How was parenting like for this working mother? With three kids in tow, aged 5 to 9 years old, we spoke to Shee Hock Ai Ling, Director of KindyROO Singapore Pte Ltd on her parenting struggles and reflections in this three-part interview series.
When you had your first child, what was the biggest challenge or uncertainty you faced?
The lack of information and the difficulty in getting the very limited information makes my task as a first time mother extremely difficult and traumatizing. I was never given professional advice on how to care for my newborn. I had gone through pre-natal classes from the hospital but the program focuses mainly on health and delivery, not on brain development. The Pediatricians also focused mainly on health issues and brain development, neuro physical integration was never a focus.
I did not do any tummy time with my son, and he has very low muscle tone. I also did not understand how muscle tone could lead to learning difficulties until much later when he missed all his milestones. That is when I start to understand a bit of these issues and look for early intervention program. However, even getting these programs are big challenges as some therapists are simply too narrow in their scope of work and were not able to really understand my son’s issues.
They were also extremely expensive to provide for. None of the therapists that we met really understand how neuro physical development is so important in helping children meet their milestones and also help lay the right foundation for children’s future learning abilities.
In Singapore, our overall early childhood environment is still in the infancy stage and we tend to take on a reactive stance rather than preventive stance. In KindyROO, we believe in taking a more preventive stance as research has shown that such approach is much more effective and also has a lower social and economic costs than to only focus on reactive early intervention programs.
How did you overcome it?
It’s simply a case of desperation and perseverance that help me through this difficult stage. I did not stop looking out and experimenting with anything that can help my children in laying the right foundation as early as possible. We tried various programs, consulted lots of experts and friends and through recommendations and advices, we moved on from 1 program to another until we found the best program for him.
Regretfully that takes lots of time and for children, their golden window of development opportunity is in their first 5 years and we would have maximized his progress if we had found KindyROO earlier.
Having gone through so much heartache, I see this as my duty to bring the program to Singapore and help the children maximize their learning potential and laying the right neuro foundation as early as possible within their golden window of opportunity. Every child helped via this program is an achievement for me. Every child helped mean a world to the child and the parents.
Many parents tend to be anxious when their children do not hit the targeted milestones.
Any words of advice?
They are right to focus on milestones as this is one of the clear way of monitoring the progress of the child. However there are a few things which are extremely important in monitoring milestones.
#1 It is not about meeting milestones at a pre-set time frame.
Rather it is more important to make sure that no milestones are skipped. For example, parents should not worry if their baby does not creep on their hands and knees until 11 months. What important is that the child does, and then continues creeping for the next 4-5 months.
#2 Milestones are only one way to observe the child’s development
Neuro developmental programs do much more than that. It is only through well-established organizations, like KindyROO, that parents can be assured that their children are well developed and strong foundations are laid.
#3 Milestones are a reactive way of monitoring the children and hence it is more important to take a preventive and proactive approach to develop their children early and throughout the first 5 years by participating in the right program.
Any tips to share with new parents out there?
The first 5 years of a child is extremely important in laying the right foundations for later learning, as well as physical, social and emotional health and well-being. It’s important that parents are aware and do not miss this golden period. Movement based programs are extremely important during this period because it’s what the brain needs for developing the very best structures and foundations for later learning. Do not be in rush to teach your baby or child academic skills.
It is fine to leave the focus on academic to a later stage – preferably after three years of age when the brain, given the right movement opportunities and exposure, is ready for the more complex skills of learning. When the best neurological foundation has been laid, academic learning will follow naturally and easily. In fact, research has shown that exposure to stress and academic pressure at an early age are, in fact, detrimental to the overall development of children.
Keep the faith, judge for yourself and hold back from the academic rush.
And do not succumb to peer pressure and follow blindly what they preach or advise. Your children’s development are your own personal responsibility.
Juggling motherhood and career must be tough! How do you spend quality time with your children?
When I made up the decision to run KindyROO, the first agreement that we reached between myself and my husband is that our children take priority over everything. Hence contrary to many people’s perception, I in fact spend a good part of my time during weekdays with my children.
I am with them from the moment they are back from school and childcare centre. On weekends when I am engaged in more lessons, my husband assumes the duty to spend time with them. Hence at no point do they feel neglected although the routines changed slightly.
Of course, I am able to do this because I am extremely fortunate to engage a capable staff that has a gift of teaching and has the passion to educate the children attending KindyROO programs. I am also extremely fortunate to have a domestic helper who is capable to take care of the household while I work and coach my children when I am not at home.
At the end of the day, it’s all about priority. We made our children priority over ourselves and hence we make sure they do not feel neglected.
This is the first part of our three part interview series with KindyROO Singapore Pte Ltd. Director, Shee Hock Ai Ling.
Photos courtesy of Ai Ling and her family
To find out more about the KindyROO program, go to KindyROO’s Singapore Facebook page