Helping your child succeed

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

As parents, we always want to give our children the best. I do believe that at the very least, we need to make a conscious choice to be active and present in our children’s lives. But then comes the hard part –what do we do next? 

How do we connect with our children when we can’t understand their lingo? How do we guide our children when they do not behave? I am sure we all have our own stories. Every day is a new challenge.

Let’s face it. Sometimes, we parents need a little help too. When our children came, they did not come with an instruction manuals did they?!

The journey to being a good parent

The reality is that parenting is like a running a marathon. You don’t just wake up one day and decide, “I am going to run 42km today”, and expect to complete the run in record time.

We need to learn about how we prepare ourselves. We need to spend months putting what we know into training and to consciously make changes to your diet and lifestyle. There is no ‘cheat sheet’ that will instantly transform you into the best marathon runner. Even when you are able to complete the marathon, you have to continue training to improve the time you take to finish the run.

It’s the same for parenting – we don’t become great parents overnight. Each child is a unique individual. Just because certain methods worked for us growing up, does not mean the same methods will work for our children. Parenting is an evolving process; as your child grows, you may have to adjust the way you guide them.

We brought in the evidence-based Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) and have been running a two-year pilot here, involving over 5,000 parents. This programme has worked well in other countries, and the feedback here in our schools has been very encouraging. I was really glad to hear from the trainers directly. They were incredibly passionate and convinced by the effectiveness of the programme and had many stories to share. They were also motivated because they could see how parents were highly engaged, and had found the techniques and approaches useful.

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There was a mother whose child had a gaming addiction and she was at her wits end. Banning him from gaming wasn’t working. Triple P taught her to apply new skills to better engage and motivate her son – by setting limits, and affirming him when he kept to the agreed time.

We will be expanding this effort.

Singapore Parenting Congress

This weekend, I will be at the Singapore Parenting Congress as a guest panellist. Am looking forward to the dialogue with parents on being a Superhero to their kids. I for one am certainly not one…but am trying to be as best a father as I can be.

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Parenting is tough, with the many twists and turns, and ups and downs. But we will try and provide support and signposts to guide the way.

Let’s keep growing and learning as parents. There is no better feeling of accomplishment than seeing our children succeed in life and knowing that we had a hand in it. And there is no greater joy than in simply being a parent. This is one journey that is completely worth walking and running!

Top Three Tips on Building Children’s Character

Featuring Ms Alicia Lim, ECDA Fellow and Executive Principal of PCF Sparkletots; Ms Ava Wang, ECDA Fellow and Preschool Learning Academy @ Temasek Polytechnic; and Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Far Eastern Kindergarten.


Respect, kindness, courage, honesty… You might want to instill such values in your children at their early years – but do you know which methods are effective?

Meet Ms Alicia Lim who used storytelling to impart values and enlighten her students about character development.

There are also other different ways to weave lessons about values and morals into children’s daily life.

Here are three tips on helping them develop the strength of character:

  1. “Storytelling is one of the best ways to inculcate virtues. Stories can ignite children’s imagination, strike their emotional chords and help them grasp the concept of these virtues.”

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Inspired by her kindergarten teachers, Ms Alicia Lim feels that she can give back to society as an early childhood educator and a teacher trainer that supports children’s moral and character education.

Ms Lim believes that abstract topics, such as character development, should not be taught academically to children but in a more interactive style that allows them to model the behaviors they see around them. For that, storytelling works best for teaching values as children are usually receptive and keen to listening.

“When children keep stories close to their heart, the messages of these stories will inspire and shape their characters,” said Ms Lim. Hence, good stories not only provide joy to the children, they also strengthen their understanding of human motives as well as introduce them with new encounters.

  1. “When we teach young children how to solve problems, they grow up to be more resilient, resourceful and ready to face any challenge.”

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Developing a classroom culture that promotes problem-solving approach will help to equip children with the necessary skills required to combat societal challenges in the future.

That is why Ms Ava Wang finds every opportunity to encourage her students to become independent thinkers and not to rely on others to fix their problems.

However, every child reacts differently when they experience a challenge, it is therefore important to guide them to use the right coping mechanism needed to tackle various situations.

  1. “Like shaping a clay pot, character takes time to develop before it becomes strong and beautiful. Everyone, from the teacher to the family, has a part to play.”

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As for Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, engaging young minds and shepherding young hearts are best achieved during early childhood.

Avoid rewarding children’s behaviors with stars or stickers, but focus on teaching and encouraging them on how they can contribute and help those in need.

Children learn to better appreciate values from doing small acts like donating their savings, and “that is how their characters can be moulded,” said Mrs Ang-Oh. “When one’s character has been well-moulded, it will hold its own against life challenges and soon it will be a work of art, with its own character, strength and beauty.”

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About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.

 

3 Early Childhood educators share tips on guiding our teachers in their professional growths

Featuring Dr Jacqueline Chung, ECDA Fellow and Senior Principal and Academic Director of St James’ Church Kindergarten; Ms Rebecca Han, ECDA Fellow and Senior Programme Specialist of Busy Bees – Odyssey the Global Preschool; and Dr May See, ECDA Fellow and Senior General Manager of MY World Preschool.


While teaching resources, facilities and methods are important; do you know that teachers are the most crucial factor in providing quality preschool education?

Meet three of our Early Childhood educators, who see the importance in nurturing the professional development of our teachers, alongside the growth of our children.

Here are three tips on guiding our teachers in their professional growth:

“Leaders need to have clear beliefs, strong values and sharp minds.”

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Dr Jacqueline Chung believes that leaders ought to have these three items with them:

A map, a hiking stick and a torch light.

Having ‘map’ – or knowing yourself, your end-goal in mind and the steps you have to take – would give them clarity in their actions; a ‘hiking stick’ – or a set of values – would keep them grounded despite things happening around them; and lastly a ‘torch-light’ – or a sharp mind – that is essential in the field of education.

These would help guide educators in their journey to nurture young minds.

  1. “When teachers are inspired and given opportunities to become mentors, they expand their influence, and build themselves and others up.”

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In turn, Ms Rebecca Han believes that good leadership begins with mentoring.

“Mentoring has always been dear to my heart. It gives me great joy to know that I have made a positive impact in the lives of teachers I worked with, and witnessed these teachers moved on to mentor other teachers,” shared Ms Han.

Through mentoring, teachers learn to design high quality programmes, improve their teaching practices and are able to pass on their knowledge and teaching skills to others; creating a community of teachers that are constantly encouraging and helping one another grow.

  1. “Recruitment and Retention work hand in hand. Talent would only stay if we nurture, care and appreciate them.”

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For Dr May See, being able to retain teachers is as important as recruiting the right teachers.

“Recruitment is pointless if measures are not taken to retain these recruits,” said Dr See. “Teachers ought to have a mentor that they can seek advice and support from when things get tough.”

Having a good support system would then encourage teachers to preserve when times are tough; and in this way, a strong body of professionals would be formed to nurture our children to their fullest potential.

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About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.

To Love and to Cherish; For Better or for Worse

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

At MSF, we keep a close eye on statistics related to marriages and divorces. I looked through the latest annual report on Marriages and Divorces by the Singapore Department of Statistics – good to know that the number of marriages are more or less at status quo compared to the year before.

Overall, no drastic fluctuations. But there’s been a slight increase in the number of divorces.

All married couples will have challenges along the way. But if we take our vows seriously and view it as sacred, we owe it to each other and to our families to work through those difficult moments. Efforts to strengthen marriages can help. Sometimes, marriage counselling can help at an early stage, to soothe the tensions and save marriages.

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Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

Unfortunately, sometimes, things don’t quite work out. Divorce is never easy for any couple, especially when children are involved.

We will introduce the Mandatory Parenting Programme at the end of the year for divorcing couples with young children. The programme will give them time and space to think deeply about issues they will face, both during and after divorce, and how they can protect their children’s interests will be emphasised in all they do.

Staying Committed

The promises and wedding vows we say may differ from couple to couple, but the underlying lifetime commitment remains consistent. When we fall in love and step into marriage, we wish to stay committed to our partners through thick and thin. And for that love to grow and become the cornerstone of the marriage. However, this doesn’t just magically happen so that we can live happily ever after. It requires us to work hard at it and to never take it for granted.

MSF and our partners run many marriage preparation and enrichment programmes in the community. These programmes will help us, as husbands and wives, to better understand and communicate with each other. It will give us skills to resolve conflicts when they arise.

A good marriage brings joy and deep fulfilment. But it will require our dedication and constant effort to nurture that relationship. Let us all remember our vows and renew our commitment to our spouses and our marriage.

“The middle-man”

By Christine @ MSF

Christine is an assistant senior social worker at MSF. She works with the ‘systems’ side of social service, as the liaison between those in need and the various agencies. She empowers the families by navigating the systems with the families, attaining holistic and coordinated assistance to support these families with multiple needs, advocate for the families through social reports and inter-agency case conferences.


Acting as the middle-man is never easy

As a social worker for close to 13 years, Christine acts as a bridge between families and the various agencies. One part of her role involves supporting families in-need cope by assessing their needs and helping them find the best way to overcome the challenges they face at home.

These see her juggling between conducting site visits – such as to homes, hospitals, and the prison – and going down to various organisations together with the families to handle the legislative and administrative work.

Christine recalls a family of eight (a single mother with five young children living with the maternal grandparents) that she has worked with for more than a year.

Like many of the cases she has worked on, the case involved multiple needs – family conflict, financial difficulty, medical needs, unemployment and a history of family violence.

The complex family dynamics often saw her caught in-between family members, such that every home visit felt like a “settlement talk” between several parties.

Harsh words were frequently thrown around; and doing what she could to defuse the tension in the air as a mediator often saw Christine at the receiving end of much of the verbal torrent.

One particular issue the family struggled with was being able to meet the educational needs of their eight-year-old son. Afflicted with special needs, Derrick (not his real name) required support services in school – where having a support teacher shadow him at school for 1.5 hour a day would cost upwards of $1500 per month.

Trouble brew when a sense of entitlement set in and assistance was not streaming in as the family would like.

Yet weaving through the legislative web on the “systems” side often proved complex for Christine as well.

For example, her efforts to seek funding for Derrick from the agencies came out flat, as assistance for the shadow support teacher was deemed beyond the organisation’s purview or beyond ‘basic funding’.

“The ‘Systems’ would often ask me too – “Why? Why should we do this? Are the families doing anything to help themselves?”” Christine said.

It is situations like these that often puts Christine in a tight spot. As an individual, there are many decisions that she is not able to make by herself. Instead, various agencies come together to arrive at a compromise to help the families be self-reliant and have their basic needs met.

When asked what keeps her going, Christine said:

“It is the sense of satisfaction I get with every little progress the families have made. It is also amazing to see how the different systems have shifted in their response towards helping the family – from one that has minimal involvement, to one that works collaboratively to help the families.”

Christine is also working on the Strengthening Families Together (SFT) pilot, that enables vulnerable families to access resources that will help them be more resilient, while raising the developmental prospects of their children. The pilot, which started in April 2016, also facilitates inter-agency collaboration to provide holistic and coordinated assistance to families with multiple needs.

It is through celebrating each small milestone, maintaining an opened mind and taking things in her stride that has helped her power through the day-to-day challenges in social work.

And softly, Christine added, “I tell myself: you are only there for a year, but for them (the family in-need) – it has become part of their everyday life.”