The Bramble app helps S’pore parents have tough conversations with their kids, health news and top stories

SINGAPORE – Help is on hand to guide parents through those difficult and sensitive conversations – like bad grades – that will inevitably happen with their children aged 7 to 12.

Bramble, a mobile app launched by four Singaporeans, acts as both a therapist and a mediator to keep conversations loving and productive, using machine learning.

Parents and kids pass the phone to each other as they take turns talking, as the app suggests statements and prompts for responses on topics such as stress, expectations, and managing emotions.

A session on the application lasts approximately 20 minutes. During the conversation, the app helps parents and kids to clarify their thinking and empathize with each other, then come up with a simple plan – like committing to a little thing to make them easier. homework in the future.

The prompts include: “I noticed that …”, “I would rather …” and “Let me repeat what you just said to check if I understand”.

It also gives children keywords like “embarrassed” and “sad” if they need help expressing how they are feeling.

“We hope to highlight the importance of empathy and feelings in the communication process,” said Bramble CEO Chew Chia Shao Yuan.

Bramble draws on the ideas of child psychologists such as Dr Haim Ginott and Dr John Gottman – “that when you communicate empathetically, you develop your children’s ability to express and regulate their feelings in healthy ways. , by equipping them with social and emotional skills “.

The team is counseled by therapists and psychiatrists in Singapore and Boston, where Mr. Chew Chia studies informatics and global health and health policy at Harvard.

Launched in August and downloadable for free in Singapore, the app sees between 10 and 20 new users per week. The team said the feedback so far has been positive, with some parents saying Bramble has allowed them to express themselves without accidentally hurting their children.

The other Bramble co-founders are Ms. Bernadette Clara Yeo, Mr. Chua Jiahao and Ms. Lim Pin Xiu. All of them are 25 except Ms Lim, who is 23. Reunited by Mr Chew Chia, the four friends started working full time on Bramble in 2019.

Mr. Chua studied computer science and engineering and, together with Mr. Chew Chia, is responsible for software. Ms. Yeo majored in early childhood and special education at New York University and taught in Brooklyn Public Schools in the United States.

Mr. Chew Chia cited the observation of American psychologist Thomas Gordon that parents are blamed but not trained.

“Speaking to parents, we realized that there is a gap between what they know and / or want to do cognitively, and what they are able to do during a heated conversation,” he said. -he declares.

“That’s why we want to design the app to be responsive to the situation, meeting parents and children wherever they are and gently guiding them through alternate paths if a particular strategy doesn’t work.”

For example, parents may be likely to think all or nothing or catastrophize, which has an impact on how they interact with their child.

Instead of harassing their child, parents can indicate on the app that they are worried about their children’s test results, for example.

The app will then ask them what they think when they are feeling nervous.

Parents may fear that poor results mean their child will not be successful in life.

The app will respond by acknowledging that the parent wants the best for their child, but emphasizes that it’s not just ‘I’m successful’ or ‘I’m a complete failure’.

The app then prompts parents to acknowledge to the child that there is a lot between a complete success or failure, and to point out that there are many ways to be successful. The parent is also advised to reassure the child that he is not “doomed” by a bad exam.

The team aims to make Bramble a reliable and accessible source of advice for family communication, and to grow to help children of other age groups and countries.

There is some awkwardness in using an app for a very human activity – talking to your child – as some parents have shared, but the team is hopeful that the use of the app will be standardized.

Mr. Chew Chia said, “We have beliefs or expectations about what a conversation with your child might look like and most of us probably want the rosy image of a loving, effortless conversation.

“My hope is that Bramble is ultimately seen as a tool to bring families to this reality and that there is less stigma surrounding the support it would take to make it happen.”

About Stuart M. McFarland

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