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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Balancing work and family

(Second of three parts)

The mental health of children and teens was already a concern even before the pandemic. Last week, we saw how Ian Angelo, 14, and Theodore “Teddy” Tan, 11, develop more skills and resilience than typical peers whose families coddle them yet engage in toxic competition with others.

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“We have seen some tiger parents pressuring their kids to excel in school,” says the boys’ mother Marina Chua Tan, an oncologist who is aware of her psychiatrist colleagues’ burgeoning mental health workload with young people.

“Making our kids compete with classmates is not healthy. This can even break friendships among schoolmates and add to psychosocial stress,” says Marina. “We see a lot of school kids go into depression and anxiety because of this.

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“Never compare children with kids of other families vying for the honor roll. Offer praise even for small steps in learning, not just academics, but in every aspect of daily life.

“But make sure to also give quick constructive correction when a situation needs attention.”

Marina, a front-liner in this pandemic, never took a break in caring for her patients. But she and her husband Wilson manage to prioritize their children above all.

“When the kids were infants, I would go on clinic breaks to pump breast milk. When they were older, either one or both Wilson and I would join their field trips or training camps. For conferences, we go as a family. Before the pandemic, I would take a leave twice a year, endorse my patients to a colleague, and take time to bond with my own family.

Innovative ways to combine work and play are often a win-win for all. “Once, I brought Teddy to sit in on a medical school lecture on molecular oncology. Sometimes, I brought my children to the hospitals where I work. They played violin during the treatment sessions of some patients.”

“I have fun practicing violin because I get to see how I improve,” says Teddy. “It is a more productive version of playing with a video game.”

“We discourage social media outside of our children’s lesson or activity groups. The boys are given daily tasks and they set their own schedule for extracurricular work like violin practice. At the start of each year, they are given a diary to write daily activities and insights before going to bed.”

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Teddy gravitates toward mental learning, so his diary prods him to not neglect physical tasks. “Having a diary motivates me to do physical activities that are worth putting in. Cooking, painting, gardening, which we learn from Mama and Papa, prevent each day from being stale and repetitive. I relax afterward and I clear my mind to learn and do more things.

“Besides, I want to write longer sentences and put extra variety in my diary!”

Play is essential for all-around development, especially today when many children zone out in front of the screen. Considerable research shows that playing with simple toys (household items, toy blocks) challenges the imagination and unleashes creativity more than pricey ones (games with predetermined outcomes, electronic devices with jazzy but limited functions).

“We allow our boys to be creative when they play,” says Marina. “They prefer to play with self-made toys, or the toys that come free in McDonald’s or Jollibee meal boxes, rather than expensive ones. Ian would draw the characters of their role-playing games and both boys would use them over and over until now.”

Play can make chores fun. The boys take turns washing the dishes and Ian loves making their own hand soap and dishwashing liquid, courtesy of YouTube.

Make learning a family activity. “Do things together as much as possible so your kids can share task responsibilities,” says Marina. “Cooking, planting, home repairs and maintenance are opportunities they can learn more from than what is usually taught in school.”

Most of all, “what we ask from our children is to be good people. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” INQ

(To be concluded)

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada and the ebook version on Amazon, Google Books and Apple Books. Contact the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: Children, Family, mental health
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