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Our Parenting Questions Answered By Child Psychologist & Early Education Consultant Dr Nahid Nader-Hashemi

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Next week’s Concept 03 Event at The Waldorf Astoria (remember to buy your tickets mamas!) will focus on parenting workshops with Internationally acclaimed child psychologist and Early Education Consultant Dr. Nahid Nader-Hashemi. With over 30 years experience in overseeing childhood education programs from pre-natal to aged 5, Dr. Nahid will cover everything from communicating with your baby to seeing and understanding the world through your child’s eyes, routine to handling misbehaviour and is guaranteed to have us hanging on her every word. We’ve started the conversation by asking her a few questions below.

How do you support a child who feels insecure about going to school?

The most important step is to connect with your child by finding out what is making her/him insecure. Depending on the age of your child, you will address the need differently. Try to listen to your child and find the source of his/her issue. If your child has attachment and separation anxiety issues, then as a parent you need to gradually help the child overcome these issues. If your child has secure attachment, then it is important to look at the school environment for the source of the issue – there may be something that is making your child uncomfortable: his/her peers, a teacher, or your child may generally be having trouble with transitioning. All of these concerns need to be addressed so your child’s future is not impacted by insecurity.

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At what age and how can we start helping our children understand consequences and empathy?

Logical and natural consequences are the two types of consequences that we should be aware of when we are dealing with young children. Generally speaking, around the age that children develop receptive and some expressive language they also start to learn natural consequences. This varies for each child but generally begins around age 2. For example: it is cold outside and your child refuses to wear her coat, when she goes out and feels very cold, this is a natural consequence. Logical consequences come in at a later age when the child’s brain is developed enough to understand. This is dependent on the developmental stage of each child, the family structure, and their disciplinary approach.

Children make significant advance in empathy development from infancy to middle childhood. Empathy typically has both emotional and cognitive components. When an infant hears another infant crying he may start crying as well; this is an example of emotional empathy. In contrast, cognitive empathy is the ability to accurately imagine another’s experience (pre-school). An example of this is if another child is sad, your child knows that this child needs to be comforted.

How do you foster self esteem and raise children to be confident?

The foundation of self-esteem is established in childhood, impacting them into their adult years. To raise a confident child with high self esteem, it is important to validate their feelings and emotions at face value. It is important not just to emphasise their successes but also allow them the space for undesirable outcomes and support them to cope and grow from these experiences. Emotional coaching is a tool parents can learn which can be very helpful.

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How do you encourage a shy and sensitive child to feel comfortable about dealing with new people, situations, and coping with change?

Children’s ability to cope with change and new situations is supported by positive reinforcement and encouragement.  Labeling them as shy is not desirable, potentially damaging and will not help them to overcome their fears. Empathise with your child’s feelings and be mindful of their emotional needs. Modelling confident behavior, teaching them basic social skills through role play and helping them express themselves will help them develop positive social interactions and decrease their overall levels of anxiety.

How important is friendship in the early years of development and what can you do if your child befriends a child who you believe to be a bad influence?

Early years are a critical time for development and learning to connect with people. There are many factors which young children use as a basis to form friendships among their peers. This includes shared interests between neighbors, relatives, peers at school or peers in the community.   Having the opportunity to form various friendships in early years is an important part of the child’s experience and learning process to navigate themselves in their social worlds.

How to deal with a friend that we think may have a bad influence on our child depends on our child’s age. Younger children are easier to redirect than older kids. If dealing with older kids, we need to provide space for children to make their own choices, all the while emphasising family values. Through effective communication and a healthy parent child relationships built early in childhood, these issues can be resolved.

Photograph of mother and baby

At what point do you know if your child’s behavior is cause for concern and how can you address this both at school and at home?

Your child’s behavior is cause for concern if it is causing functional impairment for the child at home, school, or both. If the behavioral issues are due to a disciplinary issue, this often manifests in the home environment. If so, parents need to find ways to improve their disciplinary skills. However, if the child is experiencing significant impairments in both the home and school environment, it is possible he/she may need additional mental health support to address his/her needs. To achieve the best results for the child, it is important parents work with the school to address these issues.

We’re really interested in the nature vs. nurture debate – what are your views on this? And how much are children affected by events such as divorce, relocation or loss both in the very early and later years?

While genetics impact a child’s personality and development, the environment has a significant influence on modifying outcomes for the child.

It is important to acknowledge the many factors that can be influencing any of these potentially traumatising incidents; there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to children. Each situation should be evaluated based on the uniqueness of the child and his/her environment.

Is there anything that you would like to share with us?

There is no such thing as perfect parenting! As parents, we need to also be kind to ourselves, enjoy the moments we share with our precious children as we continue down the path of improving our parenting skills. Be open to learning and developing, but enjoy the ride!

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