ADVERTISING FEATURE T H E O T TAWA C I T I Z E N T U E S DAY , O C T O B E R 19 , 2 0 0 4 H9 TODAY’S FAMILY Children invited to participate in research studies at the University of Ottawa T he Childhood Cognition and Learning Lab at the University of Ottawa needs children between the ages of two and eight to participate in research studies aimed at uncovering more about how young children think. “It’s a unique opportunity for the children, and they have a lot of fun participating in our studies,” says Cristina Atance, Assistant Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, and Director of the Lab. “I can honestly say that at the end of the session it’s not rare to hear a child say that they’d like to come back, or that they had a lot of fun,” she says. “The reason for this is that the focus is on the child, and they are given an opportunity to share what they’re thinking with an attentive and friendly adult - the researcher.” Professor Atance’s specialty is developmental psychology, and she’s particularly interested in the development of future thinking, planning, and language. She is also interested in children’s understanding of their own and others’ minds. “As adults we often explain and predict behaviour on the basis of beliefs, desires, and intentions,” she says. “For example we may say ‘he’s reaching into the fridge because he thinks the eggs are in there,’ ‘she wants more cake,’ or ‘he didn’t intend for it to happen that way.’ Do children also interpret people’s behaviour in this way and, if so, which experiences lead them to begin to gain insight into their own and others’ minds?” The studies currently running at the CCLL are about the development of fu- All games are meant to be fun for the children. ture thinking and planning, as well as children’s understanding of mental states such as beliefs and desires. All of the research studies are conducted on the University of Ottawa campus. A convenient time is scheduled during the day, evening, or weekend for a one-time visit lasting about 45 minutes to an hour. Upon arrival, parent and child are greeted in the Reception Room by a researcher who will tell the parent about the study. The researcher will also play with the child to make him or her as comfortable with the surroundings as possible. The experimenter then invites the child to play some games in one of the laboratory ‘playrooms.’ At this point, parents can either watch their child from behind a oneway mirror or, if they prefer, stay in the playroom with their child. All games are meant to be fun for the child. Tasks differ but they all involve either pictures, stories, or props that involve dolls, ob- When well-intentioned parents place their children at risk: The ‘Pampered Child Syndrome’ BY LOUISE RACHLIS Citizen advertising features by Dr. Mamen, is a sociological and psychological phenomenon that appears in homes so loving and permissive that the children become used to very special treatment that they are unlikely to encounter in the real world. C oincidentally, as the media release on the ‘pampered child syndrome’ arrived on my computer, I was on the telephone talking to my own adult ‘pampered child.’ The child who just that month had surmised that I was somehow responsible for her own unhappiness with the struggles of life because I had spoiled her in her early years. The “aha!’s” spilled out as we both saw a bit of ourselves in the literature. Some of the best-intentioned parents are raising children who are most at risk for serious social or psychological difficulties, says Dr. Maggie Mamen, an Ottawa-based clinical psychologist. “Children get used to a very high level of stimulation and attention from a very early age,” she says. “I see many very unhappy children even by age three and four and especially when they get into their teenage years.” She says it’s a sociological issue not just a parenting issue. “Professionals are buying into it too by encouraging photo credit: - Valberg Imaging Inc. “Children must learn to deal with down time and to self-sooth - or they simply will not be able to function without their parents or other external providers of stimulation. Being bored is a part of life. They have to get used to it.” - Dr. Maggie Mamen, Psychologist child-driven parenting strategies.” She believes that parental conﬁdence has been eroded to the point where parents are reluctant to say “no” or to deal with their child’s disapproval. Rather than being something a child has (like the measles) or is (like angry, anxious, or “a problem”), the Pampered Child Syndrome, a term coined “These children expect to be kept happy and stimulated, to be treated equally to adults, and to be in charge,” Dr. Mamen explains. “When they run into situations that challenge these expectations, they have difficulty coping, and may show symptoms of depression, anxiety, hyperactivity or behaviour disorders. Their parents are often at a loss to understand why their children are so unhappy, when they have always been given everything they wanted.” Dr. Mamen’s new book, The Pampered Child Syndrome (Creative Bound International), examines the roots of the problem. “One of the book’s main goals is to help parents take back their families, and to restore themselves to the management positions they have been persuaded to give away,” she explains. “Otherwise, today’s pampered children will grow up lacking the skills that they need to manage their own lives responsibly.” Hands-on exploration inspires curiosity and excellence in science E ven if you don’t know a lot about science yourself, you can kindle a love of scientiﬁc learning in your child. “We ﬁnd that children have a natural curiosity for scientiﬁc knowledge and beneﬁt from interactive, hands-on learning,” says Mary Ann Turnbull, of Turnbull School on Fisher Avenue. “They best acquire this knowledge ﬁrst through experimenting, manipulation and exploration with science materials. They are then more able to apply this practical knowledge to what the textbooks and other written material offers.” She outlines some things that parents can do to lead their child to success and interest in science: - Inspire children from a young age to be curious about science and how the world works - discuss everyday phenomena and the “science” behind it. “In this way they see science as a living subject and this breaks down any High Honours: The top grade 7 and 8 students from Turbull School’s annual Science Fair obstacles or stereotypes that went on to the Regional Science Fair competition last spring at the University of Ottawa. The they are not ‘good’ at science.” 12 Turnbull students who entered all went home with prizes, with a total of 29 awards in their - Watch the Discovery Channel junior division (grade 7 & 8). The ﬁnal grand prizes were those selected to represent this reand other science programs with gion at the Canada Wide Science Fair in June, held in St. John’s. Out of the four best experiyour child so you can reinforce the ments from the junior division at the Regional Fair, three were Turnbull students. concepts or add additional ideas. and follow the link to projects. - Embrace an atmosphere of wonder and exploring within the home environment. - If you have some knowledge in a science area, or know someone who does, offer to go into your child’s “Every family who wants to see a child ‘turned on’ to class as a special guest. science should have a microscope, telescope and binoculars; start your child early observing and asking She says that a key to Turnbull School’s success is havquestions; go star gazing together! If children see you ing science as a ‘serious’ but fun subject in early grades excited about science they quickly pick up on this enwhere good lab equipment and resources are used for “a thusiasm.” lot of hands-on activities and experiments involving real life phenomena.” - If you don’t feel as knowledgeable about science as you feel you need to be to answer your child’s quesThis motivates children to discover the excitement of tions, show your own interest in learning by exploring science in the world around them and to continue to the answers together, so children have good modeling question, explore and learn outside of their time in the for self-discovery. “A child’s ability to learn and disclassroom, she says. cover things for themselves will be a major factor in their school success, in any subject, but they need to be “They also take a “cross curricular” approach to the shown how to do this.” Science Fair, such as learning data collection skills in science, data management skills in math, graphical analy- Visit the many resources in the nation’s capital sis and layout design in computer classes and oral premuseums, parks, Agricultural Farm, two universities; sentation skills for the judges in English. “And Study or not too far away the BioDome in Montreal. Skills classes teach those all important time management and organizational skills for completing their pro- Explore the Hila Science Camp web site where you jects on time and to a high standard.” can ﬁnd many “hands-on” projects to stimulate your child’s curiosity and knowledge: www.hilaroad.com jects and stickers. Children’s responses during the games can tell the researchers a lot about how they are thinking about, and interpreting, their world. And the children and the researchers aren’t the only ones having fun at the CCLL. “Parents love to see their child interacting with a new adult in novel situ- ations,” says Professor Atance. “They often make predictions about how their child will answer a question - sometimes their prediction is conﬁrmed and sometimes it’s not. Either way, it’s interesting. In the former, parents’ beliefs about their child’s behaviour, knowledge, and likes are conﬁrmed. While, in the latter, parents learn something new about their child.” Oftentimes, she says, a parent will say “wow, I didn’t think he’d know that!” or conversely, “I really thought she’d remember that!” All of children’s performances in the research studies are considered conﬁdential. Professor Atance stresses that individual performance on the tasks is not evaluated, as the CCLL is interested in children’s performance as a group. For example, they are interested in how planning ability in three-year-olds differs from that of four-year-olds. Children also receive a t-shirt and a small toy to thank them for their participation. “We are very grateful to parents who are willing to participate in our studies,” says Professor Atance. “Obviously, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our research without them.” If you are interested in participating in a study, please call the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory at 5625800, ext. 4475. All studies conducted in the laboratory have been reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Board at the University of Ottawa. Many support groups available for breastfeeding mothers B reastfeeding is more than just nutrition. “It’s a wonderful relationship that offers both parents and children wonderful gifts,” says Gillian Sippert, Birth Companion Coordinator at Canadian Mothercraft. “I remember nursing my daughter and thinking: ‘Wow, you are lowering my risk of breast cancer and I am lowering your risk of ovarian cancer, and all while we sit and cuddle.’ It’s something that should be continued as long as possible. The beneﬁts only increase with duration.” To maximize successful breastfeeding, she advises having a plan even before you give birth. “You should have the name of a lactation consultant and know where the closest breastfeeding drop-in is to you before you have the baby.” Nearly every day of the week across the city there is a breastfeeding drop-in centre to provide support. In the Hunt Club area, there is a dropin the last Thursday of every month at the Beneﬁts to mothers and children. Hunt Club Riverside Community Services Centre, at the corner of Paul Anka and McCarthy. It runs from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Open to anyone across the city and to any age of nursing baby, there’s a drop-in at Mothercraft at 475 Evered Avenue near Churchill and Byron and another at Pinecrest Queensway Community health center on Tuesday afternoon 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Carlington Community & Health Services also offers a weekly breastfeeding dropin every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. For more information on breastfeeding resources, go to infactcanada.ca or ottawa.ca/health, or call the Public Health Info Line at 724-4179, or La Leche League Canada at 238-5919.
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