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When should you start giving your child pocket money?

When should you start giving your child pocket money?

How do you determine when your child should get an allowance and what the amount should be?

Having allowances is an opportunity for kids to learn about financial responsibility and money management. It is a great way to teach them to be independent, patient, charitable and appreciative.

Allocating allowances for kids is a significant step in their process of growing up.

Money matters

As a guide, give your child RM1 per age every week i.e. a 10-year-old will get RM10 per week, though this depends on your financial situation and the standard rate in the area.

The idea is to increase the amount appropriately as they grow up, according to their needs. This amount should cover more than the basics (e.g. lunch and bus fare) so they can save the extras. Hence, it is important to discuss how you expect your kid to spend the money.

You can start giving them allowances as early as preschool or primary school, to spend at the canteen or the stationery shop.

Starting from young is important, as letting them handle cash will teach them to distinguish the value of different bills and coins. Dealing with transactions also helps them enhance their mathematical ability.

There are different approaches to allotting allowances. It can be given on a regular basis, depending on your preference.

You can start giving allowances daily when they are young, and switch to weekly or monthly as they grow older and learn to handle larger amounts of money. Getting a regular allowance makes it easier for them to plan their budget.

To earn additional allowance, get children to go odd jobs that are suitable for their age.

Allowances can also be given based on needs. Your kids will have to ask you whenever they run out of money. Discuss their request and teach them about the differences between wants and needs, as well as appropriate budget strategies.

If they want to buy something that costs more than their allocated budget, they have to save up and put aside immediate wants, thereby teaching them self-control.

Learn to earn

When talking about chores and allowances, one opinion states that kids have to earn their allowances by doing chores, and another says kids are expected to be responsible for chores without being paid.

Linking chores to allowances can teach them that they need to work to get what they want, but they may ditch the chores if there are no consequences other than not getting the allowance.

On the other hand, separating chores and allowances can teach them to be responsible as a family member, but they may take the allowance for granted if they do not have to work for it.

As a solution, separate regular allowances and chores (e.g. throwing out trash, washing the dishes, etc.), and offer to pay them extra for doing additional chores that are bigger and tougher (e.g. washing the car), as long as the chores are suitable for their age.

After all, doing household chores teaches them life skills and to be responsible without expecting rewards.

Doing household chores teaches children life skills and responsibility.

Here are some handy tips:

  • Help them budget. Teach them to allocate how much they are going to spend for immediate purchases and how much to set aside for savings.
  • Let them spend, but set a limit. Do not micro-manage how they spend their allowances, but step in if it breaks your rule, e.g. spending all their money on junk food.
  • Be firm with the allowance schedule. If they ask for an advance because their funds ran out, do not simply bail them out.
  • Don’t punish them by cutting allowances. If they misbehave, take away their privileges instead, such as limiting television time or Internet access.
  • Practise what you preach. Your financial habit will influence your kids. If you usually overspend on unnecessary things, they will think that it is an acceptable behaviour.

Different parents may have different preferences of giving allowances.

But one thing is certain – financial education should start from young, and letting kids manage their own money is a good way to start.

Alexius Cheang is a behavioural psychologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Keep your kid active for his heart health

Keep your kid active for his heart health

New Canadian research has found that keeping active in childhood, even when as young as three, could help to boost cardiovascular health later in life.

Carried out by researchers at McMaster University, the new study looked at 418 children aged three to five.

The team analysed the children’s cardiovascular fitness, arterial stiffness and blood pressure every year over a period of three years, and asked the children to wear an accelerometer around their waist for one week each year to track their physical activity levels.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that even at age three, physical activity had a positive effect on the children’s blood vessel health and cardiovascular fitness – both key factors in preventing adult heart disease.

The researchers observed that while arteries do stiffen over time, the process is slower in young children who have been more active.

The positive effects were seen in both boys and girls, although when looking at blood pressure, physical activity appeared to have a positive influence in girls only.

The study is the first to show that physical activity can boost blood vessel health in preschoolers.

Study lead author Nicole Proudfoot commented: “Many of us tend to think cardiovascular disease hits in older age, but arte-ries begin to stiffen when we are very young.

“It’s important to start any kind of preventative measures early. We need to ensure small children have many opportunities to be active to keep their hearts and blood vessels as healthy as possible.”

In addition, the more active children could also run for longer on the treadmill, suggesting they had better cardiovascular fitness, and their heart rates also came down faster after exercise.

Doing more intense physical activity also appeared to bring bigger benefits.

“This research suggests that intensity matters,” said Brian Timmons, an associate professor who supervised the research.

“Children benefit the most from energetic play, which means getting out of breath by playing games such as tag. And the more, the better.”

He added that physical activity does not have to happen in one go, and that keeping active throughout the day is important. – AFP Relaxnews

One in three imitate images of self-harm on Instagram

One in three imitate images of self-harm on Instagram

Young people who see images of cutting on Instagram are more likely to hurt themselves by imitating the act, and are also at higher risk for suicide, a new study suggests.

The research, led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in the United States, the University of Vienna in Austria, and the University of Leuven in Belgium, was published on May 27, 2019, in the journal New Media & Society.

It’s difficult to track how many youth harm themselves, but several studies suggest it’s more common than people think.

Researchers say about 18% of teenagers intentionally harm themselves and cutting is the most common form of self-injury.

Although those people are not necessarily suicidal in that moment, self-injury is one of the most powerful predictors of future suicidal thoughts.

The issue of cutting has gotten particular attention on Instagram, where images of mild to moderate cutting injuries can be seen frequently.

Researchers have found some images also show bleeding flesh wounds, with those images getting more comments.

Many people have raised concerns that such images will inspire copycats.

Decades of research on suicide has shown that certain types of news coverage can lead to an increase in suicides.

But little research has been done to see if the same effect exists for self-harm, especially on social media outlets.

As the conversation around social media’s effect on mental health continues, this is an area of increasing interest.

The study is based on 729 Americans, ages 18 to 29, who were recruited from internet gaming sites. Over 80% were women.

They were surveyed at two points a month apart, in May and June 2018.

They answered a host of questions, including several about suicide and the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, which led to a separate study published earlier in 2019.

The questions used in this study had to do with how often users came across images of self-harm on Instagram, whether they sought them out or found them accidentally, and whether they engaged in self-harm themselves.

More than 40% of the survey participants had seen a post of self-harm on Instagram at least once, and more than half of those had seen more than one.

Eighty percent of individuals who saw such posts said they encountered them by accident.

This can happen when certain hashtags overlap. For example, #cutting is sometimes used with images of self-harm, but it can also appear with #cat, to reference scratching or clawing.

Instagram users who click on #cutting from a cat post might then be led to self-harm images.

Nearly a third of the participants who saw self-harm posts at the first interview said that they had performed the same or very similar self-harming behaviour as a result.

They were more likely than people who didn’t see any self-harm content to report their own cutting at the second interview.

The finding persisted after researchers took into account other sources of self-harm or suicidal content users might be exposed to, as well as their past histories of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

While the study cannot establish causation, authors say these types of images can normalise the act of self-harm for young people.

“The findings suggest that whether the Instagram posts instigate self-harm on their own or not, they do reach vulnerable young people and may play a role in encouraging similar behaviour in those who are exposed to them,” co-author and Annenberg Public Policy Center research director Dan Romer said in a statement.

Although the study found a correlation between seeing self-harm images on Instagram and individuals cutting themselves, it does not indicate if one causes the other.

It’s possible that people who are at higher risk of self-harm are more likely to run into this type of content.

It’s also hard to generalise the results, as the sample of participants was not representative of the general public.

Although they were not highly vulnerable individuals with mental illness, the group might have over-represented people concerned with suicide as that was disclosed as one purpose of the survey.

The sample was also largely female, and only included adults 18 and older.

Given the large number of teens of both genders that use Instagram, future studies may need to look at how that population is affected.

In February, Instagram announced that it would no longer allow graphic images of cutting, and will take steps to get more resources to people posting and searching for self-harm related content.

However, research has shown that self-harm images continue to appear on the platform.

With over 500 million daily active users, Instagram is struggling to monitor all the content.

The platform still allows non-graphic images of self-harm, such as scars. The company says this allows people to share stories of recovery and build a community without stigmatising them.

Researchers say the effect of non-graphic images need to be studied to determine if they are helpful or harmful. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

Respect should be mutual between teens and parents

Respect should be mutual between teens and parents

Your teenage son has started coming home late from school. When you ask why, he snaps: “It’s none of your business. I can take care of myself!”

Is he becoming less respectful?

He argues that you do not respect his privacy, saying he deserves more independence and respect from you.

But as his parents, you feel that you have the right to know what he is doing and where he is going.

This situation can lead to a clash of interest between you and your son.

In this case, mutual respect is important. So, what is respect?

Respect simply means acknowledging a person’s abilities and inner qualities. To respect someone is to have a high regard or admiration for that person’s views and feelings.

Your teen wants to be acknowledged as an equal individual, but he also needs to respect your authority as his parent.

Both parties have to realise that respect is a two-way street and needs to be earned.

Earning respect

Mutual respect can be achieved when parents and teens make the effort to understand each other’s point of view.

It should start with you as the parent, as a way of teaching respect to your teen.

The following are some ways to gain respect from your teen, while at the same time, treating him respectfully.

• Empathy and compassion

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, while compassion is the desire to alleviate the other’s suffering. Both are important precursors to respect.

Try to empathise and be compassionate to your teen by remembering your own experience as a teenager.

Put yourself in his shoes to see his point of view. Make an effort to understand his situation, perspective and emotions.

• Lend your ear

Listen to all he has to say before making any decisions or conclusions. Let him justify his choices and actions.

Realise that listening does not mean agreeing; it is a way to show your respect for him.

You may or may not agree with his explanation, but always listen first.

• Give him your trust

Trust him when he has proven himself trustworthy. Give him some freedom and let him make his own decisions if he has shown that he is responsible.

For example, when letting him go out with his friends to the mall, set a rule for him to return before dusk.

If he does as instructed, you can trust him when he asks to go out again.

• Walk the talk

Be consistent with your words, actions, rules and decisions. Do not contradict what you have told him.

Someone who is inconsistent or hypocritical will be regarded as less credible, and thus, less worthy of respect.

A classic case is when a father scolds his teenage son for smoking when he is a smoker himself.

• Reasonable rules

Your teen is still bound to your authority and has to follow your rules as long as he is living under your roof.

However, ensure that the rules are fair, logical and suitable for him as a teenager.

Negotiate with him and listen to his feedback. Do not treat him like a small child.

Avoid making rules for your own convenience or to impose unnecessary control on him.

 Be honest
Admit your mistake and acknowledge when he is right. Being honest and open with him shows that you respect him as a person.

This will also encourage him to be honest with you and nurture mutual respect.

• Never embarrass him

Do not belittle or humiliate him, either in private or public, despite how strongly you might feel about the mistake he has committed.

Avoid name-calling even when you are fuming with anger.

Be careful not to say or do things that you might think as acceptable, but can be viewed as embarrassing by your teen.

Parents’ words can have a deep impact on their child’s psyche.

• Behaviour versus character

Distinguish his character or identity from his behaviour. When reprimanding him, be sure to direct it to his bad behaviour or action, instead of his character.

Attacking his character can make him lose respect for you.

Building a healthy relationship

Parental communication methods should evolve as children grow.

Teenagers do not want to be treated as a small child; they want to be independent and seen as a young adult.

Nevertheless, parents are still mandated to be responsible for their teens.

Both parents and teens have to understand their respective roles in order to develop mutual respect, as it is an important element of a healthy family relationship.

Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj is a consultant psychiatrist and president of the Malaysian Mental Health Association. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
How to know if your child has allergies, and manage it

How to know if your child has allergies, and manage it

When the immune system of a child is unable to insulate itself from allergens in certain foods, dust or pollens, the result is an allergic reaction and the child is said to have allergies.

Allergies can impair a child’s ability to sleep, play and function in school.

Children with eczema – a skin condition that is usually the earliest manifestation of allergies – have a predisposition to develop other allergies.

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is more likely to occur in young children. These children may later develop allergies of the nose or the lungs.

This process of evolution of one form of allergy to another is known as the Atopic March. The term “atopic” signifies that a child is allergic to various foods and environmental triggers.

Allergies seem to be more prevalent among children whose family members have a history of allergies.

As it is not feasible for parents to control the external environment and their child’s eating habits completely, their attention should be focused on observing the symptoms.

The early detection of allergies enables parents and doctors to formulate strategies to control the symptoms and enable the child to lead a normal life.

In the United States, up to 50 million people, including many children, suffer from some form of allergy.

Symptoms and causes

Common symptoms of allergies in children are:

• Skin rashes

• Wheezing

• Trouble breathing

• Stomachache, vomiting and/or diarrhoea

• Itchy and watery eyes

• Cold, cough and/or sneezing

Common allergens include:

• External environmental triggers like plant pollen and insect bites

• Indoor allergy triggers like pet or animal fur, dust mites and cockroaches

• Food allergens like cow’s milk, eggs, fish, peanuts and wheat

Many children outgrow allergies to cow’s milk and eggs as they get older. However, fish and peanut allergies generally persist.

Meanwhile, wheat can cause a severe life-threatening allergic reaction.

• Medicine allergies like allergies to penicillin or sulpha drugsAllergies, eczema, atopic dermatitis, hay fever, allergic rhinitis, asthma, allergens, food allergy, food intolerance, medicine allergy, Star2.com

Diagnosis and treatment

Some allergies can be fairly easily identified, while others can have obscure symptoms that are difficult to pinpoint to an allergy.

Eczema manifests itself through skin rashes, accompanied by severe itching.

Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is a nasal allergy that is common among children suffering from eczema.

Most children do not start suffering from hay fever until they reach school age. Allergy triggers in the environment like pets, pollen and dust, can cause hay fever.

If cold symptoms persist for a week or two in a child, or symptoms always occur at a certain time of the year, hay fever should be suspected.

Asthma, a form of lung allergy, manifests itself as cough, wheezing and difficulty in breathing. Such children generally show a good response to medicine given in inhaled form.

Symptoms of food allergies observed in young children include vomiting, diarrhoea, runny nose and sneezing.

In rare cases, children may suffer a severe reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

It is important to identify whether the reaction observed in young children is due to food allergies or food intolerance.

The signs and symptoms of food intolerance and food allergy can be similar, but are generally milder in the former.

A classic example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, where the enzyme needed to digest lactose in milk is deficient.

A person with lactose intolerance can drink lactose-free milk without any problems.

Medicine allergies generally manifest as skin rashes, and in rare cases, may cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Diagnostic tests to identify the allergens triggering the allergic reaction include both skin and blood tests.

Test findings are usually correlated with the observed symptoms before making a final diagnosis.

In severe cases, the child may need consultation with an allergist, who is a medical doctor who specialises in allergies.

While allergies cannot be eliminated totally, their impact and symptoms can be managed through appropriate treatment strategies.

To protect children from airborne allergies, the following measures may be helpful:

• Keeping pets out of the house

• Keeping stuffed toys out of the child’s bedroom

• Removing any carpets or rugs in the house

• Keeping windows closed to mitigate pollen-related allergies

• Using encased mattresses and pillows to minimise dust mite allergies

Children and their caregivers must be educated to avoid exposure to identified allergens.

However, if avoiding allergens is not feasible or not effective, doctors might prescribe anti-allergic medications such as antihistamines, inhalers, eye drops and nasal sprays.

In severe cases, the child may need allergy shots, which will help desensitise the child to the allergens.

Assoc Prof Dr Razia Latif is the Paediatric programme clerkship director at Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine. This article is courtesy of Perdana University. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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