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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.

It’s 7.00 am in 2013. I am living in the suburbs of New York City. Papa is annoyed. I know this because Scottish pipes and drums are blasting from the Bose speakers in the kitchen – this means we are late to breakfast.

Different styles of music marked different stages of our day growing up. For example, on a normal week day, we played classical music at breakfast. As a result, from a young age, we were familiar with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and Mozart’s Requiem, K. 626. These composers and their pieces marked the beginning of every day. At lunch time, we listened to Neil Diamond in the 70s and Stan Getz’s Girl from Impanema. Dinner, however, was exclusively American and Italian jazz.  Frank is a big family favourite—always kicking off Saturday night appetisers with New York, New York.

For as long as I can remember, I have woken to classical and fallen asleep to jazz.

Graffiti of jazz musicians.

With my days structured in musical genres, I was able to use my spare time for exploring my own musical tastes. From rap, to country, to Pitbull – my Spotify playlists never seem to make much sense. Indeed, growing up listening to different types of music meant I could not only explore a myriad of musical epochs, but also developed an interest in their history, because of the important social and political role some musicians played.

The way my parents used music to break up our days and structure them according to meal times, meant to this day, I associate music with community, to a time for conversation, and a time to enjoy my food.

I credit my solid relationship with food with the benefits of music.

A young family sharing a meal together.

As I grow older, I am increasingly aware of the manner in which family dynamics around food and meals can shape and affect our children’s eating habits. The benefits of listening to music at home in a structured, but enjoyable way, meant, growing up, the time for eating was always a shared event. Music brought my family together around a small kitchen island for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A happy family having a picnic.

Not only has the correlation between food and music positively affected the quality of our time spent eating, but as well as that of our conversation. If anything, music inspires taste and mood, which is reflected in the way people communicate.

Research on the association between music and its intellectual benefits for kids is common. The assumption is, however, that there is causation involved between listening to music and children earning higher marks. This didn’t play out for me because I was never patient enough to learn a musical instrument and always preferred kicking the soccer ball. However, alternative explanations could explain why children who grow up listening to music or playing a musical instrument achieve success. For instance, a child taking the time to learn to play the guitar might learn the skill of perseverance, which helps when tackling challenging homework.

Toddler playing the guitar at home.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) show that music has physical and emotional benefits. Music activates the emotional reward system of our brains and causes the release of dopamine. This is one of the main signaling molecules in our brains. It is often used to describe a small, pleasurable thrill. Music creates ‘peak emotional arousal’ following for instance, the anticipation of a beat drop or a particularly enjoyable passage.

This creates a similar feeling in our bodies as that of other ‘euphoria-inducing stimuli’ such as food, drugs and sex.

A model of the human brain.

When combined with other euphoric aspects of our lives – i.e. food and a happy family environment, music has incredible social and personal benefits. The natural benefits of music on the body explain why music is a universal concept among humans.

Young children often put non-food items in their mouths, such as grass or toys, because they’re curious about the world around them. However, children with Pica take this a step further and actually eat them.

A boy playing in the dirt

What is Pica?

Pica is an eating disorder characterised by the compulsive eating of non-food items. A person with Pica may eat relatively harmless substances, such as ice, but many crave potentially dangerous ones, including hair, dirt or faeces. This can lead to serious complications and occasionally death. The name is derived from the word ‘pica’, meaning magpie, based on the idea that magpies will eat almost anything.

Pica is diagnosed when:

  • A patient persistently eats non-food items for greater than a month
  • This consumption is developmentally and culturally inappropriate.

If the behaviour occurs in a patient with another disorder, such as autism, it must be persistent enough to warrant a separate diagnosis.

Who develops Pica?

Anyone can develop Pica, however it is most common in young children, pregnant women and people with developmental disabilities. It is unclear how many people are affected, but it is believed to be more prevalent in developing countries due to higher levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Pica can also be found in other animals, such as dogs or cats.

Causes

There is no clear cause of Pica, but doctors have found that it is more common in individuals who experience:

 

  • Malnutrition
    A boy playing on the beach
  • Iron deficiency
  • Autism
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • OCD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Trichotillomania
  • Excoriation disorder (also known as dermatillomania)
  • Emotional trauma
  • Parental neglect
  • Maternal deprivation
  • Family issues
  • Pregnancy

Pica and pregnancy

Pica in pregnant women is thought to be caused by iron deficiency anaemia. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to crave strange combinations of food, however, to be diagnosed with Pica the woman must be craving and ingesting non-food items such as soil, ice, or laundry detergent.

Worldwide, Pica is thought to occur in 25% of pregnant women. The reasons for this are often attributed to the geographic region and the associated risk of malnutrition and anaemia.

Pica in children

Children with dirty hands

Young children often put non-food items in their mouths, such as grass or toys, because they’re curious about the world around them. However, children with Pica take this a step further, and actually consume them.

Small children make up 25 to 33 percent of all Pica cases. The minimum age for diagnosis is two years, as children under two often eat non-food items due to lack of understanding.

Pica in adults

In adults, Pica is usually a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia. If not, it is often caused by psychiatric conditions or developmental disabilities.

It is difficult to determine the prevalence of Pica in adults, as many may not want to admit to craving and eating non-food items. In institutionalised adults, the prevalence is 21 to 26 percent.

In order for an adult to be diagnosed with Pica, the eating behaviour must be culturally inappropriate. In certain cultures, a non-food item may be considered appropriate for consumption. For example, eating dirt and clay is considered a custom in some parts of rural Mississippi.

Pica in animals

brown tabby cat in blue ceramic vase
A cat sitting beside a succulent

Many animals, such as cats and dogs, chew on non-food objects, but a much smaller percentage actually consume them. Pica behaviours are often caused by behavioural problems, such as anxiety, boredom, or compulsive behaviour. It is also seen in dogs who are teething.

Dangers

Eating non-food, non-digestible and potentially toxic materials can have numerous consequences, including:

  • Malnutrition
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dental issues
  • Choking
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Internal bleeding
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Lead poisoning
  • Brain damage

Treatment

Treatments for Pica vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, if symptoms are due to iron deficiency, supplements and dietary changes may alleviate symptoms without other treatment methods.

Behavioural modification techniques are often used, assisting sufferers to unlearn Pica behaviours. These techniques include:

  • Aversion therapy, where the individual faces a negative consequence for eating non-food items. For example, a child may have his or her toys confiscated, and a dog may be sprayed with water.
  • Positive reinforcement, where the individual is rewarded for eating nutritious food, or for not engaging in Pica behaviours.
  • Overcorrection, where Pica behaviours result in the individual, usually a child, being required to dispose of non-edible objects, wash themselves, and participate in chore-based punishment when they engage in Pica behaviours.

Treatment may also include dealing with complications, such as surgery for intestinal obstruction.

boy holding ice cream with cone
A child eating an ice cream cone

Does Pica go away?

In young children and pregnant women, Pica often resolves on its own within a few months, or after childbirth. Similarly, if Pica behaviours are due to a nutritional deficiency, treatment and supplements should alleviate symptoms.

However, Pica doesn’t always go away. In those with mental illness or developmental disabilities, Pica may continue into adulthood. In these cases, ongoing treatment and support may be required, including counselling and behavioural modification techniques.

Children and adolescents’ reactions to traumatic experiences can differ from the reactions of adults. During the healing process, it is important they are shown love, support and understanding.

A child looking sad

More than two thirds of children will experience a traumatic event by the age of 16 and, afterwards, distress is almost inevitable. Most need time to calm down and, depending on the child and type of trauma, this could take days, weeks, or months. During this process, it is important that everyone affected is shown love, support and understanding.

A traumatic event could include:

  • Abuse
  • Bullying
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Community or school violence
  • Natural disasters
  • National disasters, such as terrorist attacks
  • Loss of a loved one
  • War
  • Car accidents
  • Serious or life-threatening illness

Children and adolescents’ reactions to traumatic experiences can differ from the reactions of adults. This can be influenced by age, development level, previous traumatic experiences and access to a support network.

Children aged 0 to 2

Infants can sense your emotions and will react and behave accordingly. If you are relaxed, your baby will feel calm and secure. If you’re anxious, agitated or overwhelmed, your baby may have trouble sleeping, sleep irregularly, be difficult to soothe or may refuse to eat.

How you can help

  • Though going through a traumatic event can be difficult for everyone affected, try your hardest to remain calm.
  • Help keep your baby’s emotions balanced by showing physical affection, smiling, speaking soothingly and making eye contact.
  • Respond consistently to your baby’s needs.
  • Maintain a routine.

A mother holding her baby

Children aged 3 to 5

After experiencing a traumatic event, preschool and kindergarten-aged children may demonstrate regressive mannerisms or return to behaviours they’ve outgrown, such as bed wetting, tantrums, thumb-sucking or separation anxiety. They may demonstrate uncharacteristic behaviour, such as acting ‘babyish’ or withdrawn.

How you can help

  • Assure your child that the event is over and that they are safe.
  • Acknowledge and listen to your child’s fears.
  • When your child is upset, try to distract them. For example, play a game, read them a book or play with a pet.
  • Help the child to name their feelings, for example “you felt scared when the storm came.”
  • Protect the child from further exposure to the event. This may include footage or pictures of a natural disaster, news programmes, or conversations between other family members.
  • Make allowances for regressive behaviours, such as bedwetting or toileting accidents.
  • Try to maintain a regular bedtime routine.
  • If your child is experiencing nightmares, don’t ignore them. Instead, comfort them until they’re calm enough to go back to sleep.
  • If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, assure them that you are safe. It may be helpful to talk to your child’s preschool teacher, babysitter or other carers about their anxieties.

Children aged 6 to 11

School-aged children react to trauma differently depending on their age and stage of development. Younger school children may not have the appropriate skills to effectively communicate their emotions to those around them. On the other hand, upper primary school children are usually able to articulate their thoughts and communicate distress.

School aged children may become withdrawn or anxious and may fear another traumatic event. They may become angry, moody and irritable, which can lead to fighting with family members and peers. They may also experience stress-related physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches and exhaustion.

Two girls playing

How you can help

  • Reassure your child that they are safe, and that the people around them are safe.
  • Try to maintain a routine. This creates a sense of control and normality.
  • Keep your child busy. Organise playdates with friends, take them on outings, or play outside with them. If normal activities have been interrupted, provide alternate distractions, such as playing with toys or reading books.
  • When it comes to incidences of widespread trauma, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, pay attention to any rumours being spread at school. Assure your child that not everything they hear is true and correct any misinformation.
  • Limit a child’s exposure to news covering the event.
  • Avoid exposure to graphic images or footage, as this may magnify the trauma.
  • Talk to your child about the experience and encourage them to ask questions. Children often feel empowered by knowledge.
  • Answer questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Talk to your child about your own feelings. For example, “I miss grandma too” or “I was very scared when that happened, how about you?” However, don’t give details about your own fears, as this can be harmful and increase a child’s anxiety.
  • Acknowledge any physical complaints and assure your child that they are completely normal. Encourage them to rest, eat properly and stay hydrated. If these symptoms don’t go away, it is a good idea to check with your doctor.
  • Assure your child that they won’t feel like this forever.
  • If your child experiences feelings of guilt or shame, let them know that it’s normal to feel that way. Assure them that they didn’t cause the event and that nobody thinks it is their fault.

Children aged 12-18

A sad teenage boy

Teenagers may deal with their emotions by isolating from friends and family. They may become more aggressive, fight more with their family and peers, begin taking risks or turn to drugs and alcohol.

How you can help

  • Assure your teen they are safe to express their feelings.
  • Encourage discussion. Often teenagers don’t want to show their emotions. It might be helpful to start a discussion when you’re doing something together, for example, going on a walk, so that the discussion doesn’t feel too confrontational.
  • Help them take action. For example, encourage them to volunteer at a charity or homeless shelter. This may help them regain a sense of control and purpose.
  • Some teens may become involved in risky behaviour such as drinking. Talk to your teen about the dangers of this, and discuss alternative ways of coping, such as going on walks or talking to someone.
  • If your child is having problems at school, talk to their teachers or school counsellor about what has happened. They may be willing to give your child extra time to complete assignments, or extra help if they’re struggling to keep up in class.
  • Suggest healthy ways your teen can get their emotions out. For example, if they’re angry, they might feel letter after going for a run.
  • Like younger children, teenagers may exhibit regressive behaviours such as sleeping with a stuffed toy. Assure them that this is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
  • If your teen has experienced interpersonal violence, such as an assault, assure them that it wasn’t their fault, and that they aren’t to blame.

Helping children after the death of a loved one

Ages 3 to 5

  • Talk to your child about what the death means. For example, explain that they can’t see them anymore, but can still remember them and look at pictures.
  • Get your child to write them a letter. This is especially helpful if the death was sudden or unexpected, as it
    may help them say goodbye.
  • Stay calm when your child asks questions. Questions are how young children process information.
  • It may be helpful to talk to them about the idea of an afterlife. If your family isn’t religious, you can talk to them about how the person lives on in your memories.
  • Do something to commemorate the loved one. For example, plant a tree or draw a picture.

Ages 6 to 11

  • Share your feelings with your child. This will encourage them to open up.
  • Your child may feel angry, sad, or alone. Let them know that these emotions are normal and let them know you’re there for them.
  • Talk to your child about what impact the death may have on their daily life and routine. For example, ‘I
    have to work more now that daddy isn’t here.’

    A sad little girl
  • Be understanding if the child experiences problems at school after the death. Assure them that this is normal.
  • Understand that their academic performance may be affected.
  • Avoid using vague answers, such as ‘grandma is in a better place’. Most school-aged children have at least a small understanding of what death means, so these phrases may confuse them.
  • Encourage your child to celebrate the loved one’s memory. For example, planting a tree or making a scrapbook.

Ages 12 to 18

Teenagers may have difficulty expressing emotions about death. They may fear showing vulnerability and ignore and deny what has happened. It’s important to:

  • Share your own emotions with them and encourage them to share theirs.
  • Be patient.
  • Be understanding if the death affects their academic performance and assure them that their wellbeing is more important.
  • Celebrate the person’s memory. Your teen may find it helpful to pray for them, look through photo albums or plant a tree in their memory.

A man holding flowers in a graveyard

If these feelings don’t go away

Often people recover from a traumatic experience in the weeks and months that follow. However, some experience long lasting, distressing or worsening symptoms, which may signal the need for professional help.

People who have been through a traumatic experience may develop post-traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD). Those with PTSD experience unwanted thoughts or memories of the event, nightmares, flashbacks and heightened levels of fear and anxiety. They may avoid people, places or activities that remind them of the event.

Symptoms of PTSD may develop immediately after a traumatic event or may not surface until later. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and substance abuse.

Resources

Kid’s Helpline: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

National centre for childhood grief

Phoenix Australia

Find a health service

ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders, yet for many women it isn’t until they reach their twenties or thirties that they finally receive a diagnosis.

By: Harriet Grayson

“You don’t realise that other people don’t feel like you do in your mind, where it’s all very, very busy, quite noisy, sometimes irritatingly so.”

For many young girls, the terms “daydreamer” or “window-gazer” are commonplace. They may have trouble paying attention in class or focusing on a task, but it is just because they have over active imaginations. No one would stop to think that this daydreaming could in fact be a symptom of ADHD, that while everything might seem normal up close everything is “chaos”.

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is one of the most common neurodevelopment disorders that arises in childhood and lasts well into adulthood. In Australia alone, it is estimated that one in 20 children suffer from ADHD. While ADHD is often perceived as a child who simply can’t sit still, there are in fact two very different types of ADHD. 

One is the hyperactive-impulsive form, the most commonly recognised form of ADHD. Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD typically squirm or fidget regularly, are overly talkative, have trouble taking turns with others and find it difficult to focus on one task at a time. 

The less common form is the inattentive form of ADHD. Children with this form often daydream a lot, regularly forget or lose things, and make careless mistakes more often than most children do. 

According to child and adult psychotherapist, Fran Walfish, boys tend to exhibit the hyperactive form of ADHD while the inattentive form is more common in girls. Because its symptoms are not as easily observable, inattentive ADHD is often hugely undiagnosed in children, especially amongst girls and young women. Boys are over three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD, and even in adulthood they are still twice as likely to be diagnosed.

Little girl daydreamingThere are a number of reasons for this, one of the main ones being ADHD in women remains significantly under-researched to this day. Women weren’t included in findings from studies on ADHD until the late nineties, and weren’t given their own long-term study until 2002. 

Another crucial reason, and one that has no doubt contributed to the lack of research into ADHD in women, is the way gender norms in society to this day have created a sense that women are inherently sensitive, emotional and passive, while men are more serious and active. When girls and young women exhibit symptoms characteristic of inattentive ADHD, they are dismissed for being silly daydreamers. If they act impulsively, which in boys would be identified as a symptom of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, it is simply because they are a bit of a tomboy. 

Girls and young women are also more likely to cover up their ADHD symptoms by adopting the behaviour of those around them. Maddi Derrick, a clinical psychologist who directs an ADHD specialty clinic in Hobart and who herself lived with undiagnosed ADHD for much of her life, says that ADHD can also be under-diagnosed in girls and young women because they mature socially and emotionally more quickly than boys. 

According to Derrick, this means that they are “probably a bit more aware and focused on how others are viewing them” than boys with ADHD. Girls and young women with ADHD often try very hard to concentrate to hide the signs of their ADHD, so that in school teachers see someone who is just talkative or “daydreamy” rather than someone struggling with ADHD. 

Derrick describes experiencing a sense of “internal hyperactivity” throughout her school years, getting easily flustered or blowing up as her ADHD made it difficult to control her emotions. Yet she says it took her many years to realise not everyone felt the way she felt, and that not everyone’s mind is all “very, very busy, quite noisy, sometimes irritatingly so”.

While ADHD tends to be diagnosed early in boys, it is often overlooked in girls and young women until much later in life. Once women with ADHD reach their early to mid twenties, or their university years, their lack of self-regulation and self-management becomes more noticeable. Anthony Rostain, professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says that in university, women with ADHD have more of a risk of being susceptible to negative pressure from sororities or getting involved in things like recreational drugs because they have trouble managing impulse control. 

For many women, it isn’t until their thirties or forties that they are finally diagnosed. Noelle Faulkner, a journalist for the Guardian, has lived with ADHD for most of her life. As a child, she recalls being repeatedly told to “stop daydreaming”, “slow down” and “act like a lady”, while she herself felt “overwhelmed by the world” to the point where she disassociated from it to cope. 

After six visits to her GP in the space of two years, each one for the same unexplained exhaustion, she saw a psychologist who responded to her complaints by asking her if she was simply aiming too high. Her exhaustion was put down to the pressure for perfection faced by all women in her industry. It took experiencing numerous severe burnouts from feeling chronically overwhelmed and countless visits to various GPs and psychologists to finally get a diagnosis in her thirties.

Her experiences are similar to those of many women struggling to live with an illness they do not know they have, battling symptoms they cannot explain or seem to overcome. This struggle is multiplied for women with ADHD who are also mothers, juggling the never-ending demands of childcare as well as those of their career while their disorder wrecks havoc on their mental health. The medications many use to treat ADHD may get them through the day at the office, but tend to wear off by the time they get home, meaning that they have to manage the various demands of organising the house and taking care of their children with their ADHD at its full force. 

Mother at computer with children

For any woman with ADHD, managing their disorder so they aren’t completely overwhelmed can seem utterly impossible. It can be challenging, but there are a number of simple yet crucial steps women can take to make life not merely bearable but enjoyable. Medication, psychotherapy and mental health counselling are a few of the most common treatment options both for coping with symptoms of ADHD and for offering support for those with the disorder and their loved ones. 

Terry Matlen, psychotherapist and author on ADHD in women, offers some easy survival tips that women, especially mothers, with ADHD can employ to improve their lives. The first, and possibly the most important, is that women accept that they have ADHD. Matlen says it is hard for women to acknowledge that they aren’t perfect, and particularly that they need help, but that it is essential women just “accept (their) ADHD and go with it”. The second is to ask help from their family members in whatever way they need it. 

Matlen states, delegating tasks around the house not only gives mothers with ADHD the help they need but also helps teach their children responsibility. She also recommends that mothers explain their symptoms to their family, keep a calendar with colour coded schedules for each family member, and establish quiet zones free of technology to minimise distractions during quality family time. 

Perth Weekend Guide

We’ve found some fantastic fun and engaging things for the kids to do in Perth year-round, all you have to do is choose where to go first!

KEEP THEM ACTIVE

Are your kids bubbling with energy? These activities are sure to keep them entertained all day.

Zone Bowling Joondalup

Looking for a place with it all? With bowling, laser tag, an arcade and yummy food, Zone Bowling will keep them busy for hours. Visit: https://www.zonebowling.com/venues/wa/zone-bowling-joondalup

 

LatitudeAir Joondalup

Take the kids to LatitudeAir Joondalup to climb, bounce and fly. With over 3,000sqm of aerial entertainment, including trampolines and climbing walls, get the kids ready for a day packed full of activity. For more information, head to their website: https://latitudeair.com/?_ga=2.60282477.1790865332.1605578656-66651972.1605578656

The Climb Zone

At Kerem Adventure Park, the Climb Zone is a fun adventure packed experience – with high ropes, low ropes and rock climbing in a safe and fun family environment. Go to: https://www.theclimbzone.com.au

Adventure World

A favourite for the whole family, Adventure World is now open with awesome rides for everyone. If you’re a thrill-seeker, check out the big scary Abyss or the Kraken. Or if you’re looking for something a bit tamer, go see the Hawaiian resort-themed Kahuna Falls. There’s even something for the little ones in the Dragons Kingdom. Visit: https://adventureworld.net.au

Island Aqua Park

Located in Hillarys, this floating aqua park features climbing walls and slides, and is suitable for children 6 years and over. Just make sure to book 48 hours in advance. Go to: https://islandaquapark.com.au

Trees Adventure

Just one hour out of Perth, this action-packed treetop and zipline adventure is suitable for kids 4 years and older, and offers a great range of courses and challenges for the whole family to enjoy. Hopefully you’re not afraid of heights! Go to: https://treesadventure.com.au/park/lane-poole-park/

Bibra Lake Regional Playground

This playground has something for children of all ages, with everything from water squirting bulrushes to educational giant rocks telling local Nyungar stories. Located near Bibra Lake on Progress Drive, this playground has plenty of activities including a double flying fox, rope obstacle courses and climbing frames, and plenty of shade, so you can even bring a picnic. For more visit: https://www.cockburn.wa.gov.au/Recreation-and-Attractions/Parks-and-Playgrounds/Bibra-Lake-Regional-Playground

VR-Arrival

For the older kids, this fun and new Virtual Reality experience is suitable for children 11 years and older. Much more than just gaming, VR-ARRIVAL delivers extraordinary experiences, transporting you, your friends and family into immersive virtual worlds. Boasting the best in professional VR headset (HTC Vive Pro) and room-scale motion-tracking technology, VR-ARRIVAL lets you experience virtual reality at its very best, with unmatched immersion and realism. Walk freely inside virtual worlds and literally step INTO the experience. Visit: vr-arrival.com.au 

LEARN WHILE YOU PLAY

Keep them learning and growing on the weekends, by making their time off fun but educational.

AQWA

A family favourite located on Hillarys Boat Harbour, the Aquarium of Western Australia is the place to see and learn all about the underwater creatures of our coast as you go on a journey to learn and gain respect for our sea life. There is plenty to see and do, including diving or snorkelling with the sharks. For more info, go to: https://www.aqwa.com.au/

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison has some fantastic experiences such as an Escape Tour, for children aged 5-12; and their making a mark art workshop! With tours for children aged 8-12, the prison is an excellent and exciting place to learn while you play, getting a glimpse into the life of a prisoner at Fremantle prison.  https://fremantleprison.com.au/visit-us/

Boola Bardip Museum

Located in the heart of Perth, the new and improved Perth Museum has finally reopened its doors and has a multitude of fun programs and activities to get up to. From their “Blast off! Stop Motion Animation” program about meteorites and our solar system, to their “Virtual Vortals program” about virtual reality and interactive digital adventures, plus many more. See: https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/boolabardip/tours-programs-events

WA Maritime Museum

This weekend, head on down to the Maritime Museum in Fremantle to learn all about the fascinating world of the Vikings, with activities such as a Vikings themed game show, a choose-your-own-adventure story, or just relax and enjoy a fun-filled adventure of sailing, raiding and exploring. Go to: http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime

 

Gravity Discovery Centre and Observatory

Located only an hour north of Perth, become a rocket scientist for a day with their rocket making activities, and on Thursdays get the chance to become a space explorer with their school holiday program. Visit: Gravity Discovery Centre

SEE THE WILDLIFE

Are you an animal-loving family? There’s plenty of activities to get out and see some furry (or not so furry) friends.

Perth Zoo

A family favourite for wildlife is the Perth Zoo. There is plenty to do, from kids and youth programs to watching live streams of the animals and Zoocoustics where you can see some of the best emerging Australian musicians with your loved ones. Set in the lush gardens of the Zoo, these unique live acoustic music sessions will have hearts fluttering. There will be food trucks for those looking for a bite to eat, or pack a picnic and bring your own food with responsible BYO drinks. General tickets are $30. Perth Zoo members receive a discounted ticket price of $25 (A valid Perth Zoo membership card must be present upon entry).  For more information check out the website:  https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/programs

Caversham Wildlife Park

Located inside of Whiteman Park, get the chance to meet a wombat, feed a kangaroo, meet the koalas or feed some penguins. Visit: https://www.cavershamwildlife.com.au/daily-attractions/

Yanchep National Park

Have a little explorer on your hands? There are more than 400 caves reported at Yanchep Park, each offering contrasting experiences. Not only this but there are koalas to visit, kangaroos to see, golf to play and the opportunity tolearn about the rich culture and history of the Noongar people of Australia’s South West. For more, go to: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/yanchep

Cohunu Koala Park

Have a chat with over 30 talking parrots, see dingoes, kangaroos, emus, deer and koalas, just to name a few of the animals that live at this park. Take a ride on the Cohunu Park Railway for $4, it zig-zags its way throughout the park most weekends & public holidays (subject to weather conditions). Visit: http://cohunu.com.au/pioneer-steam-museum/

 

Penguin Island

Just a five-minute ferry ride away, the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is an island known for its wildlife. Join them for a cruise to see some dolphins, rare Australian sea lions, as well as the world’s smallest penguins. Plus the chance to swim, snorkel, picnic and explore, Penguin Island is a dream for animal lovers. Go to: https://www.penguinisland.com.au/#welcome-1

Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm

Are cuddly farmyard animals more your style? With entry including free tractor/train rides, a free merry go round ride, free bottle and bucket feeding, and free tea and coffee for the grown-ups, this is a lovely day out for the family. Visit: https://www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com.au

Toodyay Fairy-Tale Farm

Located in the Avon Valley town of Toodyay, this family built and owned farm has a range of indoor and outdoor displays of all your favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales, friendly farm animals for the kiddies to interact with, and even a vintage toy museum. Go to: https://www.fairytalefarm.com.au

 

 

It took all of 30 seconds to go from, “You can’t play with me,” to the older sister belting her younger brother on his back with her Barbie doll. There were many tears, a Timeout, and a forced apology, as well as a ban on all play dates for the rest of the week.

Sibling conflict and rivalry is all too familiar to many families. With arguments ending in violent outbursts, crying and an effort to separate the sparring kids, parents often wonder if their children will ever get along. While the cliches in popular culture frequently portray negative relationships between siblings, being aware of the long-term effects of this kind of behaviour is important for parents.

Recent paediatrics studies published in the United States National Library of Medicine reveals being bullied by a sibling can be just as damaging to a child’s mental and emotional health as being bullied by another child in the playground or at school. The home is meant to be a safe space for each individual member of a family. When bullying occurs there, children will feel helpless, anxious and extremely unhappy, which can manifest into more serious issues of depression and other mental illnesses as they grow older.

It is important to note that there is a difference between bullying and rivalry – bullying is more infrequent than rivalry. Sibling bullying has an element of aggression verbally and physically that rivalry does not. Violent words, manner of speech, as well as physical actions and intent are all signs of bullying. Rivalry lacks this ongoing element of aggression and nastiness and, according to Sherri Gordon of Verywell Family,

“This bullying…stays with the victim for years to come.”Sad young girl

Sibling relationships are shaped by a multitude of forces. While family dynamics and composition play a role, as do extramarital factors, every child is unique. Research indicates that siblings can be as different to one another as two completely unrelated children.

A study by Cambridge University conducted on a group of children over five years investigated the nature of sibling rivalry. It discovered siblings have an overall positive impact on each other, even if their relationship isn’t completely happy.

According to the study, mild rivalry between siblings can be beneficial to both children and will not often have long term impacts. It is when this behaviour is sustained and occurs over a lengthy period of both siblings’ childhoods that issues can arise. These negative impacts can result in long term problems such as:

  • Difficulty with relationship-building later in life (romantic and non-romantic)
  • Behavioural problems
  • Difficulty in social situations
  • Extreme competitiveness
  • Difficulty accepting criticism and being a “sore loser”

A healthy amount of rivalry can boost a number of positive elements in the younger sibling’s early development. Older children expose their younger brothers or sisters to emotionally rich language particularly when engaged in an argument or competition with the younger sibling. The Cambridge study found, that by the age of six, younger siblings could converse with their older siblings about emotions on equal footing rather than at the level of other six-year-old children.

Two children playing together

It is in the space of sibling relationships that children learn the most about conflict resolution and prevention, as well as testing their social skills both before and during their primary school years.

Michele Fry of Greatschools.org states, “It’s where children learn to cooperate and compromise – skills they carry into adulthood.” With a sibling, the boundaries and limits of social interaction which are modelled by parents can be tested and experimented. Fry explains, unlike with a school-yard friend, a sibling won’t leave their brother or sister if they get called a name or teased by their sibling. In this way, siblings continually learn from each other about how to interact with their peers.

What is important to note is that this testing of social interaction between siblings needs to be monitored by their parent – what can be seen initially as pushing the boundaries can quickly escalate into abuse if the behaviour continues. In this situation the parent should intervene to reinforce positive behaviours and mediate conflict if the children can’t do so between themselves.

 

The role of the parents

Parents have one of the biggest influences over the relationship between their children. Dr Sylvia Rimm, psychologist and director of the Family Achievement Clinic, outlines what is important for parents to know about rivalry between their children.

  1. Labelling

Referring to your children as the “sporty” child, or the “creative” or the “academic” child can cause significant problems for both children. While this may initially seem like a good way to encourage and guide children into areas they may show a natural propensity for, it can have adverse effects.

Dr Rimm states, labels reinforce differences between siblings and can encourage competitiveness for certain titles, commenting;

“When children are labelled best in a domain, they often do their best to prevent another sibling from encroaching on their domain.”

Michele Fry also highlights the negative impact on self-development that labels can cause. Children who are labelled early will often live up to these labels and be disinclined to venture into other areas. It limits their capacity for developing an identity separate to the one they have had reinforced constantly by their parents and siblings because of the label they were given at an early age.

  1. Gender, age and family dynamics

Gender, age and family dynamics are also important to consider as parents when assessing the level of sibling rivalry and encouraging positive sibling relationships. Rivalry is generally harmless and something that most siblings grow out of by the time they have reached their late teen years. Dr Rimm outlines the following instances where rivalry can escalate or cause prolonged problems for both siblings:

  • Two close-aged children of the same gender e.g. two sisters 18 months apart
  • The younger sibling following directly after a very talented oldest child
  • The “baby” of the family

Two young sisters in grass

It’s also important to remember that siblings spend more time together than they do with their peers. Growing up, living in the same household, going through shared family experiences, all contribute to siblings knowing one another in a way that peers do not. While this can be positive for relationship building into the future, it can also have a negative impact for rivalry and bullying. A sibling will know their brother or sister’s weak spots and sensitivities more than schoolyard friends might.

Professor of Applied Family Studies, Laurie Kramer, states,

“Children can take advantage of vulnerabilities and make the other one feel bad with a word.”

This kind of emotional rivalry or bullying is harder for parents to monitor but can be extremely damaging long term on self-esteem and development particularly if it occurs frequently during teenage years.

 

What are the long-term impacts?

According to Mike Bundrant, psychotherapist and co-founder of the Neuro-Linguistic Program, sibling rivalry and aggression can have the same long term as bullying by a peer. In the teenage and young adult years, it can result in a deterioration of self-esteem and sense of personal identity. This usually arises in cases where sibling rivalry takes the form of frequent humiliation or a desire to embarrass one sibling in a public setting.

Sibling rivalry can continue into adulthood and be a feature of a family relationship that never goes away. As adults, there can be competition surrounding financial and employment success, marital and familial situation, and on the successes of the sibling’s own children.

Siblings are usually the closest and most long-lasting family relationship in anyone’s life. Siblings will grow old together in a way that a parent child relationship doesn’t usually provide. If this relationship can be nurtured from a young age, siblings may have a better chance of maintaining a supportive and healthy relationship into adulthood as they create their own lives away from the family home.

Family gathering

Educational consultant and parenting coach, Chrissy Khachane, suggests the following tips for creating positive sibling relationships:

  1. Support cooperative play.
  2. Teach each child to respect the differences between one another.
  3. Talk through poor behaviour with each child to promote understanding in difficult situations.
  4. Teach your children to resolve conflict.
  5. Reinforce boundaries with private conversations.
  6. Give each child individual attention away from his/her sibling.
  7. Modelling healthy relationships by validating each child’s feelings from time to time.
  8. Teach them the difference between tattling and seeking help.
  9. Give each child their own physical space.
  10. Teach your children to recognise and label their own emotions.
  11. Family rituals and traditions are a great way to foster healthy sibling relationships.

Parents walking with children

 

Fast fashion is the notion of creating low-cost clothes in a rapid-fire production – and it is a problem which needs to change to lessen the impact it has on the environment. Considered the second most polluting industry in the world by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and more than 500 million dollars of textiles ending up in Australian landfill each year (Ross, 2019), experts say measures need to be taken to combat this issue. Measures include clothes rental, better recycling processes, pollution control technology and the innovation of offcuts.

Other harsh statistics many may not know about the textiles industry include its estimated use of water is around 1.5 trillion litres each year – even making a single pair of denim jeans uses over 10 000 litres! Read it again – that much water for only one pair. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said the fashion industry creates 10 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, meaning the cheap clothes selling off the shelves at a rapid pace, are doing more harm than one may think.

If the notion of reducing your fast fashion footprint has been on your mind for a while, here are some ways to reduce it.

assorted-color apparels

 Shop with ethical brands

 An ethical company is one who treats their workers fairly, in terms of payment and providing a safe environment – all whilst using ethical materials and partaking in honourable practices. Companies with policies in place such as the management of water usage and chemical practices and recycling programs, are all ones you should consider buying from.

Re-use and re-mend

Go through the wardrobe and be surprised at the hidden gems that will appear. If an item has a slight hole or a stuck zip, there are plenty of easy ways to fix or revamp with a simple DIY. 

Charity shopping

With restrictions eased all around the country, have a fun day out by exploring the local op-shops. The sense of giving clothes a new home and purpose is rewarding – and saves some coin also.

assorted clothes in wooden hangers

My Great Grandmother, Dorothy Shoemark, is a 94-year-old living alone in the rural NSW town of Wagga Wagga. Being born four years before the Great Depression and having a husband who fought at war, Dorothy wouldn’t be alone in saying she grew up in difficult circumstances. Growing up in challenging environments is part of the reason the older generation are so wise, making them always willing to locate an ear to be filled with stories of greatness.

The older generation possesses a distinct sense of wisdom that people of today will never truly un tap. Taking in years of helpful anecdotes from these individuals fills us with a sense of hope. Life is short, so satisfy it with colour and advice from those who have experienced walking the path before you.

As I walk up to Dorothy’s back gate on this delightful 27-degree day, I spy her keeping the garden in full bloom and satisfying the belly of the neighbourhood magpie. We settle in for what will be a two-hour discussion, reminiscing on her childhood, first loves and first jobs. 

“Everyone should follow their dreams and do what they want to do. Take no notice of anybody else, don’t get distracted on your journey to success,” my grandmother says at the beginning of our conversation. “If you think you can make it [in a career you love], that’s what you concentrate hard on. Do it and work your insides out.”

Dorothy says she is passionate about telling people they should work hard for what they want, as when she left school in her early teenage years she couldn’t read or write properly. Because she needed to make money to survive, she persisted and taught herself everything she knows by reading whatever she could find.

Following on from this work-related advice, Dorothy also tells me you get what you want out of work from what you put into it. “If you want money you need to go out and work for it, don’t just sit at home and do nothing,” she says with her finger pointing in the air.

“To get anywhere in this world you need to be outgoing, confident and consistent.”

Dorothy’s love advice doesn’t differ much from words in teen magazines today. As we watch the neighbourhood magpie fly back for its second helping, she tells me the key to love is all about respect. “Find someone who treats you well – a person with real respect for you,” she says. Dorothy knew her late husband was the one as even when he was sent off to war, he never forgot to write to her for special occasions, to check up on her or to provide his monthly updates – which to Dorothy, is a massive sign of respect.

In terms of self-love, Dorothy was ardent in telling me that we need to look after ourselves and our body first – as we are only blessed with this one body for our whole being. “If you look after yourself, you’ll live as long as me! In fact, if you don’t get married at all you’ll probably live past 100,” she chuckles. If an aspect within a relationship seems unsettling and you seek guidance from others, Dorothy urges that you need to take good advice when it is given to you, because more often than not they are right.

“Don’t take good advice for granted, if they tell you something that is hard to hear, it is because they care and want what is best for you,” she says.

Focussing on money, Dorothy believes it is important to always have a separate bank account just in case you need it. Keeping a portion separate from your partners ensures you have a select amount of money to keep yourself on your feet, as well as buying the occasional treats to make life exciting. “Some people don’t realise what’s in front of them. You have to rent homes, buy a property, buy or fix new appliances, have money for starting a family – it all gets very expensive,” she says. Making money all comes back to working hard, treating your bosses and employees with respect and never settling for anything less than you deserve.   

If you are privileged in this day and age to have an elderly member close by, go and tell them you love them, ring them up or even better, offer a socially distanced air hug.

“There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. It puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.” – Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist.

Gen Z were the first generation to grow up amidst social media, with the first notable site, Six Degrees, being created in 1997. Rapidly, social media has proliferated out of control, gaining popularity across the well known sites we know today. 

But what effects has this had on generations starting with Gen Z and that of which followed?

A popular documentary released on Netflix called ‘The Social Dilemma’ examines this and the damaging effect that this has had on children’s social skills. Teenagers in particular have been the primary focus and their ability to create new relationships.

“We’ve created a world in which online connection has become primary. Especially for younger generations. And yet, in that world, anytime two people connect, the only way it’s financed is through a sneaky third person whose paying to manipulate those two people. So we’ve created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context with the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture, is manipulation.” – Jaron Lainer, founding father of Virtual Reality Computer Scientist

In America, a short survey was conducted to discuss this by The Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and they discovered:

– 75% of teens said social media negatively affected their romantic relationship

– 77% chose texting as one of the popular ways to start a relationship

– 82% said texting is one of the two ways to end a relationship.

As children engage in face-to-face communication, they are developing social skills through vocal and visual cues which brings context to the situation. These communication cues can be portrayed through eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions and space between individuals (Knapp & Hall, 2010).

But if children are communicating solely through social media, they aren’t learning these non-verbal communication skills that are necessary to succeed in life.

It has become trendy across all social media platforms for Gen Z to joke about their social incompetencies with comments such as needing their parents to book doctor’s appointments for them because they’re afraid to talk over the phone, but to what extent is this going to affect how society will function in the future? 

“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or lonely or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves. That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.” – Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre for Humane Technologies

Perhaps social media isn’t the future, but something that needs to be changed or consumed in extreme moderation.