Posts in Family & Home

EDUCATION: World Teacher Day 2018

Thinking back to when I was young, I have such fond memories of many of my teachers throughout primary and high school. The ones that made a lasting impression on me are the ones who could see something in me that I couldn’t, they motivated and encouraged me to become a stronger version of myself and those are the teachers who helped shape the person I am today.

Teachers help mould our children’s minds and work so hard to give our children the best of themselves every day. Today is a day we can tell our teachers what they mean to us and how much of a difference they have made in all our lives.

As a parent of three children in primary school, I can confidently say we are so lucky to have great teachers at our school, who take the time to get to know the children, explore their strengths and work together on their weaknesses.

Mrs Spencer from Miami State Primary School has certainly made an impression on my six year old prep student Vienna. I asked Vienna what she admires most about Mrs Spencer and with the biggest smile on her face she said, “I love my Wednesday class time with Mrs Spencer because she makes learning fun and we always have a good time. She always says hello to me and she loves my lunch songs that I make up and sing to her, she’s the best!”

Mrs Spencer

I wanted to take this opportunity, on World Teacher Day to mention and thank the teachers who have had a strong impact on my children this year.

Mrs Campbell, Miss Norton, Mr Stephens, Mrs Hutchins, Mrs Scott, Miss Caruana, Miss Tourish, Mrs Crawford and Mrs Spencer.

Thank you for your love of teaching, your guidance, your patience and your continuous encouragement every day. You are all the reason my children love coming to school every day.

Originally posted 26 October, 2018 on Kids on the Coast magazine

HEALTH: Decision Fatigue

“What should I cook for dinner tonight?” “What should I pack the kids for lunch?” “Do I have time to go for a run?”

These are just some of the daily decisions parents need to make, not to mention answering the hundreds of questions kids ask every day.

With so many choices and decisions to be made every day, we can become mentally exhausted, also known as ‘decision fatigue’ and more often than not it can affect you more than physical exhaustion.

When we have too many decisions to make we can become overwhelmed and stressed and in doing so we can start to make poor choices for ourselves and our family, resulting in feelings of failure and guilt.

I had my three kids in four years and the daily decisions I had to make became so overwhelming I couldn’t focus and give my full attention to anything. I started to doubt my decisions and was constantly questioning myself. I knew my kids were being affected because at such a young age they felt and took on my nervous energy, which in turn made them nervous and unsettled. I decided I had to change the way I thought about going through my day. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive.

We can cut down on decision fatigue, it just take some planning ahead and creating new routines for yourself and the family. Step by step I made life simpler until I was happy with the way life was flowing. Here are eight ways I have made decision fatigue a thing of the past.

  • Plan your weekly meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This alone will cut out the bulk of decision making for the week.
  • Plan the days you do your laundry. My husband wakes up at 4.30am and I get up with his alarm and turn on the washing machine, having loaded it the night before. I often go back to sleep and by the time I wake up at 6am the washing is done and I hang it out before starting my day. I’m particular about how the washing is to be hung (without pegs and inside out) so this is one job I don’t give the kids.
  • Pick a day to do your grocery shopping. This is one of the jobs I don’t enjoy but I know I have to do it (my husband does the top ups during the week in case we run out of bread or milk) The local supermarkets open at 7am and I’m usually there waiting for the doors to open every Wednesday morning. Mornings are usually quiet so I can zip around the isles and get through the register within the hour. Once home, my kids and I put all the groceries away and that’s that for another week. I have to admit, it is satisfying once everything is put away.
  • Set up automatic banking for bills. I have most of my bills and payments set up in my bank account so the bills come out when they’re due. All the other bills I don’t have automated I make a date in my phone calender and I pay them when my reminder goes off. I set the reminder alarms just after 9am so I can pay them after I have dropped the kids off at school.
  • Some of you may be driving your kids around after school to their extra-curricular activities so you could spend that time ‘catching up’ with your kids. Car ride conversations are a great time to see how your child’s day was at school or find out if they have anything on their mind. Sometimes kids might feel more comfortable talking about an uncomfortable topic or concern if the focus is not entirely on them, eye to eye. I admit, I love the things my kids tell me during sport drop offs and pick ups.
  • Set a reasonable bedtime for your children and yourself. If the kids are in a good bedtime routine, it can be easier to create your own. When you sleep well you feel good and you make healthier choices and better decisions. Lack of sleep can make you overtired and that is when you can start to feel like nothing is working or going your way.
  • Make time to exercise. Not everyone is a gym junkie or an avid runner but try and make time in the day to ‘move’. I’m lucky I live near the beach so most mornings I take the kids to the beach so they burn all the excess energy they have from a good night’s sleep and I get to walk on the sand and breathe in that amazing sea air. If you don’t live near a beach, take the kids to the park or playground or even a brisk 20 minute walk around the block is great. Some evenings I will go for a bike ride with one of my kids. I make sure I do at least one thing a day. I used to do pilates three or four times a week but at this point in time I can’t do the classes due to family commitments and that is okay, because I know there will come a time when my kids are older that I can pick up the classes again. Some of you might like to exercise alone so make a point of fitting it in to your weekly schedule, without it affecting your diet or sleep.
  • Create some ‘nothing’ time. This might sound like a waste of time in world full of busyness and decisions, but I guarantee even 10 minutes of alone time will benefit you. What do you do in these 10 minutes you ask? Just breathe… grab a cuppa, flick through a magazine, stretch, stare out of the window – whatever you find relaxing.

For me personally, planning and having a solid routine for sleep, diet and exercise are non-negotiable. These are the three things that make my life easier and are good for my emotional and mental wellbeing. When I’m a calmer and happier mother and wife, my family are calmer and happier.

Reading this could be overwhelming but just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, do one thing at a time. Get used to the routine and then add in another thing. The point is to make life simpler and not to have to make so many decisions every day.

Originally posted 21 October 2018 on Kids on the Coast

PARENTING: Motivating kids to do homework

Let’s be honest, the last thing a child wants to do after school is homework!

Children will whinge and moan and think of every excuse under the sun to avoid homework. Parents put pressure on themselves to get their kids to do homework and more often than not, the situation turns into the parent nagging, yelling or threatening punishment. No one wins and the cycle continues.

It doesn’t have to be a battle every day, there are effective methods to help your child do homework. Here are some suggestions to get out of the homework rut:

1. Nourish their brains

After a full day at school, your child is likely hungry so make sure they have a nutritious snack to fill their belly. Something with protein to wake up the brain before sitting down to do homework.

2. Create a comfortable space for homework.

  • All children are different and your child might need quiet to concentrate, so make sure they have a space with the least noise possible, whether it’s their bedroom, a study or a quiet corner in the house with no foot traffic.
  • Some children prefer to do their homework in an environment with things happening around them. The family dining table is a good example. Your children might all want to sit around the table and do their homework together at the same time. This can give it a classroom feel and you can keep an eye on them!
  • The kitchen bench is another good example. The kids can do homework while you’re preparing dinner. Think – two birds, one stone!

If you find your child is more at ease and willing to do homework with you around, grab a book or a magazine and have a little time out, while being available to your child if they need help.

By getting the family involved in the homework routine, your child or children will feel less isolated and alone.

3. Keep homework time a screen and technology free time.

Unless your child needs to do homework on the internet, such as reading and maths programs or if they’re researching a project, there should be no screens around, including the television and radio. If you are helping your child with homework, it would be advisable for you to stay off your phone. Your child will definitely notice if you’re present or not.

4. Start homework time with all the materials needed.

It’s common for a child to need a pencil, sharpener, ruler, paper… the list is long and the time wasted by getting these things one by one can add up. If everything is ready before your child starts their homework, then they can get straight into it and really focus on the task.

5. Decide collectively what time homework is to be done each day.

Remember, even though kids battle, they subconsciously like the routine, it makes them feel in control. A lot of kids have extracurricular activities, so homework time may be different every day. Work out what suits your child.

Depending on your commute from school to home or from school to sport, your child may be able to read to you in the car. A car ride is also great for brainstorming homework projects and testing spelling words too. Get creative! All homework doesn’t have to be done at a desk or table.

6. Ensure your child takes a break if they need one.

Sometimes their little bodies can go into fight or flight mode when they start to stress or become overwhelmed. If this happens, suggest having a play outside or sit down with your child and do a calming exercise such as the Minute Mindset Reset.

7. Rename homework if it makes it less daunting for your child.

Unless there is a specific project or an activity sheet, call homework ‘revision’. Ask your child in an excited and positive manner to revise their spelling words or maths problems for you. It’s all about your tone of voice and body language. If your child sees you are excited to see or hear what they’ve learned, they will be more willing to respond in a positive manner too.

8. Keep weekends homework-free zones.

Let your child know if they can commit to homework from Monday through to Thursday, they have three days of no homework – any child would get excited about that!

9. Motivate your child.

There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Every child is different. One might feel proud of themselves for completing their homework and another might complete their homework knowing they will receive a physical reward, such as screen time or dessert or a special activity. You decide what is right for your child.

Homework is your child’s responsibility and not yours. Help them understand if they forget their homework or don’t complete it, they will have to accept the consequences form their school teacher.

Understand, not all children like doing homework. Just as the teachers at school support your child, it’s your job to support your child at home. Children in both primary and high school are still learning to self-discipline and self-motivate, some getting there earlier than others, so guiding your child while they’re learning is good for both you and your child.

Gold Coast teacher, Grant Stephens says his number one tip is to “make homework relevant, achievable and fun so that it is not seen as a chore. Always share work with the class, praising the effort despite the level of ability.

Originally posted 13 September 2018 Kids on the Coast magazine

EDUCATION: 31 authors every child should read

When I was young, going to the local library was a special treat for me. My dad would take my siblings and I every Saturday and we would spend at least two hours just browsing the rows and rows of shelves and reading as many books as we could get our hands on. We each had our own library card, which back in those days was a thin piece of cardboard on which the librarian would handwrite the books we were borrowing and then put a date stamp on it. My library visits definitely played a big role in turning me into a book lover. Reading for me is a way to escape, a way to relax and unwind and forget the worries of the world.

Once I had my own children, I started taking them to the library as soon as they were old enough. They too have developed a love of reading, starting from the simplest of books when they were toddlers to now reading novels. Although iBook’s and books on kindle are becoming the norm, there is nothing better than sitting down with a good paper book just before bedtime or on a rainy afternoon. The library is also a great alternative to screen time for my kids. The screen provides instant gratification whereas a book builds up the story and allows the mind to take over, trying to work out the storyline and creating the images in the head. More often than not, books are better than the movie versions!

For a child, libraries provide a safe space for their minds to learn and grow. Children are exposed to choice. They can borrow as many different books as they want until they discover a genre that they love. Reading from an early age helps a child’s brain grow and strengthen and by visiting their local library they are learning to accept reading as a part of life.

These days, libraries offer so much for both children and adults:

  • Free use of computers, wifi and fast internet access
  • Calender of programs and events
  • Story time for kids
  • Book clubs
  • Book readings from authors
  • Activities, games and puzzles
  • eBooks, audiobooks and videos

Whether it’s a rainy day, school holidays or just a casual visit here and there for a school project or research the library is a place where you can let your mind get lost in a book and let your imagination run wild.

There is never a lack of books a child can read, from newer authors to the classics, there is something for every child. The City of Gold Coast libraries recommend some authors every child should read:

  1. Enid Blyton
  2. Lewis Carroll
  3. Joy Cowley
  4. Roald Dahl
  5. Terry Deary
  6. Maurice Gee
  7. Morris Gleitzman
  8. Andy Griffiths
  9. David Hill
  10. Des Hunt
  11. Brian Jacques
  12. Paul Jennings
  13. Jeff Kinney
  14. Jack Lasenby
  15. C.S Lewis
  16. Margaret Mahy
  17. John Marsden
  18. Michael Morpurgo
  19. Gary Paulsen
  20. Tamora Pierce
  21. Terry Pratchett
  22. Philip Pullman
  23. Celia Rees
  24. Rick Riordan
  25. J.K Rowling
  26. Louis Sachar
  27. Robert Louis Stevenson
  28. Robert Swindells
  29. J.R.R Tolkien
  30. Jacqueline Wilson
  31. E.B White

The Gold Coast has some great libraries you can visit:

Broadbeach: 61 Sunshine Boulevard, Mermaid Waters

Burleigh Heads: Park Avenue, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Waters: Corner Christine Avenue and Galeen Drive

Coolangatta: Level 1, The Strand, Corner Marine Parade and Dutton Street Coolangatta

Elenora: The Pines Shopping Centre, Guineas Creek Road, Elenora

Helensvale: Corner Lindfield Road and Sir John Overall Drive, Helensvale

Nerang: Corner White and Price Streets, Nerang

Palm Beach: Eleventh Avenue, Palm Beach

Robina: 196 Robina Town Centre Drive, Robina

Runaway Bay: Lae Drive, Runaway Bay

Southport: Corner Garden and Lawson Streets, Southport

Upper Coomera: Corner Reserve and Abraham Roads, Upper Coomera

Originally posted 01 October 2018 on Kids on the Coast magazine

HOME: Protect your family and home during snake season

The weather is warming up and the experts are warning people to look out for snakes around their home and property.

Snake season is in full swing!

A few years ago I was at home with my three young children, putting the laundry away in my bedroom with my baby on my bed, happily playing. I looked up briefly and saw a snake slithering near my doorway. It wasn’t a big snake, but it was a snake nonetheless! My instant reaction was to scream and jump onto my bed, scaring my baby as well as my two toddlers out in the lounge room. My husband was working interstate at the time and in a state of panic I called him. First he asked me to take a picture so he could see what type of snake it was and then he reminded me we know a wildlife ranger from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It turned out to be a baby green tree snake, so it wasn’t dangerous but it was still terrifying!

I called my wildlife ranger friend who came over with her three children and then she called the resident snake catcher and he came around and gently caught him, showing him off to the children while giving them a lesson about snakes. The good news was the snake was not venomous but the bad news was the snake was a newborn baby so the mother and the rest of the babies, possibly about six to eight, weren’t too far away.

We were told to keep the doors closed for the next few days giving the snakes a chance to move on. As scary as it was, my children were able to learn about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to snakes from a professional snake catcher.

Mick Tate from the Australian Reptile Park explains there are two main reasons snakes come out around this time of year. Once the temperatures rise above 18 degrees, snakes start digest their food so they make their way out to search for more food. Spring time is also mating season so you will see male snakes wondering around in search for a female mate.

With very little rain during winter the snakes are also looking for water and as a result are attracted to people’s homes and properties.

Use the following tips to protect your family and homes from snakes:

  • Destroy the environment around your home that may be comfortable for snakes
  • Keep grass maintained
  • Clear piles of wood
  • Remove items inside and outside the home that pile up
  • Seal crevices around the home
  • Install screens over vents

What to do if you come across a snake:

  • Do not approach the snake
  • Do not make rapid movements
  • Stay calm
  • Do not try to catch or kill
  • Contact the snake catcher

Follow the tips below for snake bites:

  • Keep bite victim calm and immobile
  • Apply pressure to the bite
  • Use immobilisation bandage on entire limb
  • Seek urgent medical attention