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On her recent Australian tour, hosted by Maggie Dent, registered child psychologist and founder of Wishing Star Lapointe Developmental Clinic, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe disclosed her ultimate formula for parenting. Offspring shares her advice.

If you’ve ever wished your baby came with an instruction manual, you are not alone. Parenting can be overwhelming and there’s so much conflicting advice it’s hard to know how to best parent your children. Thankfully, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe dispels common myths in her guide to laying a healthy foundation for the baby and toddler years, Parenting Right From the Start. She asserts that there is a way to successfully navigate the struggles of parenthood whilst fostering a sense of wellbeing in your children. It’s all down to a simple parenting formula:

1 – Make sense of who you are

2 –  Understand your child’s needs

3 –  Step in.

Let’s break it down step by step:

1- Making sense of who you are

Dr. Vanessa Lapointe makes it clear that you will parent as you were parented. This means you need to assess your own upbringing and evaluate the parenting patterns that dominated your own childhood.

Typically, these are not comfortable revelations. However, Dr. Lapointe is quick to point out that all parents do the best with the tools they have – in the era in which they were parenting. She argues that most adults these days will have been parented according to ‘behaviourist’ principles.

This way of parenting was focused on manipulating a child into behaving well. This was because ‘good’ behaviour was considered equal to ‘good’ parenting. You can still hear the hangover from this style of parenting in today’s parenting pop culture: How often do you hear, “Good boy” or “Good girl”? Often, strategies such as ‘consequences’ were devised to encourage children to adhere to the rules.

One such strategy is the principle of a time-out. In a time-out, a child is removed from a situation because they are behaving poorly. It’s the equivalent of making a child stand in the corner. The parent does not make eye contact, the parent does not give the child their voice and instead removes all connection. The problem with this model is that the most important thing for a developing child is connection.

Reward charts do not fare much better. Dr Lapointe is quick to point out that a sparkly gold sticker might be great to praise a particular behaviour, but the flip-side is it quickly becomes the ‘not-star chart’ meaning that all other behaviours do not get a star and so the child feels punished.

So traditionally we have coerced our children into ‘behaving’ by removing the one thing they need the most: connection. These old methods do usually get results, at least at first, but Dr. Lapointe cautions that it comes at a cost. To highlight this point, Dr. Lapointe refers to the ‘still face experiment’ where a mother engages with her baby as she would at home, before turning and clearing her face of all emotion. When she turns back to the baby she has a completely ‘still’ face. She has disconnected. It’s not easy to watch. The baby becomes very distressed until the mother re-engages and connects.

Thankfully, Dr Lapointe says, “Now, we know better”.  By understanding and making sense of who we are, we are in a better position to parent differently.

2 – Understand your child’s needs

The second part of the parenting formula involves understanding your child’s individual needs, and not setting the bar too high.  Most children need time to develop and grow. If we choose to rush childhood in order to make our lives easier, it can have a long-lasting negative impact.

Dr. Lapointe highlights our need to grow children who are capable and independent without stopping to consider what is really age appropriate. She likens this rush to pulling on the top of a plant. A plant will not grow faster or better if you are pulling on the top of it; instead this will uproot it and cause damage. It’s the same with child development.

One area that parents are keen to rush (for obvious reasons) is sleep training. Sleep training is a key area of tension, conflict and comparison among new parents. Many new mums find themselves sneaking the cot back into the main bedroom or cuddling their child to sleep every night but feeling guilty that the child will never learn to ‘self-soothe’. Dr Lapointe reassures new mums that being attentive and fostering that intimate relationship with your new baby is absolutely the right thing to do. Babies who feel loved, connected, safe and secure will develop as nature intended and will eventually learn to settle on their own when the conditions are right.

She suggests that sleep training is in fact for adults. It is adults who need to learn to create the right environment for a secure and settled child, everything else will follow on if they have the number one thing that all children need: connection.

 

All children progress through various stages of brain development as they grow. Psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld shines a light on the way children make sense of their relationships and how parents can tune in to support them:

Year One

The attachment relationship is understood in sensory terms: Babies want to taste, touch and smell you.

Year Two

In the second year of life children add to their sense of attachment through sameness. They want to see the similarities between you e.g. Mummy likes apples just like me!

Year Three 

A child makes sense of attachment in their third year through as sense of belonging and loyalty. They are likely to become very possessive at this age e.g “My Mummy!’ A secret handshake and saying, “My boy” or “My girl” will help a child of this age feel connected.

Year Four

This year a child wants to feel significant. They want to feel that they matter.  Typically they will show you every drawing they do, seeking attention and to feel important. Try to give them this attention and stay one step ahead by thinking of ways to show them they are special.

Year Five

The feeling of love truly resonates at this age. Expect lots of drawings of love hearts! Reciprocate this new feeling of love to help your child feel connected to you at this age.

Year Six

Although falling in love with you seems like the most profound connection, in their sixth year they will feel truly known. They understand that every aspect of them (the good, the bad and the ugly) can shine through in the restful knowledge that all will be accepted.

3- Step in.

This is about being the parent. Offspring recently shared a free excerpt from Dr. Lapointe’s new book in which she discusses ‘parental swagger’. This is about being ‘large and in charge’ whilst being respectful of what your child needs you to be in any given moment. Children need to know that you’ve got this.

Dr. Lapointe describes the parenting mountain, where every parent wants to sit at the peak and enjoy the spectacular views.  The problem is that it is easy to slide off of this peak and fall down one of the sides: Either down a bullying, emotionally distant and disconnected slope or conversely down an overly kind, pandering and ‘jellyfish’ slope.

The first slope sees us so determined to enforce rules that we forget to connect with our children. It is the remnants of the behaviourist parenting theories. However, the other side is no better. This side sees you reluctant to maintain control and be in charge, it sees you lacking ‘parental swagger’ and is equally harmful for child development.

What your child needs, at any stage of development, is a balance of both. Everyone has off days but if you can provide an environment where your child feels seen, heard and connected to you then you are on the right track.

Your child needs to be able to lean on you as they navigate their childhood. If you are yelling at them or shaming them for behaviour you don’t like, are they likely to want to lean in to you and to show you their most loving side? No, of course not.

Conversely, if you agree to everything they ask and let them do as they please, are they going to feel that you are strong enough to guide them through life’s challenges? No, they won’t.

So what does parenting ‘right’ really look like?

Let’s use the formula on a real-life scenario:

Imagine your child is having a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket because you won’t let them have a cookie right before dinnertime.

1- Making sense of who you are

In this case you need to check in to understand your response to their meltdown. Are you feeling stressed about the judging eyes of other people around you? Do you feel like you just want to give in to make this behaviour stop so you won’t be embarrassed?

Acknowledging these feelings is the first step in being able to break the cycle so that you can parent better.

2 – Understand your child’s needs

No matter how old your child is, they need to be seen and heard. They need you to get down on their level and calmly tell them that you understand it’s disappointing that they got a ‘no’ when they were hoping for a ‘yes’. Disappointment is a tough emotion to regulate, and they need to learn these skills from you. Acknowledge your child’s emotional response. It’s a normal part of healthy development!

3 – Step in

Now step in with your parental swagger and be the parent. Use your ‘large and in charge’ voice to firmly reiterate that, “No, they cannot have a cookie before dinnertime”. Note that you do not have to justify yourself. Getting into a battle about whether or not they will eat their dinner is starting to have ‘jellyfish’ tendencies and is not helpful. Young children are not at a developmental age to rationalise consequences of eating a cookie now and its impact on their appetite. That’s your job.

Just step in and be the parent.

Cultivate an intimate relationship that is kind, caring and connected whilst maintaining a good degree of parental swagger. Do that most days? You’re getting it right.

Funny mummy Ari contemplates the value of play dough for kids.

The great existential question that has been bothering me lately is, who the hell invented play dough? And how do we punish them?I’ll be frank. Play dough is one of the great loves of my son’s life. He is the king of play dough, in fact, and I freaking hate the stuff.

In fact, I hate it so much I hide it in a big plastic tub behind walls of chaos in the labyrinth of things-that-need-to-be-sorted-out-but-I-cannot-currently-deal-with that I call our garage. I hide it so well that pretty much no one can ever find it, not even me.

Except the child.

The child has a sixth sense about both hidden play dough places, and hidden chocolate biscuit places, I’ll give him that. He does not have a sixth sense about where his shoes, socks, school hat, library books or swimming goggles are, which would be far more useful.

It’s all about motivation I guess. He can find that damn play dough tub in about half a nano second. He will never, ever find his school hat or his second running shoe. As far as play dough goes, his modus operandi is quiet stealth, which I should have cottoned onto by now. If ever my kid, who is in the habit of providing a running narrative of exhausting questions I am required to answer non stop, is ever quiet I know he’s up to no good. NO. GOOD.

 

He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live.

Sometimes, however, I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea, stare blankly into space and not answer any questions. Heck, sometimes I don’t KNOW THE ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS, ISN’T THAT WHAT GOOGLE IS FOR? The kid knows the game. He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live. In these moments of weakness, he ever-so-quietly tootles up the hallway and slips into the garage, scales the pile of stuff for the council pick up, like a mountain goat, and seizes the play dough tub toot suite.

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube. Of course, his sea anemone looks nothing like the YouTube mother’s sea anemone. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. That YouTube play dough mother has an online play dough making course she’s selling. Why the heck else would you make a sea anemone out of play dough?

 

 

My son, bless his play dough loving heart, is not wise to the ways of crafty-YouTube-mothers-making-a-buck-on-the-side. He will spend five minutes trying to make his sea anemone look like a sea anemone, and not like a lump of pink and yellow stuff, and then yell, “MAMA, CAN YOU HELP ME?”

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube.

Obviously, the only thing to do is to pretend not to hear. Never works.

“MAMA, HELP PLEASE! HELP PLEASE! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The point is, this could go one for hours – me pretending not to hear, and the child chanting my name like some sort of mantra. The other point is, I will crumble first. So the only way to deal with it, is to sit down with the child and try to make a play dough sea anemone while fobbing off questions about why our sea anemone looks so rubbish in comparison to the YouTube one.

Toot suite.

Ari takes inspiration from her own childhood when planning school holidays for her child.

Okay, so now that I’m a mother, I can see the flawed and horrible logic that is the summer School Holidays.

SO LONG! Why so long? And why so sunny? Not only do the weeks last forever, each day seems like about ten days because the sun never goes down so you can’t do the old, it’s-dark-now-so-go-to-bed-and-leave-me-in-peace trick until about 9.00pm. Gruesome. Badly planned. Too hot. Whoever decides on these things needs a couple of mothers on the committee to arrange things properly.

When I was a kid, I loved Summer Hols, even though they mostly consisted of going to swimming lessons. I mean, there were a LOT of lessons and they kinda sucked. We didn’t get merit certificates for putting our heads under the water, or anything like that. No, me and my three siblings used to front up to the fifty metre non-solar-heated pool and some Old Boiler would make us fling ourselves into the lap-lane and bitch at us about our stroke. Every. Single. Day. I joke not. The only day we didn’t go was Sunday, and that’s because we had to go to church. My folks liked structure.

All of us kids were at different swimming levels and each lesson lasted about an hour – no pithy 25 minutes in a heated pool for us – so we had to hang around the local pool for about five hours by the time we got through everyone. In between lessons my mother, who engineered the annual Swimming Lesson Bonanza, would instruct us to do about a million more laps for ‘practise’, while she leisurely swam about seven lanes away from us pretending, I see in retrospect, that we didn’t belong to her.

Anyway, all that lapping took us through to about 2.00pm every day, and after five hours of swimming in waters that felt sub-Arctic, we had a lot of our collective Energizer Bunny burnt out of us. Basically that meant we were too tired to whinge and fight at the level we were accustomed to. Plus, we were starving.

My mother is a wily woman, non? She was deliberately, and delightedly, onto something and, now that I am a harried veteran of School Hols myself, I can see she utilised this strategy shamelessly throughout my childhood.

Summer hols meant overdosing on swimming lessons and Old Boilers brandishing megaphones but I think our winter holidays were worse. In winter, we’d take a trip down to Bluff Knoll and have to climb the mountain pretty much constantly. Once was never enough.

I, personally, do not understand the point of mountain climbing. I know there is a point and people feel all I’ve-Conquered-The-Mountain kind of thing when they’ve slogged up the rock face and are standing at the top, but I am quite happy for the mountain to conquer me. The mountain can win and I am MORE THAN OKAY with that. There. I said it. Go mountain. Victory is yours. Unfortunately, my folks are conquering types so I have actually conquered Bluff Knoll – miserably and without grace – more times than I care to recall. Sorry ‘bout that mountain. Won’t happen again.

If we didn’t climb the mountain, we’d go on long bush walks – like six hours or something – with an apple and a vegemite roll for sustenance, and only one another for company. I am not sure why. My parents thought this kind of thing was Fun With A Capital F. I mean, they really dug stumbling along some bush track for hours playing ‘I Spy’ for kicks. There’s only so many times you can Spy a Tree, if you know what I’m saying.

And being winter it rained quite a bit. Basically it rained whenever we had to do a Challenging Outdoor Activity, which was every day. It did not matter if there were fecking hail stones the size of golf balls – we still went mountain climbing or roaming around in the wilderness. My mother packed an odd assortment of raincoats for such weather and flung them happily at us, along with random too-big gumboots, and off we went.

We did complain to our parents, of course. I might have, ahem, complained more than anyone else but they took precisely zero notice and we still had to do these God-awful Extreme Sport like holidays, except we didn’t look cool like they do in Extreme Sport commercials, we just looked random and mis-matched, dodging hailstones in our weird raincoats.

So anyway, this School Hols we had a few weeks of the child bouncing-off-the-walls and me and the other half were starting to get a bit desperate and tetchy. The days were sunny and hot and, above all, long. So, so long.

“I have the solution,” I said, one morning after trying and failing to persuade the child to bounce on the trampoline in the broiling son without Mummy.

The other half raised an eyebrow.

“He needs to know how to swim better than he does,” I gabbled. “Much, MUCH better. We need to book him into swimming lessons EVERY DAY for the rest of the holidays RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone and started dialling swim schools and, gosh darn it, I did not stop dialling until someone told me they would take him the very next day. Huzzah!

And so he went. And he put his head under the water and blew bubbles and stuff. And he got a merit certificate and a colouring in book and lots of high fives. Unfortunately, it seems Old Boilers are now extinct, but he still got tired-ish. Sort of.

Next hols, I’ve decided that we’re off to Bluff Knoll. I plan to nominate myself for tea duty, while my husband and son conquer the mountain.

Children who struggle with literacy can improve through parental help and a different approach to their learning, as explored by Emma Saurus.

My memory of Year 1 is learning the alphabet, writing a lot of wavy shapes (“You mean you wanted them between the lines? Geez.”), and using scissors with my tongue out.

Today, by the end of pre-primary, the Australian Curriculum expects children to write three-letter words and “experiment with capital letters and full stops”.

My peak pre-primary experiment was, “How long can I get away with speaking only in neighs and eating without using my hooves?”

From Pre-Primary to Post-Doctorate, your child will be assessed through their writing. In almost every subject, they will be required to demonstrate their knowledge on paper.

There has been a global early-education panic as studies show that children who lag in language skills in the early years tend to fall further and further behind their peers.

At the same time that literacy requirements are being shunted into earlier grades, the new overstuffed, micro-managed Australian Curriculum requires teachers to cover more topics than can fit into a school year (according to the Australian Primary Principals Association, “The overcrowded primary curriculum: A way forward”, and the Australian Government’s own Review of the Australian Curriculum by Donnelly and Wiltshire, both 2014).

The outcome is that if your child is not developmentally ready to gain those crucial foundational skills of reading and writing in Pre-Primary — and my son was not — teachers in later years are unlikely to have enough time available to help your child catch up.

It will be up to you to recognise that your young’un is struggling and provide the targeted help they need to get up to speed.

Any improvements you make
to children’s literacy skills will
have positive flow-on effects
throughout their academic
and professional lives.

Helping your child is completely doable. If you’re skilful, it can be a fun, bonding activity.

If your child has struggled to the point that they have become despondent about writing, or flat-out hate it as much as mine did, it can become a bribing activity. Whatever works! It’s worth it.

But the keyword for gaining cooperation is “let’s”, as in “Let’s do a writing game together.”

Here’s an exercise that can be used from toddlerhood. (I have even used it with children preparing for the Gifted and Talented exam.) If your child cannot yet write (or hates it), you can do the writing for them.

Some children prefer to be absolutely clear about what is expected of them before they begin. You can demonstrate it for them. Before long, they will will be taking the pencil out of your hand.

Curious Captions

 

You can’t become a great writer without knowing how to compose a strong sentence. This activity teaches planning, descriptive vocabulary, and even introduces the idea of revising and editing.

Choose a picture — a photograph of family, a picture from a magazine or the internet — and say, “Let’s write a caption to describe what’s in the picture. What do we see?”

The child might say, “Birds.”

In a list off to the side, write down ‘birds’, and prompt for more information.

“How many?” “What colour?” “What could they be doing?” You might end up with a list of words including: two, pink, dancing.

Say, “Let’s put these words into a sentence.” Read the list out, and try speaking a few variations.

Write out the child’s preferred phrasing. Talk about what was good about the sentence. Praise any powerful words.

If the child wrote it, praise them if they remembered capitals and full stops, or if they spelled words correctly.

Don’t worry about fixing any errors (though you could secretly note spelling mistakes for later teaching); this exercise is about encouraging expression.

If your child is still interested, you can say, “Shall we make it even fancier?”

You can add relevant vocabulary. (“These birds are called flamingos.”)

You can add description and invite your child’s contribution. (“They’re dancing elegantly.”)

You can add imagination. (“What could they be thinking or feeling? Maybe this one is a daddy flamingo and he just got home from work. Or maybe this one is saying, ‘Get out of my way!’”)

Write the new sentence under the first one. The more over-the-top you make it, the more enjoyable it will be.

If you want more suggestions from your child, find something good and useful in whatever they offer.

Older children are often asked to analyse images in English exams; this activity can prepare them.

If you use advertisements, it can also help your children begin to understand how some images attempt to manipulate the viewer.

Any improvements you make to children’s literacy skills will have positive flow-on effects throughout their academic and professional lives.

Powerful writing helps teens sound smarter in essays and exams. It allows young adults to write compelling job applications. It lets employees make client presentations more impressive.

Enrich your child’s writing. The investment will pay off their whole life long.

Letters of Complaint

 

If your child has difficulty remembering the letters of the alphabet, has trouble physically writing the letters, cannot holding the pencil with even pressure (giving faint, wiggly letters), or simply cannot recall spelling patterns after lengthy study, this requires a different kind of intervention.

American special educator Dianne Craft (diannecraft. org) has developed a program that can be undertaken at home to address these issues.

I used them successfully with my son, who was diagnosed with Dysgraphia in PrePrimary.

His writing was like giving birth: slow, painful, and messy.

When the occupational therapist gave her pronouncement, I thought, “Great, a diagnosis! That reassuringly fancy Latin label must mean that experts understand his condition and how to treat it. What does dysgraphia mean? ‘Difficulty writing’? I told you that when we walked in!”

Months of occupational therapy exercises did not make a difference.

One month of Dianne Craft’s method led to significant improvement.

My son no longer meets the technical criteria for dysgraphia.

If you are experiencing similar issues, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss your situation: emma@emmasaurus.com.au

Emma Saurus helps students of all levels sound smarter.  She is based in Perth. Look her up at emmasaurus.com.au

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

The novel virus known as COVID-19 started as a collection of similar cases emerging from Wuhan, China-  a city with a population of over 11 million.  

Australia was in the process of healing from a devastating fire season when the Coronavirus (soon to be titled COVID-19) became national news, with the World Health Organization (WHO) having heard the first reports of COVID-19 on the 31st of December 2019.

In the months that have followed the pandemic has spread across the globe, encompassing Australia and leaving millions without work, or at the very least financially affected by the virus and the subsequent lockdowns it has caused.

These are uncertain times, and as many of us wait for news of government aid, job opportunities or when our old lives will get back to normal, many are left without an income.

Below are some practical ways to lessen the financial stress during the disaster movie scenario we have found ourselves in.

Monitor what comes in and out of your bank- and eliminate the non-essential items

For many of us, we have multiple cards and multiple entertainment platforms, programs and everyday expenses that are direct debited.

This is convenient usually, but if you are now left with no income, that outcome needs to be cut down. Have a look on your outgoings on your banking app and make a list of what you pay every month- do you really need to be spending $25 a month on a live sport platform when all sport is postponed? Or could you be using that $25 on food and utilities? Unfortunately, the time for luxuries is not right now, so cut your expenses accordingly.

Call and ask for extensions/account freezes/pause in payments

Do not be ashamed to ask for help, we are all in this together. Many corporations and businesses are being very understanding in this time and providing extensions and pauses for payments.

Afterpay for example can give extensions/pauses in payments if you contact them and discuss your situation, the same could go for various other payments you may have coming up, so don’t be scared to ask! The following link discusses electricity companies that will be providing extra help for their customers during this crisis. https://www.finder.com.au/financial-hardship-programs-utilities

Live that vegetarian lifestyle

Meat is expensive and perishable, and with supermarkets losing the battle against panic buying shoppers, meat and other basics are hard to find. Do not panic or bulk buy– it is unfair on everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Buy beans, lentils, grains- these are cheap, filling and last a long time- check out this lentil dahl recipe that is perfect for meal prepping and super tasty! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4pDLh11nmA

Keep up to date with the government’s response to the pandemic and if you are eligible for Centrelink payments

There is a lot of information regarding the COVID-19 in the media that is constantly updated, and the same goes for details of government assistance and how to access Centrelink payments if you now find yourself out of work. The below article by ABC shows a step by step guide to applying for Centrelink if you’ve never used the system before and is updated regularly as the situation progresses. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-how-to-apply-for-centrelink-jobseeker-newstart/12083948

Think of others and act accordingly – stay inside! 

Stay inside and practise social distancing, this won’t last forever, but it is important we all do the right thing and act with everyone in mind. We will all get through this by acting as a community, spreading kindness and thinking of our most vulnerable.

 

Movenpick Resort and Spa in Phuket ticks all the boxes for a satisfying and enjoyable family holiday.

Set in the family-oriented precinct of Karon Beach, Movenpick Resort and Spa is a wonderful choice for families holidaying in Phuket and is one of my favourite resorts to go with children.

The location is ideal, with a beautiful beach, and many dining, shopping and entertainment options, all within close walking distance.

The hotel caters for all families’ needs with a Kids Club, four swimming pools and six fantastic restaurants offering a very high standard of food.

Additionally, the resort provides daily water activities and a complimentary Chocolate Hour – A Movenpick original feature – which includes a selection of chocolate sweets and treats.

 

The standard of accommodation is exceptional.

We stayed in a Two Bedroom Family Suite which was perfect for a family, set amongst the lovely tropical gardens and very closely situated to the main family pool area. In fact, it was the best hotel accommodation in which I have experienced with my two children – so spacious, well facilitated and in a great position opposite the Little Birds Kids Club.

It has a large screen TV in the family area and in each of the bedrooms, which includes a good range of family-friendly channels, including Nickelodeon.

We were able to use the hotel’s X Box too which the kids enjoyed and suited me when I felt like an afternoon siesta.

This accommodation is massive with a large living space, adjoining bunkbed bedroom, a King and Twin bedroom, each with their own generous en-suites.

This space easily accommodates a family of six. It has three mini bars which all included complimentary tea and coffee facilities

The family style accommodation is positioned close to the The Little Birds Kids Club, for children aged 4 to 12, which offers many creative and stimulating activities for the children including soap making, candle making, tie dyed t-shirt creating.

 

We spent many hours relaxing around the fabulous main family pool area, which features a large free form swimming pool, swim up bar and water slide, as well as daily water activities.

There are an additional three public pools on site and some private accommodation offers its own plunge pools.

Movenpick Resort and Spa has six fantastic restaurants which serve amazing cuisine across a variety of International styles ranging from Thai to Brazilian.

We enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast each morning which included a large variety of international cuisine at Pacifica, which also offered a-la-carte Thai and western lunch and dinner.

OrientAsia serves the most scrumptious Thai food, as well as an array of other Asian fare. It was fresh and delicious, and the décor was tasteful and authentically Thai, creating a delicious local experience.

The hotel’s Mint restaurant offers a cool, fun, evening vibe with lots of yummy share plates, oven baked pizzas and refreshing cocktails, in an alfresco balmy setting opposite the beach.

My favourite dining option I experienced while in Phuket, was at El Gaucho Restaurant – Movenpick’s Brazilian restaurant, which offers churrasco – where we were able to choose from a succulent selection of grilled prime cuts, served straight from a skewer at our table. It was a fun and special experience, and the meat was cooked perfectly.

Another unique feature offered at Movenpick is the Chocolate Fondue experience at Café Studio. I have never encountered an experience like it. It was creative and extensive, including a large range of fruits and baked treats with melted chocolate and Movenpick’s own signature ice-cream. It has to be tried to be believed!

The Spa at the resort is very special. Aromatic oils, gentle music and comfortable furnishings create a soothing ambience and my Thai massage was exquisite!

The staff at Movenpick are delightful – warm, friendly and helpful. Staying at this resort was a wonderful experience for me and my children.

Here are our top picks for young readers this Summer season.

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Let’s Go! Series: Let’s Go! On a Rocket

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Let’s Go! Series: Let’s Go! On a Ferry.

Age: 0-2 Years

Author: Rosalyn Albert

Illustrator: Natalia Moore

Publisher: New Frontier Publishing

Join two friends as they embark on exciting adventures in space and at sea! This fun and engaging series will help your little ones discover the pleasure of travel on board a ferry and up in a rocket, for the very first time!


I See, I See

Age: 3-6 Years

Author: Robert Henderson

Illustrator: Robert Henderson

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Spark your curiosity and challenge your view of the world with this fun and interactive story. This playful book ignites two readers in a conversation whereby each will see the page from a different perspective.

The Painted Ponies

Age: 4-7 Years

Author: Alison Lester

Illustrator: Alison Lester

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Meet Matilda, she loves spending time with her Grandma Lucky and playing with her favourite painted ponies in their carved wooden wagon. Follow Matilda as she learns how her beloved ponies long to be set free. A beautiful story of friendship and unconditional love.

The Tiny Star

Age: 5+ Years

Author: Mem Fox

Illustrator: Freya Blackwood

Publisher: Penguin

Prepare to be moved and uplifted by this heart-warming tale of the love and grief we experience throughout our lives. A useful tool for parents and a source of comfort to those young or old who have lost someone special.

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Bold Tales for Brave-Hearted Boys

Age: 6-9 Years

Author: Susannah McFarlane

Illustrators: Simon Howe, Matt Huynh, Louie Joyce and Brenton McKenna

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Challenging the typical fairytale narrative of brave and fearless boys as the courageous heroes. This ingenious collection of classic tales with alternate endings demonstrates how ‘happy ever afters’ can still happen, even when boys show their softer side.

Detention

Age: 10+ Years

Author: Tristan Banks

Publisher: Penguin

Join Sima as she makes her escape from captivity. Separated from her parents, and in a frantic attempt for freedom, Sima seeks refuge in a school. When a boy named Dan discovers Sima, their resilience is tested as they face a dilemma; will they unite for the greater good or surrender to the laws by which they are bound?

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The Mothers

Age: Adults

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Follow the heart-wrenching journey of two separate couples on an emotionally charged quest to become parents. When an unthinkable mix-up at the IVF clinic causes their worlds to collide, it leads to a life-changing dilemma; do they pursue their child now being raised by another loving couple, or live a childless life knowing things could be so different?

The Resilience Project holds speaking events and is a curriculum that is aimed at using gratitude, empathy and mindfulness to fight mental illness, with the program implemented in hundreds of schools Australia wide.

“If this book wasn’t written, my sister and I would have never actually sat down and had a conversation about our relationship,” says Hugh Van Cuylenburg, creator of The Resilience Project.

At three years of age, Georgia Van Cuylenburg had been playing alongside her brother, Hugh, when a man picked her up, took her out of sight, and sexually assaulted her.
Her innocence of childhood taken in one fell swoop, and a wound that bleed into many facets of her life for decades, was brought to life. This trauma explaining why the darkness of anorexia had chosen her as it’s host, stripping her down to skin and bones.
“I remembered it happening and when my sister told us as a family I went ‘oh right really’ I didn’t even say I remembered it, she continued to feel alone through that trauma, we never talked about it,” says her brother, Hugh.
Hugh was inspired to create The Resilience Project and write The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness.   
During his time researching his book, Hugh read a lot about vulnerability and shame. “Shame is what locks us up, and really makes it hard for us to be happy and feel well.”
“My shame lied in my relationship with my sister,” said Hugh.
As Hugh showed his family the first copies of his book, he eagerly awaited their opinions and critiques. Georgia was devastated at what her brother had written about her. “She said, ‘when am I going to get that vulnerable side of you?.'”

For Hugh, his book became much more than helping millions of Australians who struggle with mental illness, it became a tool for healing his broken relationship with his sister, a shame he had carried for many years.

Hugh changed his book last minute and worked on his relationship with his sister, deciding that his novel was to focus on human connection and the people that have moved him.
Today mental illness has become an epidemic, taking our youth one by one – an insidious disease that has crept into our society and been given the freedom to flourish, due to stigma, lack of resources and communication. Even today mental illness is not treated the same way that other life threatening illnesses are.
Mental illness is very common in Australia, with one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in a year, meaning that 20 per cent of the population is battling a disease that their family, partner and employer cannot see and might not even believe.

Further statistics show indicates that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage in their life.

In 2008, educator Hugh had been teaching young teens in Melbourne when his then girlfriend asked him to accompany her on a trip to India. In India, Hugh taught at an under-privileged school in the Himalayan desert area and with approximately 150 children enrolled, his job was to teach English.
As he began to know his students better, many of whom were living in extreme poverty, Hugh became inspired by his student’s happiness, gratitude and lack of mental health issues that had become so prevalent in the Australian schools where Hugh taught. Returning to Australia, Hugh took with him the local children’s insights, practices and wisdom, and he slowly created The Resilience Project.
The Resilience Project began as a talk that outlined Hugh’s research and experiences with mental illness. Today, it is a school program and curriculum that reaches schools, sporting clubs and workplaces all over Australia and now New Zealand.
In The Resilience Project curriculum and speaking events, Hugh explains how incorporating gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (shortened to GEM in his book) can prevent mental illness and provide happiness.
As many parents know, the most influential years of a person’s life is their childhood,with studies showing that 50 per cent of all mental health conditions a person experiences in their life will have started by age 14.

During his time in India, Hugh noticed how the children were very grateful to be at school and practiced mindfulness every morning before their classes began, incorporating all this into his program for schools and youth, with the feedback having been phenomenally positive so far.
After years of implementing this program, Hugh wrote The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness,releasing the book in November 2019.
Since the book’s release Hugh has had an influx of positive feedback, and is still as humble as ever; with a warm energy and healing nature, it is easy to see why thousands flock to hear him speak and line up afterwards, telling Hugh their troubles and how his words have helped them to heal.
“We have had incredible feedback, I just saw this morning that it is Number One on audio books, which I can’t believe.”
“I’ve had a few really beautiful personal messages from people.”
Hugh recalls one recent message he’d received from a reader who had been feeling suicidal and after reading the book felt so grateful and positive about his life, telling Hugh how his words had saved his life.

“Honestly if he is the only person that reads this book and that’s the only feedback I get, that’s a worthwhile six months writing,” Hugh says.

On a mission to promote gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, Hugh tackles the tricky topic of social media and parenting in his book, describing the rise of social media as only showing ‘the greatest hits’ of life, and how damaging this can be for young minds.
The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness includes a lot of tips and ideas for parents, who have found themselves with children inundated with technology and social media that teaches them validation is found through a screen.

“The best way to help your kids is to start modelling better behaviour, you can’t say to your kids ‘stop being on your phone all the time’ then turn around and check your emails,” he says.

The book is full of strategies to help parents put their phone down with one of the easiest to grasp, yet hardest to implement, simply being to leave their phone at home.
Hugh states that this simple task can leave us more focused on others around us, increasing feelings of connection and togetherness, which are two big ways to fight loneliness and mental illness in this increasingly busy and digital world.
Hugh believes that the less a child is on a device the more aware they are to their surroundings and community, leaving more time to be grateful for the society we are lucky enough to have in Australia.
As for fostering GEM into daily life, Hugh says it’s all down to practice and implementing these small practises into your families every day.
For mindfulness, Hugh suggests going for a walk around the block and focusing on what you can hear, an exercise parents can easily make into family time. Hugh also suggests at the dinner table to reflect on the good in each family member’s day and to share what they are grateful for and looking forward to.
“Look out for opportunities to be kind to people, you watch how happy that makes you and if you do it in front of your kids, that’s the most powerful thing of all,” says Hugh.
“You will have an enormous impact on them because they’ll start to copy you, they will start to be someone who is kind to other people.”

Whether you’re trying for a baby or already pregnant, there are so many things you want to know. But how can you find safe and accurate advice?

When you’re trying for a baby or actually pregnant, there are so many things you want to know. What’s happening to my body? Should it be doing that? Just how is this baby going to get out?

The people around you may offer well-meaning advice, whether you asked for it, or not. The internet is also a place many of us go for information, but how do you know whether you’re reading safe and accurate advice?

Epworth Freemasons has been a leader in maternity services for nearly 30 years. Their midwives have decades of clinical and hands-on experience with mothers and newborns. Birth suite Nurse Unit Manager, Narelle Tunks, says that the vast majority of women search online for information.

‘The problem is that often what they find may not be safe or accurate. It can also lead to unnecessary concerns because what they’re reading doesn’t relate to their specific circumstances,’ she said.

‘We thought it would be a good idea to pool our knowledge and produce a series of short videos, covering some of the most frequently asked questions about pregnancy, birth and beyond. We’ve been thrilled to see our ‘Mobile Midwife’ series become a hit!’

‘Families can watch these videos when and whenever they need to. There’s information there on staying healthy during pregnancy, what to expect in hospital and when they go home. We run refresher classes for grandparents too, so these videos are also helpful for anyone who hasn’t bathed or changed a baby in a while!’

‘We know it can be pretty daunting leaving hospital with a precious newborn and hope that these videos can serve as a handy reminder, from a trusted source, on some of the things you need to know.’

‘If you do have any questions about your pregnancy, or after you’ve had your baby, please make sure you ask your midwife or obstetrician. There are no stupid questions. We want you to be healthy and feel supported through this truly amazing time in your life,’ Narelle said.

To discover the series of videos, head to https://landing.epworth.org.au/maternityvideos