to another. Perhaps, it is a good friend of the same sex whom you would wish to know you better. Or, it may be a romantic interest that you have come to trust with many things up to this point. You want to open up to them but, fear they will judge you or, worse – pass the information along to others you would not wish to know it.

How so often this fear paralyzes us and keeps us from being, – quite frankly, who we are!

Be willing to break away from the “fear of man” and make an attempt be come more forthright in your communications with others. After all, you don’t want a friend merely to shadow but to compliment. In is in this way, your relational bonds are strong and real, not phony.

Certainly, it is wise to remain cautious in your dealings with those you first meet. Not everyone is mature enough to be trusted with your deepest secrets and most intimate feelings. But, know that your opinions do count as much as anyone else’s do and be assured that sharing them is not a betrayal of those who hold different viewpoints.

This quest for honest communication works to the advantage of all parties concerned. As you are are willing to open up, those around you will be encouraged to do the same. When others see that you trust them, they will be more likely to trust you, as well.

Vulnerability is the first step to real intimacy.

by Lillyswawa.

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Tips on how to effectively communicate in all avenues of life

Monday, January 24th, 2011

We live in the age of information. If you want to be successful you need to be a good communicator. Here are a few tips to keep in mind regardless of the audience you want to reach or the medium you use.

Know your subject

There is an old joke that asks, “What’s the difference between a generalist and a specialist?” The answer is: A generalist knows less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything. A specialist knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.  The point of course is that we need to aim for somewhere in between these two extremes. If you try to know something about everything you can be viewed as a “know it all” who really doesn’t. If you try to overly specialize you might be seen as an esoteric who knows things no one really cares to know.

Remain humble and keep a sense of humor

Once you know your stuff, keep the wisdom from above in mind. Be authoritative, not officious. Share your sources when appropriate speak from your own knowledge when possible. Don’t take yourself too seriously and know that humor can help others think new thoughts.

Understand that the medium is also the message

In other words how you choose to communicate is a message in itself. A hand written note on high quality paper conveys caring much more than a message from Twitter. A message from Twitter conveys present engagement more than snail mail ever could.

Know your audience

What you say to children will not be the same message for senior citizens. Seniors in High School will be a different audience from Seniors in College. Voters in Kansas care about different things than voters in Maine.


It’s an old axiom, but true: Keep It Simple S….

The thing that makes great communicators stand above the crowd is their ability to convey complex information and inspirational messages in simple terms.  I remember being at a seminar with Zig Zigglar; one of the best communicators of his generation. Early on he asked the audience to raise their hands as high as they could. Then he said, “Now raise them higher.” When people did he then asked, “Why didn’t you do that the first time?” A simple demonstration made a huge point in about fifteen seconds.

Repeat Repeat Repeat

It’s old advice that bears repeating. Say what you are going to say. Say it. Then say what you said. You would be amazed to know how little most people can grasp and hold with only one chance to get it. That’s why advertisers show the same commercial over and over and sometimes back to back.

Create feedback loops

You need to have some way to know if you are getting your message across. Plus you want a way to keep your audience connected. Think for example of the voting process in the popular TV show, Dancing with the Stars. What better way for them to know people are watching and care about what they see?

If you incorporate these few ideas into you communications you will see a dramatic improvement.

by Geoffrey Schmitt.

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How to be more honest in your communications and life in general

Monday, January 24th, 2011

“Honesty is the best policy.” According to various sources the saying has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and some English Bishop in the 16th century. It’s a time tested, trustworthy saying and good advice. Most people don’t set out to be dishonest. Sometimes, however, we are confronted with the reality that we have been less than honest with ourselves and others. So how can we avoid these lapses in character and be more honest.

We might begin with another old saying, “to thine own self be true.”  This one is from Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  The more complete quote is instructive.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

The first way to address the issue is to listen to yourself. One of the beginnings of dishonest communication is exaggeration. The proverbial “fish story”; where the fish in question gets longer and bigger with every telling. It comes in all manner of forms.

“Why there must have been a thousand of them!”  Yet if you were to honestly estimate it was more like 200. One exaggeration to make a point maybe acceptable; however, one easily becomes a habit. Before you know it people don’t trust your account of things.

The second way to become more honest is to recognize the truth of projections. Psychologist know and understand that we tend to see in others what we dislike and disown in ourselves. When some behavior of others is really annoying you may benefit from asking the question, “How am I like that?” Jesus taught the same thing when he told us to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to take the splinter out of our neighbor’s.  Nothing makes me more annoyed that the guy driving past me on the shoulder of the road when the rest of us are waiting our turn to get ahead! The truth be told it’s because I want to do the same.

The third means to becoming more honest is to be more honest even in the small things, even when it is inconvenient. For example, you are getting in your car after shopping and discover an item in your pocket that you forgot to actually purchase. No one but you knows. It was only a dollar. Get out of the car. Go back and pay for it. If you will be honest in these small ways you will be less tempted when a bigger temptation crosses your path.

The truth is that it can be difficult to be honest in today’s world. However, a good reputation and an honest character are the best policy.

by Geoffrey Schmitt.

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