Take charge of this Academic Year

We get to have a very busy days and weeks, and mums (sorry to say that) are mostly the only ones who bare all this. Here are some quick tips that would help you take control and charge of this Academic Year (fingers crossed). I also hope this would help working mothers as well.

First, you have to set your mind that it is an inevitable part of life and there is no way out so we have to make the best out of it for our kids and ourselves. Try not to be tense; education is important but your kids’ mental health is more important. Bear in mind that this year should not only be academic, and that we should try to include fun days, sports, vacations, and happy events during the year. So here we go:

Time management and planning

  • An A3 monthly calendar printout is the most practical solution to jot down all the important monthly dates and events for all family members. (for ex. Exams, quizzes, sports practices, private lessons, birthdays, doctors appointments…..etc)
  • Weekly meal plan is the easiest way to spare yourself the headache of thinking before every meal – include all the meals, snacks, and fruits. Tip: Use internet for your favor to print out meals and charts.
  • Decide on a place for the extra stationary for easy reaching.
  • For easy mornings, prepare the night before. This will reduce the morning tension and hassle. If your kids are older than 6 years old, they can prepare their lunch box themselves under your supervision. Designate a special easy to reach place for lunch boxes and bags, cereals, snacks, tissues, wipes, flasks and bottles. Tip: add love notes to your kids in the lunch boxes.
  • Have enough school uniform, socks, hair bands, and stationary so as not to be stuck on a school day or night.
  • Decide on a day to wash the school uniform and have enough spare.
  • Prepare the school uniform and locate the pair of shoes at night.
  • For girls, easy hairstyles like braids, buns, and pigtails are recommended. Tip: detangle long hair the night before.
  • Supply the kids with tissues and wipes for hygiene purposes. Tip: use anti-lice spray routinely for prevention.
  • Keep an extra set of clothes, jackets, and stationary in the car for any emergencies.
  • Involve the kids in most of the tasks according to their age. This would be a great help for you and add to their sense of responsibility. Tip: a checklist is always handy.
  • As for the working mum, prepare all your stuff the night before, or wake up 45 min earlier.

Social skills and money management

  • Pocket money is a simulation to adult life that would help in teaching them money management. You can give them the money daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on their age and comprehension. They can spend it all, save some and spend some, or can save it all and eat only what they have from home. Holding money, having the power to purchase what they want, asking about the prices, and deciding what to buy and how will they make ends meet are the skills they can’t learn without experiencing them. Tip: If they get to save some, encourage them and add to it to buy whatever they want later.
  • Find the time to talk to them (lunch time/on the trip to or from school/ on the way to the club/ bed time), just have the time to listen about their days and reflections on the events that happened during the school day. That is very important for the social development of the kids and an easy way to bond. It is an opportunity to praise the efforts and good attitude, correct the mistakes, learn from the mishaps, and teach them new skills and new ways of thinking. You can always prevent a disaster if you listen early enough and carefully to your child. Tip: never disappoint them when they tell you anything shocking and listen calmly. Another Tip: keep an open communication channel with their teachers.
  • Before school starts, you go shopping for school bags, shoes, lunch boxes, flasks…..etc. Eventually, you get to throw away the ones from the year before. That’s a good opportunity for you to encourage your kids to giveaway the old stuff (after being washed) to the less privileged kids around. Tip: If you are doing so, let them buy new stationary in addition to the giveaways.

Have a great year!

Good luck

Menna Labib

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Parallel Education System

Today is the last exam and last day of school. You can feel the calmness already at home, the monster inside me is collecting its possessions to hibernate during the summer vacation till we meet next academic year!! Thinking about how my attitude changes over the year from an extremely cool mother to an overly aggressive monster is puzzling, but I think I know the reason… unfortunately it is school.

An education system that ruins the relationship between the parent and his kid is a failed system. An education system that puts everyone on the same track, shaping his or her minds in the same way, to reach the same destination, is a failed system. We go through this education program to get a degree to go to college, maybe get a master degree, to end up working in a corporate that is owned by a multimillionaire. This is simply how a capitalism system prepares publics to work for few business owners. Recently our generation started realizing that this capitalism system is eating up our lives so they started quitting their 9 to 5 jobs to seek a more fulfilling job in their owned business.

School evaluation system is unfair so do not stress on the grade. The kids are evaluated based on the written exams and the amount of information they have studied or acquired from schoolbooks (that are also selected by the schoolmasters). Schools do not usually give regards to the excellence in arts, non-sciences, other than the academic scientific curriculum. However, there are kids who are talented in visual arts, drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, architecture, sculpture, conceptual art, music, performing arts, or digital art. Unfortunately, schools do not prepare kids for excellence in these areas. The way of teaching is uncreative, it’s only stuffing their minds with unnecessary information. Even homework doesn’t drive kids for innovation, thinking, or creativity. 

If homeschooling is not an option in your country, or you are not capable of doing it, then you are stuck with school education. My advice to you is to take all the benefits you can from the school and leave out the unnecessary stuff. I mean enhance the social skills your kids that is gained from interacting with other kids, learn the fundamentals, and enjoy time for yourself.  It is our role, as enlightened parents, to adapt to this system and not trap them in this track, and to teach them to have a critical mind. We should widen their experience and expose them to the greatest life experiences so that they explore their capabilities and talents and get the chance to choose what they want to pursue.

Learning happens constantly throughout days, months and years and recourses come from everywhere, so use the non-school time for your kids benefit. After school, weekends, and school breaks are all yours to do non-school activities. Do not give private lessons; they should be playing during that time. Create your own parallel education system.

  • Take them on trips

Plan trips during the year, depending on the weather, not necessarily abroad, you can enjoy local cites. Go on field trips in farms and factories, musical concerts, museums, desert, parks, and libraries. Go on more extreme experience as hiking, skiing, camping, kite surfing, or even walking. 

  • Extracurricular activities and Summer internships

Let them work in summer from a young age, in a nursery, an office, a factory, a computer shop, elderly home, environmental camps, animals shelter or anything where they do different activities and meet new personalities and feel responsible. Help them try carpentry, gardening, landscaping, farming, drawing, painting, singing, and playing a musical instrument.

  • Online and screen time

Make online time more profitable, do a good research on the educational and interactive websites. There are even games that promote creativity and innovation. Limit TV time to documentaries and selective channels on history and geography like national geographic and history channel.

Leave them enough time to discover other skills and help them figure out what they would like to do. Expand their minds as much as you can and they will find their passion someday.

Good luck

Menna Labib

Fit in vs stand out – help your kids make friends

Our kids struggle with making friends at the park, at the nursery, at school, or even in college. There are times when they are rejected from other kids and that is very normal, however, they don’t understand how this works. Here comes your role as a mother. Step in with your strong super powers to magically change everything. But you have to know, it’ll take time. We all know making friends is not the easiest thing on earth. Your kid will come to you at least once to solve his friendship problem. Use this challenge to develop and enrich their personality.

  • Empathise to gain trust

When they come to you from the park or school feeling down and rejected, show them empathy and that you understand how they feel. Try to put it in words and that it’s okay to feel so. By that you’ll open a channel of trust and communication.

  • Arrange play dates to teach hospitality

It doesn’t have to be a birthday for the kids to gather, you can arrange a play date at your home. Invite few friends over and prepare snacks and games. Your kids will feel confident as they receive their friends at home and are actually responsible for entertaining them. This will also teach them hospitality.

  • Extra-curricular activities and sports to explore themselves

After school activities, a center, or club activities and sports are the best way for the kids to meet and engage. During these activities they get to make friends and at the same time explore themselves, what they like and what they don’t. At the end, they get to choose if they want to continue in what they’re doing or not; if they feel comfortable with certain kids or not. They’ll be able to explore their musical, artistic, physical, or scientific skills. You’ll also be able to put your hands on their unique talent and promote it.

  • Make them feel your love

Home is where the love is. They have to feel accepted at home. Shower them with positive phrases and encouragement to raise their self-confidence. They need to be sufficiently armed with love and confidence to face the outer world.

  • Point out the difference

It’s a fact that we are all different and we have different tastes in food, clothes, and people. The key here is to teach them to blend in culturally and still have the confidence to stand out in the way they think, act, dress, eat, or speak.

  • Act naturally 

and don’t initiate discussing how they’re fitting in school for example. Do not stress on overprotecting them so as not to make them pay unneeded attention. It is not a big deal and she can get over it. Kids normally adapt to their situations unless it hurts so much. Do not overanalyze the situation, move on. These are all new emotions for them but they have to learn.

  • Encourage the good attitude

Despite the difficulties your kids may face, still encourage them to be good with friends except bullies. On days when they feel lonely, give them something to entertain themselves like coloring pages, comics, or small toy; they’ll attract others and also make friends.

The older they get, they’ll understand how different they are and that unique is good. They might prefer to stand out rather than fit in or juggle between them according to the situation and the social settings they are facing.

Good luck 

Menna Labib 

Don’t skip this talk — Sex education

Most schools don’t educate kids about sex, however it’s everywhere and it’s inevitable that they get exposed to it. It has to be discussed the soonest. We see it in every television series, cartoons, movies, games, and advertisement. Kids are exposed to each other while changing in the lockers, clubs, or swimming practice. We listen about incidents of harassment and rape so our kids have to be equipped with the right information. 

This subject has to be discussed as early as possible, you don’t have to wait for your child to ask questions, you can open the subject while changing their clothes.

How to approach this topic 

  • Don’t skip it, if your child asks a question, answer. 
  • Be simple, honest, and clear. 
  • Don’t be shy, it’s science. It’s a subject that we face daily and it’s not something to be ashamed of. 
  • Don’t take it as a joke. 
  • The more naturally you speak, the less they’ll be obsessed about it. 

You should be open to discuss any aspect regarding this issue. Make them trust you to have the courage to ask you about anything. You are the one who should be asked, not their friends, not the Internet, not the magazines. 

Be cautious and watch out to any inappropriate behaviour. Educate yourself more about social media and parental control to be able to minimize the inappropriate material that your kids are exposed to. They will see them anyways but the younger they are the more offensive it is!! 

From an early age, name the private body parts with their names or nicknames for girls and boys. Make it clear that they are not to be shown to or touched by anyone. They are sacred parts that they are their only owners.  

Questions like where a baby comes from and how are we born may be asked frequently, especially if they see a pregnant woman. You have to answer by the simplest answers and at this stage it’s easy to give them a satisfactory reply. They just need to know that the babies are carried in mummies tummy till they are ready to be born. It would be a great idea if you watched an animal giving birth or videos related to this matter. 

Maybe at the age of 5 where the role of the dad comes in the picture. Depending on the child’s understanding you can introduce the sperm-egg relationship. And here dad gives mum his sperm to combine with the egg to produce the tiny baby, that will grow up to be you. 

And definitely a question about how the sperm reach the egg will be asked!! Then is the time where you have to introduce the intercourse. Begin by mentioning that they have to be married to do this intercourse. You might say that dad and mum have to be close enough for the sperm to reach the egg and they have to fit like a puzzle or plug and socket. Sperms swim to the egg and stay there to form the baby. 

Puberty age from 9 years old, at that age introduce body changes that happen. Be ready to discuss sex-related topics that come up from news, movies, or any clarification from school. 

By the time they grow up to be 12 or 13, they should be having their own ideas and values regarding this subject. You could discuss it every now and then to check how they’re getting along. 

Meanwhile they are growing up, you have to discuss the issue of harassment, both types, verbal and physical. They need to learn to protect their body from anyone and shouldn’t be touched. The older they get, point out the difference between sex and raping. One is an act of love and the other is an act of violence. 

 Good luck 

Menna Labib 

Bully Block 

A bully is any individual, regardless of his age and status, who makes you feel uncomfortable with yourself, he makes you feel that there is always something wrong with you. Bullying is not only physical, it’s emotional, verbal, or just a look of disgust. A bully can be your parent, your teacher, your colleague, your manager, your sibling, your partner, an in-law, or even your son.

Bullying is always visualized as high school kids making fun of other students; that’s one kind of it and it’s a serious one. But another type of bullying that is misinterpreted as a person having bad temper or lacking of anger management, is when an adult such as your partner or manager talks to you in a demeaning way.

Emotional bullying is the verbal criticism that you are exposed to. When you are criticized on most of your actions and your ability to take decisions and act upon them; when you are being compared to others; when you feel that it’s always your mistake; when you are threatened, blackmailed, and terrorized until you give in; when you are verbally abused by your son (for example) to give in to his needs, these are all examples of being bullied.

The bully would practice his insecurities on people who seem weak. A person who shows signs of weakness, shyness, passiveness, self-doubt, quietness, or sensitivity is always a good candidate for the bully to exercise his need to be strong.

Famous phrases of an adult bully:

  • Do I have to do everything by myself
  • Can’t you ever do it on your own
  • If you didn’t do so & so, you’ll never see me again
  • It’s not rocket science
  • Why do you always make it wrong
  • You never learn
  • You’re such an idiot

Facing a bully needs confidence and courage to either face them strongly or ignore and walk away from whatever is making you uncomfortable. You should seek help and support from friends and family. You don’t need to defend yourself or get caught in an argument because you are not accused of anything. A poker face works well sometimes. By all means don’t show weakness. And last but not least, support and empathize with any victim who is bullied. Spread awareness to block the bullies.

Menna Labib

Empower your girl

Girl: mum I don’t like my hair, I want to cut it like… 

Mum: why? Your hair is very nice, I love it 

Girl: no mum, I don’t like it and I don’t look beautiful 

All kids go through a phase where they don’t like how they look or how they dress. They are affected directly and indirectly by the comments of the people around them and the media they are exposed to. They are manipulated by all the videos, movies, pictures, advertisements, magazines, and billboards that surround them. 

Their friends at school comment on the way they make their hair or the food they bring or the stationery they use. The grownups most of the time comment on their skin color and how she’s too dark but has a sense of humour!!! 

All this affects the girls in a negative way and it’s the mothers’ task to neutralise all this and to fight back the attacks facing their girls. 

Be a leader and show her that you are exposed to the same comments but you still don’t care because you know your worth. Show her that you aren’t manipulated by the media and that you don’t have to be up to the latest trend in fashion, make-up, furniture. You just do great with what you have.  

Teach her to be grateful to what she has and magnify her gifts. Point out her beauty and her strength points, tell her sweet words, praise her actions and that will raise her self confidence. 

Don’t compare her to others, teach her that we are all different and in being different we are strong and unique. 

Teach her to love her own skin through your actions and attitude towards your own body. 

Keep talking to her and never give up because even if she got drifted by the forces around her, she’ll still remember your words one day and feel how gifted she is. 

Teach her to appreciate and cultivate her inner beauty of mind and soul over her external beauty and making up. It might be very hard for her to comprehend but never seize to try. 

Good luck

Menna Labib 

An Independent child will thank you 

At the swimming practice, your 10 year old son doesn’t find his swimming goggles and the first thing he says: “mum, I can’t find my goggles, it’s your fault!!” Is it really your fault that you didn’t put the goggles in the bag or is it your fault that he’s too dependent on you?!!?

Would you be a dedicated and a giving mother if you do everything for your kid? Would you try to help him get up every time he falls? Would you pack his school bag every night to make sure that he has everything? Do you think that by this you’ll be taking care of him???!! Think again….

When shall kids start to be independent?

Independent kids get to do certain tasks on their own depending on their age, capabilities, and your lifestyle. This gives them hands-on experience which results in self confidence. If they can do it, let them. Don’t limit their abilities, and give them confidence in what they do. Give them the space to explore and take the extra step and stand in the background for guidance and safety.

With every new task they do, they raise their sense of achievement leading to a higher self confidence and self esteem. Independent kids grow up being able of taking decisions and facing new challenges and hard times. They won’t wait for you to solve their problems.

By time they should also learn that they are responsible for the success or the failure, they can celebrate or learn, rejoice or be held accountable for their action. They will definitely thank you in the future.

On the other hand, dependant kids are so demanding, they don’t know what to do on their own and will get back to you on every single task. They’ll need your approval and permission on the most trivial issues. That might drive you crazy at times, so be wise. You’ll be the one who’ll be blamed if something went wrong. You’ll have to help in studying, packing bags, buying stuff, choosing what to buy. You are responsible for everything.

Here are few tips to help you raise an independent kid

  • Create a daily routine, this will ease the prediction of the next step
  • List and explain what is expected from them
  • at a certain age, you don’t have to go into details, just give them a broad list
  • Teach them how to do it once, twice, or even thrice, and then they will take the lead
  • Be there for help, cheering, encouraging, and clapping

World outside home walls is full of challenges, insecurities, competence, by preparing them to be independent and face life on their own, they will be grateful for you later, moreover, their partners will thank you in the future.

Moreover, once they are responsible for specific tasks, you’ll have more time and energy dedicated for other more important issues that arise from time to time. And finally, your biggest reward is that you’ll get to have your own time, you’ll remove tasks from your own list.

Cheers

Menna Labib