Saturday, April 21, 2012

Risky business

Teenagers can become addicted to gambling, particularly if they are exposed to it in the home
If we think of a gambler, we might conjure up an image of a bloke who spends his days at the TAB, or a granny putting her pension through a pokie machine.
But there are many different types of gamblers (as there are many ways to gamble) and not surprisingly, it is having an impact on our children.
A report early last year by the Australian Psychological Society found that 60 per cent of teenagers (13 to 17 years) revealed that they have gambled at least once a year.
The report showed that exposure to gambling by adults in the household, particularly fathers, increases the risk that children will develop gambling problems later in life.
“All the time they are reminded of the opportunity to gamble and this awareness, in addition to opportunities like at poker machines or betting at the TAB, can pose risks for young people,” co-author Associate Professor Paul Delfabbro said.
Prof Delfabbro said that even common pastimes such as card games could normalise gambling.
“All the evidence shows that we do what our parents do, and if kids are learning casino-style card games that teach them how to gamble, they will repeat that behaviour elsewhere.”
Teens have a lot of opportunities to gamble – many of which parents are unaware of.
Boys have at least twice the risk of developing gambling problems compared to girls, and the most common forms of gambling are card games and instant lottery tickets, but then many children will move onto more serious types of gambling in older adolescence.
Gambling in childhood increases the risk of having a gambling problem as an adult.
The internet exposes children to gambling well before they are 18 and even legally allowed to gamble, and with more than 3000 online gambling websites worldwide, there are plenty of opportunities to gamble.
Teenagers can also gamble without money on phone and Facebook apps, and would you believe that there are more than 100 video games rated as suitable for children that have gambling themes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mind your language

Forget washing their mouths out with soap, there are easier ways to stop your child from swearing
I know a grandmother who regularly babysits her grandkids and she has always said: “There’s no such word as ‘bored’ in my house.”
Initially I took this to mean that she provides lots of amazing activities for the kids, but what she explained is that the minute a child says “I’m bored”, she replies, “There’s no such word” and encourages them to find something to do.
This got me thinking about other words that we don’t like our children saying.
In our house we discourage our children from saying words such as “hate”, “stupid”, “dumb” or other insulting words or phrases.
Then there’s minor swear words such as “damn”, and the big ones such as the f-bomb.
Every child at some point will probably let one slip, so here’s some tips on how to treat a foul mouth before reaching for the soap.
Young children under school age often swear because they’re exploring language, and often don’t realise they are doing something wrong.
Quite often toddlers are simply repeating a word they’ve heard an adult say.
Older kids are more likely to have heard it at school or on television.
For young ones, the best thing you can do is ignore it, especially if they are trying to seek attention.
The more you make a big deal out of it, the more exciting it is for the child.
If they continue to swear you can take the opportunity to teach them about swearing by saying “We don’t use words that upset people”.
You don’t need to give them explanations about swear words as they are too young to understand some of the concepts associated with them. It’s enough to say “That’s not a nice word”.
In cases where swearing becomes so bad that you can’t ignore it, then it’s time to take action.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Walking dummy

What do you do when a baby relies on you to get them to sleep?
As I type this I am struggling to keep my eyes open.
I’ve been held hostage by a child who won’t sleep, and it’s now going on weeks since I last had more than three hours rest in one stretch.
I’m struggling to think of interesting articles to write about, so it’s only natural that I devote this column to the screamer of the night.
She’s adorable, she really is. But last night I actually yelled “Shut up!” at a 22-month-old. I lost it and left her crying, which in turn woke her older sister and my husband (who has his own sleep issues for example, if there’s a cricket outside our bedroom window, he’s got to go and kill it because he can’t sleep with the constant chirping). 
Anyway, back to the screamer.
I have countless books on getting kids to sleep, and after trying numerous methods on my firstborn, I thought I’d be able to figure it out much easier with the second one. Surely I can be a baby whisperer, too?
But night after night, she wakes, she cries, she calls out “Mummmmmeeeeee!”
It wasn’t always this way. Once we moved her from the cot into a big bed back in January, she started sleeping 10 hours straight, but for no apparent reason, she’s waking up again, and more than once a night.
The worst thing is that most nights I give in and let her sleep however she wants: in my arms, rocking from side to side, stroking her face and back, or snuggled up into my armpit as I end up sleeping in her bed squashed against the bed rail.
However, the way she most prefers to get back to sleep is if I breastfeed her.
Yes, you read that right – I’m still breastfeeding!
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be feeding a toddler in the night, but here I am – a walking dummy. 
Breastfeeding gives her such comfort that it’s like a little magic switch that turns my screamer into a peaceful angel.
I feel privileged to have succeeded in breastfeeding for this long, but I also feel like I have fallen into a trap, or as the old wives would say “made a rod for my own back”.
She’s using me as her way to settle back to sleep. Instead of a blanket or teddy, I’m her comfort, her warm, safe place to close her eyes and drift into dream land.
A part of me thought she would grow out of this on her own, and another part of me didn’t want to let go of those special midnight moments that we have shared together for so long.
But the bags under my eyes are growing and my boobs have seen better days.
So parents, if you’re feeling like a zombie like me, perhaps some of the tips below will give you some much needed shut-eye.