Friday, April 22, 2016

Simple ways to teach your children integrity

My third article published by The Jakarta Post.
You may find the link here

Or you may read it here:

Last March, we were  invited to a Saint Patrick’s Day party by a friend. A family party; parents gathered together, children played, we talked, we ate and we had fun.
The next morning while we were having breakfast, I found my son to be awfully quiet. He normally is chatty but not that morning. So I asked if something bothered him. He said no. The morning passed, the afternoon passed, and he was still not acting himself. He is too quiet and knowing him I knew something wasn’t right but he would not tell me what it was. He usually very opens to us, especially to me. I had to go out that night and I asked my husband if he could speak with our son about what’s bothering him.  He opened up to my husband.
“What’s wrong, son?”
“Anything bad happened at the party last night?”
“Anything weird happen?”
“You smoked.”

At the party that night, my husband who does not smoke was offered by the host if he’d like to smoke a cigar. The dads at the party when outside to the front yard to smoke cigar, while us wives, and children stayed in the house. Everything was okay until we drove back home. With my big mouth, without realizing the aftermath impact of my curious mind, I asked my husband if he had fun smoking the cigar. My nine years old overheard it and he was upset that his father smoked. He did a research on Google about cigar and discovered that it is as bad as cigarettes.
We had to explain to him that it was not a habit, it’s just a “guy thing” that they do once in awhile.  That night, we failed our son in the lesson of integrity.

As parents, we constantly teach our children about responsibility, fairness, self-reliance, respect, honesty and integrity.  All of these good positive attitudes especially honesty and integrity are not just one act of goodness, but it is a whole character. C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even if no one is watching”. Having integrity means you are true to yourself and would do nothing that demeans or dishonor you. Many times we talk about the word ‘integrity’ without really grasping the idea what it really means. After that night, I asked myself if I really believe in the importance of modeling a life of integrity that our children can follow. The question remain, how do we as parents should teach our children about integrity? The answer is simple, we need words and actions.
Words.  When we speak to our children, they need to be able to trust that we will be true to our words, we must speak the truth and follow through what we’ve said. This echoes to the reality that we must be careful to let our yes will be yes and our no will be no. We don’t promise them things we can not keep. We don’t tell them things we don’t mean. We must keep that integrity intact with us all the time.

Action. The most obvious, yet most important way to teach them honesty and integrity is in what we do and how we do it. We must lead them by example.
We were at the San Diego zoo last year and there was a big lemur cage that visitors can walk through. There is a sign in front of the cage with restriction; only adults and children age five and older can go inside. Our daughter who at that time was only 2 months away from being five years old technically could not get in but she is very tall for her age. We thought what harm can be done if the four of us went inside the cage? My son read the restriction and objected that his sister who was not five should go inside. We assured him that it was okay. He insisted that we broke the rules by taking her inside the cage, he insisted that we were being dishonest about her real age. Of course we didn’t have any intention to break the rule or to be dishonest, but that’s not how he perceived it. We teach him honesty and he followed through, we’re pleased. The restriction at the zoo was there to keep young children from misbehaving and our daughter is well behaved and we were there to keep an eye on her. That restriction was arbitrary but our son did not understand that. Young children can only perceive black and white. As they grow older we as parents need to help them navigate through the gray areas of life.

We often remind our children about being honest, yet at the zoo we cheated a bit about age. We teach our children that smoking is bad for our health, yet he learned that his father smoked cigar at a party. How often do you tell your kids to drive within the speed limit yet you drive too fast with them in the car? Ever tell your children that electronics are not allowed in the dining table during dinner, but then you’re sitting with them in the middle of dinner only to check important work emails?

The cigar and the restriction at the zoo were the moments of our parenting epiphany. We had one of those “teachable moments” between parents and children but that time, we were the one learning the lesson. I realized that when my husband and I told our kids to “tell the truth” or “to not do something bad”, we were sending an incomplete message. As parents we can go beyond “it’s wrong to tell lies”, we can teach our children telling the truth is good, but living the truth is better.

What do you do to teach your children about integrity?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Screening Mammogram, One Step Away From Breast Cancer

The Mammogram machine

In the past two weeks, I have done two visits for my regular well woman examinations.  Last Friday was the pap-smear procedure, and this Friday morning was the mammogram procedure. I have been doing a routine pap smear  since I had a baby over nine years ago, and the mammogram since I turned 40, two years ago.

In America, breast cancer is considered as the number two killer in women after heart disease. Therefore; doctors, the government, the American Breast cancer foundation, and health providers have been boosting awareness in encouraging women, especially those who have breast cancer history in their family and women over 40, to get routine mammogram screening.

My mother had a history of cyst when she was 40 years old and it was removed from her breast. Less than two years after that, I discovered that I had the same diagnosed when I was only 17 years old. I first discovered a little lump on my right breast when I was 16 years old but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. Not until a year later, I realized the lump became bigger, I freaked out and I told my mom. She rushed me to see a doctor the next day and I went on surgery two days after that. Both of us are very grateful that the cyst is not cancerous. I remembered how scared my mother and I were at that time. I think she was scared and concerned more for me than she ever had for herself. At some point, she felt guilty, thinking she's the one who passed it onto me.

What are the risk of Asian woman like me to get breast cancer? In the past, breast cancer occurred less in Asian women compared to Western women, and research says the reasons might be because Asian women tend to eat more fresh vegetables, they are able to maintain their weight, they exercise more and they drink less alcohol and they do not smoke.
Based on the studies done by global Breast Cancer Association, breast cancer is now being diagnosed frequently among Asian women, especially among younger women. The possible increase in breast cancer diagnoses among Asian women can be caused by:

1. More younger women in Asia adopting typical Western diet and life style
2. Environmental factors such as higher levels of pollutions as a result of rapid industrial growth
3. 70% of women in Asia don't get regular mammograms.

Being Asian myself and having to hear many stories about friends of a friend in Indonesia who got defeated by breast cancer, has raised me a concern. When I was in college, that was back in 1995, a mother of my friend died after a long battle with breast cancer. That was the first victim of breast cancer that I knew and since then, I heard more and more stories about friends and friends of friends who lost their battle to breast cancer.

At my mammogram appointment this morning,  I met a woman, maybe a few years older than me, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I got back home, I've decided to share a little information about the importance of routine mammogram for our well being and hopefully in a different occasion I can share the importance of cervical screening. This writing is done especially for you, my fellow Indonesian women. Those of us in Indonesia mostly are not well aware of the importance of the cervical and breast screening.

The dressing room before I headed to the mammogram lab

Screening Mammogram

What is it? A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast cancer that is given to woman who has no clear signs of symptoms of breast cancer. It is important to distinguish between screening mammogram and diagnostic mammograms. Diagnostic mammograms are used to diagnose women who have specific signs or symptoms. Any woman who notices a lump in her breast, discharge from the nipple, or other skin changes on her breasts should seek care as soon as possible, and not wait for a routine screening mammogram or physical exam.

Who should get screening mammogram?

Women at higher risk of breast cancer, such as those with a personal history of breast cancer, or an abnormal biopsy result, should have a screening mammogram every year.  Women who has personally history of breast cancer (mother, sister or daughter) should have screening mammogram  as early as age 35. Women with no high risk of breast cancer should have routine screening mammogram, every two year, when they reach the age of 40. You should always ask and please please never hesitate or be embarrassed to tell your doctor if you find something unusual is happening to your breasts.

What are the benefits screening mammogram?
Screening mammogram can help find abnormal changes in the breast even before a lump is large enough to be felt by a breast exam. Finding breast cancer early allows a woman to get treatment before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. When breast cancer is found early, it can often be treated without taking out the entire breast or lamps nodes near it, or without the use of chemotherapy.

Is there a harm of screening mammogram?
Like many other screenings, mammograms are not always 100 percent correct. Sometimes mammogram find lumps that will never turn into cancer, and sometimes mammogram miss lumps that really are cancer.
When mammogram find lumps that are not cancerous, the worst that can happen to women are anxiety, fear, worry, discomfort and inconvenient but after all that drama, we can only be grateful with big sigh of relief.
When mammogram miss lumps that really are cancer, this can turn into the scary part. According to my Ob-Gyn, the tissue in the breast of younger women age 40-49 are thicker, so lumps are harder to see. Mammography fails to find about 25% of the breast lump of women at this age. Many women in their forties whose mammography results are negative may get a false sense of security that makes them pay less attention to important changes in their breast.
My Ob-Gyn also told me that my breasts are lumpy, but that does not mean I have breast cancer. Some women's breast are like that. So in the past two mammograms I had since I turned 40, they always had to do the screening (certain angle when they took the X-ray of my breasts) more than once, which I found to be inconvenient but I'd rather have them do that to be sure. I certainly don't want them to miss anything.

Is there other breast cancer detection methods?

According to my Ob-Gyn (yes people, I ask awful lots of questions when I saw my Ob-Gyn, and I often miss some), there are other types of detection methods. They are Breast Self Examination and Clinical Breast Examination.

Breast Self Examination involves feeling, looking at, and checking your own breast to find changes or lumps that maybe breast cancer. The best time to examine your breast for women who still menstruate is 7 days after your menstruation starts. Your breasts are least tender and least swollen at this time. If you no longer have menstruations, or if you are pregnant, you should pick a day such as the first day of the month - to remind yourself to examine your breast. If you are breastfeeding, pick a day such as the first day of the month after you have expressed your milk. Your breast are the least enlarge at that time. For more information on how to do your own breast self examination, please go online.

Clinical Breasts Examination is an examination done on your breasts by health care professionals such as your Ob-Gyn as part of your regular medical check-up. This examination should be done by health care professional well trained in the technique.

Indonesia has been positioned as one of the country with the increasing diagnosed of breast and cervical cancer by World Health Organization (WHO) and I don't think this is something that we should take lightly. Because the number of breast cancer in Indonesia and among Asian women are increasing, the government and health care systems need to boost awareness of breast cancer risk and the importance of annual screening. If you are women over 40 or if you are younger than 40 but you have history of breast cancer in your family, or you suspect something unusual with your breast, please do NOT hesitate to see your doctor. Don't be like me when I was 17. I was dumb and not very knowledgeable.

Breast cancer no longer picks their victims, it can happen to anyone. No matter what your ethnicity is or where you live, or no matter how old you are or how healthy you think you are, there are steps you can take to lower your breast cancer risk or to catch it early. Some Indonesian women and Asian women in general are tend to be shy away especially when it comes to discussing our women's health issues with our doctors. We think it is too private to discuss. Let's change that habit. Do it for yourself, or at least do it for the people you love. And don't forget, eat healthy (I need to keep reminding myself about this habit as well).

Have you scheduled your next mammogram or pap smear appointment yet?

In the left corner is where I was being screened this morning

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Verbal Bully dan Bagaimana Menghadapinya

My son and his friends in Kindergarten. No worries, they are not fighting, just playing :)

Bully di sekolah:
Apa yang ada dibenak kita ketika kita mendengar kalimat “bully di sekolah?” Tebakan saya seoarang anak laki-laki, badannya besar, mungkin tidak terlalu pintar, dan selalu membuat tingkah di sekolah. Jika anak ini tidak berkelahi, dia selalu mencari alasan untuk berkelahi atau mengancam anak lain untuk memulai perkelahian.

Tapi ada tipe bully yang lain yang sering kita lupakan atau tidak terpikir oleh kita, VERBAL BULLY. Hanya dengan kata-kata mereka menyakiti hati, membuat kita malu, mendominasi, dan menghancurkan perasaan kita. Fisikal bully, tidak ragu lagi harus dihadapi, harus kita hentikan. Kita tidak dapat membiarkan sekolah menjadi tempat kekerasan. Ketika kekerasan tidak lagi bisa kita toleransi, ketika ada anak yang menjadi korban fisikal bully, maka guru-guru dan orang tua serta anak-anak kita pun menyadari ada masalah yang harus kita hadapi. Tindakan pencegahan datang secara otomatis. Lain halnya dengan verbal bully, tipe pem-bully ini sering terlupakan. Verbal bully secara samar menyerang “mangsa’nya dan terlewat oleh radar kita. Hanya korban yang bisa mendengar dan merasakan. Sementara murid-murid lain, si pembully, guru atau orang tua semua berpendapat, “ah, itu cuma kata-kata saja. It’s just words”.

Tapi kita tahu, mungkin kita pernah mengalami...kata-kata bisa menyakitkan juga. Kata-kata menjatuhkan kita. Kata-kata memecahkan rasa percaya diri kita. Satu komentar dari orang yang tidak kita kenal bisa terngiang-ngiang di telinga kita sepanjang hari.  Sebagai orang dewasa, kita bisa mengatakan pada diri kita, “Ah, itu hanya pendapat orang yang tidak saya kenal, tidak masalah. Cuek aja. Dia tidak kenal saya. Peduli amat”.  Banyak dari kita yang menghabiskan waktu di Facebook membaca komen-komen netizen yang sebagian besar berisi kata-kata yang menyakitkan, yang menghina. Bayangkan bagaimana perasaan anak-anak usia sekolah yang tidak memiliki banyak pengalaman dalam hidup ketika mendengar kata-kata seperti ini.

My son and his friends in Kindergarten. No worries, they are not fighting, just playing :)

Ada kemungkinan verbal bully tidak menyadari kalau mereka adalah bully. Di satu sisi mereka dinasehati oleh orang tua mereka bahwa kejujuran sangatlah penting. Maka ketika mereka mengkritik orang lain, mereka berpikir itu adalah sebuah kejujuran. Anak-anak diajari untuk selalu membantu orang lain, maka ketika mereka mengungkap kelemahan anak-anak lain mereka berpikir ‘mereka hanya ingin membantu’.  Masalah inti kenapa verbal bully ini melakukan hal yang sama terus-menurus sama halnya dengan kenapa fisikal bully melakukan aksinya, mereka menemukan kepuasan dalam mendominasi orang lain. Mereka sadar kata-kata mereka menyakiti, mereka merasa “hebat” dan lebih kuat dibanding teman-teman mereka. Jika mereka ditegur karena kata-kata mereka, maka alasan mereka adalah “Saya tidak bermaksud menyakiti perasaan dia. Saya jujur apa adanya. Saya cuma berusaha membantu. Ah, itu kan cuma kalimat saja”.

Kita hidup dijaman kebebasan berpendapat,  hal ini membuat kita sebagai orang dewasa merasa ragu untuk memberikan hukuman atau sangsi kepada verbal bully, karena yang mereka sebarkan “hanya kata-kata” bukan pukulan, bukan tonjokkan. Tetapi dengan kebebasan berendapat harus ada tanggung jawab.

Bayangkan apabila kita mendengar komentar inncoent seorang anak soal tas punggung atau backpack. “Ih kamu kok pakai Doraemon backpack sih? Kamu aneh ya. Doraemon backpack kan ngga keren, norak, kampungan. Ih kamu kampungan”. Anak yang memiliki Doraemon backpack tidak menangis, tetapi dia hanya berdiri dan tidak bisa berkata-kata. Perasaan mereka tersakiti, ego mereka terpukul. Apakah anak yang menghina Doraemon backpack pantas di hukum? Jika dihukum, apa yang akan kita katakan disaat orang tua anak yang menghina Doraemon backpack berkata kepada kita, “Kamu menghukum anak saya hanya karena dia tidak suka Doraemon backpack? Kamu bercanda ya? Kenapa tidak kamu bilang ke anak yang punya Doraemon backpack untuk lebih tegar”?
Pertanyaannya; Lalu, apakah yang harus kita lakukan?

Ada tempat dan waktu yang berbeda untuk mengeluarkan pendapat secara santun. Sebagai orang tua kita banyak berbicara soal penggunaan bahasa yang baik dan benar, dan bagaimana meningkatkan perbendaharaan kata mereka. Mengeluarkan pendapat harus dilakukan dengan lebih santun, bahkan orang dewasa banyak yang harus mempelajari bagaimana mengeluarkan pendapat secara santun.
Ajarkan anak-anak kita untuk berkata positif atau berpendapat secara positif. “Jika kita tidak bisa berkata-kata secara baik, lebih baik kita diam”. Katakan kepada mereka, “Kamu selalu bisa berkata-kata dengan baik, atau memberi pujian akan sesuatu. Bahkan disaat kamu tidak menyukai sesuatu secara umum, carilah hal-hal positif. Misalnya kamu tidak suka Doraemon backpack, apakah kamu suka warna nya? Atau apakah kamu suka kantong-kantong di backpack tersebut? Bagaimana dengan resleting backpack tersebut? Pasti ada sesuatu di Doraemon backpack yang kamu sukai. Atau kalau tidak ada sama sekali, kamu bisa berkata “Backpack adalah alat yang paling efisien untuk membawa buku dan peralatan lainnya ke sekolah”.
Tantang anak-anak kita untuk hanya menggunakan kata-kata positif dari saat mereka bangun sampai mereka tidur. Tidak boleh ada keluhan. Tantang anak-anak kita untuk memberikan pujian kepada teman-teman mereka. Misalnya dengan hal-hal kecil seperti, “Sepatu kamu bagus”, “Wah kamu pintar menggambar ya”, atau “Project kerajinan tangan kamu bagus”.

Perilaku anak-anak banyak dipengaruhi orang tua mereka, anak anak belajar dari orang dewasa. Misalnya pada saat orang tua mengkritik anak, maka anak-anak meresa juga perlu membantu teman-teman mereka dengan memberi kritikan. Bisa kita bayangkan betapa baiknya jika anak-anak bisa saling membantu satu sama lainnya, tetapi kita juga bisa melihat bagaimana satu orang anak yang berusaha “membantu” anak yang lainnya sebagai tindakan yang mendominasi atau mengecilkan anak yang dibantu.
Anak-anak juga meniru ledekan atau candaan. Mereka melihat kita orang dewasa meledek  teman-teman kita, maka mereka berpikir begitulah cara berteman, dengan ledekan dan candaan. Saya sangat malu ketika guru TK anak saya mengirim email ke saya yang isinya menjelaskan bahwa anak sama meledek teman sekelasnya yang memiliki tangan yang kecil sebelah dengan memanggil anak tersebut “Alien”. Anak saya tidak bermaksud menghina, dia hanya bercanda dengan temannya. Saat itu, ketika di rumah saya dan suami melakukan percakapan yang produktif dengan anak kami dan kami jelaskan kepada anak kami soal menjaga “perasaan” orang lain. Kami ingatkan dia saat dimana teman-temannya meledek gigi taringnya dan dia dipanggil “drakula”.

Kita harus mengajarkan anak-anak kita cara membantu orang lain dengan baik, kapan saat yang tepat untuk membantu. Jelaskan kepada mereka bahwa kadang-kadang orang lain tidak ingin di bantu, dan mungkin tidak membutuhkan bantuan. Mungkin mereka hanya perlu waktu ekstra untuk menyelasaikan tugas mereka. Jelaskan pada mereka jika seseorang tidak dapat melakukan sesuatu sebaik mereka, secepat mereka, atau seperti apa yang mereka lakukan, bukan berarti orang tersebut butuh bantuan. Mungkin mereka hanya butuh ucapan “selamat” atau congratulation karena mereka melakukan sesuatu dengan cara mereka.

Anak sulung kami kadang mengkritik adiknya. Saya membuat dia berkata, “Saya bukan orang tua”. Tujuan saya adalah memberi penjelasan dan limit bahwa peranannya sebagai seorang kakak berbeda dengan peranan orang tua.

Pernah bertanya ke anak, “Bagaimana harimu di sekolah”? Dan jawaban mereka cuma, “Baik”. Sebagai orang tua, jika kita ingin memiliki percakapan dengan anak inilah saatnya. Jangan cuma bertanya “Bagaimana sekolah hari ini”. Sebagai permulaan, bisa dimulai dengan percakapan seperti ini misalnya, “Waktu kelas 3 dulu ada seorang anak perempuan yang selalu jahat sama bunda, dia selalu menghina apa yang bunda pakai ke sekolah. Perkataan anak itu menyakiti hati bunda, tetapi bunda tidak tahu harus berbuat apa. Apakah ada hal-hal seperti terjadi di sekolah kamu”?. Dengan percakapan yang di mulai seperti ini, anak-anak kita akan memiliki sesuatu atau pondasi untuk membangun atau membagi cerita mereka. “Bagaimana harimu di sekolah” tidak menyediakan media untuk memulai percakapan yang sesungguhnya.

Perlu diingat pula, mungkin anak kita lah yang menjadi verbal bully tetapi mereka tidak menyadarinya. Kita pikir hal tersebut tidak mungkin? Coba pikir soal para bully di sekolah yang orang tuanya beranggapan bahwa anak-anak mereka adalah ‘angels’. Sebagai orang tua kita bisa membangun strategy. Bahkan dengan naskah. Ketika anak-anak bercerita kepada kita soal anak lain yang menggunakan kata-kata kejam atau hinaan kepada mereka, bantu anak-anak kita untuk menghadapi hinaan tersebut jika terjadi lagi. Mungkin ada baiknya jika mereka acuhkan atau cuek saja. Atau mungkin ada baiknya kita ajarkan anak-anak kita untuk membalas hinaan tersebut dengan berkata (kalau ada yang menhina atau mengejek mereka), “Ohhh begitu? Kamu pikir begitu? Mau bilang apa, kita punya pendapat yang berbeda”. Atau jika kita menggunakan atittude seperti ungkapan atau peribahasa favorite saya, “Anjing menggongong kafilah berlalu”

Kita harus dapat mencari phrase yang tepat buat anak-anak kita dalam meng-counter verball bully. Lebih baik lagi bila mereka bisa menemukan phrase yang tepat untuk mereka. Contohnya, ajarkan mereka untuk mengkritik hinaan bukan mengkritik si verbal bully misalnya dengan “Ihhh ketinggalan jaman sekali ya? Kok masih ada orang yang ngomong begitu?’’.
Ada manfaatnya jika hal seperti ini di praktekan di rumah, seperti role play. Berpura pura, kita sebagai orang tua adalah si verball bully dan anak kita adalah korbannya. Ajarkan mereka bagaimana cara menangani komen-komen yang berisi hinaan dan cemoohan dengan cara positif. Ada baiknya bila kita sebagai orang tua menyelipkan humor saat kita berpura-pura atau berakting soal bagaimana menangani verbal bully, sebab kadang-kadang percakapan yang terlalu serius bisa terhenti ditengah jalan.
Perlu untuk selalu diingat, percakapan dengan anak-anak kita berjalan dua arah. Kadang-kadang kita berpikir kita lebih tahu daripada anak-anak kita dan lupa untuk mendengarkan. Padahal dengan menjadi pendengar kita bisa tahu apa yang anak-anak kita pahami, kita tahu apa yang mereka takutkan, apa yang mereka khawatirkan, yang membuat mereka bosan, atau yang membuat mereka senang. Pada akhirnya, jika kita mendengar, jika kita melihat dan mengawasi, kita dapat melihat ‘spark’ (mata mereka berbinar, mereka tersenyum, mereka memanggut-manggut, wajah mereka menjadi ceria) yang menandakan persepsi dan pengertian mereka terhadap isu yang membuat mereka sedih telah berubah selamanya. Kita dapat melihat anak kita menjadi anak yang penuh percaya diri.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things To Do To Make Children Love Nature

In this era of modern technology, it is so easy to be amazed with all kind electronics. In an age piled with TVs, computers, video games, and electronic gadgets, children are often isolated from the simple pleasure of exploring nature. Pile on academics along with classes and extracurricular activities, we often leave children with little time to play outdoors. Even if they do, there are almost no green spaces left for them to enjoy. Many parks and playground are often too manicured, and do not invite curious open-minded exploration.

I was born in Jakarta and not until in the early 80’s my parents moved to Depok, a suburb borders with Jakarta and Bogor. I hated the first few years of my childhood there but I embraced the city as I get older. Unlike Jakarta, Depok at that time offered more places and nature for me to explore as a kid. I was 8 years old the first time I got my very cool looking BMX bicycle and with that bike, I rode along all over our new neighborhood that my family moved into.  My friends and I rode our bike on dirty, sometimes muddy roads, along the Ciliwung river banks, miles away from our houses. I collected rocks and leaves and pretended I was a paleontologist, trying to examine certain nature’s findings.

My parents had no worries about where I went as long as they knew where I was heading to and who I went with. In today’s parenting, we no longer have the liberty to let our children explore without us “helicoptering” them. As a parent, I often too concern about my children playing outside in the nature let alone riding bikes miles away from our home without our supervision. My concern is not the unknown nature but the unknown people.  My husband and I are raising our children in a big city, although we live in the suburb of Los Angeles and like many other big city problems, we don’t have many left for our kids to play in nature other than our backyard and a few miles drive to the state park.
Modern life is too regimented and deprives children from the opportunity of exploring and learning by themselves.  We want to raise children who enjoy nature, we want to stimulate their curiosity, we want to build their sense of wonder, which they can carry over to the other aspects of their life. We believe that being out in nature will help them become more aware of their surrounding. Nature gives them the chance to engage all their senses.
Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”. And according to educationist, exploring nature helps children improve their attention span and learning capability. I can see the connection between Einstein’s quote and the study.  As we all know, being in nature and outdoor activity offers children the opportunity of fresh air and exercise. Both are important to children’s development, both physically and mentally.
As  part of our efforts to encourage our children to enjoy and love nature,  these are a few things that we do with them:

Involve Them In Gardening

I don’t have a big passion in gardening but every now and then, I spend some time in yard doing some gardening. I enjoy this activity even more since I have children. I believe this is a great way to help children connect to nature.  This will bring them in touch with the soil, worms, insects and other intriguing creatures. Since my children were very young, I spend many weekends in the garden with them. We often buy vegetable seeds and plant them in the container. We watch as the seeds sprouts day by day. I teach my children to care for the plants and at the end of the day, I let them harvesting the vegetables for them to eat. Caring for plants, and seeing them grow and develop, is a wonderful opportunity for them to know the cycle of creation first hand.

My daughter is helping me in the garden. We planted basil and cilantro from seeds. They started to sprout.

Harvesting basil leaves from our garden

Harvesting tomatoes from the garden

As part of my effort to make them love nature, my daughter and I built this miniature fairy garden. These are the succulents, the drought tolerant plants that do not require a lot of watering.

Take Them to Wildlife Sanctuary or State and National Park
As a family, we have been enjoying hiking as one of our weekend activities. By hiking we introduce our children to the benefit of health and enjoying nature at the same time. It is also a good time for family bonding. About 6 miles away from our house, there is a state park called Malibu Creek, it is a beautiful park in Malibu that is perfect for hiking, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding, picnicking, camping or simply just to enjoy what nature has to offer.

Malibu Creek State Park

Crossing the creek

On our last vacation to Indonesia last December 2015, I took my children to visit Tangkuban Perahu volcano in West Java. We walked down to the crater to explore the hot spring. Along the way, our tour guide introduced us to the many different species of tropical trees that they could not find in America. It was a long trip down the crater, 1800 steps down, and about 1500 steps back up. I heard no single complains from them. They are real troopers.
The crater at Tangkuban Perahu volcano, West Java-Indonesia

The crater at Tangkuban Perahu volcano, West Java-Indonesia
Last Spring break 2016, as part of our mission to make them love nature, we took them to visit two of America’s most amazing national parks; Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in Northern California. We spent three days here exploring the parks. In Yosemite National Park, we were surrounded by nature that are mostly 400 feet tall; mountains, hills, and trees. We hiked and we climbed rocks, we stepped into the creeks. We drove all the way to the mountaintop which took us to 6000 elevation above the sea level and we were surrounded by snow. In Sequoia National Park, a park well known for its huge and old trees, we saw the world’s largest single stem tree called General Sherman. This tree is about 275 feet tall and over 2000 years old.
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Snowfall in Yosemite National Park

A huge rock by the lake in Yosemite
A creek in Yosemite National Park

General Sherman Tree, 275 feet tall and over 2000 years old, Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park
Induce their Curiosity
One of our favorite show to watch at home is the National Discovery channel. We exposed them about nature and wildlife through a TV screen. We took the extra step to get the membership from Natural History Museum and La Brea Tar Pits Museum both located in Los Angeles. We visit the museums a couple of time during the year. We also  encourage them to participate in the field trips and other activities organised by these museums as well as encouraging them to ask many questions about things that would like to know.

Butterfly sanctuary at Natural History Museum, Los Angeles

Learning about butterfly at the butterfly sanctuary in Natural History Museum, Los Angeles

Learning about wildlife in Natural History Museum

Learning about insect at Natural History Museum, Los Angeles
Give Them a Gift of a Hobby
Two years ago, we bought our daughter a magnifying glasses and bought our son a microscope. We wanted to enhance their enjoyment of nature by giving them tools that will make nature more fun to explore. We encourage our children to observe things they see and record them. They found small objects from the yard and right away put that tiny object under the microscope. It is always fun to see and hear about their observation of certain “foreign” objects.
Finding the earth worm
Teach Them to Conserve
Here in California, we have been experiencing drought in the past couple of years. We rarely get rain. In every school, they teach children about conserving water. We do the same at home, we teach our children to value nature, we encourage them to adopt conservation practices. More importantly, we practice them ourselves. We teach them not to let the tap water runs while brushing their teeth, take shorter shower, watering our grass less, watering plants early in the morning. Inside the house, we remind them to always keep lights and TV switched off when they do not need them. We explain to our children how small things like using water carefully can contribute towards conserving nature.

I believe getting our children to cherish and appreciate nature will not only help them to become responsible citizens, but will also make them better custodians of our home planet, the beautiful Earth.
View in Yosemite National Park

Hiking in Malibu Creek State Park