Tag

parenting

Browsing

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.

Stuck at home with the kids and struggling on how to best use your time together? Drama teacher, Thomasin McCuaig, has created a list of drama activities for you to play with your kids that will educate them, boost their confidence and fuel creativity in this uncertain period.

The spread of COVID-19 is the topic of nearly every conversation. No matter where you go or who you talk to, it is bound to be brought up and add a new layer of uncertainty to your everyday life. With new self-isolation regulations and social distancing precautions, people are going to be feeling more removed from society as the months roll by. Even though the world may seem dire, it is important that we seek human connection during our time at home. Regardless of whether schools close or not, a lot of fun, creative and challenging extracurricular activities are being cancelled, causing kids to be stuck at home and wanting to retreat to their screens. A little screen time is fine, yet it is beneficial to add some balance to the mix by introducing your kids to these fun, challenging and educational drama activities that are sure to spark your kids’ imagination, creativity and lead to new thought processes.

Activities with one kid

Made up Monologue:

Give your kid a pen and a paper and tell them to write a monologue. Monologue is a big word for young ones so remember to let them know what a monologue is! Tell them that ‘mono’ means ‘one,’ so a monologue is a performance where one person expresses their thoughts about a certain topic aloud to an audience. You can tell them that they can be any character they want, e.g. an evil witch, a famous artist, a school student or an inventor. Once they have written their monologue, get them to memorise as much as they can and perform it to the family. Make sure to tell them to demonstrate all the actions in the script so as to make an engaging performance. After this exercise, your kids will feel a sense of accomplishment over what they produced and performed, as they were able to combine literacy skills with drama.

Sell the Product:

Similar to the fun game, ‘Snake Oil,’ get your kid to sell a product to the whole family. They can either find an object at home or create an imaginary product in their head that they have to sell to you. Before they begin, let them know that they have to know the price of the product, the purpose of the product, why it is valuable and where to buy it. If the seller has convinced the buyer, yell at the end of the performance, ‘SOLD!’ This activity is important, as it encourages kids to think practically, whilst using their imagination.

Movement to Music:

Go on your preferred music streaming app and look up a gentle movie soundtrack. The song ‘I’m Forrest… Forrest Gump’ from the Original Motion Picture Score album is the perfect track if you want your kids to create a scene that is magical, sentimental or fantastical. Get your kid to lie down and close their eyes as you play the music for the first time. Tell them to imagine a story that fits the mood of the music, where they are the main character. Then, play the music for a second time and get them to move around the lounge room to the music, telling the same story through movement. This activity is the ultimate creativity stimulator, as it allows kids to truly immerse themselves in their own imaginative world.

Activities with 2 or more kids

Elevator:

This activity is the perfect guessing game for the audience and character-building exercise for the kids. Pick a stage/audience space, most preferably the lounge room. Get your kids to whisper to one another what occupation their character should have e.g. fashion model, police officer, yoga instructor, teacher. The audience cannot know this. Once decided, the kids will move one by one to the centre of the space and pretend to stand in an elevator. When everyone is in the elevator and quiet, an audience member yells, “Elevator is broken!” Those within the elevator have to try and think of ways to fix the elevator and communicate with each other, while giving subtle hints to the audience as to what they do for a living. They cannot overtly say, “I am a mechanic so I can fix this.” They have to be subtle, e.g. a teacher could say, “Oh no, I’m going to be late for class!” An audience member can wrap up the activity by saying “Elevator is fixed!” The actors then step forward so that the audience can guess what each character’s job was.

Make Em’ Laugh:

Test your kids’ focus skills by setting up two chairs in the stage space. The person on the right chair (audience’s right) has to make the person on the left chair laugh. However, they cannot get off the chair or touch the other person. Add a bit of character to the activity by giving them a scenario or situation, e.g. two people stuck on a plane or two people eating at a restaurant. The person on the left has to try their hardest to keep a straight face and not laugh, while still engaging with and responding to the other person. As soon as the person on the left laughs, the actors switch chairs and perform another scene. This game is incredibly enjoyable to watch and perform.

Podcast Play:

Back in the day, radio plays were extremely popular. People sat at home and listened to fictional stories told purely through voice and sound effects. This form of entertainment has shifted into the popular medium of podcasts. Get your kids to create a story where they are only allowed to use voice and sound, as the audience closes their eyes and listens. A fun theme or prompt to give your kids is ‘Haunted House,’ as it allows for various sounds, voices and characters. Your kids can play multiple characters throughout the story and test the different ways in which they can use their voice. For example, one kid could be an evil witch, an owl and scared intruder at different times. Tell the kids to include sound effects and use either their voice or objects around them, e.g. if someone opens a door, they can make the sound of a slow creaking door with their voice or if they are making footsteps, they can create the sound with their feet on the floor. This activity is perfect for developing your child’s creativity and imagination. To make it more fun, record the audio on your phone and play it back to them so that they can hear what they created!

This is intellectual property of Thomasin McCuaig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other half raised an eyebrow.

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

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

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

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

This week Australians all took a deep breath in unison and read the news no one was prepared to see, a decision that is more fitting for a Hollywood drama then for real life, a decision that has left survivors reeling and parents holding their children a bit tighter than usual.

The seven judges of the high court have handed down what might be one of the most controversial decisions Australia has ever witnessed. Their decision, convicted and jailed child molester George Pell is to be released and all convictions dismissed, finishing off a series of events that started fifty years ago.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare, a predator walking the streets ready to prey on your child, made even worse by the fact that the alleged perpetrator is a Cardinal, a high-ranking priest in the Catholic Church, elected by the Pope himself.

The Cardinal in question is the soon to be infamous Cardinal George Pell, aged 78, who was accused of molesting two choir boys in 1996 whilst he was appointed as Archbishop of Melbourne.

The crime allegedly took place as Pell found the boys drinking wine in the church, innocently playing around after mass. The account of the Cardinal looming over them before he attacked the boys and forced them to perform oral sex on him is nothing short of an act of evil and that of nightmares.
The rapes and molestation allegedly occurred in the St Patrick’s Cathedral, located in East Melbourne, and is one accusation amongst many made against Pell, numerous of which stem from his time as a younger priest in the small Victorian town of Ballarat in the 1970s.
Of the two choir boys involved in the accusations from 1996, only one survives, one dying of a heroin overdose in 2014 and refusing the abuse allegations up until his death. In the same year the Victorian Government created a task force dedicated to investigating the handling of child abuse cases by ‘Religious And Other Non-Government Organisations’.

In 2015 the surviving choir boy broke his silence, letting go of the secret he had carried for nearly two decades. One can only imagine the weight this man had carried into adulthood, scared of judgement and sharing his secret with the world, all to not be believed.

Three years later in December of 2018 Pell, who had pled not guilty, was found to be guilty of the accusations against him in the Melbourne case of the choir boys, charged with five sex abuse convictions in total.

Since then the Cardinal’s lawyers have faced the high court, arguing that the court failed to adequately take evidence supporting Pell’s innocence into consideration.

On April 7th 2020, after spending just a mere 400 days in prison, Pell has been set free, just in time to spend Easter in the free world.

Amongst the turmoil the world is facing at the moment, yesterday’s news from the high court has left Australia in shock, with the question on everybody lips the same; how?

If a high-profile case can have the ending that Pell’s has, then what chance do the everyday equivalents have. The George Pell’s who hide in our local shadows, in our schools, our churches, our family trees.

The #Metoo movement has given survivors of sexual assault worldwide a group consciousness, hope that if we just stand up we must be believed, that the reason why these monsters have been allowed to walk our streets is a mistake, that if their crimes had been reported they would be locked away.The man who killed Sunshine coast boy Daniel Morcombe in 2003, Brett Peter Cowan, had viciously assaulted seven year old boy Timothy Nicholls in 1987. Cowan served a little over half of his sentence of two years for the brutal rape of Timothy, before being released and eventually finding his way to that bus stop next to Daniel in 2003.

Daniel’s parents must stare at their ceiling at night wondering what if, what if he had served his full sentence, what if he had been sentenced to life, what if, what if, what if.

The pain of all survivors, of the choir boy, Timothy Nicholls, of all people who have been affected by child abuse, who have been brave enough to speak up, for their abuser to be able to walk free is a pain that is immeasurable, leaving a community once hopeful for change and justice, vulnerable and disappointed.

If we didn’t believe the choir boy, then who has a chance?

 

 

 

 

 

I have a son called Jackson, and Jackson is an entrepreneur.

– A letter from a father to his son.

Jack came up with his first business idea when he was about 4 years old. We have a massive macadamia nut tree in the back yard. He knew macadamia nuts were expensive but what he didn’t know is that they are so damn expensive because they are so damn hard to get out of the shell.

But that didn’t stop him – so one day he collected about 60 or so nuts. He put 5 nuts each into a small paper bag and wrote $2.00 on each bag. He then put the paper bags into his little red wagon and took off by himself going door to door selling his nuts to the neighbours. He came back in about 20 minutes with $24.00 and no nuts.

One business idea led to another. His big break came when he was about 14 years old – selling waterproof iPhone covers. He shipped in hundreds of these covers for about $5.00 each and sold them on eBay for $30.00.

He water tested each one and he was making thousands!

I would come home and there would be a new PlayStation 4 on the table, an Apple computer or there would be a couple of technicians putting up a plasma TV on his bedroom wall.

His big thing though is making his own rockets. He researches and builds his own jet propulsion systems and makes rocket fuel from fermented potatoes.

One of the ingredients he needs for rocket smoke is potassium nitrate. He managed to find some online one time and shouted out from his laboratory one night, “Dad, we need to go meet this guy!”

Being the supportive parent that I am, I’m like, “OK.”

So I find myself standing in a Burger King carpark in the middle of the night handing over some cash to a stranger in exchange for a plastic bag full of a white powdery substance.

The things you do for your kids.

I find myself standing in a Burger King car-park in the middle of the night handing over some cash to a stranger in exchange for a plastic bag full of a white powdery substance.

Apart from being a great entrepreneur, Jack has an amazing generous and loving nature. He was happy to be the only 16 year old at a 4 year old‘s  birthday party after he was invited by a boy next door. He is the type of person who would line up at 7:00am to get the toilet paper, only to give it to someone more needy once he walked out. He does anything you ask and is happy to do it. He is one of a kind.

 

On August 11 2016 I was coming back from a business trip in Coffs Harbour.  I phoned Jack at about 4:50pm. He was in his laboratory and we had the usual conversation about dinner:

“What do you want for dinner Jack?”

“I don’t know, what about you?”

“Don’t mind.”

“You want take away?”

“Sure, if you do?”

“OK. What do you want?”

“Don’t mind. You?”

“I’m easy…”

 

40 minutes later I received another phone call. Not so good this time. Jack was in hospital and in bad shape. Although I didn’t know it, I instinctively knew. I calmly asked, “Suicide?”

The officer said yes. And a few days later Jack passed away.

It was short and sharp and sudden and totally unexpected.

I calmly asked, “Suicide?”

How has this affected me? Time helps. And I know you have to make every moment count. I get up early. I do something straight away. I embrace the day as you never know what tomorrow will bring. I find I complain less and do more. As that is what Jack wants.

It’s hard, but you need to keep living.

Jacks business name is “Vaknisa.” If you google this the only thing that pops up is Jacks name (spelt in German as this is Jack’s preference) and a link to his video play lists (or at least it used to).

The first one on the list is a science video about electricity entitled: “It’s not the volts that kill you, it’s the amps.”

I would like to think there is something profound in this statement. That the message is you can go out and do thousands of amazing and adventurous things and most of the time they won’t hurt you. But one thing just might. But you don’t know what that one thing is – so just live. Take the risk. The only things in life we regret are the risks we didn’t take. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Some people say I don’t know how you cope or how you keep going. And I say: It’s the love that keeps you going. It’s the love that keeps you connected. Grief is knowing that person is still around you, but you can’t see them or hear them or touch them. That is the love that keeps you and them alive. And Jack is alive. He may not physically be with us but to me, he is more alive than he has ever been. He lives in everything that I see, touch, and feel.

And that is why I will never say I had a son called Jackson. I will always say I have a son called Jackson.

Happy 21st Jacky. Love you xx

If you or a loved one is experiencing feelings of depression, suicide or need someone to talk to, you are not alone. Contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

An edited excerpt from Canadian psychologist Dr Vanessa Lapointe’s new book, Parenting Right from the Start: Laying a Healthy Foundation in the Baby and Toddler Years. Dr Lapointe is touring Australia in March 2020 running seminars based on her book in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, hosted by Maggie Dent.

My youngest sister recently got married. She has a six-year-old bonus daughter from her husband’s first marriage. Lucky me, I was assigned hair and tiara-positioning duty for sweet little Chelsea on the day of the wedding. This is possibly the best thing you could ever ask of me (as the mom of two boys, I never get to do that sort of thing in my home!).

I have an unwavering belief in a couple of things: first, I know I have big swagger as an auntie; and second, I am a rock star when it comes to hair and makeup and, of course, tiaras.

So it didn’t faze me when my sister said, “By the way, she hates having her hair done. I can never get near it with a brush. Good luck!”

On the morning of the wedding Chelsea was dropped off, and she and I began prepping and primping. So little did it concern me that she hates having her hair done that I forgot about my sister’s warning. I had no worries that this wasn’t going to go well.

I didn’t say things like “What do you want me to do with your hair,” or “What colour of elastic do you want me to use,” or “You just let me know if I’m pulling too hard.”

If you read carefully between the words of those statements, you can sense hesitation and deference.

Instead, I said things like, “I know exactly what is going to be perfect for your hair,” and “Pink or blue elastic, my love?” and “That was a little ouch, but here we go, I’ve got you.” Chelsea sat there and loved it. Why? Because I had no self-doubt about how this was going to happen.

That is swagger. That is being large and in charge, and never losing touch with kindness.

Later in the evening one of Chelsea’s cousins bumped into her as they were playing around, and her tiara was knocked askew. Chelsea burst into tears and a frantic groomsman came rushing over to my table to let me know they were having a tiara emergency.

I scooched over to see her while she was in meltdown mode. Crouching down, I was already saying things that would let her feel heard, because that’s what big people do when they are truly kind and in charge.

They don’t minimize or brush off. They step in and see and hear with swiftness and certainty

I said things that stated the obvious, but I said them with compassion—such as, “Oh love, your tiara got knocked” and, as she raged on about her awful, mean cousin, “You don’t like it when he makes your tiara go sideways,” and “That made you really upset,” and “Of course you are angry.”

Then I started to walk her through the meltdown: “You can be angry. You are allowed. That makes perfect sense,” and “I am right here. I know what we will do. I have extra hairpins with me, and I am going to get it sorted out.”

Within a minute Chelsea’s tears stopped. I settled the tiara into place and told her she was gorgeous.

A smile replaced her anger, and she darted off to find the cousin that she really likes.

I stood up to walk back to my seat and happened to catch the gobsmacked expression on that groomsman’s face. As I walked away I heard him say, “That was amazing!”

You know what that is? That is swagger. That is being large and in charge.

This is a small-scale example of what kind of energy backs the sort of big person who is full of confidence in guiding their child through life.

Your challenge as a parent is to find it within you to bring that sort of energy to the moment-by-moment reality of your little person’s everyday world.

Elaine Benson of soberhood.com.au speaks out about her struggles with alcohol and wanting to be better for her sonSoberhood is a supportive judgement-free zone aimed at normalizing an alcohol free motherhood. Elaine is a single mother to a mad but beautiful three year old boy, a Cork native living in Sydney, Australia.

Former grey area drinker, I knew alcohol was crippling my life, but I didn’t realise just how much it was damaging my relationships and body until I felt forced to stop.

I had been drinking regularly from about the age of 16 and, my teens and 20’s were hedonistic, to say the least. It was accepted to drink till you blackout and somehow wake up in your bed the next morning not sure of how you got there.

I had some great experiences but mostly it was a blur of alcohol, drugs, anxiety, depression and self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I started to question my antics and see that for the most part, I was numbing the pain in my heart. Then when I became a mother and ‘mommy’s special medicine’ became the norm in the evening to ‘relax’, matters deteriorated quickly.

The drinking, coupled with the fact my son was not a fan of sleeping, sent me over the edge.

By the time he was two years old, I was desperately sad and feeling like life was a relentless struggle. My body was inflamed and in constant pain with endometriosis, which was intensified by the drinking.

The relationship with his Dad was in tatters. Like all my previous relationships, our connection was fuelled by alcohol and parties so when our son was born, the already tenuous foundation collapsed.

“I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us.”

After a particularly heavy night on the booze at my work Christmas party in 2018, I didn’t get long to recover before we set off on a family Christmas holiday, 5 hours drive up the coast of Australia.

It was sweltering in the car, 40 degrees, Christmas traffic was in full swing, my partner and I were arguing and the air con was struggling.

The situation was already stressful and with the hangover from hell, my brain couldn’t cope and I had a panic attack.

My heart was breaking as my beautiful son watched me hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably. He was smiling at me but looking very confused. It must have been so unnerving for him to see his mother so scattered.

I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us. I wanted him to feel safe and grounded with me. I begged the universe to take the dread away, and in return, I would never drink again.

In an effort to support myself, I listened to quit lit audiobooks repeatedly, I joined closed Facebook support groups, I listened to Tara Brachs life-changing podcast, I went to therapy, I journalled.

I tried to meditate daily, as well as practice mindfulness (which is basically being conscious and aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can be better at life!)

I am still on the road to shedding my old skin and discovering what it is to be present to the reality of life, but I have noticed a few shifts, here’s what I’ve found:

I notice stories that are coming up for me

Even as I write now, I can pay attention to my fearful ego saying ‘You’re alone, who are you to think you can do this….’ and on and on the fearful ego goes.

Stories regularly come up around alcohol too ‘I need a drink. It’s boring being sober’. I can notice these stories through awareness and respond by playing the scenario forward in my head. I’ll have one drink, which will turn to 5, I’ll wake up tomorrow and hate myself, I’ll have a hangover which will affect my mood for days, even weeks. I won’t have the energy or desire to play with my son. And I know then, it’s so not worth it.

I can separate from my self-limiting and destructive thoughts and ego

When I catch it in time, I can see the script that is running ‘you’re not good at stuff!’ and interrupt it with loving-kindness ‘you’re doing the best you can’

I procrastinate less

A handy by-product of less self-loathing. If I had written a list that Christmas 2018 of what I wanted to achieve in a year of sobriety, I would have been selling myself way short! Procrastination is fear in sheep’s clothing. I back myself more.

I allow myself to feel my feelings

I am more connected to what is going on in my body (through conscious awareness) so, when I feel the pull of anxiety, sadness, or a craving to drink, instead of swallowing it down and feeling it follow me around for days. I stop, sit, close my eyes, put my hand on my heart and inquire ‘what’s going on for you’ and answer with compassion ‘this is hard for you’ and let the tears (and snot) flow. I always feel better afterwards.

I know I don’t have to believe my thoughts

Understanding that thoughts and emotions are visitors helps let them come and go. I try to frame these thoughts as ‘Negative Protectors’. Our primitive ancestors owe their very existence to the ‘Be careful!’ thoughts, but these days the voices say things like ‘Have a drink, you don’t have to feel this’, when we all know it only delays and worsens the feeling.

Mindfulness practice helps you live with your thoughts without always reacting.

Today as I write this, I am in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I attribute that to sobriety and mindfulness. I still struggle, as we all do, that is the human experience. But I have greater reserves to deal with the tough times and they don’t last nearly as long.

As one of my inspirations, Jill Stark puts it,

“Sometimes for the life we want, we have to sacrifice the short-term fix for the long-term rewards. We have to work out what we value the most and put that above the things that take us further away from everything we hold dear. It’s not always easy but jeez it’s worth it”

To learn more about Elaine’s struggle with alcohol and overcoming addiction for the sake of your family visit her website or contact her via email.

Website: soberhood.com.au
Email: elaine@soberhood.com.au

JW Marriott in Phuket is a fantastic choice for a family holiday, offering a magnitude of activities and dining experiences, all to a five-star standard.

 

JW Marriott in Phuket is set on Mai Khao Beach, which provides a fresh, ocean breeze throughout the grounds of the hotel, and is ideal for walking along its long stretch of sand.

 

The resort is exceptionally well-facilitated with six restaurants, a large gym, spa, three swimming pools and a huge array of activities on offer.

A highlight for my children and myself was a personalised cooking class offered by a top Thai chef at the hotel’s Ginja Cook Cooking School.

We made juicy, delicious, prawn cakes, a fresh and spicy chicken noodle salad and warm, rich duck red curry. It was fun and a feast, while learning some useful culinary skills.

We also visited the local fresh food markets with the chef, which was novel and educational, as we learnt about local ingredients and cooking techniques

The kids club hosts many activities; my children’s favourite included tie dying t-shirts and a pirate treasure hunt in which they followed a map around the hotel locating lollies.

The hotel offers a large range of accommodation styles, with classy and attractive furnishings and décor throughout.

We stayed in a Deluxe Terrace room, which is one of the smaller accommodation options on offer, and it was ample for me and two children. I slept in the King bed and they slept on a Queen size futon which was converted from a sofa children’s sitting area.

 

The range of health and wellness activities on offer was particularly impressive. My 11-year-old daughter and I did a singing bowl meditation class which was a good way to de-stress, bond and nurture ourselves.

JW Marriott Phuket has created some appealing Wellness Packages, some of which are tailored specifically for families.

The food at all the restaurants was excellent. My personal favourite was Ginja Taste, at which I enjoyed the best Thai food I’ve ever had, with the soft-shell crab the best dish. The menu and range of flavours offered at this restaurant was expansive.

The Kabuki Japanese restaurant was a total hit with the kids! It offered an entertaining Japanese Cuisine Theatre experience – complete with a chef doing a personalised Teppanyaki-style – live cooking show for us, which was humorous and animated. The food was fresh, delicious and plentiful.

 

Role-play is an important part of child development and a way for children to make sense of the world around them. Children start to engage in role-play from around 18 months of age. Understanding why and how children role-play can provide parents with knowledge to best support role-play fun and learning

There are three key role-play categories;

  • Family; Mum, Dad, siblings or pets – allows children to explore different dynamics
  • Character or fantasy; princesses or Spiderman – helps children identify good from bad and encourages bravery
  • Functional or occupational; such as a firefighter, police or doctor, defined by specific actions and not the identity of the character – allows children to learn about their real environment

 

Role-play encourages creativity and imagination. It can provide a safe space for problem solving and support children in developing social skills (how they get along with their peers) and emotional skills (how they react to situations) including empathy, conflict resolution and teamwork. These are all important skills that will serve them in the school setting and other aspects of life.

 

Role-play can assist physical development, engaging children’s motor skills and hand to eye coordination – whether it be dressing or feeding baby or building at the construction site.

Role-play can also have a positive effect on speech and language acquisition – enhancing communication skills with the use of eye contact, turn-taking and listening skills. New words and new characters can combine to build new vocabulary for different events and experiences.

Perth Speech Pathologist and mum of three, Alex Trichilo explains, ‘Role-play is an essential part of a child’s journey to becoming an adult. It gives them the opportunity to practice language that they wouldn’t usually use on a day-to-day basis.

Little land has created a play space that integrates fun and learning, specifically designed for children up to approximately 8 years of age. The play space’s little town has been designed by a team of early childhood educators, paediatric occupational therapists and speech pathologists to offer a creative and educational play experience.Just like visiting the real shops, Little Land’s Little Growers Market is a great place to explore language. The groceries may be ‘big’ or ‘small’, or you can search for items starting with a certain letter. Visiting Little Land’s construction site can promote language in lots of ways too by modelling verbs – stack, dig, build, bang.

A little tipdon’t be afraid to use something to imitate something else. Blocks can be used as pet food and cardboard boxes are only limited by your little one’s imagination! Using items to represent other items is known as Symbolic Play and is a critical aspect of play development.

Alex says, ‘Role-play is an ongoing skill throughout childhood and is a fantastic activity for developing play at all developmental stages.’

 

‘It is important to see the progression from children playing by themselves, to playing next to other children, and then to playing in an organised way with each other in groups.’

Little Land also offers Sensory Sessions, developed in consultation with the Autism Association of Western Australia – a low stimulus environment to support the needs of children with Autism and specific sensory needs. Limited to 15 Wanderers, the Sensory Sessions incorporate additional materials including the ‘Going to Little Land’ storybook to help prepare your child before your visit, and play sequence guides to further support play and learning.

Play sessions are 90 minutes and run at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm Tuesday through to Saturday.

Book your play session at www.littleland.fun

 

 

 

Melbourne mother of four and body positive artist, Tania Sutton (44), shares how she escaped the shackles of the destructive eating disorder that took over her life. She recovered for the sake of her family.

*Please be aware some readers may find this content triggering.

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tania recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Eating disorders creep into your life without realising it. Tania remembers the promises Ed made to her in the beginning: “It starts out like a new friend, teaching you ways to make you happier, ways to cope and a promise to you that as long as you follow all the rules, you will reach some sort of enlightenment.”

Eating disorders occur for various reasons, including genetic vulnerability, psychological factors and social-cultural influences. Figures show the prevalence of eating disorders is rising rapidly; Beyond Blue reports one in four Australians know someone who has experienced an eating disorder.

Tania struggles to pinpoint the exact cause of her eating disorder, but believes her need for perfectionism and sensitivity about her physical appearance were predisposing factors.

Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender, body size, age and socio-economic factors.

From a young age, Tania felt a constant sense of anxiety; if she was unable to do something exactly right, this fed her belief something was fundamentally wrong with her.

Tania describes an intense need to be accepted by others. “Anytime someone else was complimented on their physical appearance, it reinforced the idea I wasn’t good enough.” Yet, when she received compliments, especially in relation to her body size, it fuelled her desire to continue the behaviours that led to the compliment.

As time went on, Tania struggled to separate herself from her eating disorder. The voice of Ed grew stronger, convincing Tania to punish herself through under-eating in order to equal out all of the perceived faults in life.

“If I was thin, then I would be happy, people would like me and possibly love me.” The truth was, Tania was loved, but her eating disorder made her believe those around her were only pretending, “I felt like I didn’t belong in society, I was a failure, disgusting and unlovable.”

Tania describes how weak she became, both mentally and physically. “Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window”. She believes this is part of what makes seeking help so difficult, “My thought process was really obscure to everyone else, but to me it made perfect sense. I was convinced I could never get better, I believed everyone was out to see me fail and therefore if I gave up Ed and followed a treatment plan, I would have failed and I couldn’t do that.”

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tana recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Becoming a mother and seeing her body grow and change only emphasised Tania’s preoccupation with her appearance. Feeling incompetent as a parent reinforced to Tania that she needed to keep punishing herself. The use of restrictive behaviours and keeping herself busy became a form of self-punishment she believed would somehow cancel out her perceived inadequacy as a parent.

Tania remembers trying to be there for her children and doing the best she could, but never being able to feel fully present. Tania describes her head as a “battle ground” which led to her being distracted and irritable.

Tania greatly resisted treatment for a long time, deleting her therapist’s number on several occasion. She would lash out verbally at her treatment team and remembers one incident where her GP refused to allow her to see her weight. “I was furious because in my eyes this meant I was not allowed to see what kind of a day I was going to have; at that time the number on the scale would define a good or a bad day.”

Tania’s eating disorder behaviours continued until something convinced her to make a change. Tania recalls driving home from an appointment; her daughter was going through a particularly difficult time, and despite Tania’s best efforts she felt she could not be fully there for her daughter. The eating disorder voice grew louder and louder until it was screaming in her ear, blaming her for everything that was wrong. Tania knew her daughter needed her, but she was chained to her eating disorder. It was at this point she decided to seek help.

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”  Although she could never find the strength to recover for her own sake, her family became the motivation she needed.

Tania was fortunate enough to be referred to a psychologist and a dietitian, who each had a special interest in eating disorders and with whom Tania instantly connected.

Recovery was tough, Tania recalls. “I had to relearn to trust my body and myself. I had to let those close to me, my husband and treatment team, be in charge of what I needed.”

Tania credits her family’s support for helping her to recover; “They helped me fight when I didn’t want to anymore, they loved me at my worst and stood by my side.”

Tania says recovering from her eating disorder has enabled her to be a better mum, “we had our fourth child after I had decided to not engage with Ed and I am able to play with him much more; I played with my other kids, but mentally I wasn’t there, now I am.”

“The first time I went out in public after deciding to no longer engage in Ed’s demands, I was in a shopping centre with one of my daughters and I turned to her said ‘wow, it’s so bright and colourful in here’, the eating disorder made my world so dark and dull. The world is literally more colourful without Ed.”

Tania now has four children aged between five and 22 and uses her own experience to teach her children “to question what they see and hear when it comes to societal beauty standards in the hope they will adopt a healthy attitude.”

“Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window.”

Tania no longer engages in eating disorder behaviours. She enjoys food and appreciates her body; she no longer weighs herself, as it no longer bothers her what size she is. “I have realised my weight does not equal my worth.”

In choosing Recovery, Tania simultaneously unleashed her creative side. “Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

Tania uses her talent and love of painting, drawing and printmaking to create figurative and portraiture art work, t-shirt prints and bag designs that spread mental health awareness. Tania recently had the pleasure of designing the logo for the ‘Body Positive Expo’ that was held in Melbourne; an event which united hundreds of people, sharing their own experiences of disordered eating and negative body image. Tania’s eye-catching logo depicted the individuality of all body shapes and sizes to celebrate their uniqueness.

Recovery is something Tania is still working on. She makes sure she does something every day to support her mental health and reaches out when she is struggling.

“Sure I have days where I don’t feel so confident in my skin or in myself but that’s because I’m human. Now though, my thoughts aren’t taken over by self-hate.” She also describes her relationship with food as being healthier than it has ever been: “I honour my cravings and listen to my body. I trust my body and I treat it with love as it is my closest friend.”

http://www.offspringmagazine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/yF2VFW-Q.jpg

“Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

 

Figures show fewer than 25 per cent of people with an eating disorder receive the care they need. Tania hopes her recovery journey and the messages she conveys through her art will reduce the stigma and encourage others to seek help.

“Mental illness is not a choice, but Recovery is. It’s not always easy to work through our struggles but if we push ourselves in a gentle and nurturing way we can come through the other side.”

You can check out Tania’s incredible and inspiring art work on her Facebook page, Tania Sutton Artworks, or follow her on Instagram, @tania_sutton_artist

If you have been affected by any information in this article, please reach out to your GP, health professional or contact an organisation such as the ones listed below:

www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

www.au.reachout.com

www.beyondblue.org.au

Poem – written by Tania Sutton

She stands there beaming smile
There is laughter and cheer
She is so content and happy
Friends all around her

She stands there panic stricken
There is turmoil and torture
She is drowning in poison
All alone in a crowd

She stands there as the same
There are two people in one
She is only known as one
The other is a secret.

LOCKED IN A BUBBLE
You have me locked in a bubble
I can see what you are doing
Yelling out for you to stop
My efforts going unheard

You have locked me in a bubble
Sometimes I see a faint glow
Mostly just darkness
Trying desperately to find the light

You have me locked in a bubble
I want to trade places
But I can’t find the key
Please let me out.