New research into the impact of parent fatigue on family life

New Australia-wide research with parents of young children will investigate the impact of fatigue on family life, as well as exploring links between fatigue and depression. The Parenting Research Centre would like to hear from parents of children aged 0 to 6 whether they are feeling fatigued or not, who would like to participate in the parent fatigue and wellbeing survey.

According to Associate Professor Jan Matthews, Director of Research and Practice at
the Parenting Research Centre, “We know that when parents are coping with fatigue it can have an impact on their ability to raise children. This survey of parent wellbeing
will help us determine the level of fatigue that families are coping with on a daily
basis, as well as to identify any potential impact on parenting. The research findings
will be of real value in developing information and strategies to help support families”.

The research project with parents of children under six years of age builds on an
earlier PRC survey in which 40% of 210 maternal and child health nurses said that
more than half of the parents they see are so fatigued that it impacts upon their ability to parent. Other results of the survey, conducted at the 2006 Maternal and Child Health Services Conference in Melbourne, indicated that:

  • Parent fatigue is common, impacts upon parenting and is an important issue to
    address with parents.
  • 85% of nurses felt that addressing fatigue with parents is as important, if not
    more important, than other issues such as child-related factors.
  • Over 50% of nurses felt parents are less interested in discussing their wellbeing
    than other issues related to their child.

According to Jan Matthews, “Previous international research has shown that fatigue can get in the way of parent-child and partner relationships, which has implications for a child’s emotional, physical and cognitive development, as well as for people’s physical and emotional health. Fatigue may even be a trigger in post-natal depression so there is a major need for resources to help parents address their fatigue”.

If you wish to participate in the parent fatigue and wellbeing survey, visit the Parent Research Centre website and complete the survey online or print out a copy.


New research shows using childcare is a necessity rather than a choice

Two in three Australians would stay at home to look after their children if they could afford it, and a further 11 per cent are “undecided” over the issue, new research from BankWest has found.

The findings suggest the high cost of living and our expectations of a modern lifestyle are the main problems facing families today.

According to the 2006 Census, 1.7 million of the 2.3 million Australian families with children have both parents at work. The BankWest research found the majority of Australian families have no choice but to use childcare in order to meet financial responsibilities placing extra burden on already stretched childcare resources. And one in five families say the high cost of childcare has prevented them from having more children, while almost half believe they are spending too much.

“The results suggest that we are longing to return to a simpler age, where a parent was at home – usually a mum,” Selina Duncalf, BankWest’s head of strategy and products said.

According to the research, there is a small slice of society (almost 2 per cent) which spends up to a staggering $800 per week on childcare. The average weekly spend on childcare was $174 while 57 per cent spend up to $200. A further 19 per cent spend up to $400, while 7 per cent spend up to $600.

The groups who spend more than $200 are generally those with more children in care, are on a higher income or are using nannies to deliver their care. Ironically, while most families believe their childcare costs are too expensive, they also want to see wages for childcare workers increased potentially lifting their costs.

The majority of Australian families use long day care (55 per cent) followed by occasional care (23 per cent), family (22 per cent), family daycare (14 per cent) and private nanny (5 per cent).

A quarter of parents use childcare for three days per week, while 22 per cent use it for five days, another 22 per cent for two days followed by 16 per cent with one day, and 14 per cent for four days per week.

Other interesting facts:

  • More than half believe government rebates are insufficient.
  • More than 57 per cent believe the government should be doing more to subsidise childcare.
  • More than 42 per cent found it difficult to secure a childcare place.
  • The majority of Australians surveyed (82.1 per cent) said they were happy with the level of care.  For the remainder who are unhappy, most of them referred to the childcare staff as the main reason for their concern.

Ms Duncalf says the day of the SuperMum may have passed. 

“Are the number of women who want everything – a family and a full-on career dwindling? Is there a new conservatism brewing in our suburbs where the appeal of family life over the pressures of work and the corporate world is returning?”


Parents push to end junk food generation

Australian parents are joining childhood obesity experts in urging the Federal government to support an international code on the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children to be formally presented to the World Health Assembly in May.

The Parents Jury has teamed up with CHOICE to support a national campaign to pressure government to finally take action about the high levels of junk food marketing our kids are exposed to.

The Parents Jury spokesperson Justine Hodge says The Parents Jury has been actively advocating to substantially reduce the marketing of junk foods to young children for many years. She says that over 70 per cent of Parents Jury members consider unhealthy TV food advertising to be a top priority, while 50 per cent believe other forms of unhealthy food marketing are also of concern.*

“It’s no secret that the marketing and selling of junk food to kids has become big business and this new code is a great step towards developing both a local and international solution to the current childhood obesity epidemic,” Justine said.

Under the proposed code, restrictions will apply to advertisements and promotions where children make up a significant number of the audience – between 6am and 9pm.

Justine Hodge says The Parents Jury thinks it is just as important for non-broadcast media to be considered within the scope of the code.

“This means that the use of personalities, celebrities, free gifts or toys, text message, on pack and in-store promotions would also be banned. Our ultimate goal is for our decision makers and leaders to help create more supportive environments for parents to bring up their children, and a healthy world for our kids to grow up in. We want to see healthier kids and happier parents,” she said.

The Parents Jury is a web-based forum for parents to voice their views and collectively advocate for the improvement of children’s food and physical activity environments. The Parents Jury currently has over 3000 members and is supported by the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity, Diabetes Australia – Vic, The Cancer Council Australia and its member bodies and VicHealth. Membership is free and open to all Australian parents, grandparents and guardians of children aged under 18 years of age.


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Leading childhood expert calls for ban on junk food advertising

Leading childhood obesity expert calls for ban on junk food advertising

A leading childhood obesity expert is calling on federal, state and local governments to take steps to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children.

Louise Baur, Professor of the Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health at the University of Sydney and Consultant Paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, says that parents are struggling to be heard over the bombardment of marketing aimed at their children.

“Every week, in my weight management clinics at the hospital, I see parents who are trying their very hardest to look after the health of their kids” says Professor Baur.

“By now, everyone has heard the alarming childhood obesity statistics. Parents are much better informed about healthy eating, and are trying to teach their children good nutritional habits. But how can they compete with slick, multi-million dollar marketing campaigns?”

Professor Baur dismisses suggestions that advertising doesn’t play a significant role in the diets of children.

“Advertising does influence what kids want and therefore what parents buy – of course it does. Companies wouldn’t spend millions on it if it didn’t!”

Professor Baur points not only to television advertising, but to a range of marketing strategies from sponsorship of kids’ sporting events to “endorsements” of products by popular cartoon characters. She says that all levels of government have a role to play in supporting parents by introducing measures to restrict these marketing practices – and she isn’t alone.

The World Federation of Consumer Organisations, Consumers International, has this week released a new International Code on Marketing of Food and non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children, which is supported by the International Obesity Taskforce. The Code calls for new government regulations to protect children and parents from the pressures of junk food marketing practices.

“This isn’t about being the “fun police”, banning chocolate or soft drinks, or outlawing all forms of advertising,” Professor Baur said.

“All we are asking is for some balance. Limiting the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks will give parents a better chance to teach their kids about responsible, healthy eating. We want to give children back to their parents. And that’s going to lead to happier families and healthier kids.”

Free breakfast to give Australian school kids a good start to the day

A surprisingly high number of Australian children regularly skip breakfast – 25 per cent*. Going to school hungry can greatly affect kids’ behaviour and ability to learn. Studies have also shown that skipping breakfast can contribute to health problems, such as diabetes and obesity, later in life.

This month, Coles will donate $250,000 to Red Cross to help fund its Good Start Breakfast Club program for the year. This money comes from the sale of Coles Hot Cross Buns, and more will be raised for the program via Red Cross merchandise in Coles stores around Easter.

Good Start Breakfast Clubs are staffed by Red Cross volunteers. The clubs offer a nutritious breakfast to all children at the schools at least once a week, and many of the almost 200 clubs operate daily.

There are currently five clubs in Western Australia.  Boulder Primary School Principal, Dan Bralic, said the club had been having a very positive effect on students at his school, helping improve behaviour, manners and general social interaction. 

“The club provides students who attend with life skills and that first meal of the day which they might have otherwise not received. Teachers have noticed behavioural changes, commenting on students’ abilities to focus better on tasks after a good introduction to the day,” Mr Bralic said.

There are currently more than 20 clubs in South Australia. Hackham South Primary School Counsellor, Irene Roe, said the club had also been having a very positive effect on pupils at her school. “It has improved school attendance, and students are concentrating better and are far more focused during the first few hours of the school day.”

There are currently more than 30 clubs in Victoria. Heatherhill Primary School Principal, Jan Banks, said the club was helping out a lot of families under financial pressure.

“We became aware that many kids were turning up to school without any food and coming to school hungry,” Ms Banks said. “It became a pattern that kids were lethargic in class, and had difficulty paying attention. Now 30 to 35 students come to the breakfast club on a daily basis. Most of them come from low socio-economic areas, where families are under a lot of financial pressure.”

There are currently six clubs in Tasmania. Latrobe Primary School Teacher, Bernadette Howard, said “The significance of a good breakfast and providing a solid start to the day can really be seen in the children’s engagement in structured learning.”

Ms Howard added, “Around 25–30 children visit the club each day from across all year levels, as well as volunteers from the local high school, so the children get a fantastic opportunity to develop their social skills and socially interact with people of all ages.”

There are currently almost 20 clubs in Queensland. Grovely State School Teacher, Vikki Kilford, said “The teachers have found a really big difference in the kids’ concentration in the classroom. They are much more settled when they have full tummies.”

“Parents have found it so much easier to cope with their kids being provided breakfast on those two days a week. The children love to sit down and eat breakfast with their friends. They love it so much that we have some children who eat two breakfasts, one at home and one at school. Some even refuse to have breakfast at home just so they can have it at the Good Start Breakfast Club,” Ms Kilford said.

There are currently more than 80 clubs in New South Wales, and at least one principal says children often go hungry simply because of the busy lifestyles families lead today. “Our school day starts at 8:15am, and this means there isn’t always time for a good breakfast before school,” said Maroubra Bay Primary School Principal, Kathryn Sydenham.

Up to 25 per cent of Ms Sydenham’s students attend the club each day.  “We’ve received good feedback from the parents, especially those who work full-time and don’t have the time to make sure their kids have a proper meal. The parents really love it and appreciate that their kids are being looked after so well.”

There are currently more than 10 clubs in the Northern Territory. Millner Primary School Principal, Terry Quong, said, “Without the Good Start Breakfast Club, we’d have kids who wouldn’t eat anything all day,” Dr Quong said. “There are so many children who don’t have food before they start the day, and there has always been a basic need for nutrition in our school.”

Coles Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Jill Moodie, said the Good Start Breakfast Club program appealed to Coles because of its practical, hands-on approach.

“The clubs help families and children at a grass roots level. We are proud to partner with Red Cross and this very worthwhile program,” Ms Moodie said.

Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner agreed and said there were a variety of reasons children might miss breakfast, including poverty, simply not feeling hungry and the busy lifestyles families led today.

“The program is having an amazing impact around the country. Eating a healthy breakfast is just imperative if we want our kids to be able to concentrate in school. We are so grateful that Coles is helping us to fund this fantastic program because it not only provides children with a nutritious breakfast, but also helps them develop social skills by sharing meals with fellow students,” Mr Tickner said.

“According to our research, almost 80 per cent of teachers at participating schools say pupils who use the clubs have improved concentration.”

*Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Study, The University of Sydney.

Introducing solid foods too early may be harmful to baby's health

Spoon feeding babies pureed food is unnatural and unnecessary and could lead to health problems such as obesity, constipation and babies becoming ‘picky eaters’ says Gill Rapley, deputy Director of UNICEF’s UK Baby Friendly Initiative.

Rapley who has been in involved in maternal and child health for 25 years, said children should be fed only milk for 6 months. Breastmilk, continues as a major source of nutrients for the first 12 months and beyond, while babies are weaned onto family foods to improve their control over what they eat.

“I found so many parents were coming to me with the same problems — my child is really picky, my child is constipated,” Ms Rapley said.

Through these observations and her own studies, Rapley developed her program Baby Led Weaning.

“In 2002 the World Health Organization backed research that found that breastfeeding provided all the nutrition a baby needs during the first 6 months of life and that giving baby other foods during this time would dilute the nutritional value of the milk and might even be harmful to the baby’s health.”

Rapley believes the baby food industry is responsible for promoting the unfounded belief that babies need pureed, commercially produced foods.

Sound scientific research now shows that there is no window of opportunity in a baby’s development where babies need more than breastmilk or less than solid food.

Australian Breastfeeding Association spokesperson Barb Glare said that whilst the National Health and Medical Research Council’s guidelines clearly supported Ms Rapley’s stance, baby foods were still able to be advertised as suitable from 4 months.

“This is leading to a huge amount of confusion amongst parents who are trying to do the right thing,” she said.

Gill Rapley will be speaking in Australia this week at the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Breastfeeding: A work of Heart Seminar series.


New Child Support Scheme

The Child Support Agency (CSA) has released detailed information about the new Child Support Scheme, which commences on 1 July 2008.

In a statement released to the media, the General Manager of the CSA, Matt Miller, said the changes to the Child Support Scheme were recommended by a Ministerial Taskforce and aim to better balance the interests of separated parents and be more focused on the costs of children.

The new Reforms, which affect all separated parents, were passed in Parliament in 2006 and 2007 and have been implemented in three stages over two years.

“The most significant change being introduced is a new formula used to calculate child support payments that will better reflect the costs of raising children today, treat both parents’ incomes and living costs more equally and better take into consideration the level of care parents provide for their children,” Mr Miller said.

The new child support formula is more complicated than the standard 27 per cent applied under the old system.  But most parents can obtain an estimate of how much child support they may pay or receive, using the online Child Support-Family Assistance estimator, available on the CSA, Centrelink and Family Assistance Office websites.

Separated parents across Australia will receive their new child support assessment between March and mid-May this year so they have time to check their details and plan prior to the new Scheme starting on 1 July. 

All separated parents who pay and receive child support, including those with private arrangements, will be affected by the new Scheme.  The new assessments may also affect family assistance payments, because child support and family assistance are closely linked.

The CSA wrote to all customers last year, to collect care information required for new child support assessments. Parents who did not receive their care letter and have not updated their details should contact the CSA.

“From March to mid-May it will be important for all 1.5 million registered parents to look out for their new assessment and check the details carefully,” Mr Miller said.

“Parents should advise the CSA of any changes so that the assessment can be reissued and is correct when the new Scheme starts.”

Pressures on working families linked to low fertility rates

The release of a new study, Fertility and Family Policy in Australia, reveals ongoing pressures on working families are preventing many women from having children or large families. 

In her response to the research paper released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigeneous Affairs, Jenny Macklin says working families need support during life transitions so that they have the confidence to have children if they want them.

Ms Macklin said support systems need to address the realities of modern Australian life.

The report confirms that fertility rates are at close to the lowest ever in Australia and are below the level required for population replacement.  Most of those surveyed would like to have more children and only very few considered no children or one child their ideal number of children.

The research paper found that even with economic security, couples lacked confidence in their ability to create and maintain a family environment which provided emotional and financial support for children.  Their decision to not have children was also influenced by other factors including difficulties in accessing childcare, job insecurity and the cost of housing.

The Rudd Government has announced policies to help families balance work and family such as parental leave, increasing the Child Care Tax Rebate from 30% to 50%, universal preschool for all four year olds and co-locating child care services on school sites.

The Australian Government has also asked the Productivity Commission to examine ways the Government can improve support to parents with newborn children.

The Commission will explore ways to make it as easy as possible for working mums to balance their employment with the important job of raising a new generation of Australians.

Survey reveals people are more likely to take risks online

Have you ever wondered what people really get up to when they’re online?  Well, thanks to an international survey we now have a more accurate picture of human behaviour on the Internet, and it’s not all good news.

The first volume of the Norton Online Living Report (NOLR) was released this morning by Symantec.  The data upon which the report’s conclusions are based was culled from the results of an international survey conducted by Harris Interactive Survey.  Symantec’s Consumer spokesperson in the Pacific region, Matthew Drake said, “The biggest trend that emerged from all these findings is that people are doing things online that they would not do in the ‘offline’ world, such as interacting with strangers or giving out personal and financial information.”

The survey found that 54 per cent of Australian adults have made friends online and more than half say they enjoy these friendships more than their offline friendships.  A spokesperson for the NOLR said, “This indicates a major shift in how people relate to one other and provides potential clues for the future of human interaction.”

The report also revealed that a significant number of adults under estimated the potential dangers to children on the Internet.  Whilst Australian adults believed that only four per cent of children have been approached by a stranger on the Internet, 18 per cent of Australian children reported they had been approached online.

Another interesting finding related to children is that 25 per cent of kids surveyed admitted to conducting activities online which they know their parents would not approve of.  Perhaps these kids are the offspring of the 23 per cent of parents who said they didn’t know what their children were looking at online.

Other significant findings of the report are:

  • Most parents believe the Internet is not as safe for children as for adults and most children believe the Internet is not as safe for themselves as for adults.
  • Many parents and children seem to talk openly about what children are doing online which perhaps relate to their overconfidence in children being protected online. 59 percent of parents in Australia have spoken to their children about practicing safe online habits.
  • A quarter of global online adults have shared credit card information with people who are not their friends or acquaintances.
  • 78 percent of Australian’s surveyed admitted to providing their email addresses to people who are not their friends or acquaintances and 73 percent admitted to providing their name.
  • Although the majority of online adults and children have received some level of violation (from minor spam emails to major hack attempts) and express concern about online safety, most users do not take enough steps to protect themselves online.
  • Most online adults spend at least one hour per month both reading news from online sites/blogs and from a print outlet.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the world spend time on their personal blog – In China, nearly 87 percent of users have a personal blog, however in Australia only 17 percent have a blog.
  • Online beauty and fashion advice has become popular globally with between 3 to 4 out of 10 online users seeking advice.
  • 60 percent of online adult users in Australia and 75 percent of online children in Australia visit video sharing websites.

source: AAP

Fatherhood Foundation wants an apology from the PM too

Another page of our nation’s history will be written today when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issues an official apology to the ‘stolen generation’ at Parliament House in Canberra.  But one organisation is attempting to use this historic occasion to further it’s own agenda more than most.

In a statement released to the media this morning, Warwick Marsh said, “It is very sad that aboriginal children were removed from their fathers by white authorities, but what about today’s stolen children, both black and white, who have been forcibly removed from the care of their fathers by Australia’s Family Law Court? Over a million children live apart from their biological father.”

On a day which belongs to every Indigeneous Australian, Warwick Marsh and his cronies are demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for every father who ever appeared in the Family Court of Australia.

The Fatherhood Foundation have always maintained it is acting in the best interests of Australian children.  In his demand for an apology Warwick Marsh said, “We call for an apology to the children of Australia who have been so grievously affected by its ideological hatred for fathers.”

Pardon me for saying so, but this statement is absolute bullshit.  I worked in Family Law for several years and I can assure you that the Family Court of Australia bends over backwards to give fathers a fair hearing.  In most cases, if a father doesn’t see his children regularly, he only has himself to blame.  There is much more I could say on this subject, but I will leave that for another day.  

13 February 2008 belongs to the stolen generation and the Indigeneous community of Australia.  Shame on you Warwick Marsh for attempting to use the stolen generation’s fight for justice to further your own agenda.