Face Painting – Holiday Fun

Holiday Face Painting

Face painting is always a popular activity for children. To be truthful, I’ve been scared at the thought of how to face paint. Today is the last official day of the Queensland school holidays and the kids discovered a packet of face paint crayons they were given as a gift awhile back. I took a deep breath, did a Pinterest search, “Easy face painting ideas for kids” and started. Much easier than I thought! Truly! I’m not a highly artistic person, but I can copy simple shapes, so using the internet images as a guide, I whacked the crayons on, and hey presto, five happy kids!

Plus, it has inspired their play to such an extent that I’ve been able to sneak away and write a quick blog post about it! Fresh off the press!

Trent started the ball rolling, requesting to be Batman.

Face Painting Batman

Next, Toby wanted to be a blue bat dog. This is my interpretation of a bat dog. Which is basically a dog with blue spots. My crayon wasn’t quite fine enough for the fine lines. Did he mind? Not at all.

Face Painting Blue Dog

Immy want to be a crab. She was quite enraptured by the crabs at during our holiday at the beach during Easter recently. So why not paint one on your forehead? I ask you.

Face painting crab

Jayden wanted to be a spider. Once again, a finer tip would have been good here, but not one word of complaint.

Face painting spider and web

Jonty wanted to be Captain America. It made me stop and think, but turns out it wasn’t hard at all either!

Face Painting Captain America

And here is the crime fighting, barking, arachnid scuttling fivesome!

Face Painting kids holiday activity

This little activity today has just made me think how sometimes I don’t do things with my children because in my head they need to be perfect. But truly, it doesn’t take much to make a child happy. And to be truthful, it’s far more healthy for a child to accept and love activities and things that are simple and rejoice in the moment rather than breed them to become fixated perfectionist standards also.

Just keeping it real, before I could finish writing this, I went to check on the triplets who were still in the sandpit, however one was drenched in water, another was naked, (and consequently got bitten by a green ant on his bum), another had sand through his hair. I bathed all three. Batman than decided he preferred being Captain America #2, so a face was re-painted.

The highlight of the morning for the kids was Grandma and Grandad coming to visit. Grandma had a sun painted on her cheek by Trent, Jonty painted a tractor on Grandad’s cheek, and Jayden and Trent also scribbled on Grandad’s face. The children are blessed to have grandparents who are totally good sports!

Facepainting Grandad

Have you painted faces before? What have you drawn? Any face painting tips? (I need plenty!)

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Prevention and Coping Skills for Teenage Depression

As I have been writing about issues affecting teen girls lately, I keep seeing that the issues often have a common side effect. Depression.

Depression
Photo Credit: Photo Dropper

 

Sexualisation leads to depression. Growing up in a dysfunctional family and family breakdown breeds depression. And when a young girl is trapped in domestic violence, depression is very understandable. The list keeps continuing: teen pregnancy, isolation at school, relationships, friendships, drugs, social media. The issues that teenagers need to navigate are complex and if they are not lovingly guided there is a great danger of experiencing depression and other mental issues.

A study by the Murdoch Research Institute showed that females aged between 15-29 are almost twice as likely to experience depression compared to males in the same age bracket. This is particularly sobering when you consider the implications of teenage depression. A depressed teen will have more trouble at school and maintaining a job. They will get sick more often. There are higher rates of pregnancy and STD for teenage girls with depression. 30% of teens with depression will develop substance abuse. Teenagers with depression are 12 times more likely to commit suicide, particularly if the depression is untreated, and sadly only 33% of depressed teens receive help.

If you suspect your teen, or a teenager you know is depressed, here are some ideas to help them. (These strategies may not work for severe depression. Professional guidance will be required for severe clinical depression.)

1. Get Help
See a doctor. Your teenager qualify for a mental health plan so you can work towards getting better. Severe depression may require medication. Medicating for mental illness should be viewed in a similar way to medicating any other illness.

2. Identify Coping Skills
Help your teen to recognise those things that help lift their mood when they are feeling down. Exercising, listening to music, counting until feeling calm, getting outdoors are all examples of coping strategies to counter negative feelings when depressed.

3. Maintain Rules and Boundaries
While sensitivity needs to be applied to help a teenager through a time of depression, make it clear that rules still apply. It might be difficult for your teen to get their homework done when they are depressed, but if you still require them to reach your standard and expectations, you are assisting them to develop emotional resilience and to rise above their problems. Let your child develop strategies to work around their illness rather than using their illness to develop strategies to avoid work.

4. Keep Them Busy
Avoid allowing your child to pull their head over the covers and remain in bed all day. Responsibilities actually help people to rise above depression. Simple things like getting dressed and showering are a good start. Don’t be harsh, but be firm. Set simple tasks at first and increase the challenge as your child responds. Consider getting your teenager to help with projects outside the home like in a soup kitchen. Considering other’s needs can help breed purpose and help them to focus on other’s needs rather than their own.

Depression is not inevitable for all teenagers. There are many things that can parents can initiate to prevent their child becoming depressed and luckily for those of us with young children, we can start putting these safeguards in place right now. Of course there are no guarantees, but it’s certainly worth trying.

1. Discourage Talking Negatively
Sometimes life is difficult and everyone can feel discouraged, but it is important that children learn to recognise that their expectations of themselves and their image of themselves is realistic, but not hyper-critical. For instance, if a child says, “I’m hopeless at Math”, teach them to re-phrase this to, “I don’t enjoy Math”. Your child has then expressed their frustration, but is no longer shouldering blame or projecting failure. Likewise instead of saying “I always look awful and no one likes me” teach your child to express emotion without making blanket statements. “I don’t feel pretty today, so I’m glad you and Dad still love me.” is a better statement. It acknowledges feelings, but also finds a positive. It’s not always easy for children teenagers, particularly those with depression problems to phrase things positively, but the more they are gently guided to do so, gradually their thinking will become more positive also.

2. Teach the Child the Benefits of Failure
It doesn’t feel nice to fail, however some of life’s most useful lessons are learned after experiencing failure. Teach your child to appreciate challenges and not to fear failure. Giving your child the confidence that they can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again after failure teaches them emotional resilience which makes it hard for depression to take control.

3. Talk to Your Child
By taking an interest in your child and talking regularly with your child from a young age, trust is established. When you take the time to listen to a child, you can understand their perspectives and their thought processes. It will also give you a more natural way to coach them through life’s hardships without preaching or lecturing. Building relationship makes you more approachable and accessible if there is ever a crisis that your child is walking through.

Letitia Shelton 40 Days Cycle
Letitia about to start cycling on a cold morning!

Depression is not an easy illness to navigate, it needs to be treated with sensitivity and concern. There also needs to be a degree of firmness to help children understand that they can arise above challenges rather than using them as an excuse. I have been writing this series on teenage girl issues that affect our society while my friend Letitia cycles 40km in 40 days. She is on her last week now, if you’d like to motivate her aching body to finish strong, head over to City Women and make a donation.  The money will directly help girls in our city. I was talking to her on Sunday, she’s definitely having to push through the pain now!

Have you ever seen a child experiencing depression? Do you have further advice of how to help kids cope when depressed or prevention strategies?

 

 

 

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Talking to Children About Childbirth

Talking to Your Children About Childbirth
Image Credit

We were sitting around the table last night eating dinner, when all of a sudden the question I have long been dreading came up.

“How does a baby come out of Mummy’s tummy?” asked Master 8.

I awkwardly cleared my throat, trying to phrase a dignified response in my head that would also be appropriate to be heard by the five year old and 3 three year olds also present at the table.

Before I could issue a carefully worded response, Daddy abruptly responded, “You came out from between Mummy’s legs,” Master 8’s face was looking puzzled and bewildered but he quickly forgot this as he heard Daddy say, “and while you did, your Mum did this”, and then he proceeded to emit a  dramatic moan and panting.

I was mortified. Absolutely mortified I tell you.

The children were delighted and laughed ecstatically which only fuelled Daddy further.  He moved onto a description the next childbirth in the family (that had not had an epidural) and emitted a horrifying comical wail and scream.

The children were in hysterics. I was not. Daddy looked very pleased with himself. Not one ounce repentant.

The triplets wanted to know what I did when they were born. “Oh you were just cut out of Mummy’s stomach. She didn’t say anything.” Everyone looked disappointed, except Master 5 who had turned slightly pale. I’m fairly certain he was picturing a woodsman with an axe cutting the babies loose, just like in Little Red Riding Hood. The rest of the table appeared to accept that it was far more logical for babies to get cut out of stomach’s rather than come out from between someone’s legs.

There was a little more irreverent talk about C-sections and pregnancy before the children trotted off and grabbed some yoghurt for dessert. (I must have still been shell shocked because I didn’t even notice the two little boys hadn’t finished eating their dinner.)

Daddy and twins
Last night on their way to bed. Everyone (except maybe Mummy) was in high spirits.

 

As embarrassing as Alex’s ‘talk’ was for the children, it really wasn’t all bad. Somehow, he managed to tick some of the boxes of my requirements for sex education.

1. Begin Early.
I want to talk about sex and associated activities, i.e. childbirth(!) while the children are young. I don’t want to run the risk of my children being educated from others and being taught misconceptions and inaccuracies.
Check: Three year olds have have heard about some aspects of childbirth.

2. Be Informal
When I was given, “The Talk”, my mother was so factual using terms like “egg” and “ovaries” that when the time came to menstruate, I had no idea what was going to happen. (Sorry Mum!) I want to be specific in an informal way when talking to my children, so they understand while remaining innocent.
Check: Role play dramatically increases informality.

3.  Limit Embarrassment
Our sexuality is a natural part of life. I don’t want my kids being embarrassed about it or thinking it is dirty. Having said that, I do what them to be respectful when talking about sexuality and talk about it appropriately in the right context.
Check: Our kids weren’t embarrassed.
Future action: May need to reconsider whether childbirth and other associated talks are appropriate at the dinner table. Also may need to follow up and approach subject delicately to ensure children are not describing the way they were born on the playground.

Sex Education
Master 8 last night. Not one bit embarrassed.

Thank goodness somehow Alex is doing the right thing. (How do Dads do that???) Obviously he hasn’t scarred our daughter either. As I tucked her into bed she patted her vagina and said, “I’m glad I have a china. It’s special and the boys don’t have chinas.”

He remains unrepentant. “I can’t believe you told the children that at dinner tonight!” I told Alex after the kids were in bed last night. His response was a huge smile and he walked away chuckling saying, “The kids didn’t mind.” Considering we have four sons, Alex will be responsible for the majority of these talks, so I can only imagine what conversations in the future will look like.

Have you talked to your child about childbirth or sex? How did that go? 
Is it on your “To Do” list? What are your expectations?

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Easter Books

My children love Easter books. It is very special and poignant to read Christian stories about Easter with the children, but I also like them to have a little fun also with Easter eggs and bunnies.

Scholastic gifted us some very fun books.

Where’s the Easter Bunny – Louis Shea

Where's the Easter Bunny

Hands down, this is Jonty and Trent’s favourite of the Scholastic books this year. Just quietly, it is not mine. Don’t get me wrong, I was very excited when I first saw it, truly, I was. But that was because I know that this would be a hit with my kids, the illustrations were bright and even though there isn’t much text, there is still enough for the children to engage with and become familiar with words as they search for the clues. But, I really don’t get excited with search and finds and waiting for the children to find the hidden pictures. Alex is great at it, so I’ve now made a rule that Daddy does search and finds and Mummy only does books with stories in it. I know it’s a bit mean, but at least they aren’t missing out altogether.

Plus, they read it themselves a lot also, so they haven’t missed out trying to spot over 500 things! The boys love hunting through the hilariously detailed illustrations to find the Easter Bunny and other characters on every spread – they more they look, they more they laugh. And it’s always the sweetest thing to see two little heads bent over a book and laughing.

Those Pesky Rabbits – Ciara Flood

Those Pesky Rabbits

 

This isn’t really an Easter story. It just has rabbits in the stories. So that classifies it as Easter at this time of the year, but it can remain a favourite for the rest of the year as well. I would be in favour of repeat reading of this story. Those bunnies are such lovely bunnies. (Quite unlike bunnies in real life.) The book tells the tale of a family of cheerful rabbits who make their neighbours life unBEARable!

Old bear is a bit of a hermit and wants to be left alone but his rabbit neighbours don’t get it and keep trying to engage with the bear. Eventually their unselfish kindness wins and bear ends up making some wonderful friendships. A great story bringing out beautiful themes such as being a good neighbour, generosity, community, friendship, togetherness and consideration for others.

Little Barry Bilby Had A Fly Upon His Nose – Colin Buchanan and Roland Harvey

Little Barry Bilby

Ok, so once again, this isn’t an actual Easter book, but this time is about Bilby’s. Which in the real world are far more preferable to bunnies. It’s become very Australian to include Bilby’s in Easter celebrations and as a farmer’s daughter, I can see merit in this. Rabbits can be so destructive to crops and land. Bilby’s on the other hand are little natives who are far more likeable.

This book is set to the classic Little Peter Rabbit song, performed by Colin Buchanan. The book comes with a CD. Also very Australian is that Barry Bilby and his friends Peter Possum, Colly Cocky and a few others get absolutely attacked by Aussie bush bugs. (I winced when one character had a tick on his tail.) Roland Harvey’s illustrations (as always) are perfect. This is a great Aussie alternative for children at Easter. (And the rest of the year.)

Ten Easter Eggs

Ten Easter Eggs

A friendly board book for children, the triplets particularly loved this little counting story. A great introduction to subtraction. The illustrations are sweet and the plastic eggs are so touchable.

 

So, if you are looking for some stories to read over the Easter weekend, these all have my hearty recommendation.

Do you buy chocolate bilby’s at Easter? Do you enjoy reading search and find books, or do you prefer to leave children to their own devices and search independently?

 

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Broken Eggshells Easter Collage

Last Easter we completed an Easter craft activity today that had been over a year in the making. Generally we don’t walk on eggshells around here, we’re pretty much a straight shooting family. However last year I did go through a stage of saving eggshells, with the plan of doing an awesome art activity. Eggshell collages of Easter eggs!

Broken Eggshell Collage

It takes a long time to collect enough egg shells for five children to smash! Luckily I like baking! Every time I broke an egg I would gently wash the shells (the shells stored better clean) and store them in a bowl.

Broken Egg Shells for kids craft

By the time I collected enough egg shells that I thought would be sufficient for all the kids to have a good time, we were in the middle of moving house. Finally we were settled enough to let the children have some fun smashing! (Look how small they were!)

051

This was a great sensory experience for the babies. The older boys also loved it too. In fact, it kind of suits all age groups! I kind of like the feeling of smashing the eggshells myself! Of course it was completely messy, but that’s just the sign of a good time, right?

Twin boys crushing egg shells

Once the eggshells were broken we soaked the shells in food colouring. You need to add quite a bit of dye to soak into the shell. We also left it soak for quite some time – several hours in fact.

Dying Eggshells
I’m not sure what Trent was upset about, but isn’t he a good little blogger’s son taking a picture for me.

Then it was time to dry the shells out on paper towels. We stored them in zip lock bags until we were ready to collage.

dyed eggshells drying

As you can tell from the differences of age in the next series of pictures, we kept them stored in those zip lock bags for quite some time! We did use them in other craft activities, but I really wanted to use them on an Easter activity, and didn’t feel like saving eggshells again! It just seemed right to use them at Easter!

After all the hard work getting the eggshells, the craft was quite simple. I drew a (wonky) egg shape and let the children glue the eggshells onto it.
Easter Egg Eggshell Collage
It was actually quite complex trying to get the two year olds to glue in colour groupings. Jonty and  Toby did a fantastic job though. (The others had a wonderful time glueing with gay abandon.) I can never quite get Toby. I so often think he has poor concentration, but then he gets into something, and he will far outshine the others.
Collaging Easter Eggs Child's easter craft with broken eggshells Collage Easter Eggshells
Toby also glued eggshells onto a cross and talked about the cross being the most important symbol of Easter for Christians. (The other children were quite content just colouring their crosses.
Easter collage of cross with eggshells
If you would like to read some Christian Easter books to teach your child about Easter as you craft, check out my post reviewing Easter Books from Koorong.
This was a delightful long term craft project. If we do it again, it will be better co-ordinated and won’t stretch over two years! It was messy, but it was such a great experience on so many levels, creativity, sensory, patterning, fine motor skills, patience, etc. that I think it was certainly worthwhile.
Easter Collage using eggshells hanging on wall
Do you think you would be able to save eggshells for a craft activity? Do you have other ideas of what could be done with the broken eggshells? Believe it or not, I still have a few zip lock bags left. I should finish it off and make it a three year art project!
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Guiding Our Children in a Sexualised Society

Pole dancing kits for girls, high heel shoes for babies, pornography symbols and images on children’s pencil cases and sexually suggestive slogans on children’s clothing. These are some of the more shocking examples of the landslide of sexualisation that is sweeping our children as they helplessly stand in it’s passage.

Sometimes a landslide isn’t always dramatic, landslides often happen as little by little it creeps forward and erosion gradually occurs before a catastrophic result.  There are examples of subtle forms of sexualisation everywhere.  Music videos with suggestive lyrics, dance moves, skimpy clothing, airbrushing in magazines, billboards flashing bare skin and adult content and innuendo in advertising.

The result of our kids being caught in this landslide is grave. Girls who get caught in this sexualised society can have low self esteem, unrealistic body image, anxiety, eating disorders and depression. And that is just the beginning.

Boys can also have these side effects. The other danger is that boys are receiving an inaccurate message that girls are a commodity. We need to raise our young men to value women and not think of them as a sexual service station.

Sexualisation is defined as making something sexual in character or quality, or to become aware of sexuality, especially in relation to men and women.  Thanks to our hyper-sexualised society, adult sexual concepts have crept into children’s worlds. Of course kids are simply not cognitively ready to handle sexual content. Before coming to terms with your sexuality, you first need to be confident in your own self and your own worth. Becoming a secure and balanced person should be the focus during childhood and teenage years. There should not be a pressure to be sexy or sexual.

Wishing for a future with no sexualisation
Wishing for a future with no sexualisation for our children.

Sadly sex is cheapened and it’s value diminished as it becomes a major cog in the wheels of popular culture. So often children growing up in families who are very cautious to what their children are exposed to still receive mixed messages in the sexually saturated society.

So how can we guide our children through this sexually saturated society?

There is a lot to be said for limiting exposure to sexual images and content. I make no apologies for keeping my children sheltered from concepts they are not ready to deal with.  I think it would be naive to think that you can simply shield your child from all the sexual onslaughts that seem to soak every street corner. not to mention the dangers lurking online. (For heavens sake, a child searching for a You Tube clip on Dora can inadvertedly come across a whole heap of “Dora” that would make Boots and Diego blush.) I think it’s important to speak to our children and teach them to be critically aware of issues so they can be on guard and responsible.

Here are some ways:

Watch TV with your children
Yes, this can be a chore. But hey, you may have noticed that parenting is full of chores. ABC 3 isn’t always compelling viewing for an adult or you’d prefer to be catching up on work rather than viewing a music clip. However, as you watch, there is a good chance that you will start noticing hidden messages (or perhaps not so hidden?) that are in these shows that are not part of the values your family upholds. Discuss with your child, (not lecture), the issues which will gently guide their awareness so they are not blindly being indoctrinated. This applies to all forms media and popular culture.

Set Boundaries
Don’t be afraid to not let your child watch certain things. Or wear particular clothing. Or listen to inappropriate music. Explain to your child why you have set those boundaries and communicate that you make these boundaries because you love them. If they’re not feeling the love. Remain strong. The love will catch up to them someday!

Role Model
Mothers be careful about what you are communicating to children through your actions. Don’t obsess about your weight and image in front of your children. Eat healthily with them and resist the urge to do fad diets. Fathers treating your family, and women in general, with dignity and respect is a particularly strong role model for your kids. A Father’s positive words and actions have enormous influence on his daughter and his behaviour is a guide for a son’s attitude toward women.

Challenge the Status Quo
Don’t just protect your own family from our sexualised society. Speak out for the benefit of your own children and those voiceless children who are suffering from the side effects of this sexual pollution. Sign petitions, write letters of objection, speak out against sexualisation or post links to articles on social media. Join websites such as Collective Shout and become aware and engaged in the fight for purifying our culture. The challenge may seem insurmountable, but little by little our collective voices can make a change!

The Australian Psychological Society has more detail on helping girls have a healthy self image.

Let’s call our families and our society to a higher level. Remember, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

This is another post in the series I am doing for my friend Letitia. She is cycling 40km in 40 days Cycling Challenge and seeking to raise awareness about women’s issues for her 40th birthday. Tish speaks on this video about sexualisation.

I did a double take when I saw the shirt she was wearing at first! I get so mad when I see blokes wearing shirts like that. How dare they expose my children to soft porn. How.Dare.They. I hope Tish burned the shirt when she was finished with it. It did help her make a good point though.

Fighting for Our Daughters Ride | Week 3 from Toowoomba City Church on Vimeo.

If you want to support Letitia and make a donation, head to City Women and follow the links.

Has the sexualisation of our society ever made you mad? What limits do you set in your family to protect your children?

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Christian Books and Craft Activities for Easter

For Christians, Easter is one of the most significant events in the Christian calendar. I love teaching my children the Biblical Easter story each year. This year we have been reading a collection of books from Koorong* and have followed up the story with craft activities. All our craft activities have been simple. (Hello! Three 3 year olds make simple projects challenging anyway!) We have done stickers into scrapbooks and coloured in and painted with their watercolour palates this week, but my favourite activity of the week was doing these Resurrection tombs with a paper plate, paint, push pins and colouring-in. (You can add some paddle pop stick crosses to the top also, but I found this was enough with four children 4 and under!)

Easter Resurrection Craft

There are instructions and the printable here. Their example was quite obviously not completed by a three year old! My nephew also joined us doing this activity and he thought it was a lot of fun also.

easter craft

Lining the children up to read a story first felt like I was in a classroom! Mind you, this lot had reduced attention spans compared to school children! (And my students didn’t get away with using a footrest)  It may have taken a few prompts and some dramatised reading, but “The Easter Story” (Candle Books) did manage to keep their attention until the end.

Reading an Easter story to children

The Easter Story (Candle Books) – $2.99

The Easter Story by Candle Books

The bright illustrations also helped catch the children’s interest. Taken from Candle Bible for Kids the story closely follows the Biblical account only with age appropriate language. It is probably best suited for primary aged children, being suitable both as a read aloud or as a readable text depending on ability level.

The Very First Easter (The Beginners Bible) – $2.99

Father reading Easter story

This story was more suitable for pre-school and lower primary children. There was bright, highly animated (and fun) illustrations, simple language and not too long. At the beginning of each passage scripture references were given so you would be able to examine the story with your child in the Bible if you wished. My children enjoyed reading this book with Daddy.

The Easter Story (Antonia Jackson & Giuliano Ferri) – $9.99

The Easter Story Jackson and Ferri

Another Biblical account of the Easter story recounting from Palm Sunday, the crucifixion and resurrection. This book has particularly beautiful illustrations. The type of illustrations children tend to linger over and examine intently.

Easter – Bible Comic (Scripture Union) $3.99

Easter Comic Book

This has been my 8 year old son’s favourite book this year. I always get so excited when he is inspired to read independently. Comics are a great way to get children inspired to read, especially boys. Once again this is a highly Biblical account of the Easter story, only this time retold in comic strips. References are given to the corresponding story in the Bible so the children can go and read it for themselves in the Bible.

Easter comic book

 

Included is also Easter facts, a word search, quiz, and an explanation of what Easter is all about. It is actually a really great little book to include in a child’s basket on Easter morning or would be great to give away to family, friends or neighbours. After all, what child doesn’t like a comic?

Easter Sticker Book – $5.99

Easter Sticker Book

Stickers always cause children a great deal of excitement, so an Easter sticker book is a bit exciting!

Triplets and Easter Sticker book

The story is well written and long enough for children to listen to it, but not to long that they get impatient to start sticking! (Mostly!) I sat down and did this with the triplets who were very engaged. We will need to complete it over a few sittings I think since three year olds tend to fight a lot and although it was a good exercise in patience (they each had to wait for their turn to stick a sticker in), there’s only so much that can be expected of a three year old before it gets to distressing that “he put the grasshopper on the rock and I wanted to” or “I want to put the wine on the table like we have at church”, etc, etc.

placing stickers in easter sticker book

One more week until Easter and our household is certainly gearing up for the big event! Thanks to Koorong for their help preparing the children for the big day! I love that all these books follow the Easter story closely to the Biblical account and are so affordable. If you check out Koorong’s website they have all these books plus a huge range of Easter books for children as well as adults. Definitely a great chocolate alternative accompaniment.

Are you doing anything with your family in the lead up to Easter? Do you have any favourite Easter books?

 

*Thanks also to Koorong for gifting these books to us. This is not a sponsored post and my opinions are my own. Plus, the pictures speak for themselves that my children truly enjoyed the stories!

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Domestic Violence

I knew domestic violence is a large problem in our society. Until I read these statistic, I did not realise how large.

Every week, on average, in Australia, more than one woman is murdered by her present or former partner.

Family violence is now the leading cause of death and injury for women under 45, and a staggering one-in-three women experience violence by a former or present intimate partner.

It is a national problem that accounts for 40% of police time, costs the national economy $14 billion each year and affects more than one million children.(Green Left Weekly)

That’s not just large. That’s gargantuan.

I know from speaking to police officers who are friends over the years that this is one of the largest parts of their job. Every night, women just like me are being battered.

The Salvation Army in South Africa recently released a highly effective campaign speaking out against domestic violence capitalising on the hype surrounding the viral black and gold/blue and black dress. By the by, I thought it was gold and lilac, but in this picture, you can’t ignore the black and blue.

White Dress stands against domestic violence

 

Today my thoughts are for the girls that Tish is cycling 40 days for.

Children are also the innocent victims of domestic violence. In 2006 UNICEF estimated that in between 133 million – 275 million children witness domestic violence. MILLIONS. Yes, I’m shouting. This is an epidemic. We need to raise our voices in horror.

These children constantly exposed to domestic violence are being abused themselves. Even if a hand has not be laid on them. The psychological impact of growing up in this environment is understandably long.

Domestic Violence Effecting Children

This list is not exhaustive. They are more likely to be involved in conflict with peers and participate in substance abuse. They are more likely to have eating disorders, leave school early and commit suicide. Perhaps most worrying of all is that children who grow up with frequent exposure to domestic violence are more likely to repeat the cycle. Boys in particular are more likely to repeat the cycle of violence and be approving of violence. Girls are more likely to choose abusive partners become victims when they are adults.

The thing with women’s issues, is they are not only women’s issues. They are men’s issues also. They are societies issues. With issues such as domestic violence it is so often a case of damaged men damaging women.

For me, sitting in my white middle class home, it’s easy to be complacent. To pat myself on the back that I am bringing children up that will not commit domestic violence. Apart from the fact that it’s dumb to be complacent, this is MY problem. I am not OK with that domestic violence is so prevalent in our society. I am not OK with this issue being so widespread. I’m not OK with it draining justice, medical and police resources. I do not like the economic costs it has on our society with lack of productivity and unemployment. I am not OK with the amount of damaged people that are trying to recover from abuse.

This is a problem we need to address as a society. To address an issue this large takes individuals tackling one issue at a time. Every time we stand up against this issue we are fighting back. For myself, the statistics I shared at the beginning of this post is enough for my radar to be tuned in for opportunities that I may help. At this stage my contribution may be small, but small is never insignificant. Especially when collectively we all start making small differences.

Are you in?

Were you aware of the prominence of domestic violence in our society? Got any solutions?

 

PS. One way you can start making a difference in donating to Tish’s 40 km for 40 days ride. Tish directly works with girls who are affected by domestic violence.

 

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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Preventing Marriage Breakdown in Families With Multiples

Preventing Marriage Breakdowns when parenting twins or triplets

It is Multiple Birth Awareness Week this week from March 8-15, 2015. This week celebrates the joy of having twins, triplets and other higher order multiples and also seeks to increase awareness of the unique challenges when raising children for families with multiples. Because I was speaking about family breakdown yesterday, I thought that I would continue this theme today because one common challenge for parents of twins and triplets is a strain on their marriage.

I really do believe that having twins and triplets is twice, thrice, (or more!) as much love. However, the same applies to the workload that is suddenly thrust you. So many nappies, bottles, washing to be added to the normal household responsibilities. Combine that with a dramatic decrease in sleep and often an increased strain on the budget. After all, as well as doubling all the normal baby costs the rapid influx of children in a family often requires larger accommodation and transport requirements. This financial strain is often extenuated if there has been a high risk pregnancy where the income of the mother may have abruptly stopped before planned.

It’s no wonder why there is a higher rate of divorce for parents of twins compared to other families with a new baby.

To be honest, I always found having a newborn to be a difficult time in our marriage. On the one hand you are celebrating this new life together and are united in such a deep love for that little person. On the other hand you are SLEEP DEPRIVED and hormonal and stressed and exhausted. No doubt about it, the intensity was insane when the triplets were newborns.

Yet, one of my most precious memories during that newborn period was in the early hours of the morning. Alex and I were feeling completely smashed. We had been bickering with one another the past few days (maybe longer) and I was feeling completely emotionally depleted to deal with any more antagonism with one another. We sat opposite one another, me crying and breastfeeding two babies, and Alex not so patiently waiting with the third wailing child, deep rings under his eyes and the pressure of having to be a professional and function in a job the next day that demands high concentration.

All of a sudden we began to talk to one another. We stopped blaming each other for everything going wrong and started understanding one another’s perspective. It started with acknowledging that yes, having triplets was plain hard work and there was no easy way around it and it was a stage we just had to endure. But then the lights just started to illuminate to me as Alex explained that he was feeling impatient because we had a plan of how to do things before we had the triplets and he was prepared to execute that plan, but all of a sudden we weren’t going by the plan anymore. I suddenly understood why he was being snappy with me, it was because he wanted to help and was feeling helpless instead. I could then explain why I had abandoned some of the plans. (Primarily because planning for triplets is tricky when you don’t know what it’s going to be like and at that point in time I had never received any advice from another triplet mother.) And so at 2am in the morning we formulated a new plan and resolved to be supportive of one another. It was one of those turning points in our marriage for me. Our communication was already strong, but it reached a new level of mutual respect and resolve to understand one another’s perspectives.

The next three years have continued to be difficult, but we are committed to putting safe guards in our marriage to ensure it stays divorce proof. Here are what I would consider the three top actions that have helped us survive and remain happily married as parents of multiples.

  • Roll up sleeves and get hands dirty. Work together as a team to do the jobs.
    Husband’s, we know you work hard all day. We appreciate all that you do. However, we are working hard all day too. (Whether it’s in the home or in the workplace) Parenting doesn’t finish at 5:30. It would be lovely to clock off sometimes, but it’s just not possible. Children need to be fed, dirty faces washed, teeth cleaned, stories read and bottoms wiped. Get into a routine of sharing the duties. My husband is wonderful. He is brilliant at loading and unloading the dishwasher. It’s a chore that is so helpful and when he doesn’t do it, I really struggle trying to find the time to fit it in. Alex also brushes the kids teeth and reads them stories at night and gives the children breakfast in the mornings. We’re a team.
  • Find ways to enjoy one another’s company.
    Alex and I love dates. We love to leave the home and just be “us”. Movies, dinner, a getaway. We just relish those times. Dates are not always possible though. Finding a babysitter can be extra hard when you have multiples. We had very few nights alone in the triplet’s first year. Apart from that, it was just too hard to go out at night when there were three babies at home, especially when those babies had reflux and would normally spend several hours screaming before settling down for interrupted nights sleep. But we still found opportunities to enjoy one another. We didn’t consciously do a ‘date at home’ type of thing, although that may have worked had we thought of it. We just made an effort to slow down and took small opportunities to enjoy one another. Sometimes that was simply collapsing on the couch, turning off the TV and me lying down with my feet in his lap and we would talk. Other times the TV was on and we would watching a movie together, or we would have a baby (or three) cuddled in and we would sit there companionably and watch our favourite show, “The Amazing Race”. Grand gesture or simple things, remember you are only parents because first you were (and are!) a couple. Slow down enough to enjoy one another. Keep the connections that made you fall in love with one another strong.
  • Communication
    One of my favourite times of the day is when Alex gets home from work and I’m finishing off dinner while the kids are somewhere else in the house and we just talk, talk, talk in the kitchen. We talk about our respective days events and our feelings about what had gone on and then whatever else.
    Another important aspect about communication has been talking with one another if we’re feeling there is a problem. It’s much easier to explain how we’re feeling while the issue is still small so we can deal with it. If we are snappy at each other, when things are cooled down, we will try to deal with the root issue rather than letting it ferment. That way we can dismiss the superficial issue we fought over and our relationship stays strong.

I asked some other triplet Mums about their marriages and this is what they said.

Roxanne: In the early stages we worked together as a team as we had next to no support available. Being confident that we were on the same page with tasks meant we could each take turns going out alone to do jobs and have some breathing space. This helped keep us sane. We have struggled with our relationship especially as the physical care demands have decreased and the more mental and emotional demands with the kids have increased. We get through it by talking issues through or recently where we sought professional help and after the first session we both agreed the person was not for us, we committed ourselves to working harder as a team but respecting our individual needs.

Samantha: We talk and spend time with the kids. I found it hard not having family close to me and trying to juggle 3 newborns and 2 older kids.  My partner is a truck driver and not often home to help with the kids but our marriage had been good all around. But I would not change anything for my kids.

Paulette: After having multiples the marriage seems to take a back seat, it’s rare to find someone who would mind all three so you & hubby could go out… And even less when 2 out of 3 have Autism. We generally feel pretty tired especially when they were younger. And that’s about that really!

Clare: Not long after my triplets were born a friend told me that “Your children are your first responsibility and your marriage is your first priority”.  That advice really helped my husband and I to keep our perspective right. I think the consuming nature of raising multiples means that everyone involved gets squeezed to capacity all the time and the ‘dregs’ are what the spouse receives. Keeping this in check with open communication and making time out for each other we found really vital to surviving and thriving. I’m blessed with a great husband who helps me in all sorts of ways. I’ve found it really important to have the emotional support from him too. We’re there to pick each other up and keep on encouraging. We are both committed too. Like minded in realizing that we want to care for each other and thereby care for the children well.

It’s so easy to take one another for granted during the busyness of life with multiples in the family. When we consciously remember our partners and work on our relationship it might be difficult at first but in the long run it makes life easier, more fun and more beautiful. Sometimes the best way to love our children is to first love one another.

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Family Breakdown – Fighting For Our Daughters Ride

My friend Letitia, inspired by her work with teenage girls is celebrating her 40th birthday in an unusual way. Last week I explained how she is cycling 40kms for 40 days in a Fighting for our Daughters Ride. Each week she is focussing on an issue that she has personally seen having a negative impact on the lives of young teen girls. She is hoping that during this ride she will raise funds that will allow City Women to continue working with women and girls, creating a more positive environment and a brighter future for them. City Women does this through a variety of programs such as The Gap – a transitional house for young women that have experienced a troubled past to help them learn life skills, experience and confidence to live life purposefully. Or there is the 8-10 week Bella Girl Program designed to teach girls within school and educate them on their beauty, value and purpose. It covers such topics as, “The Value of a Girl”, “Healthy Thinking”, “Friendships”, “The Power of Music” and more.

On Monday Tish started riding!

Letitia Shelton

This week she is wanting to bring awareness to issues surrounding family breakdown.

FFOD Week 1

Let me preface this discussion by saying I do not condemn those raising children out of marriage or in single parent families. I wish you every success, for your own and your children’s sake, in defying the odds and producing well rounded healthy children within your family.

However I also want to encourage those who are raising children within a marriage to persist through the inevitable hardships for the sake of the child.

Family separation is linked to lower achievement in school, higher crime, lower personal income and employment. The impact of divorce shows that children from broken homes are twice as likely to have problems compared to children whose parents remain in a reasonably intact marriage. Younger children are more likely to experience mental health problems, have poorer self-control and lower reading skills. Teenagers are more at risk of psychiatric symptoms, impulsiveness, early sexual activity, substance abuse, delinquency and poor educational achievement.

Bettina Arndt writes a compelling argument on why a bad marriage may be better than a good divorce. Nobody wants to remain in a position where they are miserable, however we must think of a child’s needs before our own. I know this is a very controversial thing to say in this day and age. Research has shown that children who had parents in a marriage with mild to moderate conflict were half as likely to need psychological help as children whose parents divorced, separated or remarried. In fact another study shows that many children from divorced homes didn’t even realise there was conflict in the marriage until after divorce. Children are often scarred psychologically being exposed to a high level of conflict between parents, and are better off being removed from a situation of intense and sustained conflict within marriage. The reality is that divorce often will increases the conflict and the child has no release. For the child, it is often a double edged sword.

Research such as this helps me resolve that divorce is not an option for Alex and I. The truth is, sometimes marriage really sucks. Sometimes you feel like you are in a hole with nowhere to go and it’s really not worth it. When you look at the evidence though, you realise that persisting through the conflict really is worth it. Often the determination to stay in a marriage automatically reduces the conflict. If you are not opting out, you are working to reduce the conflict to make it more bearable for everyone, yourself included. By doing so, you actually end up improving the marriage. Keeping honest and open communication without blame and accusation helps Alex and I move beyond our own agenda and work on our marriage not only our own sake, but also for the well being of our children.

It is equally concerning that the children who don’t witness conflict between parents because they grow up without a father. This is equally concerning as these children and teens are subject to a host of negative side effects, including feelings of inadequacy and lack of self confidence, increased aggression and higher tendency to resort to substance abuse.

As a society we must never devalue the extremely important role father’s play in moulding well adjusted children who become upstanding members of our society. A father has an impact on a child’s life in a way that is completely different to a mother. I was interested to discover that a Melbourne University study of 212 children found that fathers, even more than mothers, had a major beneficial influence on children in their first year of school. The study found that kids with regular father involvement were more cooperative and self-reliant in school than kids who did not have a fathers involvement. The more regular involvement the father has with the child, the study’s author said, the better the child does in his or her first year of school.

It makes me grateful for the role that Alex plays in our children’s lives. He is such an interested Dad. Alex loves to turn up to school events and is constantly on the sidelines for sporting activities. On weekends he normally is always shadowed by several children as he does odd jobs around the yard, and giving rides on the mower and motorbikes is a consistent Saturday highlight. It’s often the simple things, and just involving children in things that you already love, but it creates security and gives children the unmistaken message that they are loved.

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Sadly there are so many children who do not feel such simple gestures of love. Almost 20,000 Australian children are living in foster care, removed from their biological parents for their own safety, and as the number of children in need of foster care rises, the number of carers is dwindling.   The long term prospects for many of the children are not good, with high rates of imprisonment and homelessness, and poor education outcomes. Through issues like family violence, mental health, substance misuse, particularly alcohol misuse, we have many more families struggling to meet the needs of their children and many more children needing to be removed from their families and placed in care.

There are some adults who by the age of 20 have lived in 20 placements. That’s 20 families to live with and often every change requires a change of school. Why do we wonder when those children are more likely to be homeless, more likely to be illiterate, more likely to be in juvenile justice and more likely to have had a baby at 13 or 14 themselves when they’ve never attached, they’ve never known trust because they keep being moved?

Letitia regularly comes in contact with these girls. I remember her recently telling me how she came into a school to do the Bella Girl program and was chatting afterwards to a young girl who had abruptly been put in foster care. The girl was wearing clothes several sizes too large for her and was searching through the schools lost property to see if she could find something that she could wear that was closer to her size because she wasn’t able to go home and get any of her own clothes and possessions.

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own little middle class life that we are oblivious to the amount of pain out there of children growing up in broken families and living fatherless lives. When I hear stories such as this, it inspires me to give to organisations that assist children to grow into adults that still feel valued and hear the message that they are important, despite their personal circumstances. I mostly can’t give my time right now at this stage of my life, however, when possible, even if it’s in small ways, we like to at least make financial contributions to help. The other way I feel that we can make a change to this epidemic of broken families, is to be committed to raising our own children in a loving home environment. I think it’s important to also raise children with awareness of other’s plights so that my children not only have an understanding of how fortunate they are, but also are filled with compassion for others. I hope that one day they can also be a part of the solution to this and so many other issues in the world.

What concerns do you have with eroding family values? What do you do to counter this problem?

If you would like to support Letitia during her 40 day Fighting for our Daughters ride, please donate here.

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