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The Undefeated Parent

A Guide to Managing Children's Stress

Writing this book has been a learning journey for the both of us. When Armour Publishing first approached us to write this book in early 2017, we were hesitant, as the task seemed monumental, given the large number of stress-related issues in parenting. However, during our initial meeting with the publisher, we realised that a discussion about common myths surrounding parenting and children’s stress would be a good starting point in answering some of the questions parents may have about their challenges but are afraid to ask. We wanted to write a handbook which would be relevant to you at different stages in your parenting journey. In this book, we have created a family comprising a father (Daniel), mother (Emily) and their twin children (Peter and Sarah), to illustrate the different challenges and stressors families experience. This family is not based on any particular person or persons. Instead, their experiences are a cumulative representation of the parents we have met in the course of our clinical practice. With these parameters in mind, we began our writing journey by reflecting on our personal experiences as parents and researching scientific literature. Like all parents, we have our respective personal and parenting challenges. These challenges are stressful to navigate and in the process, we often make mistakes. Similarly, in our clinical practice, we have worked with parents who struggle emotionally and practically when their hopes and dreams do not match the reality of their life circumstances and their children’s abilities. These stressors formed the basis for our first chapter, “Where It All Begins... Dreams, Hopes and Reality”.

Like many parents, we have also faced points in our lives where we have had to make decisions about how to parent our children. Our decisions had to take into account not just our children’s needs, but also our own mental health needs and the practical considerations that followed. For Miranda, it was about adapting to life as a stay-at-home mother (SAHM) in a suburban community in Texas, USA, after a successful career as a Psychologist in Singapore and China. In contrast, Irena has remained in Singapore, where like so many of her peers, she juggles motherhood and work. These decision points that prompted us to make our parenting choices are common concerns seen in our clinical practice where we process with parents the pros and cons of their parenting choices. These challenges are discussed in Chapter 2, “My Career or My Child?”.

Early in our careers, when we were working in Mount Elizabeth Hospital as freshly minted psychologists, we were tasked with conducting parenting seminars. One question that parents often asked us was what kind of enrichment tools and activities they should employ for their children. Our response then, as it is now, was that some enrichment is good, but too much of it can be stressful for children. Throughout our careers, we have heard children as young as ve years old expressing their exhaustion because of their busy schedules. Our professional training has taught us that children develop best through play. Yet when we became parents, we realised how easy it was to become in influenced by the advertisements on child enrichment that are so prevalent in our communities. We delve deeper into this issue in our third chapter, “Raising Little Einstein”.

Searching for the perfect school is a major consideration for many parents as early as preschool or infant care. In our personal journeys, we looked at statistics of good schools, consulted family members, other parents and school teachers. Professionally, we have worked with many children and teenagers who are in their parents’ ideal schools, but who struggle to cope with the demands of these school environments. It is within this context that we discuss whether there is a perfect formula to choosing the right school for your child in Chapter 4, “ The Perfect School”.

Our children’s schooling journey is probably one of the most challenging areas of parenting. All parents have expectations and aspirations, and we push our children to meet them. During this process, there are children who do meet these expectations and ful ll their parents’ expectations, but there are also others who fall short.

This leaves many parents and children disappointed, and some succumb to mental health issues because they cannot be the ideal children their parents want. In Chapter 5, “Bs Are the New Fs in Life”, we explore how parents can help their children become effective and emotionally healthy learners.

Aside from academics, peer relationships are an integral part of development. For teenagers, this social journey becomes even more important as they begin to discover more about themselves and form their own identities, amongst their peers. As psychologists, we have met many children and adolescents who struggle with issues such as social anxiety, peer rejection and bullying. Some children and teenagers cope by completely withdrawing from school. When this happens, it often requires a team of parents, mental health workers and teachers, months or even years, to bring the a ected child back to school. is background helped us decide to focus our sixth chapter, “Fitting in with the Crowd”, on how parents can prepare and teach their children to cope with social challenges.

In our final chapter, “Stress-Less Decisions”, we provide some basic communication strategies for parents to use with their children. These strategies are helpful not only in family communications, but also in other interactions that we may encounter with family, friends and colleagues. Irena is also teaching these communication strategies to undergraduate students as part of their curriculum. In addition to these strategies, we also emphasise the importance of expanding our personal resources as parents to manage our daily parenting stressors effectively.

In essence, we hope that through our sharings, vignettes and tips, you will be able to discover a different perspective about your current stressors, gain insight into your wellbeing, and influence your children in ways that will encourage them to be their own stars. May you become the undefeated parent who makes stress-less decisions.

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