Interview with Reena Singh!

Dear friends,

I met Dr Reena Singh at a training program and we connected immediately!

I had heard about her many times before as the both of us worked in the field of special needs and therapy.

We decided to meet again and that meeting led to an interview cum conversation with Reena as part of her YouTube channel. It was great fun doing it as we were on the same page and could relate to each other.

Here are the links to the interview presented in parts on the YouTube Channel:

Anthroposophic approach to parenting
https://youtu.be/RTC68ZQATRA

Waldorf approach to schooling
https://youtu.be/dAyAUeO-b24

Life Rhythms and Children
https://youtu.be/09dxaqsG0nU

Hurried parenting vs Slow parenting
https://youtu.be/PCAi9vqRYKM

Sibling rivalry and how to deal with it.
https://youtu.be/RVtpoZPmFA8

Will keep adding as Reena adds more parts of the interview.

So please watch, like, share and subscribe 😄

Lots of love ,

Nirupama

ARISE, AWAKE AND QUESTION

(Especially written keeping in mind the young adults, people who are contemplating marriage and parenthood and parents of young children. This is not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear)

The world has changed a lot more in the last 5 years than it has in the last century.

Ola, Uber, flipkart, Amazon, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Google maps and numerous other apps have significantly changed our lives. Life is going to become increasingly impossible to live without our ubiquitous cell phones that can, incidentally also be used to make calls.

Technology has definitely improved the quality of our lives. It has helped save a lot of money, energy and time. It’s like any other invention like the knife or the atom bomb. It all depends on how we use it.

Netflix has a series called Black Mirror (the ipad, laptop or tablet screen that’s turned off) which projects into the future where technology takes stranger turns and transforms humanity in unimaginable ways. Many works of science fiction have been prophetic and that thought is quite scary!

In fact, even infants have their eyes glued to their gadgets that are stuck to their prams, as mom is busy shopping. Six month old babies don’t eat anymore without watching their favourite cartoon/nursery rhymes on YouTube or listening to their favourite Bollywood number.

My now adult nephew’s friend is earning in Crores by making nursery rhyme animations of questionable quality.

Ten year olds want have their own Youtube channels. Children are not going down to play as much as they used to earlier.

Parents in restaurants are feeding their babies but not before handing them their smart phones to keep them distracted.

You go to any social get together and you find children and adults alike busy with their screens, even relatives who get together after a long, long time. Couples in restaurants are busy looking into their own smart phones instead of looking into each other’s eyes.

Parents are not able to set limits as they are themselves hooked on to it as the IDEA 4G AD says “Look look, India hua hook”

Social networking apps have several people employed only to make sure people are always hooked.

I wonder if there’s an app to measure the number of hours people spend with their phones….(update: yes there are many)

HOW ARE OUR LIFESTYLES AFFECTING US

Given this situation, young children who are affected the most, are speaking less, moving less, playing less. This is giving rise to many issues like speech delay, poor muscle tone, coordination and many sensori-motor disturbances. It’s hard to imagine the repercussions this is going to have in the future.

Just as cardiac problems, hypertension, BP, infertility, cancer and diabetes are called lifestyle diseases among the adult population, children are also exhibiting various lifestyle related symptoms like hyperactivity, low muscle tone, sensory processing disorders, autism like features, speech delay, aggression and so on.

There are 4-5 children with issues in a class of 20 children at a playschool I visit. Since it was too time consuming to talk about the same causes and effects to each parent individually, we decided to address the parents of the whole school regarding these modern challenges faced by today’s children, and in turn, parents and teachers. The talk was surprisingly very well received by the parents who were being swept by the wave of technology and lifestyle. But when this was brought to their awareness, it was like an awakening.

Most of us adults are sleep walking through life, flowing with the current and doing what everybody is doing. As humans, we have individual egos that help us to think independently for ourselves unlike animals that are governed by a group ego and herd mentality. ‘Normal’ is no longer most healthy.

We need to think for ourselves and consciously question our choices, especially when it comes to our children. Is this the best that I can give my child? At every step, we need to question ourselves about the choices we are making. Is this what is good? Will this calm my child or excite him? Do I satiate him immediately or do I deal with the tantrum? Do I spend time with him or do I hand him the I pad?

HOW LIFESTYLES ARE CHANGING

Technology is only one part if the lifestyle changes we are witnessing. The world we live in and how we are living is changing in many different ways. Now let us look at what are the lifestyle aspects that are impacting the true potential of the future generation.

What are we doing differently from the previous generation that is giving rise to issues that they did not face?

  • Increase in the number of vaccinations and antibiotic As we are developing resistance, we need to look for stronger doses! The body is no longer allowed to fight infections on its own. We are reducing natural immunity by resorting to unnatural prevention.
  • The missing family physician that used to listen more, diagnose simply by checking the pulse, and not immediately order a battery of tests. Counseling was part of his job profile. Today there is no time for that. There is no time to lose. We need to get better immediately even if we have to suppress the symptoms- child or grown up.
  • A surge of packaged, instant, refined, fast and processed food in the market. As far from real food as it is possible.
  • Increased use of GMO in agriculture.
  • A sudden flooding of technology into our lives which is becoming increasingly indispensible. Children and adults are equally glued to gadgets, no matter where they are. Some schools have started using gadgets too. Movement and physical activity is reducing.
  • Early start in school and academics: Children are packed off to schools even before they are two (a mistake I admit to making with my elder one and am not proud of it). Children take about 6 years to get ready for school in terms of developing the necessary skills like sitting, focussing, pencil grip and so on. I realised the hard way that feeding young children information too early is detrimental to their physical health and well being. Early start leads to fatigue and burn out. Learning is a lifelong process. Even the elderly people learn. What children under six need to do is play, run, get messy and explore.
  • Lack of regularity in eating and sleeping times and in the rhythms of the day. Even children under 5 are not getting their sleep needs met. It is now normal for children to go to bed anywhere between 10.30 to 12. I have seen children who can’t sleep before 1 am!! Children need to eat early and sleep early.
  • Pollution: all kinds of pollution. Air, water, food, noise, wifi radiation, electro-magnetic waves, you name it.
  • Excesses: there is excess of stimulation- noise, visuals, entertainment, material abundance, food, flavors, sugar, excess of everything. We don’t know where to draw a line and say this is enough. Over-stimulation makes children Hyperactive. Once the stimulants are removed, children calm down. They will not need shadow teachers or go for therapies if healthy practices are adopted right from the word go. we do not need to be entertained all the time. Sometimes it is important to do nothing!
  • Consumerism: businesses go to any extent to make people want to buy their product. It doesn’t matter how the product may affect the gullible people- their body image, their self esteem, their self worth. As long as the product sells, everything is OK.
  • Media boom: Media is everywhere…it constantly keeps telling us who we are, how to think, what to eat, what to wear and gives us information that they want us to have. We are at their mercy completely and we have created these ourselves.
  • Role reversal: Children being only children and the recipients of the abundant resources, they are no doubt the centre of our existence. However unfortunately, the children have been given the control and parents listen to children instead of it being the other way around. Experts say “be their friend” and this has been completely misunderstood. Children need parents who will set the limits for them and handle them with firmness instead of becoming putty at their hands. There is a simple reason for this. We are adults, hopefully with the experience and they are children with apparently no experience to take decisions and make judgments. We have taken up the role and responsibility of being parents and we are not here to relinquish control to the little ones who don’t have the experience to weigh what is good for them and what is not. It is difficult for us to see them cry. We need to learn that sometimes a ‘no’ expresses much more love and concern than a ‘yes’. This is especially true in parenting. Having said that it needs to be balanced with a good measure of love and presence to make it work!!

THE AWAKENING

We need not wait until things go to such a head that we cannot reverse it anymore. I’m not sure how much of it can be reversed even today, but as free thinking independent individuals, we still have our capacity to think for ourselves and make conscious choices wherever it is possible.

People are doing that…and they may be judged for it, but that does not stop anyone from breaking the mould, seeking an alternate way of life. They are awakening in their own unique ways.

People are seeking out alternative medical practices, alternative schools, home births, water births, saying no to vaccinations, going in for veganism and organic food, taking to farming, minimalism, slow food movements, supporting sustainable and humane businesses, breaking gender stereotypes, going for yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices and so on and so forth. People are finding their own individual path and have started believing in natural and holistic lifestyles.

People are truly awakening and are refusing to follow so called ‘normal’ currents.

WHAT CHILDREN NEED

Children need to grow up in calm, simple, uncluttered homes with less toys, with good healthy routines, minimum entertainment, lots of physical activity and maximum time out in nature. They need parents who are warm, loving, playful, in the here and now, who believe that less is more and slow is good and are conscious, ecologically aware and most importantly, trusting. Children who grow up in such homes have better stamina, better resistance to diseases, recover faster from illnesses, are much more calm, grounded, balanced and happy, there is more resilience and are able to bounce back sooner from situations.

Even a child with autism who is brought up in the above-mentioned manner may experience reduced aggression, hyperactivity, sensory issues and will be able to realize his true potential using the gifts that autism brings with it.

Our lifestyle has changed, but the archetypal human nature remains the same across time and space. We are still a product of nature. We are still made of the same elements that makes the rest of the natural world. The more we are in harmony with nature and its rhythms, the more we are in good health- physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Human evolution is not over yet. We are still evolving. The human being is now peaking in terms of intelligence. There’s much more to be achieved intellectually. But what lies beyond human intellect? What direction is our next step in evolution going to take?

It will be interesting to see….until then, let us arise, awake, ask questions and think as the conscious beings that we are! We may still not be perfect and yet to do things the way they need to be done but what is more important is that we are aware and conscious of our actions.

This can be our practical, everyday, living and individualized spirituality.

NIRUPAMA RAO

(Psychologist, Parent Counsellor),

Co Author: Parenting-The Art and Science of Nurturing ( with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS)

Contact: 9987653780, raonino@gmail.com

THE WELLNESS OF OUR CHILDREN

November 30 2010

Rohit, 9 years old, comes back from school, tosses his bag aside, kicks off his shoes, goes straight to the fridge, grabs a bottle of coke, helps himself to a pack of chips from the pantry, and settles down on the couch and switches on his favorite cartoon show on TV.  His mother Reema goes ballistic as he’s snacking before his lunch. She some how makes sure some decent meal goes in as he continues to watch TV. Reema is not even sure if he knows what he‘s had for lunch! She checks his diary with trepidation…hoping there’s no note from the teacher today. No such luck! “Rohit’s Class work is incomplete- not concentrating in class. Please meet the class-teacher”.

Post lunch he moves to the comp, logs on to his Facebook account to increase his Farmville points. It’s soon time for tuitions. After tuition, he goes straight to his friend’s house. They’re both excited about the new PSP game his friend has acquired! After his mother figures out where he is by 9pm, he goes home for a family dinner- in front of TV of course…Indian Idol is on! His day ends by about ten thirty after struggling with some last minute home work, when he goes to bed with his I-pod. He has to be up by 6 so he can get his school bus by 7am.

Sounds familiar? This is now a typical scenario in today’s urban households. This is the lifestyle of children today: Feasting on coke and fast food, glued to electronic entertainment, busy with tuitions and classes and absolutely no physical and out door play.

So it’s no wonder that the children of our generation do not seem to be as calm as they were, say fifteen or twenty years back. More and more children are on the hyperactive side. Incidences of ADHD that is clinical hyperactivity, autism, learning problems are on the rise. Even a seemingly calm child seems to have difficulty in concentrating for longer periods of time and gets bored easily. Health issues like asthma, skin allergies, anorexia, bulimia, high cholesterol and digestion problems which were earlier considered as medical problems for adults are plaguing children as well. A child today is much more sensitive, emotionally as well as sensorially. A major role in causing these issues can be attributed to changing lifestyles.

The need of the hour is to adopt a holistic healthy approach to life that heals and promotes well being. We are so caught in the rat race to make it big in life or in catching-up-with-the-joneses that we hardly make any time to smell the roses. Our children bear the brunt of our unconscious ways much more than we realize.  They tend to lose their innocence and childhood too soon.

As adults, we often take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the good old days when we ate mummy’s yummy ‘chaklis’ and ran down the neighborhood to play ‘chor-police’. Those were the days of fun and frolic. Don’t we owe it to our children to let them have a beautiful childhood too? It’s time to make some basic simple changes in our lifestyle and watch the magic unfold.

The following are some of the changes that we need to make in our life styles if we want our children to become more grounded and be comfortable in their skin. These tips are helpful universally to all children but some children are more sensitive to the environment than others, and so are more important and necessary for those children who need special attention.

DIET

This is the single most significant change that has happened in the past 15 to 20 years- the sudden flooding in the market of packaged foods, instant foods, sweet, artificially flavored, preserved, frozen foods. We don’t seem to eat fresh food anymore. Even the fruits we buy off the shelves are imported, hence preserved with chemicals. We are feeding our children toxic food in the form of chips, artificially colored candies, jams, juices, colas.  Children are addicted to these foods and denying them their favorite junk food often ends in temper tantrums. More often than not parents give in to their kids’ demands to buy peace, thus starting a vicious cycle of offering toxins as pacifiers, not to mention the fact that they are inadvertently raising spoilt brats in the process.

Please give your children natural, farm fresh, locally produced, homemade foods, free of any artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, sugars. This will play a major role in calming your child and in increasing their attention span. Good nutrition is the very basic thing a parent can provide the child with. Tampering with the basics can lead to many harmful repercussions in the long run.

ELECTRONIC GADGETS

Keep children away from TV. TV is harmful for children, and so are computers, mobile phones, video games, PSPs, microwave ovens. The electro-magnetic field generated by the TV and computer can structurally damage children’s brains. Research supports the fact that children under 2 should not be watching ANY TV at all!

Children have stopped going out to play because of TV. As they are used to being passively entertained, their brains can’t come up with innovative ways anymore to entertain themselves otherwise. They’ve become dependent on these gadgets which have already enslaved our generation. The second the TV is off, they start saying they’re bored! Please don’t worry when they complain of boredom, for that is what leads to creativity!

Parents should cut down on TV time, especially in the evenings when they should be playing outdoors, and during meal times. If they do watch TV, the content should be monitored to ensure what they’re watching is age-appropriate and give suitable explanation where required. And beware of advertisements. They can give the young impressionable mind faulty ideas about what is supposedly good or bad for us just so we go and buy their unnecessary products.

For more information on TV, one can find the article:

Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children’s Minds by Susan R. Johnson, M.D. on the net.

TOYS

Many parents fret that young children get easily bored with the expensive toys that we buy for them. That is because these toys, in spite of their attractiveness, cannot engage the child. They bring nothing out of the child.

What children really need are simple things from the home like paper, boxes of soap, paste, etc, utensils of various sizes from the kitchen, preferably filled with water, chapatti dough, clay, paints, beads, wooden blocks, cloth, simple wooden toys, stones, shells and other treasures from nature. A good toy is only 10 percent toy and 90 percent child! Complete and finished toys give a child no scope for creativity and imagination. Whereas you give a child simple materials, and the child can create entire worlds out of them!!

Once you get the idea, your creativity can take over. Here is a toy hidden in every nook-n-cranny of your house. The trick lies in using your imagination rather than taking the easy way out and buying expensive gadgets across the counter. For example, even if a toddler puts seeds in the masala box he is improving his eye-hand coordination while being fruitfully engaged. And please don’t mind the mess!

If you do any work in the kitchen, keep the child with you on the counter if it’s safe, or on the kitchen floor.

Let the child imitate you and do whatever you’re doing. Washing rice, peeling, pouring, kneading, making balls of dough, sorting vegetables, mopping the floor, washing clothes, all the while talking to the child about what you’re doing. Working with our hands is as good for us as it is for our children. It’s all about being in the here and now, for at least sometime everyday with the child with nothing in between. Not even your thoughts! Try this at home….it’s magical!! You will be amazed at the wonders children work out with everyday humdrum items lying around the house. Their creativity knows no bounds once they get started. Working with the hands is very calming for the mind and builds thinking capacity.

As for the older children, they need to be outdoors with children of their age, sweating it out and engaging in physical sports and games apart from reading and engaging in a meaningful hobby.

ATMOSPHERE

Keep the atmosphere in the house calm and noise free. It will help if the mother also calms down in her thoughts and actions.

Avoid loud music, talk to them in soft soothing voices, meditate and keep your own emotions under control. Children imitate us at an external and an internal level. If we are calm, we help our children be calm.

Avoid choosing a mall as a weekend outing program. You may notice that you feel drained out after a trip to the mall. That’s because malls are an assault on our senses…the sights, sounds, colors, movement, the beckoning products on display, the resisting of temptation, all this puts a lot of strain on us (the games arcade takes the cake for over-stimulation). Then imagine the effect they have on children! If children behave badly in malls, is it their fault?

Instead, go to calmer places like the garden for walks together, to picnics with friends, to the beach, climb a mountain, go boating; etc. There is nothing as rejuvenating as being one with nature. The pleasure of exploring nature’s bounty with your children can’t be compared with a trip to the neighborhood mall.

TOUCH AND WARMTH

Do you touch and hug your child enough? Do you rock him on your knees? Do you bounce him in the air? Do you carry her and go round and round until both of you fall with a spinning head? No? Then do it!

Also massage your child’s (any age) calves and feet at night with oil or cream in gentle circular movements, put on socks, and make him sleep with a story or a song. Warmth in your approach to the child (stress free), and warmth of touch and temperature- these are necessary for every growing child.

RHYTHM

Early to bed, early to rise, truly makes a child healthy and wise. Set a regular pattern – Breakfast, lunch, afternoon nap, and evening play in the park, returning home for an early dinner, getting ready for bed. Make sure the calm ambience (TV off, dim lights, soft sounds, into the bedroom) for sleep is set at least an hour before bedtime. And please remember, children need at least ten hours of uninterrupted sleep, for that’s when their bodies grow and rejuvenate.

Try to maintain the same routine everyday so the child knows what to expect next. But be sure not to be obsessed about it. It’s good to be disciplined but it’s equally important not to lose sleep over it. It helps to be conscious and aware of the better way of doing things and to make an honest attempt at getting better.

This will go a long way in helping your child feel secure, confident and most importantly, be healthy.

I need to put in a few personal notes here. I felt it was important to let the readers know that I have not written the article only as a Psychologist, who has seen in her practice, a number of children whose problems can be traced to an unhealthy lifestyle but as a parent myself, still struggling to make what I’ve written about as much a part of my family’s lifestyle as possible.

When I first became aware of these possibilities, my elder daughter was already 10 years old and my younger one was just born. Three years back, I started my journey into a more conscious way of living. Then I wondered…is it too late to bring about changes in the lifestyle of my family? Is my daughter too far gone in her addiction to TV and instant foods? Will my husband cooperate? But no…now that I am getting to know about a better way to live, I cannot consciously do things that are unhealthy for my children.

So I am not already someone who’s been there and done that, but is someone who is right in the middle of a storm that any change tends to bring about.

But am happy to say that in three years, my first one is almost free of asthma, her school performance has improved and the younger one is more robust than the first one was. It is a hard struggle, but its well worth it.

These are a few things that will surely help your child too if followed with consciousness and conviction.

Don’t worry if you’re going off track. Be aware and conscious. If you could do something right, just be aware that you did. If you couldn’t, you tell yourself that you couldn’t do it this time, but you’re going to keep trying. There is no need for us to judge ourselves on any matter, not just matters related to children. We do what we do and we’re ok. But if we get to know of a better way to do things, we will try that. That’s more important. With practice, you’ll get there and when you see the results, you’ll be convinced and you’ll be able to convince others, that the best way to live is naturally!

It is as if Mother Nature is appealing to us through our children:

“Please slow down; become conscious of what you’re doing; let children be children; respect what is natural; take care of your children and wake up before it is too late!!”

And when I say this, I do not talk about any one child. I’m talking about all the children and parents of the world…the collective consciousness. Every time one more person becomes conscious, it adds to this collective consciousness, and this will help to heal our planet!

Nirupama Rao