Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Go on, you know you want to... Christmas spirit is contagious, no matter what your beliefs

I love Christmas and everything about it. And yet, I’m not religious.
So to many, I’m probably the epitomy of everything that’s “wrong” with Christmas.
As with every year, the complaints have gone on about how Christmas has become commercialised and turned from a holy day into a profit-driven holiday.
Well, bah humbug to that, because I think it’s great, and here’s my list of reasons why:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Going solo

Life is tough for single parents, but there is help

During my daughter’s first year when I was sleep‑deprived, I remember thinking “how on earth do single parents cope?”
I found a new respect for mums and dads who do it alone, and recognised that it is truly hard work.
But being a single parent doesn’t mean a child is going to suffer. While it is a challenge, you can function as both mum and dad.
Between 1986 and 2001, single‑parent families increased by 53 per cent, and by 2006 there were on average 486,000 one‑parent families with children under 15.
Single-parent families can come about from separation, divorce, death, or sometimes a woman will choose to have a family without a partner, using donor sperm.
The effects of divorce are well documented, and the stress and trauma of a break-up can cause behaviour problems in children.
If parents handle the separation in an amicable way, and always support the best interests of the child, then it will be not as hard for the child to adjust to the new family structure. Single-parent families, no matter how they are formed, all face similar challenges.
Isolation, lack of support, financial stress and emotional problems can all become overwhelming and quite often this is felt by the child as well.
So what should single parents do to create a happy family environment?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The importance of baby teeth

A rise in dental decay among four-year-olds has sparked a new campaign to improve our children’s teeth

Like most parents, taking care of my daughter’s teeth is just as important as making sure she eats a healthy diet and gets enough sleep.
It has never occurred to me to actually take her to see a dentist until she lost her baby teeth and grew her permanent teeth. I always assumed that so long as you keep up good dental hygiene, brush twice a day, eat healthy food, avoid acidic and sugary stuff, she will be fine.
But new research has shown that decay rates are increasing in four-year-olds and less than 11 per cent of three-year-olds have seen a dentist.
We should hardly be surprised when you take a look inside kindergarten lunch boxes. Biscuits, salty chips, sticky rice bubble bars and juice poppers are not good for little teeth.
So the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is embarking on a community health initiative to help parents and carers of babies and toddlers with preventative oral health care.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Best of both worlds

Are kids really a career breaker?

HANDS up all the mothers out there who work.
I bet almost all of my readers work either part-time or full-time, while still fulfilling the role of wife and mother (which is a 24-hour a day unpaid job). And those who don’t work, are probably studying.
So why do so many women believe having children will ruin their career?
A CareerOne survey this week revealed that two-thirds of working women believe pregnancy will negatively impact their career, and is incompatible with climbing the corporate ladder.
The survey also showed that 75 per cent thought raising a family while in a senior level role would be difficult.
There’s no doubt it would be hard to juggle the stress of such a job with the stress of making sure Thomas eats his veges, Sarah does her homework, and little James learn how to use the potty.
But children do not spell the end of a woman’s career. I believe that with some jobs, having children would enhance their skills in multi- tasking, negotiation, as well as time and money management.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How many is too many?

Parents who choose to have large families are under attack as the population is set to soar

Sometimes when I’m faced with a “parenting” challenge (ie. child refuses to eat meal, child refuses to brush teeth, you get the idea), I say to myself “It could be worse, I could be a Duggar”.
I have long held a fascination for the Duggar family. They live in Arkansas, in the US, and are conservative evangelical Christians who endorse the Quiverfull movement.
Quiverfull families believe that children are blessings from God, so they do not use any form of birth control, not even natural family planning or sterilisation.
The movement comes from Psalm 127:3-5, where many children are metaphorically referred to as a quiver full of arrows.
And so, the Duggars have reproduced, not once or twice, but 19 times.
Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have 18 children aged from 21 down to a one-year-old, and another one due in March, 2010.
Their fecundity is so astonishing that they have their own cable TV show, website and fan base.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Learning to learn

What do you do if you suspect your child has a learning disability?

When our children are born we meticulously take note – and celebrate – each and every milestone.
The first time they roll over, sit up, say their first word and take their first steps.
It’s a magical time for the family to see their little one thriving, and gives parents reassurance that all is well.
As our children get older and begin to learn how to read, write and count, we continue to take pride in their achievements.
But what happens when a child is late in demonstrating these abilities?
While the other children can count to 10, understand colours, write their name and recognise shapes, what happens to the child who lags behind?
Parents are reassured constantly through the first years of life that babies develop at different rates, so naturally they may wonder if their concerns for their child are just an example of a late bloomer.
However, instinct is a powerful parenting tool, and many parents will seek answers rather than wait to get help.
Learning disabilities are not as obvious to others as physical disabilities.
Children with learning disabilities can become very good at covering up their problems so they are not apparent to others.
As a result, children with learning disabilities may not be seen to be struggling until adolescence or even adulthood.
By this time it is likely that they will have significantly fallen behind in their learning and it will be much harder to improve their situation.
Therefore, early intervention is vital.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maclaren USA Recalls to Repair Strollers Following Fingertip Amputations

US authorities have announced a recall of a million baby strollers made by UK's Maclaren, saying they posed a risk of "fingertip amputation" to young children."
An internet search reveals many of the same models are readily available in Australia. About 1 million have been sold worldwide.
Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed," the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said.
The Chinese-manufactured strollers' hinge mechanism "poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller", CPSC said.
The firm has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller's hinge mechanism, and 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States.
The recall involves all Maclaren single and double umbrella strollers. They have word "Maclaren" printed on the stroller and included models Volo, Triumph, Quest Sport, Quest Mod, Techno XT, TechnoXLR, Twin Triumph, Twin Techno and Easy Traveller.
The products sold from 1999 through November 2009 for between $US100 ($108.30) and $US360 ($389.86).
Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled strollers and contact Maclaren USA to receive a free repair kit. The company will send out a cover for the hinges to all owners.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Maclaren USA toll free at (877) 688-2326 between 8am and 5pm or visit the website at (NOTE: As of November 10, the website was down, so I would suggest visiting the Australia headquarters here).
CPSC is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell them your story here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Keys to happiness

You are your child’s best role model, so follow your instincts

I was going through my book shelves over the weekend, and this is what I discovered.
I have 13 parenting books ranging from sleeping tips to medical advice to happy families, four books on conception and pregnancy, two books about childbirth, four recipe books relating to cooking for children, and four miscellaneous books about babies being a mother.
That’s 29 books jam-packed full of words of wisdom and, I bet there are more hiding in drawers or on loan to friends.
Sometimes, parents like me forget that their biggest influence on how they raise their children is instinct.
Parenting books were rare when I was a baby but now they fill rows of shelves in bookstores – and my house – eagerly snapped up by parents facing one dilemma after another.
These books will certainly give you ideas (particularly if you have a particular issue, such as children who don’t sleep) but it doesn’t come close to the fact that only you understand your child and their needs. My philosophy is to take wisdom from the pages of parenting books, consider the methods and whether they will work for my child and my family and, if they do, then add these strategies to our day- to-day life.
Another parenting book landed on my desk recently and I delegated it to the ho-hum pile as at first glance it appeared to be just another how-to guide.
Entitled 100 Ways to Happy Children, A Guide for Busy Parents, I finally picked it up over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes in life we struggle to find happiness. I have had a particularly bad year and I have had times when thinking positive has not been easy.
But how can we confidently teach our children happiness if we can’t find it in ourselves? The book’s author, psychologist and father of two Dr Timothy Sharp, draws on the latest research into positive psychology.

In it he discusses issues such as:
  • Being a good and happy role model
  • Promoting physical health
  • Setting boundaries
  • Negotiating school and learning
  • Dealing with challenging behaviour
  • Creating family time
  • Celebrating individual qualities
Much of Dr Sharp’s advice is common sense and merely a reminder of how much we should love our children for who they are.
It is interesting in that this is not a book about solving problems. It is about increasing optimism, building strong relationships and being good role models. There are lots of anecdotes through the book, as well as simple exercises to try as a family.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Take the worry out of study

The pressure is piling on, but parents can help students prepare for the stressful exam period.
 With only three weeks until year 12 students finish high school, they are no doubt consumed at this time of year with final exams.
For parents and other family members, it’s important you support your senior student when it comes to study time, so here are some simple ideas to give your child their best chance of success.
Turn off the TV. This should be a household rule for study time, as even if it is on, with the volume down low, it will still be a distraction and will especially draw young children away from what they should be doing.
The radio, on the other hand, can sometimes be useful for students aiming to create a relaxing environment to study, so this will depend on your child.
Restrictions may need to be placed on the family phone and mobiles, to avoid further distractions, and set a strict time limit on how long phone calls should last with school friends.
Make sure your teen has a designated study area with a desk and comfortable chair, cool air, and ample lighting.
Sometimes students work better at the kitchen table where they can call on parents to help at any time, but remember this means that the dining room should be free of distractions such as television or noisy conversations with other family members.
Whether they are at a desk or kitchen table, students need plenty of room to spread out their materials, and also make sure they have ample supplies such as pencils, pens, paper, books such as a dictionary or encyclopedia, and other items relevant to their studies.
It is also worthwhile to use a pinboard to post important school items, calendars, permission slips or reminders.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tatts not OK

It’s time toy companies let little girls be girls

As a former member of the Barbie Fan Club (circa 1985) I have been saddened and somewhat disgusted by Mattel and their perverse ideas of what is an appropriate toy for a little girl.
I learned recently that Mattel, in a move to apparently “update” Barbie, has put on the shelves the Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Doll.
It was released in April in the US to quite a lot of controversy, and reached our shores in July.

Mattel’s website states: “Your daughter will love getting creative with these super-stylish tattoos! Using the tattoo stamper, she can design and decorate her doll’s awesome outfits - and even apply temporary tattoos to herself. How hip and trendy!”
Since when have tattoos become hip and trendy for three-year-old girls?
Barbie founder Ruth Handler would be turning in her grave if she could see what has happened to this iconic doll who used to inspire little girls to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Where is Barbie the Vet, Barbie the School Teacher, Barbie the Doctor and Barbie the Astronaut?
Instead, we find a truckload of princess Barbies mixed in with Barbie the Tart heading for a night on the town in her mini-skirt with either a mobile phone or cocktail glass in her hand.
When I first spotted Barbie the Tart and Barbie the Alcoholic on the shelves in Target, I was tempted to write to Mattel to tell them my thoughts, and now that Tramp Stamp Barbie has joined the ‘hood, it’s the last straw.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fuss no more

Is your child labelled a ‘fussy eater’? Then this book might be just what you’re looking for.

Some days she eats, some days she doesn’t.
This is the story of my three-year-old who will happily scoff handfuls of broccoli one night, but refuse to touch her breakfast the next morning.
Parents – hands up if your child is a fussy eater.
Well, you are not alone. According to a recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, only a very small proportion of children eat the recommended daily serve of fruit and vegetables (that’s three per cent of 4-8 years old, and only two per cent of 9-13 year old children).
And the most common cause of this lack of nutrition is fussy eating habits.
To help parents like me who lack inspiration in the kitchen (despite watching every episode of MasterChef), there is a new book that offers a fresh approach to family meals.

The lowdown on cereal

A survey of more than 200 breakfast cereals found that all cereals marketed for children, except for one, have too much sugar and/or too little fibre.
Ten out of 20 children’s cereals contained 40 per cent sugar.
Only three of the top 10 selling cereals are recommended by the government watchdog: Weet-Bix, Sultana Bran and VitaBrits.
Children’s cereals on the whole tend to be nutritionally inadequate and many healthy adult cereals would be far better for the whole family.
Porridge is a great breakfast as it is low in sodium, high in fibre, and has a low GI.
A cup of cooked rolled oats provides about 3-4g of fibre and the only sugar and salt is what you add on, so try using fruit and yogurt to sweeten your porridge which will add more nutrients.
A lesson for parents: if you never buy unhealthy cereals, your children will never consume them. Don’t allow your kids to become addicted to a bowl of sugar in the morning.
Feeding Fussy Kids has a fabulous recipe called Three-Bubble Crunch. It’s crunchy and yummy, and looks just like a shop-bought cereal, but it has none of the added salt or sugar.

NB. I have now road tested the Three-Bubble Crunch... check out my other blog here for the review! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October is International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

Thursday, October 15, is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss remembrance Day.

Did you know that one in every four pregnancies ends in a loss? It's a startling statistic and one that brings tears to my eyes, because I have also lost a much-loved baby.

The Bonnie Babes Foundation is Australia's leading charity in the area of pregnancy loss helping over 17,000 families every year. The Bonnie Babes Foundation runs 24 hour, 7 day per week grief counselling services. The Foundation raises vital funds for medical research to decrease the sad statistic of one in every four pregnancies ending in a loss. With over 1000 volunteers and branches in every state of Australia the charity established in 1994 has had an enormous impact in the community in the area of pregnancy loss.
To mark International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness the Bonnie Babes Foundation has just released its new book "Small Miracles". The book has been published by one of Australia's top publishers Hachette Australia who publish everything from Enid Blyton to Stephen King and many well known titles in between. The book is now available in Target, Kmart, Myer, Big W, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, Borders, Collins, 180 independent book sellers and specialty stores.

The book is written by the Founder of the Bonnie Babes Foundation, Rachel Stanfield-Porter who lost her own two babies and now has two healthy sons. The book is a compilation of inspiring Australian stories of hope, survival and coping after the loss of a baby from miscarriage, stillbirth and prematurity. It is a book about celebrities and high profile personalities including footballer Robert Harvey, Dr Cindy Pan, radio personality Dee Dee, actor Rebecca Gibney, actor Tony Bonner and many others who talk about their losses in a very candid way.
This is the first time a book like this has been released into mainstream bookstores and department stores. The book sold so well in the few weeks its been on book shelves that the publisher has gone into a rush reprint.

The Bonnie Babes Foundation is a much needed charity as last year 71,303 babies passed away in Australia. The charity has qualified Counsellors available across the country who help families all year round and especially during this month of remembrance.
The charity has established remembrance areas in cemeteries across Australia where families can visit a special monument and in their own peaceful time remember their baby.

So please show your support by buying the book and remember those lost bubs and their grieving families.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nappy happy

Which nappy is right for you and right for your baby?
I have heralded the benefits of cloth nappies in previous columns, but I had a request from a reader to write a general guide to today’s nappy options.
While it goes against my moral fibre to even mention disposable nappies, it’s hard to ignore the fact that around 91 per cent of Australian parents use them on their babies.
So, with this in mind, here’s a rundown on nappy options and some tips to help you choose wisely.
The main things to consider are cost, convenience, environmental impact, care and maintenance, and the health of your baby, so you will need to work out an order of importance when making your decision.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Risky business

At what point do you untie the apron strings and let a child make their own life-changing decisions?

When the life of a child is at stake, it is in all of us to react, to do whatever we can to protect that child.
But what if the child is 16 years old and involved in behaviour that is risking their life? How do parents keep their teenagers safe, when they are at a time in their life where “free will” is a powerful driving force?
Furthermore, what should the community do when we see other parents not protecting their child? Should we interfere or should we turn a blind eye?
I find myself asking this question almost every day.
It makes me angry when I see parents smoking in their car with children in the back seat. I get frustrated when I see parents taking their babies out into the sun without any protective clothing or hat on their head. And I shake my head in disbelief when I see unrestrained children in a car travelling at high speeds along the highway.

But then there’s the case of Queensland schoolgirl Jessica Watson.
At 16 years of age, she wants to break the record for the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
Yet on her test run to Sydney on September 9 her yacht collided with a 63,000 tonne cargo vessel.
It turns out she was asleep, and battling fatigue. It was only day two of her voyage.
The Maritime Safety Queensland report listed serious deficiencies in Jessica’s performance.
The report found she did not turn on a warning device that would have alerted her of a potential collision, she had not developed a fatigue management plan, and could not produce a clear, plotted plan (it was scribbled on paper with childish doodles on the side).
Surely this brush with death is enough for her parents to cancel the voyage, but they claim it proves she can handle such situations and come out of it alive.
At 16, you are not allowed to vote, drink alcohol or drive a car on an open licence, but Jessica has been given the green light to head out into the wide blue ocean by herself.
What if the unthinkable happened? I’m sure her parents would regret their choice to let her go, but would authorities feel any guilt for allowing a child to undertake clearly risky behaviour?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Too many toys

Back in the day, kids played with sticks and rocks… but look how times have changed

In the current climate of frugality due to unemployment and high costs of living, I was amazed this week to read what Queensland’s richest man gave his daughter for her 15th birthday.
Was it an iPod? Designer sunglasses? DVDs or a new mobile phone? Diamond earrings perhaps? No, not even close.
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer bought his daughter Emily a $5.3 million super-yacht.
“Thank you Dad, but I don’t know my starboard from my bilge pump,” she might have said, although it’s more likely she said: “Hectic Dad, that is totally phat, fo shizzle! My rents are the bomb.”
Palmer was slammed by child psychologists who said it was a dangerous gift for a teenager.
“It breeds irresponsibility and an expectation that Daddy can always fix things,” author Dr John Irvine said.
“I don’t think it is teaching anything about the value of money or return for effort or hard savings.
“It’s an ego thing – Dad showing off – instead of teaching them to earn what they yearn.”
Psychologist Renee Mill said it’s common for the rich and famous to spoil their children but they get used to it their whole lives.
“If they lose that money, then nine times out of 10 those kids, as adults, have tremendous difficulty getting on their feet and looking after themselves,” she said.
“The main role for a parent is to teach your child and I would be asking, what can they learn from this gift?”
Personally I think the public’s reaction to Palmer’s gift giving is a classic example of tall poppy syndrome.
After all, he is boosting the economy by spending his money! Apparently the yacht was worth $8 million so he’s certainly taught his daughter how to buy a bargain.
Palmer can do whatever he likes with his money, but it does raise the question of how much is too much?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Homebirthing update

Midwives who provide homebirths have been given a reprieve that will allow them to practise legally until 2012.

Under a new national registration scheme for doctors and nurses, homebirth midwives would not have been able to gain registration because they do not have indemnity insurance.

State and territory health Ministers today agreed to a two-year exemption from holding indemnity insurance for midwives attending homebirths.

But Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the Government will not be providing indemnity insurance for homebirths.

"Of course there might be potential in the future when proper data is gathered for there to be more changes, but they won't be part of this maternity services budget package," Ms Roxon said.

"We have however ensured that women can make the choice if they're properly informed to still have a midwife attend to a home birth."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What’s so wrong with breastfeeding?

Feeding an infant is the most natural thing in the world to a mother, but shockingly sexist views still exist, particularly in the 18-24 age group

It's time to get on the soapbox. Something in the news this week makes me feel compelled to speak out.
A Newspoll survey has asked the Australian public what they think of women who breastfeed their babies in public.
Never mind the fact this is a completely legal and natural thing to do, let’s just ask people these questions to stir up debate.
Lo and behold, 36 per cent of respondents said breastfeeding was unacceptable in a cafe or at work, despite 65 per cent of people saying breastfed babies had a better chance of surviving beyond a year old.
So, breastfeeding mothers, it is back to toilets, carpark or closet for you, or better still, just stay at home for good.
Not surprisingly, it was young adults aged 18 to 24 who were the least supportive of public breastfeeding. They are uncomfortable because they are ignorant and have only one thing on their minds: sex.
It seems it is OK to ogle at topless tourists at the Lagoon, but not acceptable for a woman to feed a hungry, and often screaming, infant.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Birth your way

Where to give birth should be a woman’s choice, not governed by legislation

I am a firm believer in the old saying “better to be safe than sorry”. So when it came time to give birth to my daughter, I chose midwifery care through Cairns Base Hospital.
If anything were to go wrong, it would be only a matter of seconds before I’d be in the care of a doctor or obstetrician.
Even though I wanted a natural birth with no drugs, epidural or other intervention, I felt this was the safest option for me and my baby.
But let me be clear in that I also believe women have the right to choose where, and with whom, they give birth, and I do not believe home births to be unsafe.
In fact, research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, has shown that home births assisted by a trained midwife are just as safe for low-risk mothers and their babies as a delivery led by a midwife in hospital.
The study of 530,000 women in the Netherlands found no difference in death or serious illness among either mothers or their babies if they gave birth at home rather than in hospital.
The Netherlands has the highest home birth rate in the western world at 30 per cent, thanks to a streamlined transportation and referral system that allows women who plan a home birth to access specialist, emergency obstetric care in hospital should complications arise.
This sort of care does not exist in Australia, so there is an increased risk of not getting intervention quickly enough if something goes wrong.