Positive vibes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am

Piano, remedial and tennis lessons are just a few of the activities today's children pack into their routines, but one psychologist maintains such routines can actually slow down children's development and - even worse - lead to behaviour problems and stress.

Registered clinical psychologist May Chan Mee-fung, who founded the Happiness Academy 2008, works to help troubled people through the use of positive psychology.

Unlike like traditional psychology, which focuses on mental problems faced by normal people, positive psychology is a relatively new branch that seeks to make people's lives more fulfilling.

'Prevention is better than cure,' says Ms Chan. 'My concept is to prevent children from crashing into mental illnesses like depression. Positive psychology leads children to have happy lives and save them from mental breakdowns.'

To help children release their stress and lead a healthy emotional life, Ms Chan has come up with an album of songs, Happy to Have Choices, to inject positive energy into children's lives.

'Music is known as the language of emotion,' she says, adding that music can give children the strength to be happy.

'The songs are created from the point of view of children, and when they sing them they are able to immerse themselves in the songs.'

This immersion, Ms Chan says, is an effective tool for learning because the children are actually experiencing something themselves.

'I try to let them learn by themselves instead of force-feeding them,' she says.

According to Ms Chan, too many parents are over-protective, trying to lay out a so-called perfect route for their children. As a result, children often end up following their parents' dreams rather than their own.

'Behaviour problems have a lot to do with parenting,' she says. 'Nowadays, parents want to set up everything for their children, leaving them with very little room to develop on their own.'

Every child, she says, has their own talent, and they develop most effectively when they 'do things they love.'

She says most children that turn to her for help have parents with poor coping and problem-solving skills.

'The parents tend to shy away from problems, which puts even more stress on themselves and their children. Another thing in common among these children is that their families have limited social networks. They have no one to talk to, and stress and problems build up inside.'

She says she hopes the promotion of positive psychology through music, books, workshops and the media will help it become an accepted tool for improving children's mental health.

'I want to let people know that psychology has something to offer ... to make their lives happy.'

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