Search This Blog

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Internet Safety for Children (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

     The Internet can be a wonderful resource for children.   It can be used by them to research school reports, communicate with teachers and peers, and play interactive, educational games. Any child who is old enough to punch in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the entire world in the comfort of their home. While the Internet is a wonderful resource for learning, it is also full of dangers ranging from inappropriate content to cyber-stalkers lurking in chat rooms or social networking sites. The Internet  presents with many challenging issues that parents never had to grapple with before.

     For parents, supervising your kids on the Internet is a delicate and necessary task. The Internet has become a blessing and a curse, if you will. On one hand, you want to encourage your children to use the Internet to develop, communicate, and recreate all the while shielding them from very real dangers it comes with. The danger can range from cyber to physical and needs to be monitored carefully.  For parents who may not be tech savvy, it can be a daunting task to supervise and provide appropriate guidance for kids. To make matters worse, children these days use the Internet as if it were a simple toy.  It comes effortlessly to them, and this dumbfounds the parents and results in lack of adequate monitoring. Prince Basnyat, an Information Technology (IT) professional and university professor in the IT field, states that parents need to be able to navigate effortlessly, understand totally, and deal effectively all the contours, challenges, and peril that the entire package of Internet brings for their kids. It is in the parents’ control to make sure the good outweighs the bad when it comes to Internet safety for their children. 

     Although monitoring children’s Internet usage can seem overwhelming to a parent who lacks technology skills; however, it can be achieved with some willingness and diligence. The first step is for parents to become educated about the Internet.  Prince Basnyat outlines three broad categories that the dangers fall into.  They are referred as the 3 C’s: Content (pornography, racist content, inaccurate information), Contact (threatening e-mails and other cyberbullying, strangers in chat rooms, social networking sites like Facebook), and Commerce (the blur between advertising & legitimate content, invasions of privacy & SPAM). 

     The second step is for parents to understand the different ways children use the Internet.  Parents typically use it for e-mails and web for research whereas young people use it to interactively chat, Instant Messaging (IM), music, games, tv shows, and movies.  It is important to be involved in our children’s online activities, validate their skills, and learn from them. One common way parents and children seem to use the Internet today is using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, etc.  This avenue allows for people to stay connected with their loved ones, but also poses safety risks when people share information that may seem harmless until predators get hold of it (e.g. vacation time & spots, kids’ pictures, venting about the workplace, political views, etc). I am reminded of one incident someone shared with me about a couple they knew who posted their vacation time on a social networking site and their babysitter, who was supposedly a “friend” of theirs, arranged a robbery of their home while they were vacationing.  It is one of those things in life you can not imagine happening to you until it does.

     The third step is for parents to understand and explain the difference between knowledge and wisdom to their children.  Knowledge refers to when children pick up technology quickly, but wisdom comes from understanding how to behave in a virtual world.  Helping your children understand the context is key when technology is constantly bombarding us with new, important safety issues which children may not see.  Above all, parents modeling for their children the appropriate usage behaviors can play a pivotal role in sending home the message.  Parents are the most important and influential people (for better or worse) in a child’s life so using this power wisely will go a long way!

Tips to avoid potential pitfalls:

●    Place the computer in a common area (e.g. family room) so parents can easily monitor
●    Choose products with parental controls (e.g. games with recommended age)
●    Each IM product asks you to fill out a profile of yourself. Be sure not to include private information such as phone number and address or school name.
●    Never click on unknown or suspicious hyperlinks
●    Never accept files (via e-mails, IM, downloading, etc.), or send them to people that you don’t know
●    Never open any e-mails that look suspicious such as not knowing who the sender is
●    Keep IM address secret in chat rooms
●    Monitor your child’s Internet browsing habits regularly
●    Never provide personal information in social networking sites such as date of births, social security    numbers, phone numbers, home address, etc.
●    Refrain from posting information that seem harmless, but can be used against you in some way or another (political views, negative comments about the workplace, vacation time and spots, children’s pictures, etc.)
●    Be selective in who you allow to be your “friends” in social networking sites
●    Remember always that every one of us is vulnerable in cyberspace, so take precaution and then enjoy technology!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Multicultural Parenting (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Today, many people are raising children in a multicultural home. Multicultural homes can have many different forms. It can be an immigrant family struggling to negotiate between their native and adopted cultures, or each parent having different ethnicity, but raising kids in a new culture, or adopting children from different cultures, or parents and children being in the same culture, but now have to deal with a new situation that exposes them to a different culture, etc.  In our evolving world, the different types of multicultural families are endless and the challenges this presents in parenting are significant.  
Having migrated to the US from Nepal as a child with my family, I know firsthand the struggle we went through not only to understand the American culture, but also to negotiate between the Nepali and American cultures.  We were building the plane and flying it at the same time, so to speak! These two cultures are so different from one another in terms of their values, social norms, parenting strategies, etc. that it was a major transition for us all.  For example, maintaining harmony in social interactions is a major guiding principle in the Nepali culture whereas sincerity is valued in an American culture. Therefore, children are encouraged to suppress their feelings in order to avoid conflicts and maintain harmony in familial relationships in the Nepali culture.  However, in the American culture children are encouraged to be open and share their feelings with parents, especially during conflicts.  If children were to do this in a Nepali culture, they would be seen as being disrespectful to their elders and potentially selfish for putting their needs above their parents’ or family’s needs.  While the Nepalese parents are thinking this, their children may be thinking that their parents are being unreasonable and inconsiderate themselves.  You can see how this would create tension when parents are trying to reconcile the two opposing values from two very different cultures.
In the simplest form, I believe these conflicts are the result of a major cultural gap compounded by a generational gap.  If both the parents and children understand this dynamic, then they will be in a better position in resolving their differences.  So, the big question is: how do we resolve the differences between two cultures?  As a person who was raised in a multicultural home and now practicing multicultural parenting myself, here are some practices I feel are important.

5 Strategies in Multicultural Parenting

1. Take the best of both worlds approach. Every culture has its positives and negatives, and choosing to incorporate the positives into our parenting have been key.  

2.  Do not pit the native culture against the adopted culture. When parents insist that their native culture is superior to the adopted culture, then they are just asking for trouble (a.k.a. Rebellion, Rebellion, Rebellion!).  It is a very tough place for a child to choose between their parents’ wishes and all of the great things the new culture has to offer.   So, why should they have to choose? As parents, we can not afford to feel threatened, but instead have confidence in ourselves that we are doing what is in the best interest for our children and family regardless of the societal pressure that may be pulling us in different directions.

3.   Engage your children in learning about your native culture in fun and meaningful ways.  Introducing them to native music, food, books, clothing, people, and arts are some great ways parents can communicate pride about the native culture and encourage children to embrace it in a positive way.

4.  Do not force the native culture on your child. Like many things with children, they will resist if they feel parents are forcing it on them.  I have heard it too many times from adults that they would have pursued something if their parents had not encroached it upon them. Sure, some kids may appear to embrace their native culture because of parental pressure and do whatever is being asked of them, but at some point in their lives they are likely to rebel against this.  Just imagine all of the hard work that went into instilling the native values only to find later that your child rebels and rejects your native culture. This is heartbreaking, so use your parental authority wisely.  

5. Embrace the adopted culture. Parents are the most influential people in a child’s life so why not provide good modeling by engaging in the adopted culture in a positive and meaningful way. When children see the parents accept the adopted culture’s people, music, arts, food, etc. then they too, will feel comfortable doing it.  Children will be pulled to the positive side of the new culture if the positive side is exposed to them.  If such exposure does not occur, then parents and children both are likely to have anxieties about the adopted culture. The fear of the unknown is a powerful force, do not let it pull you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Technology has Influenced Our Parenting (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

    Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about the latest and the greatest technology that are available today.  Whether it is the iPad2, gaming systems like the Wii, smart phones, or social networking sites like Facebook, we are constantly bombarded with advanced technology. Furthermore, our children navigate them like a toy.  I am not tech savvy, but my husband and 6 year old son have a natural knack for it.  So, when the two of them teamed up and convinced me that we absolutely needed the Wii in our home to exercise and play educational kids’ games,  it got me thinking…how has today’s technology influenced our parenting?
    The approach I was taking about technology and parenting was that it is one more thing I have to monitor and worry about.  My fear was that our son will become a couch potato who embraces a sedentary lifestyle and the kind of things he would be exposed to just created anxiety in me.  According to our son, his teacher stated that he is the first kid she knew who did not have a video game.  When I responded that he has a Leapster, he basically told me that it does not count and he started naming the gaming systems  like the Wii, Xbox/Kinect, etc. that are out there today.  This gave me more energy to stick to my guns.
    Well, I lost this fight a week ago when my neighbor shared with me how her mother never exercised until she bought the Wii Fit.  As soon as I left my neighbor’s house, my husband called and said someone is selling the Wii Fit at work and whether we should buy it. I succumbed to the coincidental “signs” and gave him the go ahead.  I mean, if a Higher Being wants us to have the Wii Fit then maybe we should get the Wii Fit.  A week ago, I surrendered and my approach to technology and parenting changed.  It went from not wanting it to be one more thing I had to worry about in parenting to I now have one more thing I can use as leverage when parenting.  So, the Wii now goes on a long list of things I can take away when disciplining our son. If used wisely, technology can be a beautiful thing in parenting.
    Now, onto the specifics of how technology has influenced our parenting.  To get a better understanding of where I am coming from, let me first share three values I hold dearly when it comes to technology and parenting.  First, we do not want our young children being exposed to inappropriate content (violence, drugs, sex, and other adult content).  There is a plethora of research to support how such exposure can negatively impact children’s physical and psychological well-being.  The second value that is important to us is that we want our children to be active and enjoy the outdoors as well as stay intellectually stimulated. 
    Lastly, we want our children to learn to delay gratification and learn that patience is a virtue.  This last concept has gotten lot of press lately because of the Millennium generation entering the workforce with a sense of entitlement and wanting their wishes granted immediately.  Growing up with on-demand and dvr features on our tv/cable system, in addition to other advanced technology and coddling parents, I’m sure did not help the matter. We have combatted this in our home by limiting access to on-demand/dvr features only on the weekends.  We have also set limits on how much and what our kids are exposed to in the technological era.  Using the rating codes on television programs and video games have been helpful. It seems to be a good balance of utilizing technology wisely without being consumed by it. So, how has technology influenced your parenting?  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Psychosocial Development (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

    Many social scientists have attempted to explain the stages of psychosocial development, but I feel Erik Erikson explained it the best.  He was a Danish-German-American developmental psychologist who was influenced by the works of Sigmund and Anna Freud, but unlike Freud’s stages of development, Erikson’s stages cover the lifespan and therefore more comprehensive. I will not bore you with the history of his work, but will explain my interpretation of his theory of development so it is user friendly when it comes to your child’s personality development.  Without understanding “normal” development, it is hard to have realistic expectations from our own children.
    The basic premise of Erikson’s stages is that our personality is developed based on our social interactions while growing up, especially with our caretakers.  There will always be a conflict between two opposing concepts in each stage.  Favorable or unfavorable outcomes are dependent on how this conflict is resolved. Each stage builds on the previous ones in order to lead to favorable outcomes.  If one stage does not resolve favorably then emotional issues are likely to arise.  Some may describe this as being emotionally “stuck.” Please see below for a general overview of Erikson’s developmental stages.

1.    Trust vs. Mistrust (Infancy: 0-18 months)- At this early stage in life, the baby is entirely dependent on the caretakers, usually the parents.  If parents provide basic needs, love, consistency, and secure emotional attachment then the outcome is favorable and the baby will trust parents and others and feel the world is generally a predictable and safe place. However, if this is lacking then the baby will mistrust people and develop fear of their world. An example of this is separation anxiety felt when the child is left in the care of someone else.  Separation anxiety lessens as the child learns that the parent will return and hence, feel more secure.
2.    Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt (Early childhood: 18 months-3 years)- The focus of this stage is on the child developing a greater sense of personal control. The most important process here is toilet training. When children master this, they feel very proud of themselves and independence is encouraged. This is why there is so much fuss about how a parent toilet trains their child.  Forcing toilet training or starting it too early can cause emotional issues for the child. Other important happenings at this time involve gaining greater independence over food choice, toys preferences, and clothing selection. When parents encourage children to seek independence in a loving and encouraging way, the kids feel secure and confident. If this does not occur, then they will feel inadequate and will develop shame and self-doubt. 

3.    Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool age: 3-5 years)- Here, children explore and assert power and control of their world through play and other social interactions. Those who are successful at this stage feel capable and able to lead others.  Conversely, if they do not successfully acquire these skills then they feel guilt, self-doubt, and lack initiative. 

4.    Industry vs. Inferiority (School age: 5- 12 years)- Now the child’s world has expanded to include the school and neighborhood although parents are still the most important figures in their lives. Through these various social interactions, children are learning new skills and gaining sense of pride with their accomplishments. Parents, teachers, and other adults who provide positive reinforcement encourage children to feel a sense of industry.  However, if the important adults in their lives constantly focus on the child’s negative qualities then they will feel inadequate among their peers. Over time, this will result in an inferiority complex and poor self-esteem. 

5.    Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescence: 12 -18 years)- Parents probably fear this stage of development more than any other.  It is a time when their child is no longer a “child” nor an adult. The teenager is trying to define who they are and how they fit into the world. This is the time when they start developing philosophical beliefs although it tends to be more idealistic than realistic.  Peers are now more important than ever. However, parents should take comfort in the fact that although peers play an increasing role in your teenager’s life, the parents are still the most important influences.  Peers have an impact when it comes to things like clothing and music, but parents still hold the cards when it comes to values such as education, self-discipline, drugs, sex, and faith.  I should add that if parents have not built this strong foundation of values up to this point, then they do run the risk of their teenagers being influenced by peers in these areas.  If parents have set up a strong foundation, then it may just be a matter of “riding out the storm” in many cases.    

6.    Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation (Young adulthood: 18-35 years)- This is the time when people are exploring and developing strong personal relationships. This includes both romantic relationships and friendships.  If people are seeking personal relationships, but do not succeed then they may feel isolated and can lead to emotional problems such as depression. Keep in mind that the skills learned in previous stages impacts later ones. For instance, not having a strong identity can have negative impact on personal relationships.   

7.    Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle adulthood: 35-65 years)- As adults, we continue to build our lives with our family, friends, and career.  People who are successful at this stage feel they have made positive contributions to the world through their interactions in their homes and communities.  Those who do not feel this way, experience stagnation.

8.    Integrity vs. Despair (Late adulthood: 65 years- death)- This is when our lives take a full circle when we start reflecting on how we have lived our lives.  Do we have integrity about how we navigated life and gained wisdom through our experiences or do we have regrets and feel despair? 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Self-care in Mothering (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

                Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers around the globe!  As a toast to mothers everywhere, I would like to talk about an important topic in mothering: self-care.  Self-care is when you attend to your own physical and emotional needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Mothers are constantly bombarded with parental responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, shuttling kids back and forth between extracurricular activities, attending school programs, providing care during illnesses, etc.  This is compounded by other non-parental  responsibilities such as taking care of one’s spouse or partner, finances, social obligations, your own aging parents, etc.  Finally, add the infamous feeling of guilt to the mix and self-care goes way back in the back burner of mothers’ "to do list."
                Having children and parenting brings with it pride, joy, personal growth, and is a rewarding and unique experience. However, it also puts you at risk for emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.  A recent study shows that parents, regardless of gender, are at higher risk of getting depression than non-parents (Evenson & Simon, 2005) .  I feel it is important than ever before to practice self-care because of the constant demands placed on us from our rapidly changing world.  Striking a balance is key in self-care. 
                If you're not convinced thus far, then consider this classic scenario: when you are in an airplane, in case of emergency, parents are instructed to first put on their oxygen mask before their child’s.  If this sounds selfish, then imagine you decide to first put it on your child and in the process you lose oxygen and fall out. This is not good for you or your child. You often hear mothers saying, “I just don’t have the time.”  I say, “You matter, and value yourself to set aside the time, guilt-free.” A happy mother is a great mother!

 10 Ways to Self-care:
1.    Stay connected with your social network (personally, not just in Facebook, Twitter,…!).
2.    Pamper yourself within your means.
3.    Prioritize your values and responsibilities.
4.    Get comfortable with saying “No” to things that are not priority.
5.    Make time for exercise and good nutrition.
6.    Try to find shortcuts to manage time effectively.
7.    Get organized and remove clutter from your life.
8.    Set aside regular time for your hobby.
9.    Cut down on self-doubt and rumination.
10.  Stay physically and emotionally connected with your spouse/partner.

Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and Depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Your Child’s Third Parent (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

            So you didn’t know that your child has a third parent huh? Their name collectively is The Teacher.  This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week across the United States and I wanted to focus on this subject in honor of these special people in our lives.  The Teacher is arguably the second most important person in a child’s life (parents being first).  It makes sense when you consider the amount of time a child spends at school. Having worked in the schools for many years in various roles, I have learned how paramount the teacher’s role is.  The Teacher teaches not only the academic subjects and manages every child’s unique behaviors, but also teaches pro-social behaviors such as manners, public speaking skills, assertiveness skills, conflict resolution, and the list goes on and on.  My respect for this profession has multiplied exponentially after working in the schools.  In fact, I feel we should consider The Teacher as our child’s Third Parent and cultivate this relationship accordingly.  We know that a positive parent-teacher relationship contributes to our child’s school success, so why not do everything we can to nurture this?

            The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) states:  
Recent studies show that when families are involved in their children’s education in positive ways, the children achieve higher grades and test scores, have better attendance at school, complete more homework, and demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior.  Reports also indicate that families who receive frequent and positive messages from teachers tend to become more involved in their children’s education than do parents who do not receive this kind of communication (

10 Ways to Foster a Positive Parent-Teacher Relationship:
1.       Good Communication (via Emails, notes, etc.)
2.       Approach the relationship as a collaborative effort
3.       Let your child and teacher develop their own relationship
4.       Reflect on your own relationship with your teacher while growing up and leave any emotional baggage at the door
5.       Find the right time to communicate with The Teacher
6.       Get to the heart of the matter because The Teacher's time is premium
7.       Attend parent-teacher conferences
8.       Come prepared to parent-teacher conferences
9.       Ask how you can support your child at home
10.   Give The Teacher power in your home

Please allow me to elaborate on the last point. My son’s Teacher has lot of power in our home and I have told her this. This way our son knows that his Teacher and we are on the same page and The Teacher knows your support is there.  This speaks to the consistency issue that I have covered in past blog posts.   

Here are some of the ways we accomplish this in our home. One way is that his Teacher would let our son know that she will be contacting me for his negative behaviors. Our son gets home and reports this will happen.  Sure enough, an email would arrive that same day or the next day explaining the situation.  My husband and I address it with our son together and follow-up with his Teacher. At the beginning of the school year we were doing quite a bit of this until we resolved it.   

Giving The Teacher power in the home also comes in handy when our son does something inappropriate at home like talk very loudly and I ask him if he does that at school. He says “no” and I tell him "good" and that he shouldn’t be doing it at home either. This works too, although he may throw in a grunt at times!    

Or, when our son wants to sleep in our bed at night for no good reason, I may say: “Hmm, I wonder what Ms. R. would say about a big boy like you wanting to sleep with his parents?” He smiles and doesn’t further pursue the matter. I should add that I use this last strategy sparingly so as not to shift the power balance in our home.  After all, we are the parents and we do assume most of the responsibility for our kid. Anyhow, I stumbled across this tactic one day, and it works like magic!