Posted by: coachingparents | November 5, 2007

Questions from Children and Parents

Hello Parents,

We recently answered some questions, for a major magazine in the
UAE, asked by parents for the kind of problems their children were
facing. I am producing them below. For more information call us at
Singhania Children’s Clinic, Dubai Health Care City, Dubai; P: +971 4
429 8498; Email:

Q. I am a student in grade 10. My problem is exams. I am so frightened before exams that I cannot eat or sleep the night before. During the exam my mind goes blank. I get confused and make careless mistakes. I study very hard and know all my stuff but when I pick up the pen to write an exam I am frozen. HELP! Arun

A. Dear Arun,

What you are suffering from is not uncommon. It is called Performance Anxiety. Many young people get frozen before an exam. But all is not lost! There are many things you can do to help yourself. First of all, change your mind set. Put exams in perspective. If you believe that your life is going to be ruined if you don’t do well or that your whole future depends on how well you do, then you are setting the stage for anxiety. Nothing is more important than you, which means also your emotional health. So say too yourself that Iam more important than exams and repeat this like a mantra.

Now you are ready for trying 3 techniques, which often help students when they get nervous. These are 1. Visualisation, 2. Positive Self talk, 3. Relaxation.

1. Visualization: This about seeing pictures in your head. First sit in a comfortable chair and take deep breaths till you are relaxed. Then close your eyes and see yourself sitting in a theatre. You are the only person there. It is dark and the movie is about to begin. The movie is all about you. As the lights go out you see yourself on the screen. You see yourself as happy, confident and relaxed. The exam is about to begin. You see yourself confidently go into the exam hall. You look at the paper. You smile because it is so easy. You takeout your pen and start to write. The answers come easily to you. You write quickly without errors, page after page. You finish well before the bell rings. You go through the paper and check for errors but there aren’t any. You give in the paper (still smiling) and walk out into the sunshine.   See this movie everyday before your exams. If during the paper you start to get tense, put down your pen, take a deep breath, close your eyes and see this movie again in your head.

2. Positive Self-Talk: This means encouraging yourself. Do not put yourself down. Make a list of negative thoughts that pop into your head when you think of exams. Then write down the opposite on a paper e.g. change I am going to fail! To I will pass. Convert all the negative thoughts into positive ones and add to that paper. Look at the paper everyday and repeat the positive phrases to yourself. Keep repeating these to yourself as you enter the exam hall, as you start the paper and anytime you feel nervous.

3. Relaxation: Take 5 to 8 deep breaths. Breathe in and as you breathe out imagine you are breathing out stress and anxiety. Make your body go limp like a rag doll. Relax each part of your body as you continue to breathe deeply. Imagine yourself in a quiet peaceful place. Doing this relaxation exercise everyday whether you have exams or not is like a good investment in a bank.

So, Arun try these techniques and let me know if they helped. Remember; if they do not work a doctor can prescribe you anti anxiety medications. Best of luck!

Q. I am a stressed mother. I have a child who is like wild animal! I know I should not say this about my son but he is driving me mad. He is only 8 years old but will argue about anything that I ask him to do. His first reaction to any request is a loud Why and then he will either refuse to do it, argue as to why he should not do it or finally just walk away. The request may be a simple one like go take a bath or do your homework or even come eat your lunch.

A. Dear stressed Mum,

You have not told me when these problems started. Often children will behave in a defiant way as a way of coping with problems (externalizing behaviors). Does he have any problems at school? Is he finding the work difficult or is his teacher too strict or is he getting bullied. If any one of this is true he may be refusing to go to school. If he has always been a difficult or restless child he may have learnt to get his way by being difficult. He may have disorders like Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD or conduct disorder.

In any case one of the best ways to handle him is to sit him down when he is not being difficult and ask him to help you lay ground rules. If he helps to make the rules he is more likely to follow them. Make a behavior contract where he gets rewarded for following
the rules and fined (no TV or no pocket money for a day) for breaking them.

Get him to enjoy doing tasks. This can be done by not asking him to do something, which is difficult or boring (at least to begin with). Praise him for caring out simple tasks like get me tissue please at least 6 to 7 times a day. If he does not do it just ignore him and do it yourself (planned ignoring). Do this for 3 to 4 weeks. Gradually, your son will enjoy doing tasks for you. It is very important not to force him to do something, to give him tasks which are easy and /or interesting and praising him when he does them.

Finally, if you are unable to carry out the program and there is too much shouting and fighting seek professional help. Remember to show him your unconditional love for him and do things, which are fun with him every so often.

Q. I have a 3.6-year-old daughter who constantly has a cough and cold since the time we have moved to Dubai one year ago. She has been going to a play school since then but remains absent for many days because she is always down with cough, cold and fever. She gets these attacks almost every two to three weeks. Her doctor always has to give her antibiotics and I am afraid they are not good for her. Please let me know what I should do? Reem

A. Dear Reem,

I can understand how distressing it is to have a chronically sick child. There are 3 or 4 factors, which may be contributing to her frequent attacks of cold and cough. The most important is her entry into nursery school. Often children who first join school are exposed to new and different viruses (bugs). It takes some time for their immunity to strengthen enough to fight off these bugs.

The other factor is allergy. Your daughter may be suffering from allergies. Check if there is family history of asthma, recurrent tonsillitis or hay fever. Dust mites (small bugs found in household dust) are the commonest cause of allergy. It is better to remove wall to wall carpeting, upholstered furniture and any thing that can gather dust in the house. Long term anti allergy medications, which are non-sedating, can be given.

Since your child is running a fever frequently recurrent ear infections should also be ruled out. This is important because antibiotics needed to treat them are specific and should be given for10 to 14 days. If your child snores or breathes mostly from the mouth she may have adenoids. These are small glands near the nose, which can pinch the Eustachian tube (a tube connecting the nose and mouth to the ears) and increase chances of ear infections. Ask your doctor to look into these factors.

Q. My baby is turning 4 months and I want to know how to wean heron solid foods. Is it better to home cook them or buy ready made one sin the market? Are there any foods that should be avoided? This is my first baby and I have no prior experience. First-time Mum

A. Dear First-time Mum,

Weaning, which means introduction of foods other than milk, is a very important time for babies. Three important changes take place in the baby’s diet. These are a change in taste, a change in consistency and a change in the method of feeding. Before this the baby only drinks milk either from the breast or a bottle. A spoon is usually used to give weaning foods. The baby may push the spoon out of its mouth with its tongue because of a reflex called the retruser reflex. Hence the spoon should be very small and soft edged. The baby should be made to taste the food first and then gradually placed in the mouth. Remember babies also have their own likes and dislikes.

The foods can be cooked fresh at home or baby foods can be bought from any supermarket. The foods should be initially quite fluid without any bits in it. Hence pureed fruits or vegetables, which are then sieved and thinned with water, should be given. However, the consistency should be gradually thickened. Bits should be allowed after the baby is over 6 to 7 months old. Soft solid foods should be given after 8 to 9 months.

There are some foods, which should be avoided, in the first year of life. No sugar or salt should be added to the food. Wheat should not be given at least in the first 6 months. Eggs should be avoided till one year as should fresh milk. Citrus fruits should also be avoided especially if there is a family history of allergies. The safest food to start with is pureed vegetables like pumpkin, carrots and pureed fruits like papaya and apple. Rice powder with Moong (yellow) dal (lentil) is also safe and can be overcooked, pureed and sieved to make clear soup.

Start with only one feed in the day preferably before milk feed. Gradually build it up so that by the time she is 6 months she is eating weaning foods three times a day. By the time she is one yea rold, she should be eating a full family diet.

Do not be tense whilst feeding your baby. It should be a happy and relaxed time. Remember that every child has its own time, which is right for weaning. If she consistently rejects the different types of weaning foods then stop for awhile and restart after a few weeks.

Q. My son turned 2 years last month and is still not speaking. He has no words, not even bye-bye or Mama. My daughter, now 5 years old was speaking in full sentences at this age, in both our languages i.e. English and Swedish. Should I start speech therapy or seek professional help? Helga

A. Dear Helga,

Your son has two disadvantages one that he has several languages (English and Swedish) to contend with, the other that he is a boy and the male of our species usually speak later than the female. Having said that bilingual children do have a cognitive advantage of being exposed to more than one language because they quickly understand the abstract nature of the spoken word. Also most often there is no delay in language expression and they pick up both languages at the same time (the way your daughter did). However, some children start to speak later than normal but have no later difficulties. This may be the case with your son. If your son does not seem to understand simple instructions like where is Mama? or get your shoes, if he has poor eye contact or if he does not engage in purposeful activity then seek help immediately. Early intervention is the key. If on the other hand he is doing all of those things then just provide language rich environment like story telling, simple conversation, talking to him in the stronger of the two languages and maybe starting him in a play school.


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