It’s the summer holidays and your kids have the whole day free, which can drive everyone crazy unless you structure in some constructive playtime. Mama Parsi Girls Secondary School issued some handy guidelines in Karachi.
Parents of children enrolled in classes one to five received a “holiday assignment” ahead of the summer break. The assignment gives 15 tips for a “fruitful and happy period”. Making the children bond with grandparents, allowing them independence, encouraging them to raise a kitchen garden, keeping them away from TV, mobile phones and computers, and discouraging junk food are some of the tips.
Dr Tania Saeed, who teaches at LUMS humanities department, said this is a brilliant holiday assignment. “Traditionally, such schools would ask children to write book reports of some sort during their summer vacation, but this school is providing the possibility for learning to be a collective family exercise,” she said.
When Fatima Zaidi, a former student, was at the school, such a list of advice did not exist. “But there was general cooperation between the school and parents,” she said. “It helped me create a relationship with my parents as well as teachers.”
According to psychiatrist Dr Ali Hashmi, these are healthy instructions for parents, especially in our country where there is ignorance about the “special challenges of parenting”.
He spoke about how important it is to bond with your child and spend time with them, “Things can never replace the company of parents and family,” he said. “There is no way kids can grow up well-adjusted no matter how many ‘things’ they have if they did not have access to their parents’ time.”
Grandparents can relate to children in a way that parents cannot, he said. “A trusting relationship with grandparents can complement children’s self-esteem and ability to love and respect other people,” he said.
Multiple studies have shown the negative effects of excessive ‘screen time’ – from physical problems to attention problems and depression, he said. “Screens are the addictions of modern life. The less the better.”
Research has shown that children who are praised and validated even if they are struggling tend to be more resilient and can ultimately achieve more, said the psychologist.
How to parent
What is the one thing that our parents did and today’s parents don’t do? “Probably that they gave us less ‘stuff’ because they couldn’t afford it but gave us more time because they had more of it,” said Dr Hashmi.
What is the one thing that our parents didn’t do and today’s parents do? “In general, parents today are more tolerant, less inclined towards harsh punishments and more amenable to being ‘friends’ with their kids i.e. treating them more as equals which is a good thing [as long as you] don’t overdo it,” he said.