Elaine teaches developmental psychology

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Children seem to be more stressed these days. Elaine Yong, lecturer at Sunway University’s Department of Psychology, believes that more needs to be done to address it.

She has been a lecturer for 10 years and taught subjects such as Learning Disabilities, Social Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, and Pet Behavioural Studies. Presently, her subjects complement her interest and passion in Developmental Psychology and Educational Psychology.

Here, she gives us a peek into her life and background:

How did you get into psychology? Who or what influenced your decision?

It was by accident. I was assigned the discipline based on my STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia) grades upon entry into university. I wanted to stick to my initial choice of mass communications and economics, however, my dad encouraged me to pursue the discipline. He said psychology would be something good for a girl to pursue.

Where did you study?

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia for both undergraduate and master’s degrees.

Why did you become a lecturer instead of a full-time psychologist?

After doing my master’s degree, I wanted to gain more experience in the field of psychology. Coincidentally, my ex-classmate informed me about a new psychology department in Sunway University College which had just been set up. So, I handed my CV to her and subsequently got the job within a few months.

Do you still see patients?

Not anymore. Due to insufficient manpower, the clinic, which used to operate after office hours, is no longer in operation. Presently, if I receive any queries, I have to refer them to colleagues practising in the Klang Valley.

Why do you think bullying is more rampant these days?

Many children are left unattended because one or both parents are at work. As a result, the children’s negative socialisation behaviours are not corrected in a timely manner. This allows initial behaviours that may have developed as a form of naive play and teasing to become habitual. Over time, these negative socialisation habits become an effective tool to gain and control social relationships among their peers. Parents are only made aware of their children’s socialisation when someone is hurt or a complaint is raised.

There is also an increase in aggressive models and content within media consumed by children compared to previous generations. This hike subconciously celebrates and normalises such behaviours and impacts young children by making them more accepting, while increasing the chance of mimicking these aggressive behaviours.

Additionally, the Internet allows bullying to be anonymous. Bullying via online social platforms gives the perpetrator some protection by allowing them to hide behind avatars. However, the victim may feel the effects emotionally and more deeply because the items posted online can be read by everyone and seems more “permanent”.

What do you think is the most pressing problem affecting mental health in children?

The inability to handle stress and depression. For some reason, the current generation of school-going children are more stressed and report higher rates of depression. Perhaps the introduction of the Internet has intensified academic and social competition among peers.

What can parents do to help their children be happier and less stressed?

To keep then happier:

Spend personal time with each child individually. Dedicated one-to-one time for 30 minutes without any interruptions from TV, phone or a third person will reassure the child that their parents will always have time for them. Try to make it at least once a week. Do it more frequently if time permits.

Encourage the child to take up a hobby. Children nowadays only know how to spend time on academic work and computer games. Good old hobbies such as reading, drawing or playing a musical instrument offer healthy ways for children to spend time away from technology.

Play outdoors. Take the children to the ncighbourhood park and participate in outdoor play opportunities. Soaking up the sun is not only good for the bones but ensure better eye health as well.

To keep them less stressed:

Eat dinner together as a family. Keep the phone and TV turned off. Talk to each person at the dinner table even after the meal is over. Mealtime is a good opportunity to bond with family members and it’s an informal way to raise any concerns of the day.

Celebrate the effort put into a task or exam preparation. If we commend the child for their perseverance and focus on the task, it will make them less fearful of failure.

Plan a weekly routine with a play session allocated. Play is the business of children and they thrive when they have a set routine. This not only enables parents to manage expectations but ensures better usage of time overall.

What are some perks of your job?

I get to meet different types of people. My profession allows me to share my knowledge and experience with parents and teachers via talks and workshops. I feel energised when I am teaching topics that I love – child development and ways to educate them. Getting interviewed by the media is also super fun. These are the highlights of my job!

How many kids do you have? What are their ages?

I have two children. My son is eight and my daughter is three.

Has being a parent helped you in your job?

Definitely! I am more patient with my students now compared to before I had kids. I am more forgiving and understand that everyone may have an “off” day once in a while. However, I still have high expectations of them, almost like a parent. I would want the majority to succeed in life and contribute to society.

If you could invent something child-related, what would it be?

I had this dream of being a Malaysian Maria Montessori to one day design my own early childhood curriculum. The early formative years of a child are the most crucial to shape a person. I would like to leave my mark and make a difference to make learning more fun. I would like to keep learning a life-long goal for as many people as I can reach out to.