Category Archives: General Topics

Articles about general topics for children and parents.

Top Ten Life Hacks For Working Mothers

Thinking working mother

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Working mothers are a species apart. They are the superwomen of the human race.  How do they manage the juggling of work and family? The fact is that several of these working mothers swear by certain life hacks that help them maximize their potential and time both at the workplace and at home.

1. Prioritize the use of your time

There are some things that only the mother can do, and there are some things anyone can do. Spending time with the children, reading to them, and meeting their teachers once in a while are things that only the mother can do. Dishwashing, laundry and driving kids to work, are activities that anybody can do. A working mother should use her time on things that only she can do, and outsource the other activities as much as your financial situation permits.

2. Empower your children

From infancy, one of the main goals a working mother should have is to bring up her kids geared towards independence. Get them involved in chores, and train them in looking after themselves. Wearing school uniform, buttoning up their shirts, combing hair, getting their lunch ready etc. are activities that children can be trained to do.

3. Planning is everything

Plan for a week. Plan what breakfast, lunch and dinner should be for the week. This planning should be done on Saturday or Sunday, for the coming week. Ideally, all family members should take part in this planning meeting. Grocery shopping for the week should be done based on this planning.

4. Pay your bills on the same day every month

Many busy parents forget to pay their bills, and their kids’ school fee or tuition fee. You have to set aside a day each month for paying your bills. For example, you can decide that all payments will be done on the first of every month. Best way of payment? Auto-pay or bank transfer of course. The less cash you need to handle, the better it is.

5. Optimize your time in the morning with a routine

The mornings are always the most hectic time of the day. Each second counts. Therefore, you should have a routine that you stick to every day so much so that it becomes a habit. Find out what works for you, and do it the same way every morning.

6. Get the whole family involved in cleaning

If there is any one chore that is the nightmare of a working mother, it is the cleaning, the mopping and the dusting. However, if you assign a day and time for it and the whole family pitches in, it can become a bearable, even enjoyable activity. You could spice it up with some music playing in the background, and fresh juice for everyone afterwards.  And things get done in a jiffy!

7. Say ‘no’ often

It is very important for a working mother to prioritize her commitments. Her time and energy is precious. Whatever is felt to be a waste of time, or is something that does not add value to life, should be declined outright with a firm ‘no’. Remember that ‘no’ is a complete sentence. You are not obliged to give any explanation.

8. Set aside time for yourself

Mothers who work often face burnout because they do not have time for themselves. To avoid this, set aside an hour per day to spend on yourself. An ideal time to do this is an hour before sleep. Let your kids sleep an hour before your sleep time. Within that one hour, you can do some reading, knitting or anything else that gives you enjoyment, or pamper yourself with a nice bath.

9. Nourish yourself

Many conscientious mothers make sure that there is nutritious food for their children and husband, and then sometimes forget to eat. A useful life hack in this regard is to stock up on some fruits, berries, vitamins and nuts at your workplace. You could even have some fortified drinks. During breaks, spend some time nourishing yourself.

10. Maintain friendships outside family

Are you in touch with your childhood friends? Your school friends? Your college friends? It is a sad reality that once married and having had children, many mothers shrink their world into their family. This becomes detrimental to mental health especially after a certain age, when the children have grown up and gone their separate ways. It is a good idea to set aside a few hours in a week to get together with friends, and perhaps go for an evening tea. In fact, spending time with your close friends is one of the tips for mothers to stay young forever.

Top Ten Tips For Mothers To Stay Young

Smiling Healthy Women

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Most women believe that becoming a mother is the end point of youth, and henceforth start a life of ailments and other age-related illnesses in general. However, does it have to be so? Can mothers stay young? Research says they can. Let us see how.

1. Spend time with female friends

Most mothers limit their life within the four walls of the house. If they are working mothers, the workplace and the home are the two places they spend their entire lives in. They would have lost touch with childhood friends or friends from college and university. This has to change. Mothers should be able to take time off from their daily responsibilities and just hang out with friends. Female friendship is important because women tend to be more empathetic and supportive of other women. Ideally, spend time with female friends on an outing, or a trekking trip or just eating out.

2. Spend time for yourself

Many mothers feel guilty if they spend any time on themselves. They feel that they should sacrifice all their needs for the children. However, this attitude soon gives rise to bitterness as your body health deteriorates and the skin looks uncared for. Enlist a relative’s or a babysitter’s help, and take time off to go for a spa or a full body massage to get that glow back.

 3. Regular exercise

Nothing can replace the benefits that regular exercise brings. Regular walks in the evening itself can help you get fit. In addition, there are applications that are tailored to mothers’ particular needs, such as those that target the tummy. It is not necessary to get expensive gym memberships or training equipment. If one has the discipline, fitness is within reach for every mother.

4. Make Sunscreen your friend

A broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or above should be used by all women who wish to protect their skin from the typical ravages that aging brings. It is the best anti-wrinkle and anti-dark spot product that you should use. You should use it every day, and reapply every few hours. The best sunscreens also include an effective array of skin-restoring ingredients and antioxidants suitable for your skin type.

5. Do not retire

You read that right. Mothers should have an occupation that brings them some income, and they should continue working long past the retirement age. This is of particular importance because the financial freedom itself will improve the quality of life of a woman. Also, being occupied ensures an active life which is very important for longevity and vitality.

6. Cultivate hobbies

All mothers should have hobbies that they nurture and enjoy for some time every day. It can be fifteen minutes of reading before sleep every day, or gardening for 30 minutes in the evening. Reading is good exercise for the mind, and gardening is good for both mind and body. Traditionally as women age they take up knitting. Though it is a good hobby, something that gives more mental or physical stimulation would be preferable as one ages.

7. Eat healthy

Every mother should have healthy eating habits. They should have plenty of fruits and vegetables to eat; not just apples and bananas but also colorful berries and melons. 2-3 servings per day should be the aim. As for vegetables, you can choose anti-oxidant rich dark green leafy ones such as spinach and broccoli and colorful vegetables such as carrots and squash. Do take milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu or almonds for calcium, to prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis. Get enough protein from eggs, beans, eggs and nuts. Get fiber from whole grain cereals without added sugar, whole grain oats, barley or rye, fruits such as pears and strawberries as well as vegetables such as carrots and beetroots.

8. Go for regular massages

Senior women can protect against joint and muscle pain, and stress that comes with aging, with regular massages. Studies have found that regular massages help seniors experience an improved quality of life, increased energy levels and an overall healthier and younger feeling. It can also improve the quality of sleep and relax the mind and body.

9. Sip water throughout the day

To prevent urinary tract infections as well as constipation, and to keep the kidneys healthy, it is important for older women to drink water throughout the day, even when they do not feel thirsty. Adequate water intake is essential in order to lessen the rate of cognitive decline and degenerative diseases such as dementia.

10. Be productive

To live a fulfilling life, it is not enough to consume; you need to produce as well. What can you produce? You may write your life experiences and bring it out as a book. Or write down all your favourite recipes for the younger generation. You can also start a business. The possibilities are endless.

Top Ten Ways To Grow Your Child’s Intelligence

Smart and Cute Girl

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Did you know that it is possible to grow your child’s intelligence? Yes, research suggests that it is indeed possible to raise the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) of a child through certain strategies. This means that intelligence is not fixed at birth, but can be modified and improved. Let us see how.

1. Let her play

Play is serious business for a child. When she plays, she is learning.  Playing creates the foundation for not only her emotional and social intelligence, but also the more old-fashioned IQ, because interaction with other kids builds new neural connections in the brain. Therefore, parents should not think that time spent on playing is time wasted. On the contrary, play with peers is very important for the development of different kinds of intelligence.

2. Read to her everyday

If there is one strategy that guarantees results in your efforts to raise an intelligent child, it is reading to her. This can start even before the child recognizes letters of the alphabet. Moreover, to improve general intelligence, you can read in any language. Choose books that have colorful images at first, and then move on to those that have more words, as the child progresses in her own education. There is no best time to read, but reading before bedtime is advantageous because it gives a much needed one-to-one time for the child with the parent.

3. Play with blocks and puzzles

Construction blocks and visual puzzles can train a child’s spatial intelligence, which is the ability to imagine pictures or visuals in your mind. This is the reason many preschools let their students start the day by playing with blocks. Every child growing up should have a set of blocks and puzzles at home to play with. Developing spatial intelligence is important as a support to acquiring knowledge in science, technology, engineering and Math.

4. Teach Math early

It is important to get the child familiar with mathematical concepts early in life, in a fun and practical way. Numbers and counting can be introduced in very early childhood. They can be introduced by reading stories, singing songs, playing games or reciting poems that involve numbers and counting. Very simple board games also can be introduced at this stage.

5. Hug, cuddle and talk to your child

Physical and emotional closeness develops in the beginning years of life through physical touch and verbal interaction between the major caregiver and the child. This is one of the most important factors that will see children flourish later in life. Most importantly, the cuddling and hugging gives them the message of security while the verbal interaction helps them to mimic spoken words early on in life. Babies who are not cuddled, loved and played with are in danger of having stunted growth.

6.  Teach a sport or game early

Physical exercise combined with fun is what a parent should aim for her child early on. The best way to do this is to get your kid introduced to a sport or game like badminton or cricket. This will be one of the most important gifts a parent can give her child. Physical exercise not only makes a child strong, but also smart. Exercise enables more blood flow to the brain which ensures new neurons being created.

7. Introduce your child to music

Listening to music can boost memory, learning and attention. Music is also very useful in lowering stress at any age. It is a very good idea to get your kid started on instrumental music or vocals from small. The only caveat is that parents need to invest time and energy in seeing that the child practices what she learns at home. Otherwise, after the initial enthusiasm, she will want to stop learning.

8. Model the behaviour you want her to adopt

If you want your child to be a reader, she has to see you reading. If you want your child to develop an interest in gardening, let her see you gardening. You have to model the behaviour that you want the child to develop. Your child will follow you and imitate you.

9. Limit television and gadget time

No child should be spending time watching television or playing on a phone or tablet before she is 2 years old. Even after two years old, there should be strict timings allowed for television viewing and gadget usage at home. At any cost, two hours before bed time, the child should not be using any sort of electronic media so that sleep is not disturbed.

10. Feed your kid right

It is a no-brainier that good nutrition is important for optimal brain development. Food rich in protein such as lean meat, poultry and eggs, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy should be given to very young children on a daily basis. Also important is to limit added sugar as well as saturated and Trans fat. Train your child to  choose healthy food right from a young age so that the habit will stay with her as an adult.

What is Passion Quotient?

Passion Quotient

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

All of us have heard of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ), but few of us may have heard of Passion Quotient (PQ).

What is Passion Quotient?

Passion is deep love for what you do. Passion Quotient measures how much you enjoy what you do. It is the single minded yearning of the human soul to attain as close to perfection as possible in a chosen field of work. All great work done by human beings in various fields are the results of passionate work, i.e. work done with a deep love and dedication. The concept of Passion Quotient was put forth by Thomas Friedman, the triple Pulitzer winning author and New York Times columnist. According to Friedman, passion and curiosity are more important than intelligence.

How does a person identify his passion? There are various ways

1. It beckons you

A person who is passionate about cricket will stop on his tracks when he sees a bunch of street kids playing on the street. He might even join them. In other words, when one is passionate about something, any opportunity to engage in it will be utilized by him.

2. It puts you in a ‘flow’

‘Flow’ according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a state of mind which one attains when he finds work that is entirely suited to his talents, and in which he can lose himself, even forgetting about time or food or other bodily needs. Work for which one has passion will let a person achieve ‘flow’.

3. Difficulties become challenges to be overcome

When one does something he is passionate about, difficulties will not deter him. They merely become challenges to be overcome. Even the process of overcoming the difficulty becomes something enjoyable.

4. You will learn it quickly

When one has passion for something, he puts his whole self into it, and as a result, it is accomplished with comparative speed and ease. Therefore, someone who is passionate about learning the piano will learn it faster than someone for whom it is a boring chore.

How does your Passion Quotient benefit you?

1. Intrinsic motivation

When you have passion for something, for example, to learn the guitar or to learn about computers, you have intrinsic motivation to do it, which is an immensely more powerful driving force than any extrinsic motivation. Someone who has intrinsic motivation for a job such as acting or singing will do it even if the remuneration may be small. Eventually they will become so good at it that success will follow.

2. Passion brings out excellence

In order for human beings to be excellent at something, he needs passion. The passionate individual will be so immersed in his work that, unintentionally, he will spend more time and energy on it than on anything else. Eventually he becomes excellent at it. For this reason, it is unwise to force a child to pursue something that he has no interest in, even though his chosen path does not seem to be as attractive as what the parents have in mind. Indeed, helping your child choose a career that fits him may be one of the most important tasks of parenting.

3. Passion gives you endless energy

Actors such as Jackie Chan are sometimes called a powerhouse of energy.  They do not seem to tire of their chosen profession because of their passion for it. The same tireless energy can be seen in people excellent in other fields, like Elon Musk or Bill Gates. It is not only the mental energy that passion guarantees. The physical energy also follows once a person finds his passion. And as often happens, excellence brings about success sooner or later.

4. Passionate work gives meaning to life

Anyone who is passionate about anything and is lucky to be able to do it knows that it brings great enjoyment to life. This is because he feels there is meaning in his life, since he is ‘born’ to do this work. It brings him great enjoyment and fulfilment. He feels that his life has a purpose. This is the concept of ‘ikigai’, which is the Japanese term for ‘your reason to live’ or the reason to jump out of bed with eagerness each morning.

5. Passion and curiosity will take you places

As Thomas Friedman suggests, the world now is ‘hyper-connected’, which means that information is readily available to everyone. It is what you do with the available information that makes him worthy of today’s global market forces. Therefore, much more than IQ (Intelligence Quotient) it is Passion Quotient (PQ) and Curiosity Quotient (CQ) that will make people worthy of being employed gainfully in the modern world.

Can You Cure Diseases by Laughing?

Cure Diseases by Laughing

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

In the famous book ‘Anatomy of an illness’, Norman Cousins writes in detail how he defeated a severe, life threatening disease with mega doses of vitamin C and just laughter! Even though rigorous scientific studies on the efficacy of laughter as a healing mechanism is yet to be undertaken, there is consensus in the medical community that laughter indeed augments one’s natural healing powers. It may not be long before doctors prescribe 10 minutes of belly laughter along with 30 minutes of exercise!

Laughing as Exercise

Towards the end of the 20th century, laughter clubs gained in popularity. In these clubs, people get together and engage in laughter on purpose. In fact, deep belly laughter acts as a light workout for your body. When you laugh deeply, your facial muscles stretch, your whole body convulses, your pulse increases like crazy and more oxygen is pumped to your tissues, as you breathing gets faster. It is for this reason that laughter has been called ‘internal jogging’.

Natural Immune Booster

Tickling your funny bones is good for your immune system too. If grief and anger suppresses your immune system, positive emotional expressions such as laughter does just the opposite. It reduces cortisol levels and increases the antibodies that fight against infection, cytokines that regulate immune functions, and natural killer cells that destroy tumor and viral cells.  Studies have shown that infection-fighting antibodies flood your system when you enter into bouts of deep laughter.

Good for Your Heart

A study by the researchers at the Loma Linda University of California found that just one year of watching hilarious TV shows had the effect of increasing good cholesterol in patients by about 26%. The link is very clear. When you laugh genuinely, your stress levels are very low, and people with lower stress have of course fewer chances of getting heart problems.  

Mental Health Benefits

There are well-recorded benefits of laughter for mental health. Laughter releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the body that promote a sense of well-being and relief from stress. In situations where there are conflicting opinions, seeing the humor in the argument and starting to laugh can defuse the tension. Laughter reduces stress by reducing cortisol levels. It also counteracts feelings of anxiety and sadness. Thus, a dose of laughter can significantly reduce the generalized anxiety in a family or any other social group. Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are two mental illnesses that can be positively affected by laughter.

Laughter as Pain Reliever

Laughter has been found to be a non-pharmacological method of reducing pain in a major study involving senior citizens. Scientists believe that the long series of exhalations that characterize true laughter lead to physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles, which in turn releases endorphins. This is the rationale behind the laughter therapy or humor therapy that has gained traction with many people in modern society. In a laughter therapy session, laughter is forced at first, but later on is genuinely produced by the members. It helps people to cope with the pain associated with serious diseases such as cancer. Such therapy sessions make use of comedy movies, clowns, games or impromptu laughter exercises. 

So what can I do to laugh?

Best laughter is spontaneously produced, in the company of friends and family. However, if you are in need of some laughter inducers, there are time-tested comedies that can guarantee results. Examples are White Chicks (2004), Step Brothers (2008), and Girls Trip (2017), to name a few. If you are into comedy shows there are many laughter-inducing ones such as Friends (1994–2004), The Big Bang Theory (2007–2019), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005–), Arrested Development (2003–),Modern Family (2009–2020), and Parks and Recreation (2009–2020). Standup comedians such as Ricky Gervais. Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Jim Jefferies, Zach Galifianakis and Aziz Ansari will also tickle your funny bones without fail. If you are looking for funny comics and graphic novels, there are plenty in that section too:  I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young and Jean- Francois Beaulieu, Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, and Sarah’s Scribbles By Sarah C. Andersen are a few that are guaranteed laughter inducers. Even good old The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, (Hergé) has hilarious moments interspersed throughout. Finally, there are websites with jokes pages freely available.  

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Domestic violence is any kind of behaviour that is used to gain control and power over a spouse, partner, or intimate family member. There are many kinds of domestic violence: Physical abuse, sexual abuse, controlling behaviour, emotional abuse and intimidation, verbal abuse, isolation, and economic abuse. Often, children are the most affected by domestic violence, both directly and indirectly.

Physical effects of domestic violence

  • Physical effects

Children in families where there is domestic violence tend to complain of general aches and pains such as stomach aches and headaches. They also might have irregular bowel habits and bed-wetting behaviour. They may be sleepy at school, as their nights might have been spent listening to or witnessing the violence at home. Many such children have poor personal hygiene and engage in high risk play activities and self-abuse. They may also show some of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They may appear nervous and have shorter attention spans. Constant fatigue and tiredness may also be observed in such kids. More overt signs of domestic violence such as physical injuries may be seen in some children.

  • Behavioral effects

Children who listen to or witness domestic violence often come to believe that violence is a normal part of life, and as a result, become either an abuser or a willing victim later in their lives. They might develop a mistrust of adults, act tough and have problems in becoming attached to other people. They may isolate themselves from friends and family, and withdraw into themselves. They might also lie in order to avoid being shouted at or having to confront people in authority. In school, their grades might drop not only because they do not have a conducive atmosphere at home for studies, but also because the everyday trauma reduces their motivation to study.

  • Psychological effects

Children who witness domestic violence often develop anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation. Children view their parents as the vessel that carries them safely, and any behaviour that is akin to a crack in the vessel will cause them to doubt their own safety. While some children become aggressive as a result of witnessing domestic violence, some others become introverted and withdrawn. Children who have witnessed or are subjected to domestic violence also show an increased tendency to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  They may re-experience the traumatic events in the form of memories and be distressed when exposed to stimuli that are connected in some way to the trauma. They may also develop hypervigilance, inappropriate anger and sleep disorders.

  • Effects of domestic violence on cognitive development

There are several scientific studies that have found that witnessing or undergoing domestic violence adversely impacts a child’s IQ and cognitive functions such as memory. It has also been found that the decrease in IQ is directly proportionate to the severity of domestic violence. There are also studies that have found that adverse childhood experiences directly affect the development of brain structures such as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis and also the auditory and visual cortex. 

  • School-related effects of domestic violence

Children from dysfunctional families have significantly lowered chances of successful functioning at school. They are less likely to form healthy friendships. Typically, they gravitate towards children from similar backgrounds, and the dysfunctional behaviour get more and more deeply rooted. Since violence is seen as normal, there are greater chances of such children becoming bullies and getting into trouble with other students and teachers. In the adolescent age, such children may experiment with drugs and engage in experimental sex.

The repeating cycle

The unfortunate fact about domestic violence is that it does not end in one generation. Children who have themselves undergone domestic violence inflict the same pain on their own children when they become adults and parents. Thus the cycle continues endlessly.

Children who emerge unscathed from domestic violence

It is important to note that some children who have undergone or witnessed domestic violence emerge unscathed from the experience. They do not have any adverse cognitive, emotional, behavioral or psychological negative effects. Generally speaking, girl children tend to fare better. Also, high intellectual ability, social support, and higher socio economic status tend to provide a cushioning effect against the worst impacts of domestic violence. Some children are by nature resilient. They have a naturally high adversity quotient. They may be relatively unaffected by a family environment of violence; they may even be stronger because of it. However, it should be remembered that they are a small minority.

Is COVID-19 A Blessing In Disguise?

COVID-19

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Can a pandemic be a blessing in disguise?

Make no mistake. For the millions of people who suffered all over the world and for the tens of thousands who died from it, COVID-19 has meant unequivocal suffering and death. For the millions who lost jobs, and all means of livelihood, Covid-19 has been nothing short of a full-blown disaster. Economic recession has reared its ugly head around the world, and no one knows the psychological cost of the pandemic.

Yet, many experts have pointed out the silver linings in the dark cloud that has enveloped the world these days. Let us take a look at them.

1. Improvement in environmental quality

It looks like the COVID-19 gave a much-needed break for nature. The near world-wide lock down led to a considerable lessening of travel, which meant that air pollution dropped considerably. For example, in China, there was a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions. All around the world, people report better air quality and clearer water. Sea turtles that shunned crowded beaches have begun to visit them now that they are devoid of all activity. All this was a direct effect of the lessening of human activities around the world.

2. Awareness of the need for hygiene

There are many rallying cries during this COVID times, such as ‘wash your hands’, ‘observe social distancing’, and ‘wear your masks’. The need for hygienic practices has been driven home now into the public psyche like never before. No doubt that this awareness will stand humanity in good stead in dealing with not just COVID-19, but also other epidemics and pandemics.

3. Realization of the benefits of technology

Never before in the history of the human race has technology been the saviour to this extent. School and college students are using Zoom, Google Meet, Edmodo and Microsoft Teams to continue their education seamlessly. Families keep in touch with each other through video calls. The internet has become the only solution to the lock down in many places, as people order food and medicine online. Even in the fight against the Corona virus, several apps have taken centre stage in contact-tracing and detecting the pandemic.

4. The new normal for the world of work

All around the world, businesses and institutions have begun to accept that it is normal, perhaps even better and more economical, for employees to work from home. This is especially of advantage to parents, as they can manage both home and office at the same time. The COVID-19 lock down definitely has brought more flexibility to our work culture.

5. Increase in family bonding time

Perhaps the most important advantage experienced by many families around the world is the dramatic increase in the family quality bonding time due to COVID-19. Many parents believe that COVID-19 lock down has brought families together, since the distractions of school, office, social get – togethers and functions were not there. Parents began to engage in meaningful activities during the lock down time with their children. COVID-19 has definitely helped us realize what our true priorities are.

6. Drive towards self-sufficiency in food supplies

Since the food supplies of various communities around the world was disrupted due to COVID-19, many countries have started to work towards greater self-sufficiency in food production. In the simplest of its forms, food self-sufficiency begins with each family producing at least a part of its own food, by growing a vegetable garden. COVID-19 has given a strong push in this direction.

7. Community mindedness

It is true that a common enemy can bring people together. COVID-19 is the common enemy right now, and it has given rise to a sense of community all around the world. There are healthy youngsters helping vulnerable people to pick up groceries and collect their medication. We also hear about elderly ladies and school children making masks, and big companies producing Personal Protection Equipment for health workers.

8. The spiritual benefits of COVID-19

By far, the most important positive effect of COVID-19 may have been spiritual. Human beings till now have been on a roll, thinking themselves as unbeatable and invincible, forgetting about their spiritual connection with all the living and non-living beings in the universe. Then comes a puny micro – organism, the Corona virus, that cannot even be seen with one’s naked eyes. It brought the wealthiest and the strongest countries of the world to their knees, and overwhelmed the best medical care systems of the world. If nothing else, the Corona virus has reminded us of our true place in the universe and has taught us some humility.

What Is Emotional Incest?

Father with a girl child

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Emotional incest, also called covert incest, is a type of abuse in which a parent depends on their child, instead of an adult, for emotional support. It is a fairly new concept that refers to the emotionally abusive relationship between a parental figure and a child. There is no explicit touching or physical relationship between the parent and the child, but the child feels trapped in a ‘too close for comfort’ situation. In the words of Kennet Adams who pioneered the concept, the child feels ‘icky’ about the relationship, but is unable to do anything about it because of the unequal power dynamics.

Signs of emotional incest

  • Asking advice from the child regarding adult issues such as how to deal with an abusive partner. By asking advice to a child, the latter is placed in a position of responsibility, and roles are reversed.
  • Encouraging and expecting a child to praise the parent for their efforts or personality.
  • Making the child the best friend and confidante of the parent. This leads to the child abandoning his/her own social and psychological world.
  • Admiring and complimenting the physical development of the child.
  • Taking a child on ‘dates’ to watch age-inappropriate movies or go to romantic dinners.
  • Calling the child inappropriate names such as ‘sweet lover’, ‘girl friend’ etc
  • Engaging in sexualized talk with a child.
  • The child feeling an unreasonable sense of obligation to the parent.
  • Love/hate relationship with a parent
  • Expecting the child to fulfil the role of a therapist. The parent may look towards the child for psychological support and counselling, depriving the child of his/her own relationships and age-appropriate socialization.

Causes of emotional incest

  1. Marital discord

A breakdown in the marital bond of the parents, typically due to divorce or separation is a common cause. When the marital bond breaks down, the parent might exploit the child for the emotional comfort that they are not getting from their estranged spouse.

  • Personality issues

A parent who is highly emotionally dependent or is ‘narcissistic’ can engage in behaviour that can be characterised as emotional incest. A parent is emotionally dependent on children if he/she turns to the child for emotional fulfilment. A ‘narcissistic’ parent, on the other hand, feels entitled to be adored by the child, view the child as an extension of themselves and controls the child in how they dress, what they say and do.

  • Generational enmeshment

In some families, there may be a sense that the covertly incestuous behaviour has been passed down from generation to generation. A parent who has experienced it in his or her own upbringing might view it as normal and pass it down to the children. Such a parent might say something along the lines of ‘You and I are as close as grandpa and I were’.

  • Parents with a neglected childhood

Some parents who have had a neglectful or emotionally deprived childhood may look for a different kind of relationship with their children, but may not be able to keep it within healthy boundaries because of their own need for being loved and attended to.

  • Loneliness

When the parent is lonely as a result of divorce or separation, or incompatibility with his/her partners, there is a heightened chance of emotional incest to occur. With no one to fulfil their psychological needs, the parent might turn to the child for fulfilment. Certain aspects in the personality of the child might remind the parent of their missing partner, and this might pave way for emotional incest. In some cases, the child may have qualities that the partner does not have, and are admired by the parent.

Impact of Emotional or Covert Incest

Childhood emotional incest is enormously damaging to a child’s development, because it occurs in the most primary relationship, between that of the parent and the child. Adults who have been subjected to emotional incest as children report inability to commit to romantic relationships, feelings of guilt and shame and identity struggles. The victim might have problems with self-esteem, sexual and emotional intimacy as well as addiction. In a situation where one of the children is subjected to emotional incest, the child may feel guilty at being treated special, but at the same time feel powerless to change the situation because of feelings of obligation and helplessness. They feel obligated, burdened and overly responsible for others’ emotional well-being.

Treatment for emotional incest victims

Emotional incest is a complex concept, and its effects may be often camouflaged as other physical or psychological illnesses. However, therapy in a safe environment for a considerable length of time has been proved to be beneficial in revealing the core issue and coming to terms with it.

As is often said, prevention is better than cure. Positive parenting tips should be known and understood by each and every potential parent, so that their children grow up as healthy, fulfilled adults.

Top Trending Words of 2020

Top Trending Words Of 2020

1. Coronavirus (n)

Coronavirus refers to any of different RNA-containing viruses of the family Coronaviridae, including many that cause respiratory illnesses. The most known types of coronavirus are SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.  The virus that results in COVID-19 is referred to as the novel coronavirus because it is new (novel), which means it has not been detected before. Novel coronavirus is abbreviated as nCoV. When looked at using a microscope, coronaviruses seem to be surrounded by spikes much like corona, or a crown-like shape, hence the name coronavirus.

2. Covid-19 (n)

Short form for Corona Virus Disease 2019, COVID-19 is the new guy in town. The number 19 refers to the fact that it was detected first in the year 2019. Currently spreading like wild fire around the word, it is a highly infectious respiratory disease and is caused by a new corona virus. It is fatal mostly in elderly people and in those who have underlying conditions such as heart disease. It was first discovered in China in December 2019, and has become a household word now.

3. Social Distancing (n)

Social distancing refers to one of the measures taken to combat a pandemic such as COVID-19, which is to increase the physical distance between people to slow the spread of the virus. In supermarkets the world over, you can see bright colored tape marking the distance one has to keep from others. Working from home, cancellation of mass gatherings like church services and school closings are other examples of social distancing measures.

4. Flatten the Curve (v)

Flatten the curve refers to slowing the spread of an epidemic disease so that the healthcare system of a particular area doesn’t get overwhelmed. The curve shows the number of cases over time, and flattening that curve means preventing an increase in new cases, thus causing a spike, in a short period of time.

5. Infodemic (n)

A proliferation of a variety of information which is often unsubstantiated, relating to a crisis, controversy, or event, and which spreads very fast and uncontrollably through news, social media and the internet is known as infodemic. It is regarded as causing disturbance and anxiety among the public. The COVID-19 pandemic has currently unleashed an infodemic, undoubtedly.

6. Herd Immunity (n)

The resistance to a particular infection in a group of people when a very high number of individuals have been exposed to the infection is known as herd immunity. This is an expression widely used currently as an option that different countries have, in dealing with the pandemic COVID-19.

6. Self-isolate ( v )

This is another word that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into parlance. To self-isolate means to avoid contact with others deliberately for a period of time. This is one of the measures employed to combat the spread of the disease.

8. Shelter in Place (n)

Shelter in place is a public safety protocol that is invoked during an emergency in which there is a threat to life or health. It is an instruction to people to find a place of shelter in their present location or immediate surroundings, and to stay there until the situation is safe.

 9. Elbow Bump (n)

This is another expression that has gained popularity in current times. The elbow bump is a form of informal greeting in which two people touch elbows while meeting, instead of shaking hands. This is to prevent the spread of germs by touching hands.

10. Quarantine (n) (v)

Quarantine refers to the isolation imposed on a person to prevent the spread of a disease. People are quarantined when it is known that they might have been exposed to an epidemic or a pandemic. This prevents the spread of the disease. Usually it is the Health department of a particular country or state that issues quarantine orders.

Self-quarantine is when a person chooses to isolate himself out of caution. It is also known as voluntary quarantine.

11.R0

R0 is pronounced as R-naught, R-nought, or R-zero. The R stands for Reproductive. R0 refers to the average number of people that a person affected with an infectious disease is expected to spread the infection to. R0 is also called the basic reproduction rate. If R0 is greater than 1, it means that the disease can spread in a population and cause an outbreak.

12. Super-spreader (n)

A super-spreader is a person who has been infected with a pathogen (such as a virus, or bacterium) and spreads it to a large number of people who aren’t infected. There have been reports of individuals who are super-spreaders in the current pandemic also, affecting a disproportionately huge number of people once he or she got infected.

Teaching And Learning English Through Short Stories

Teaching and learning English through short stories

Stories have always fascinated mankind. It is our capacity to create, remember and imagine stories that set us humans apart from animals. Stories are part of all human cultures. English, being the world language, has a wealth of short stories to its credit. A learner of English very often starts out his/her learning by means of reading or reciting stories.

Learning the sounds of English through short stories

In a kindergarten class, a teacher who teaches the sounds of letters has no better way to introduce those sounds than a short story. For example, Jolly phonics that makes use of the teaching of sounds to teaching reading, uses short stories extensively. For example, to introduce the sound of the letter ‘a’, a phonics teacher would tell the story of a kid who had a picnic outdoors, was bitten by an ant, and flicks the ant away saying ‘a’ ‘a’ ‘a’. This is a brilliant way to introduce sounds.

Learning the sounds of English through short stories

Learning vocabulary through short stories

The role of stories in teaching vocabulary is well-known to every English teacher and every interested parent. Take for example, a story such as  ‘the lion and the mouse’. Words such as ‘awakened’, ‘do you a good turn’, ‘plight’ and ‘bound’ which are otherwise difficult to explain, become very clear in their meaning as soon as the story is told. This is because a story provides a context to the word, and the context explains the meaning.  There are any number of activities that can be devised from short stories to teach vocabulary. A very popular one is to ask children to find the word that has a given meaning. There are also gap-filling activities in which kids have to write down a suitable word they encountered in the story.

Lion and Mouse

Learning  to read using short stories

This comes as no surprise to anyone. Stories are the time-tested way to learn to read. They are short, so they are suitable to hold the attention of youngsters whose attention span is very short. Many of them, especially the Aesop’s fables, are full of animals, and kids love animals. Since the subject material is so interesting, there is the incentive and motivation to read. It is no wonder that kids’ story books are so immensely popular all over the world. The advantage of these books is also that the vocabulary is very kid-friendly – simple and easy to pronounce.

Learning  to speak using short stories

Speaking is not something you associate traditionally with short stories, but it takes just a bit of creativity on the part of the parent or the teacher to turn a reading lesson into a speaking lesson. There are stories such as the Ant and the Grasshopper that lend themselves to dialogues very well. It takes very little imagination to see the possibilities of such short stories as role play material. Another way in which short stories can develop speaking skills is through story telling. Children love telling stories. A resourceful teacher can assign students to tell stories they know to the class each day.

Learning to write using short stories

Short stories can be the spring board to writing. There are numerous ways in which short stories can be used to develop writing skills. A commonly used method is to ask students to write answers to questions based on the story. There can also be gap-filling activities and extension activities in which students are asked to imagine a different ending to the story. Then there are also short story writing contests which are very popular among kids and teenagers all over the world.

Learning values through short stories

One might ask, why talk about values while dealing with English teaching and learning! Fact is, there is no learning that is devoid of instilling some kind of value system. Most of the popular short stories that children read, including fairy tales, instill the values of honesty, patience, selflessness and kindness. The value of a short story in such value education is very high. Classic stories like the Hare and the Tortoise and the Goose with the Golden Eggs teach values more effectively than any amount of moral education.

Short and captivating, stories are a goldmine for English teaching and learning.