Parenting Advice

Parenting Advice

I was recently asked to share the best parenting adivce I had ever been given.

Handing out parenting adivce is fraught with danger and accepting unsolicited advice is totally up to the receiver. It’s an iffy subject at best, and I was a little hesitant to contribute – I’m no expert!

BUT I had carried my friend’s words with me for a few months, and thought to myself – they’re powerful words if I’m reflecting on them ALL THE TIME. They might be a bit philosophical for some, but helped me through a heap!

So, here’s the link!

Enjoy!

THE MOST COMMON – AND DANGEROUS – MISCONCEPTION PARENTS HAVE ABOUT INSTAGRAM,  FACEBOOK , SNAPCHAT AND MUSICALY

THE MOST COMMON – AND DANGEROUS – MISCONCEPTION PARENTS HAVE ABOUT INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK , SNAPCHAT AND MUSICALY

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Musicaly are engaging online spaces, and seen as a part of everyday life for many of us. They are also highly unregulated spaces where children can be exposed to adult content, predators, cyberbullying and unrealistic life expectations.

 

Many parents allow their children to create Instagram and Facebook accounts for their 13th birthdays, as this is the age when it is considered safe for teens to use these platforms – right?

 

WRONG.

 

This is the most common misconception parents have about social media.

 

The guideline 13+ was created because it complies with US law regarding the collection of children’s information. It’s the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and it prevents the collection and storage of personal information from a child under 13 years old.

 

The problem is, while this law sounds important and as though it makes things ‘safe’ for children, it doesn’t. It simply prevents companies from collecting your children’s names, email addresses and locations, probably for the purpose of trying to sell something!

 

IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY.

 

I’ll repeat that if you missed it.

 

The age limit of 13+ HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY while using those platforms.

 

In fact, for young teens (13-15 years), these platforms can be anything BUT safe.

 

You see, kids and teens don’t use these platforms the same way that we do. They are more social, more inquisitive, and spend more time online.

 

For Instance, you probably upload pictures of your breakfast, a family day at the beach, or a fun quote onto your account #mumlife

 

But did you know that Instagram (one of the world’s largest image search engines) has porn on it? It has porn uploaded to it EVERY SECOND (quick test – search for #sex). You can read some other reasons why Instagram isn’t for young teens here

 

If there was porn channels on my TV, I would restrict access and monitor my child’s viewing, so why is this possible exposure acceptable online?

Children and young people need the same moral and ethical guidance and clear, appropriate boundaries for online behaviour as they do for offline behaviour (Spears et al., 2008)

 

I’ve chosen not to allow my daughter to use Instagram, however I know that some parents are happy to allow their child to have the app with regular monitoring of their child’s activity.

 

The best app I have found to monitor phone use is Smart Lagoon. It monitors social media, messaging app, and internet activity, and a whole lot more. You can read our review here.

 

The team at Safe Lagoon have given KidSpace Gold Coast families 20% off the app subscription – just enter code KSGC20 at checkout.

 

If your child has had Instagram for a while, and you’re only just learning that it’s not as innocent as it seems, it’s not too late to delete the app, or install monitoring software on your child’s phone.

 

Smartphone Safety  – Safe Lagoon Review

Smartphone Safety – Safe Lagoon Review

Our children’s safety is top of our priority list – car seats, child locks and safety guidelines – we see the danger and put steps in place to protect our little ones.

 

Online dangers are harder to see – pornography, violence, online predators, sexting, and bullying are all very real threats that our kids are exposed to when we give them a smart device.

 

If that wasn’t enough to worry about, parents also face problems such as excessive screen time, teens texting through the night, and devices eating up valuable face-to-face family time.

 

Giving your child a smartphone is a BIG DEAL!

 

Our daughter has owned a smartphone since she turned 13. That first day, I turned on as many parental controls as I could, gave her the talk about responsible use, and basically crossed my fingers.

 

I’d gone through all of the steps I believed were necessary. I’d spoken to her about image sharing, making sure you know who you are talking to, and let her know that I would make random checks of her phone (which I did).

 

I also let her have Instagram on her 13th birthday. This was against my better judgement and you can read my blog post about Instagram here. If you have a teen using Instagram, it is a must-read.

 

One day I found out my daughter had been bullied through Instagram.  I also realised my daughter was able to find adult content. It was a big wake-up call to me that I wasn’t doing enough as a parent to protect my daughter.

 

It was also a wake-up call that the current advice we are given about kids and smartphones just isn’t enough.

 

Sure, there is an age where kids need to be taught responsible use and set free, but I don’t believe 13 is that age. I still believe (as a parent, and a teacher) that children don’t really mature as teenagers until they turn 15.

In fact teachers who teach teens know that grade nine students go home for the summer holidays and come back in grade ten, much more mature. It’s my feeling, that 15 years is the age we can use the current advice to educate, release, trust and build resilience.

 

But 13 is too young.

 

So I set about finding a tool that would give me control, oversight and peace of mind. Heck! I’m the adult! I’m paying the phone bill and I can do whatever I like to protect my child. In fact, it’s probably my responsibility to do so.

 

So I found a great product called Safe Lagoon. It is a subscription app (approx $5 AUD per month) that installs parental controls on any phone. It is installed on my daughter’s phone, and I use a control panel on my phone to view, and manage her account.

 

For those wondering, my daughter was happy to have the app installed as opposed to losing her phone privileges. I’m also a firm believer that boundaries and rules make kids feel safe – and that children should have the same rules online as they do in the real world.

 

So back to the app…

 

It is BRILLIANT. I can control almost every feature of my child’s phone.

Safe Lagoon allows parents to:

 

  • Turn off all web browsers, except for the safe browser, and have complete visibility of all searches and results.
  • Prevent app downloads, and see all downloads
  • Schedule screen time  (Set time limits! Enforce bedtime!)
  • Manage your child’s phone remotely, including scheduling
  • Read messages sent on messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook and more
  • Read text messages and monitor phone calls
  • See your child’s location and receive notifications when they leave set locations
  • See all images they take with the camera
  • Add multiple family members
  • Prevent uninstalling of app

My experience using the Safe Lagoon app has been great – which is why I’m recommending it. I am confident that I have oversight of my child’s digital life, her social interactions online, and that I can intervene when necessary to educate and most importantly protect her.

 

It’s taken a lot of anxiety out of the digital world for me.

If you’re nervous about your child having a smartphone, you battle with your child over screen time, or your teen is awake texting late at night, this app is for you!

 

It comes with a free version (web filtering) and then a subscription version for just a little more than a cup of coffee per month! I used the free version for a few days before I realised this is an awesome app and upgraded.

 

Special Offer! I’m super proud that Safe Lagoon has offered KidSpace Gold Coast families 20% off their subscription with the code: KSGC20

 

You can download Safe Lagoon, and get started now:

Google Play 

iTunes

 

To get started:

Download the app to your phone, create an account, and then download the app on your child’s phone, logging in with your username and password. Once installed, follow the prompts to give the app access to different aspects of your child’s phone. Set some schedules and create some ‘places’, and then sit back and let the app send you notifications, and check content when you wish.

Please let me know what you think of Safe Lagoon, and don’t forget to leave a positive review if you love it too!

 

Disclaimer: I trialled and subscribed to the paid app in August. I was contacted by the owner of Safe Lagoon and asked to write a review on Google – which I did. I told him that I also had a website and would love to share the app with my readers, and the owner unexpectedly refunded the month and has given me 6 months free. He has also generously offered to give you a discount if you choose to subscribe (and I make $0 from that). I would absolutely be telling you about this product without being given a refund and free period.

What to Look For When Choosing a Babysitter

What to Look For When Choosing a Babysitter

A guest post from our friends at Coastal Babysitters – there are some seriously good tips in this one!

You desperately need some time to yourself…

You’ve been wanting a date night for months now but haven’t been able to get the children minded…

You need to attend an appointment but you just can’t find the time…

You feel guilty because you’ve asked your family or friends too many times to help look after the kids but you don’t want to leave your kids with just anybody!

Having a reliable, fun and professional babysitter that you can rely on is so important. It gives you that feeling of freedom and being able to have some time for yourself.

All every parent wants for their child is the best, and especially when you are away from them, you want to know that your child is in the best care.

I have put together a list of what to look for when choosing a babysitter for your little ones:

Check Their References

When you interview a babysitter, this is a must. This is the person you are trusting your children’s lives with and you want to make sure they are who they say and they have the experience that they say. Don’t be afraid to ring families that they have babysat for in the past to ask what they were like with their children and what duties were performed.

Check their Qualifications

To be able to work with children in Queensland, you must hold a Blue Card which is a background check on the person that holds the card. Always make sure they are in possession of a valid Blue Card. It is also wise to make sure they have a current First Aid and CPR certificate to deal with any emergencies.

Interview

Make sure you conduct an interview before hiring a babysitter. Write a list of questions relevant to your family. We will all have the standard questions such as age, availability, experience etc, but make it more targeted to what you need for your family. Do you need the kids picked up from school? Do you need someone to make snacks or dinner if you’re stuck at work? If so, ask questions such as how they are in the kitchen or what is their favourite kids ‘go to meal’ or their knowledge and experience about driving with kids in the car.

Invite the Babysitter for a Trial

This way you can see her style and how they interact with your children. Observe and see her playfulness, professionalism, or how she generally interacts with the children. Most importantly, see how the children react to her and the connection they make as they are going to be the ones spending the most time with her.

Trust your Gut Instinct!

On paper, your potential babysitter may have it all…. BUT…. There’s something you don’t like and you can’t put your finger on it… Trust your instincts!

If this all seems like too much, why not let Coastal Babysitters do it all for you. We provide experienced, professional and reliable babysitters you can trust anywhere from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay. All our babysitters have gone through a thorough interview process and been reference checked. They must all have their Blue Card, Current CPR and First Aid certificate. All our Gold Coast and Byron Bay Babysitters are either MUMS themselves or have at least 3 years’ experience working with children.

Being a mum of 2 young girls myself, on top of having all the above, I trust my gut instinct and would never hire anybody that I wouldn’t feel comfortable looking after my own children.

So next time you’re stuck for a babysitter on the Gold Coast or Byron Bay, we’d love to help. Visit our website www.coastalbabysitters.com.au for more information.

Orly x

 

 Orly, Owner Coastal Babysitters

 

Baby Sensory Northern Gold Coast

Baby Sensory Northern Gold Coast

Babies learn more in the first year of life than at any other time. Never again will there be such an extraordinary pace of development. They are totally attentive and absolutely fascinated by everything that they can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. In fact, the most miraculous advances in a baby’s brain structure occur in the first 3 months of life. During this period, an astonishing 2 million new connections are created every second!  By the end of the first year, a baby’s brain will have doubled in volume as a direct result of learning from birth.

“A sensory environment rich in sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures promotes brain growth, increases the capacity for intellectual development, and forms the foundation for all future learning.” Dr. Lin Day (PhD. M. Phil. PGCE. BSc. Dip. Ed. SRN) – founder of Baby Sensory.

baby sensory northern gold coast

At Baby Sensory your baby will be introduced to a world of sensory exploration. Specifically designed to aid your baby’s development from birth to 13 months, the programme is packed with an incredible variety of sounds, smells, sights, textures, music, dance, signing and massage as well as fibre optic light shows, amazing light balls, bubbles, parachutes and so much more! Each activity is supported by the provision of developmental information, so that parents can discover how to lead their baby’s learning forwards, both within the class and at home.

What makes Baby Sensory so unique? There are over 40 themed lesson plans which means you’ll never experience the same

baby sensory northern gold coast

Photographer | Contact ian@ianwatts.co.uk

lesson twice and every element of the programme has been meticulously designed with your baby’s development in mind. While each session is different, the class is structured to follow the natural rest-play-rest cycle of babies to provide predictability, comfort and security. The routine avoids over or under-stimulation and is useful because you know what to expect each week. However, if your baby needs to feed half-way through or sleep, that’s fine too!

Each week you’ll have the opportunity to chat with other carers in a relaxed manner. Which is brilliant for forging friendships as the weeks go on, sharing tips and experiences at a time when you’ll probably really appreciate the support. You can join Baby Sensory at any point in the term, all you really need to do is come along. Baby Sensory has done all the research so that you and your baby can spend time focusing on each other and having huge amounts of fun!

Baby Sensory are proud and honoured to have been named as the ‘BEST NATIONAL BABY AND TODDLER ACTIVITY 0-2 YRS’ at the What’s On for Junior Australia Awards for the last 2 years. 

TERM 4 Enrolments NOW OPEN for classes at Nerang and Pacific Pines (classes commence week beginning 2 October 2017). Lesson themes in term 4 include Baby Pirates, Magic Garden, Train Journey, Jungle Jitters and more! BOOK NOW and receive an early bird discount. 10 weeks of classes for just $170 on payments made before 15 September 2017.  baby sensory

 

https://www.facebook.com/babysensorygoldcoast

http://www.babysensory.com.au/au/ClassDetails/goldcoast-qld

Pay at The Pump Petrol Stations Gold Coast

Pay at The Pump Petrol Stations Gold Coast

at least once a year, the question of leaving your children in the car while you pay for petrol appears on social media and divides opinion.

 

I’m totally on the fence with this one – I left my daughter in the car when she was younger, believeing it was probably safer and definitely less stressful. Fast-forward a few years and my older self just wouldn’t do it with my 2.5yo and 7mo. Mostly because my toddler would have a major meltdown and partly because my older self is sensitive to Judgy McJudgy parents glaring over their sunglasses at me.

However, I’m not about to judge you. You can leave your baby, twins, five under five, 12 year-old, mother-in-law, WHOEVER in the car and I’ll back your choice. BUT I have found some pay-at-the-pump petrol stations that will mean you don’t have to make a choice at all.

Some benefits of pay-at-the-pump petrol stations are:

  • No need to get children out of the car
  • No pestering to buy expensive drinks and treats
  • No impulse chocolate purchases you don’t need
  • Ability to drain your bank account of its last $12.85 without embarrassment

Pay at the pump petrol stations gold coast

Caltex Coomera
22 Heathwood Dr, Coomera, 4209 QLD

Caltex Ashmore
Olsen Ave Cnr Nerang Rd, Ashmore, 4214 QLD

Caltex Labrador
244-252 Brisbane Rd, Labrador, 4215 QLD

Caltex Woolworths Labrador North
150 Brisbane Rd, Labrador North, 4215 QLD

 

Caltex Woolworths Elanora
196 K P McGrath Dr, Elanora, QLD, 4221

Caltex Surfers Paradise
2885 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise, QLD 4217

Caltex Woolworths Broadbeach
2745 Gold Coast Hwy & Australia Ave, Broadbeach, QLD 4218

Caltex Upper Coomera
28 Coomera Grand Drive, Upper Coomera, 4209 QLD

Caltex Helensvale
Pacific Hwy Cnr Helensvale Rd, Helensvale, 4210 QLD

Caltex Coombabah
384 Oxley Drive Cnr Lae Drive, Coombabah, 4216 QLD

Caltex Parkwood
230-240 Olsen Avenue Cnr Napper Road, Parkwood, 4214 QLD

Caltex Southport
152 Smith St Cnr Kumbari Ave, Southport, 4215 QLD

Caltex Labrador Frank Street
69 Frank St Cnr Central St, Labrador, 4215 QLD

 Caltex Woolworths Nerang South
Cnr Pappas Way & Hinkler Dr, Nerang South, 4211 QLD

Caltex Worongary
1 Mudgeeraba Rd, Worongary, 4213 QLD

Caltex Reedy Creek
Pacific Highway – North Bound, Reedy Creek, 4228 QLD

Caltex Burleigh Heads
1827 Gold Coast Hwy, Burleigh Heads, 4220 QL

Caltex Woolworths Burleigh Waters
24 Executive Dr Cnr Bermuda St, Burleigh Waters, 4220 QLD

Caltex Tweed Heads West
96-98 Kennedy Dr Cnr Barrett St, Tweed Heads West, 2485 NSW

Caltex West Burleigh
Tsipura Dr Cnr Tallebudgera Crk Rd, West Burleigh, 4220 QLD

 

All BP service stations use the BPMe app for pay at the pump services.

Download here.

BP Benowa (using BPMe app)
Ashmore Rd, Benowa QLD 4217

BP Ashmore
Southport Nerang Road, Ashmore QLD 4214

BP Upper Coomera
Cnr Pacific Hwy and Abraham Road, Upper Coomera QLD 4209

BP Oxenford
5 Old Pacific Hwy, Oxenford QLD 4210

BP Helensvale
2 Discovery Drive, Helensvale QLD 4212

 

BP Labrador
Cnr Frank St and Baker Ave, Labrador QLD 4215

BP HIghland Park
Alexander Drive, Nerang QLD 4211

 

 

Five Footprint Father’s Day Crafts

Five Footprint Father’s Day Crafts

Footprints turn a simple craft into a sentimental favourite for dads on Father’s Day. We scoured Pinterest and found our favourite five footprint Father’s Day crafts that dads will love!

Follow the links for original how-to instructions.

 

1. Footprint Guitar

A no-brainer for dads that love to rock out in their spare time.

footprint-guitar-craft-for-kids

2. Walking in my Father’s Shoes

A gorgeous gift for fathers who are their little boy’s heroes.

fathers day footprint craft

3. A Free Poem Printable

A handy free printable, complete with space for tiny feet, makes this an easy gift to make a frame. It’s guaranteed to bring a tear to Daddy’s eye.

daddy-footprint-printable-poem-fathers-day

 

 

4. Footprint Heart

Show dad how much you love him with this cute handmade card.

5. One in a Minion

Some dads love a kids movie just as much as the, well….kids!

BOOK WEEK COSTUMES

BOOK WEEK COSTUMES

It’s Children’s Book Week this week and kids all over Australia will be dressing up to celebrate at childcare, kindy and school. Whipping up a costume need not cause huge anxiety with our list of costumes using things you already have at home (really!) and a handy list of websites that have free character mask printables.

Have zero props?

Your child can be Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Use clothes you already have + backpack + this printable from www.mumsintheknow.co.uk

Diary of a Wimpy Kid usually wears a white t-shirt and black shorts, but in a stretch normal play clothes, the printable and backpack will do.

Have an AFL uniform?

Kids can dress up as Specky Magee. Bonus points if you have a footy too.

Have a netball uniform?

Kids can dress up as their favourite Netball Dreamz character. Again, Bonus points for the ball

Have a construction hat and a tool belt?

The little yellow digger is the book for you. Add overalls and you have Bob the Builder (ok that’s a TV show but you said you were desperate)!

Have a pair of rabbit ears/cat ears?

There are lots of options for you depending on your other props.

Rabbits: Peter Rabbit (+ blue jacket and carrot) , Guess How Much I Love You, Goodnight Moon, Alice in Wonderland (waist coat and clock), Bunny Cakes.

Cats: Slinky Malinky (black clothes + old socks pinned to top for effect), any cat (leopard print clothes).

Left over Halloween costumes?

Witches hat and broom. Black clothes

The Witches, Wizard of Oz (+ green face paint and red shoes) , Harry Potter (+ glasses and scarf) , Room on the Broom, Meg and Mog.

Have a crown or tiara?

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, the Snow Queen.

Overalls

Fern from Charlotte’s Web (+ toy pig or spider)

Scarecrow (+ hat and shredded paper hair)

Dance clothes

Angelina Ballerina (+ eye-liner whiskers and ballet shoes).  

None of the above? Print a mask! Animals, robots, dragons, and story characters including the rainbow fish can all be found online. Here are some websites with free printables:

https://mrprintables.com/printable-masks.html

https://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Animals/animalmasks/animalmask.html

http://www.sparklebox.co.uk/topic/roleplay/masks/m.story-masks.html#.WZj_rHOuZnE

 

Is Instagram safe for kids and teens? Absolutely not.

Is Instagram safe for kids and teens? Absolutely not.

Your child has probably been begging you for Instagram since forever. You know how Instagram works because you have your own account and have heard that the best way to keep kids safe is to make sure their account is private and to be their friend or know their login details.

Unfortunately Instagram is just not safe for kids and teens, and this approach doesn’t take into account the three major dangers that they are faced with when using the platform.

  • R and X-rated content
  • Personal information and location shared with ‘friends’
  • Cyber-bulling and mental health

These dangers are evident on many social media platforms, but Instagram is one of the most popular amongst young people and there is a misconception amongst parents that it is one of the safer platforms. Let’s have a look at the three dangers more closely….

Instagram is a huge image search engine that hosts R and X-Rated porn and violence.

 

You may have heard that Instagram filters out inappropriate content –  but this ignores the fact that Instagram works by providing the most recent content first. Like many Australian parents, you probably didn’t realise that Instagram has porn.

Just try this test. If you have Instagram, search for the hashtag #sex and view some of the content. You are automatically given the most recently uploaded images AND videos. They’re so recent that explicit content including porn and violent content hasn’t yet been reported and blocked.

This is explicit pornography that is demeaning, highly sexualised and inappropriate for teenage girls and boys under 18. It can’t be unseen.

And if you think your kids aren’t curious and looking at more innocent hashtags… #thinkagain It’s just too easy to access. Even innocent hashtags such as #goldcoast can bring up porn – it’s hard to keep it clean on Insta.

This feature of Instagram alone tells me that this app isn’t suitable for my 13 year daughter. But there are also other dangers…and they apply to most social networking platforms.

Kids just aren’t savvy enough to protect their personal information or think critically about their interactions with ‘friends’ online

 

American data tells us that 65% of teen profiles online include information that can lead to their home, school or both. Through shared information (such as the child goes to netball training on Fridays, and the name of the team they play for) predators can determine a child’s schedule and location.

Predators online find vulnerable children and target them for grooming online. One in 5 US teenagers report receiving unwanted sexual attention online, and only 25% told a parent.

There are a number of horror stories where Australian kids have been targetted,  and most recently a Sydney school girl was found in a basement in the USA after she was lured there by a man she met on Snapchat. She had caught a flight to LA before her parents even realised she was missing.

Australian teenager Carly Ryan was killed by a man who pretended to be a teenage boy. Carly’s Law now exists to protect children online making it illegal for an adult to lie about their age to a child online.

In fact a man was arrested under this law TODAY.

 

24/7 bullying and anxiety

 

When we were bullied at school, home was our sanctuary. Now, bullying is 24/7 and in our child’s pocket.

In a recent survey in the UK, 10 000 kids between the ages of 12 and 20 were surveyed and 42% said they had been bullied on Instagram.

Kids can be bullied on Instagram when embarrassing photos are posted, cruel comments are made, they are tagged on a photo meant to embarrass or shame, bullies create an account in your child’s name and defame them,  they post screenshots of private conversations, and, by exclusion.

Recently, a Gold Coast school had to shut down a ‘roast page’; a page set up to shame fellow students with crude images and comments. These pages are anonymous and can be devastating for the kids involved. Imagine an anonymous workmate posting a nasty image or comment about you online, and going to work not knowing who created it and who saw it.

I recently read an article that suggested parents allow their children to deal with online bullying alone ”to build resilience’. As an IT teacher and cyber-safety advocate, I was appalled. Our kids need guidance, involved parents, parents strong enough to say ‘no’ and parents that are nosy about their kids online habits.

In January,  a 14 year old boy killed himself after being relentlessly bullied on Snapchat.  His parents didn’t know the extent of the bullying (and will never know due to the encrypted nature of the messages) before it was too late. 

In addition to ’dangers’, Instagram itself has been found to be the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health. Unrealistic body image and lifestyle expectations (Kardashians anyone?) are making kids unsatisfied with their own lives.

What’s the solution?

 

Don’t have it. There I said it.

Restrictions and filters set up on a smartphone don’t apply to apps like Instagram. The R and X-rated content will always be there. Children can use the app to hide conversations from parents who check text messages (there is an app for that!) and expose themselves to cyber crime, bullying and poor mental health.

The tween and teen years are already vulnerable times and protecting our children is more important than allowing them free reign on platforms where we can be bypassed as gatekeepers of our children’s wellbeing.

The fact is that our kids and teens are vunerable (because they’re kids and teens) and we need to stop pretending that social media platforms, like Instagram, are safe places for them (because they’re not). 

 

%

Percentage of kids and teens that say they've been bullied on Instagram

%

Percentage of kids who told their parents when they received unwanted sexual attention online

Mind Full or Mindful? Helping your child live in the moment.

Mind Full or Mindful? Helping your child live in the moment.

We live in the age of technology, of instant access, where busy seems to be the new black. Most parents are consumed by busy… living off too little sleep, on too much coffee, chauffeuring kids to and from school, play dates and the endless extra-curricular activities. As a result it can often seem that most of our day is spent on auto-pilot.

Have you ever experienced the following?

  • Driven in the car and arrived at your destination without remembering the journey
  • Asked your partner the same question four times and still don’t remember the answer
  • Eaten a whole packet of Tim Tams and wondered where they all went

We live in a constant routine without truly experiencing, our minds forever wandering to what happened yesterday, last week, last year, or focused on that never ending ‘to do’ list.

If we do this surely our children must too?

Have you ever asked your child what they did at school that day and been met with an empty response? Like adults children can also fall into the trap of running on auto-pilot … being told where to be, what to do, and how to do it.

How do we encourage our children to live in the moment and be fully present and why is this important?

The answer is teaching them to be mindful. Mindfulness is the process of ‘focusing attention to internal and external experiences in the present moment, without judgement’.

The benefits of mindfulness in children include:

  • Increase self-awareness, social awareness and self-confidence
  • Help those high energy kids to better regulate their emotions and behaviour.
  • Improve the ability to understand what another person is thinking or feeling
  • Help build positive relationships.
  • Reduce the severity of depression and anxiety
  • Build resilience by helping them to cope better with stress and engage more fully in the world.

How do I get my child to practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness is most effective when it is done regularly in short doses. It doesn’t require you getting your 6 year old to lie still for 30 minutes or meditate for hours. Children are imaginative and creative, and that is how their mindfulness practice should be. Start with mindfulness exercises of no longer than 5 minutes. As your child grows and mindfulness is practiced more regularly the duration can increase.

Here are some quick, fun and creative activities to get you started:

  1. Body Scan
  • Have your child lie down on their back on a comfortable surface and close their eyes.
  • Then, make your way through each muscle group telling them to squeeze that muscle in their body as tight as they can – squish their toes and feet, squeeze their hands into fists, make their legs and arms as hard as stone, shrug their shoulders, and scrunch up their faces.
  • After a few seconds, have them release that muscle and relax for a few moments. Repeat for each muscle group two times, before moving on to the next muscle. Encourage them to think about how their body is feeling throughout the activity.

 

  1. Awareness of breath – Balloon Breathing

Sitting in a comfortable cross-legged or lying position, ask your child to place their hands on their stomach. Tell them to imagine they have a balloon in their belly, and get your child to choose the colour of the balloon.

Instruct them to take a deep breath in through their nose, noticing their tummy rise as though they are filling up the balloon with air. Gently, blow out through their mouth, getting them to imagine the balloon is floating away in to the sky. Get them to choose a different colour balloon and repeat the process five times.

  1. Spidey Senses

For those little super heroes, instruct them to turn on their ‘Spidey senses’ – smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch. Ask your child to identify three things they can smell, see, hear, taste and touch in their environment. This activity is simple, but so effective in bringing your child to the present moment

  1. Mindfulness Walk – Safari

This activity turns an average, everyday walk outside into an exciting new adventure. Tell your child that you will be going on a safari, and their goal is to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies, and any other animals as they can. Anything that walks, crawls, swims, or flies is of interest, and they’ll need to focus all of their senses to find them, especially the little ones.

  1. Blowing bubbles

Have your kids focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach, and pop or float away.

  1. Gratitude Time

Before bed, share something that you are grateful for that happened that day – something that made you happy, and have your child do the same.

On a final note, a popular application that I recommend daily to parents in my psychology practice is the Smiling Mind app. This app is free to download, and features hundreds of guided mindfulness exercises for children as young as 6 years old.

Let’s aim to be mindful instead of mind full!

Whatever you are doing, ask yourself, “What’s the state of my mind?” – Dalai Lama, 1999

 

Shared care and co-parenting: Avoid change-over stress with some common sense tips.

Shared care and co-parenting: Avoid change-over stress with some common sense tips.

kids spaceHaving shared care of children and effectively co-parenting requires negotiation, planning and shared expectations.

Sometimes these can all go out the window, and there is no better example of this than the ‘change-over’, when children go from one home to another and parents are face-to-face.

Whether your child is leaving for the day, night or even a week, a good change-over is an uneventful one. Everything goes to plan: everyone arrives on time, with everything they need, and the swap is calm and amicable.

 

A change-over that is stressful can have lasting effects on the children, cause irritation and arguments between parents, and can escalate into out of hand situations. It is in everyone’s interests to have change-over times be as calm as possible, and important for your children to see you both acting amicably (friendly and kind is even better!) towards each other.

 

So, what do you need to know about change-over, and how can you make it easier on your children?

 

The basics:

  • Have a regular drop off time and place. Routine ensures children feel safe and know what to expect. Knowing the time in advance also helps you to make plans both with your children and without.
  • The location of the change-over can be a contentious issue. School, a local playground, a family member’s home or a local cafe are all options. Police stations are never a good idea – they send the wrong message to your children and may make them feel unsafe. Have a second back-up location, even a third if necessary.
  • Try not to change the drop off time or location without a very good reason, or without sufficient prior notice given to the other party. Your children benefit from consistency, they may miss an important event/appointment, and it can simply cause annoyance to the other person, which should be avoided.
  • Try not to plan important events or appointments within a few hours of swap over, just in case plans do change. Avoid stress by planning to avoid it if possible.
  • Ensure your child has everything they need for time with the other parent, and check these items yourself rather than relying on your child. Have a check list if it helps. Items that are reasonable to provide include their school bag and uniforms, special items of clothing for sporting events or parties, a special toy/dummy/drink bottle. Things that the other party should provide (as should you during your time) include basic clothing, nappies, formula, all food and drinks, and toys/entertainment.
  • Don’t make swap overs the time to air grievances or get into a debate. Choose another time when the children aren’t present.
  • Let your children know what is happening, that you love them and can’t wait to see them again. If you are receiving the children, ensure they feel welcome with a warm hug, rather than part of a stressful change-over.

If you are worried that your change-overs are not civil, or are even dangerous to you or the children, put some plans in place.

 

When you feel unsafe:

  • Change-over in a public place, where there are operational CCTV cameras. McDonald’s, a local service station, or any area where other people are present and a camera is operating.
  • Ask a family member to swap over for you. Drop the children at a relatives for a play, the other parent picks them up.
  • Utilise a safe place, provided by community services, where you don’t need to see the other person and your children are safe with a social worker for the duration of the swap.

Whatever the state of your relationship with your ex-partner, swap over details should be included in your current parenting plan or parenting orders. You can agree to how the change-overs work (location, day, time, conditions) yourself or through mediation.

 

Good legal advice can help you negotiate a parenting plan that works for your children and the other party long term, while also considering  any other factors such as domestic violence orders and you and your children’s safety.

 

Remember, the change-over is part of shared parenting that may need to be done for many years. It’s best to lay the groundwork and reach amicable arrangements as soon after separation as possible. After all, when parents work together to achieve outcomes in the best interests of the children, everyone is happier.

 

 

 

 

 

Natasha McGrow is Director and Principal lawyer at Heart Legal – a boutique law firm that specialises in achieving positive outcomes for families. Heart Legal offer free consultations by phone or over Skype at a time that suits you.

Heartlegal.com.au
info@heartlegal.com.au
Phone: 0423 556 509
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