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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.”

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“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.

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

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

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

Age: 0-2 Years

Author: Rosalyn Albert

Illustrator: Natalia Moore

Publisher: New Frontier Publishing

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


I See, I See

Age: 3-6 Years

Author: Robert Henderson

Illustrator: Robert Henderson

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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

The Painted Ponies

Age: 4-7 Years

Author: Alison Lester

Illustrator: Alison Lester

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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

The Tiny Star

Age: 5+ Years

Author: Mem Fox

Illustrator: Freya Blackwood

Publisher: Penguin

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

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Bold Tales for Brave-Hearted Boys

Age: 6-9 Years

Author: Susannah McFarlane

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

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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

Detention

Age: 10+ Years

Author: Tristan Banks

Publisher: Penguin

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

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The Mothers

Age: Adults

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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

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.

This incredible prize will not only give you the opportunity to share your journey and inspire others but will also give your business the exposure you’ve been looking for. Read on for more information on how to enter!

Here at Offspring, we know the dedication and commitment it takes to create your own business. Kate Durack, Editor of Offspring and mum of two, made the decision to launch her own magazine after one particularly difficult sleepless night with her 16-month-old daughter.

Kate’s sleep deprived idea has since evolved into Australia’s largest glossy parenting magazine, sold in three of Australia’s largest cities; Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, not to mention an expansive online audience.

At Offspring, we know it can be hard to step out of the shadows and shine a light on your achievements, but we think it’s time to change that.

To help us celebrate 10 years of Offspring, we will be sharing the story of one deserving mum by making you OUR NEXT COVER GIRL!

In addition to a PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT, you will also receive an UNBELIEVABLE ADVERTISING PACKAGE with Offspring, worth $50,000! This includes:

  • A FULL PAGE advertisement editorial feature showcasing your story and business.
  • The chance for your business to be seen by 300,000 READERS ACROSS AUSTRALIA.
  • ONLINE PROMOTION in our newsletter and on our website.
  • Advertising across ALL THREE HARD COPY MAGAZINES in Perth, Melbourne AND Sydney.

Entering this competition could not be easier; all it takes is three steps!

Step One: LIKE US on Facebook

Step Two: SIGN UP to our newsletter to be the first to hear about updates and promos

Step Three: SEND US A MESSAGE with your nomination and why you/your nominee should win

 

SPREAD THE WORD!!! The nominees with the most entries wins so get your family and friends involved!

Does a woman of privilege and power ever have the right to complain?

 

The world has growing consciousness over the difficulties mental health presents, and yet, it appears there is still progress to be made before everyone is permitted to speak up and say how they truly feel.

Meghan Markle was at the centre of a social media storm following the controversial documentary ‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.’

Many were outraged, remarking the Duchess was audacious in complaining about her privileged position within the British Royal Family, while on a tour of Africa, around those who are, arguably, some of the world’s poorest.

In contrast, many were impressed with Meghan’s honesty and for highlighting the fact many new parents find it difficult to cope even with a privileged social and financial position.

Some felt this statement was ill timed, given their documentary was to highlight their tour of Africa; however Meghan raises an important point of discussion: regardless of a person’s socio-economic background, hormonal ups and downs caused by pregnancy and life with a newborn can impact on a person’s mental health. Once the initial euphoria subsides, overwhelming emotions can be hard, for anyone, to process.

Statistics for anxiety and depression in parents are alarmingly high, with up to 1 in 10 women experiencing antenatal anxiety and depression and more than 1 in 7 experiencing postnatal depression, as reported by PANDA.

 

Men do not escape unharmed from the effects of pregnancy either, with research from PANDA stating 1 in 20 men will experience antenatal anxiety and depression and up to 1 in 10 new dads are likely to experience postnatal depression.

Having a new baby creates multiple changes, many of which are overwhelming: concern about parenting ‘correctly’; the sleep deprivation; breastfeeding challenges; hormonal changes; relationship changes; financial strain and career concerns, all come into play.

Some assume Meghan has no rights to complain. For instance, she has no money worries, appears to be in a happy, devoted marriage and has a large team of staff supporting her within the prestigious British Royal Family, how can she be struggling?

However, Meghan is talking about mental health, which we are continually reminded, does not discriminate. Mental health affects our favourite movie stars, singers, TV personalities and athletes.

It is easy to assume those in privileged positions are vaccinated against any form of sadness, anxiety or depression. But in reality, could it be the assumption they are coping, which ignites their predisposition to mental health struggles?

 

Whether you love or loathe the Duchess of Sussex, she raises an important point about the internal damage that can be caused by keeping quiet about the state of your mental health.

In conclusion, asking someone if they are ok is a question everyone should be asked. It is a question that could potentially lead to that person asking for the help they desperately need.

If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out, speak to your medical professional or seek support from organisations, such as Beyond Blue and PANDA.