The 3 things I have learnt as a Psychologist working with Mothers

As a psychologist dealing with children and parents, I have come across over 100 mothers on a one-on-one basis over the passed year. Once inside the clinic, the door closed, and its just me and mom, the confessions begin. I am not surprised to say that while parents come to me for guidance I too have learnt and continue to learn so much throughout my experience and for that I am grateful. I am writing my learnings from both the perspective of a psychologist and mother as well, as I can’t resist relating and identify so much to myself as parent, and so I will be address ‘mothers’ as ‘we’. Below is based only my honest and humble opinion, no facts or studies have been conducted but rather my clinical observations of the majority of mothers I have seen and dealt with. Here are my 3 main learning’s from working with mothers:

**DISCLAIMER: Slight information has been changed for protection of client confidentiality.**

We seek perfection

momMotherhood enlarges our heart 1000 times from its original size. Instantly we have so much more love to pass around, time to give and unconditional efforts to spare. While many mothers know this, several disregard that motherhood also highlights our flaws as well, we fall back on dishes, being on time and almost always forget taking care of ourselves when really, that is part of the deal of parenting. It IS messy, it IS exhausting and it IS a lot to take it and that is OK. Fact is though, mothers are human too, we make mistakes and while we strive so hard at being the best mother for our kids, mom guilt can sometimes overcome and when it does, shake it off, cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself, you are allowed to be perfectly imperfect.

We feel like we don’t “fit in” most of the time

There is so much pressure in this idea that mothers need to have it all together and figured out. As a result of this fallacy, a hidden pretentious approach exists between mothers, one that only moms will understand. It’s almost like a coded language which sounds something like this “I spent the whole night making gluten free oat cookies for my sons to take to school, then after drop off I’m hand-making their school performance costume while I do my nails, setting up their fun activities for when they come home and of course reading to them 5 times a day to foster creativity. I just don’t understand mothers who aren’t ‘hands on’.”


mommy wars

Mom, you have nothing to prove. I am that type of mom that asks for help cause I can’t do it all on my own, that doesn’t give my kids lots of activities in their free time, that’s too tiered to cook so eats leftovers from yesterday and that type of mom that remembers the groceries when we have none in the fridge. This is who I am. I’m also insanely in love with my kids, kiss and hug them (sometimes forcefully) because they’re just too cute, I’m an honest friend, sometimes an emotional wreck, I keep it more real than ever and a very late-min type of person.

If someone doesn’t accept you with your flaws, they don’t deserve your beautiful qualities either. If you are surrounding yourself with friends that make you feel ashamed of how you parent or feel the need to pretend to fit in, you don’t have to put up with it, make new friends.

We all have problems, if you knew what everyone is going through you’ll really want to take your problem back.

In this day and age, it’s become so easy to ‘seem’ perfect. A plastered smile there, a ‘picture perfect’ post here, a brag about how ‘lucky’ someone may seem, and you’ve boxed them into the perfect mom, wife, parent, sister, host, business woman, cook, fashionista there is. FALSE. Perfection doesn’t exist. Everyone, yes, everyone is going through troubles, challenges and issues. Everyone does face hardship no matter how ‘perfect’ they may seem on the outside. Everyone fights their share of struggles every single day, just like us too, and most probably even harder troubles than the ones we usually worry about. The ‘perfect’ fashionista might be going through a divorce, the ‘perfect’ cook might be heavily grieving her parent’s death, the ‘perfect’ business woman might be doing her best to stay away from her abusive husband, the ‘perfect’ influencer with 300k followers might be suffering from depression and feeling like the loneliest person on the planet and the ‘perfect’ wife might be struggling with her child’s diagnosis of developmental delay. Never believe everything you see or hear, whatever everyone’s case may be, just remember, everyone is doing they best they can with the knowledge they have.

category-momBottom line the following summarize things I have learnt from working with several mothers this year. Mom guilt can sometimes overcome and when it does, shake it off, cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself, you are allowed to be perfectly imperfect. If you are surrounding yourself with friends that make you feel like ashamed of how you parent or need to pretend to fit in, make new friends. Finally, never believe everything you see/hear, whatever everyone’s case may be, just remember, everyone is doing they best they can with the knowledge they have. Let’s all aim for a more real, judgment-free and honest parenting journey. Until I share more, same time next year, I am here for you.

Amina Diab

Top 5 ‘Back To School’ Stores Delivering Straight To Your Doorstep

Schools are slowly creeping in and the search has begun for the ultimate ‘school bag’ this year. With so many options and so little time, I’ve decided to 
School-Suppliessummarize all the amazing resources in Egypt that provide the best delivery service of ‘back to school’ essentials. Yes, meaning you can order your essentials from the comfort of your own home. I literally went down to every store and/or checked out their online portals before posting this to make sure what I post is available, in stock and some even on SALE! From pencil cases, to matching water bottles and of course the essential school bag pack, it’s all covered here in my top 5 stores for back to school essentials.

Before getting into this though, I would really like to highlight that I am a strong advocate of child involvement during any potential change or subjects that relate to them. Ideally, I would always advice parents to involve their kids and get them excited for their new academic year by making a trip out of picking and choosing their new school uniforms/ bags / lunch boxes – you name it. Picking your items online however, shouldn’t replace this concept. Bring them along while scrolling through the following amazing websites and social accounts and have them pick their favorite bags, choose which lunch box they prefer alongside all their other school supplies and gadgets.

hedeya 1

It’s no surprise Hedeya is on this list. Its anywhere and everywhere and has almost everything. Literally. With over 9 stores, you are bound to find a Hedeya store near your area. They also provide an excellent delivery service straight to your doorstep, either by requesting your item through their phone service or website. Hedeya provides more than 3 different bag sizes , catering from the ages of nursery all the way up to high school. Just so you get an idea of their variety, they also sell desks too, so you can provide a great learning space for your child.

Hotline: 19818


bakier logo

828432088836The first words that come to mind when thinking of Bakier– reliable and cost efficient. Somehow, while most prices are still soaring, Bakier still knows how to provide your essentials within a reasonable range that doesn’t shock you. That initial shock that got us snapping on abut ‘WOW. This bag really cost this much now? You know how much it cost when I was back in school?’

What I love about Bakier when I checked their website, is that they have ready made 459234_954958_01_front_zoom‘school list’ supplies making it easier for you to finish up your school stationary checklist in just own click. All you need to do, is pick your child’s school and grade, and voila, your supply list is already generated for you and automatically the total amount is calculated for you to pay online and receive within days. How efficient is that! Try is out and let me know your experience. In all honestly however, not all supply lists for all schools are available on their website and this may seem as a great disadvantage to this service.

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For Orders & Delivery  010 112 15711


The newbie in town, but oh did they hit strong. After launching over a year ago, The Pink Elephant has really provided another twist to creativity when it comes to their choice of international products. I must also add, one great thing I love about this store is that they are always first in restocking item’s that have gotten sold out by really listening to their client needs.

Call Center: 19600

WebThe hip the pricey the classic and the cost efficient – they have the whole range. Besides your typical back to school checklist items what I personally love about baby posh is that they provide personalized designs with your child’s name that comes in different shapes and sizes according to the theme chosen. Stickers are washable, microwave and dishwasher safe too – so use freely parents; they are staying. The cherry on top- there is also a 10% discount of school bags!

For Orders & Delivery:  01203998875


nour stationery logoNour Stationery specializes in only – well you guessed it, stationary. How this works is that you send her a Whatsapp, or Facebook message with all your needed supplies for the beginning of the school year, and within a couple of days, you will find it on your door step. I have only recently discovered Nour Stationary after several reliable sources have recommended that I give her a try. After speaking to her (incredibly sweet person) I was in awe with her speedy delivery service. According to Nour, once you make an order, ideally you should find it ready and delivered straight to you within an average of 24 hours.

nour's stationary



Instagram: Nour_Stationery

Phone: 01001142555

Face book:



online stores 2



An Essential Thing You Forget To Do When Getting Kids Ready For School

With schools just around the corner, several parents are becoming preoccupied with getting their kids ready for the new academic year. This includes buying uniforms, stationaries and of course the new school bag. While this routine excites children and is by all means necessary, parents fail to acknowledge the most critical form of preparation; the emotional one.

back to school1

By emotional preparation I specifically mean mapping out what your child can expect from the new school year. This process is overlooked by many and instead, perceived that children will easily transition smoothly from one year to the next, when this is rarely the case. Once trouble starts, parents begin to question, what went wrong? Why is he acting out this year when he was great the year before? Why is she finding it difficult to make friends now? Why does he hate his new teacher so much?

download (2)Children accustom themselves more easily in new situations and events when they know what to expect. Speaking to your child about what to anticipate prior to change allows them to feel more emotionally secure by providing them with stability through a perceived controlled environment. Better yet, if you have the ability to provide visual images before beginning a new school/ classroom / teacher, children are more likely to accept and encourage the change by familiarizing themselves with it once put in the situation.

The more detail you can provide the better for your child; down to the nitty-gritties. Here are a few suggestions on what to talk about before your new term begins:

  • What should your child expect this year at school in academic and social terms. Outline what your child will be exploring in class this year, what new skills they will learn and which friends are continuing with them in class.respect
  •  “Why” questions are very important to be asked from your child and answered by you. Leave room for their questions and while answering as honestly as possible. Describe why their classroom is changing, why they will be meeting a new teacher this grade and why it will be expected of them to begin doing homework for example.
  •  How will your child be expected to behave this year that is different from the year before? What new responsibilities will she/he have? Are they expected to become more independent than the year before, if so how? How will their routine at home change too once school starts?

“Children accustom themselves more easily in new situations and events when they know what to expect”

If I had to pick the MOST important question to ask though it will have to be, ‘How can I help you this school year?’ This question really empowers children to feel belonging and significance within their family. By feeling valued, this encourages children to make more confident day-to-day decisions while ultimately, reciprocating the respect being given to them to those around them. Finally, always end your conversations by reminding your littles if they think of any more questions, any at all, you are right here to answer them.

٧ وسائل لإشراك أطفالكم في شهر رمضان المبارك

 مع إقتراب حلول شهر رمضان،  يسعتد معظمكم الآن للإحتفال بالشهر الكريم. ومن اهم الإستعدادات ان يكون لديكم قائمة أعمال لأطفالكم لكي يشتركوا معكم في إحتفاليات وروحانيات هذا الشهر، إشراكهم فيما نقوم بعمله قد يعني أشياء كثيره، لكني هذا المقال أعني بأن يشتركوا في الإحتفالات والعادات الخاصة بهذا الشهر عن طيب خاطر (بمزاجهم يعني) وأن يشعروا أنهم جزء منها

.المشاركة تعني أيضاً إبداع وعمل ومساعده، وقد تساعد في سياقها على تعلمهم بعض المعلومات عن شهر رمضان الكريم

1.      قم بعمل نتيجه رمضان الخاصة بكم ودع الأطفال تتطلع لمفاجآت يوميه. إملأ الجيوب الخاصة بالنتيجه ليس فقط بهدايا صغيره أوستيكرز أو ميداليات مفاتيح رمضان، ولكني شخصيا أفضل أن يكون في كل جيب ورقة بها رسالة صغيره مكتوبة لطفلك. أعتقد أنها فكرة رائع بأن نقوم بتشجيع الأطفال على لقيام بعمل طيب وكريم كل يوم ، وهذا مايمكن ان نستغل به الرسالة اليومية الصغيرة. ولمن هم أكبر سناً، من الممكن أن نكتب قصة قصيرة عن أحد من الرسل وإستعمالها كقصة ماقبل النوم يومياً خلال الشهر. 

يمكنكم طلب نتيجة رمضان المخصصة بكم من خلال صفحة أنستجرام @mishabymaitabbassi819A611F-E5BD-4B2A-A7E3-428EAFD0349B

2.  قم بعمل صندوق للصدقات والأعمال الخيرية  وإشرح أهمية العطاء للغير وخصوصا من هم أقل حظاً. إسألهم في أول الشهر الفضيل “من تودوا مساعدته؟” قد يكون شخص يعرفونه كالسائق أو البواب مثلا، وممكن تخييرهم بالقيام بعمل طيب عامة كشراء لعب لأطفال الشوارع. أيا كان هذا العمل الخير، فقط تأكد ان يكون من إختيارهم تماما وأن يقوموا بتنفيذه بأنفسهم في نهاية الشهر. وإني أرجح بشده بأن يقوم الأطفال بالتبرع بالأشياء المادية (ملابس ، لعب، كتب) والتي يرون أنها قد تكون مفيده لغيرهم بدلاَ من الأموال. ولكن هذا إختيار شخصي طبعا.

sadaqa boxsadaqa jar

3.  تطلعوا للقمر سوياً، وتحدثوا عن مراحله  المختلفة وعن علاقة هذا بإستقبال شهر رمضان الكريم.phases of moon picture

4. قوموا بعمل بسكوت وبانكيك على شكل هلال أو نجوم. يمكنكم شراء قطاعات البسكوت من على صفحة أنستجرام

5.  إعملوا على تعبئة شنط رمضان  سوياً مع أولادكم . وزعوا عليهم المهام بما يتناسب مع سنهم وإمكانياتهم وعلى كل طفل أن ينتهي من مهته وحده ليشعر بالإنجاز وإنه قد المسؤولية، وليشعر أيضاً بالسعاده لمشاركته في مساعدة الغير بنفسه. وقبل ساعة من الإفطار، إنزلوا لتوزيع الشنط أو الوجبات مع أطفالكم في منطقتكم وإشرحوا لهم لماذا نقوم بهذا وأهميته، لكي يتعلموا العطاء والكرم تجاه من هم أقل حظاً منهم.ramadan bag

6.من الممكن ان يستمتع الاطفال بإرتاء ملابس مثل ابويهم في وقت الصلاه، حيث ترتدي البنات الاسدالات كأمهاتهن والاولاد الجلابية.ramadan galabeya

7. إدعوهم لتزيين المنزل معكم بزينة رمضان، إجعلوها عاده سنوية للأسرة لتزيين المنزل سوياً، أسألوهم عن رأيهم عن أفضل مكان للفانوس بالمنزل مثلا، وممكن أن تعطي طفلك مهمة إشعال الفانوس يومياً.Ramadan-Crafts-And-Activities-For-Kids

الأطفال يختلفون عن بعض جميعا بطريقه رائعة، إختار الطريقة التي تراها مناسبة لطفلك وإتبعها لإشراك طفلك في إحتفالات شهر رمضان لكي تستمتعوا بوقتكم سوياً في الإبداع والتنفيذ والتعلي

كل سنة وانتم طيبين

Translated by: Omnia Wasef

7 Ways to Involve your Kids This Ramadan

Ramadan is just around the corner and while most of you are planning for the celebratory month one of the biggest preparations you should have on your to-do list is getting children involved in Ramadan. Involvement can mean a lot of things. For this article, I interpret involvement as including children willingly in the traditions and allowing them to feel like they are part of the celebration. Involvement means creating, doing, making, helping and maybe even learning a thing or two about Ramadan along the way.

  1. Make your own Ramadan calendar

    Get your kids to look forward to everyday surprises. Fill pockets with not only small gifts as stickers or small Ramadan key chains, but I even prefer an even better option of writing personalized notes for your child. A great idea would be to encourage children to perform acts of kindness every day; each pocket would include a note of a different way they can show kindness today. For the older children you can include a note with a small story of the Prophets so it would act as a bed-time story routine during that month. You can order your Ramadan calendar on @mishabymaitabbassi intagram page Click Here819A611F-E5BD-4B2A-A7E3-428EAFD0349B

  2. Make a sadaqa/charity box

    sadaqa boxsadaqa jar

    Explain the importance of giving to others. At the beginning of the month ask them who would they like to help whether it’s someone they now personally that might be in need as driver or gate-keeper or a more general act of kindness as buying toys for children in the streets. Whatever it may be, make sure that this is your child’s decision and choice and allow them to take action on it by the end of the month. I would highly advise to make sure children give away physical objects that they could see would be useful to others instead of money, however this is your personal choice.

  3. ‘Reach for the stars’phases of moon picture

    Throughout Ramadan you can regularly take a look at the moon together and speak about the different phases of the moon and how this is relevant in welcoming the month of Ramadan.

  4. Star Cookie Cutters

    Since Ramadan is usually associated with a star and crescent moon, why not use this theme in your kitchen! Get a creative as you can. You can find star shaped cookie cutters on page Click Here. Get as creative as you can here are just a few options for inspiration.

  5. Pack baskets or bags for the disadvantages/homeless

    ramadan bagDelegate tasks that are age appropriate for your child to complete alone so as to allow them the feeling of competence as well as the fulfillment of helping others by themselves. An hour before Iftar you can go around your neighborhood with your child giving them out. During the process explain to your child the meaning of being kind to those in need while demonstrating it.

  6. Dress Up! ramadan galabeya

    Pick a day for the family to wear the typical religious attire one would wear . Isdal/Abaya for girls and a ‘galabeya; for boys perhaps. Kids love to dress up and make-believe and what a great learning experience would it be for you to get out your galabyas and have a ‘costume’ party while introducing children to their traditional garments.

  7. Have them help with house Decorations

    With the month of Ramadan comes a lot of festivities and decoration for those gatherings. Make it a tradition that every year both you and your child together help set up the house with decorations. Invite them to say their option on where they want the Ramadan lantern to be and include them in the decorating process. You can even make it a tradition that your child lights up the lantern every day for you.

Ramadan-Crafts-And-Activities-For-KidsEach child is different in their amazing way. Which ever method you see fits best to involve your child during the month of Ramadan make sure you have an amazing time together creating, making and learning.


Ramadan Kareem to you and your family.

I Won’t Force My child to Kiss Me, Neither Should You

I admit. I fall in to this trap too often with my own. ‘Just one kiss please’ ‘Ok but I want a hug.’ How can’t we though? As parents we have literally watched them grow from their tiniest versions to who they are today. We have endured so much yet shared the best of our times with them, how can we not ask for a kiss or hug when we please, they are OUR kids, ‘we OWN them.’ NOPE. Don’t get me wrong, you are right about so much but as parents, but we don’t ‘OWN’ our child’s bodies. We believe because we gave birth to them, children are automatically ours, which is partially true; your genetic make-up created their existence. Yet, for the most part, our child’s body and personal space belongs to them not us as parents, and we must begin to respect that for a variety of reasons.

Looks familiar?

We also all have that uncle, aunt or grand parent that insists our child kiss them, hug them, smother them with forced physical affection. Then when ‘Tant’ or ‘Uncle’ sense slight hesitation from your child they insist further ‘kiss me and I’ll give you candy,’ only to to make the situation even worse. This is all too common especially in our Egyptian culture. What are we modeling to our kids and what are its implications on their behavior in the future?

We normalize that, even when children feel unconformable, physical affection is not only fine but perceived as expected of them. The problem here lies when we try to teach them about personal safety from becoming victims of sexual abuse. Why? Well, to our children, they view that feeling of being uncomfortable through physical touch is in fact common. That feelings is regularly experienced throughout their lives, so why make a big deal about it in other situations?  As hard as this sounds but doing so increases the chances that, if they become victims of sexual abuse, to endure their ‘gut’ feeling of being uncomfortable and not speak up about the situation. Does this sound far fetched to you? ‘How does hugging her grandfather lead to her becoming a victim of abuse?’ It’s not a stretch.

“FACT: Over 90% of sexual offenders are someone the child knows and trusts, and 30-40% of children are abused by family members”

smotheringWhen we force our children to surrender to undesired affection in order to show respect to the elderly of the family and not offend their feelings, we demonstrate that their bodies do not really belong to them. Instead, they have to always take into consideration how other’s might feel before listening to their own feelings. This instills a ‘people pleaser’ trait, which allows children to behave in certain ways with the justification of so ‘he’ll like me,’ or ‘so I can be accepted.’ By pushing their physical limits we teach them their body is to please someone else (usually in authority). So if you would like your children to grow into confident beings who can easily say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ in situations of stress, peer pressure or bulling, you need to begin cultivating this trait from now.


Yes. Every time this topic is mentioned someone has to ask ‘so what do I do when my mother asks my daughter to give her a kiss? I can’t offend her by saying no.’ True. Especially in Egyptian culture, physical affection when greeting relatives is seen as a sign of showing respect form the younger generation. We definitely don’t want family to get upset and that is not what I am preaching at all. Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Teach Manners. Being polite means treating people with respect, and treating people with respect can be displayed through several methods not just physical affection. Show and demonstrate how to give compassion through their words, eye contact or smile.
  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Children of all ages like to know what to expect. Whether it’s in the way they act, behave or the situations that they will face. Tell your child in advance where you are going, who you are going to meet and how they can greet them. By mentally rehearsing with your child what they should expect, he/she will feel more in control of their feelings as well as actions in the coming situation. Talk about who they will meet, what they mean to you and what you will be doing. By also preparing your child, you are showing them respect by considering their emotional needs prior new situations. Children that are given respect first are more likely to reciprocate it.
  • Give options. When a family friend comes to greet your child, allow them the choice to pick from a set of options to choose from on how to begin the conversation, ‘Aunty asked a kiss from you, would you like to give a kiss or a big high five,’ or ‘Uncle asked for a kiss are you ready to give them a kiss now, or high five and kiss maybe later?’ By providing options you are teaching your child that they have a voice over their own body.
  • Get everyone on board. Tell relatives why you are allowing your children to set their own limits. Explain to other relatives the importance of teaching children to respect their bodies and follow their ‘gut’ feelings. There’s another up-side to implementing this approach, when children relatives find that your child is willingly cuddling them to talk about their day, they will know this love is real.

 “Children that receive respect first are more likely to give it”

We want to raise confident and capable children with high self-esteem who can recognize when someone had stepped over those boundaries of personal space. By allowing our children to set their own limits of physical affection, even with relatives, this allows for an excellent opportunity to empower them to be in charge of their own bodies.

3 Questions Every Parent Should Ask Before Loosing Their Temper

The way you choose to communicate, respond and attend to your child has a direct impact on their development. Parent responsiveness interactions are the process in which parents are positively present while meeting the child’s emotional, physical and psychological needs. Recent studies have suggested that rich parent responsiveness skills have a weighted influence on social and cognitive skills of children as well as facilitate in developing positive relationships with others. Giving clear calm instructions, exchanging warmth and encouraging confidence are all examples of rich parent-child interactions. Such methods of communication nurture children’s’ self-regulatory skills which help to inhibit impulsive behaviour as well as provide the according tools to cooperate with others.

Maintaining a balanced healthy relationship with children is hard. Children are constantly learning discovering their environment making a parent’s role that much more challenging to ensure they feel security and love. Their explorative nature more often that not may lead to power struggles, disciplining and several battles.

“Children like to be told what to do rather what not to do”

Below are 3 set of questions that every parent needs to know and ask themselves right before they choose the words they are about to use with their child, especially, during times of low temperament, disagreement and frustration.

  1. Am I in control of myself? Am I displaying the qualities I want my child to be: patient, respectful, kind, thoughtful, curious, and resilient?

parent controlThis may come to a shock for most but what I have come to realise with experience is when parent’s loose their temper and choose to use their ‘strength’ to discipline their child (whether by shouting or using slight physical touch) almost 80% of them have reported that this is when they feel weakest and lack control. This says a lot about how loosing our temper really plays with our logical reason. The less you are in control of your reactions, the less you will be able to regulate and guide your child positively.

  1. Is this going to strengthen our relationship? Will my child know that she/he is loved?

maxresdefaultSetting rules and boundaries is a necessity for children, however this does not contradict with achieving so with constant KINDNESS. It is a common misconception that in order to discipline, one must only be firm when communicating with the child. While firmness is essential, it is only beneficial to your parent-child relationship when coupled with kindness. Go down to eye level when speaking, calm your tone of voice whenever possible, express your understanding of their feelings, remind them they are loved are all examples of showing kindness that do not contradict with your firm guidelines e.g ‘(eye level) I know you feel sad because you want to play with your friends and I understand you wish you could stay longer, but it’s night and it’s time to sleep, I love you and know this is hard for you but we have to go now.’

  1. Am I teaching my child how to do better next time? Am I looking for long-term solutions or looking for blame and expressing my own feelings?

loveI left best for last, as I undoubtedly believe this is pivotal. A lot of the times parents come to me with the problem saying ‘my son/daughter KNOWS its wrong but still decides to go back and do it anyway.’ Sound familiar? Rest assured this is by no means simply because your children want to ‘annoy’ you but rather are seeking guidance from you. Children like to be told what to do rather what not to do. They like to hear ‘play with you brother gently’ rather than ‘don’t hit your brother’ or ‘walk slowly’ instead of ‘don’t run’ and ‘play in this room’ instead of ‘you are not allows to play here.’ What is the difference in approaches? You are providing salutations and guidance on what you want your child to actually be doing allowing them to form a clearer picture in their head of what is expected of them.


3 videos explaining Autism to your children: Raising aware and tolerant kids

World Autism Awareness Day is today- a day dedicated to raise awareness on the developmental disorder is characterized by social-communication difficulties and restricted repetitive behaviors, activities, and interests. To get involved today, it seemed only fitting that awareness and acceptance should be raised primarily within our own children. It’s never too early to begin talking to your children about those with special needs and instilling acceptance. Below are great resources that you can watch with your child providing a simple explanation to Autism, demonstrating it’s characteristics and suggests tools to empower your child to show compassion around other children with special needs.

Sesame Street and Autism

Just under 2 years ago, Sesame Street introduced it’s first ever Autistic character, Julie. Since, the child-friendly show has launched several products including videos, books and workshops starring ‘Julie’ to help raise awareness on Autism in children. The below videos are highly recommended to watch with your little one.

For more information on Autism, the following links are rich in resources and content:

“I don’t know how to talk to my kids about children with special needs” Expert Christine Haddad’s kid-friendly guide on what to say

“With understanding we can come closer to creating tolerant, accepting and inclusive environments for everyone. Different is not less.”
A big part of my role as an art therapist and RDI Program consultant is to educate parents on the experience of their children. I do this for several reasons:
  1. I need them to understand the internal struggle that their children are facing in order to better cater for their needs.
  2. By understanding their situation better, parents will be able to support their children to reach their fullest potential and to find the coping strategies that work best for them.
  3. I provide the parents with a very digestible and clear description that they could use to advocate for their child and themselves.

“A lot of the times I work with families that want to live typical lives with their children that have special needs and there are many factors that may stand in their way. They might feel embarrassed when out with their child because of the people staring, especially in the middle of a breakdown. We all know that if for one second our own children did something inappropriate in public we would immediately assert a, “Stop that immediately” attitude.”

child downPeople stare, point and might even be judging parents of children with special needs for not being able to “control” their child, especially those who have no or little understanding about children with special needs. There may be adults who understand and can sympathize with those parents, yet children are typically curious and will most likely ask questions and make comments that, although they are innocent, can be very hurtful. This is why advocation is tremendous. Beyond being able to identify their child’s experience to support them in making better decisions for themselves, understanding their child’s experience can help parents teach other parents who will then hopefully raise a better educated, accepting and tolerant generation.

Below are some of the most common descriptions I use, for the top four special needs – I try to make it as kid-friendly as possible. Bear in mind that not one individual with a diagnosis has the same experience as the next and these descriptions are very generalized and tend to lean towards more sever examples. 

  • AUTSIM SPECTRUM DISORDER: List all of the things that you hear. (Cars outside. Electricity buzzing. The fridge. People talking in the next room. Your breathing. Your clothes moving. etc.) List all of the things that you see. (The screen. The ad that’s moving. Someone moving near you. The light reflecting off of the table. The trees moving outside the window. The texture in the carpet. etc.) List all of the things that you feel. (The phone your hand. Your back on the chair. The hair on your shoulders. The food being digested in your belly. The temperature. etc.) These are just a few things that you might experience through only three of your senses. Imagine you experience them all at the same intensity and it is really difficult to focus on one thing. The whole world is attacking all at once! Taking it all in and making sense of it can take a lot of effort and even more time. Listening to one person’s voice and making sense of it and finding an appropriate way to respond can be an incredibly difficult task. Remember to be patient and considerate of all of the stimulus that could be attacking their nervous system all at once.
  • CEREBRAL PALSY: An article I once found while writing my thesis was written by an individual with CP who tried to explain their struggle by saying, “Imagine you’re trying to tie your shoe laces but there are oven mitts tied to your hands.” CP happens when their is a lack of oxygen flow to the brain for an extended period of time in the early years of child development. This lack of oxygen creates a “disconnect” with certain areas of the brain and the nervous system. As a result, the effected nerves are incapable of communicating with the brain and therefor are difficult to feel with and the corresponding muscles become spastic (tense). We use muscles to move, eat, look, digest. etc. The extent to which the child’s muscles and nerves are effected can range massively, but always remember that even if their body looks like it can’t do very much, that is no reflection on how powerful and useful their brains can be.
  • ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVE DISORDER: A colleague’s client, who has ADHD once told him, “I have a Ferrari engine for a brain, but a tricycle for a body.” That is a wonderful depiction of what the experience of a child with ADHD might look like! In our brains we have neurons. They connect to help us think, make decisions and absorb the information around us. When we are not thinking of much and we are calm, the neurons are connecting to each other less. When we are thinking about a lot of things and also moving our bodies, the neurons are connecting a lot – it looks like a laser show in our brains! Those with ADHD have really excited neurons and so a lot of them are connecting a lot of the time. This makes it difficult for them to sit still (because the neurons could be telling the body to keep moving) or to concentrate on one thing at a time (because there are so many different neurons connecting all at once). Being allowed to fidget or take many breaks can help address the experience happening inside. Consider them not to be rude or uninterested when their focus keeps shifting, remember the laser party in their heads.
  • DOWN SYNDROME: In our blood we carry our genes, they are made up of 23 chromosomes that are the recipe for who we are; what we look like, how big we are, our colors and almost everything else that makes us physically us. People with Down syndrome were lucky enough to get a bit more of the 21st chromosome in their genes. This effects their physical appearance, but not all look exactly the same! Having Down syndrome will effect the physical traits of a person, but does not necessarily effect their cognitive ability, however, cognitive and intellectual disabilities often occur, but can be very mild or very severe. One thing is for sure, no one smiles wider than those with Down syndrome!

Each and every person, whether they have a special need or not, has something important to contribute and potential to succeed, but they must be given the chance. With understanding we can come closer to creating tolerant, accepting and inclusive environments for everyone. Different is not less.

17671371_10154931864580225_246370483_nChristine “Kiki” Haddad Zaynoun MPS ATR is an art therapist who received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the American University of Cairo in 2012 and her master’s degree in creative arts therapy from Pratt Institute in New York in 2014. Kiki is currently working as an art therapist and RDI© Program consultant at Therapeutic Approach to Growth in San Diego, CA. She worked at Imagine Academy for Autism and The League Education and Treatment Center in NYC as well as the Advance Society and the Learning Resource Center in Cairo, Egypt where she practiced art therapy and DIR® Floortime therapy with children and their parents with a wide range of special needs of ages 2 to 30. Kiki features in “Art Therapy: The Movie”, a documentary about art therapy across the globe and has written a chapter in the upcoming book “Art Therapy in the Middle East”. Kiki has 10+ of experience supporting those with special needs, which she is immensely passionate for. But also loves art, music, traveling and reading!

Mispronunciation in children: The latest on speech milestones and letter development

While language is detected very early during infancy, the process of projecting speech first begins between ages of 1-2 years. From then onwards, toddlers pick up language quite quickly, yet it is not always a walk in the park. Several times toddlers will mispronounce words or misuse words during their speech, while this may be cute in the beginning and great entertainment during family gatherings, how you act and react to such a situation is critical.

It is important to note that with every stage in a child’s developmental age, new sounds are being introduced to their speech. For example, while a two year old can pronounce several letters, usually the ‘r’ and ‘l’ sounds are later developed around the age of 5-6. Children should fully develop all their sounds accordingly by the age of 7. Speech specialist Eric K Sander created the following illustration to demonstrate the speech sounds that typically develop by age.


However, until children do reach that developmental stage, it is important to guide their speech accordingly, especially if certain words are being mispronounced. Several mothers replace the original word to the word their child pronounces in their daily language so for example; they would ask their child ‘do you want a nana?’ Instead of using it’s proper noun, ‘do you want a banana?’ Here, you are encouraging mispronunciation and instead, hindering a child’s speech development by teaching that the incorrect ‘nana’ is in fact, a correct word used by mammy and daddy.

“The reaction of laughing when a child mispronounces a word, is in it’s own way, a form of reward to your child… the frequency of mispronunciations will increase.”

A client recently was complaining that her 2.5-year-old child says ‘macaconi’ instead of ‘macaroni.’ She mentioned that both she, as well as several family members, found this very cute the first few times, and would usually ask the child to repeat ‘macaconi’ on purpose so as to have a laugh about it. Recently, she realized this is a problem when her son  would randomly say ‘macaconi’ to several strangers just to wait for their laugh. Do you think the mother handled the situation well?

The reaction of laughing when a child mispronounces a word, is in it’s own expression, a form of reward to your child. By doing so the child is correlating that with every mispronounced word, a reward will follow, in the usual case this is the laughter and attention. Accordingly, the frequency of mispronunciations will increase, in order to gain more attention as the reward.


Heres 3 steps to help end this cycle, or even prevent it in the first place:

  1. Limit negative reactions

imgres-1When a child mispronounces a word, whether they are developmentally capable of pronouncing all letters or not, it is best to ignore. Provide neither a positive reaction as laughing nor negative reaction by bringing it to their attention such as ‘your saying it wrong.’

  1. Respond

If the situation allows, respond to your child using the correct pronunciation. E.g ‘Mummy can I have open the figerator’ you can reply by saying ‘Sure you can open this refrigerator.’ Here, my not brining it to the attention of your child, you are indirectly providing correction through modeling.

  1. Be a good role-model

No matter how cute your child may sound with their mispronunciations, always use the right words when you talk to them. You can even sometimes exaggerate or elaborate on a certain syllable or sound that they seem to not pick up during sentences.

It is important to listen to your child’s speech and check to see if there is improvement over a certain period of time. By the age of 3, a child’s speech should be mostly understandable to others. If you do feel like your child’s speech development raises a red flag, it is best to seek for professional opinion and guidance.