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More than one in five Australians are resorting to using rags, socks and other unsuitable alternatives for their period because they can’t afford sanitary products. 

A fourteen-year-old girl wanders into an empty laundromat looking for socks that have been left behind, forgotten and discarded. She collects whatever she can find, reaching inside the large silver washing machines that smell like old detergent and cotton. Imagine your daughter stealing socks from a laundromat to use for her period. This is the reality for young girls living under the poverty line in Australia.

Rochelle Courtenay, founder of Share the Dignity a non-for-profit national period poverty charity, is teary eyed as she recounts a tragic but sadly common story. “Somebody else’s socks in your underpants to deal with your period,” Courtenay says, “I would never wish that for anybody. So that’s what I do what I do.”

Photo by The Economist

“No one likes to talk about poverty because it’s a dirty secret,” Courtenay says, “and no one likes to talk about periods because it’s something that doesn’t really happen, right?” When you mix the two together you are creating an almost untouchable subject. Alarm bells ring when a young girl is telling you she is safer on the streets than in her home. Forced to use unsanitary alternatives for her period that are potentially dangerous for her health. Women in poverty are expected to deal with it when toilet paper is free but essential period products aren’t.

The Period Pride Report: Bloody Big Survey by Share the Dignity found that “close to half of the 125,000 respondents said they had missed at least one day of school because of their period.” It also reported that around 50% of participants “also admitted to wearing a pad or tampon for more than four hours because they didn’t have enough products to get by.”

Period Pride Report: Bloody Big Survey by Share the Dignity

A report in 2020 found that over 3.24 million Australians are currently living below the poverty line. This leads to period poverty where Australians cannot afford period products on top of other essentials. Dr Ruth Knight from The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies based at QUT Business said in an interview with Women’s Agenda that “period poverty is a real issue that is under-researched.” Saying that “we have anecdotal evidence of teachers personally donating products but there is a lack of data about the level of need.”

“Period poverty is a real issue that is under-researched.”

Over the past 5 years there have been a handful of positive changes. New Zealand has made period products free for all school students across the country, ahead of Australia. While Scotland has become the first country in the world to provide free period products for anyone who needs them, not just school or university students. This is a milestone that needs to happen all around the world, as period poverty doesn’t just stop once females finish school.

At the start of 2021 South Australia announced that free period products will be available in every public school over the next 3 years. With the state government spending $450,000 to provide students in year 5 and above with products. Victoria also has free products for school students and New South Wales has followed suit saying they will provide free products in public schools. Courtenay points out that roughly 200,000 products only supply 50,000 females over 4 months and to only have $450,000 for all schools in one state is not enough.

Rochelle Courtenay from Share the Dignity photo by The Border Mail

Share the Dignity started with a single Facebook page; it now has nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram, a partnership with Woolworths and nearly 250,000 followers on Facebook. Without social media, charities like this would not exist and there would not be a space for these conversations to happen. Courtenay maintains that no one in the government wants to talk about homelessness or domestic violence because it’s not positive. “All of the things that are relative to women are things that we don’t want to discuss,” she says.

When we think about period poverty we often naively associate it with homeless people. But in reality, people living in poverty could be your colleague or classmate sitting right next to you; poverty doesn’t always look like what you think. The issue with period poverty is the lack of data, as governments and politicians alike use data to make changes; without data they won’t fix the problem. Share the Dignity is trying to change this, with their national period pride survey aiming to collect data that can be presented to the government.

Period Pride Report: Bloody Big Survey by Share the Dignity

Let’s Talk, Period. is an audio podcast hosted by Isabella Gosling that’s dedicated to opening up the conversation around female health and anyone who menstruates. Isabella says “periods are the only blood that doesn’t come from violence or injury. It’s a natural occurrence… yet it’s seen as dirty.” Breaking down the stigma through social media and the podcast, a digital platform that can be accessed anywhere around the world, is a great step that starts to abolish the notion of shame.

“Periods are the only blood that doesn’t come from violence or injury. It’s a natural occurrence… yet it’s seen as dirty.”

Gosling says that the team decided to create an audio podcast instead of video content because you can just pop your headphones in, and no one will know what you’re listening to. “If you don’t want people to know what you’re listening to… there’s nothing on your screen,” she says. “It’s just a really great way to create conversations (without) that notion of shame or judgement.”

Social media creates an online community for period poverty, where the conversation happens on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here users are quick to point out that the government is acknowledging period poverty by awarding Young Australian of the Year to Isabell Marshall, who co-founded a not-for-profit sanitary products company. But they are still yet to take on the responsibility of constantly collecting the relevant data to make political changes.

One Twitter user responded to the announcement that period products are now free in schools across New Zealand by saying, “Meanwhile here in Australia, we have a federal government who gives out an Australian of the Year award to young women for running a similar program rather than actually taking responsibility for helping women/reducing period poverty themselves… #auspol” Which suggests that the Australian government knows period poverty exists but are choosing to put it on the back bench.

Period Pride Report: Bloody Big Survey by Share the Dignity

Period poverty and domestic violence often collide, as many women fleeing domestic violence don’t think to grab their period products when they are escaping from a situation. In Australia one woman dies every week as a result of domestic violence and their names go unheard.

“A woman dies every freaking week by someone that once said they loved her… we have continued to not do something about it from the government perspective and yet a man gets killed by a shark, once or twice a year… It will be in the media for 3 freaking days, everyone will be talking about it… they’ll be putting alerts on every shark that’s out there.”

Courtenay said “a woman dies every freaking week by someone that once said they loved her… we have continued to not do something about it from the government perspective and yet a man gets killed by a shark, once or twice a year, it is complete up-brawl. It will be in the media for 3 freaking days, everyone will be talking about it… they’ll be putting alerts on every shark that’s out there.” How can so much time and coverage go into one man being killed by a shark every once in a while, yet we can’t even protect women in their own homes.

In Australia period poverty is slowly turning heads and being recognised as an issue. But there is so much more that needs to be done; we need data, we need funding and the government needs to do more. Having free period products in schools is great, but what about university students and those that aren’t students living under the poverty line.

If you or anyone you know needs more information on domestic violence call 1800-RESPECT or Lifeline 13 11 14

How can you help?                                                                                                                                                                                                      There are many ways to support period poverty in schools and beyond, here are some foundations where you can donate your time or resources.

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.

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.

Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored on the weekends because you can make memories in Melbourne with our Activity Guide. We’ve done all the hard work searching for ideas – so all you need to do is decide where to go first!

IN THE CITY:

The CBD offers a variety of interesting and exciting activities all year round. Check out what’s happening now:

  • IMAX is releasing an exclusive documentary SEA LIONS: LIFE BY A WHISKER 3D.Narrated by award-winning actor Sam Neill, this classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Otto, a young Australian Sea Lion pup, and the Marine Park Ranger dedicated to saving her species. Presented in immersive 3D, the movie features stunning footage of the uninhabited wilderness of the Great Australian Bight and to the lush kelp forests off the Californian coast. Visit https://imaxmelbourne.com.au/ for more.
  • Looking for an exciting and educational day out? Take your family to one of Melbourne’s three biggest zoos where they can meet all sorts of animals! With everything from lions, to giraffes and Australian bush animals you’ll be sure to have a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the new Dino Lab where your little ones can explore the giant dinosaurs and learn about their extinction. Visit Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Zoo. Go to https://www.zoo.org.au/
  • Ride the Scenic Railway around the perimeter of Luna Park where you can catch the view of St Kilda beach or enjoy the range of children’s rides on offer. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, have a go on the Enterprise or Supernova to get your heart racing! Visit https://lunapark.com.au/
  • Catch the best views of the city on the Melbourne Star. The giant ferris wheel takes you 120 metres into the sky to see 360 degree views of the busy port, city gardens and streets and views towards Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Go to https://melbournestar.com/
  • Walk amongst creatures of the deep at the Melbourne Aquarium. With everything from sharks to seahorses to the Mega Croc, you are guaranteed a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the Ice Age 4D Cinema! Go to https://www.visitsealife.com/melbourne/

  • If your kids are interested in science, then Scienceworks is a must! With loads of live shows and self-guided activities, your kids will be sure to discover something new! Check out the new show Colour Uncovered! to learn about how and why we see colour or stop by one of the Planetarium shows! Go to https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/
  • Discover the rare and beautiful plants in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. Jump on a bus tour to explore the gardens or visit the new Arid Garden which is over 100 years in the making! Visit https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
  • Take a stroll down Hosier Lane to admire the artwork of some of Melbourne’s most talented graffiti artists.
  • Discover fresh produce and speciality shops at the Queen Victoria Market. Located on Queen St in the CBD, browse through hundreds of stalls covering 17 acres!

REGIONAL VICTORIA:

Looking to get out of the city for a day? Go for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Victoria where you will stumble upon a number of activities to entertain your family.

  • Summer is here, it’s the perfect time to be with your family and friends making the most of the warm summer evenings – immerse yourself in a magical world of myth and make believe!  Be captivated by a show of world class knights jousting on war horses – as you sip on a cold beer and all enjoy wood fired pizzas together. This summer’s ALL STAR program includes our favourite characters from Alice in wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the White rabbit! Robin Hood and his crew will be defending the kingdom against the nasty Sheriff! Rapunzel and her Prince will plan an escape from the evil witch’s tower! And do not forget to meet our dragons and the brave knights who compete for the title in our world-famous Championship Joust! Go to: https://www.kryalcastle.com.au

  • Your Mornington Peninsula adventure starts here, at the top of Arthurs Seat. Hit the ground running with our ground-based adventure activities – all included with General Admission! Experience the all-new Sky Scramble as well as our garden mazes, stunning formal gardens & boardwalks, Canopy Walk, epic Tube Slides & giant brainteaser puzzles! Embark on an exciting eco-adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with our exhilarating Grand Tree Surfing course. For the little climbers, our Nippers Tree Surfing course is suitable for ages 4 & up. We highly recommend pre-booking to avoid any disappointment. Visit our website for more information and to book your tickets! www.enchantedadventure.com.au

  • Fancy a ride on a century old steam railway? The Puffing Billy takes you on a 25km journey through the Dandenong Ranges, providing a relaxing day out with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pack a picnic and bring your family along for an enjoyable visit just one hour out of Melbourne. Go to https://puffingbilly.com.au/

  • The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers a delightful day of fun with hands on chocolate making classes, a showroom featuring thousands of chocolate products and daily tasting sessions! Don’t forget the landscaped gardens and an orchard, where you can go for a stroll while enjoying a treat from the café. Visit https://www.gorci.com.au/

  • Take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the famous Twelve Apostles and the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge. Continue along to reach the Great Otway National Park to enjoy a day of adventure.
  • Spend a relaxing day at the Peninsula Hot Springs where you can immerse yourself in the Bath House or relax in the private baths. Seeking a bit of R&R? Indulge in a spa treatment or massage. Visit https://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

  • Located at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo with over 160 species of animals to keep you entertained all day. Experience a close encounter with cheetahs and red pandas or visit the endangered Tasmanian Devil! With over 600 individual animals to check out, you are guaranteed a day of fun! Go to https://hallsgapzoo.com.au/

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.

 

 

“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.

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

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

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

Child portfolios

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

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

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

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

Daily reflection journal and program

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

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

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

Complaints

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

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

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

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

Documentation

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

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

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

Assessment and Rating

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

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

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

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

Food provided

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

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

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

Educators buying supplies using their own money

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly has more than eight years’ experience as a coordinator for an Outside School Hours Care Program and has completed hundreds of engaging and educating programs with children based on the National Regulation requirements. So, to help any struggling parents out there, here are her suggestions for easy and fun activities to keep children engaged during Covid restrictions.

With current Covid precautions in Australia and Melbourne’s Stage Four lockdown still in effect, parents may have gone through every option to keep their child engaged. Children are out of routine and forced to learn at home, so trying to come up with new and exciting activities that are educating can be almost impossible.

1. ‘Spoonville’

It can be difficult to convince children to leave the house for some exercise when they have technology to keep themselves entertained, so why not create a town out of spoon people and get the community involved?

Using old spoons from the drawer, dress up your spoon into a person, animal or character. Every time the children go for a walk, they can see if anyone else in their neighbourhood has contributed to ‘Spoonville’ with their own spoons. It brings the excitement of wanting to leave the house for exercise while also engaging the children into creating a new spoon to add to the collection.

Materials: Wooden, metal or plastic spoon, wool for hair, googly eyes, scrap material for clothing, texta or paint for any additional details.

 

 

2. Toilet roll characters

Instead of throwing out the toilet rolls, turn them into characters!

There are plenty of websites that provide print out templates of different characters to stick onto a toilet roll. These are easy for kids to follow because all they need to do is cut, colour and paste. Alternatively, parents can print off reference pictures to spark creativity.

This also teaches children the importance of re-using materials around the house instead of throwing them out. Use this opportunity to discuss the environment and what they can do to help.

To further build on this experience, the children can create their own puppet show. This will be sure to keep them entertained for hours, build their confidence and encourage their pretend-play skills.

Materials: Toilet rolls, paper, textas, scissors, glue sticks.

3. Gooey slime

Slime can be a great tool for sensory development and is also one of the most popular science experiments with children at the moment. The ingredients to create this slime can be found at the supermarket and is easy to create, but it does get messy. So, make sure the floor, table and clothing are protected.

 

Slime recipe:

240ml bottle Elmer’s white school glue

1 1/2 – 2 tbs contact saline solution

1 tbs baking soda

Food colouring

To make the slime more exciting, the children can add shaving cream (poofy slime), glitter, beads (crunchy slime) or Styrofoam (foam slime) to the mixture.

Materials: Glue, saline solution, baking soda, food colouring.

4. Pac-man (2 or more people)

Pac-man is a game Kelly played frequently with children at work because it encouraged them to think quickly and increase their general knowledge.

The aim of the game is to stand around the room, the parent will shout out a question and for every question a child gets right, they take a step towards their opposition. Once they’ve answered enough questions and have reached their opposition, they tap them on the shoulder to get them out.

Adjust the questions based on their age and knowledge level, making them easier or harder depending on who is left in the game.

Materials: None.

5. DIY masks

Masks are a part of everyday life with Covid-19, so why not make it exciting? This will not only open the conversation about why it’s important to wear masks but will also teach them how to cut fabric to a pattern and sew it together. This could also encourage a conversation about fast fashion and the hard work that goes into creating clothes.

To further this experience, children could sew more patterns such as cushions, toys or pencil cases.

Materials: Needle, thread, three layers of fabric, scissors.

6. Terrarium

Terrariums are easy to assemble and can be created by things found outdoors. Although it isn’t necessary to build one that grows plants, it can be beneficial for children to learn the importance of a small eco-system and a terrarium is perfect to do so.

Materials: Glass bowl, dirt, sticks, rocks, water, plants (I recommend succulents because they don’t need much water).

 

 

7. Veggie patch

Similar to a terrarium, growing plants can be a beneficial lesson to children, but can be done using scraps from last night’s dinner. There are many vegetables/fruits that can grow from scraps. These are:

Lettuce, celery, avocado, potato, sweet potato, ginger, pineapple, garlic, onion, pumpkin, capsicum, tomato, carrot, strawberry, apricot, cherry, and many more.

Just place these vegetables or seeds in water, wait for roots to sprout, and then plant in dirt. Eventually, a new vegetable will sprout and the kids can eat their home-grown food.

Materials: Vegetable scraps, dirt, water.

8. Patty pan craft

Children can unleash their creativity by creating their favourite animal or character using the left-over patty pans sitting in the bottom drawer. Using either a photo for reference or a printed colouring page, children can cut the patty pan to size and paste. This will not only benefit their fine motor skills but will encourage creativity when it comes to alternative materials and repurposing.

Materials: Patty pans, paint or texta, scissors, glue.