Friday Q&A with Dr Rosina – Inspiring Eczema Kids through Building Career

Dr Rosina McAlpine

Having eczema is not only stressful for the entire family, but is also related to lower self-esteem for children with severe eczema. The constant itch and scratching, lack of good sleep may also deter children from concentrating on certain activities they like. Would these affect our kids and how can parents inspire our kids to a fulfilling life, despite the eczema. For this month’s Friday Q&A, I’m honored to introduce you to Dr Rosina McAlpine, who is a mother and an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, with a masters and PhD in education. She has developed the Inspired Children Program and won numerous national and international awards for her teaching and research work.

Life Skill for our Children: Education & Career & Money

This life skill is most difficult for me. I, Marcie Mom, am still figuring what I want to do in life. I don’t mean just doing something to get by, to live, to earn an income. I’m talking about doing something that will stir your heart, make you cry and laugh and have the energy to excite every cell in your body.

Marcie Mom: Dr Rosina, I think my above illustration of ‘what to do in your life’ is not achieved by many. What do you think, after learning much from experts when researching for your Inspired Children Program, is the approach parents ought to take when helping (if we can!) our children figure out what to do in life? Do parents need to identify the child’s interest or talent? Or do parents need to inculcate skill to learn and persevere in the child? Or should parents lower or increase their expectation of what one is even supposed to achieve in life?

Dr Rosina: In an ideal world … what is life for, if not to live, breathe and share your passion? And how wonderful to make a living from what one loves to do? Imagine if everyone looked deep into their heart and shared with the world their unique brilliance and earned their income from doing just that! The world would be a happier and more productive place.

Children have many years to explore and discover their life’s passion. Parents can play a part in this by asking lots of questions and encouraging their children to share their ideas and dreams. Here are some ideas:

Ask your children to share with you what they love to do; what they would really like to try doing; what or who inspires them and any dreams they have for their life. Ask lots of questions and get them to tell you why they love those things/ dreams. If they are having difficulty thinking of something, tell them some of your dreams and why they make you happy. Help your children understand that you really want to know about their dreams and desires so you can support them, and where possible, do some of the things they love with them. Again, the twinkle in their eye and the smile on their face will let you know if they are tapping into their true heart’s desire.

It is also helpful to consider that people can pursue their passions as a hobby and not necessarily make money from them. This takes some of the pressure off. Having a full time career in something you are happy to do and earn money from and pursing your passion in your spare time might be just the work/life balance one needs to live a happy and fulfilled life!

On another topic, money. Off my mind, there are three questions:

1. Eczema is an expensive condition to have – It’s chronic, meaning moisturizing is a must daily and the severe cases may mean more doctor consultation costs (here’s one of my first eczema cartoons, on budgeting!) Dr Rosina, should a parent reveal to the child the household budget, which includes the money spent on managing the child’s eczema? Would this have a positive or negative effect, and how can a parent approach this so that it will be positive?

Dr Rosina: Understanding the household budget and spending (all of the expenses not just eczema costs) is a valuable life skill for children to have. The key is to talk about money in a positive light. If parents help their children see that money spent on their health is money well spent, and money wasted means there is less money for the things that matter – then children are learning about money management and value for money!

If parents speak ‘negatively’ about how much money their child’s eczema condition costs, children may feel guilty, so parents need to be careful to frame the expenditure in a positive light. Another way to look at it is – families spend more money on buying healthy whole foods because they are good for the body and support health. While there are cheaper options – junk food tends to be cheaper – it is not value for money as in the long run it leads to poorer health. In the same way spending money and valuing the doctors and creams for managing eczema improve children’s quality of life so the payment can be seen from the point of view of gratitude rather than a burden for parents and children.

2. Should a parent steer the child to an education or a career that makes more money? There are industries that pay more and industries that are sun-set and pay little. Dr Rosina, do you think it’s wise or foolish of parent to bring money into the conversation when talking about education/ career?

Dr Rosina: I think balance is called for when deciding upon a career. While it is wonderful to pursue your passion, there also needs to be the practical side of life as well – managing day to day living. On the other side – there is no point in pursuing a career solely for the sake of money if there is no enjoyment and only resentment about going to work every day. So I guess, balance is the key.

3. This question will interest our Asian parents – In Singapore, Malaysia and generally for Asian families, filial piety is associated with providing for parents. Should we (this generation parents) forgo the mindset of our parents that our children ought to give us an allowance when we’re too old to earn income? Many of us don’t expect to live off our children, but the line is blurred when we decide how much and how long we ought to keep providing for our children. Should we say ok, you can do anything, even if you’re earning very little and I’ll support you where you fall short? Should we buy a property for our child or expect our child to live with us given how inflation is rising (and rising)?

Dr Rosina: You raise an interesting dilemma both parents and children face when deciding on future careers. How much should a parent spend now on their child’s future as opposed to keeping it for later in life when they will need supplemental income? What career should a child pursue? Should the decision be made on the level of happiness it will bring or the amount of money or both? Should the child consider how much extra money they will need to support their parents in their old age? How should family money be invested to support both parents and children?

The relationships that parents establish with their children from the time they are born will influence how they will interact and relate throughout their lives together. The depth of respect, love and closeness will play a part in a child’s decision to take care of their parents in old age or whether they choose not to. Whether a child chooses to look after their parents out of love or out of a sense of duty or a combination of reasons will depend on the bond parents have with their children.

The issue of filial piety is an interesting question, one that has social and cultural implications. Because families have different values there can’t be one answer for all. Filial piety needs to be explored in every family in open discussions and decisions made that support that family’s culture and values for both parents and children.

MarcieMom: Dr Rosina, this statement you just made “relationships that parents establish with their children from the time they are born will influence how they will interact and relate throughout their lives together” brought tears to me – taking care of Marcie hasn’t been easy, eczema and without live-in maid/helper that is common in Singapore. So much time and effort is spent with & on her, especially with co-sleeping from the time she started to scratch at night (around 3 month-old till 3 year old!). Someone told me it’d all be worth it because the bond between us would be unbreakable, I do hope it’s true, right now, every night before we read stories at bedtime, my girl would just blurt out ‘I LOVE YOU MOMMY’ and give me a big kiss or a rub. And I love you too, Dr Rosina, you are sincere, serious about inspiring kids, your passion has already spread to Singapore!

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