Adelaide psychologist and mother of three boys, aged ten, seven and two, Hanna Beaven, specialises in families’ emotional wellbeing in the stages of trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth and parenting babies and young children. For more information: Hanna Beaven Psychology
Firstly, I think it is important to acknowledge that while I am writing an article about fatherhood, I am not a father myself! I do, however, support fathers in my perinatal psychology service, I have a father, I am married to and co-parent with my children’s father and I know many fathers.
The role of a father has evolved over time, and while this evolution has brought with it many positives, it has also created some challenges. I believe more than ever, parents are under great stress and pressure to ‘do it all’.
Modern fatherhood has progressed from men being mainly observers and disciplinarians of their children to being integrally involved and very hands-on with raising their children.
Families have also evolved from the nuclear family to a rich diversity of many wonderful variations. As a result, fatherhood can take many forms – fatherhood within a partnership, single fatherhood, part-time fatherhood, step-fatherhood, stay-at-home fatherhood, working fatherhood etc.
Becoming a dad brings inevitable changes to every area of a man’s life, for example, his view of himself, his role in life, his relationships, and so on. While many of the changes of becoming a dad are exciting and joyful, they can also be overwhelming and stressful. Therefore, it is essential to provide support not only to your partner, but to also ensure your own self-care.
Our parenting style (authoritarian, permissive, disengaged or supportive) is largely shaped by the way we were parented! Other influences are: generational expectations regarding masculinity and fatherhood, social media, culture, religion, friends and family, life circumstances, the amount of support available and so on. While these factors influence your parenting, it is up to you to decide what is best for your child(ren) and how you choose to raise them.
Fathers should engage in each stage of parenthood:
– Listen to your partner and her thoughts and feelings about pregnancy and parenthood and share yours too
– Attend the antenatal scans, appointments, parent education classes
– Learn about the development of the baby
– Talk, sing, play music to your baby as they grow within your partners amazing body
– Listen to your partner and their expectations, thoughts and feelings about birth and share yours
– Attend birth preparation classes
– Learn about: The process of birth, what your partner may experience both physically and emotionally, what your partner may want during birth and be an advocate for her,
ways you can provide physical and emotional support throughout the birth – to avoid feeling helpless
– Listen to your partner about their thoughts and feelings regarding their experience of parenthood and share yours
– Skin to skin contact with your baby
– Support your partner and actively participate (without being asked) in caring for your baby: feeding, settling, bathing, changing, playing (looking at, talking, singing and reading to your baby) and so on
– Support your partner by taking the baby for a walk in the pram or a drive in the car
– Assist with household tasks like cooking, dishes, laundry, cleaning and so on
– Self-care activities for you and your partner
Important things to consider regarding fatherhood:
– Fathers can struggle with the level of selflessness being a parent requires – it is no longer about what suits you best but what is going to be best for the whole family
– Fathers can feel more responsibility after having a child and more pressure to provide financially for their new family
– Fathers can feel left out or jealous of their new baby – due to their partner’s focus on the baby and not seeming to have time for them anymore
– Fathers can feel criticised by their partner when they are doing the “wrong” thing with their baby, and this can lead to a lack of confidence in caring for their child
– Fathers often develop a stronger bond once their baby is more interactive
– Fathers can struggle with their own big feelings that arise frequently in their role as parents, like despair, frustration and anger
– Fathers might need to buffer wider family stressors
– Fathers may have to support their partners and / or their own mental health while adjusting to parenthood
Your partner may resent you for things like:
Always suggesting the baby needs a feed when they cry
Going to work – being able to go to the toilet on your own, consume hot beverages and converse with other adults
For being able to escape the house without being tied to the baby
If you come home a minute late
If you ask “what did you do all day?”
Childbirth education for dads at the pub
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA)
Centre of Perinatal Excellence
Having trouble falling pregnant? Need some advice for life at home? Learn more about Hanna’s services here: Hanna Beaven Psychology
The Space Race
By Amelia Moseley, BTN Host
You probably know a thing or two about the moon landing, right?
Like these famous words spoken by NASA astronaut, Neil Armstrong, when he first set foot on the rocky surface:
“It’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
But, did you know the whole moon landing thing started with a race?
Actually, it sort of started with a round, silver ball thingy called Sputnik 1.
It was Earth’s first ever man-made satellite and it was launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a collection of states that all lived by a set of ideas and rules known as communism.
The biggest Soviet Union state was Russia and it did not get along with the United States.
In fact, the two countries were in the middle of a war. The Cold War.
It was called ‘cold’ because the two countries never actually fought each other directly.
What they were doing was stockpiling weapons. That made things pretty tense.
So, when the Soviet Union successfully sent Sputnik up into space, America wasn’t too happy.
The US government decided to create NASA and the two countries began racing to shoot more stuff into space!
They sent fruit flies, mice, monkeys and even dogs!
Eventually they sent a much bigger animal; a human (more precisely, a Russian man named Yuri Gagarin).
He became the first person to reach space in 1961!
But, the race wasn’t over yet.
Shortly after that, the US President at the time, John F Kennedy, set the seemingly impossible goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.
The Russians took that as a challenge to see who could do it first.
Putting a man on the moon wasn’t going to be easy.
After all, it was the 1960s. There was no internet and computers were about as powerful as a calculator!
But that didn’t stop NASA. It got to work creating the Apollo program.
It didn’t start well.
There was even a terrible accident during a test that killed the crew of Apollo 1.
But they kept going.
And by 1968, NASA sent astronauts to orbit the moon.
Then, a year later, they were ready for the main event, Apollo 11.
After years of training and preparation, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong crammed inside a command module on top of the world’s biggest rocket and blasted into space.
It took three days to get to the moon, before Aldrin and Armstrong landed their craft on the surface.
“The Eagle has landed!”
They’d done it!
And what’s more – they managed to get safely home again, returning as heroes to a world that would never be the same.
Did you know…
BTN just celebrated its 51st birthday! It’s the third longest running national TV show in Australian history and it’s all made in Adelaide! #alllthebestthingscomefromSA
Watch out for…
Me at The Dish in Parkes NSW! Bringing you a very special episode of BTN to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Spirit (From Disney’s “The Lion King”) – Beyoncé
Find out more at abc.net.au/btn
BTN @10am Tues on ABCMe & Newsbreak @6.25pm Mon-Fri
Young, Creative and Cashed-Up
Young people don’t usually have the chance to be directly involved in allocating public funding to projects about which they are passionate. This kind of decision-making is usually put in the hands of adult administrators who are qualified to ensure the process runs transparently, appropriately and is accountable throughout.
I’ve seen firsthand, how if we’re prepared to be bold and trust in our young people, they can do almost anything we ask of them. When I brainstormed with Carclew and landed on the idea of handing a group of young people $10,000 in public arts funding to distribute on the community’s behalf, I knew it was a rare opportunity to demonstrate this capacity, and that we were onto a good thing.
The Carclew Futures project saw 10 young South Australians between the ages of 12 and 15 learn the skills of public arts grant funding, supported by experts in this field. Not only were they required to decide which artists would get these funds and for which projects, they also had to define the criteria for their assessment and apply it to the 17 applications they received, including settling any differences of opinion there were amongst them to ensure a consensus was reached.
At the project debrief I asked the young people involved to reflect on their personal experiences. They told me the thing they wanted to remember most was ‘how amazing it feels when you’re doing something you are passionate about’. Being ‘outside their comfort zone and finding the courage to try new things along the way’ were great things to learn. They were ‘confused about the budgeting side of things at first’ and ‘why the hierarchy of the group was the way it was’ but later ‘saw how this organisational structure worked well’. They learnt ‘how to be more confident’, ‘how to speak up when they are a little unsure’ and ‘how to take calculated risks that can persuade others to their own point of view’.
The young panel decided on the artworks of two local artists, sharing the grant funds equally between then. Fourteen year old Charlee Watt received $5,000 for a large portable backdrop for youth events and indigenous gatherings in her home town of Port Lincoln, and Chad Spencer received $5000 for a hay shed mural along the Mount Compass to Goolwa Road, taking advantage of the stunning rural backdrop this scenery provides.
Real artists with real projects selected by a group of young South Australians given full autonomy to do so. What better way to up-skill young people than by creating actual opportunities in arts administration that will help nurture and retain their creative talent right here!
If you’re a child, young person or parent with ideas on what you think I should be doing to make things better for the lives of kids in SA, please send me an email at CommissionerCYP@sa.gov.au
– Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children and Young People
All You Need to Know About Aunt Flo – With the DOLLY DR and Yumi Stynes!
Every woman remembers the first time that they got their period and the whirlwind of questions that came with it. Thankfully, today’s pre-teens have more and more resources at their fingertips.
For 23 years Dr. Melissa Kanghas was the voice behind the Dolly Doctor in the sealed section of Dolly Magazine. Remember that time when 12 year olds weren’t walking around with iPhones and the Internet didn’t even exist? Woaaah! Curious teens would rip open the perforated pages to reveal a world of sticky questions and sexual queries that might have been too uncomfortable to ask in person.
Now we have another way to handle bleeding like a boss! The brains behind Dolly Doctor, Dr. Melissa Kanghas has teamed up with ABC’s Yumi Stynes to create the ultimate menstruation manual for pre-teens (9-12 years). Welcome to Your Period is a modern, funny, inclusive and big-sisterish guide to getting your period… and what to do once it comes.
Okay pardon us, we’re a little bit star-struck, but we managed to get a one-on-one with the Dolly Doctor! Here are some questions that you may have been wondering yourself:
Over the many years of receiving questions as the Dolly Doctor, did you find that the nature of the questions you received changed?
Yes and no. There was a sort of cosmic reassurance that adolescence didn’t change – readers’ questions suggested that it remained full of angst and introspection and terrifying awareness of metamorphosing bodies, as well as the joy of discovering new found romance, sexual awakenings (mostly in fantasy), and the importance of peers and parents. The great majority of questions were about puberty-related body changes and seeking reassurance that everything was normal. The most noticeable change over time related to more explicit questions about genitals – such as pubic hair removal (how, how and how) and the consequent alarm when one’s labia (vaginal lips) became noticeable. This was without doubt due to the rise of accessible pornography and the normalisation of pubic hair removal.
Were you ever alarmed by reader questions?
The most alarming questions were not because of a dramatic revelation or disclosure, but rather the realisation that the double standard remained alive and well – girls feeling pressured to look or be sexy, and to please boys. Many questions showed that girls knew how to experience (solitary) pleasure and enjoy new sensations that came from their adolescent bodies, but not necessarily believing that this was something they were entitled to. Most Dolly readers were too young to be sexually active, but even for these young ones, there were sad stories about being ostracised or having rumours spread about them by boys.
What made you decide to help write this book?
It was an incredible opportunity to put everything I’d ever answered for Dolly Doctor into one place, with diagrams and illustrations. It was also wonderful to work with Yumi whose sense of humour and commitment to women’s issues were present in equal measure throughout. I wanted to help demystify and destigmatise not only periods, but our comfort in talking about them.
How can parents help alleviate the stigma around periods?
It’s good to start with oneself – to be aware of our own feelings about periods, and about our children growing up. Periods and puberty are naturally associated with sexuality, and this can be uncomfortable for parents. Yet – periods are so natural, half the population has them. If parents can feel comfortable first that will help reduce the stigma or taboo.
Being a good listener – your pre-teen might be worrying about something you didn’t have any inkling of – have conversations with them where you’re curious, wanting to understand what’s on their mind rather than jumping to conclusions. Taking your child to the supermarket and showing them where the sanitary products are, buying them together openly and not making a fuss. Asking and talking about periods, sharing our own stories. Basically, feeling that periods can be part of any conversation.
Are there moments when girls are more likely to get their period for the first time? E.g Travel, school camp. Why is this?
Many people are surprised at what an anticlimax the first period is. Sometimes it’s just a brown streak and nothing more. It’s no more likely to happen away from home than anywhere else and it’s unlikely to be anything dramatic – but it’s often a girl’s worst fear. The book tackles this fear and also what to do if you are caught out.
Can you give me five quick tips on how girls can prepare for getting their period for the first time?
· Learn the signs of your body getting ready – the most obvious one is an increase in vaginal secretions over several months, sometimes a year or more
· Get a hold of some period products (eg pads, tampons) and take a couple out of their packaging – have a look at them, feel comfortable handling them
· Get your period pack ready and keep it in your school bag or handbag
· Talk! To your friends, your parent or carer
· Read up on periods and look for answers to any questions you might have
Welcome to Your Period by Yumi Stynes & Dr Melissa Kang is now available at all good book stores.
Hardie Grant Egmont
Words – Thomasina Williams
“We all know children play. What I think we sometimes forget as adults, is that play is not simply just a way to pass time – play is an essential component of child development and helps form the basic building blocks of their communication.”
Working as HenderCare’s Senior Play Therapist, Thomasina Williams is a passionate advocate for the role of play in child development. With a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and a Master’s in Child Play Therapy behind her, Thomasina (or Tommie as she prefers to be called) has witnessed firsthand the benefits of implementing play therapy interventions.
“Play therapy can be particularly beneficial for children living with a disability, learning difficulty or other social challenges,” Tommie states. “For these children, a play therapy program implemented correctly can be used to address specific therapeutic goals which relate to a child’s wellbeing.”
Working with children aged two to 12, HenderCare’s play therapy service develops bespoke play-based interventions focused on the individual needs of the child. HenderCare’s Play Therapist uses a range of directive and non-directive play therapy modalities to assist the child to express explore and resolve social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural challenges.
For parents or caregivers who may not immediately understand the difference between play therapy and regular play, Tommie says, “Play is a child’s language and toys are their words. Play Therapists meet children at their level. They undertake years of training to be able to understand, assess and communicate through play. This gives them a window into the child’s world helping them understand the child’s feelings, needs, experiences and behaviours”.
Therapeutic services are in demand across the state as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continues to roll out. A part of HenderCare’s allied health services (which also includes physiotherapy, psychology, speech pathology and occupational therapy) HenderCare decided to offer play therapy to help ensure families had access to the services they needed.
As Tommie points out, early intervention is the key, “when a family is seeking support for their child, getting access to allied health professionals and services like play therapy is essential to avoid developmental delays. In offering this service we hope we are able to improve the outcomes for many young children in South Australia.
Getting to know Tommie
HenderCare’s Senior Play Therapist, Thomasina Williams is a mum herself and passionate advocate for the role of play in child development. Here’s what you need to know about her:
I have a Bachelor of Early Childhood Educator and a Master’s in Child Play Therapy
I’m a registered practitioner with the Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association (APPTA)
I’m the mum of a three-year-old, so I’m an expert (and slightly tired) negotiator
I’m completely dedicated to helping children with disabilities or social challenges experience improved wellbeing – it’s absolutely the best part of my job
Play Therapy FAQs
Here, Tommie answers some of the most common questions she is regularly asked about play therapy.
What is play therapy?
Play Therapy is a developmentally appropriate approach for working with children. Because children’s language development lags behind their cognitive development, children make sense of their worlds through play. Play is a child’s natural language and Play Therapists are specially trained in this language. Play Therapists use play to communicate with children and assist them to express and explore their feelings, needs, behaviours and experiences supporting them to achieve optimal growth and development.
What are ‘directive’ and ‘non-directive’ play modalities?
A directive approach is one in which the therapist will largely direct the activities and pace of the play therapy session. Whereas, a non-directive approach sees the child take the lead and have more control in the direction of the session.
Do Play Therapists have to be qualified?
No. Currently there is no minimum qualification to be a Play Therapist. Many people call themselves Play Therapists who have done little training. It’s essential when selecting a Play Therapist that you make sure you confirm their qualifications; ensure they have postgraduate training in play therapy or look for their registration with a relevant industry body like APPTA (Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association) or APTA (Australia Play Therapists Association).
What are some of the benefits of play therapy?
Depending on the needs of the individual child, your play therapist will work with you to set therapeutic goals. Examples of these goals could include: enhance and develop; relationships, play skills and self-esteem, improve; social skills, self regulation and coping skills, assist with processing and expressing emotion, cultivating empathy towards others, and assist in developing new and creative solutions to problems.
Do I need a Doctor’s referral for my child to see a Play Therapist?
No referral is required.
Is play therapy available under my child’s NDIS funding?
Depending on the supports outlined in your NDIS Plan, you may have access to use your child’s NDIS funding for the sessions. Private paying families are also able to attend.
To find out more about HenderCare’s play therapy service or other allied health services, please call 1300 764 433 or visit hendercare.com.au.
Inside the Toddler Mind By The Neuroscience Mumma
Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino
Somehow, I am now the mother of a two-year-old! My son Alexander turned two just a few days ago, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Suddenly, where I used to see my tiny, helpless baby, nestled in my arms, there now stands my fiercely independent, funny, incredibly sweet little boy (not that he ever stands still for very long!). As we prepared to celebrate Alexander’s birthday, one theme I kept hearing on repeat was, “Uh oh! The terrible twos are about to strike! Better get ready!” But, is it true? Are the ‘two’s’ really so “terrible?”
One thing that is definitely true is that the brain of a toddler is rapidly developing. Although the cells of the brain, called neurons, are mostly finished being produced by the time of birth, there are several important changes that occur in the first few years of life. One of these important changes is called myelination. Myelin is a fatty sheath that wraps around axons, which are the specialised processes that neurons use to send signals. Think about myelin as being similar to the insulation that wraps around cables. Just like insulation, myelin helps the signal to travel more quickly. This is particularly important for healthy brain development, as being able to send signals quickly between neurons allows for the dramatic increase in cognitive abilities, like memory and language, that we see in toddlers.
Another major change that occurs in the toddler brain is the production of more connections between neurons, called synapses. In other words, during this time, the brain is wiring brain cells together into circuits, which are critical for higher order functions, like abstract thinking. By the time that a child is three years old, their brain will contain roughly 1,000 trillion synapses, which is twice as many as the adult brain contains! Not all of these connections are necessary, however; as the child ages, weak or unused synapses will be pruned away. Similar to pruning the branches of a tree, this helps the brain to function more efficiently. This synaptic pruning lasts well into early adulthood, particularly in brain regions like the prefrontal cortex, which is the portion of your brain that is important for higher order cognitive functions, like impulse control, decision making and attention.
But how does the brain know which of the connections to keep and which to remove? Research has shown that it is critically dependent on activity occurring within these circuits. Another way to think of this is “use it or lose it.” Synapses or connections which are active are strengthened, and therefore kept. Conversely, synapses which are not activated remain weak and are eventually removed. This process is largely driven by the experiences that we have during our life, especially our early childhood, meaning which connections are kept and which are removed is highly individualised, allowing the brain to optimise its function for unique environments.
What is particularly interesting is that different functions have different timeframes for when experience is likely to have the largest effect on strengthening connections between neurons. These are termed critical periods and correspond to the acquisition of certain skills and behaviours. Once this period passes, the behaviour is relatively unaffected by subsequent experience, and it may be difficult, or even impossible, to make up for deficiencies that occur during these times. Critical periods for the senses, like vision and hearing, occur quite early in infancy. For toddlers, however, they are in a critical time for developing language, cognitive skills and social behaviours, with all of these highly dependent on the experiences that the child is offered during this time. Research has shown that factors like extreme stress or a lack of warm, supportive relationships with caregivers can have lasting negative impacts on a child’s future emotional, cognitive and social skills.
So the twos (and toddlerhood in general) aren’t really so terrible. Instead, these years are a period of rapid brain development, in which children are working to acquire many of the skills and behaviours needed to develop into happy, well-adjusted adults.
Coupled with the fact that they often lack the words to express how they are feeling or what they need, and that they are just beginning to learn how to self-regulate their emotions and behaviours, no wonder they feel overwhelmed sometimes! So what can we, as caregivers, do to help? First, the more diverse the experiences we offer our little ones, the more we give those sponge-like brains the opportunity to strengthen the connections between brain cells. Second, we can model appropriate behaviours both in our interactions with our toddlers and in the interactions they see us have with others. Finally, we can practise positive discipline (yes, even when they’re chucking a major tantrum in the middle of the produce aisle at the grocery store). After all, the word discipline comes from the Latin word, disciplina, which means teaching or instruction. If we respond during these times with compassion, responsiveness and empathy, our children will eventually, in the face of this security, learn to self-soothe and self-regulate their own emotions. Even better, we will teach these lasting skills to our children, which will help to influence the sort of people they grow up to become. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the “terrible” twos!
Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino