Disabled Children Playing Pan

I visited Goodwill Industries this week because I was asked to do a talk to the parents and teachers about the importance and benefits of counselling for disabled children.
For those of you who do not know Goodwill Industries is a school for physically and mentally challenged young people located in Woodbrook. The school teaches them trade and practical skills to make them marketable to take care of themselves, find a job and cope with the challenges of their lives. Mrs. Barbara Olumide-Alleyne is the CEO and she has been doing wonderful work with these special young people.
I had the pleasure of listening to them play pan. Below is a clip of their talent. I felt so proud seeing them play since they appeared to really enjoy playing the pan. Also I can’t play pan to save my life and here are these gifted and talented young people keeping rhythm better than me!
So please enjoy my little video!

Communication Self Assessment

How well do you communicate with other? Do you think you are doing your best at communicating?

Take this self assessment and see how well you communicate.

Communication Skills Self-Assessment Exercise

In each of the following, read items A, B, and C, then mark the one that best describes your communication style. (24 total)

1. ___ A. When conversing with others, I usually do most of the talking.

___ B. When conversing with others, I usually let the other person do most of the talking.

___ C. When conversing with others, I try to equalize my participation in the conversation.

2. ___ A. When I first meet someone, I wait for the other person to make the introduction first.

___ B. When I first meet someone, I introduce myself with a smile and offer a handshake.

___ C. When I first meet someone, I hug the person.

3. ___ A. I usually “warm-up” new conversations with small talk.

___ B. I usually avoid small talk and jump into more important matters.

___ C. I usually avoid starting conversations.

4. ___ A. I make an effort to remember and use peoples’ names.

___ B. I don’t pay attention to names as I tend to forget them.

___ C. I only learn the names of important people.

5. ___ A. I frequently use courtesy words and phrases – “Please,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “I’m sorry.”

___ B. I occasionally use these courtesy words and phrases.

___ C. I never use these courtesy words and phrases.

6. ___ A. I tend to be serious and don’t smile often while conversing.

___ B. I smile all the time while conversing.

___ C. I smile at appropriate times while conversing.

7. ___ A. I make eye contact while conversing.

___ B. I sometimes make eye contact while conversing.

___ C. I never make eye contact while conversing.

8. ___ A. While conversing, I hold my head still at all times.

___ B. While conversing, I nod my head at appropriate times.

___ C. While conversing, I nod my head constantly.

9. ___ A. While conversing, I stand one-foot away from the person.

___ B. While conversing, I stand two- to three-feet away from the person.

___ C. While conversing, I stand five- to six-feet away from the person.

10. ___ A. I often stand while talking to a person who is sitting.

___ B. I often sit while talking to a person who is sitting.

___ C. I often lean down while talking to a person who is sitting.

11. ___ A. To end a conversation, I often just leave.

___ B. To end a conversation, I begin to look impatient hoping the person

will get the hint.

___ C. To end a conversation, I wrap up with a closing statement.

12. ___ A. If a co-worker has put on weight, I say nothing about it.

___ B. If a co-worker has put on weight, I tell the person that he or she has

changed in appearance.

___ C. If a co-worker has put on weight, I honestly tell the person that he

or she looks fat.

13. ___ A. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often cross my arms over my chest.

___ B. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often lean back and turn my body

away from the speaker.

___ C. When I’m listening to the speaker, I often lean slightly forward and face

my body toward the speaker.

14. ___ A. When I cross my leg, I cross my leg facing the speaker.

___ B. When I cross my leg, I cross my leg away from the speaker.

___ C. When I cross my leg, I bob my foot.

15. ___ A. While listening, I tend to be distracted by things going on around me.

___ B. While listening, I listen for meaning and ask questions.

___ C. While listening, I watch the person speak, but I don’t “hear” a word.

16. ___ A. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I don’t comment about it.

___ B. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to change the subject.

___ C. When someone talks about an unfortunate or sad experience, I try to relate to the person’s feelings and show sensitivity to his or her misfortune.

17. ___ A. When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on positive (good) aspects.

___ B. When I discuss a topic, I tend to talk about and focus on the negative (bad) aspects.

___ C. When I discuss a topic, I tend to complain.

18. ___ A. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I just say it.

___ B. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I lead in with a positive comment first.

___ C. When I have a negative opinion or comment, I say nothing.

19. ___ A. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I note where I need to improve.

___ B. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I get angry and defensive.

___ C. When I receive unfavorable feedback, I deny the problem, make excuses, or plead ignorance.

20. ___ A. When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on the person’s observable work or behavior and offer suggestions.

___ B. When I give a person negative feedback, I focus on what I don’t like about the person.

___ C. When I give a person negative feedback, I simply tell the person what to do right.

21. ___ A. When I give a person negative feedback, I do it around others so everyone can hear.

___ B. When I give a person negative feedback, I do it in front of the supervisor.

___ C. When I give a person negative feedback, I talk with the person alone in a private place.

22. ___ A. When I disagree with a person, I listen first, ask questions for clarification then disagree non-judgmentally.

___ B. When I disagree with a person, I quickly point out the person is wrong and why.

___ C. When I disagree with a person, I say little or nothing.

23. ___ A. When I’m in a group, I tend to frown a lot.

___ B. When I’m in a group, I tend to smile and use humor at appropriate times.

___ C. When I’m in a group I tend to be serious.

24. ___ A. I’m a “hands-on” person. I tend to: prefer hands-on experiences and activities; focus on tasks to be done; refrain from discussions; think in a logical and organized way; do things in an orderly way; have difficulty adjusting to change.

___ B. I’m a “thinker.” I tend to: enjoy listening to a logical presentation of ideas; enjoy analyzing problems and finding systematic ways try to solve problems; enjoy creating models based on theory and information; like structure and organization; act slowly in making decisions; show more interest in ideas than people.

___ C. I’m an “explorer.” I tend to: try things by trial and error; explore practical uses for ideas and theories; make decisions that provide quick solutions; decide quickly; take risks; enjoy change; rely more on people for information.

___ D. I’m a “free thinker.” I tend to: base views and opinions on feelings; enjoy tossing around ideas (brainstorming); approach and view problems and experience; from different perspectives; rely on intuition, not logic, for making decisions; dislike structure.


Healing the Fatherhood Wounds

I had the pleasure over the course of the last weekend to attend the Healing the Fatherhood Wounds Workshop for women at the John Paul II Centre on Fatherhood. The workshop took place for the entire weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
The weekend started with the powerful movie “Akeelah and the Bee”. It was my first time watching this movie in its entirety. The movie had a number of valuable life lessons about the dynamics of the father and daughter relationship.
The second day was where the real work started. There were many fruitful sessions where some real groundbreaking epiphanies were made with all of the women present including myself. I would like to share some if the tid bits that stuck out for me.
I always knew that the father had a great impact on a daughter’s life but this impact was made even more apparent by the material covered. The father is literally a daughter’s first love. She is taught about the good and the bad in the male figure from her father. During the years 0-9 the father teaches his daughter how to interact and be loved by a man. A father during this vital stage teaches a daughter what she will want and will not want in a man in her life in the future.
There are also a number of attributes that fathers are responsible for teaching women that are considered “adult life skills”. These include; to manage, contain, the value of boundaries, to defend, to protect, to compete, to hold onto, to provide, to conquer and to exclude.
During the weekend I also was able to learn some of my father’s healthy and unhealthy characteristics and how these are present in the men in my life. The material was profound because as women we often chose men that are just like our fathers. This action is very unconscious and we tend not to even notice sometimes the similarity.
I also learnt the vital building blocks of self-esteem that only a parent can pass to a child. These building blocks are;
  • Identity – who am I? – This is usually done by the same sex parent. Therefore women would form their identity from their Mother’s.
  • Individuality – What do I love? What do I hate? – This is usually instilled by the opposite sex parent so in this case a Father would be the one instilling Individuality in a daughter.
  • Intimacy – In-to-me-u-see – This is taught by both parents through their relationship with each other.
Another point of interest that stood out for me is the question “why do women tell their stories?” and when I mean tell their stories I mean talk all the time! Answer: Women talk to HEAL.
  • H – Heal tell stories to heal.
  • E – Encourage, especially others.
  • A – Awareness, of the answers.
  • L – Legacy – stories tell our legacy and leaves legacies behind.
So this really explained why we women always chattering!
The last point I would like to share are some unhealthy father/daughter relationship styles that were pointed out to us.
  1. Less than father – father abandons daughter and leaves her yearning.
  2. Abusive father – father is verbally, emotionally or sexually abusive.
  3. Pampering father – this father spoils the daughter.
  4. Pygmalion father – the daughter becomes the father’s companion.
  5. Ruined father – the daughter has to rescue the father.
These were some of the main points of the wonderful weekend dealing with some of my fatherhood issues. I learnt a great deal about how my father has impacted my life both positively and negatively. I encourage everyone to do something like this because it really helps us understand who we are, where we came from and how our primary caregivers, our parents has impacted upon our lives…

Do You Have High Self-Esteem Or Low Self-Esteem?

Over the course of the last week or so I came across this list that actually describes behaviour that indicates high and low self-esteem. Take a look and see where you might fall.

People with High Self-Esteem

1. Take responsibility for their action own feelings and behaviour; avoid blaming and excuses.

2. Take compliments graciously.

3. Listen to criticisms without anger or defensiveness.

4. Give praise and compliments frequently.

5. Take good care of selves physically; avoid self destructive behaviour.

6. Accept those things that can’t be changed; age, body type, height, etc.

7. Make decisions internally from own set of values.

8. Take emotional risks; are willing to fail or look foolish.

9. Assume they are likable and pleasant to be around.

10. Have a good sense of humor; delight in irony and humor that doesn’t make fun of people or their pain.

11. Are happy about the accomplishments of others; give encouragement and confidence to others.

12. Reach out to others and make contacts.

13. Accept mistakes as part of living; try again or try something new.

14. Listen openly to the feelings, thoughts and ideas of others.

15. Accept and give sexual and sexual pleasure.

16. Are attractive to and nourished by cooperative positive people.

17. Focus on the here and now and concentrate on those things that can be controlled

People with Low Self-Esteem

1. Blame others; attribute their emotions to others.

2. Deny compliments, act suspicious of them, feel manipulated by them.

3. Criticize and pass judgment.

4. Withhold appreciation and compliments.

5. Allow self-destructive behaviour to continue.

6. Complain and apologize about things that can’t be changed.

7. Mold to external pressures; needs constant assurance.

8. Needs situations to be safe and predictable; want to always look good and be right.

9. Assume they are liked and imagine that others secretly criticize them.

10. Are amused by humor that makes others look ridiculous.

11. Look for failure in others; call attention to others failures; predict gloom.

12. Wait for others to approach; blame others for being unfriendly.

13. Expect or demand perfection in self and others.

14. Argue. Preach, nag, and criticize.

15. Without pleasure from self and others.

16. Chose toxic, hurtful relationships.

17. Are disabled by guilt, remorse regret and worry.


Book Review – Common Sense Parenting

I have been reading a book called Common Sense Parenting by Ray Burk, Ron Herron and Bridget A. Barnes.

This book was brought to my attention because it was written by authors affiliated with The Boys Town. The Boys Town is an organization dedicated to assist “at-risk” youths. They had a workshop in Trinidad and Tobago recently and even though I was not able to attend, the information was passed on by wonderful colleagues.

Common Sense Parenting is a fabulous book. It has many very important pointers for parents, especially in these times where parenting has taken on a whole different dimension. I am amazed because exactly what I suggest to parents about managing their children is exactly what is written in this book. There are step by step instructions on how to parent. I feel maybe I could have written this book!

I would like to share some pointers from the book in my blog. I am also still in the process of reading the book therefore as I read I will post pointers that I feel are important to share. Previously, I have written about the importance of parenting, understanding our young people, supporting them and so on. I am also making notes and blogs in small doses since the information is much to digest all at one time. I have been taking my time to read this book.

These first set of notes are about the appropriate teaching methods to teach children. The steps we should take to help them and teach them the valuable lessons they need to learn about themselves, expectations we have of them and generally life.

Appropriate Teaching


You let your children know exactly what they do right or wrong.


You help your children understand the relationship between what they do and what happens as a result of their actions. So there is a reaction for ever action.


You give your children clear examples of how to improve in the future. Clear examples helps them because as parents we sometimes take it for granted our children “know” what we expect of them.


You help you children learn self-discipline (to be in control of their actions and expressions of emotion). In order to do this we ourselves must be self disciplined. Children learn best by example. Therefore if you are positive and self disciplined we can teach by example.


You give your children a chance to show what they have learned. You are an active part of the learning process. You and your children work together toward a common goal.


You become the teacher, the coach. As you give information that helps your children learn to solve problems.

The next blog will focus on positive and negative consequences. Common Sense Parenting gives very specific positive and negative consequences that parents can use with their children. So I will highlight some of these consequences and give examples of some the ways positive and negative consequences can work with parenting your children.

Trauma Workshop

Over the course of the last few days I have the great pleasure of attending a Trauma workshop done by Dr. Palmer. First of all Dr. Palmer has a very impressive resume in which she has experience and research extensively in the field of psychology and trauma. She is the chair and Director of training of professional psychology and family therapy, counselling psychology programme at the department of professional psychology and family therapy at Seton Hall University.

The first day of the workshop was filled with a great deal of theory. Information was abundant and by the end of the day I felt saturated, but not in a bad way. I felt empowered and motivated like a child again, to read and explore an area that is popping up more and more in my work setting.
Children are being traumatized on a daily basis and we need to look at this more closely in order to help them. Working at a residential children’s home is a place ripe with traumatized children and equally ripe with triggers that often sets the children’s behaviour spiraling out of control. The stories children hear at school, in the media and in our lives are causing them to be traumatized more and more everyday.
Palmer’s Wisdom

One of the things that I did not realise before this workshop is that trauma can start as early as the prenatal stage. When the child is born it is very important for the child to get that care and nurturing needed. Otherwise these apparent little things have a serious effect on the child’s development and this contributes to trauma.

Other aspects that were quite informative and interesting is the play therapy techniques taught on the second day. The first exercise was to draw a picture without talking. We were put into groups and numbered off so that persons who most likely knew and were sitting next to each other were placed in a different group. Then each person in the group had to choose a color and draw a picture. No further instruction was given. It was very interesting to see how the different groups approached this exercise differently. Some groups were drawing their own pictures on different parts of the page so the picture was a bit disjointed as a whole but represented each of them. Some groups communicated through sign language and made a picture looking like if they planned it. Other groups looks at each others drawings and tried to add on. All in all it was a wonderful exercise. At the end of it we had to give the picture a title and explain what was done and what group dynamics took place during the exercise.
The second technique that we usually do not use in Trinidad is sandtray therapy. Basically you get a tray and fill it with sand. You can have wet sand or dry sand and provide all different figurines and items for kids to make their own picture. This can be used for children and adults in therapy. The picture to the right is a representation of what our group did with sandtray therapy using rice instead of sand.
The video below gives more information on sandtray therapy.

A Crazy Day in the Life of a Psychologist….

Disclaimer: These little excerpts are from many different sources. They were written for informational purposes.

Story One

Psychologist: so draw a picture of your family for me.
Little child: can i draw a picture of when mommy and daddy used to be together.
Psychologist: Sure no problem, its your family picture so draw whoever you want.
After drawing the picture.
Psychologist: what is that daddy has in his hand.
Little child: A gun.
Psychologist: why does daddy have a gun in his hand.
Little child: to kill mommy.

What would you do in a situation like this?
Story Two
Psychologist: Tell me…what do you do in your spare time.
Child: Watch TV
Psychologist: What else to you do besides watching TV?
Child: Play games on the computer or the DS.
Psychologist: Anything else?
Child: No that’s it.
And we wonder why our children are not creative.
Story Three
Child: Miss I know sometimes that teachers come in and you know they in a bad mood or they had a bad day they might have problems at home that day, but Ms. X just has problems because like her day always bad!!!!
We must not our children think this of us.
Story Four
Mother: I don’t know what to do my 6 year old is throwing temper tantrums.
Psychologist: What do you do to discipline him.
Mother: Discipline him, well I do not beat him.
Psychologist: Ok but what consequences are in place for when he throws tantrums or does something wrong.
Mother: I am supposed to have a consequence for tantrums.
There must be consequences for actions. Good consequences for good behaviour and negative consequences for negative behaviour. Parents must be consistent in their discipline.
Jenna Samaroo

Parental Control on the Internet

I had the opportunity over the course of the last few weeks to set up Internet parental controls. This was a very interesting experience for me. I had to set up the controls because I have 8 to 12 teenage boys using the internet. I marvelled at how parenting has changed over the years.

Children these days are growing up with more exposure to everything at a younger and younger age. These days 3 and 4 year olds know how to navigate the pc and internet. When I was 3 or 4 years I was now learning to play with my dolls or build blocks.

This exposure comes because over the years access to information good and bad is generally more available. There is the internet, music, tv, cell phones, peers and so much more that influences our youths. And everything is so accessible because the advancement in technology is making to world smaller and smaller everyday.

Now the whole guarding the internet thing became more apparent to me after I installed the parental controls. I used a free service on xp called k9 from Blue Coat. This service has been working really well. I was also quite impressed with windows Vista parental controls. There two sets of controls help to limit certain sites the boys go on like porn sites, gambling, violence, gaming sites and more. You can also block certain sites you do not want them to go on like Facebook, Youtube etc. I have not placed very strict rules on these sites because I think its good for the boys to have exposure to social networking.

These two sets of parental controls offer an activity report, so I was able to find out on Vista that the boys were trying to look at porn, break my password, programmes opened and more. K9 just gives an activity report for the internet. Xp does not have parental controls built in.

There is one other cool feature that allows me to have remote access to the computers the boys are on from home, so I can see what is going on at any point. The programme I used is Log Me In.

Now all this appears to be like a great deal of controlling or trying to control, but as parents or guardians we have to be aware and move with the times.Teenager will find opportunities to sneak to do things parents disapprove of, but as parents we must not encourage these things to be too easily accessible. So I know the boys will try to look at porn they may get videos and dvd’s from their friends but it cannot be said that I know it is easily accessible online and i did nothing to prevent this easy access. I am trying to be a responsible parent/guardian to the young budding men in my care, so I am taking precautions not to encourage certain types of behaviours to be normalised at home. I am not naive they will find means and ways of getting around accessing whatever illicit material they desire.

This whole parental control on the internet has been an eye opening experience for me. A great deal of the morals and values of the institution I work for, as well as my own values came up again and again. I also did not realise the amount of risks and threats, are just as much as the well, good and wonderful areas of the internet. Our children will be exposed to lots of information we must talk to them, let them know right from wrong. We must be informed ourselves and move with the times. We must learn what things our children are being exposed to and not be naive into thinking the times have not changed from when we were growing up. It is only then we can be effective parents.

Jenna Samaroo


Peaceful Communties still Exist

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending some Divali Celebrations in my community as well as in Felicity. Felicity is a small rural community in central Trinidad. Divali is a Hindu celebrations where the home is lighted up with dias to welcome the goddess Lakshmi, since it is believed she will bring prosperity.

I remember as a child growing up things like Divali and Christmas used to be huge events that I looked forward to every year. Divali time was about getting dressed in pretty Indian wear and going by family or friends to light up, play with star lights and eat Indian sweets. Not only were there Indian sweets, there was delicious Indian food as well, roti and curry, but as a child with a sweet tooth, the sweets were my favorite part.
Over the years, moving on to becoming a teenager and an adult, festivals like Divali and even Christmas lost some of that of that childlike luster it once had. Long ago it just used to be more fun not only because I was a child but people in general were so carefree and full of life. The togetherness that was once felt sometimes feels quite absent.
These feelings though, changed in the celebrations for this year. My two outings were impromptu this year. I was greatly saddened by the first one in my community. Back in the days they used to have prayers, bend bamboo into interesting shapes and invite people to light the dias, sing and partake. The celebrations this year and a few years now is like a show. The crowd does not participate and there was no prayers. Entertainers were on stage performing. This is certainly not like the celebrations I know or remembered.
The second celebrations restored my faith in my fellow country men. My drive to Felicity was quite lovely was passed on some country road where there had many houses lighted up beautifully. When we arrived in Felicity it felt like a different country. The entire street was filled with arches and overhead lights. As we started to walk along the street, each and every house was immaculately clean. Hindu’s were lighting their dias. We passed many houses where they gave out Indian sweets and parasad. There were various houses that did different types of bamboo bending with dias and Christmas lights. Many houses even put up bamboo stands outside on the pavement so that foreigners could lite a dia as well. Other houses had dias on their walls and banisters.

Walking along the street in Felicity felt so wonderful. I felt the togetherness and peacefulness of the community. I felt safe and even reminisced a bit from my childhood memories. I felt very much like a child again in awe at the lights. These feelings made me realise that no matter what, crime rate, 3rd world mentality and dictator style rulers, there are good peaceful people living in our country. People are still willing to open their doors and their hearts to others. These feelings are certainly not what I feel everyday walking through the streets or travelling on the road. Togetherness and peacefulness should be the everyday norm in Trinidad not something to be sampled once in a while. But I felt really good knowing that these qualities still exist in the people of Trinidad…
Jenna Samaroo