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Are You Raising Your Child In A Sexist Household?

We spot various forms of sexism in our everyday lives. We’re quick to roll our eyes at the prejudiced comments made by politicians on national television or by well-meaning relatives and zfriends at social gatherings. We blame the government for pink tax and express our concern over the rising cases of domestic violence and sexual assault against women. We complain how men dominate professional spaces and the pay disparity between men and women. Sexism makes its presence clearly visible in the way society perceives females. They’re labelled as the weaker sex, who are in constant need of protection and this protection comes at the cost of submission. But, have we taken a moment to reflect on where sexism begins? Where do roles and responsibilities for men and women get demarcated? Where are we taught what is okay for a boy but not for a girl? And, who ever decided what was masculine and feminine? The answer is simple; at home. 

What are we teaching them?

From the very beginning of our lives, right from childhood, we experience sexism through the manner in which we’re raised. A girl and a boy might have the same set of parents, but the treatment they receive from those parents can drastically differ from each other. From restrictions on clothing to different curfews, it is evident that what is okay for a boy can never be okay for a girl. Sexism plants its roots through the most subtle manner; we’re taught to use gender as an insult. Restrictions are set on our emotional outlets because it’s not fine to ‘cry like a girl’ or ‘be rowdy like a boy’. Sexism decides which activities one can enjoy because girls cannot play cricket or football like boys to reduce the risks of injuries or get tanned under the sun. And, boys definitely cannot enjoy cooking or dancing or playing dress-up! If the boys are on the field and they miss a shot, the standard rebuke is to ‘not play like a girl’. Girls are taught to smile because they’ll look prettier, while boys get away with anger and bad behaviour.  We decide the clothes, books and movies children should enjoy.  Right from the start, boys and girls are taught that the worst thing they can do is act like the gender opposite to them, which begets the toxic cycle of disrespect and contempt for the other gender. 

Children learn best through examples and they’re quick to adapt to the pattern around them. A boy that is raised in a household where only the mother manages all chores will automatically assume that it is normal for households to solely function on a woman’s effort. A girl might worry that this could be the future she’s in store for. Similarly, in a household where the needs of the patriarch are prioritised or he’s offered more authority simply because he’s the breadwinner of the family might indicate to children that the needs of a man are more important than the needs of a woman. Even the ways in which a husband and wife interact at home set the tone for relationships their children build in future with their significant others. 

What can parents do?  

  • Communication is key to change. Having frank, open communication will lead to your children unlearning stereotypes and will feel comfortable enough to share their views with you. It’s always a good idea to learn something new.  
  • Encourage your children to follow their passion, whether or not it fits the boundaries of gender. Join them in activities that bring them fun. This will lead to a stronger bond between you and your children. 
  • Set an example. If it’s possible, try dividing the workload between you and your spouse to show your child that household chores are not just a woman’s job. 
  • Do not engage in regressive content on social media or on television. Stop laughing at sexist jokes. These things have a significant impression on the child’s mind. 

In our attempt to raise our children in the norms that are acceptable by society, we stifle the growth of our children by not allowing them to explore beyond the stereotypical gender preferences that are set for them. Our role as parents is to inspire and encourage children and not discourage them from being who they want to be. It may take a lot of time to unlearn the narrative that has been fed to us over and over, but through simple changes in the way parents interact with their children of both genders, the society can be made a safer space for women. We can create a future where it is okay for individuals to be who they want to be without the fear of crossing the boundaries of being masculine and feminine. 

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Talking to your Child About Sex Education

It’s the talk most of us probably dread. And feel most uncomfortable about – the talk about the ‘birds and the bees’ with our children. Even saying ‘sex-education’ out loud makes many of us squirm uncomfortably. So, of course, we try to avoid the conversation or hope that schools take care of it, or push it to a later date. 

But here’s the issue. Children are naturally curious. They won’t stop asking questions. If you give them unsatisfactory answers or avoid the question, they will simply stop asking you any questions. And will look for other sources. Often these sources are their friends – who are possible as clueless as them or have been ill-informed by an older sibling. Worse still is if they choose to look for answers on that wonderful fount of all knowledge- Google! They may stumble upon sites that aren’t exactly family-friendly. So, it’s time to bite the bullet and have that talk. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

It’s not one major talk

Contrary to what we might think, it’s never just that one talk that you have with children. It will be an ongoing series. You might give some information to your children. And they might go off and not have any questions. But a couple of days later, when you least expect it, they might spring a question on you about what you’d discussed. But the key is to have all of those discussions so that the information they receive is accurate. The amount of information that your need to give can vary on the age of your child. And there’s no age that’s too young to start talking. 

Information you can give toddlers and very young children

At this age, we only need to make sure that children know the right names for their private parts. Don’t give them vague names – you can mention that these parts are your private parts, but give them the correct names. This is also important for children to protect themselves from unsafe touches and for them to be able to tell you if something is making them uncomfortable. 

Information you can give primary school-going children

Children at this age may be more curious – some of their friends may have a baby sister or brother and they will be curious about where babies come from. ‘How does the baby get into the mummy’s tummy?’ ‘Will the baby hurt the mummy when they cut open the tummy to take the baby out?’ We can answer these questions accurately – but without going into too much detail. For example, we can say that the baby is created in the womb when the sperm and egg meet. 

We don’t need to go into further detail. You know your child best, so giving information based on the maturity and understanding of your child is what will work. If your child is asking questions that you think they aren’t ready for, you can always tell them, ‘Let’s get back to this when you’re a bit older- for now, here’s what you need to know:…’

Information for tweens 

This might be the time to talk to children about puberty, menstruation, the changes they can expect in their bodies, and that all these changes are normal and natural. It is also important to address their emotions which might be undergoing some upheaval. Now is the time to set some ground rules for safety around their interactions – with themselves, with others and both offline and online. Start talking about consent early, and as an essential part of their sex education. 

Conversation with teens

Teenagers will want to have a conversation with you – not advice (even though you think they need it sorely). So keep the lines of communication open. Talk about your experiences, let them come and ask you questions. Let the conversation flow naturally about forming emotional bonds, respect, consent and everything in between. When conversing with teens, we tend to sprinkle our conversation with ‘don’ts’. Let’s throw in the occasions, ‘do’ – what they need to be aware of, how it can be difficult to navigate the world of social media, the temptation to gain popularity, peer pressure, and a whole lot else. They may not like to show it, but teenagers still seek their parents’ approval. Fear of disapproval might push them into silence or hiding things from you. Conversations about morning erections and how birth control works doesn’t mean that your teen is going to immediately run out to try all of these things. It means that they feel comfortable and safe enough to have these awkward conversations with you, knowing that they will get answers. Well, done, parent!

The more we normalise conversations like these in our homes, the more confident we can be that our children will not indulge in reckless and unsafe behaviour when it comes to sex. Some conversations may be more difficult to have than others- but they will be infinitely more rewarding when you see the bond you share with your children strengthening and growing stronger. 

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6 TRADITIONAL INDIAN FOODS THAT ARE PACKED OF NUTRITION

In the recent years, traditional Indian foods have taken a backseat with fast foods, fad diets and fusion cuisines. However, Indian food is not just rich in diversity but also in nutrition.  With a wide variety of grains, oils, vegetables , spices and nuts, Indian foods are a powerhouse of essential nutrients that support immunity, brain function, gut health and reduce inflammation.It’s important for children to imbibe the values of eating local and seasonal and appreciate one of the key extensions of their culture i.e. food.

Include these six traditional Indian foods in your child’s diet to make their meals a lot more nutritious, wholesome and healthy-

  1. Buttermilk: There is a popular misconception that buttermilk is high in fat but buttermilk is actually very low in calories. Buttermilk prevents dehydration, reduces acidity and prevents indigestion. It is rich in calcium and reduces blood pressure. 
  1. Idli: Easily one of the healthiest Indian snacks at just 39 calories per piece, idli contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Being a fermented food, it supports gut health. It will also help your child stay full for longer as it is rich in fibre and protein. 
  1. Cheelas (Savoury Indian pancakes):  Mad out of chickpea flour and various lentils, cheelas gluten free and a good source of protein. An excellent source of complex carbohydrates accompanied with a low glycemic index, these savoury pancakes help in maintaining a healthy metabolism. 
  1. Khichdi: Made with rice and lentils, this traditional Indian dish is packed with dietary fibre, antioxidants and protein. It’s gluten free and easy on the digestive system.
  1. Poha: An Indian breakfast favourite, poha makes for a gluten-free meal option. Loaded with iron and fibre, it is low in calories and regulates blood sugar levels. 
  1. Upma: Prepared using semolina (sooji), a  bowl of upma has fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats. It is low in cholesterol and calories, while being high in iron. 

It’s time we bid goodbye to myths suggesting Indian food is only limited to deep fried, fattening food and appreciate the innumerable healthy options our cuisine offers us by introducing them in our daily meals. 

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How to Have An Argument With Your Child – And Still Win at Parenting!

Let’s be honest – before we had children, we all had this idea of how they’d be perfect angels. And of course, not one of those ideas included you getting into daily arguments with your child. Never did you anticipate that asking your child to do something as simple as brushing their teeth could devolve into World War 3. Parent-child arguments are one of the biggest causes of stress for both you and your child, and often sets the tone of your relationship with your child in the future.

Strong-willed children are great!

Take heart, having a strong-willed child may seem like a lot of work – but with the right kind of nurturing they turn out to be grounded, not swayed by peer pressure and possess great leadership skills. Strong-willed children don’t accept the status quo and want to try things out for themselves. That’s why they are constantly testing their boundaries by questioning you. So how can you set boundaries for your child without coming off as authoritarian? How can an argument with your child turn into a life lesson that they take to heart?

Common argumentative fallacies

When we argue, we let emotions get the better of us – that’s natural. Everything about our children tends to make us emotional. But when we want to make our point, let’s watch out for and steer clear of these common fallacies:

Attacking the person, rather and the idea

Often, when we’re asking our children to do something, it sounds like we’re finding faults. Let’s identify the behaviour that we have an issue with, rather than the person. For example, if you walk into your child’s room and it looks like a bomb went off in there, instead of saying ‘You’re always so messy’, we could try, ‘This room looks quite messy, how about you tidy it up a bit?’. Not calling the child messy, or disobedient, or lazy, but calling out the act, or behaviour will help you get your message across, without it becoming an argument because your child doesn’t feel like it’s a personal attack!

Exaggerating the problem and attacking it

We’ve all been guilty of it. ‘You’re on the screen forever!’ ‘You never want to eat what I make.’ ‘You’re always playing, you need to be serious about your exams.’ Well, that’s not really true, is it? Children need you to break down the issue to a more immediate timeline. So if screen time is an issue today, or now, just state that ‘You’ve been playing for a long time on the screen today. I think that’s enough.’ 

Building improbable consequences to a small action

Let’s not kid ourselves – not eating vegetables for a meal is not going to give us debilitating conditions. Not doing the homework today is not going to make your child drop out of university. So we stick to the facts when stating our point – ‘If you’re going to continue not doing your homework, chances are, you’re not going to be prepared when they test you on this. That’s not what we want, is it?’ This stop is from becoming an argument where your child fails to see the point of what you’re asking them to do.

The either-or situation

‘You’re not sharing your chocolate with your brother. Do you not love him?’ This tells the child that there are only two options – either love my brother and share or hate my brother and not share. But in reality, she may love her brother very dearly, but just not want to share. Just, ‘I would like it very much if you shared that with your brother.’ is enough. If she’s still unwilling to share, maybe explaining how sharing helps strengthen bonds.

Because I said so

Sometimes we do tire of arguing with our pint-sized humans and resort to this. And yes, as adults, we would know more and are able to judge a situation better. But that’s why it is important to explain to them why your viewpoint isn’t just because you’re the adult, and they are the children. Back it up with rationale – it’s also a great way to build the logical reasoning of your child. 

What you can say so the children listen
  • Acknowledge their feelings: Children like us will have their own likes and dislikes. It’s okay to occasionally indulge in fantasies with them. ‘You really don’t like this daal, huh? I wish we would eat ice cream for every meal, and still be super-healthy! *sigh*’  (you might like to read: What is Journaling and how can it help? )
  • Engage cooperation: give factual information, without exaggeration ‘We need to brush our teeth because…’, rather than ‘All our teeth will fall out and the dentist will drill painful holes!’
  • Express your feelings without attacking your child’s character: ‘I felt really upset when you said that’ or ‘It makes me really sad to see both of you fighting’. 
  • Explain the consequences: Every action will have consequences. Calmly explaining the consequences, and following through on them, without anger or annoyance will help your child understand boundaries. ‘If you keep running over your tv time, we will have to reduce it by 10 minutes tomorrow. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.’
  • Sit with your child and figure out a solution together: If you’re unhappy with a situation, it’s fairly certain that your child isn’t too thrilled either. Sit together and jot down all the ideas you can come up with (yes, even the silly ones) and decide the best way forward together. 

Your child will feel empowered to take control of their actions, especially if they know that they have your love. Even though you may disagree, you can air your differences, talk through your problems and figure out a way together. These skills of negotiation, reasoning and emotional intelligence will build on their ability to navigate the world confidently as adults with you as their role models for conflict resolution

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5 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD WITH AUTISM

Today marks the fourteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day, that is April 2, 2021.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.It is estimated that worldwide one in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder. 

Recognized internationally, the World Autism Day began as a movement to spread awareness about the autism spectrum disorder. Autism-Friendly events and educational activities take place throughout April, aiming to increase understanding of autism.

While there is still a great need to inform people about autism, the focus has shifted away from simply making people aware that the disorder exists  towards the world coming together to offer love, acceptance, support and inclusivity to children and adults with autism.  A day alone isn’t enough to extend our compassion and support. 

Here are five ways in which you can support your child with autism and make their life easier:

  1. RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS:  early detection and intervention with treatment and services are essential to improve a child’s development and functionality for a lifetime. This can be done with the help of identifying common signs and symptoms of Autism, which include:
  • Persistent repetition of words or actions
  • Difficulty in social interaction
  • Low attention span 
  • Poor eye contact 
  • Delayed speech  
  • Intense interest in a limited number of things 
  • Not responding to their name

It is also important to remember that autism does not present itself in the same manner in every child. 

  1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Children with autism tend to communicate differently as they often get fixated on certain phrases and keep repeating them. Gently redirecting them to the next topic might work. They also avoid eye contact.  Patience is a must to build a bond. Talking about things they like can help the conversation move along smoothly. Children with autism can also be quite literal when expressing their needs. These need to be addressed politely. 
  1. BEING AWARE OF THE CHALLENGES:  Children with ASD are highly sensitive to touch, sound, light, taste, and smell. Steering clear of noise and bright colours can help create a soothing environment for them  and avoid sensory overload. They are also not comfortable with the concept of physical affection and like to maintain personal boundaries. Creating healthy space and distance while communicating with a child with autism can help create a positive environment.
  1. CELEBRATING YOUR CHILD’S STRENGTHS: Celebrating the strengths of your children can instill confidence in them and help them face their challenges without feeling low. These may include exceptional honesty, punctuality, attention to detail, ability to remember things in a precise manner. Some children may excel in academics and be able to learn through visual memory. 
  1. DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING: Children with autism possess an excellent memory and respond better to visual learning aids rather than plain text. It is important to include a lot of pictures while helping them learn. It is also important to find an environment or school that is best suited for your child’s needs. Look for a school that is inclusive and has the required support staff to help your child thrive. 

Given the prevalence and complexity of autism, it’s important to be aware of ways you can support children that are dealing with the condition; to help them overcome obstacles. Don’t be shy about seeking the right kind of support for your child – and yourself. It is important to understand that although autistic children may have a different way of perceiving the world, the more we accept the differences, the easier it is for them to integrate into society. 

Also read: Dyscalculia – Does your child have it? Signs to look out for