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Optimum nutrition is crucial for physiological and cognitive development, however evidence shows that diet quality in children has declined. Processed foods, skipping meals and following fad diets may cause children to fail in meeting nutritional requirements necessary for growth and development.

Essential vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesised by the body, so a child must obtain them in adequate amounts from food. Poor intake of nutrients and energy could have detrimental effects on health, and contribute to the onset of low self-esteem, dental issues and decreased academic performance.

Epidemiological data estimates that one in five children are expected to develop some kind of mental health issue before adulthood, with half of adult mental health problems developing in childhood and teenage years. This highlights the importance of early prevention.

An Australian study examining 7114 adolescents aged 10-14 years, demonstrated that teenagers on a healthy diet were less likely to report symptoms of depression. The association exists above the influence of family, socioeconomic and other factors.

1. Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is key for skeletal development, bone health and teeth, providing hard tissue with its strength. Due to its importance for growth, requirements are higher in childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation.

Calcium is also necessary for learning, mental capacity, the immune system, nerve impulse transmissions and contracting muscles.

Ensuring intake of adequate calcium helps minimise risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Research connected calcium intake with prevention of colon cancer, insulin resistance, kidney stones, hypertension and obesity.

Absorption of calcium from food is only 20-40 per cent, and bioavailability is hindered in foods with phytic and oxalic acids, such as rhubarb, spinach, chard and some cereals.

Factors that increase Calcium bioavailability:

  • Vitamin D
  • Fat
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin C

Factors increasing demand for Calcium:

  • Bone fractures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High sugar diets
  • Lack of exercise
  • Magnesium deficiency

Calcium is involved in the following functions:

  • Activates insulin
  • Blood clotting
  • Bone and tooth formation
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve transmission
  • Cellular functions
  • Heart rhythm regulation

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolk
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Sardines
  • Molasses
  • Soybeans
  • Turnips

2. Magnesium

Cells die without sufficient Magnesium, and it is required for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Approximately 99% of total body magnesium is found in the bone, muscles and soft tissue, fifty to sixty percent residing in the bone. Magnesium is necessary for strong bones, healthy immune function, muscular and neurological function, blood glucose regulation and energy.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency in Children:

  • Requirements are higher due to growth and development.
  • Inadequate intake.
  • Cooking methods can result in magnesium loss.
  • Diets high in salt, sugar and soft drinks.
  • Reduced magnesium absorption due to low protein diet, vitamin D deficiency or medications.
  • Active children may have a higher requirement due to loss through sweat.
  • A child who is experiencing prolonged diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Prolonged stress, worry or anxiety.

Signs your child may need more Magnesium:

  • Twitching muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Teeth grinding
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Barley
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kelp
  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Molasses
  • Parsnips

Inadequate magnesium can contribute to poor mood and influence anxiety. Both calcium and magnesium are important for mood modulation, cognition and brain function.

Write a list of your favourite calcium and magnesium foods, and each week ask your child to choose a new food to incorporate into your meals.

Kelly has more than eight years’ experience as a coordinator for an Outside School Hours Care Program and has completed hundreds of engaging and educating programs with children based on the National Regulation requirements. So, to help any struggling parents out there, here are her suggestions for easy and fun activities to keep children engaged during Covid restrictions.

With current Covid precautions in Australia and Melbourne’s Stage Four lockdown still in effect, parents may have gone through every option to keep their child engaged. Children are out of routine and forced to learn at home, so trying to come up with new and exciting activities that are educating can be almost impossible.

1. ‘Spoonville’

It can be difficult to convince children to leave the house for some exercise when they have technology to keep themselves entertained, so why not create a town out of spoon people and get the community involved?

Using old spoons from the drawer, dress up your spoon into a person, animal or character. Every time the children go for a walk, they can see if anyone else in their neighbourhood has contributed to ‘Spoonville’ with their own spoons. It brings the excitement of wanting to leave the house for exercise while also engaging the children into creating a new spoon to add to the collection.

Materials: Wooden, metal or plastic spoon, wool for hair, googly eyes, scrap material for clothing, texta or paint for any additional details.

 

 

2. Toilet roll characters

Instead of throwing out the toilet rolls, turn them into characters!

There are plenty of websites that provide print out templates of different characters to stick onto a toilet roll. These are easy for kids to follow because all they need to do is cut, colour and paste. Alternatively, parents can print off reference pictures to spark creativity.

This also teaches children the importance of re-using materials around the house instead of throwing them out. Use this opportunity to discuss the environment and what they can do to help.

To further build on this experience, the children can create their own puppet show. This will be sure to keep them entertained for hours, build their confidence and encourage their pretend-play skills.

Materials: Toilet rolls, paper, textas, scissors, glue sticks.

3. Gooey slime

Slime can be a great tool for sensory development and is also one of the most popular science experiments with children at the moment. The ingredients to create this slime can be found at the supermarket and is easy to create, but it does get messy. So, make sure the floor, table and clothing are protected.

 

Slime recipe:

240ml bottle Elmer’s white school glue

1 1/2 – 2 tbs contact saline solution

1 tbs baking soda

Food colouring

To make the slime more exciting, the children can add shaving cream (poofy slime), glitter, beads (crunchy slime) or Styrofoam (foam slime) to the mixture.

Materials: Glue, saline solution, baking soda, food colouring.

4. Pac-man (2 or more people)

Pac-man is a game Kelly played frequently with children at work because it encouraged them to think quickly and increase their general knowledge.

The aim of the game is to stand around the room, the parent will shout out a question and for every question a child gets right, they take a step towards their opposition. Once they’ve answered enough questions and have reached their opposition, they tap them on the shoulder to get them out.

Adjust the questions based on their age and knowledge level, making them easier or harder depending on who is left in the game.

Materials: None.

5. DIY masks

Masks are a part of everyday life with Covid-19, so why not make it exciting? This will not only open the conversation about why it’s important to wear masks but will also teach them how to cut fabric to a pattern and sew it together. This could also encourage a conversation about fast fashion and the hard work that goes into creating clothes.

To further this experience, children could sew more patterns such as cushions, toys or pencil cases.

Materials: Needle, thread, three layers of fabric, scissors.

6. Terrarium

Terrariums are easy to assemble and can be created by things found outdoors. Although it isn’t necessary to build one that grows plants, it can be beneficial for children to learn the importance of a small eco-system and a terrarium is perfect to do so.

Materials: Glass bowl, dirt, sticks, rocks, water, plants (I recommend succulents because they don’t need much water).

 

 

7. Veggie patch

Similar to a terrarium, growing plants can be a beneficial lesson to children, but can be done using scraps from last night’s dinner. There are many vegetables/fruits that can grow from scraps. These are:

Lettuce, celery, avocado, potato, sweet potato, ginger, pineapple, garlic, onion, pumpkin, capsicum, tomato, carrot, strawberry, apricot, cherry, and many more.

Just place these vegetables or seeds in water, wait for roots to sprout, and then plant in dirt. Eventually, a new vegetable will sprout and the kids can eat their home-grown food.

Materials: Vegetable scraps, dirt, water.

8. Patty pan craft

Children can unleash their creativity by creating their favourite animal or character using the left-over patty pans sitting in the bottom drawer. Using either a photo for reference or a printed colouring page, children can cut the patty pan to size and paste. This will not only benefit their fine motor skills but will encourage creativity when it comes to alternative materials and repurposing.

Materials: Patty pans, paint or texta, scissors, glue.

 

Precautions taken by medical staff left new mum, Jess Bowen, feeling traumatised, “diseased” and excluded during her first birthing experience.

 “I felt like I was diseased. The doctor would whisper to the nurse that I should have my mask on like I had the Corona Virus. It felt awful.”

Credit: Jess Bowen

Melbourne mum and hairdresser, Jess Bowen, gave birth to her first baby on the 28th of March this year, when the pandemic was beginning.

“My pregnancy was wonderful. I didn’t have any complications and I was excited to give birth,” shares Jess.

At Jess’s final appointment with her midwife, protein was found in the urine indicating pre-eclampsia, whereupon she was admitted into the hospital and immediately induced.

Jess laughs about not having enough time to gather her things, pack a bag or worst of all, “put on fake tan”.

Being a new mum is stressful without the added pressures of a global crisis. Jess describes her experience at the hospital as “traumatic”. She says the nurses were cold and “on edge with Covid happening. This made them short and abrupt.”

Once admitted, Jess was induced using a Foley Bulb induction, commonly known as the “Balloon Method”, where a Foley catheter is inserted into the cervix and is inflated, with sterilised water or air, over a period of time to help the cervix dilate for birth.

The nurses monitored her during the process by checking her dilation using their fingers. “It felt awful,” Jess recalls. “There’d be no warning. Just enter the room, stick their fingers in and would be disappointed because I wasn’t dilating fast enough. They weren’t reassuring me so it would just make me feel anxious.”

Credit: danielledobson_photographer

Eventually, the doctor arrived to examine her.

“He was really quite abrupt and rude. He basically told me that I had a disease (referencing her pre-eclampsia). I’m a new mum and it’s not really something that I want to hear. He just said I have a disease and we have to get this baby out.”

Jess says at one point she coughed to clear her throat, and the doctor immediately pulled the nurse aside and whispered, “she should have a mask on”.

“It was horrible to hear that. I felt so excluded and was already feeling disgusting from when the doctor called me diseased earlier.”

Jess can’t help but think how her experience may have differed if she wasn’t giving birth during these unprecedented times.

Jess rarely saw the doctor after this. Any interactions from the medical staff were limited until she was ready to deliver. After a day of the Balloon, she had only dilated one centimetre and needed to try another method.

Credit: danielledobson_photographer

 

Jess speaks highly of her head midwife, Jenny, throughout this process saying, “She was out of this world amazing, overall an experience from having that doctor, she made it so much better.”

She was then induced through the use of Oxytocin, which is a synthetic hormone that is administered through a drip in the arm to start the contractions.

Jess describes these contractions to be the most painful thing she’s ever experienced before.

 

“Immediately I felt anxious. I felt really depressed. They basically said to me that I needed to try, because at this point, I was feeling deflated and wanted to have a C-section.”

A few hours after starting the Oxytocin, Jess felt a sharp pain to the right of her stomach and had the urge to go to the toilet. The head midwife checked her and told her that she was three centimetres dilated. Jess immediately asked for an epidural, which was a 15-minute wait. During that time, Jess says she dilated 10 centimetres and was ready to deliver.

Jess went into shock and was crying through “the worst pain of her life”.

“Throughout the pushing process, I didn’t opt for any gas or pain relief because I was in such shock. It was a traumatic experience for me with everything that was going on and the treatment of the staff with Covid-19. It was frightening.”

Jess finally gave birth to her beautiful girl, Isla. Fortunately, she had her partner with her through this process.

Credit: danielledobson_photographer

“No one else was allowed to visit me in the hospital and my partner was only allowed during a small time-frame in the day, so during the inducing process and after giving birth, I didn’t have support from my family to get me through this. I just wanted my mum there.”

Hours after Jess gave birth, the nurses continued to monitor her bleeding through a weighing process to ensure there weren’t any further complications. Jess explains being “on a high with adrenaline” throughout this and wasn’t paying attention to the rising concern from the nurses as she surpassed a litre of blood.

After 20 minutes from her last check-up, Jess had sat up and explained the sensation of her “water breaking”. Jess lost 1.8 litres of blood and the head midwife called the surgeon. She recalled nurses accidentally dropping blood on the ground and described her room to be a “murder scene”.

During emergency surgery, Jess says they put a plastic box over her head. “It made me feel really small. The surgeon felt bad about it and was trying to reassure me that it was just protocol with Covid-19.”

After this, Jess was relatively okay. She had spent the last remaining hours after surgery with her partner and her new baby girl, but at 5 AM, her partner was told to leave.

“My partner was annoyed but I was still running on adrenaline, so I was less upset. I was happy and messaging my family about the good news and it was just one of those situations where ‘it is what it is’.”

Credit: Jess Bowen

When Jess was finally able to go home, Victoria’s first round of lockdown’s was in full effect and she spent her first weeks as a mother trapped in her home alone with her partner. Jess was suffering from the baby blues and wasn’t able to lean on her family for help.

“It felt like everything I was doing was wrong. I was barely sleeping, could barely walk because of the blood loss. I just didn’t know what to do. There wasn’t a single day during the six-week lockdown where I didn’t cry.”

Jess speaks about the importance of seeking help. The moment lockdown ended, she went to her psychiatrist and was put on anti-depressant medication.

“No one ever warns you about the way you feel after you give birth. I felt like it was unusual to be experiencing this level of sadness and anxiety when I have the most perfectly healthy baby girl who was gaining weight. Everyone else seemed so happy after their birth that it was hard not to compare myself to them.”

Isla is now five months old and Jess is feeling tremendously better. The lockdown had lifted so that gave her time to introduce her new baby to her family and friends.

“The medication is really helping. I’m starting to feel like myself again and my partner is seeing the improvements too.”

Even though Melbourne has gone back into lockdown again, she’s sad that her family don’t get to see Isla during some significant milestones, she feels much more prepared and stable to tackle what comes next.

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.

Last week talk show host Ellen DeGeneres found herself in hot water after describing her time in quarantine as akin to being in jail. The comments have been labelled as insensitive as DeGeneres has a net worth of $490 million and is currently isolating in a mansion worth $27 million.

Although not many of us are lucky enough to be isolating in a million-dollar home like DeGeneres, a large portion of Australians have access to housing, internet access, electricity and food. However 3 million Australians, (13.2 per cent of the population), live below the poverty line.

Australia’s 13.2 per cent is a comparatively low poverty rate when compared to developing nations, such as the African country of Sudan that has a 47 per cent poverty rate, and it’s neighbouring country South Sudan, which sits at a poverty percentage of 82.3 per cent.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc worldwide, with much of the Western world in some level of lockdown, facing months of isolation in their homes and risking hefty fines for leaving the house unnecessarily.

These strict isolation measures have been brought in to stop the spread of the virus and ‘flatten the curve’, a now well-known term in the Western world for slowing the rate of infection.

Italy, one of the worst hit countries in the world, has reached a death toll of 20,000 people after their infection rate rose at an unprecedented rate, leaving thousands of their citizens to perish and pushing their health system beyond breaking point.

As with many world-wide disasters, developed and Western nations monopolise the media and reporting, whilst it is often less developed countries (LDC) that suffer beyond repair.

A developing nation is a country that has a low or middle economy with the UN classifying countries into three broad categories, ‘developed economies, economies in transition and developing economies’, further stating that to be listed as a LDC that the ‘basic criteria for inclusion require that certain thresholds be met with regard to per capita GNI, a human assets index and an economic vulnerability index’.

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens in developed nations, the situation in LDC’s is threatening to back-pedal the work these countries have made in the last two decades and collapse their economies, with estimates that income losses may exceed $220 billion.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated in a recent report that without help from the international community, many countries could lose an entire generation to the virus; ‘an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity’, states Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UNDP.

One of the major identifiers of a LDC and/or a developing country is lack of hygiene measures and sanitation, which is exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis. The UNDP in association with WHO is working to provide aid to countries at high risk, with both appealing for help from the international community.

The situation is made even more dire in these LDC communities as there is minimal testing for the virus and a lack of ventilators, combined with populations that are already struggling, it is the formula for a perfect storm.

The testing situation is slowly improving as emergency aids and Health ministries focus on stopping the spike in demand for testing kits, sourcing more kits and training staff in affected areas.

WHO confirmed last week that Africa has over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 deaths, with many of the affected countries trade-dependent, leaving their economies at breaking point.

The messenger app WhatsApp announced in March that it will work in conjunction with WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNDP to find credible information on the COVID-19 and distribute this to countries in need, including South Africa and Indonesia.

The UNDP, WHO and the World Food Programme (WFP) continue to work together to aid the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Africa. Zimbabwe, situated in the south of Africa has a poverty percentage of 70 per cent and was struggling through a famine before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The WFP is now attempting to raise $130 million to help Zimbabwe from slipping further into poverty, along with efforts across a further 82 countries, helping approximately 87 million people through the outbreak and beyond.

We can get through COVID-19 together, as a global community, share this article and the resources in it, spread awareness, donate if you can. It is up to our leaders and us to act as a global community and help those in need, they need to hear our voices.

If you would like to donate or find out more about the COVID-19 response in developing nations, resources are linked below.

Donate:

https://www.wfp.org/support-us

https://www.unicef.org.au/donate/donate-once?appeal-gid=486e25ac-d0c8-4bc1-b798-27b7abb1626f

Further information (or any of the links in article):

https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000114205/download/?_ga=2.98097631.1751240341.1586847305-288421665.1586847305

Lisa lets it out, “I hate kids Birthday Parties”. With mounting pressure to keep up with escalating extravagance for children’s birthday parties.

she decides to make a bold stand and opt out of Birthday parties in favour of mum-daughter holidays. I’m going to share a fact with you right now that might result in you spitting out whatever hot beverage you’re consuming or cause you to want to throw a heavy object at a picture of my head, so my advice would be to stop drinking immediately and move away from all objects not connected to the floor or plugged into an electrical socket.

This fact is humiliating to admit and it’s a game changer in terms of parenting. Good, loving, decent mothers shouldn’t feel this way. But I do. And I want to get it off my chest because I’ve kept it inside for too long. The fact is, I hate children’s birthday parties. Yes. You read correctly. I hate them. Including the birthday parties of my own child. I don’t want to have them and I get absolutely no joy out of attending them.

 

“I am a busy working mum who still loathes the thought of organising a child’s birthday party.”

Let me go so far as to say that I cringe at the thought of year, after year, after bloody year, having to come up with a plethora of brilliant, new, innovative ideas so that my child can have a better party than Sally up the road, because hers was a circus theme with proper clown machines where you can stick balls into their mouths and all the kids ate fairy floss and toffee apples and would you believe that her mother hired ponies for the kids to ride on the front lawn and it gets better because Tinkerbell herself flew all the way from Pixie Hollow just to say hello as she is great friends with Sally’s mum. Oh please. Give me a break. Without a party planner I cannot afford and a thousand helpers I can’t pay on the day, I’m not going to be able to top Sally’s party EVER.

But I’m not ignorant to the pressures on kids these days to fit in with their peer groups and to be able to talk about awesome experiences their parents have bestowed upon them.

So I’ve worked out my modus operandi to explain to my precious child for years to come why this is the case and why she is never, ever, going to have a fantastic birthday party like Sally. I’m going to lie. Well ok. If that sounds too harsh let’s say I’ll stretch the truth.

I’m going to tell Bells (my three year old) that mummies only have a certain amount of money for one special thing every year, and Sally’s mummy uses her money to hire ponies that hate being ridden by annoying children who grab them by the hair and kick them in the ribs so they go home and cry. Hopefully she will see the error of Sally’s mother’s ways and ask what special thing we will do for the year. Which will be my cue to explain that we do a much more special thing than Sally’s diabetes-enabling, pony-abusing, mother because I take us both to Bali where we swim for hours in the pool and Mummy drinks Daiquiris which make her relaxed and fun and, really Bells, if you had to choose would you prefer a happy mummy or diabetes in later life?

Yep. I reckon I’m on a winner with that one. Sally’s mum is probably having a nervous breakdown from the stresses of organising a small child’s birthday party of epic proportions while I am sitting on my couch googling Bali Villas and thinking about how many Christmas presents I can buy in one Balinese DVD store. What can I say? I’m super practical.

But I’m not ignorant to the pressures on kids these days to fit in with their peer groups and to be able to talk about awesome experiences their parents have bestowed upon them.

I’m sharing all of this with you because my daughter turned three in October. I can recall like it was yesterday being asked to feature on the cover of the inaugural Offspring magazine when she was only a few months old. But I can honestly say that back then, I wasn’t sure I should do it.

I was just easing into my breakfast show on 92.9 and by easing I mean struggling. Being up from 3.30am whilst breastfeeding and thinking of strategies to get inside Lady Gaga’s hotel room are a lot to deal with, and I felt quite alone as I’m not the type of person to let on that I was finding circumstances tough or that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Unfortunately both were the case but I kept those emotions locked away and I pushed on because I had no other option. I had to work to earn money, I’d made a commitment to my co-hosts and I’d said I was ready to come back. Also, I was not a typical role model parent (I was a single mum working full-time and living with my Dad), and these facts only served to lower my self-esteem and I absolutely doubted my capabilities as a parent. So to be approached by a parenting magazine to talk about parenting was completely out of my realm. But I hesitantly said yes.

I was met at my house a few days later by a young girl who looked about 18 years old. It turns out she was Offspring’s founder and editor, Kate, and after chatting with her for a few hours I realised there were others out there juggling being mothers and wives, while taking on jobs and careers that are, to be brutally honest, really bloody challenging. That day was, as they say, a game changer. My meeting with Kate opened my eyes to the fact that there are lots of women doing more challenging jobs than me and doing them well.

Since then I have become less hard on myself about the parenting decisions I have made and will continue to make. I am a busy working mum who still loathes the thought of organising a child’s birthday party. So when my workplace offered to do just that for Isabella, I jumped at the opportunity and it was an absolute blast. The very first ‘Baby Rave’ in Perth on the rooftop of my station. There were 30 kids dressed up as little Ravers, 30 parents who were thrilled they didn’t have to do anything at all, a kiddy dance floor, Wiggles music blasting through a loudspeaker, kids dancing while shoving handfuls of lollies into their mouths, bubble machines, balloon animals and a Miss Maud’s Dora Backpack cake. Brilliant. Because I organised nothing. I wonder what Sally’s mum would’ve thought? But then again, should I really care if my kid had fun on her birthday?

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.

Think summer is over? Well think again! Thanks to the hot weather lingering long after summer has officially ended, you can keep enjoying all the best that WA has to offer.

For a perfect summer break, Rottnest springs beautifully to mind. Just saying ‘Rotto’ brings up images of the beach, bikes and barbies (the food kind, not the doll!)

Every year families and friends head over to Rotto. The beauty of it is that you can go for a just day or stay even longer. Don’t forget your hat or sunblock though!

Highlights include

  • The beaches!
  • Family Fun Park and Mini Putt-Putt
  • Just 4 Fun Aqua Park (It has a section called Little Kids Knee Deep Park for 7 years and under)
  • Snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Diving
  • Bike exploration
  • Wadjemup Walk Trail
  • Visit museums and galleries
  • Perhaps the most important one of all; have fun and relax!

For more information visit

www.rottnestisland.com

www.just4funaquapark.com.au

The Quokkas of Rottnest

The quokkas are probably the most well-known animal on Rotto. Kids love spotting them, and it can be quite competitive to see who spots them first! However, it is really important to teach children not to give them food or water, as this can be very detrimental to the quokka’s health. In fact, the Rottnest Island Rangers may issue infringement notices to anyone who does this.

 

Where to stay

Rotto has come a long way over time and now has accommodation ranging from camping and hostels to premium self-contained cottages. The camping area was renovated in 2013 and the ablution blocks now also have wheelchair access.

Top tip

If you’re planning a group booking at the campground, call Rottnest Island Reservations on 1800 11111 or 08 9432 9111.

If you like something a bit more private, then the self-contained cottages may be the way to go. Some are even heritage listed!

If you’re travelling with family and friends, they can be a great place to unwind at the end of the day while enjoying the barbie and a glass of wine.

Top Tip

Rotto is VERY popular and in the past had a ballot system for booking accommodation during peak periods. This system is no longer used, however, reservations are open approximately 18 months in advance and it is recommended to book as early as possible for any time of the year.

For more information visit

www.rottnestisland.com/accommodation

A couple of other options are the Hotel Rottnest and the Rottnest Lodge. Both offer different types of rooms as well as having a licenced restaurant on site. The Rottnest Lodge also has its own swimming pool.

Interesting fact

The Hotel Rottnest’s original building was the summer residence for the Governors of Western Australia from 1864. In 1912 Sir Gerald Strickland became its last tenanted governor.

For more information visit

www.hotelrottnest.com.au

www.rottnestlodge.com.au

Getting there

It’s very easy; you can travel by plane, ferry or even your own boat if you have one. The ferry is the most popular means of transport and you can leave from the city, Fremantle or Hillarys Boat Quay.

For more information visit

www.rottnestexpress.com.au

www.rottnestfastferries.com.au

www.rottnestairtaxi.com.au

www.ozwestaviation.com

If taking your own boat email the Rottnest Island Authority Administration at enquires@rottnestisland.com or phone 08 9432 9300

Interesting Fact

In 2014, Rottnest Island was a winner in the ‘Perth Airport WA Tourism Awards’. It won Gold in the ‘Major Tourist Attractions’ section plus silver in two other categories. Go Rotto!

Community Educator at Ngala, Stephanie Fairbairn, explores some reasons toddlers become averse to vegetables, and suggests some strategies for getting them to eat more greens.

Have you ever wondered why your once-vegetable-loving baby turned into a vege-phobic toddler at around 14-18 months of age? Why does this happen, and how can we get them back on track with their greens?

Firstly, developmentally, toddlers have a growing sense of independence and this self-determination can also sometimes affect their food preferences. They push boundaries and some tend to say “no” a lot.

Scientists studying behaviour and evolutionary adaptation have proposed some fascinating possible reasons for this. In other words, how humans adapted to their environment in order to survive. Scientists have put forward the idea that babies being carried by an adult in the ancient savannah were relatively safe from harm and potential hazards, but as soon as they became mobile and independent, self-protecting behaviours had to kick in to prevent them from putting anything and everything into their mouths.

This applies particularly to green vegetables. Spinach, broccoli and other green leafy veg possess a group of chemical compounds that provide an ‘alkaloid’ taste – think of the smell when we’ve left the brussel sprouts on too long. Plants have sophisticated defence mechanisms, like spikes, thorns, stingers and chemical poisons to dissuade from being eaten, and many poisons have bitterness as a hallmark taste whereas sweetness tends to be ‘safe’, like breast milk – hence our preference for sweet tastes. The aversion to bitter taste is heightened at toddlerhood, to alert them to potentially harmful things to eat.

The aversion to bitter taste is heightened at toddlerhood, to alert them to potentially harmful things to eat.

To test this theory, researchers from Yale University in the US conducted an experiment with toddlers, looking at how they interacted with non-food items like wooden spoons, metal toys and cardboard, compared to green leafy plants. They found that the toddlers were significantly less likely to touch the green leafy items compared to the other objects, and took longer to reach out to them. There is also research to show that humans are likely to possess a gene that makes us particularly sensitive to detecting bitterness from our taste receptors. As children have more taste sensitivity than adults by nature of their age, adults may not taste flavours as sensitively as children.

 

All this is very interesting, but how do we overcome the battle to get our toddlers to eat their greens? There are several strategies that we can put into practice:

  • What tends to work in the long term so that we enjoy our five vegetables and two fruit a day later in life, is for parents to be seen to role model eating a variety of vegetables and fruit at mealtimes and snacks. You may have noticed already that your toddler copies your actions; what you say, do, and items you use (think mobile phones!). You may have also noticed that there are times they eat food off your plate that they would never eat off their own, this is down to feeling safe to eat food you eat. 
  • Have a fruit bowl in the middle of the table for visibility and accessibility. Think creatively about how you prepare and serve vegetables – cut them in different shapes, use a crinkle cutter, keep vegetables raw rather than cooked, use a dip or sauce, get your toddler to help you wash vegetables and put them on a plate.
  • Be persistent and patient – it can take many times presenting the food to your toddler before it’s accepted.
  • Let your toddler help themselves from a serving plate on the table. 
  • Grow something simple like herbs or tomatoes with your toddler – it’s worth the effort and they learn along the way.
  • Google it! If you are fresh out of ideas pick the brains of millions of others who have gone before. Pinterest and image sites are a good resource for triggering your imagination and creativity.
  • Offer healthy foods and snacks. If your toddler refuses to eat their vegetables, it does not mean they get rewarded with non-healthy food.
  • Relax! We are working towards a long-term habit not a mandatory daily chore. Vegetable success will only come when your child gets there in his own time.
  • Remember, toddler’s tummies are tiny – appropriate servings at this age are two vegetable and two fruit a day – about the size of their own fist.

Remember, toddler’s tummies are tiny – appropriate servings at this age are two vegetable and two fruit a day – about the size of their own fist.

 Unhelpful strategies include:

  • Force feeding: You might win the battle, but you lose the war in the longer term.
  • Cheerleading! Parents who get really excited their two-year-old has finally put the broccoli up to their mouth should not be surprised that this overly emotional response encourages the toddler to press their emotional buttons by putting it down again. It’s a great game!
  • Bribing: ‘If you eat your carrots now, you get ice-cream later’ – this will tend to create a negative association that ‘I have to eat the nasty stuff to get the good stuff’.
  • Telling a toddler that a particular vegetable is good for them and therefore they should eat it. You can try this strategy, but toddlers are not that easily convinced – and it may become the trigger sentence that reinforces an automatic ‘No’.

Check out further information and parenting workshops at www.ngala.com.au

Nine-year-old boy Scott Gerini has raised more than $75,000 for Telethon’s sick children over the years but now he faces his own very serious health struggles from what his family suspect is the highly contentious illness, ‘Lyme Disease’, which medics claim doesn’t exist in Australia 

In 2010, four-year-old Scott Guerini wanted to ‘help sick kids and babies’, so he decided to walk 24km, collecting donations for Perth’s Telethon along the way. “Scott’s Great Walk” became an annual event which has morphed into a 42.915km marathon, from his father’s Southern Cross wheat farm to the local sports oval.

Over the years, miners from Cliffs Natural Resources and junior footballers have joined Scott on parts of the walk, and in 2014, police escorted him with sirens and flashing lights for the last few kilometres. In five years, Scott has battled wind, rain and freezing temperatures to raise over $75,000.

Ironically, Scott is now one of those ‘sick kids’. In November 2013, his mother, Nicole, noticed Scott scratching the backs of his legs with his shoes while he stood in the bush in Kings Park. The following day he complained to her of tiredness and queasiness, but refused to miss school.

In five years, Scott has battled wind, rain and freezing temperatures to raise over $75,000.

When he arrived home he stripped off his uniform and curled up in bed – an unusual occurrence for Nicole’s “energiser bunny”. Although he experienced cold sweats, Nicole says his temperature and breathing were normal. When she couldn’t rouse him for dinner, she became concerned. The next morning she noticed a bulls-eye rash on Scott’s swollen legs. The local chemist admitted he had never seen anything like it but told Nicole it was probably an allergic reaction and prescribed antihistamine.

The rash disappeared in a matter of days but, according to Nicole, debilitating fatigue, daily headaches and agonising stomach pain continued to plague Scott. Other symptoms he has experienced and continues to experience, in varying degrees of severity and regularity, include loss of bladder control, 40 degree temperatures and hallucinations, dizziness, stinging eyes, a crawling sensation over and under his skin, an inability to focus, aggressive and erratic behavioural changes, tingling in limbs, numbness in fingers and hands, loss of motor skills, memory lapses, unconsciousness, tremors, nausea, anxiety and ‘popping’ in his brain. Scott also suffers from pains in his leg, chest, neck and upper spine.

Nicole says that in other countries Scott’s symptoms are enough for a clinical diagnosis but very few Australian GP’s will risk their reputation to diagnose Lyme Disease.

Within 16 months Scott underwent countless blood tests plus an MRI and EEG scan, and visited a range of specialists including a gastroenterologist, a neurologist, a paediatrician and finally a specialist of infectious diseases who, Nicole says, all concluded Scott was ill but were at a loss to explain why.

Nicole felt increasingly frustrated until early in 2015 when a friend suggested the possibility that Scott was suffering from Lyme Disease. Nicole admits never having heard of it, but her research uncovered a notable symptom – a bulls-eye rash. Armed with this information Nicole returned to the doctors but says, “Because we hadn’t travelled to the areas they believed was necessary to pick it up, they weren’t terribly concerned with the evidence that we presented to them, and the connection that it had to Lyme.”

A 1994 tick research study, ‘Lyme disease: a search for a causative agent in ticks in south-eastern Australia’, which failed to find conclusive evidence of the bacteria that causes true Lyme Disease, has resulted in the prevailing viewpoint that this disease does not exist in Australia. Nicole disagrees and laments, “As with many things, a lot of the time you don’t know about something until it affects you. This is very much the case for us. I didn’t realise how many people were affected. The difficulties that they face. It’s heartbreaking.”

As Scott’s health deteriorated, his absences from school increased, his school sports were cancelled and he lacked the energy to participate in swimming lessons with his classmates. Nicole finds the more he rests, the better his body seems to cope. She says hot showers and heat packs soothe his aches and pains, and excluding gluten, dairy and reducing his sugar intake, appears to ease his symptoms.

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Scott has yet to meet someone his own age who is experiencing similar health issues and even though he’s a fighter, Nicole admits that it’s starting to affect him emotionally. She is grateful for the monthly support group she and Scott attend. “It’s good to be around people who are supportive and will listen to you. They’re in the same position, so they’ve been through all the same things. They know exactly how you’re feeling.”

Waiting lists to see a certain GP who treats over 400 patients in Perth with Lyme-like symptoms, are months long.

Nicole says Scott has gone from a healthy child to one who never feels well and he doesn’t understand why no one seems willing to help him. This feeling propelled him to write a letter to then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, stating, “It makes me feel worried and sad. I just want to feel better. Please, please, please help me and everyone else who is suffering the same way I am.”

In a media release dated 30th June 2015, the Lyme Disease Association of Australia (LDAA) were hoping that new research released on 25th June 2015 by Murdoch University in the journal, Parasites and Vectors, which they believe provides “scientific evidence that Lyme-like pathogens are present in Australia” will persuade the Australian Government to rethink their current stance.

Nicole says that in other countries Scott’s symptoms are enough for a clinical diagnosis but very few Australian GP’s will risk their reputation to diagnose Lyme Disease. She says waiting lists to see a certain GP who treats over 400 patients in Perth with Lyme-like symptoms, are months long. Scott finally secured an appointment in April 2015. It cost Nicole $3000 to send her son’s blood to Sydney and Germany for conclusive testing which detected rickettsia and bartonella with further tests pending. Nicole says, “It shouldn’t be this hard to get your child healthy.”

 

Last year’s Telethon walk was extremely difficult for Scott…“ It’s like glass is sticking through his feet or that he’s got rocks in his shoes, those kinds of sensations.”

She adds, “He’s got all this going on but he’s not letting it stop him. He’s still going to school, he’s still doing his walk, he is still contributing to society. It’s nothing to fear. People who have this [disease] are still people. They deserve better”. Last year’s Telethon walk was extremely difficult for Scott. Nicole says, “We had lots of rests, massages and shoe changes because of the pain. It’s like glass is sticking through his feet or that he’s got rocks in his shoes, those kinds of sensations.”

This year he has been named the Telethon Little Ambassador and, determined not to let anyone down, he completed the marathon in 11 hours and 32 minutes. Nicole says, “He found the recovery a lot harder than previous years. [He] couldn’t even get out of bed two days later to eat dinner. He was completely washed out.”

This year he has been named the Telethon Little Ambassador and, determined not to let anyone down, he completed the marathon in 11 hours and 32 minutes.

While Nicole discusses treatments, she is reluctant to pump Scott full of drugs while his body is already overloaded, possibly causing other problems down the track. Scott continues his fight against the bugs that have invaded his body with the courage and determination that propelled him to help other ill children.

Avoiding Tick Bites

  • Wear a hat, long sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
  • Spray Insecticide containing permethrin on clothing and shoes.
  • Apply Insect repellent containing DEET to bare skin (DEET is toxic to children).
  • Avoid brushing against long grass and shrubs.
  • Wear light coloured clothing to spot ticks.