How To Raise Happy Children: For A Better Tomorrow

Is it ok for your children to get dirty? Can salt and sugar be given to an infant? Should I limit playtime? Find out the answers to these questions from a riveting panel discussion!

By Team ParentCircle

How To Raise Happy Children: For A Better Tomorrow
The esteemed panelists who took part in the panel discussion

Recently, ParentCircle got to witness a cross-section of panelists from diverse fields coming together to share their enriching views on how parents and society together can nurture happiness in their children. This, they say is possible by ensuring that the right values are inculcated in children, especially given today’s fast-paced world.

The exciting panel included actor Vijayalakshmi (of 2018 Bigg Boss Tamil Season 2 fame), Dr Jayanthi (a renowned paediatrician with many years of experience in the field), Ms Kanya Babu (an activist and environmentalist) and Dr Kannan (a child psychologist). The enthralling discussion was moderated by the highly acclaimed paediatrician Dr Dhanasekar.

The panel discussion revolved around what parents need to do to ensure a better life for their children. Here are some key points:

1. Let children get dirty!

The discussion started with ‘hygiene hypothesis’. Live Science, a popular science journal, in an article titled, 'What Is the Hygiene Hypothesis?' written by author Alina Bradford (Mar 2016), explains this theory thus: “Many parents believe that their children must be kept in an environment that is as clean as possible, but some research suggests that being exposed to what many would call unclean conditions is good for a child's immune system.”

The hypothesis suggests that the lack of exposure to germs does not give a child’s immune system a chance to develop resistance to diseases.

Actor Vijayalakshmi (who prefers to be identified as Nilan’s mother than a celebrity) was asked about her take on this hypothesis and how she ensures her toddler is hygienic. She quipped saying that she ensures basic hygiene routines for Nilan. However, it is not to the extent of carrying a sanitiser around everywhere she goes. The celeb star, in fact, doesn’t mind her son getting a little dirty sometimes, and is happy about it, as this way his immunity can develop.

2. Teach children to differentiate between right and wrong

Moving from physical pollutants to mental pollutants as part of the wide discussion, Dr Jayanthi stressed on the importance of mental hygiene.

She pointed out that kids of today are exposed to a myriad of information, both good and bad, from the home and school, and via media and outside influences. This is how they learn about the world around them and form their perceptions. 

Therefore, exposure to inappropriate content cannot be completely avoided. However, parents can guide their children to differentiate between right and wrong. But the line defining right from wrong may vary from household to household. Hence, an apt way to define boundaries for children is to teach them that none of their actions, physical or verbal, should harm or hurt anyone.

3. Stress on the need to care for the environment

A clean and hygienic environment contributes greatly to a child’s health. When the panel was thrown a question about the basic rights a child should have access to, Kanya Babu displayed her passion for environmental conservation. 

She stated that a child’s basic right is her right to a better world. According to her, the best wealth you could give your children would be to plant seven trees per child. She stressed that it was far better than leaving behind a sizeable bank balance or ensuring their academic excellence or charting their career paths for good jobs.

This was received with a huge round of applause from the parents as her idea seemed to resonate with their thoughts.

Further, Kanya Babu also stressed on the importance of disposing of plastic and garbage appropriately. Plastic bottles, straws and cups strewn about, end up reaching the seas. These, in turn, are consumed by fishes and some of them end up on our plates. Thus, plastic becomes a part of our intake indirectly.

As parents, it is important to teach kids eco-friendly measures for a better environment. Good habits in this regard go a long way in taking care of our surroundings.

4. Help them keep off junk food and sugar-laden delights

A healthy body makes a healthy mind – the doctors on the panel emphatically stated this. Speaking about a healthy diet, they highlighted the importance of keeping kids away from fast food.

Also, with childhood obesity being an alarming reality today, they stressed that it was far better to pack fruits, dried fruits or nuts in the snack box for school than chips, biscuits, cakes or sweet treats. They added that, if parents set an example by not eating too much fast food, kids will follow suit.

Dr Dhanasekar advised parents to not introduce children younger than one year to foods containing salt and sugar. These are the two main culprits in junk food that lead to childhood obesity. So, it is best to keep infants away from them as long as we can.

Apart from the health aspect, the panel discussion also covered key areas such as nurturing creativity, granting sufficient playtime and encouraging following hobbies and talents. Here is what they had to say:

5. Nurture creativity from an early age

When Vijayalakshmi was asked about how she nurtures creativity in Nilan, she shared that first and foremost she does not let Nilan use cellphones. She simply allows half an hour of TV time and prefers encouraging playtime. As kids are curious by nature, Nilan stays occupied with something as simple as a cardboard box for hours together.

Also, Nilan enjoys scribbling. But instead of snatching the crayon away from his hand when he scribbles on the wall, she offers a sheet of paper to him, so that he can be in his own world and scribble to his heart’s content.

Yes, giving your children a free hand, aids in fostering creativity. 

6. Allow children enough playtime

In terms of what not to object in a growing child, both Dr Jayanthi and Kanya Babu encouraged parents to allow their children to be children. They urged parents, to let children play and not interrupt their exploration of the world. Children learn best through play. 

However, ensure that your kids explore and play under your guidance and supervision so that they don’t mess around with dangerous objects and activities.

Dr Dhanasekar shared that he receives alarming calls, in the middle of the night, from parents whose kids have swallowed button batteries. These can present life-threatening situations. Be it batteries, metal screws and other such unsafe items – ensure kids don’t swallow them.

So, while encouraging play and allowing them to curiously explore and discover being a child, also ensure you keep them safe.

7. Encourage children to follow their hearts and talents

With regards to identifying talents early in children, both Dr Kannan and Dr Jayanthi had some great points to make.

According to these experts, to identify a child’s talent, first of all give her the opportunity to explore and experiment different activities from different fields. So, besides academics, which is the core focus in any school, expose children to extra-curricular activities such as music, arts, dance, drama and sports.

Further, conditioned by society – we are constantly striving for our kids to ‘become somebody’, which instead should ideally be ‘being myself’. Dr Kannan urged parents to not live their unfulfilled dreams through their children – and to allow children to be themselves and become who they are supposed to be and not what the parents want them to be.

Dr Jayanthi added that at an early age, children have different interests and hobbies, which can change by the time they reach adolescence. If they liked music intensely at a young age, they may lose interest in it entirely by the time they are teenagers. We can never know what lasts and what doesn’t. So, while motivating children to follow their hearts, also ensure that they excel in their studies.

In terms of fostering a better bond with your kids, here are some key takeaways:

8. Keep channels of communication open

The panel discussion also covered raising teenagers. Dr Kannan explained that it is very important to maintain a good bond with our children right from time they are very young. Keeping open channels of communication between us and our children will help a lot in ensuring this parent-child connect. 

Especially for adolescents, when they experience different bodily and emotional changes or develop wrong habits, they will have parents to turn to and discuss these issues with them. Because as parents we are the best guides for them, in terms of what they can do and what they can’t and warning them of the dire consequences that certain actions may have.

9. Offer time and love

While discussing about the fears of parenting, Vijayalakshmi spoke from a behavioural point of view. In her efforts to instil the right attitude to face the world in Nilan, she ensures that in front of her son she does not react negatively, be it a domestic fight or a stressful situation.

The actor particularly understood the impact a parent has on a child, when she was away from Nilan for quite a few days when she participated in the Bigg Boss programme. He was in the care of her relatives during that time. But, when she returned home, she found a marked difference in his behaviour. Nilan who was usually a happy-go-lucky chap had suddenly become stubborn and demanding.

It was this instance that mortified her, and she made every effort to renew the lost trust and re-establish her bond with her son. So, do spend ample time with your children and give them all the love in the world. Time and love are what your child cherishes the most.

It takes a village to raise a child!

The panel discussion had some great takeaways for the audience and ended on the wonderful note that it takes a village to raise a child. So, let’s not blame anyone or anything for things that go wrong in raising children. Instead, let each of us take responsibility for it. Also, both society and parents should come together and work towards raising happy children for a better tomorrow.

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