– Sue Atkins is a UK-based internationally recognised parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012)
My two children are bored with online school. I believe their full potential is not being realised, as they do limited study, with no sports and co-curricular activities. How can I help them?
— Menna Mathur, Delhi
These are challenging times for all families especially children. I suggest that you create a list of enjoyable activities by making an ‘Our (Family Name) Ideas Jar’ or ‘Our Great Indoors Jar’.
Decorate an unused jar with glitter. Then ask your children to write on slips of paper simple, enjoyable, inexpensive activity ideas. Place these slips into the jar. When the children complain, ‘We’re bored!’ ask them to pick a slip from the Ideas Jar and execute the activity.
Some ideas for the jar — learning about volcanoes/mountains/animals, exploring a new hobby such as painting, learning to cook or bake or play a new musical instrument, setting up a family challenge, playing board games, indoor gardening, going for a bike ride, reading a book, climbing a tree, organising a puppet show, walking the dog, etc.
My eight-year-old son is shy and reticent. How can I get him out of his shell?
— Shyla Tiwari, Mumbai
You need to role model confident social behaviour by doing the following:
- Take the lead in social situations/gatherings by being the first to say “Hello”, introduce yourself and strike up conversations.
- Make a list of the social interaction skills you want your child to acquire — e.g, talking with other children, teachers or classroom assistants, making phone calls, etc. Make it a point to do all these things yourself.
- Be friendly. Routinely smile and greet people.
- Compliment friends/family often.
- Make an effort to help people without being asked.
- Role model taking risks and learning from them by making positive comments. For instance: “That wasn’t much fun, but I’m glad I did it and got it out of the way! At least now I don’t have to worry about it.” or, “That didn’t go as well as I thought it would, but at least I know what to do next time.”
- Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or join a book club.
- Arrange play dates and seek out safe places for your son to interact with peers and practice social skills.
- Help him understand what it takes to make and keep a good friend. Talk about your friends, read books about friendships.
- Never shame or embarrass your child in social situations.
Moreover, understand the nature of your son’s shyness to develop a plan of action designed towards his specific needs.
My 14-year old son wants to ride a motorbike. I have explained to him that it is illegal, but many of his friends ride two-wheelers.
— Aahana Singh, New Delhi
Say ‘No’ as it’s illegal and dangerous. Choose a good time to discuss and explain the issue. Acknowledge his frustration about wanting to drive, explaining to him the legal and other dangers while offering hope that when he reaches the legal age, you will enable him to ride a motorbike. Use this opportunity to build bridges of communication with your son, not walls.