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An OSHC coordinator shares what she wishes parents knew about the educators and programs their children attend.

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) programs can often be overlooked by the community as a babysitting service, but it’s more advanced than that. Educators of an OSHC program are required to do a number of things based on the National Quality Standards and National Regulations set out by the Department of Education

During my eight years as a coordinator and running a large service of 60+ kids, here’s a few things that I wish the parents knew and feel they would have benefitted from. 

Child portfolios

Every service dedicates a portfolio to each child. In these portfolios, they will have the child’s development using My Time, Our Place. Alternative to school-based education, educators will observe the children in a social setting, paying attention to their ability to learn adequate life skills. These skills can be in making friends, solving tense situations, being environmentally conscious, considering their community, interacting with others in a respectful way, being resilient, and many more. 

Portfolios often have photos and examples of what they’ve done within the service, accompanied by a written learning story/observation.

These are used for the educators to document the child’s development and ensure that they’re developing specific to their needs. The educators focus on one key area of development, determined by the parent or the educator’s observations, and then work on developing that skill.

Parents can gain access to this by asking the educators, but this should also leave with the child at the end of their journey at the OSHC program.

Daily reflection journal and program

Most OSHC services will have a reflection journal near the sign out desk. The intention of the journal is for the educators, children and parents to critically reflect on the program for the week. This is also used to document experiences within the program such as evacuation drills, community participation, and any major changes. 

OSHC can get loud and busy so it’s important for parents to read the reflection journal or planner so they are aware of what’s happening within the service. Parents can also use the journal to make comments about the program, whether that’s positive or simply a suggestion of improvement.

Parents are always encouraged to provide their feedback and get involved.

Complaints

More commonly, services are run by large companies (Camp Australia, OSHClub, Team Kids, Big Childcare, and more). It can be easier for a parent to address any complaints directly to the company and avoid confrontation, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to communicate with the service educators.

Most educators take pride in their work and working with children can often lead to miscommunications or misinterpretations. Each child and family are different, and unfortunately, educators aren’t perfect.

With an industry that is incredibly personal and high intensity, I wish parents would communicate directly to the educators with any concerns.

Communicate clearly and build that relationship. If it doesn’t improve, then take it further. 

Documentation

There are expectations set by the Department of Education and National Regulations about specific documentation that is required from the parents for their child to attend. It is stressful for the coordinator because if it’s not perfect, this can leave the service non-compliant and unsafe under the Regulations. 

This type of documentation commonly includes enrolment forms (filled out correctly and fully) and medical management plans with their corresponding risk minimisation and authorisation to give medication (medication provided should be in the prescription packaging including full name of child and dosage labelled).

The government sets high standards for the safety of the children and if the service doesn’t comply, they can risk being shut down. If parents don’t provide this, they have to then confront the parent and have a difficult conversation about excluding their child until compliant. It’s unfortunately not as simple as “letting them come” anymore. There are laws and regulations to follow, so I hope that parents have this in mind when working with their educators.

Assessment and Rating

Every service goes through a process with the Department of Education called Assessment and Rating where they will attend and assess the service based off of the seven National Quality Areas. These areas include: 

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

These assessments should be completed frequently, but usually occur every couple of years. These rating outcomes can be accessed on the ACECQA website and is a good indication of where the service is at for quality of care. 

I highly recommend that parents get involved in this process and ask where they can assist in improving the quality of care as having the community and families involved is a huge part of this. A service that has a rating of Meeting, Exceeding Themes or Excellent is doing well. If a service has received Working Towards, it usually means that they weren’t compliant when the department visited (back to that documentation!).

Food provided

Each service has a licence to serve specific food through the local council and must abide by the level of that licence. This means that some services can’t provide food that requires refrigeration. 

Educators understand that children might want butter on their toast and real milk with their cereal, but unfortunately the licence doesn’t allow this. And no, families can’t provide these items to be consumed by their child. If any of these foods are found by the council, the service could receive a fine and be closed for breaking their licence agreements. 

Please, be understanding with this. Most educators at the service can’t control this or change it. The same goes for nut products. Most schools do ban nuts, but being in a space that has a large variety of children attending, it isn’t worth a child’s life so another can eat a Nutella sandwich.

Educators buying supplies using their own money

Most companies have a clause in the employee’s agreement that they’re not to buy anything for the children using their own money, but most educators don’t comply. Throughout my eight years in the industry, I bought many things like craft supplies, storage solutions, candy canes, Halloween and Christmas decorations, books, costumes, Easter eggs, speakers, movies, games, sporting equipment and many more. 

There’s a budget for each service and it’s usually never enough to decorate the room and provide enough supplies to entertain the children. It means the world when parents recognise the hard work educators put into not only the presentation of the service, but also the activities provided. There is a lot that goes on outside of those couple of minutes parents’ step into the service, so recognition is always appreciated.

With all of this in mind, I just ask that parents take the time to appreciate their educators more.

I understand that this isn’t applicable for all educators (I know more than anyone that there can be a few awful educators out there), but for the majority, they work really hard. They go above and beyond for the children in their service to ensure that they feel at home while their parents are working late. 

Parents can get busy, but taking the time to stop every once in a while, and having a conversation with the educators, read what they write in the journal, asking to see their child’s portfolio or even complimenting how the room looks can completely change an educator’s day. 

Building those trusting and respectful relationships can be incredibly important not just to the children, but also the adults involved. 

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.

Gender reveal videos are the latest social media craze for expectant parents looking for a fun way to disclose the gender of their baby-to-be. However, an increasing number of couples, including many celebrities, are opting to forgo this trend in order to raise their children gender neutrally.

In 2019, the leading children’s entertainment company, <a href=”https://news.mattel.com/news/mattel-launches-gender-inclusive-doll-line-inviting-all-kids-to-play”>Mattel</a>, launched ‘The Creative World’ doll range, enabling children to choose from a range of skin tones, hairstyles, clothes and styling options.

“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” says <a href=”http://www.barbiemedia.com/bios/executive.html”>Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design.</a>

Is now the time to embrace the progressive initiative of gender-neutral parenting?

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>So, what does ‘gender-neutral’ actually mean?</em></strong></span>

The term ‘gender neutral’ relates to avoiding the assignment of roles and expectations based on someone’s gender.

The goal is to move away from stereotypical assumptions and encourage increased creativity and freedom for individuals to choose who they want to be.

Many feel growing up in a gender-neutral environment increases one’s tolerance of others.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>Why should we encourage gender-neutral parenting?</em></strong></span>

Encouraging boys to only play with trucks when they really want to play with dolls, for example, conveys a message that their true desires are not valid. Growing up in an environment where a child feels they need to hide their true self could lead to problems later in life as the child faces an ongoing internal emotional battle.

Many feel growing up in a gender-neutral environment increases one’s tolerance of others.An understanding that people can choose how to dress and which sports they enjoy, regardless of gender, can mean they meet  with acceptance rather than judgement.

Some argue that a lack of diversity in the workplace begins in childhood when gender is often assigned to certain hobbies and interests – girls dressing up as nurses and a boy dressing up as a builder, for example – conveying a message these jobs are gender specific. Increased exposure to the possibility of male nurses and female builders could enhance a child’s freedom when choosing a career.

The way in which we respond to our children when they are scared or upset can reinforce gender stereotypes<em>. </em>When boys cry, some parents feel they need to show less compassion to encourage resilience, whereas girls are often shown more affection. Perhaps if we removed these gender specific responses, we may encourage our sons to grow up unafraid of expressing emotions.

Supporting children to express themselves authentically and make choices based on what feels good to them could help nurture increased creativity and strong self esteem.

Some argue that a lack of diversity in the workplace begins in childhood when gender is often assigned to certain hobbies and interests.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>How can we create a gender-neutral environment?</em></strong></span>

For many, creating a gender-neutral environment means no longer buying blue for boys and pink for girls and choosing colours and images that do not enforce a particular gender stereotype.

It may mean ensuring household chores are gender-neutral, encouraging children to learn it is not just their mother who cooks the meals and it is not just their father who takes the rubbish out.

We could encourage children to play with all kinds of toys, have various hobbies, play a variety of sports and read an assortment of books. Enabling children to see that girls also play football, boys can practice ballet, girls play with trucks and boys play with dolls, for example, helps children develop a mixture of interests and skills.

For some, raising children in a gender neutral environment can take a more extreme approach. In 2010, a Swedish couple opted to keep the sex of their baby, ‘Pop,’ a secret to discourage stereotypes being placed on their child. Many are following this example and choosing to not use the pronouns ‘him’ or ‘her’ at home, opting for ‘they’, which is deemed more gender inclusive.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>Could gender-neutral parenting cause harm?</em></strong></span>

<a href=”http://lindablair.co.uk/?LMCL=uvrFql”>Clinical Psychologist, Linda Blair</a>, feels parents may be doing a disservice to their children. Linda argues that ‘between the ages of three and seven, children are searching for their identity, a part of which, is their gender.’ Children want to feel a sense of belonging and ‘fitting in’. Avoiding the assignment of a gender may make a child feel confused about who they are and where they fit in a society where gender roles remain prominent.

There is a concern that once a child starts school, their gender-neutrality may open them up to ridicule and bullying. Most children grow up in traditional households where gender is assigned at birth, which could make school years incredibly difficult for those who do not identify with a specific gender.

Many worry that children will grow up without a strong sense of their own identity and will never truly feel they belong. This may impact on their emotional wellbeing as they grow into adulthood.

The way in which we respond to our children when they are scared or upset can reinforce gender stereotypes.

<span style=”color: #33cccc;”><strong><em>What does the future hold?</em></strong><em> </em></span>

Many feel it will not be long before gender-neutral education systems are introduced. A preschool in <a href=”https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14038419″>Sweden</a> has taken the lead on this, being the first of its kind to create a gender neutral environment, offering a variety of gender inclusive books, toys and sports; the use of pronouns that assign gender is also not allowed, opting instead for the term ‘friends’, ‘they’ or the genderless pronoun ‘hen.’

While some feel raising children in a gender-neutral environment will support their emotional wellbeing, others still worry it will create a childhood of confusion. When one of the largest doll making companies in the world introduces a more inclusive doll range, it is reflective of our ever evolving society in which gender identities are becoming more fluid.

Deciding on a school for your little ones can be daunting! With so many options, all with their own pros and cons, it can be overwhelming. So how can you weigh up which is the best option for your child?

Choosing the most suitable school for your child can be a big decision. In addition to finding an education style that fits our child, as parents, we also want to ensure our kids’ learning environment is safe, fun, stimulating and nurturing.
Offspring explores some of the benefits of the education options available in Australia.

GOVERNMENT/PUBLIC:

For many parents, the local public school is their go-to, close to public transport, in their local community and often where past family members have attended. Government/public schools are a popular option in Australia.
Government schools have a guaranteed place for a child if the school is in their local catchment.
However, if you would like to send your child to a public school outside of your area, there is not a guaranteed spot. For your child to attend a Government school they must attend an interview with the principal and there is a voluntary small fee.
Most public school’s fees cost between $50-300 and payment plans are sometimes available for low-socioeconomic areas and families.

INDEPENDENT/PRIVATE:

Independent and private schooling is an umbrella term that covers all independent and private schools, such as Catholic, Steiner and Montessori schools.
For many parents, private education is a great way to find a school that can tailor to your child’s spiritual and learning needs.
If parents decide to choose a private school for their child, they must allow considerable time to apply for various schools as no places are guaranteed, also extra fees and tuition prices must be considered also.

RELIGIOUS:

Religious schooling is a popular option in Australia, with Catholic schooling being the second most popular choice by Australian parents after Government and public schooling.
Religious schools require a meeting with the principal, with all students accepted at the discretion of the school.
In religious schooling, it is most likely families of the church that are accepted first, however many schools do not require your family to be a part of their religion.

There are many different religious schools in Australia, such as Catholic, Jewish and Baptist, providing more options for parents who want their child to be schooled in a religious environment.

STEINER:

Steiner schooling or Waldorf schooling follows a curriculum based upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and social reformer. Steiner schools have been operating in Australia for 60 years and are growing in popularity, with statistics from Steiner Education Australia showing that 87 per cent of parents are happy they chose to send their children to a Steiner school.
Steiner schooling is a holistic approach to learning where the children are discouraged from using modern technology whilst at school.
At Steiner schools the teachers stay with the same class not just for one year, but for the student’s entire time in primary school.
Steiner schools base their learning largely on communication and forming strong bonds between child, family and teacher.
Steiner education focuses on moral growth and aims to let their students learn artistically, spiritually and practically, cherishing childhood. As with many private schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and fees apply.
For more information about Steiner schooling go to: www.steinereducation.edu.au

TIP: Have a budget for your child’s schooling fees, uniform and other related costs and try to stick to it!

MONTESSORI:

Montessori is an education program that focuses on developing the ‘full human being’ and providing education that is an aid to life, based on the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and teacher.
The Montessori schooling program focuses on children taking their time to complete their schoolwork and having their own independence to work at their own pace.
The Montessori schooling program is growing in Australia, with over 300 schools and centres nationwide.
There are many programs available, starting from as young as 18 months old to adulthood, with the aim of providing a whole life of support for their students.
As with most independent schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and extra fees apply.
For more information about Montessori schooling go to:

COMMUNITY/ALTERNATIVE/OPEN LEARNING:

Community/Open learning education programs and schooling is often referred to as alternative schooling, where the school commonly creates its own curriculum.
These schools are very small, independent and often hold a close- knit community, sometimes running out of community houses.
These learning facilities are targeted at all ages but are especially valuable for children who have different interests or a learning style that doesn’t fit into mainstream curriculums.

HOME SCHOOLING:

Home Schooling is now a viable schooling option used by many, not just families living in remote areas. Home Schooling allows parents to spend more time with their kids and tailor their learning to suit their child’s needs.
Lots of families choose to home school for various reasons such as bullying, disabilities or even their child being gifted.
Each state has its own registration processes, with Home Schooling open to any child aged 6-17 years Australia wide. To register, one must have their child’s birth certificate and have made a learning plan or rough lesson plans to include.
Home education is different to distance education, which follows the national curriculum and is supplied to parents, primarily used by families in remote locations who can’t access their nearest school easily.
For more information about home education go to your state’s registration and qualifications authority.

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.”

Castelmaine Steiner School is located in Muckleford, VIC and offers education from kindergarten to class 8 and is growing fast.

Commencing as a Kindergarten in 1988 in the home of one of its students, The Castlemaine Steiner School & Kindergarten is now a thriving school of approximately 230 students. In 1995, the school moved to its current location, which at the time was 18 acres of flattened sheep grazing land. Today the site is a stunning sanctuary of indigenous flora and fauna, featuring a bush tucker island, beautiful walking tracks and is home to diverse birdlife. Situated approximately 7 mins drive from Castlemaine, the school has transformed itself with biodynamic practices and permaculture design.

“Steiner education is recognised internationally as a valuable approach to helping young people develop flexible, agile thinking, alongside an ability to collaborate and thrive in a 21st Century world,” said Principal, Brian Dodd.

The school offers programs from Playgroup to Class 8, following which, students can then transfer to the local Steiner Stream at Castlemaine Secondary College for Years 9 & 10. Many families begin learning about Steiner education and philosophy by joining the Playgroup program. It is a much-loved weekly 2-hour session for children aged birth to 4 years. It includes activities such as scone baking, outdoor & indoor play, crafts, and circle time for singing & storytelling.

The Early Childhood program continues into Kindergarten & Prep, where foundations are laid for later learning and healthy development, including life-long physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth. They believe an atmosphere of loving warmth and guidance provides the optimal environment for healthy development, and that educators have a vital role in modelling and scaffolding a child’s natural urge to explore and experiment. Young children are given time to play, enjoy childhood and build strong foundations skills before formal academic learning begins.

Acknowledging the Traditional Owners of this country, the school has strong connections to the local Dja Dja Wurrung people. Their culture and story is meaningfully woven throughout the curriculum and Outdoor Education program. The Outdoor Education program is designed to develop the student’s understanding of their place in the natural world, through immersion in it. As children develop their sense of adventure confidence develops, connectedness with the environment and a sense of stewardship toward the natural world.

Music is incorporated through all levels of the school, with formal tuition commencing with a stringed instrument in Class 3. Music tuition is compulsory and continues through to Class 8, with students encouraged by opportunities to play in ensemble groups and learn multiple instruments. The benefits of music are well documented and the school utilises music as further way to develop social learning, fine and gross motor skills, and build on maths concepts.

A new Scholarships program provides a limited number of partly or fully subsidised places for students who meet eligibility criteria, and is open to entry at any year level.  The school is committed to creating a socially inclusive and diverse community and via this new Scholarship program, is pleased to continue promoting and encouraging the benefits of Steiner Education across the region. Principal Brian Dodd says “We want to ensure that that the benefits of this schooling option are more broadly available to children in our regional community. This year we also introduced a 25% fee discount for families with a Health Care Card, and have for many years offered sibling discounts, fee assistance and bursaries to reduce financial barriers to enrolling in the school.”

The school welcomes visitors each week for tours with the Principal and offers free trial sessions within its Playgroup program to anyone interested in witnessing the benefits of Steiner education. Contact the Enrolments Officer, Tracey Robertson on 5479 2000 or Traceyr@cssk.vic.edu.au for further information.

“Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.”

Literacy is a fundamental skill that everyone needs in order to access education, work and the community. With modern digital devices being able to read and write is now even more vital, not less as was once thought when computers first arrived.

Literacy is not an intuitive action, unlike walking and talking; it is a human construct that requires the building of new connections in the brain.

There are a variety of reasons why someone does not develop good literacy skills. The most commonly recognised cause of delayed or poor literacy skills is Dyslexia. Other learning difficulties also impact, and these include dysgraphia, dyspraxia, hearing issues, ADHD, Autism, Global Learning delay, short, and long term, memory problems etc.

A lack of good early play and language experiences impact on a child’s ability to cope with literacy, concentrate, sit at a desk and to write.

How a person is taught to read is slowly being recognised as significantly impacting on a person’s literacy development or lack thereof. Like all learning one size does not fit all.

Scientific studies tell us that the best literacy programs will develop a student’s ability to sound out and sound blend a word, ensure the student understands the meaning of all the individual words and derive meaning and information from the sentences formed from these words.

Learning to spell, read and understand words allows us all to communicate with others and to enjoy the wonderful stories and information available in books and other forms of text.

Learning to read and write English does not come easily for everybody as it involves many complex interactions in the brain. When foundation skills are missed it can cause significant difficulties later.

Students struggling with reading become anxious and can turn away from literacy and education as a result.  A student who struggles with literacy often begins to feel that they are dumb because they can’t read. Nothing is further from the truth. Many people with exceptional IQs have struggled with literacy. Unfortunately, without correct instruction to help their brain develop the pathways needed to work with the written word these individuals may not develop their true potential.

With an understanding of how the brain develops and learns to decipher the written word the Reading For Sure program was developed to quickly help the learner build the foundation skills and brain pathways needed for literacy. The Reading for Sure program uses unique teaching tools to continue to develop these skills so that the learner can achieve in all areas of English Literacy.

Our recent study of 180 students, with a broad range of difficulties impacting their literacy acquisition, showed excellent improvement for every hour of tuition. The 180 students included students that were not learning via standard teaching methods, dyslexia, English as a second language etc. and started tuition at ages ranging from 5 to 20 years old. The students were taught by one of four Reading For Sure teachers.

The data showed that not only did every child improve their literacy, but that on average for every hour spent with one of our teachers, the students improved 1.6 months in their reading age. The data for the spelling was not complete for all the 180 students but, using the data available, the average gain in spelling was 0.4 of a month improvement for each hour of tuition.

Within just a few lessons parents and students see the difference. The student’s confidence blossoms, and they begin to enjoy the reading and learning process once more. This reading gain also quickly equates to better outcomes in their education environment. Literacy is the core skill needed for all subjects and students enjoy school so much more when they are not struggling with their literacy.

“Finding the Reading for sure method was a relief. To discover a method that works and makes sense to my dyslexic daughter, has not only greatly improved her reading, it has given her confidence and a sense achievement” says Mrs. Clements.

With the correct program and teaching methods no person young or old needs to struggle with literacy.

Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.

Visit the Reading for Sure website and see our new blog series about how parents can help their young children develop the pre literacy skills they need to be able to learn all the literacy skills when they go to school. This free blog series will give parents hints and ideas about the activities that help the brain and body develop ready for literacy and learning and what to look out for if things may not be developing as they should.

Reading For Sure is an Australian program with its office in Perth. www.readingforsure.com.au

In her new book Mind Kind award winning child psychologist, Dr Joanna North, advocates for a new approach to parenting that has kindness and self-compassion at its heart.

The experiences and information discussed in this piece are an edited extract from Mind Kind (Exisle , 2019) by Dr Joanne North, which you can find here.

Over many years of practice with families and my own experience of parenting, I have concluded that love is not, in fact, enough to make you a good parent. I have seen many parents, who without doubt have loved and adored their children, have their children taken out of their care by local authorities.

This is, of course, extremely sad but parents who love their children don’t necessarily help them to develop in a healthy or psychologically coherent way and may take their eye off the task sufficiently that their children are in danger or lose out and are disadvantaged. Conversely, I have met parents who have everything imaginable in their lives in terms of privilege, financial security and status, but this is not the same as offering love and good parenting, and so their children still lose out in terms of feeling secure and loved, despite all these other resources. There are many parents who have very little materially but are able to provide secure and commendable parenting to their children so that they grow up to seek advantageous opportunities.

Many parents, who…loved and adored their children, have their children taken out of their care by local authorities.

So what are the forces at work that guide parents down the right or wrong road and what are the goals we are heading for? Along with commitment, I advocate a more mindful approach to parenting. .

While I don’t want to prescribe a framework, I have put together a set of principles and concepts that I have learnt are of importance to the task. These principles and concepts could be broadly termed as leading to ‘mindful’ or ‘mind-minded’ parenting that is focused on the developing mind of the child and can be corralled under the term ‘Mind Kind’. I want parents to learn the skill of being kind to their child’s mind I intend to make it easy for you to think about these things and have developed the acronym of PATACCAKE, which describes the desirable emotional/feeling states or qualities in parents (rather than a desirable set of prescribed behaviours) that combine to make for Mind Kind parenting. PATACCAKE stands for:

Patience

Acceptance

Tolerance

Attunement

Commitment

Compassion

Awareness

Kindness

Empathy.

We can’t come up with these constructive emotions and states of mind all the time and we are going to have days when we can only just get through living in an accepting way. We all have to live with our reactive emotions and soothe them as best we can, and really, what would life be if we did not have this reactivity to deal with, and how would we teach our children? Polarity is very much part of the world in which we live. But PATACCAKE is a reminder of where we can be, what is hopeful and as an ideal to aim for when we can.

Love is not…enough to make you a good parent.

Sesame seed

I have also built the acronym SESAME SEED. The themes of ‘sesame seed parenting’ form the cornerstones of being a Mind Kind parent and offer the major clues to achieving parenting that makes your children feel good.

Secure

Secure parenting can be achieved by parents who want to know how to support children to feel stable, secure and able to cope with life. This means the child feels good from the inside because they acknowledge their emotional life, including thoughts, feelings and emotions. They will also have some sense of how to organize, manage and regulate these very real forces that flow through their lives for the rest of their lives. Thoughts and feelings affect behaviour and wellbeing, and they represent the workings of our mind. This means that by paying attention to the inner world of children as well as the outer world, parents are offering enduring skills and support through their relationship with their children.

Emotion

The neuroscientific reality is that our emotional lives deeply influence our mind, brain and wellbeing and are a force for survival and contentment rather than an annoying human tendency to be ignored.

Emotions are a communication to us about our sensory response to our environment, our experience of it and our security within that environment. Parents who are mindful of emotion will help their children experience the broad range of their emotional lives and manage these emotions as a flow of energy and information about themselves, their relationships and their environment. Emotions can range from the depths of despair to the heights of joy and we are made to travel through this range, rather than get stuck in one predominant state.

 

If we can help our children to understand that minds can change, and to be patient with moods and tolerate uncomfortable states of mind, we will be truly helping them to successfully survive.

Symbolic behaviour

All behaviour is a communication about life and a set of symptoms of what is going on for a child in their environment, and their thoughts and feelings about this. We have to help our children become aware of and manage their own behaviour and channel into positive outcomes the natural energetic impulses that are part of life.

Most behaviour relates to human need. Therefore, behaviour is likely to be a map of our child’s needs. If we don’t like it we shouldn’t blame them for it. Instead, we should look at why it is happening and what we can do to change that. We could remember the five basic needs; the need to belong, the need to achieve, the need for fun and enjoyment, the need for freedom and independence and the need to have a sense that we will safely survive. If parents are not fulfilling the totality of these needs, their children will act this out. We need to learn the craft of understanding emotion, thought and behaviour.

Five basic needs; the need to belong, the need to achieve, the need for fun and enjoyment, the need for freedom and independence and the need to have a sense that we will safely survive.

Adversity

Life is never going to be without challenge or change. You have to be prepared for periods of adversity and ‘mend the roof while the sun is shining’. This means that parents have a grip on the realities of life and are prepared for how to cope when children need more of their help than usual.

It is a certainty that life is going to happen to you, just as it does to every other parent around the world. The cycle of life, death and birth, growth and regrowth is just about the only reliable cycle that we can be sure of.. So it is not a case of if you will meet something difficult in your life but when. While we face up to how difficult life can be, we also face up to how resourceful we can be as humans and what we can do when the going gets tough. There are few magical solutions, but we can put in imagination and effort to finding real solutions.

Mindfulness and mental health

Mental wellbeing for children could be described as helping them to organize their minds, along with organizing your mind. You will be making that journey to recovery with your child. Your reaction and response to any condition is going to contribute to their recovery. They will need you to feel stable, informed and sure-footed. They don’t need your anxiety about them to be added into the mix. It is hard for loving and committed parents not to feel panicky about their children at times — this is only natural. We need to attend to our fears and then move forward. Parents and carers need to understand what is happening in their own mind so that they can support their children from a position of strength and security.

Errors in parenting

You will make errors in your parenting. It is not so much the error that you make but the way you put it right that will mean something to your child. So after you shout and overreact (which we have all done) try to understand the situation and talk with your child about it, explaining your reaction and setting out a new plan for a better result next time — both in you and in your child.

After you shout and overreact…try to understand the situation and talk with your child about it, explaining your reaction and setting out a new plan for a better result next time.

Sense of self and self-image

Regardless of the society we live in, image is important. Archaeology is constantly proving to us that men and women in ancient civilizations (Egypt, for example, some 4000 years ago) were just as focused on what they looked like, as well as what they felt like, spending time on artefacts for themselves and their environments, using make-up and painting their experiences in their homes and temples. It is our creative and social instincts that make us focus on how we choose to present ourselves, but there are psychological issues in play because our self-image is based on our sense of self and how we feel we are accepted within society. We expect teenagers to experiment with self-image while deciding who they are and how they want to be, and we may be surprised at who they want to be.

 

Eating and self-worth

Ultimately you and your children will become what you eat. You have to decide whether you want to feel like a sugar-coated dough monster or a vibrant vegetable or fruit creature. Or maybe somewhere in between. It is almost certain that you will feel like what you eat and that you will eat in a way that is complementary to how you feel. Food as a source of emotion and love our relationship with food as a metaphor for our relationship with ourselves.

Empathy

Empathy is a tool for understanding your children. Empathy might be the nearest substance to magic fairy dust that we humans have. You will have to decide by practice what you think. Empathic responses, rather than immediate reactions, will tell children that you are at least trying to understand them and willing to work with them. Every child and human needs empathy, from when they are the tiniest one hour-old newborn. It is the base for your parenting and love for your children.

 

Development

Childhood is a journey rather than a destination and children are always travelling in themselves as they grow and develop. It is probably one of the most miraculous things to watch as your children grow, but it is also quite subtle, and some parents find this threatening and don’t want their children to explore new pathways of being themselves as their minds develop. It can be confusing as children change dramatically in their outlook and behaviours or it can be a joyful dance to celebrate life — and in reality will probably be a mixture of both. It helps to inform yourself of some of the expected milestones of development so that you can at least have a map of the journey that is being taken and be prepared.

The most important thing we can be to our children (or anybody else’s children) is kind. The term ‘mind-minded parenting’ tells us to think of the child’s mind as we watch them grow. Always try to think about their developing mind and their developing sense of themselves. Minds grow best in positive emotional environments where children feel understood. If there is one idea to take away it is that whether your children are being really naughty or really perfect, whether they are very settled or quite disturbed, at all times they need your attention and your kind attention to the detail of their lives.

 

You have to learn to be kind to their developing mind — Mind Kind — and to do this you are also going to have to learn to be kinder to yourself. You cannot give to your children what you have not got inside. This includes the principles of sesame seed thinking combined with qualities of that lovely childhood nursery rhyme PATACCAKE. We can bring PATACCAKE qualities to mind any time we choose. Instead of coming at a child with frustration and rage we could stop to think PATACCAKE. Without these innate universally positive qualities flowing in the environment of your child’s life they will not thrive and — in my view — nor will humankind.

This is an edited extract from Mind Kind (Exisle , 2019) by Dr Joanne North, available form www.exislepubishing.com and wherever good books are sold. RRP $32.99