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It may be 2021, but a lack of access to computers and the internet is still making life hard for Australian families in rural or low-socioeconomic areas.

Australian families have had to switch to online learning, work, and healthcare services in record numbers this year. For the 2.5 million families who do not have access to the internet or computers at home, this has created a challenging lack of equality that researchers call the ‘digital divide.’ This divide has presented difficulties for kids and teens as education moves online.

While schools have been increasing online learning in recent years, the pandemic has seen our reliance on online platforms become invaluable. Not only is access to the internet essential for education, but it also provides school-aged children with a sense of community and connection with their peers.

A study from the University of Tasmania suggests that 46% of children are potentially negatively affected by lack of educational outcomes, nutrition, physical movement, social and emotional wellbeing by being physically disconnected from school.

Families without the internet also miss out on Telehealth services and easy access to Government support such as MyGov, as those services increasingly move online.

For parents, a lack of access to a computer or the internet means difficulty applying for jobs, conducting interviews, or maintaining their current workload. For example, if a family only has access to one computer, either a child doing online learning from home or a parent working can access the internet at one time.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has confirmed that finances, location, and a lack of digital literacy are the primary reason for the high numbers of Australians with no internet access. The digital divide is often socio-economic, but students in rural areas often do not have the same kind of internet access urban students do.

This is where public libraries would usually provide an essential service. Public libraries allow for access to books and free access to computers, printers, and internet services. In addition, public libraries often have reading times, and kids’ activities organised, which are an excellent way for children to learn and socialise and give parents a much-needed break while they access computers.

Not only are libraries great for families needing to access these services, but they provide free education and knowledge that can otherwise be found exclusively online.  State libraries often have reading groups, exhibitions, artworks and provide social groups that fill in for a lack of internet.

In addition to libraries, public Centrelink offices often provide computers and internet service for income reporting, job searching, printing and generally making digital literacy possible for people of all ages without computers or the internet.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen the closure of public libraries and Government offices that act as vital community hubs that provide essential services, making the digital divide wider than ever.

Considering a lack of public services, teachers become essential. The only option they have is to accommodate their student’s needs and provide work and learning primarily through hard copies. However, children who miss out on Zoom classes miss out on the benefits of group learning and socialising with their peers.

While the digital divide is being assessed and addressed, we can only hope the gap slowly disappears.

Thankfully, some charitable organisations such as The Smith Family are working to try and lessen the divide. They have been providing digital access programs to kids and teens since 2007 in the hopes that everyone gets access to digital literacy. You can provide sponsorship for digital literacy to a child by contacting the Smith Family.

 

 

Anxious Mums author, Dr Jodi Richardson, offers advice for mothers and children experiencing anxiety.

One in four people will experience anxiety within their lifetime, making it the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia. Statistics determine it is twice as common in women, with one in three, compared with one in five men, diagnosed on average.

Having lived and studied anxiety, Dr Jodi Richardson  is an expert in her field, with more than 25 years of practice. In addition to her professional background, it was ultimately her personal experiences and journey in becoming a mother that shaped the work she is passionate about. 

Jodi’s books, Anxious Kids; How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Resilience,  co-written with Michael Grose (2019), and her latest release, Anxious Mums; How Mums Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Strength (2020), offer parents, in particular mothers, advice on how to manage and minimalise anxiety, so they can maximise their potential, elevate their health and maintain their wellbeing.

The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first-hand experiences have inspired her work today, stating, “The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first signs of experiencing anxiety appeared at the early age of four. Her first symptoms began in prep, experiencing an upset stomach each day. Her class of 52 students, managed by two teachers, was stressful enough, on top of her everyday battles. Jodi recalls, “There was a lot of yelling and it wasn’t a very relaxing or peaceful environment, it obviously triggered anxiety in me, I have a genetic predisposition towards it, as it runs in my family.”

Twenty years later, the death of a family member triggered a major clinical depression for Jodi. She began seeking treatment however, it was in finding an amazing psychologist, that helped her to identify she was battling an underlying anxiety disorder. Jodi discloses, “It was recognised that I had undiagnosed anxiety. I didn’t really know that what I had experienced all my life up until that point had been any sort of disorder, that was just my temperament and personality.” 

After many years of seeing her psychologist, Jodi eventually weaned off her medication and managed her anxiety with exercise and meditation. Offering advice on finding the right psychologist Jodi states, “For me it was my third that was the right fit. I really encourage anyone if the psychologist you were referred to doesn’t feel like the right fit, then they’re not and it’s time to go back to your GP. Having the right professional that you’re talking to and having a good relationship with is really important for the therapeutic relationship.”

Jodi highlights the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, affirming, “The more we can open up and talk about our journeys, the more we encourage other people to do the same and normalise the experience.”

Anxious Mums came into fruition after a mum in the audience of one of Jodi’s speaking engagements emailed Jodi’s publisher stating, “Jodi has to write a book, all mums have to hear what she has to say.”

Everyday efforts new mothers face, consign extra pressure on wellbeing and showcase the need to counteract anxiety before it subordinates everyday lifestyles. While Jodi’s children are now early adolescents, she reflects upon the early stages of new motherhood, “Ultimately when I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

When I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

New mothers experience heightened anxiety as they approach multiple challenges of parenthood; from conceiving, through the journey of pregnancy, birth and perpetually, thereafter. Becoming a mother provided Jodi with insight into new challenges, in particular struggles with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. She shares, “It’s something that we don’t have much control over, particularly as new parents. We just kind of get used to operating on a lot less sleep and it doesn’t serve us well in terms of our mental health, particularly if there have been challenges in the past or a pre-existing disorder.

Research suggests women’s brains process stress differently to men, with testosterone also said to be somewhat protective against anxiety. This, along with different coping mechanisms of women, highlight statistic disparity between gender. For early mothers in particular, it is a time of immense change, as their everyday lives are turned upside down. New schedules, accountability and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are also commonly triggered in the postpartum period.

Jodi elaborates on important hormonal timeframes that shift women’s mental wellbeing stating, “Anxiety is heightened during times of hormonal changes as well as in the key points in our reproductive lives. Through having children and menopause and alike. It’s more disabling in that it impacts our lives in different ways to men, particularly I think, because we’re usually the main carers. There are stay at home dads, but predominantly that’s what women tend to do.”

Normal anxiety is infrequent and settles down, but when someone suffers a disorder, they can have incessant worry and avoidance. This can include anxiety around not wanting to participate, attend a function, for example, try something new or step up in a work role. Anxiety disorders can be crippling, leaving sufferers feeling as though they are unable to live their best life.

There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

There are many telling physical signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some indicative signs to look out for include a racing heart, trembling, sick stomach, frequent perspiration and dizziness that accompanies shortness of breath. Jodi says, “If you think that your anxiety might be a problem, that’s absolutely the time to go and make an appointment to see your GP. There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

“Half of all mental illness comes on by around the ages of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children.”

Just as anxiety is common for mothers, it’s also important to observe and be aware of in children. Jodi reveals, “For parents it’s important to know that half of all mental illness comes on by around the age of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children. 75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety.”

“75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety

These pre-covid statistics highlight significant numbers of anxiety in adolescents. However, with the current climate prevalent of immense loss of control, many are facing new heightened emotions and increased numbers of anxiety. Early research coming out of Monash University is showcasing significant growth of adults with depression and anxiety, including statistics of children in the early ages of one to five experiencing symptoms.

Similar research has given light to evidence portraying children mirroring stress responses of their parents. Jodi further explains, “They can pick up the changes in our own heart rate, in our stress response — we are told that as new mums aren’t we, that our babies can pick up on how we are feeling but the science proves that to be true as well.” Parenting is a consequential way in which children receive cognitive biases and behaviours, “Just the tone of our voice, the expressions on our face, the way that we speak, what we say, certainly can be picked up on by kids and mirrored back.”

Noticing these early signs in your children is essential to alleviating anxiety before it progresses, Jodi lists some signs to be aware of, “Avoidance is a hallmark sign of anxiety — I don’t want to go, I don’t want to participate, I don’t want to deliver that oral presentation in class, I don’t want to go to camp and so watching out for that sort of thing. Other signs and symptoms to look out for include big emotions. If your children seem more teary or angry than usual, are feeling worried or avoidant, can’t concentrate, having trouble remembering or difficulty sleeping.” It’s important to be aware and help counteract anxiety when you see it. 

Jodi offers parents, who are struggling coping with their children’s anxiety some advice stating, “It’s an age old question, how much do we push and when do we hold back; I think as parents we are constantly answering that question. We don’t always get it right, but the thing about avoidance is it only makes anxiety worse. So for the child who is anxious about going to school, the more they stay home, the harder it will be to front up on another day. Sometimes, we need to nudge them forward in small steps and that’s a technique called step-laddering. It’s about making a step in that direction.”

Jodi encourages parents to observe their children’s symptoms and to never feel ashamed to go see a GP.  She urges, “Sometimes we get that reassurance from a GP, it might just be developmental, but the sooner kids are getting the help they need, the better, and it’s the same for us as mums.”

There are simple everyday steps we can take to combat anxiety. When someone is anxious a threat has been detected within the brain, this part of the brain is called the amygdala, one of the most powerful strategies for managing this stress detection is regulant meditation. 

Jodi explains, “What meditation does is it brings our attention to the present, so we are paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.” Meditation recognises deliberate breathing with a focus equally on exhalation as inhalation, proven to be calming to the anxious brain, using the relaxation response. 

Commending the importance of the practice and its effect on functioning, Jodi describes, “Meditation is more that sort of seated and formal practice of focusing the breath. What we know this will do over time, is it reduces the size and sensitivity of the amygdala, so it’s less sensitive to threat which reduces long-term anxiety. For the average person, our minds wander around 50 percent of the time, when we can bring our attention back to the present we are much more likely to be able to settle our anxiety, and feel happier as well.”

Another everyday strategy for combatting anxiety is exercise. Jodi shares her experience and routine stating, “Exercise is something I’ve used my whole life to calm my anxiety. Even now, I do cross-fit, karate and walks every week. I think naturally I was managing my health and wellbeing without really understanding why, I just knew that it made me feel good.”

The fight or flight response tied to anxiety powers us up to fight physically to save our lives or to flee. So often, when someone is anxious, they are powered up in this way, but not doing anything about it. Jodi shares, “When we move, it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. Not only that, when we exercise we release serotonin, which is a feel good neural transmitter, among with gamma aminobutyric acid, a neural transmitter that puts the breaks on our anxiety response helping to calm us down.” 

Jodi’s practice in physiology, working with clients using exercise to help them with their mental and physical health has led her to her understandings, “One of the things I can 100 percent tell you is that it’s best not to wait until you feel motivated — the motivation will come once you get into the routine of it.

Dr Jodi Richardson, anxiety & wellbeing speaker, bestselling author & consultant

I’d just like to say, anxiety isn’t something we need to get rid of to really be able to thrive, to do what we need to do and accomplish what’s important to us. But I really encourage to anyone, that there are lots of ways to dial it back. I think it’s very easy for us to wait until we feel 100 percent to do something, but doing anything meaningful is hard.

So don’t wait until your anxiety is gone because you might be waiting a long time.”

 

 

 

 

Anxious Kids Penguin Books Australia, Author: Michael Grose, Dr Jodi Richardson RRP: $34.99 Anxious Mums Penguin Books Australia , Author: Dr Jodi Richardson  RRP: $34.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

Kids Helpline: : Is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800

 

 

 

While many parents experience increasing judgement in a digital age, revered parenting expert Maggie Dent assures us that to be a good parent, being perfect is not possible and that mistakes are normal.

Kids outside runningMaggie Dent’s newest book, Parental as Anything, an adaption of her popular ABC podcast, is a guide full of anecdotes, practical parenting advice and humour.

Maggie tells us that while there once was a time where parents could not see what everyone else was doing, today’s social media proliferation exacerbates constant comparing, despairing and fixation on the negatives, or what we as parents could be doing better.

Maggie is an author, educator and mother to four boys, but she stresses she was not perfect and “mucked up so many times”.

There will always be days while raising children where mistakes are made, or morale is low.

But Maggie says to “Look at what’s going well at the funny moments, the light moments, the loving moments, rather than focusing the lens on the things we wish we could do better.” Maggie Dent

So how can we care for, nurture and still discipline our children in today’s age? Maggie emphasises being “the fun, the firm, the fair,” parent and that children are more likely to agree with parents who are kind and loving. If there is compassion and connection, in moments of discipline, children are increasingly capable of listening.

Maggie tells us that there is a difference between the disciplining of a Lamb and a Rooster.

Lambs have a tendency to be more sensitive or gentle and less likely to push against boundaries, while Roosters are outgoing with the need to be respected and seen as important, eager to argue or push against limits. Power struggles can occur particularly with the Roosters.

Maggie reminds us that patience is important when dealing with heated moments.

A child’s “Number one need is a safe base,” Maggie says.

She outlines that “Tuning in to how they are doing,” is vital. Watching them constantly and recognising their needs in certain situations.

There is a difference between a tantrum as against a meltdown, the former of which springs from an urge to assert a sense of self, and the latter a sensory overload. Tantrums come from outside stimuli (“No you can’t do/have that right now”) while a meltdown occurs when the nervous system has been over-flooded.

“Children are gradually growing in their capacity to manage their world,” Maggie says. 

Kids can experience moments of self-struggle, but they will get better with self-regulation and emotional intelligence as they grow up and their pre-frontal lobe matures.

They are not naughty they are just “Not coping with their world right now,” Maggie says, emphasising that compassion and connection are essential.

Maggie addresses when parents wish they had approached certain things differently. She says that parents can always change the ways in which they connect with their children and can always rebuild attachment and love in a new way.

“It is never, ever too late,” she says.

“Every child is a one-off,” she emphasises. There is no exact guide for any one child, but as a parent it is still possible to be the one that knows them the best and aim to help them in their world in any way that they can.

Maggie addresses the dreaded topic of screen time.

She acknowledges that while complete denial is not helpful or realistic, in order to prepare children to live in the digital world; however, it is imperative that online behaviour and technology use are monitored. Girl on computer

“You need to be the pilot of the digital plane,” she says.

She encourages parents to take into account many factors such as:

  • Hand-held device use
  • Television viewing and consideration of acceptable advertisements
  • Rewards systems on video games that can foster gambling traits
  • Risk taking in real life while behaviour modelling
  • Video game characteristics entering into the impressionable classroom
  • Chores still needing to be completed
  • Outside play with peers in real life
  • Levels and when to finish
  • Harmful content

Technology can be used for education, entertainment or even recreational activity. A lot of time and energy will go into raising responsible and respectful digital citizens.

Maggie speaks about sexual education in childhood. She recommends speaking with children about sex and not just in one singular sitting. It should be a continual and constant conversation or ability to ask about this topic.

She underlines topics such as body ownership, permission to touch, basic private anatomy and consent should be discussed at home even before heading off to school. Maggie encourages parents to allow their children to ask questions or come to them if they see something that makes them uncomfortable.

Unwanted online dark or sexual content can be damaging and can set unrealistic standards. Plainly untrue and offensive myths are all over the internet about sex and it is important to be mindful of this as a parent.

Kids on playground

“92% of what children learn is based on modelling,” Maggie says.

To finish, Maggie says that nurturing safe respectful and warm relationships at home and between family members is important while nevertheless acknowledging that conflict is normal and communication is key.

Parental as Anything

Watch the full exclusive interview with Maggie Dent below or on our YouTube channel.

Mindfulness is a highly beneficial skill that can be taught to kids by incorporating it into games and activities. Not only will their creativity and sense of fun flourish, but also their social and emotional skills.

We know that mindfulness is good for us in all sorts of ways, but new research is showing that it’s suitable for your kids as well. Getting kids to sit still for long periods can be a mission. Games like Simon Says, Jenga, balancing on one foot, and even Hide and Seek all incorporate elements of concentration and awareness that increase mindfulness.

Games like Puzzles or activities like painting keep you and the kids busy and entertained when at home and help kids learn to calm their minds and bodies. A study by Mindful Schools has shown that it increases their attention and learning skills when children practice mindfulness. Not only that, but it will also improve their emotional and social skills and their sense of resilience.

In addition, studies such as the one carried out by BMC Psychology suggest that when kids practice mindfulness, it positively impacts their development into adulthood. Engaging in mindful play around the house is excellent for your child’s mental health and decreases their chance of developing anxiety or depression later in life.

Here’s how you can begin incorporating mindfulness games into your routine with your kids. These activities are suitable for several age ranges.

1. Yoga for kids

There are several fun ways to do yoga with your kids. Not only will you be getting a quick workout in, but it’s a fantastic way for your kids to engage in not only a fun activity but awareness and concentration.

Some of the best sources for yoga for kids are Cosmic Kids Yoga and Yoga for Kids with Alissa Kepas. Both can be found with a quick YouTube search as well.

Yoga involves paying attention, concentration, group work, and calming and breathing techniques. These kinds of games or activities are ideal for increasing emotional regulation, focus, and engagement.

kids doing yoga outside on the grass

2. Jenga

You might find yourself getting more carried away with this game than you would expect. If you’ve never played before, the game aims to stack a tower of wooden blocks on top of each other and slowly take one from the bottom or middle of the tower to place on top. The higher and higher the tower gets, the more intense your focus becomes.

Increasing concentration skills can help with improved engagement, which helps at school. Not only that but its teaching problem-solving skills

Two children sitting in the living room playing Jenga with wooden blocks

3. Balancing on one foot

Put your skills to the test with this one too. Again, it sounds simple but requires a great deal of concentration, calmness, and multi-tasking.

The key is to get your child to focus their gaze just below eye level and preferably on one spot. Then, take one leg and rest it on your other leg but above the knee, on the ankle of the opposite foot, or wherever they feel comfortable. Try to maintain a conversation while you’re doing this or even sing a song.

Four kids in the outdoors balancing on one foot

4. Safari

Take your kids on a walk and tell them you are going on a Safari; their goal will be to spot as many birds, bugs, and animals as possible. A way to make this extra fun is to give them an exercise book to list all the animals they see that they can draw or decorate later.

Kids will really need to engage with all their senses and concentrate on this one. It creates a sense of awareness and grounding in the present moment.

Four kids dressed in Safari gear playing outside

5. Spidey – senses

Tap into your child’s obsession with superheroes and tell them they are going to be Spiderman for the afternoon.

Instruct your kids to turn on their “Spidey senses,” or the super-focused senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch that Spiderman uses to keep tabs on the world around them.

This will encourage them to pause and focus their attention on the present, opening their awareness to the information their senses bring in.

A group of children dressed up as super heroes in capes and masks

6. Taste Test

Take an assortment of different foods and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Anything your child loves to eat will do – a slice of orange or banana, a teaspoon of peanut butter or a cube of cheese.

Then, blindfold your kids and tell them you are doing a blind taste test game. Even if they guess their favourite foods straight away, prompt them to explain why. For example, was it the texture, smell, or taste that they noticed first?

This will require that they tap into all their sense and truly think about the sensation of eating mindfully.

A little girl peers over the a countertop at a cupcake

7. Eye Spy

Car rides can make us all feel cooped up or irritable at times. One way to overcome this is by playing eye-spy.

If you have not played before, someone picks something they can see out the window and tells everyone else only the first letter of its name but keeps the rest a secret. So, everyone else will have to concentrate very hard on the outside world to guess correctly what the other person spies.

Once your child has picked their item, they will say ‘I spy with my little eye, something starting with ‘L’…’, And then the guessing begins.

This is an excellent game for focus and concentration and makes the minutes of a car ride fly by as well.

A family in the car on a road trip

Games like these incorporate concentration, patience, mental clarity, and problem-solving skills that are invaluable life skills to foster in children. Encouraging kids to engage with their senses, creativity helps provide them with the kindness and confidence to tackle the world.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and are only becoming more common in our society. Melbourne mum of three, Jeanie, speaks on her experience watching her daughter develop an eating disorder at only 15 years old. She offers insight into how to heed the warning signs in your child.

For most, eating is a pleasant and sociable experience. However, this is not the case for one million Australians who suffer from an eating disorder. As a parent, it can be your worst nightmare watching this illness take control of your child’s life. 

This was the unfortunate reality for the loving mother of three, Jeanie, who lives in outer Melbourne along with her husband, where they spend their time going for walks with their two dogs and enjoying their quiet country town. Raising two sons and one daughter, Jeanie’s household was full of laughter and love. However, life became daunting once Jeanie began to experience the deterioration of her daughter, who developed an eating disorder at the early age of 15. 

Jeanie speaks openly about how it felt watching her daughter’s sudden switch in behaviour towards food and life in general. She shares her pain, “You feel like an absolute failure at parenting because this precious child was obviously suffering right in front of you and you just let it happen”.

“You feel like an absolute failure at parenting because this precious child was obviously suffering right in front of you and you just let it happen.”

The most lethal eating disorder, anorexia, is known for having one of the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorders, making it the most deadly mental illness. An Arcelus study recorded that there are 5.1 deaths per 1000 people with anorexia each year and it continues to grow. 

Jeanie’s daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 2016, after expressing concern in regards to her extreme weight loss.

Now more than ever, the after-effects of experiencing a pandemic and dealing with multiple lockdowns in Australia, has had an extreme influence on the number of eating disorders since pre-COVID. The number of new eating disorder cases increased by 34%, rising from a weekly average of 654 in 2020 to 878 in 2021. The Butterfly Foundation, a helpline for those struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, stated they have experienced “High volumes of calls due to the challenges of COVID for many people experiencing eating disorders”.

The unfortunate reality of this mental illness is that you cannot prevent it from taking over your child’s mind. Many parents, including Jeanie, have little control over their child’s eating disorder and how they choose to cope. However, it is possible to pick up on warning signs in the early stages of an eating disorder and provide help for your child before it spirals further. Disordered eating habits can be the first indicator/gateway into an eating disorder. 

Disordered eating vs Eating disorder

According to assistant professor Katie Loth, “Disordered eating is the most significant risk factor for the onset of an eating disorder.” It is important to distinguish the difference between both disordered eating and eating disorders. Those who have disordered eating habits do not always spiral into an eating disorder. However, it is still an extremely dangerous habit and can have similar lasting effects that of an eating disorder. 

“Disordered eating is the most significant risk factor for the onset of an eating disorder.” 

Disordered eating habits have become more normalised in society as people, including young children, find different ways to lose weight in hopes of achieving an unrealistic body standard. Jeanie speaks of warning signs she picked up on from her own experience with her daughter. “She had always been a great eater growing up, it wasn’t until a couple years into high school at her All Girls college when she started to shift.” Jeanie recalls moments where her daughter slowly stopped joining in on a family cheese platter, food she used to enjoy and asking for salads in her lunch. At first this may seem completely normal and somewhat healthy. However, it is essential to pay close attention to your child’s eating habits at all times and keep an eye out for warning signs. These signs can range from anything between physical and emotional indications. 

Physical signs

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight
  • Stomach complaints
  • Hair thinning
  • Changes in menstrual cycle (for girls)
  • Increased fatigue

Emotional signs

  • Preoccupied with food, calories and their body image
  • Limiting specific food groups (eg. carbs)
  • Withdrawing from social activities and any activities involving food (eg. dinners)
  • Anxious prior to or during eating times 

At first, Jeanie didn’t suspect her daughter’s actions to be an alarming behavioural change, but assumed she was “trying to act older” and was simply “too sophisticated for a sanga, banana and a little chocolate in her lunch”. 

Eventually, Jeanie started noticing that her daughter had grown a sudden willingness to take control of the food she was putting into her body, through diet and restriction.

Dieting

National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) affirm that “Dieting is one of the strongest predictors for the development of an eating disorder.” This can include anything from your child simply replacing meals for ‘healthier’ alternatives or restricting specific foods. This supports the false notion that certain food groups are ‘bad’ and should be avoided. It is important to stay mindful of this and ensure that food groups are not labelled as good or bad when educating children on the importance of nutrition and health. 

Motivation Behind Disordered Eating

It can be collectively agreed upon that the main intention behind disordered eating is the pressure to ‘look’ a certain way. Jeanie explains that once her daughter lost her “Pre-adolescent weight,” she began receiving an influx of compliments, which inevitably fed the motivation behind her disordered eating. Jeanie believes the focus on the “Selfie” and the “Beginning of the instagram age,” puts an immense amount of pressure on teenagers to focus on their appearance in ways that are damaging.

Pressure on Parents

Not only does disordered eating affect the lives of those who fall victim to the illness, but for their loved ones too. Jeanie expresses her times of hardship dealing with emotions of guilt, stress and worry regarding her daughter’s illness. “Of course, I blamed myself. There were times in my life where I had ‘cut carbs’ or fasted or whatever. Had she watched me do that and learned dieting behaviour?” Not only did this cause Jeanie an extreme amount of anxiety, but she also found herself growing annoyed with her daughter during this time. “It was very, very frustrating. There were times when I wanted to yell, ‘Just f****** eat the cake!!!’ or whatever it was”. 

“Of course, I blamed myself. There were times in my life where I had ‘cut carbs’ or fasted or whatever. Had she watched me do that and learned dieting behaviour?”

Fortunately, Jeanie’s daughter is slowly recovering after six long years of dealing with this horrible illness. Despite still struggling with health issues related to liver function and a weakened immune system as a result of her eating disorder, Jeanie’s daughter is growing stronger mentally and physically every day. 

No one is safe from this illness. Anyone can fall victim to disordered eating and can eventually develop an eating disorder at any stage in their lives, despite their relationship with food. Disordered eating habits are all around us and it is our responsibility as a society to pick up on these unnatural behaviours, put a stop to it and ensure it does not progress any further.

Jeanie shares a piece of advice she urges parents to take on board: “Jump on it! Educate yourself and trust your instincts. The earlier the intervention, the earlier you can start removing this monster from your loved ones’ heads, because it can spiral so quickly”. 

Jeanie and Phoebe, January 2019.

If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact Butterfly Helpline. Be sure to confide in your friends, family or anyone willing to listen for support.

Birth order expert and parenting educator, Michael Grose, discusses the role a child’s position in the family has on personality traits and life experiences, in the newest edition of Why First-Borns Rule the World and Later -Borns Want to Change it.

 

First-borns are the ‘family conservatives,’ according to Grose. They tend to be the spokesperson for the family, commonly following in the footsteps of their parents, and hold a regal-like position.

In a family of three or more siblings, second-borns are the charismatic ones, says Grose, as they position themselves within rules set out by first-borns makes them easy-going. While, the youngest tend to challenge the rules and are the risk-takers out of the three types.

First published in 2003 by Penguin Random House, and now 18 years later, Grose’s updated edition of his book incorporates a change in family structure.

The theory is still the same but the context is quite different,” he says.

Grose is an expert in his field and helps counsel families through the lens of birth order. His book delves into the human psychology of the theory, analysing and explaining how and why it affects the way children, and consequently adults, behave.

Families are now more consistently having two siblings, rather than three or more, causing second-borns to have characteristics of last-borns.

This change in number of children per family, according to Grose, is known as a “micro-family”.

Gender, special needs or disability, the time spaced between births, twins or a death in the family can have an influence on the traits produced by birth order. As Grose states, these challenges or differences create “family constellations” rather than a numbered sequence which determines their characteristics.

Although “micro-families” are more consistent to today’s type of household, Grose’s definitions of birth order traits are the same as they were in 2003 and are mostly separated into three main categories: first-borns, second or middle-borns and last-borns.

First-borns tend to have traits such as:

• Goal/achievement orientated
• Conscientious
• Detail orientated
• Easier to raise/like to please/play by the rules
• Get things done
• Low risk-taker (stick to the things they are good at)
• Tendency for perfectionism
• Anxious/ tendency for neuroticism
• Rule makers/rule keepers/like routines
• Black and white in their thinking

Only children have personalities resembling first-borns, Grose adds.

Only children, but especially girls, can be extremely verbal but struggle with conflict resolution and conflict in general, he continues. Make sure they spend lots of time around kids their age and raise pets, as they need way to learn to get along with others, Grose clarifies.

Second-borns/middle children tend to have traits such as:

Conflict resolution skills
• People Pleaser
• Resilient
• Competitive and always feel they must compete for parental attention
• Peacemaker/Mediators/Negotiators
• Most likely to upset/aggravate other siblings
• Flexible/ fitting in with the rules set by the first born still whilst exhibiting abilities different to the first-borns
• Sometimes get lost or forgotten by parents resulting in them feeling forgotten or left out

Last-borns tend to have traits such as:

Street-smart
• Low conflict resolution skills, expects others to make decisions or take responsibility
• Charming and outgoing
• Can be quicker developing to catch up with older siblings
• Manipulative to get what they want
• Feels inferior, others seem superior
Entrepreneurs
• Can be even more successful but also different from the older siblings
• Do not mind taking risks

If there are only two siblings in a family, i.e. “micro families,” middle-borns and last-borns merge traits becoming later-borns, with characteristics from the two types combined.

Gross couples “micro-families” and the blended later-borns with what he calls the “Prince Harry effect”.

Using the example of the United Kingdom’s Princes, William and Harry. William as the first born, is a “real-keeper,” he says.

Gross continues to define Prince William as someone who follows first-born characteristics such as being conservative and respecting the rules and marrying the “right person.”

In contrast, “Harry is the spare,” Gross says. Prince Harry has last-born characteristics as well as some second born ones. He challenges the rules and expresses his independence, Gross shares.

Although first-borns have leadership traits and are responsible, these traits should not be taken out of their context by saying all first-borns become leaders, Grose says.

Later-borns can be leaders too, but the way they lead, he argues, changes depending on their birth order. Examples of leaders and their order of birth:
First born: Joe Biden
Second-born/Later-borns: Scott Morrison and Jacinta Ardern
Last-born: Donald Trump

Grose recommends pulling back pressure on first-borns and to push more on last-born children.

He asserts that first-borns have a higher risk of mental health issues than later-borns, due to being high achievers, which is a common first-born personality trait.

However, Grose does warn that not everything follows trends, there are always external factors to take into consideration for different behaviours. Nevertheless, understanding birth order helps parents’ parent their children.

In adult relationships, Grose says “opposites attract”, with the best combinations being first-borns and last-borns. He also suggests that parents tend to parent in relation to their own personal sibling position.

For example, later-borns or last-borns, as parents, are inclined to be more relaxed and less about rules, whereas first born parents take the role very seriously.

Grose, father of three and a last-born, began his career as a primary teacher, with 15 years of teaching experience he moved into parenting education by completing a Master of Educational Studies at Monash University.

He is now one of Australia’s leading speakers and educators, as well as a best-selling author, including his latest edition on birth-order theory.

He advocates the importance for teachers and parents to learn their students’ or child’s behaviour through the eyes of birth order, to establish better understanding of the individual and their needs.

While the scientific community has long discarded astrology as pseudoscience, scientific research suggests that your birth month has a lot more to do with your health than you might think.

The month a person is born can determine their likelihood to develop health conditions like heart failure or depression. A person’s zodiac sign can influence their health, not because their destiny is written in the stars, but because the time of year they were born influences their vulnerability to environmental factors, such as exposure to ultraviolet rays, vitamin D, temperature and seasonal viruses or allergies.

A study from the Columbia University Department of Medicine examined 1,688 different diseases and found 55 correlated with birth month, including asthma, ADHD, cardiac diseases, depression and bone diseases.

Findings showed that being born in certain months increased the risk of developing particular diseases. It isn’t all bad news, the study also found that certain months have a significant protective effect on health. For example, men born in June are 34 per cent less likely to suffer from depression and 22 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with lower back pain.

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Researchers emphasise that genetics and environmental factors such as diet, medical care and exercise are more likely to influence an individual’s chance of developing a disease. They also highlight that your exposure to seasonal factors during each month will vary depending on your location.

While your birth month will not solely determine your risk of developing a disease, examining trends will maximise the chances of protecting your health.

Children who have an engaged father are 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade.

In a series of studies in the 1980s on the effects of paternal involvement on child development, researchers discovered that children with highly involved fathers expressed increased cognitive competence, more internal locus of control, increased empathy and fewer sex-stereotyped beliefs.

These studies found that having two highly involved parents increases cognitive competence due to their interaction with different behavioural styles. Paternal involvement allows both parents to pursue rewarding and fulfilling personal interests and have a close relationship with their children, thus creating a family context in which both parents are satisfied.

Also, parents who adopt fewer sex-stereotyped roles result in their children having fewer sex-stereotyped attitudes – as they do not place an expectation on each gender.

Traditionally, the father has been regarded as the breadwinner and secondary parent within the family. Today, the role of the father in the upbringing of their children is more recognised and appreciated. Fathers play a significantly different role to mothers, as they offer new techniques and values, providing a male perspective and contributing to childhood experiences.

What is An Engaged Father?

An engaged and involved father is present in his child’s life, demonstrated through meaningful interction and spending quality time together, such as attending sports events or helping out with homework. This engagement has also been found to improve the psychological wellbeing of fathers, through a sense of generativity

Involvement can be measured by:

  1. Time spent with the child
  2. Warmth
  3. Monitoring and control (rules about activities, food, homework)
  4. Responsibility (tasks including changing nappies, buying clothes, disciplining children, playing)

A secure, supportive and sensitive relationship between an engaged parent and their child has benefits for all members of the family.

The Direct and Indirect Effect of the Father

Direct

Fathers have a direct effect on their children through the behaviour, attitudes and messages that they exhibit.

Fathers tend to spend less time with their children (due to work commitments, etc.) and are not as familiar with the language competencies of their children. Therefore, they are more likely to challenge their child’s pragmatic and linguistic abilities, by using more complex forms of speech. 

Indirect 

Fathers also have an indirect effect on their children in the following ways:

  • Financial support – Financial contributions to the family have been found to improve the psychological well-being of fathers, including improved self-esteem and self-efficacy with increase financial contributions. 
  • Emotional support – Providing support to the mother, who is also involved in the care of the children, can improve the quality of the relationship between mother and child.
  • Marital conflict – An unsupportive parental relationship can be damaging for children exposed to physical or emotional conflict.
  • Housework – Participating in housework eases the mother’s workload and demonstrates behaviour that can be emulated by children.

Dads and daughters

Daughters will model their future relationships based upon their dad’s character and their relationship with him. 

The father-daughter relationship will influence the expectations she places on men – the daughter will seek the same qualities from a man as her father exhibited.

Absent fathers have a negative impact on their daughters, affecting her ability to trust, appreciate and relate to men.

Daughters from father-absent homes are also prone to being either reluctant or sexually aggressive towards men due to their inability to form a meaningful relationship with their father.

Further, a lack of security and attention from the father negatively influences the daughter’s future sexual activity in the following ways, as she will:

  • Take more sexual risks
  • Participate in unrestricted sexual behaviour
  • Be four times more likely to fall pregnant as a teen
  • Partake in casual unprotected sex
  • Have riskier casual flings

There is some evidence on the effect of paternal nurturance on the daughter’s intellectual growth. It appears that strictness and emotional distance between father and daughter stimulates intellectual functioning. Moreover, it is proven that daughters raised by fathers who are challenging and have abrasive interaction are more independent and intrinsically motivated. These characteristics arise from fathers who are firm and demand mature behaviour yet reward independence and achievement.

A 1997 study found that daughters from father-absent homes either under- or over-achieved at college. The tendency to attain a high level of education was part of an effort to receive acceptance from their fathers, whereas the difficulties faced by underachievers were intensified by seperation anxiety, denial, feelings of loss and perceived vulnerability issues.

Dads and sons

The bond between father and son tends to be stronger than that with daughters because sons identify with and model their behaviour based on their father.

Contact between father and son stimulates intellectual development and cognitive growth in children.

A Journal of Genetic Psychology study on the impact of fathers on the social competence of their 5-month-old son found that they were:

  • Friendlier to strangers
  • Vocalised more
  • Show a greater readiness to be picked up
  • Enjoyed play more

Another study from the Journal of Social Issues on the effect of a high degree of paternal involvement on boys found that they:

  • Display fewer behavioural problems
  • Are better socially adjusted
  • Have stronger peer relationships
  • Have a higher degree of self-esteem
  • Are more mature and independent
But why is this the case?

The preference for a son exists before birth, with 3-4 times as many men preferring sons to daughters. This preference is evident in the early years – fathers more frequently communicate with and respond to their son’s vocalisations, play with their newborn sons for longer than their daughters, and are more willing to persist with overcoming challenging behaviour in sons than with daughters.

The reason for this could be that fathers see themselves in their sons and identify with them – viewing their achievements and failures as their own.

So how can I be a good dad?

From conception, fathers need to be making healthy decisions. The negative health outcomes of babies are often blamed on the mother. But the environmental exposure of the father also needs to be considered.

Habits such as binge drinking, poor dietary choices and stress can all have adverse effects on a baby’s health.

Throughout pregnancy, being a supportive and coaching partner helps to develop a bond at an early stage. Although infants may never remember interaction at such an early age, playtime with the child will strengthen that bond.

The difference between mothers and fathers

The difference in parenting style between mothers and fathers is evident in the different interaction style between parent and child.

Fathers are more physical in their interactions with children, as they tend to play rougher and engage in more exciting activities. Conversely, mothers are more verbal in their interactions and have a slow-paced parenting style. The approach from each parent complements and contrasts the other, meaning the child benefits from the diversity.

Other ways in which mothers and fathers differ include:

  • Fathers emphasise conceptual communication, which assists children in expanding their vocabulary and intellectual capacities.
  • Mothers express more sympathy and compassion towards their children, providing constant care to deal with their children’s needs.
  • Fathers tend to encourage risk-taking from their children and provide a broader range of experiences, whereas mothers have a higher focus on their child’s safety and wellbeing.
  • The strength, size and aggressive presence of fathers enable them to protect their children from negative influences and peers. This confrontational quality leads fathers to enforce discipline and encourage positive behaviour.

Warmth, nurturance and closeness are associated with positive outcomes in child development. The behaviour patterns acquired in childhood are caused by observing patterns demonstrated in parents and adopting similar behaviour. Fathers are crucial to the positive growth and development of children, and we should welcome the input and contribution that fathers make.

As children are entering puberty earlier than ever before, sex education has never been more important.

 

‘The talk’ is a phrase that strikes fear into parents, eliciting reactions like cringing, nervous laughter and hope that the conversation is a long way off – but how soon is too soon?

Modern day biological and environmental changes are causing children to enter puberty earlier than ever before. Medical writer, Dr Randi Epstein, says girls are entering puberty at 10-11 years of age, while boys are starting a little later, at 11-12 years of age. These findings, combined with the vast amount of technology and knowledge at children’s fingertips, has health professionals and parents re-evaluating sexuality education.

For kids, the absence of sex education can run deeper than a simple lack of knowledge. With bodily changes occurring much earlier, children midway through primary school who have not had these discussions can be left feeling scared and confused as they enter puberty – yet experts warn this is not the only danger.

Children’s bodies are developing well before their brains, faster than ever recorded. Creating what Psychologist Jane Mendle calls ‘maturational disparity’, a result of both environmental and biological factors. This condition has been observed as having detrimental effects primarily in young girls – although it can affect boys as well.

Mendle says girls who begin puberty early and experience this condition, are “more likely than others to suffer from panic attacks, suicidality, body dissatisfaction, substance abuse, and depression that extends into adulthood”. She also notes these girls are at greater risk of sexual harassment at school.

While maturational disparity significantly impacts the psychological wellbeing of children, having open discussions about sex and sexuality can positively impact children having such experiences and reduce the risks linked with the condition.

There are other dangers associated with leaving ‘the talk’ too late. Children could be missing out on crucial information that influences their wellbeing and safety. In a recent survey of secondary students by Latrobe University, over one quarter (28.4 per cent) of sexually active students had experienced unwanted sex at least once, and one third of students reported engaging in sexting in the last two months.

While schools are working to reduce risk taking behaviours and are educating students about consent – a parent’s role in sexuality education cannot be ignored. According to the Australian Department of Education, parental involvement in sex education “contributes to greater openness about sex and sexuality and improved sexual health among young people”.

While what your child may need to know is heavily dependant on their personal needs and unique development, health experts have outlined basic information your child should engage with based on their age group.

 

Ages 0 to 5

For those with children under five, professionals say to start small, sharing information that will help create clear, open lines of communication between a parent and child. For under 5’s:

  • Teach the correct anatomical terms for body parts.
  • Explain the concepts of public and private.
  • Ensure your child understands the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

 

Ages 6 to 10

At this stage in your child’s development it is important to prepare them for the changes they are about to experience before they begin puberty. Having this discussion prior to such changes happening will prevent fear and confusion when entering this stage of development.

  • Teach your child how babies are born, and how they grow inside the womb.
  • Explain puberty, how their body and mind will change as they get older.
  • Explain different sexualities and preferences.
  • Discuss gender stereotyping.

 

Ages 11 to 12

As many children are entering puberty, it may be helpful to explain exactly why these changes are happening, and how to navigate a world in which technology is such a big part of life.

  • Teach the names and functions of reproductive organs.
  • Explain sexual intercourse.
  • Teach your child how to respect themselves and others.
  • Teach basic hygiene practices associated with puberty, for example: wearing deodorant.
  • Instruct your child about responsible use of technology.

 

Age 13 to 18

During high school teenagers are entering their first relationships, and health professionals say it is better to provide the following information before your teenager is sexually active – rather than waiting until it’s too late.

boy dad sad depressed

  • Educate your child on safe sex practices.
  • Explain sexually transmitted infections, and how to prevent them.
  • Teach the meaning of consent.
  • Educate your child on healthy relationships.

 

The top parenting podcasts to listen to right now.

 

The Early Parenting Podcast

Australian mum of two and early parenting consultant, Jen Butler, offers quick tips for early parenthood in her brief, practical and upbeat episodes. Focusing on ages 0 to 4, Jen discusses topics like new-born sleep, breastfeeding, family health and toddler behaviour.

Offering up her expertise as a parent and midwife, Jen also includes self-care for mums, answering questions like ‘how do I know if I’m ready to have another baby?’.

In one episode, Jen talks about dummies, discussing the pros and cons. She says that the dummy can be used as a tool to help others to soothe your baby and warns against introducing the dummy too early. Jen also provides advice for weaning your child off the dummy as they age.

Episodes are very short, considering those parents with little time on their hands, each hitting under 10 minutes.

girl headphones podcast

 

Spot Family Podcast

A deeply informative weekly podcast about children’s development, health and learning. Australian host Heidi Begg, a speech pathologist and founder of Spot (an online speech therapy service), provides advice for parents.

Every episode includes advice from Heidi, interviews with doctors and health professionals, and science-based tools to help children reach their fullest potential.

This relatively new podcast, answers questions such as ‘is my child a late talker?’ and topics such as ‘how language impacts behaviour’ from the perspective of professionals.

Heidi talks about how to fix lisps and other speech issues, discussing the causes and psychological impacts of speech impediments. She explains the different kinds of lisps and the risks associated with leaving the condition untreated. Heidi highlights the impact of having a childhood lisp on educational development – saying that it can cause problems when learning to speak and read in school.

All advice provided is well grounded in research and professional experience, and episodes range from 30 to 60 minutes.

 

Baby Steps

Baby Steps follows parents (and YouTube sensations) Ned and Ariel Fulmer, as they prepare for their second child. In their mid thirties, Ned and Ariel live in LA with their dog and two year old son. In the podcast you join them through the ups and downs of Ariels second pregnancy and beyond.

They discuss the joys, fears, and messy parts of parenthood – reviewing new products, sharing personal stories, and offering advice.

In one episode about sex after pregnancy, the couple talk about the awkward moments and the challenging ones. These intimate stories are often humorous, and touch on taboo subjects. The couple recount their arguments about whether to have sex with the baby in the room and discuss the importance of maintaining an intimate relationship postpartum.

Episodes run for 30 to 60 minutes and focus on different aspects of parenthood and pregnancy. While Ned and Ariel claim they are not experts on parenting, the podcast is candid and entertaining.

kid music headphones child

 

The One in a Million Baby

In this podcast, host Tessa Pebble interviews parents of children with disabilities from New Zealand and all over the world. Every week, Tessa sits down with a new guest to discuss their unique experiences.

Each episode of The One in a Million Baby offers insight into the lives of families who experience the challenges and triumphs of parenting a child with special needs.

Many guests on the podcast are parents, advocates and educators for children with disabilities – and offer advice and personal stories. In her third episode Tessa explores the challenges Beth Armstrong faced when trying to find suitable education for her disabled daughter. Beth’s child Molly, has ADHD, Autism and is partially blind. In an engaging and heartfelt conversation, Beth explains her struggles against an education system not suited to disabled children.

Having lost her first child to Charge Syndrome (a rare genetic disorder that causes life threatening birth defects) at only 10 months of age, Tessa explores parenting children with disabilities through a unique perspective. Understanding and empathising with guests as they share their own stories. Episodes run for 30 to 60 minutes.

 

Spawned

Joint founders of CoolMomPicks.com, Liz Gumbinner and Kristen Chase are parents and writers. In their podcast Spawned, the two women sit down and discuss challenges affecting today’s parents. Each episode focuses on a new topic – such as parenting culture, general tips and tricks, and interviews with celebrity guests.

The podcast features a wide variety of guests, and examines challenges such as raising unplugged kids, and discipline.

One of the guests, psychologist Mike Brooks, discusses how to effectively reduce screen time for children. The hosts and Brooks examine the issue together, while Brooks provides practical advice for listeners.

The hosts provide entertaining and comedic stories and discussions, usually ranging from 30 to 60 minutes. Liz, Kristen and their guests work together to decipher modern parenting issues– providing different perspectives on today’s biggest parenting concerns.