July 18, 2012

Raising happy, healthy, well-balanced kids

(Conclusion of my two-part series on 'When parents are away')

(Rowie Mattie, Fides Reyes and Maribel Dionisio at the recent book launch of Maribel’s Teen Crush. Photo courtesy Family Congress)

THE family is the most basic social unit in any society. Having a healthy, happy family should therefore be the goal of every human being. To build strong ties within your family, you need to spend quality time with each other, and really listen to what your partner or your kids are saying.

Continuing from last week, I asked Maribel Dionisio, founder of the Love Institute, and Rowie Matti, CEO of the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program Inc., how it was possible to raise happy, healthy and well-balanced kids, especially since often both parents these days are working and the kids are left in the care of nannies or, worse, alone at home to fend for themselves.

Aside from going out on “dates” with their kids, or having weekly chats at home, parents should build their child’s self-worth by being their “cheerleader,” says Maribel. Parents should acknowledge their child’s positive action “no matter how small the contribution,” and laud their efforts as much as the results.

She adds that listening to the child without judgment is very important. “No blaming, shouting, put-downs and criticisms—these will just cut communication lines.”

She underscores the necessity of “disciplining with love,” having age-appropriate house rules which should be “implement[ed] with kindness and firmness. If rules are not followed, then let them experience the consequence of their actions. No spanking or no punishments; just use natural and logical consequences. For example, if the child messes up his toys and does not put them away, then the parent must explain the consequence—his toys can get lost or can get broken, and the parent will not buy new ones.”

Maribel stresses that the key to having happy children is happy parents. Couples need to enhance their relationship by going on a date once a week. For single parents, they can go out with their friends.

In the wake of the rising number of teen mothers, as reported by the National Statistics Office (one in 10 mothers were teens as of 2009), I also brought up the subject of premarital sex and how parents should handle this subject. Should parents talk to their children about reproductive health and how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy?

Rowie says parents need to be ready to answer their children’s questions about sex. “When they are younger, parents can give them technical answers. But as they get older, the answers of parents should be smarter.” She adds, if the kid doesn’t ask parents about sex, the latter should be ready to talk to their kids about the reproductive system (menstruation, circumcision, masturbation, sexual intercourse) when the kids are in Grade 4 (about 10-11 years old). This is the grade when local schools start tackling the subject.

“It is also important to talk to them about values at this time. Parents should tell their kids that there should be no sex before marriage and the reason why they should wait until after marriage,” she points out.

Maribel is also adamantly against premarital sex “since it can make you believe that your partner is a beautiful person, when in fact it is sex that is a beautiful experience. Besides we do not marry for sex but for companionship and love. Great sex before marriage does not guarantee a great friendship. But a great friendship developed before marriage without premarital sex significantly increases the chances of marital happiness.”

Parents must explain to their kids the value of postponing sex until marriage, so “automatically no sex before marriage prevents pregnancy and STD.”

This and other parenting topics will be tackled in the forthcoming Family Congress to be held on August 25, at the Valle Verde Country Club, organized by Maribel, Rowie and their friend Fides Reyes, an events planner for families. The three got together early last year because of an advocacy—they all believed in the importance of the family. To have a happy family, parents and their kids should constantly work at their relationships with each other.

The Family Congress aims to help, support and teach parents, singles and every member of the family on how to communicate, interact and understand one another. It aims to reaffirm the value and relevance of the Filipino family in the face of changing times. For inquiries about the Family Congress, e-mail familycongress@gmail.com. You may also call the Love Institute at 436-4143 or 0922-8944143, or Galileo Enrichment Center at 810-8506.

Through this event, Maribel, Rowie, and Fides hope to increase the awareness of families about the various skills they need to learn to have an awesome family life. They plan to bring this Family Congress to different parts of the country and reach 1,000 parents at a time.

MY deepest condolences to the Quizon family on the passing of their patriarch, Rodolfo V. Quizon. Thank you Mang Dolphy for giving the best years of your life to us, your fans. We will forever be grateful.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday, in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on July 13, 2012.)

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