Monday, August 31, 2015

"Mommy I am lonely at school today": How to Help Your Child With The Right Questions

By Seow Lim*

What is inside a child's mind is just so amazing. If you just ask, you might be treated with some surprises.You might see their amazing sense of emotions, their thinking process and have access to their true feelings.

My two boys, one in 2nd grade and one in 8th, are both very different from each other. I used to be more concerned about how much food they ate for dinner, their scores in tests, and if they finish their homework. Why? I was a "tiger mom" - read about my story here.

I realized  that just asking them "How's your school?" "How's your homework?" "Did you score in your basketball game?" after I see them after school every day is completely insufficient. Yes, I knew what happened to them that day, but I didn't know what went on their little brains and hearts. I didn't have any feel of their emotional beat any day. Unless, if they come home one day, and truly volunteered to tell me that "Mommy, this guy A bullied me in school by calling me names and I am feeling really bad", else I would never have found out.

As the founder and CEO of Povi Family Connect app, of course, I am also the first beta user of the app. I have been testing the app every day. The questions are designed by Daphna Ram, PhD, Developmental Psychologist in our team and reviewed by other experienced clinical and school psychologists. I have made it a habit to ask one question one the car ride back when I pick them up, one at the dinner table, and one during bedtime routine. I find bed time routines to be typically the most effective time for my 2nd grader to share his feeling with me, while with the teen it is usually at dinner table.

My 2nd grader's first week in school after a long summer was just last week. He went to summer camps but he also spent a lot of time with me at home and at work. Yes, I brought him to office and he had to sit in our meetings and be the little assistant. So he still has that 'departure anxiety' going back to school.

On the 4th day, during our bedtime routine, I asked him one of  Povi's question: "Why do Daddy and Mommy have to go to work?" He thought for a while, he said "Mommy, can you don't go to work and stay home with me all the time like during the summer? Can I study at home?" I asked him "Why?" His answer: "Mommy, I am lonely in school. I like being with you. I don't want to leave you."

I know in my heart that's not all his story... I asked again,

"Did anyone upset you or bully you today?" He said no.

 "I thought you really enjoy playing with your friends last year. Don't you want to learn and play with them?"

He thought for a while, and answered: "All my friends from last year whom I like to play with are in the other class. Recess time are not so fun any more."

Knowing that he is a bit slow to warm, I asked " Did you join their games? Or you have been watching?" He said: "I have been mostly watching because I don't know who I should join".

Now I know what are the issues. We went on to discuss each and every one in his class, how well he knows them, and if he sees them playing something that he likes when he was watching. We then concluded that he wants to play four square the most with these other few boys, and I encouraged him to go and asked them if he could join them the next day. I recorded it in my Povi journal and set a reminder that I should talk to him again tomorrow morning about this.

When we were on the car the next morning, I reminded him again that since he likes playing four square he could take the lead to ask them if they would let him join. He thought for a bit,and said "I will try, but I am not sure". I told him " I will be so proud of you if you ask. Even if they don't let you join, at least you have tried asking to join a game that you like playing. Or you can also ask other kids if they want to form a team with you playing the game. Give it a try."

That evening, when I picked him up, he was so happy that he said: "Mommy, I had such a great game with four square today. The boys let me join their game." I said: "I am so proud of you that you are brave, you asked, and got to do what you like. So, are you still feeling lonely today?" He said:  "No, I am not lonely, but mommy I still think of you a lot, whenever I am not playing or learning." He is so sweet.

I was wondering to myself is it common for kids to feel loneliness? Frankly, this is pretty sensitive and negative type of feeling, I was a bit surprised that he actually knows the word and what it means. So, I have done a bit of research around it, writing it down to share with interested readers.

Firstly, I asked Daphna Ram, PhD, Developmental Psychologist in our team, what are her thoughts about loneliness. "There is some evidence to suggest that an effective way to help individuals feel less lonely is by helping them reframe the way they are thinking about their experience. "she says. And she also validated my initiative, (what a relief!) : "Encouraging your children to think differently- such as by telling your son to ask the children to play with him rather than waiting for the children to ask him- is a great strategy.", Ram commented.

She also added some other tips on how to deal with this experience: "Helping your children explore why they may feel lonely and allowing them to realize that it may not be about them _ sometimes other kids can be mean _ is also important. Relatedly, helping children understand that the situation may not be intentionally hurtful is helpful as well. Bringing up situations in which your child may have inadvertently hurt someone else's feelings can illustrate that sometimes people unintentionally hurt others' feelings.", she says.

I like the checklist from this article:
Should I Force My Lonely Child to Socialize More?
By Child Mind Institute, Understood Founding Partner

Is she shy or anxious around other kids?
Is she being bullied at school?
Is she showing any other signs of emotional upset?
Is she having trouble “fitting in”?
Does she just prefer spending time alone in her room reading and drawing?

I think this is a great checklist, at least for me I was using it mentally to diagnose my son's loneliness situation.

Loneliness is what I'm feeling
feelingsShrivelled up like a tiny bean
Everyone else seems as happy as can be
But to me they are so mean.
Being kicked out of the group 
Makes me want to scream.
Standing up, facing my fears,
Smiling and wiping away my tears.
I'll make new friends and I'll have them for years.


Is Your Child a Loner or Alone?
How Parents Can Help Children with Friendship Issues

Does your child have difficulty with friendships? Here’s a look at possible causes and what you can do about it.  

I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to talk through the loneliness feeling of my child and give him some encouragement on how to deal with his issue. If I hadn't asked him, he might not have told me about it. I am glad that he has been made a habit to share his feelings with me on a daily basis.

*Lim is the Founder and CEO of

I would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Crying Baby, Smarter Baby: How to Turn Crying into Valuable Learning Opportunities

"I am glad I am not there". Unfinished art by F.M., 2014

By Daphna Ram PhD.* and Elaine Cheung, M.S. Psychology

Your child is crying. Sobbing, even. Hysterical. The trigger? She can’t find her favorite, all-important teddy bear. While frustrating for both you and your child, there may be a way to salvage this situation and let it become a “teaching moment”— an opportunity for you to share with your child some important aspects regarding emotion recognition, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.


It may be difficult to try to reason with your child during these situations. She is crying. Do you know why she’s crying? Does she even know? Trying to talk to your child during this time, though not easy, is a great way to get a glimpse into her feelings and the way she interprets and makes sense of situations.

For example, it’s possible she’s genuinely sad because she lost something important or she may be angry because she thinks it’s unfair that she lost something important. Trying to help her understand what she’s feeling and why she feels this way is critical. This gives the parent the opportunity to help the child differentiate between emotions. This is a key part of emotion recognition- recognizing emotion in yourself, and being able to understand which emotional outcomes may arise out of particular situations. Recognizing emotions is also first step in the child’s own emotion regulation process- if a child can label and understand an emotion, he or she is better able adapt feelings to certain situations. 

Helping your child become aware of her own feelings and the situations that lead to them also helps her become more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of others, thereby helping the development of perspective-taking. This also helps the development of empathy- our ability to feel what someone else is feeling. If your child is upset about losing a toy, for example, you can ask her what she thinks is the best way to respond or how to respond if someone else is feeling that way. This allows you to both comfort your own child and help her think about how best to comfort others.  Furthermore, this allows you to further emphasize perspective-taking—mentioning that not everyone may want to be comforted in the same way, and that people have different thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Understanding our own feelings and that of others also paves the way for altruism- engaging in acts that help others without expecting any perceived benefit ourselves. A critical part of knowing when and how to help others involves understanding the other person’s perspectives and emotions. To help someone in distress, we must first understand that the person is feeling distress.

While being able to talk to your child about feelings and unpacking emotionally charged situations may be ideal, it is often not realistic. However parents can help children practice emotion recognition, perspective taking, altruism, and empathy through everyday conversation.  Having open conversations with children about emotions enables them to see that emotions are not something to be ashamed of and allows them to better explore, express, and control their own feelings and better relate to others. 

Parents can facilitate children’s emotion recognition by pointing out emotions in everyday conversations and situations, and encouraging their children to do the same. One way to do this is by asking children about situations that bring up certain emotions (e.g., “How does hearing your favorite song make you feel?”) which allows them to understand that emotions are a part of everyday life and occur across multiple situations. Furthermore, children can learn about emotions even if the questions themselves do not refer to any person in particular. For example, asking children a general question like “Why are sharks scary?” helps them think through what contributes to something being “scary.”

In addition to allowing the child to reflect on why sharks may be scary to her in particular, this question helps her think about how something can be scary for different people in different ways. This again helps underscore a child’s perspective taking, by making her aware that not everyone feels the same way about similar things.

Similarly, parents can ask questions that allow children to practice altruism and empathy. For example, helping children recognize that a particular situation made someone sad (e.g., “why did his brother stealing his toy make Jacob sad?) and then asking children how they would react in a similar situation enables children to see that they can relate to others’ feelings. Asking children specific questions regarding what to do in certain situations or why we do certain things (“What do people do when they are cold? Why do we give people hugs when they are sad?”) also highlights to them how to recognize and understand others’ feelings and best ways to help. 

Furthermore, being empathic or altruistic isn’t always easy, and parents can help by engaging children in discussions regarding situations where being altruistic and feeling empathy is difficult (e.g. “when is it hard to share toys? Why?”) This will help children find better ways to be kind to others even when they may not be motivated to do so.

Understanding, recognizing, and responding to emotions are all critical components of emotional development and healthy interpersonal relationships. Making your child aware of emotions in herself and others and helping her practice these skills will help her become a more sensitive, caring, and thoughtful person. 

*Daphna Ram, Ph.D Psychology Cornell, utilizes her Developmental Psychology expertise on Povi.

I would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Facebook Group Emotional Intelligence For Kids : Empowering and Connecting Parents Online

By Seow Lim*

It was end of November 2013. I just had a meeting with my kid school counselor. What I didn't know was that the meeting would trigger the beginning of a new era for my family. She told me: "Your kid is really smart, but he seems unhappy”. My ‘perfect’ life image and ‘perfect’ mom self-confidence shattered. You can read in this story, that made me change my career. In my process of finding my new parenting directions, I had found so much help from other parents online. A strength-giving force able to make me keep going and transforming my parenting style.

I am so grateful to the support I received and continue to get from all the mom groups I had joined, all the blog and magazine pages I follow. In this 1 ½ year, my child had grown so much happier since I had let him “fly”. The world is not beautiful if it is all receiving and not giving. I wanted to find out a way to contribute to help other parents in their parenting challenges. As a high-tech professional at Silicon Valley, the first thing I thought of was how could technology help in optimizing parenting experience. Starting from October 2014, I conducted a couple of surveys online to see where the needs are.

The surveys have been answered by parents from all around the world. It became extremely clear that parents are looking for solutions especially in the area of social emotional development, good habits and time management. Not academic, not physical and motor skills…

How could I contribute? I first started by starting a Facebook group called Moms for Emotional Intelligence. We have since changed our name to Emotional Intelligence for Kids to make the group more inclusive. We now have about 2300 members within a short 3 months. We have very active members sharing articles daily about social emotional development for kids; and also helping to advise each other in this specific developmental area. We are also inviting more parents who like to guest blog for us about your parenting experiences to contact us. Through our Facebook group Emotional Intelligence for Kids, we have met lots of new friends. For example Sharmi from Stepping Stone Psychology in the UK has blogged about the Mighty Power of Empathy; and many others in the pipeline.

Hopefully we will get more parents,grandparents, educators, psychologists to join us in our group.

The top few most interactive recent posts include:
1. Sharing of this video that shows how the world can be made beautiful by emotions like empathy

2. Researcher Carol Dweck, PhD showed that kids who were given one line of empty praise about being "smart at this" were actually less likely to tackle more difficult challenges the next time around than kids who were told, "You must have worked really hard."

3. Raising Smart Learners through rich conversations . This article shows a study  conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health and published in the journal  Pediatrics found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did all the talking.

4. Why Emotional Learning May Be As Important As The ABCs . A growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

5. The Conversation I Almost Missed & the Future It Could’ve Cost  About how critical parents and children "conversations" are - “Listen,” I said firmly. “No matter what mistakes you make today, tomorrow, or throughout your life, I will always love you. I will never turn my back on you. Okay?”

All of the above are the inspiration behind Povi Family Connect app. Povi Family Connect app is available for download from the  Apple App Store and Google Play. Emotional Intelligence for Kids Facebook became one of the tools that is helping us to improve POVI Family Connect app and is also its inspirational forum, as we can share thoughts and experiences. Once again, personal experiences are enlightening the path to improving our connections with our children.

* Seow Lim is the founder and CEO of POVi.

I would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Emotional Intelligence and The Mighty Power of Empathy

By Sharmi's son

By Sharmi Gowri-Kriszyk*

My 10 years old son and I were in the supermarket and there was an elderly lady behind us. She was in a wheelchair.
He placed one of the check-out divider on the conveyor belt for her and then handed her an extra one should she need one if customers started to come behind her in the queue. I thanked him for that. Then he stood there and kept starring at the lady.

In my head I was thinking: "Oh for God's sake, why is this kid starring at the poor woman?!!! She is going to feel so self-conscious". I thought that he was looking out of curiosity as she was in a wheelchair but I was concerned as it might have felt insensitive to the lady. In an attempt to divert his attention from her I started asking him random questions. It worked, but only for a while, then he looked at her again. In the end, he asked her if she needed a hand and helped her load her groceries to the conveyor belt.

When we exited the shop I told him it was kind of him to help her and asked why he kept starring at her. His reply was really touching; so thoughtful:

"Well, she was an elderly lady and she was in a wheelchair as well so I really wanted to help her. So when she was loading her shopping I kept looking as I wanted to help but was thinking at the same time as I was unsure if it would be the right thing to I was looking as I was thinking", he said.

 "Ok so what were you thinking?", I asked.

"I was thinking that she might like her independence and by me asking to help, it might make her feel like I am thinking she can't do it, it might have made her feel low about about herself. Also if she likes her independence it might make her feel that I am being disrespectful if I just started helping her", my son answered.

 "Wow, that was very thoughtful of you and you are right. It is called empowerment, often elderly people enjoy their daily routine and it gives them a sense of purpose and so they don't like that to be taken away.", I explained.

 "Mmm", said my son.

I explained:  "They feel empowered when they can do these little things by themselves. It is also important that they have that kind of a sense of control". Then my son carried on: "Mm. that's what I was thinking...that's why I didn't offer my help cause I was like shall I or shouldn't I...but in my heart I wanted to help her but at the same time I wanted to be respectful"
I commented:  "Yeah, and you did the right thing cause rather than just intervene by helping. You took some time to observe and think, then you asked her if she needed some help"

 "Yes", he agreed. "Only when she agreed, did you start helping. So to me it seems like the right approach to take. You offered to help, but at the same time you didn't take over so you were being respectful and considerate of her needs", I said.

“Empowerment and dignity mean honoring their independence as much as possible, even to the point of some undercaring and reasonable risk taken on the part of the frail and disabled homemaker, by choice” (Boldy, Heumann & McCall, 2000).

This experience reminded me of the significance of ensuring that elderly and disabled people continue to have some form of independence in order to maintain their rights, dignity and empowerment. This anecdote describes the conversation between my son and myself which highlights how you as a parent can facilitate the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) of children. The dialoge between my son and myself reflects the stimulating communication which creates an opportunity for children to develop their Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in form of critical thinking, empathy, insight and mentalisation.

This approach is aligned with the principles and values of peaceful parenting with its vision in guiding children using non-punitive methods. Like the vision of Genevieve Simperingham, The Founder of The Way of the Peaceful Parenting, my vision is that when guiding children, it is important to not resort to coercing methods like punishment (threat, shaming, corporal punishment, time-outs and enforced consequences, e.g. removal of privileges) and any methods that focus on rewards (bribe, star charts, treats ect.) in order to encourage desired behaviour from children.

I believe that guiding children involves a focus on maintaining a strong clear and trusting bond with the child and using respectful communication skills. The above example of the dialoge which took place between my son and myself shows how asking children thought-provoking questions and doing role-play with them could facilitate them to empathise with others. This is a technique I have used with the children I work with however I have also used it with my own child since he was aged 3-4.


The beginning of my career in the field of psychology was when I had the privilege to work as an Assistant Teacher for Special Needs. Whilst working as a SEN assistant teacher for children with different difficulties but mainly Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD), Special Education Needs (SEN) and learning disabilities I learned how important it was to create opportunities to boost their empowerment.

One of the earliest experiences during my clinical training as a psychologist took place within a Specialist Physical Health Setting. This meant working with individuals who had chronic physical ill-health and with elderly. My role often involved supporting my clients with their emotional difficulties related to their ill-health or old age.

As a result of the sudden onset of their physical disability or limited mobility they started to experience a wide range of emotional difficulties. Some of their difficulties included but were not limited to:

Their identity
Loss of confidence or self-esteem
Guilt and shame
A sense of losing their rights, dignity and empowerment as a result of losing their independence

One of the main things that struck me was the fact that all of them longed to feel empowered. Each and everyone of them wanted to feel empowered in order to have a sense of control. It offered them a sense of purpose despite the adversities they faced. This was often what seemed like a major contributing factor to their feelings of guilt and shame and their loss of confidence or self-esteem - an even the sense of losing their identity.


Following the publication of this blog many people contacted asking me how I have helped my son developing these skills from a young age. So, I asked him and this was his response:

"Whenever there is a problem in school, like say if I see a kid being mean to another kid, I would ask them: How would you feel if someone did like this to you? The kid will say: I’ll be fine. Or they’ll talk like it is no big deal them being mean to someone else. So my point is that shows the way my mum and I talk with each other makes me able to put myself into other people's shoes. For example, you (mum) don't just say this is what you have done wrong and point out what I have done wrong but instead you explain by using role-play: You give an example where you turn the situation around so what the person is experiencing would be what I would be experiencing in that example. So say if I did something that was not nice to a boy then you would do role-play where I am that boy and you’ll do or say what I did to that boy. You’ll then ask how does it feel when I say that? How does it feel when I do that? Why do you think it feels like that? You ask many questions like that.  That always make me think. It always help me to realise how others might feel and it helped me to be more considerate of others, in like how I behave and talk and how I treat others"

* This content was kindly shared by one of our dear members of our Facebook group Emotional Intelligence for Kids.
Copyright © 2015 Sharmi Gowri-Kriszyk under Stepping Stones Psychology. All Rights Reserved. Should you wish to adopt attachment-based parenting strategies in your family, contact Sharmi, Principal Psychologist, Clinical Director & Founder of Stepping Stones Psychology. Sharmi offers psychological services both nationally and internationally.

*Contact No: (+44)07935247496


Boldy, D , Heumann, L & McCall. (2000). Empowering Frail Elderly People: Opportunities and Impediments in Housing, Health, and Support Service Delivery. USA: Praeger Publishing

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

10 Ideas to Have Fun with Children

The sun is the ball...By D.F., 8 years old

We play...therefore we are. Sometimes living with children is also about enjoying to play and have fun together. And boy... let me tell you! This is my favorite "feature" of being a parent. I also enjoyed playing with my sisters and brother when I was a teenager and they were little children...When I am inspired and my boys are in the mood, we all have tons of play-based fun. Laughing together is one of the strongest bonds we have, and I hope that they will remember that when (and if) they have their own children.

I read at this very interesting article at Psychology Today, that playing with kids might have lots of implications. But even though, the positive aspect of it is the one that makes me believe that even a 5-minute participation as a "special guest" on their playing time will help us to communicate and get closer. Folks from Child Development Institute also believe that this is a positive way of enrichment on the child-parent relationship, as you can read here. One study by psychiatrists from Washington University School of Medicine found that play-based interaction between parents and toddler can help on treating hyperactivity and depression in preschoolers.

So let's play! You don't have to go to an amusement park to have fun together
... Also you don't have to play every day or for endless hours. Depending on your child(re)'s age, just a little 10 minutes will make their day. And yours too. Here are a few ideas to start playing with your child, developing a intense level of interaction and communication:

Dressing Crazy  _ This is an awesome way of playing together. Sometimes we use their shirts as hats and play pretending that we are someone else, using glasses (my reading glasses...) and bandanas in their head, exploring different theater-like characters. We all make very silly voices and pretend we are in the market, in the airplane or in a restaurant. And we laugh out loud together...

Treasure Hunt _ Finding memorabilia is one of the activities we make when bored to death trapped in the house for some reason (like waiting for that package from Amazon that requires signature). Last time we found old family heirloom stuff and sometime go look for old stuff even inside their rooms . We find drawings, objects and art that they made "back in the day" when they were toddlers. Like the art that is in the opening of this post.

Sing Together _By far mine and my husband's favorite activity. We sing in that car, we sing for the old crazy cat (who loves it...) and we sing Happy Birthday together at Skype for all relatives. Start with a sing along best CD with old folk songs with timeless children's song.

Cook Together _ This is a very nice way to engage your kids in a conversation about  measurements, ingredients, transformation and ... life. Many recipes that you can invite your kids to make with you are at Cook Play Explore, the blog I write with my friend Darienne since 2007.

Hide and Seek _ Still a favorite since they were toddlers. From the peek-a-boo phase up to crafty ways of making yourself invisible, this is a game that will certainly bring you together. And believe me, you will be surprise of how creative they can be...

Wooden Blocks _ If I now stop to write this post and invite my boys to build up a castle with all blocks we have they will probably say yes. I am a believer that blocks are powerful toys and stimulate all sorts of creative processes. Read what a specialist has to say about them here:

Crafts _ Make something together. It can be learning origami, putting stuff together, painting or drawing.  Cardboard boxes are a cheap way to build something unique with no added costs. See this awesome catapult project here?

Board Games - One of ye games we like is Beat the Parents,  a very cool way to make children feel like owners of a knowledge base that nobody else has in the house. So many classic games can bring relatives and children together. Monopoly and even Clue might be a good choice if your kids are already beyond 6.

Any Ball Game Counts _ Ping pong, 4 square, soccer... marbles!!! You name it. Since the beginning of times, when man discovered the fun of playing with a ball, all the games work like magic for children and grown ups.

Invite Them to Make Part of a DYI Project  _ This is not just a craft. It's like invite them to pint a real wall, to make a part of building up a tree house, a fence, chicken coop or just some additions to your backyard, balcony or living room. It's a nice way of showing how playing can be serious stuff, and your little helper will love to be included in your project.

* Anna M. is POVI's content manager. Get to know more about POVI

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!