HELP 4 EVERY PARENT

www.help4everyparent.com

On this page you will find more helpful articles from my past e-zines. Click on the headings on the side, to go to the article.

Feelings - Excitement

New experiences can be very exciting and almost everything is new to the toddler.  As children grow they anticipate certain events with mounting excitement.  For adults, childrenís excitement can sometimes be a trial, depending on how children react.  Some shout or scream, laugh and run about and do silly things.  Some have trouble going to sleep.  Some get sick when chemicals in the body build up causing vomiting and fever.  Fortunately not many children seem to react that way.  It is natural for children to get excited but necessary for them to calm down.  They will need help in staying calm in certain situations and in returning to calm behaviour again after some events.

Parents and child carers soon know what triggers extreme excitement in their child or group of children.  Here are some common triggers:

  • events such as a birthday party or a festival, 

  • certain games HELP 4 EVERY PARENT-monthlye-zine-news

  • a story a video or tv program 

  • the arrival of a particular person 

  • too much sweet food or drink 

  • fear

  • windy weather

  • tiredness 

Here are some strategies to help control excitement.

  • Prepare the child by talking about the coming event

  • pictures are useful to show the child new things

  • read a story about a birthday so the child can anticipate what will happen

  •  help the child remember by looking at photos taken last birthday or Christmas

To calm the child down again acknowledge the excitement but tell the child it is time to calm down now.  Here are some calming activities: 

  • brush the childís hair

  • slowly put on some quiet music

  • tell the children to lie on the floor and shut their eyes then recite a quiet poem to them 

  • run a warm bath for the child 

  • wash childís hands and face in warm water 

  • lie down and watch the clouds above 

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Feelings - Anger

Adults often feel guilty about getting angry especially if they are angry with the children in their care.  It is particularly important that we keep our anger under control when in the company of children.  Shouting, hitting and shutting children away, will certainly give them the wrong message.  Here are some hints:

  • Try not to act or speak in haste 

  • Ask a colleague to mind the group while you take five minutes to calm down in a quiet environment

  • A mother or father by herself can pop the baby into a play pen while taking a short calming break 

  • Keep some special toys that older children can have if your frustration level is very high and you need to be by yourself for a few minutes 

  • Telephone a friend for a quick talk 

  • Pick baby up and walk out to look at the garden or flowers down the street

  • Lie on your back and look at the sky

  • Keep a favourite comedy video to watch 

  • Take a bath

Anger is a common emotion in children too and adults should acknowledge it and help children to keep it under control.  Common causes of anger are:

  • jealousy

  • frustration

  • tiredness

  • physical hurt

  • unfair punishment

  • fear about what might happen.

Babies, toddlers and pre-school children will express their anger by crying, hitting, pulling hair, scratching and biting.  The best approach is to prevent the situation occurring.  Remember that a baby doesnít know that pulling hair and biting hurts or is wrong.  Never bite or hit a baby. Here are some hints:

  • Give baby teething rings or toys that will soothe the gums when you notice that he wants to bite everything 

  • Keep you hair away from baby so you donít get hurt 

  • Watch small children  to see that they donít get hurt by the baby and always see that children know what they can and cannot do to a baby 

Children who become angry usually give some signal first.  Learn to recognise the signals.  Perhaps it is throwing toys around or shouting or snatching.  It may be not wanting to take turns.  Some children mutter or look grumpy.  When an incident occurs, think back later to when the behaviour started and see if you can work out what the warning signals were.

As children grow it is important to acknowledge their feelings of anger. Tell them you know they feel angry.  Give the child some strategies to use instead of physically hurting someone. 

  • Encourage kids to use words such as 'please donít do that.  I donít like it' and 'Can I have a turn now?'

  • Role model negotiation -'You can have my torch for a while if I can have a turn with your doll'. 

  • Let kids know they can ask an adult to intervene

  • Suggest they find something else to do

Give children turns at explaining what has happened, and encourage them to problem solve.  They are often very good at this.  Ask them to predict what the results for each of their solutions would be and to choose the best one.

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Feelings - Frustration

At each stage of development baby will have frustrations.  A baby learning to roll over will roll then cry because he/she canít roll back or hold up the head for many minutes.  A baby learning to sit will want to reach out for toys but will probably overbalance after a few minutes.  A baby wanting to crawl faces a frustrating time before being mobile enough to explore the room.  When learning to climb and walk, baby will face similar frustrations.  Your baby will be happiest if you can minimise frustration.  There are often simple solutions.

Prevent boredom:  Even new born babies can get bored.  They need something to look at.  At first black and white patterns then simple face drawings and later colourful mobiles that move will help to entertain baby.

  • Put suitable toys close enough for baby to reach when he/she is beginning to handle things. Tie them so that they canít fall down

  • Change babyís environment often so that there are new things to look at

  • Never leave baby too long lying in one position 

  • Put the bassinet or pram in different places both inside and outside 

  • Get down and see what the baby Ďs view of the world is like.  Chair and table legs are not very stimulating 

  • Hang toys so that their most interesting features can be seen

Choose appropriate toys: Toddlers need toys that are appropriate for their level of skill. 

  • offer toys that respond to actions e.g., toys that make a sound when squeezed

  • select toys that the toddler can put inside of a container and take out again without assistance

  •  take the frustration out of meal time by giving the child food that is easy to handle 

  •  let the child feed him/herself but offer assistance

  • demonstrate how to deal with new food

Pre-school children want to be independent.  Give them:

  • safe scissors to cut with

  • clothing and shoes with easy fasteners to encourage self-help skills 

  • clothes for dolls that they can put on themselves 

  • enough toys of similar type for the number of children playing in a group

There are many ways you can help your children to avoid frustration at each stage of development.

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Feeling different

Acceptance by peers is generally very important to most children.  I tried to fit in with my peers but children often laughed at me or told me I was different.  ďWhy do you talk funny?Ē was a regular question that I was unable to answer.  I couldnít hear that my speech was different from anyone elseís and I tried to speak like the other kids.  At home my Mother complained of my speech too.  She said that I was developing a broad Australian accent, and I lisped.  Sometimes Iíd be sent to practice in front of a mirror.  My practice consisted of saying, ďHow now brown cow? and ďsixty six thick thistle stick,.Ē over and over. 

 No one tells me now that I ďspeak funny,Ē but differences are still often not accepted in our world.  These days our population is multicultural and many different accents can be heard in streets and classrooms around the nation.  Differences in dress and customs have been highlighted in the last four years and sadly intolerance is growing in many communities.  In the worst cases there have been riots generating real fear.  Perhaps as a result, plans to accept refugees from camps in Africa, to settle in some of our towns,  have been rejected during community meetings because people feel the refugees will be too different and will not fit in.

Teaching tolerance and acceptance of differences is part of pre-school policy in Australia, but discrimination will persist in our communities unless every family takes an active role in helping children to accept others and to find strength in their own differences.

Here are some things you can do.

  • Talk about differences within the family Ė different coloured eyes, hair, body build, abilities

  • Mention the strengths of each person

  • Buy dolls from different racial groups for your children

  • Answer childrenís questions about skin colour and different dress styles

  • Show children a map or globe of the world and encourage their interest in the people of the world

  • Find positive pictures of people in third world countries

  • encourage friendships with all children in your childís class

  •  Buy items from Oxfam that will support people from other cultures as well as giving your family pleasure

  • Take the first step by extending a hand of friendship to newcomers whatever their background

  • Answer childrenís questions openly about people with disabilities include disabled people in your life

  • Talk about ways children can be kind. 

  • Discuss feelings with children and how they feel if left out and what they can do about it. 

  • Help children to use words in a positive way instead of an aggressive way.

  • Listen to others.

We may not agree with the beliefs or customs of some people but if we listen we will understand better, and be more tolerant of others.  We are all human beings. 

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Being in Control

When our children are small we expect to be in control.  We decide what they will eat and when, we determine bedtime, and even what clothes they will wear.  As they grow older we still feel the need to control most of their lives.  We permit them to watch certain TV programs, we choose their schools, we restrict their movements and say whether or not they may have a pet.  Adults have a lot of power.  Even before the age of two, children want to change that.  They want to be in control.  They want to make choices and in order to avoid frustration and unpleasant behaviour, adults need to share power with their children.  The child will be satisfied with small concessions so look for areas where you can allow your child to make choices.

My grand daughter is 22 months old now.  She discovered the power of the word NO some time ago.  She uses it quite a lot to tell others what they canít have and to tell us she doesnít want to do something.  She also understands about taking turns but mostly wants it to be her turn.  Giving her a choice works well.  ďIf you want vegemite you must sit down, Estelle.  Sit on the floor or in your chair.Ē

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Spring is in the air

In many cultures spring is recognized as a time to clean the house, the garden the school, in fact clean up everything.  It is a good time to throw out clutter and prepare for a new beginning.  It helps to get underway if you know that many other people are re-organizing their home and work spaces too.  For some people finding where to start is the biggest problem of all.  Here are some hints:

  • Make a list of things you should do

  • Start by doing one small job a day

  • Set a time limit on tidying jobs.  You can achieve a lot in ten minutes and then have time for some fun

  • Find a bag for childrenís outgrown clothes.  Fill it by going through one of their drawers each day.

  • Warmer days are coming so as you wash warm clothes, store them if possible

  • Get out the summer clothes and decide which ones you are tired of and give them away 

  • Fires are about to end so put the newspapers out in the recycling box

  • Tidy one shelf of the food cupboard each day

  • Organize your menu to use up winter foods such as soups

  • Go through the bathroom cupboard and throw out old stock. 

  • Buy sunscreen ready for summer

  • Start buying Christmas gifts while sales are still on

  • Ask the children to find some books and toys they are happy to give away

  • Get up early and spend half an hour in the garden pruning, weeding, watering or planting

 When spring is in the air I find chores are easier to do.  For every job you do reward yourself with an equal time spent in pleasure and remember to get the children involved in spring cleaning too.  Happy spring time everyone.

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Is your child a genius?

A genius is a person with exceptional intellectual talent. Although most of us will know someone who is very bright, not many of us will ever personally know someone who is classed as a genius.  One young Australian mathematics genius was recently awarded the Field Medal, the highest mathematics award in the world.  His name is Terry Tao.  Now 30 years old, Terry was a child genius. 

Terry was reading at two, completed primary school maths before he was five, started senior high school maths and physics before he was eight by nine and a half he was attending university as well as primary school.  Terry was very fortunate to have parents who nurtured his talents while seeing that his social development was not neglected. 

How do parents cope with gifted children?

Terry was lucky that his parents were able to present him with the intellectual challenges that his mind needed at home, so that he was not bored.  He was lucky that his school was flexible.  He was in different classes for different levels of subjects.  He was lucky that the people around him accepted him for himself and didnít pressure him. By mixing with his peers, he gained the social skills necessary for his age group so that he grew up to be a well rounded person.

 Many of our schools are not as flexible as the one Terry attended.  Children in rural areas rarely have the opportunity to attend a school for the gifted and talented. Few schools allow a child to be accelerated in one or more subjects.  It is left to the class teacher to challenge bright children within the classroom where there is a mixture of abilities. 

 It is really up to parents to look around for the best school for their childís needs.  This may mean not all children in the family will go to the same school.  It also means spending time helping your child with their special ability whether it is academic, sport, or a creative arts talent. If you cannot help sufficiently, find someone who can.  And remember to look at the whole child.  Foster the physical, social, emotional and communication skills too. Your child may not be a genius but every child deserves the very best.

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Kids and Learning

As four year olds approach their fifth birthday, they are usually full of confidence and soak up information like sponges.  Boys in particular are often so busy telling things to their peers that listening to adults is a low priority pastime unless the situation is new and challenging.  I remember  trying to tell my son things when he was four. He would immediately say, ĎI knowí, even if he didnít know the relevant facts at all.  Children of this age are noisy, social beings who find it difficult to sit still or to follow instructions.  This behaviour is challenging for adults. Children want to be in control but may get into difficulties if they havenít listened to instructions carefully first. Play some listening games in which the child is give three instructions to carry out.  When the child can do this exercise, try some of the following activities to extend bright children's interests and knowledge.

  • simple science using batteries

  • pottery Ė building articles with clay that can be fired

  • using an encyclopaedia

  • sewing 

  • woodwork

  • craft work such as painting ornaments or bead threading

  • setting up a worm farm

  • watching ants in an ant farm

  • ball skill lessons such as tennis, soccer, cricket

  • trampoline

  • martial arts

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Kids and Dogs

There has recently been a fatal dog attack on a young child.  Dogs are commonly known as manís best friend so how do these tragedies happen?  The dogs in this case were hunting dogs used I think, to hunt for pigs in the bush.  They were not running free but somehow the child got into their enclosure when no one was home and the dogs attacked.  Dog attacks on children happen all too often and injuries are sometimes severe.  I feel strongly that there is no place in our society for vicious dogs.  My grandchildren witnessed the death of their beloved and docile dog when a neighbourís Pit Bull terrier jumped the fence and attacked her in front of them.  It could have been worse.  The children could have been injured too.  The incident left the family traumatised for months.  The neighbour involved was very unpleasant about the matter and was not required by council or police to get rid of his dogs although better restrain measures were imposed. 

In Australia there are four million dogs.  Most dogs are such appealing creatures and are pets in so many families that we often donít teach children the dangers.  Here are some things children should know:

  • Never pat a strange dog

  • If a dog barks and runs towards you it is best to stand still or back away slowly

  • Yell for help

  • Donít stare at the dog.  Look away from it   

  • Never try to separate fighting dogs

  • Donít touch a dog when it is eating

  • Never hit or kick a dog

Be a responsible dog owner:

  • Train your dog in obedience or attend classes with it

  • Never let your dog roam.  It can cause a traffic accident.  It can follow other dogs into mischief.

  • Provide adequate fences

  • Donít take an aggressive dog into public places even on a lead

  • Keep your dog away from the front fence both for the safety of others and for your dogís sake.  Some people will tease a dog through the fence

  • Make sure the fence is high enough and that the dog cannot dig its way under

  • Exercise your dog regularly so that it doesnít get bored

  • Exercise dogs in an approved area

  • Do not encourage rough play with your dog

A dog truly can be a best friend but that depends on us.  How friendly are the dogs in your community?

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First Aid

Summer is approaching in Australian and our children will spend much more of their play time outside.  At the child care centres I attend, children are once again being made aware of sunscreen and why we need to wear it.  After telling stories about spring, I talked to the children about bees and bee stings.  Few children get stung by bees but at the moment flowering trees are crowded with bees.  Young children especially, need to know that bees are dangerous. Many insects sting or bite and can cause pain or allergic reactions.  Children with bare feet are at risk of stepping on insects, glass, sharp objects, prickles or other nasty surprises.  Every week in my state, approximately 1,300 children will be treated in a hospital emergency department .  Are you prepared to deal with injuries at home or away?

Here are some helpful ideas for you.

  • If a child is stung by a bee, flick the sting away with your fingernail. Put an ice pack or cold cloth on the sting

  • have first aid kits handy at home and in the car  

  • make a list of how to treat emergencies such as bites, falls, cuts, poisons 

  • update emergency numbers and include family members who can be called on to help 

  • update immunizations 

  • if there are allergies in your family or group, make sure you know what to do 

  • take first aid classes 

  • practice first aid with your child in games

  • keep a cold pack in the fridge

  • show your child pictures of dangerous creatures such as bees, wasps, spiders and snakes so they will recognize them.

Here are some things children can do in an emergency:

  • get help for the victim

  • talk to the victim, keeping him/her calm

  • dial the emergency number if no adult is there

  • treat injuries they have learnt about, such as stings, bruises or bleeding nose, until adult help comes

  • tell adults exactly what happened.

All children have an important role to play in helping their friends as often only children are present when an accident happens.

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Kids and technology

Anyone with children at school knows that technology is a big part of learning in the modern world.  I was interested to read that in Australia one in four children between seven and fourteen have created their own webpage and half the 13 to 14 year olds have done this.  Over ninety percent of children use computers for games and/or information.  My teenage grandchildren use computers continually to communicate with their friends, although they see them at school every day.  Socially, computers and mobile phones have taken over our kidís lives.  Even in pre-schools now there are often computers in the playroom for children to access pre-reading and other learning programs.

Regular readers of this e-zine will have seen the link to my e-books for children aged from 3 to 8.  Writersí Exchange has just announced that until Christmas, prices of all their books will be halved.  This means they are well below the price of print books of similar type. There are some excellent picture books in the range and by buying some, you can demonstrate to your family that you are right up there with the computer generation. 

Go to www.writers-exchange.com and take a look.  There are 93 books for children under 5 years of age and 15 for those between 6 and 10.

The titles are listed alphabetically but you can also look at the list of authors or illustrators and go direct to their books.  Some of the picture book authors I know are Aileen McLeod, Peter Taylor, Raelene Hall, Janette Brazel, Gail Breese, and Pauline Young.

Give it a go.  Reading picture books on a computer is great fun for the very young. 

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Lead Poisoning

Significantly high levels of lead have just been found in soil near childrenís play areas in western Queensland.  Of the children tested, one in ten had levels of lead in the blood that caused concern. While this does not mean that the children have lead poisoning, it means that action must be taken. A town in Western Australia has established a lead testing clinic following the death of over 4000 birds, thought to have died from lead poisoning. Contamination of several water tanks may have come from the port where lead carbonate shipments are made. This is a real health scare.

What harm can lead do?

Lead can interfere with brain development, decrease IQ level, cause attention deficit, tiredness, stomach ache, diarrhoea and behaviour problems.

Where does lead contamination come from? 

  •  The flakes from paint made before 1980 may contain lead and may easily go into the soil when the paint is stripped and the house repainted. Lead-based paint is the most common source of poisoning

  • Lead contaminated dust and soil

  • Lead petrol exhaust fumes.  These may also have contaminated soil

  • Ceramic glazes

  • Fishing sinkers

  • Solder

  • Artists' paint

  • Motor vehicle parts

  • Batteries

  • Water pipes  

  • Hobbies such as stained glass making

  • Manufacturing

How do we know if a child is at risk?

Children between one and six years of age are most at risk because they put things in their mouths.                          A finger prick blood test will show the level of lead in the blood. 

What precautions can we take?

  • Have your child tested

  • never use water from the hot water pipe for drinking or mixing with food

  • do not store food in open cans or pottery

  • wash hands often and always before eating

  • check old toys and furniture for the type of paint used

  • if a family member works in the mining or car industry, or other industry where lead products are used, wash work clothes separately from other clothes

  • eat a diet that helps get lead out of the system

Foods that will help remove lead from a childís body are:

  • Lean meat

  • eggs

  • raisins

  • greens

  • milk cheese yoghurt

  • fruit

  • potatoes

Foods that keep lead in the body are:

  • high in fat and oil

  • fried foods

  • snacks like potato chips

Lead cannot be seen tasted or smelt but itís effects may be life long.  We should see to it that authorities in our communities test sites regularly for lead contamination, particularly places where children play.  We should take responsibility ourselves for checking our homes for lead sources and have our children tested each year.

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Off To School

Ready, set, go. After months of preparation the big day arrives and our confident pre-schooler is dressed and delivered to the school where suddenly the child looks small and vulnerable. There is no doubt that starting school is a big step in a childís life. Excitement builds after Christmas when friends and relatives talk about it often, and shops have their back to school displays. Most five year olds will cope beautifully with the transition from pre-school to the more formal routines of school. To make life easier for everyone if your child can recognise his or her name as many items of clothing will be the same. Have all articles of clothing marked clearly with your childís name. Here are some more hints:

  •  make sure that your child can put on socks and shoes

  • buy a bag that is easy to pack and easy to carry

  • send only the essentials to school this applies to food also

  • avoid sending extra food in case your childís appetite doubles. There is a great deal of food thrown away in school rubbish bins because children are too eager to join their friends in play rather than in socialise over food

  • a good breakfast and good snacks after school are doubly important for all school students  

Starting secondary school is often stressful also. Friends from primary years may be separated, the school routine is different, and teacher expectations and teacher/student relationships are less personal. Kids of this age are often bottomless pits at home, but may refuse to take any food to school. Canteen food will be available, but do you know the menus your pre-teenager can choose from? From the beginning of this year, canteens drinks must meet a new standard. Any sweetened drink that contains more than 300kjs. per serve or 100 mgs. per serve of sodium, will be banned. This is a step in the right direction and is part of the government campaign to prevent obesity. Follow up with a similar strategy at home.

School is a learning experience for parents as well as kids. May it be a positive experience for everyone in your family this year.

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Dental care

A smile is one of the very best things that can happen in life. What a thrill parents get from babyís first gummy smile. In a few months the smile is changed as the first teeth pop through -another exciting milestone. Teeth are one of our most important features. Without them we cannot eat hard foods and our smile is spoilt. We can compensate and smile with mouth closed, and adults who lose a tooth in an accident often do this. For some time after the accident an adult will feel very sensitive about that space in the front of their mouth . When we listen to someone talking, we focus on the eyes or the mouth. A missing tooth or bad teeth are always noticed. To see bands on teeth shows that dental care is of major importance in that family. To see a child with bad teeth makes me sad.

Why does a child have bad teeth? The main reason is diet. The wrong kinds of food have been consumed too often and dental help has not been available. Every child up to the age of five or six, should have pearly white teeth, not black and rotten ones.

Dental work is expensive, very expensive and it isnít easy to get a dental appointment. Decayed teeth not only look bad, they can result in health problems so there is no doubt that prevention is far better than cure. My children had no cavities in their teeth during their childhood. As adults their teeth are still in excellent order. It wasnít good luck it was good food and good mouth hygiene. Many towns add fluoride to the water supply and this has had a big effect on the strength of teeth. Fluoride was not in the water in the early years of my childrenís lives but I took fluoride before their birth as suggested by my dentist. My dentist said that as well as supervising tooth cleaning from a very early age, I should clean the childrenís teeth for them. I continued to do this until the second teeth were through. In this way, they learnt how to clean the teeth properly. Some people think that first teeth donít matter. They do. They need to be intact to keep the right spaces for teeth growing under the gums. Your child needs good teeth to eat the right foods and to develop a confident personality. Here are some hints for you:

  • find out if fluoride is in your water supply. If not, give your child fluoride in tablet form. Find out the amount from a dentist.

  • clean your childís teeth every evening yourself  

  • give your toddler a bottle of water to take to bed instead of milk. Milk left on the teeth all night will start decay

  • start a tooth cleaning routine after every meal with your children

  • give children hard snacks such as apple or nuts to eat at the end of school lunch when tooth cleaning isnít available

  • teach children to rinse the mouth with water after eating if it isnít possible to clean the teeth

  • donít introduce lollies and chocolate into your childís diet as regular treats

  • talk about why sugary foods and drinks are bad for the teeth

  • take your child to the dentist for a checkup each year. If there is no problem, the child and dentist will form a good relationship.

  • if you suspect a hole has formed, get dental help early before the filling process will be painful

  • draw the attention of your primary aged children to the wonderful teeth shown in the smiles of their celebrity idols. No one with a mouth full of black teeth will become a pop star

  • buy a new toothbrush regularly

  • use a good fluoride based toothpaste

  • teach older children to use floss between the teeth

Start a lifelong good dental practice with your children today. Theyíll be so glad you did in the years to come.

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Values

In Australia our politicians have talked a lot about values in the last year. They are concerned that societyís values are not what they used to be and they want to reverse this. Many of them want schools to teach Australian values but coming up with values that apply to everyone in our diverse society is difficult. Individuals have their own sets of values and will probably change or adapt these throughout life. How do we come up with them? We read, listen, watch and think. Our kids do the same and will model their behaviour and their ideas on those they admire. Unfortunately, many of the public figures kids are encouraged to admire are not appropriate role models. Sporting heroes, pop stars, and celebrities may or may not set good examples for the young. Even our elected politicians may not hold or value the same things as we do as individuals.

With young children we show by example that we are:

  • kind and helpful

  • loving

  • busy

  • use words to express feelings instead of aggression

  • share

  • listen

  • provide whatever we can to make our family happy, safe and comfortable

For older children, we hopefully demonstrate as well

  • tolerance

  • respect

  • honesty

  • social justice

Teenagers, have many different people and activities influencing their thoughts and actions. Some teens revolt against the values they know their parents and other people in authority hold. Forbidding certain activities or friendships, and criticising stereotyped teen behaviour doesn't usually work. Discussion gets people thinking. For example consider good sportsmanship. Some tennis stars throw their racquets, and swear at the umpires. Others challenge a decision according to the rules, and control their temper. What kind of sports person do you admire? Do the children in the family admire the same people? Discuss the different models you see on your TV or at your local sports complex. Several players may excel in ability but do they all follow appropriate behaviour all of the time? It isn't easy to come up with a list of values. I wonder how the politicians are deciding on what they want us all to adopt? Children could be given the opportunity to submit a list of their values. Our society values children so why not their ideas?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Climate change

We might want to protect our kids from worry but they do take worries on board. They worry most that something will happen to their parents or their family, but other things form significant worries too. In surveys about these worries, more children were worried about climate change than about terrorism. The environment has long been a school study topic and global warming has joined it to become an important part of the study.

In the last few weeks we have seen pictures of drought, fire, floods and the havoc brought by freak storms. Climate change is on almost every news bulletin and with elections looming, the politicians see the need to put forward policies to attack climate change. Our life style has seen a big increase of carbon emissions in the last ten years. This is bad and we must do something about it now. What bad things might happen?

  • the sea may rise and flood coastal land

  • there may be longer and harsher droughts

  • fresh water may be very scarce

  • crops may fail and starvation be more widespread

  • farmers may be forced off their farms

  • rivers may dry up permanently

  • air pollution may make more people sick

Organisations suggest that every person can do something to reduce the carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Here are some things every family can do:

  • walk or cycle down town instead of going in the car

  • buy efficient light bulbs

  • plant more trees and bushes

  • wash up by hand instead of using the dishwasher

  • recycle things so less goes to the garbage dump

  • turn off the TV and all electrical items when youíve finished with them

  • let your politicians know that you support renewable energy providers

  • learn about the use of renewable energy use in Europe

Kids loved the new film, Happy Feet. Nothing is more appealing than penguins and even five year olds know that penguins live in the ice and snow of Antarctica and that if the ice there melts, there will be real trouble. We don't want our grandchildren to miss out on seeing penguins. We don't want our world to become too hot for comfort. If you donít know much about climate change, ask some primary school children to fill you in. Make your family proud to be clean and green.

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A child friendly city

I recently heard about Bendigo, a place in Australia that aims to be a truly child friendly city. Through ongoing consultation in the community with both adults and children, the aim is to provide services, education and an environment that will support children and their families in a very effective way.

Children will be part of the decision making process, not when they are in the senior classes of school, but from pre-school age.

Every community provides some child services but Bendigo wants the whole community to be consulted. Ms. Karen Malone, a former Asia/Pacific Director of UNESCO, is helping with the process. Not only that, but even very young children have answered questions, drawn pictures and taken photos on supplied disposable cameras of the things they value.

A survey found that children value family, friends play, and sometimes shopping, and that their lives revolve around home, the back yard, the car, and school.

This is natural, but by making spaces and places more friendly, it is hoped that other areas will become significant also. For example, in time past, kids could play on nature strips; they could walk to the local shops alone and walk or ride to visit friends. Can children do this safely in our cities today? Yes, if we set our minds to it. We can take the fear away by

  • slowing traffic

  • training members of the community to be responsible for our children 

  • helping our kids to act responsibly

In Tokyo, a bigger city than any we have in Australia, children as young as four, travel alone on public transport to their child care centres. This is possible because adults have assumed responsibility to help these children. Children and their parents feel safe there. If it can be done in Tokyo, surely it can be done in other cities and in our smaller cities and rural towns.

While the the group in Bendigo program has developed a pilot program, a further survey of a several hundred more children is about to begin. The program will be ongoing because communities change, children change and what is wanted this year may not be appropriate next year.

It sounds exciting. I for one am keen to hear what happens and how other communities can adopt the ideas.

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Families and long working hours

Recent studies show that there is a definite link between hours parents work and family breakdown. Parents are struggling to cope with longer and longer hours at work or shift work, and kids suffer as a result. People often say that it isnít quantity of time that is important, but quality. But if the amount of time a family can spend together gets shorter and shorter, there is no quality time left. Many people in Australia are working 50 hours or more a week on a regular basis. Why are working hours getting longer?

This can be because:

  • people like to work

  • they are trying to advance their careers

  • there is financial pressure

  • they fear they will lose their job if they donít agree to work longer hours

The biggest factor is financial pressure especially commitments like buying a house.

In many families now there are no free weekends for the family to relax and do family focused activities. Both men and women come home tired and stressed and this is not good for family relationships. Shops, especially the big companies expect to be open seven days a week and this means employees have to work seven days. Opening hours are often from 8am to 10 pm. It is true that people like to have these flexible hours to shop but although workers have the right to request more flexible work hours, employers are only required to consider the requests, not comply. In part time work, an option many mothers need, hours may not have increased but the amount of work that has to be fitted into those hours, has increased, and this affects levels of stress.

Parents under stress relate to their children in more negative ways. Stress affects relationships between partners also. It is the whole family that suffers. Three or four weeks holiday a year is not sufficient time for families to spend together. Regular time is necessary.  Time to relax, to be with the children, to be with your partner. The solutions are complex. They need to be dealt with by government, employers, employees, and individual families. Recognising the problems are the first step.

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Hearing Environments

Hearing is one of our most important senses. If you do not hear clearly you will know how frustrating it can be to catch only part of a sentence. It is also frustrating for the speaker to be requested to repeat what they have said. Sometimes the speaker blames the listener for not paying attention. People with severe hearing difficulties can be aided with hearing aids or cochlear ear implants. These marvellous inventions now allow children once forced to live in a world of silence to hear voices. But is it only children with severe hearing problems we should be concerned about?

I recently heard Carol Flexer, an audio specialist from Ohio, speaking on radio about the importance of hearing environments. When a baby is born, hearing is already fully developed and the baby has been hearing speech and sounds from the environment for 20 weeks. The close connection between ears and brain mean that what we hear must be processed by the brain before it can be understood. If words and sounds are not heard clearly, the brain will give wrong or incomplete information. Background noise can interfere with our ability to hear effectively.

The most important learning environments for children are the home and the classroom. How good is the hearing environment where your children learn? Is there a lot of background noise in the childcare centre or a primary school where your child spends most of the day? If there is, your child is not in the optimum hearing environment.

Studies have found that behaviour, focus, time spent on tasks and literacy all improve when children can hear clearly in classroom. In the US, some schools now use special sound distributing systems so that wherever the teacher is in the room, and wherever the children are, all can hear equally well. One may think that using a microphone would make the classroom noisier but in fact it makes it quieter as children donít have to talk so much in order to understand instructions. I imagine that not many Australian schools will follow this example but there must be ways we can quieten our hearing environments. Here are some suggestions.

  • Plant bushes along boundaries to reduce street noise

  • insulate ceilings in spaces that have poor acoustics

  • organise time for quiet activities when there are no noisy outside activities that will distract the children

  • use language games to help children to speak clearly instead of shouting

  • hang drapes in a classroom with poor acoustics. This will improve sound

  • donít have background music playing constantly

  • have a 'quiet room'

  • take small groups of children into a quiet area for calm activities when rowdy behaviour occurs

  • use listening games regularly with children so they practise listening for quiet sounds

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Discipline

Discipline can take many forms. It doesnít have to be horrible for either adult of child, but most people agree that discipline must be consistent. That sounds easy or at least reasonable, but in practise it isnít so easy. Many things intervene so that parents are often inconsistent. If we are feeling tired or stressed, our childís behaviour may really freak us out, whereas another day, the same behaviour may not worry us at all. If visitors are present, we may want some behaviour we normally tolerate, modified. The most common forms of discipline are:

  • showing disapproval by facial expressions

  • asking the child to stop

  • shouting

  • time out for the child

  • threatening

  • smacking

  • denying the child some activity

  • withholding pocket money

Childrenís misbehaviour may be minor or major. Refusing to pick up clothes in their room may be a minor offence one day but if the sale of the house depends on tidiness and the rooms are in a mess, refusal to make an effort at tidiness becomes a major concern with discipline following. Playing loud music may not worry you unless you are trying to make a phone call in the same room. Using Dadís computer may be okay but he may not want all your childís friends to use it. It is important to make the punishment fit the crime. A minor misdemeanour does not need a major punishment.

Parents who are constantly stopping their children from doing things, often have poorly behaved children. Children need to be busy and occupied constructively. If they have interesting, age appropriate toys and activities available, they are less likely do unacceptable things. Make rules for home, that are not too restrictive. Here are some tips:

  • explain if special circumstances mean that some activities have to be altered or re-scheduled

  • wherever you are taking your children go prepared so they will be happy, not bored.

  • warn children if there is to be a change in routine

  • explain ahead of time what they will and will not be able to do when you go on an outing.

  • reward good behaviour especially with words 

  • be specific with praise Ė ďthank you for putting your clothes away. That was so helpful to me.Ē

  • if a child is sent to his room or sat away from an activity, suit the time there to the age of the child. One minute can seem like an hour to a three year old.

A child who is not guided with discipline doesnít learn to discipline himself/herself.  In each community you will meet people who have conflicting ideas about the best ways to discipline kids. There are excellent books available in shops and in libraries and the matter is dealt with by parenting newsletters, many online. A good Australian one is Michael Groseís Parenting Ideas. Here is a link to it. www.parentingideas.com.au

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Smacking as discipline

Presently there is a lot of discussion in Australia about whether children should be smacked as part of discipline. The government has reportedly decided to spend $2.5 million on an advertising campaign to stop people using smacking, and may pass legislation to make smacking unlawful.  More than 2000 people voted in a TV poll in one day on whether to smack or not smack. The result was that 92% of that group, said that smacking was sometimes necessary while only 8% said it was never acceptable.  Many people feel that discipline is a personal choice, not a governmental responsibility.

No one likes to be the recipient of physical punishment and in this latest discussion, some children have given their views. Some say they only get smacked when they know they deserve it; some say smacking works; others say it has no effect and they still do bad things, knowing theyíll be spanked. Some say physical punishment makes them hate their parents.

Looking into the past, we know that caning kids at school didnít prevent bad behaviour. Now that caning is illegal, teachers doubt that bad behaviour has become more common. Only a small percentage of kids are unruly. A hundred years ago, I think that most parents smacked their kids and caning was an acceptable part of school life. Today, most parents try to use other methods of discipline. We tend to bring up our kids as we were brought up. 

We hear from many sources that if we use aggression to settle disputes, we are teaching that aggression is okay. Unfortunately many governments in the world turn to aggression to solve problems and war is not a quick way, or even a certain way, to solve the woes of the world.

Letís help our parents to show children there doesnít have to be war in the home. Help them to learn other ways to discipline.  No one likes to be hit. I didnít see Super Nanny hitting anyone and it was a very popular program. Parents are willing to learn.

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Blaming Others

We all blame others when things go wrong and politicians are amongst the worst. The Government and the Opposition, blame each other and in the corporate world, the head of a department is expected to take the blame because he or she didnít know what was going on.

Education is a problem area when it comes to blame. Employers blame the schools when it comes to any shortfall in young employees, parents blame teachers, teachers blame parents, and everyone blames the government for lack of funds, lack of foresight, and general slackness. To solve these problems and avoid the blame game, it would help the education system if all parties engaged in better listening and acknowledged problems exist. People who are busy blaming others donít make positive contributions to problem solving. More money, more consultation, and more compromise would also help. After all, education is the basis for the growth of our society.

No one likes being blamed and this is especially true when you are not guilty. I recently read a book for 7-9 year olds called Mandy Made Me Do It by Jan Weeks (Blake Education 2004) in which a younger child blamed his big sister for all his outrageous mistakes. Unfortunately blaming others is common in families, especially in sibling quarrels and parents often donít discover who the real culprit is.  Most likely both children are at fault and need help to solve the argument without shouting, hitting or grabbing. Helping children to think of different ways to solve problems can be done during play, before a situation gets out of hand. Discussion after can help children see what they could do next time.

If our kids can learn to look for solutions rather than to lay blame, they will have learnt a great skill.

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School again

It is that time of year again. The shops are cleared of Christmas things and Back to School paraphernalia has pride of place. Like Christmas, it is an expensive time for families. Children have shot up in height, their feet seem to have grown two sizes bigger, and last yearís school bag has a stale smell about it or is so out of fashion that no child can be expected to tote it to school. Parents will sigh and frown every time they fork out more dollars but they accept that school gear must be bought. Buying the cheapest gear is not always the best choice. The comfort of shoes, the weight of the bag and the amount of space in it, are more important considerations than price.

The beginning of the school year is an established routine for those who will return to a familiar school but for many others there will be changes, or the exciting prospect of the first year of education. Parents will have made the choice of schools before this stage, unless unexpected changes have occurred and the family is re-locating.

Children who have attended pre-school, will be familiar with playing in a group and following routines in the bathroom, at lunch time and at other group times. Some of their friends from pre-school will probably be starting at big school too. This gives children confidence. Building confidence and a positive attitude to school is important and will be easier if the stress of the new experience is kept to a minimum.

Plan a no-stress beginning to the day.

This will help the whole family to get to work and school on time and in a happy frame of mind. If the child walks, goes on a bus or in the family car, be sure to have some practise runs so that you know what time everyone will need to leave home in order to avoid a rush.

Do jobs the night before

  • lay out clothes

  • clean shoes

  • plan or make sandwiches and freeze drinks

  • pack books and pens and pencils

  • get child to bed in good time

  • set out the breakfast dishes. 

Plan strategies

Talk to your child about what to do in unexpected situations. Kids loose their lunch money, get bullied, fall over, feel sick, and get lonely despite the crowd.  At school kids from many different backgrounds are lumped together in classes. At home every child is treated as an individual, and your child may not like doing the same thing at the same time as everyone in the class at school. Following directions at the right time is really important there. Discussions or explanations about why children will need to obey rules will prepare your child to fit into the classroom situation.

The end of the school day can be stressful particularly for children who have to travel by bus. Teachers help new children to catch the correct bus and supervise until the bus drives away. The driver has strict rules but must give most attention to the traffic, not to what is happening between children. Try to arrange support on the bus for your child with an older, reliable child.

A parent or familiar adult should be waiting at the bus stop to collect the child. It is after school when children are tired and traffic is heavy that accidents happen.

However well prepared your child is, starting school will be a big challenge. Keep in touch with what is happening and remember that teachers want and need your support to help your child thrive at school.

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Summer camps

During the summer holidays we see lots of pictures in the newspapers and on TV of kids at play. My sons used to look forward to tennis camps and my daughter to ballet camp when they were children. Now there is an even greater range of camps available. My local paper shows kids who have been at a summer camp for clowning skills. It is amazing how much the children have learnt in two weeks. They have achieved enough to allow them to keep practising at home. I know there have also been workshops for art and crafts, science, cricket, football and tennis. It is great for kids to have these opportunities to follow their interests at reasonable prices. The success of these workshops mean that some activities will continue during the year or be offered as workshops in the next holidays.

A big thank you is due to all those adults who have organised the activities.

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Kids with different abilities

There is no mistake in my mind that every child has unique abilities. People talk of kids with disabilities but given a chance these children can thrive in mainstream educational facilities and even help their peers and teachers to gain understanding and new skills. During the month Iíve been reading about some of these kids and the amazing way they cope with the world. A five year old child in Victoria began mainstream school in February although he has lost both his eyes to a rare disease called Retinoblastoma. He needs a Braille writer in his backpack, and a guide dog, plus a cane to enable him to participate in lessons with his peers. His Mother worries about whether sending him to a mainstream school is the right thing to do, but the child is brimming with confidence. A marvellous book, Beyond the Red Door by Janet Shaw from Perth, tells how she thrived at a mainstream school, but fell into despondency a few years later when the authorities insisted that she transfer to a school for children of disabilities. There her abilities were not recognised, only her disabilities.

In my own district of country NSW, I hear often of the successful integrated into mainstream classes of children who need extra assistance. In Guyra one school has recently received an award that recognises the caring effort that has made it possible for a child who cannot walk or talk to be involved in every aspect of school life. Schools like this make us proud of our teachers and pupils, and proud of our communities.

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More about lead

The level of lead in the blood of children is once again in the news. In Mt. Isa, a lead mining town in Queensland, Australia, a quarter of the children between one and four years of age have unacceptably high levels of lead in their bodies. Any level above 10 micrograms per deciliter, is too high. One child was found to have a level of 31 micrograms. Indigenous children have been found with the highest levels.

The mining company is giving free blood tests to the community and has spent a lot of money on improving emissions and treatment of emissions since 2003 when the alarm was first raised. Follow up tests will be carried out by the health department in 2012. This time frame is too long .

A court case is pending by parents of at least one child who suffers from liver and kidney problems, irritability, depression and acute weight loss, learning difficulties and behaviour problems. These are all symptoms of lead poisoning.

Health authorities have indicated that hygiene, particularly hand washing is vital to prevent lead ingestion in this community. The worst cases are where children suck thumbs, play in the dirt and have dogs. Children in the first five years of life DO play in the dirt and on the floor in their homes where people have been walking. Having a pet is an important part of life in Australia. Yes, we should see that our kids learn and practise hygiene but fixing the cause of the lead contamination is essential.

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Schools cost money

When New Year comes, shops put up back to school displays. Parents will be required to buy all kinds of school gear and it all costs money. Whether your child is starting pre-school or another type of child care, or is starting big school or moving into high school, money is an issue. State education is supposedly free and the government wants every four year old to have the benefit of a year of pre-school. However, pre-school and other types of early childhood education means paying fees and every year fees go up. Primary and High Schools with a reputation of excellence, whether state or private, are usually the most expensive with the highest fees. Parents want the best for their kids. Some of the fee charging schools will put their fees up by 5% this year.

When new regulations for early childhood centres come in, requiring more highly trained staff and higher ratio of teachers to children, fees will increase again and parents will face the dilemma of how to pay for the service. Fee increases particularly impact on lower income families and fee increases will mean some children will be withdrawn.

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Babysitters

During March a video of a babysitter abusing an 11month old baby went around the world. The parents had suspected something was amiss when their baby had bruised arms. They set up a secret filming and were horrified to see the babysitter whacking the baby over and over and then finishing off with kicks.

Almost all parents will need to leave their children with a babysitter at some stage. The parents of the abused baby thought they had chosen a suitable babysitter. The woman had good references and she was a former worker in a child care centre. What went wrong? This woman was a stranger to the family but sometimes it is a relative, a neighbour, a partner who abuses a child. It is very scary to hear this. Always observe interactions between your child and the selected babysitter on a number of occasions before leaving your child in someoneís care. If you are not confident, cancel your appointment or find another sitter. If your child is to be minded in the sitterís home, visit the home and look for safety features, question the person about how he/she disciplines behaviour.

Match the babysitter to the child. A person who will mind a school aged child happily and successfully, may not be patient with a baby. Babies are demanding and cry when something is wrong as they cannot use sufficient language to communicate needs. Minding a crying baby is stressful. A toddler is also demanding and tiring and cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be left safely to play alone as they get into everything.

Unsatisfactory babysitters will only mind the children until they are bored or want to follow their own interests. Instead of caring for the baby or child, they may fall asleep, make long phone calls, watch films, smoke pot, read long books, do assignments, or invite a friend in to talk.

Talk to your babysitter so that you get a picture of what your child has done during your absence. If at all possible, ring up to check that everything is all right during the babysitting period.

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Good for Kids

As I looked through the local newspaper for some news about kids I found several items. The first was about immunisation. Most parents are very aware about having baby immunised but in the following years often forget that updates should take place. Many schools have immunisation programs and it will save you time and stress if you fill in the form so your children can have these shots at school along with their friends. Make enquiries at your school as it is important to keep immunisations up to date.

The second article was Youth tells us what they think. The results of a survey over time showed that young people rank family and friendships as the most important things in their lives with education coming next and then personal safety. So despite what you might think, the values of our youth fit well with those of parents.

The third article was headed Good for Kids. Good for Life. It is Australiaís largest program promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Free training and resources are provided to many groups including staffs at pre-schools, long day care centres, schools, sporting groups, canteens and community organisations. With 30% of our children obese or overweight, it is good to see that action is being taken. As young people value family and friends so highly, it follows that they need to be involved in programs like this. What can you do?

  • You can be a role model - instead of just watching, be active yourself, motivate the whole family

  • set aside a time each day for physical activities just as a time is set aside for homework

  • monitor how much time is spent in seated activities and set limits

  • encourage physical skills, teach skills by starting with easy things. Success is very important in motivation to keep going

  • support your childís choice of physical activity

  • offer a variety of activities, especially those that donít cost money and that the whole family can do. Educate yourself about healthy lifestyles today.

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Families

I have just read some statistics about families in Australia. One in four families is now not the traditional mother, father and children. Back in 1980 the proportion of non traditional family types was only one in ten. Many of the families today are single parent families, mostly women with children. These make up 21% of families. There are also many step-families.

Another interesting statistic is that back in 1911 the size of families according to the census, was 4.5 people but in 2006 it was only 2.6. Traditionally, families have relied on extended family members for support but this has changed too especially regarding grandparents who may have little or no access to their grandchildren when a marriage breaks down. However it is good to see that the statistics show that nearly 50% of infants and children under six years old, see some grandparents at least once a week.

More families now have both parents working often with one parent working part time. The percentage of Mothers with dependent children who are in the paid workforce is 63% now. What kind of pressures do these women have to cope with?

  • Finding reliable child care

  • paying for childcare

  • shopping

  • finding quality time to spend with children

  • budgeting for the household

  • meeting extra education expenses such as excursions

  • choosing suitable entertainment

  • keeping calm

  • supervising children

  • finding time for self.

However, despite changes in structure and in responsibilities and in expectations, the family unit is still the basis of Australian life.

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Anxiety in Children

Did you know that many more people suffer from anxiety than depression? In fact 11% of people suffer anxiety compared with 3% who suffer depression. Many of them are children and the condition may start from as young as two years old.

An anxious child may worry about

  • which toy to choose for reasons such as it may get broken, lost, or have to be cared for in a special way

  •  getting into trouble in the family

  • meeting and having to speak to new people

  • their environment

  • the possibility that their parents will die or that the end of the world is coming.

It is only recently that treatment has been available for these children. A parent who is anxious or depressed is more likely to have an anxious child. If your child is excessively shy and hides when strangers come to the house or absolutely refuses to speak to people you meet when out in the community, or doesnít like going to new places, your child may have an anxiety disorder. Of course not every child with these symptoms will be anxious as there can be other causes but it can be a good idea to be aware.

Currently a program for anxious children is underway at Macquarie University in Sydney with Elizabeth Lau. Initial results show that children in the study have improved considerably. Some are now looking forward to starting school next year. They have learnt how to make friends, and are able to enjoy socialising at pre-school. I will bring more news about this project when it is available.

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Homeless children

When we hear of homeless people in our society, we often donít realise that many of the homeless are families with children. In fact an Australian study found that one in every 64 people seeking help to find somewhere to live, had a child or children with them. Not having a permanent home can be very hard for children.

It means

  • changing schools

  • leaving friends and familiar environments

  • not having clothes or other belongings of their own

  • not having any stability.

Often homeless families leave their home because of abuse. Often they donít know where to go for help. They may live temporarily in a refuge or if they are lucky, have relatives or friends who will put them up for a time. Some live in a caravan park or camping ground others may be forced to live in the family car. While I was a pre-school teacher, the mother of one of the children  slept in the car for a week with her three children, before social workers realised. She had been afraid that she would lose the children if the authorities found out sheíd had to leave home because of her alcoholic partner.

Lack of housing, unemployment and unaffordable rent can cause homelessness. Many towns donít have a refuge for women facing abuse. Waiting lists for public housing are years long and boarding houses are often dangerous places. In 2008 the Australian Human Rights commission stated that

ĎHomeless children and young people often suffer from extreme levels of distress, low self-esteem, depression, mental health problems and behavioural problems because they are victims of or witnesses to abuse. They are also at high risk of exploitation and further exposure to violence, and often have difficulty participating in school education.í

Far too many Australian children are still homeless. When you see the plight of children in countries affected by natural disasters, war or extreme poverty, it is heart-rending. If we are a generous nation, we must help those children but we must also make bigger strides to help homeless children here. Government must be pressured to do more and we should support organisations like the Salvation Army which is constantly doing things to help families in distress.

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People who need help

We have all been affected by the moving images of families with young children who have been displaced by the floods in Pakistan. That natural disaster has affected about twenty million people. That is equal to almost the entire population of Australia and a disaster of that magnitude is hard to comprehend. Our government, charities and individuals have already responded generously with financial aid, and by supplying essential medical and food items. Of course more is needed and to rebuild so many entire villages and provide roads and other services will take years of ongoing support.

Right in our own country there are groups of people who need prompt aid too. Last month I wrote about homeless people. Not enough of us think about their needs or how we can help reduce this problem. Not enough of us take an active interest in the fight to reduce poverty in our Indigenous population either. We leave action to the Government and to charities but we should be working together.

Asylum seekers and refugees arrive because they in desperate need of our help. We would be unhappy and angry if members of our families, fled from war, injustice or disaster and were treated the way our government is treating this group of people at present. Detention centres are overcrowded and one of our Members of Parliament who has just visited the detention centres, reports that over a thousand children are detained there. There is an official policy of no detention of children but it is happening. Children and adults are held not for a few weeks, but for years in many cases. Detention has long term affects on people. Did you know that Australia is one of only a few countries that has a mandatory detention policy? Most other nations allow refugees and asylum seekers to live within the communities. If this can be done by others, why not here? Why are so many people scared of these people in desperate need? Have you heard of the good Samaritan?

Inaction, inhumanity, neglect - these are all forms of abuse. The problems people face get worse when we don't care what happens. Begin caring today. You can:

  • Find out facts. Asylum seekers and refugees make up a very tiny proportion of people who come here.
  • Write to an M.P. asking for an end to detention of children and vulnerable families
  • Sign a petition against detention of families
  • Visit a detention centre
  • Offer friendship to a refugee family
  • Begin or join a group in your community that will support settlement of refugees with employment, housing and education
  • Read a refugee's story

We are all part of humanity where ever we come from. Take action today.

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Cruelty to animals

Most children love animals but occasionally there are cases of cruelty. recently three teenage boys allegedly bludgeoned a kangaroo to death while on a school camp. the boys were suspended from school while decisions are taken about further action. the most likely action will be paying a large fine and doing community service.

There are serious implications for children who are cruel to animals. Statistics show a direct connection between cruelty to animals and adults who commit child abuse, domestic violence, and other forms of violence and murder. Almost ninety percent of violent criminals have had a history of violence towards animals during their childhood. Pets are a great way to show children hgow to treat animals with care. Pets are an important part of family life in Australia and in many other nations. Never turn a blind eye to children hurting or teasing animals.

In my storytelling sessions, I often use soft toy animals. I insist that the children handle these toys with respect and care too as it is practise for dealing with real animals.. People owe a great deal to animals, so we need to teach children how to be gentle and how to handle pets correctly.

Watch out for animals that need our help. Summer is approaching so see that they have enough shade, water and food. Companionship is also important for animals.

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Funding for schools

Recently there has been a report that reducing the sizes of classes will not improve the education children receive but many people do not agree with this finding. There are so many factors to consider in education, and funding is perhaps the most important.  There is a review underway to consider the way schools are funded and how it can be improved so that every student, whatever their background, their parentís financial status or their personal skills, gets the best education possible. At the moment, private schools get two thirds of the money the federal Government supplies, although they only educate one third of the students. The same amount of money is given to wealthy schools and to poorer schools alike and this cannot be fair. Parents can help support teachers make submissions on funding, or have their own say by visiting www.forourfuture.org.au There are 6,800 public schools in Australia and 2,700 private schools. The majority of kids with special needs are educated in public schools. Better support for these kids is essential and there are other groups of kids who will benefit from a fairer division of funds. At the moment Australia ranks 26th out of 28 OECD countries, in the level of Government funding of Public schools. The review has over a year to go yet, and as our kids futures are at stake, parents have an opportunity here to get informed and take action.  

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Taking time to smell the roses

Many families have been in rush mode all of December. There was the rush of end of the school year activities and social events for whole families. Shopping venues were crowded and stress levels got higher with long queues and parking problems as we tried to meet the demands of the Christmas period. With Christmas over, it is time to take some deep breaths and slow down. For families who take their annual holidays at this time of year, it is a perfect time to stop rushing about and quietly enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a different environment.

Slowing down isnít easy for everyone. Rushing from one task or activity to the next can become a habit. Whether your habit is eating chocolates or getting up at a certain time, or using the computer, it takes about two weeks to change, but we all need some quiet time to do a favourite activity or just to do nothing. A couple of months ago my computer went away for repairs. I had hoped it would be a matter of a day or two but it was almost two months. At first I felt withdrawl symptoms but within two weeks Iíd adjusted my time. Iíve noticed the same thing with changes in diet. The first two weeks are the hardest. Unfortunately for most of us we are only just getting used to holiday time when it comes to an end and the mad rush begins again. We need to, make the most of our leisure. Think back to the time when we had no children. What were your interests then? Did you enjoy a good book? Did you like to lie in the bath relaxing until your toes went wrinkly? Did you play some sport or a musical instrument? Take some time when you fall into bed tonight to think about something youíve had to give up because of family commitments. Promise yourself some time at that activity when the Christmas rush is over. It will take some planning but you deserve a break. We all deserve time to stop responding immediately to the kids and just take time to smell the roses.

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Drownings are tragic.

More than thirty people drowned off the coast of Christmas Island recently when a boat carrying Asylum seekers was wrecked on the rocks. Sadly most of those people were unable to swim so had no chance of surviving in the rough seas.

The statistics for drownings in Australia are horrifying. The number of drownings is actually rising despite the fact that children go to learn to swim classes while at school and despite warnings to parents to always supervise their children when in or near the water. Many of those who drown are immigrants or tourists who have no understanding of the ocean here. Most of the immigrant adults are unable to swim, so cannot help their friends if they get into difficulties in the water. In 2009, thirty three children under five drowned in preventable tragedies. How can we stop these tragedies? Half of those deaths were in home pools.

  • Make sure your pool is fenced with approved fencing.
  • Learn about the dangers of water.
  • At the beach swim between the flags.
  • Never play in flood waters.
  • Always, always supervise kids.
  • Learn to swim yourself and learn what to do in an emergency.
  • Never swim in the ocean or a river at night.

If you canít swim you wonít save someone else by jumping into the water. Instead, throw something in for them to hang onto. Throw one end of a rope, or a branch of a tree. Even an empty bottle with a lid screwed on can help support a person in the water until help comes.

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Heroes

Many people were heroes in the recent floods in Queensland but everyone will remember young Jordan Rice 13, who told the truck driver who came to rescue him to save his ten year old brother first. Jordan and his mother, who were clinging to the top of their vehicle, were swept away before the rescuer could return for them.

As the flood waters receded, thousands of people including children, volunteered to begin the clean up. Those volunteers faced and still face, mammoth tasks as thousands of homes were wrecked. I guess that every flooded community had a number of heroes who have set to work with incredible courage.

Since then there has been the earthquake in New Zealand and an even more horrifying earthquake in Japan. No doubt there have been heroes in both those places. Again many ordinary people including children are banding together to help each other move mud and and debris to clean up and to support those who are sad and in need. So many great role models for kids to look up to.

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Early Childhood Teachers

Do you realise that early childhood teachers complete the same training as university trained teachers who work in primary schools, but receive $14,000 less per year in pay than primary school teachers? That is unacceptable today. Not only that but in NSW where I live, the state government spends only $159 per child per year compared to Victoriaís $193, South Australiaís $429, Tasmaniaís $335 and the ACTís is $632 per child. ( information from Early Childhood Australia newsletter).

The state election has just been held and we have a new Premier. Parents, not only teachers, need to lobby the new government about this inequality. You can

  • send your local member an email

  • email the Premier

  • start a petition

  • buy a blue day t-shirt

  • get support for your early childhood centre in the local media on a regular basis

  • keep raising funding awareness for your pre-school and long day care centres in newsletters

  • get ideas from parents.

Family Day Carers/Educators have a different issue. When new regulations come into effect, 5,000 children a day will be unable to go to childcare. The reason is that the number of children under five that a Carer/Educator can mind will change from five to four. On paper it sounds a good idea but in practice it will make family day care unviable for many Carers. With only four children, the cut in pay will be equivalent to working one whole day without pay. If carers are unable to continue taking children, where will all the children go? There just aren't enough places for them.

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Rights of the child

Christmas in Australia has always been very much a time for children. There are charities and individuals who make a special effort to bring happiness to children by providing toys and food for those who might otherwise go without. Christmas is recognised as a time for giving whether your family is Christian or not. It is a time when we can encourage children to give too. Giving doesnít have to mean money spent. It can be a hand made card, sharing a toy or a book that is no longer needed, visiting children in hospital, inviting someone from school to play at your house or standing up for the rights of others.  

Christmas is a time to show we are serious about protecting the rights of Australian children. They need to be protected from poverty, from discrimination, from homelessness, from stress and from violence. But we should speak up about protecting the rights of all children including those seeking asylum here.  Donít let the politics of stopping refugee boats interfere with childrenís rights. Refugee children and asylum seeking children must be in our communities with access to health care and services, and education. Early Childhood Australia says decisions must be made on the United Nations Convention rights and not be linked to smuggling or stopping boats.

In our multicultural country, there are many people who follow different faiths but in this season let us all unite in kindness to one another, and promote peace and harmony for better understanding in our world.

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Copyright 2008

 

 
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Take time to smell the roses
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