Thursday, January 31, 2013

talking to children about natural disasters

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What a month we are having here in Australia! We are facing extreme weather changes in each state around the country and we have endured heat waves, flooding and bushfire's raging out of control. It has been heartbreaking to watch and as someone who does not spend a lot of time watching television, I have found myself glued to the screen keeping myself updated on what is taking place. The footage has been difficult for me to view and emotionally deal with and that has led me to thinking more about how we can talk to our children about natural disasters that are currently taking place. 

It is almost impossible to avoid any footage of natural disasters when they occur and we have had the opportunity to talk to our children about the flooding that is currently taking place here in Brisbane. With natural disasters on the rise, I wanted to share with you my tips on how to help children during this time:

1. Monitor television watching: If you have young children be aware and sensitive to what they see on television. Images from natural disasters can stay imprinted in young minds for a long time. Especially if there are other children involved. Be mindful that if you are going to watch special coverage or the news that they will show distressing images. As parents you know what your child can cope with and turn the television off if needed. You can always look it up later on the internet. 

2. Be present when the television is on: I have found it really helpful to be present when my children are watching television during a natural disaster. This way I am aware and up to date on what they have seen and have something to refer to if they ask me any questions about it. It also allows me to see their reaction to the natural disaster that is taking place. Being present allows me to see body language changes, hear what they may say in reaction to images, to answer any questions and to see if they feel scared. 

3. Ask what they know: Don't be afraid to bring up the topic of what is taking place with a natural disaster and ask them what they already know about it. You will be surprised just how much children do know. They hear pieces on the radio in the car, see snippets on the television, talk about it at school and even talk/message about it with their friends.

4. Be mindful of your reaction: With some footage that I have seen on television, I have felt shocked and saddened. Even though I have felt this way and have wanted to really cry and gasp out loud, I have been mindful that my children are in the room with me and kept my comments brief and emotions more under control. I have at times shown emotion by shedding a few tears in front of my children but my main emphasis is to try not to pass on any fears that you have. I have saved my real shock until later when I have had the chance to chat with my husband.

5. Educate your children: To help your children feel more safe and secure, inform them with correct facts about how the natural disaster may affect you. If there is flooding, download a map and show them the area around you, if there is a bushfire show them how far away it is. Also if you are in an area that is at risk, clearly explain to them what steps you will follow as a family to keep safe and together. Use the internet and other sources to help provide your children with a sense of calm and peace. 

6. Focus on the good: When viewing natural disasters on television point out the good that you see happening as well. Tell them there are many people in the community doing all they can to help these people who are suffering. For example: people helping each other, charity organisations providing relief, emergency services who are answering calls, people are still smiling after what they went through etc. To take it one step further, talk about what you can do as a family to help out. You could donate money, bake some meals, help a friend of family member who has lost power and have fun planing a way to be involved. 

It is important to give children the chance to talk about what they may be feeling or seeing on television or even on the internet. We will surely face more natural disasters in the future and I hope you find these tips helpful. We have been using them in our home and it is really making a difference. 

Stay safe xx


{I want to be clear that this blog post is not about helping children who have experienced any natural disasters first hand. Our family has not had that experience and I am in no position to offer any advice or counsel to those who have. These are my personal tips I use in my home.}

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the rose garden and 15 years of bliss

The rose garden in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens is a special place for Matt and I. It is where we had our first kiss. As we were in Adelaide for our Christmas holidays and we recently celebrated 15 years of marriage, we decided to revisit the rose garden and have some fun remembering that special moment. 


I remember the first time I saw Matt, I knew he was the one. We dated for 4 weeks. Got engaged and 3 months later were married. We both just knew it was right. The best decision I ever made, was to say yes to this wonderful man I call my husband. He is always so kind to me and I am so thankful for that.


Of course being surrounded by beautiful roses in a gorgeous setting was the perfect moment to plant that first kiss on my lips. So romantic! The children were less than enthusiastic about visiting our special spot and of having to watch us look lovingly at each other the whole time we were walking there but we were not about to let seven grumpy kids stop us from remembering our special moment :)


As we sat on our seat and held hands this was our view. Our cherubs totally bored out of their brains!! Laying all over the place complaining and asking us when we were moving on. Ha ha! Hilarious! 


You can see the excitement?


Anyway, Matt and I had a wonderful time remembering and acting out our first kiss. Who knew what a crazy adventures our life was going to be because of that kiss. So, so grateful to be married to such a great guy. 15 years. The time has flown by and the years keep getting better and better. Big thanks to Chelsea who took this picture for us and was not totally grossed out about her parents kissing in public!

Where did you have your first kiss? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

5 Awesome Large Family Blogs

Large family blogs are a source of great wisdom. I love to read other large family blogs to be inspired as a mother and wife. They are often run by women who are extremely busy, who are passionate about parenting and have worked out great systems in their homes to help it to run smoothly. I also love that they are often women who have a great love for children because they had so many, have compassion for children because they adopted so many or have great tips and ideas because they are a combined family. 

For me a large family blog is anyone who has 4 or more children. There are so many available to read on the internet today (which I love!) and I thought I would start sharing with you some of the large family blogs that I love to read...you might like to check them out as well...here are the first five:

1. Corrie from Retro mummy. Corrie lives in Sydney and has 5 beautiful children under the age of 7. She has a 6 year old, 4 year old twins, a 2 year old and a super cute little baby, Emerson. She blogs about her family life, cooking and crafting. She is one talented lady as she can sew, quilt, knit, crochet, stitch and do it all! I have been reading her blog for many years and I always love what she has to say. Corrie is positive in her parenting and inspires me to find time to be creative with my talents. I love that she is short like me and has twins like me as well. You will love her blog!

2. Kelly from Be a Fun Mum. Kelly lives here in Brisbane like me and is the mother of four children. Three girls and one boy. Her blog is all about reclaiming the joy of motherhood in a fast-paced world. She encourages you to love the little moments which are like pieces of a puzzle, that when put together create a beautiful masterpiece. I adore the fun ideas Kelly comes up with on her blog and she inspires me to make more time for fun in my life with my children. If you need help creating more meaningful family moments, her blog is the place to look.

3. Mary at Owlhaven. Mary is the mother of ten children. Four are her own and six they have adopted from Korea and Ethiopia. Her blog shares their journey of adoption, living a frugal life, homeschooling and other family projects they do. I enjoy her outlook on motherhood and as I always wanted 10 children myself, I love to see how she balances it all. Interesting blog about staying sane with a large family!

4. Tiff at My Three Ring Circus. Tiff is the mother of seven children. She is a great photographer and writer. She has welcomed children to her home, lost a child, is raising a child with illness, has twins, is a source of great strength and inspiration and is one woman who continually blows me away with her determination and inner strength. Every time I read her blog I shake my head and wonder how she get's through each day. Amazing. Read her blog. Her honesty will astound you.

5. Carli at Carli's Clan: Carli is the mother of four children. Two boys and two girls. She owns a flower shop and loves to write about her family and faith. I also love that she reviews books and shares with us what they are like. I find her family life inspiring and love that she has turned blog comments off on her blog. She is confident in who she is and what she has to say. It is so lovely to read about an adorable family living a happy life. A real feel good blog to inspire your day!

What large family blogs do you read? Do you find large family blogs inspiring?



Sunday, January 27, 2013

falling apart and not looking back


I often get messages from women who read my blog, who are the same faith as me, asking me to share more spiritual blog posts. So today I thought I would share with you how I love to write and talk spiritually. For several years I have had the opportunity to lead/guide/plan and serve the women of my church, in my local area. This often involved me giving talks and in my usual style, I spoke openly and encouragingly to women about taking care of themselves in a spiritual way and also a mental and emotional way.

So, this is very different to my normal blog posts and there is a strong emphasis on religion with my thoughts and words. I do not apologise for this as it is what I believe and how I feel. I hope you still enjoy what I have to share even if you are not the same faith as me and even if you have a different spiritual guide in your life. N xx

Our relationship with God can have a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves. As we learn to love God and have the desire to be like him, He will help us be the type of woman we want to be. As we grow closer to Him, we will be able to see ourselves as He does and have the strength to be the type of woman we also need to be.

I love to write, especially about motherhood and happiness. About what makes me happy on the inside and on the outside. As I have been on this ‘happiness journey’ I have been learning a lot about who I am, what I like, what really makes me happy and about who I want to be. Since becoming a busy mother, I noticed I have forgotten what really makes me happy and in some ways I have forgotten who I am! I am now Matt’s wife, Chelsea’s mum, Nathan’s mum, Liahona’s mum and so on. But, I am also Naomi.

Being a woman in the gospel involves being busy. Busy serving, caring, loving and providing relief to those around us. Sometimes we can become so busy helping others that we forget to help ourselves and to think about who we are and what we want to be. For me, I really want to be more spiritual and more like God in my life and I also want to take responsibility for developing into who I believe I have the potential to be.

As women, God needs us today. He needs us to speak up for what is right, even when doing so is unpopular. He needs us to develop the spiritual maturity to hear and seek his guidance. He delights in women who keep their covenants with precision, not perfection but precision.

One of my favourite lines of a hymn profoundly expresses, 'in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see'. We all have trials and challenges in life but, I wish to speak about those sorrows, those burdens that make our heart heavy and sometimes stop our emotional and spiritual progress. Those sorrows that stop us bringing to flower and fruitage the richness of the spirit because, even in laughter...the heart is sorrowful.

Basically, those struggles that leave us feeling depressed and discouraged. Some matters are so sensitive and intensely personal that prayer is the best way for us to identify our thoughts and feelings. Our Heavenly Father will never forsake us but he will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.

God does help when we go to Him in times of need, especially when we are committed to His work and respond to His will. God loves to help those who are willing to help themselves. He expects His children to be self-reliant to the degree they can be.

You are a daughter of Heavenly Father. You are his child. He loves you. He listens to your prayers and he will hear you as you speak to him. As you open your heart and put your trust in Him, He will answer your prayers and He will not leave you alone.

Now you might be saying to yourself well, that’s alright for you to say Naomi. What do you know about being depressed? I do not profess to have all the answers but I do know a little of the prolonged struggle with sadness and discouragement that can come with feeling depressed.

The times when I have felt the most depressed in my life have been when I felt trapped. Trapped by the circumstances around me and trapped by how I could react to them. As a woman in the gospel I felt I had to be kind and loving and charitable to everyone around me and in the process forgot to show those feelings to myself. I reached a time in my life where I knew I needed to be a different woman than I currently was.

I needed to make more serious changes to live my life according to God's will. I was active in my church assignments, a stay at home mum and supported my husband in his assignments but I knew in my heart that more was required of me if I wanted to progress. I knew that God could see a large part of my heart was carrying hurt and pain and anger and sorrow.

To progress and for me to feel real charity {that pure love of Christ} I had to cleanse my heart and release the pain and anger. I was scared to face what I knew I was holding inside. You see, I was very comfortable in my miserable state. It was something I was familiar with, I did not have to change anything, the sadness happened naturally for me.

But to be happy, now that was going to require hard work and change and I knew that the only way I could be healed was to rely on the Atonement of Christ. To achieve this I had to give myself permission to ‘fall apart’ as I call it {and boy did I fall apart!} to heal myself.

You see, I was born into my family to be a chain breaker. To break the chain of abusive living and to start a new generation of healthy living. This has not been an easy assignment. I have had to stand alone, against all of my family, to fight for what I knew to be right and true {and I use the word fight here because it has been a battle!} and to have the courage to change the entire course of my lineage.

I refused to let this destructive tradition pass on to my children and was determined to break the mold. I set out to build a supportive foundation based on commandments, covenants and charity. A foundation built upon Jesus Christ. I believed that just because I grew up in what felt like a terrible circumstance it did not mean my children were destined to the same fate.

As I let myself fall apart, there were times the pain felt unbearable and too much to carry. I would have trouble discerning the spirit. I would become confused between what was emotion and what was the guidance I needed. Often my mind wanted to look back. To relive experiences, to remember and to bring back those feelings of discouragement and worthlessness. Ladies, we cannot look back on mistakes we may have made or wrong choices in our lives. We need to look forward, to plan for our future, to follow the path the Saviour has set and to be the kind of woman the Saviour wants and needs us to be.

For me to heal it required studying spiritual doctrine and a determination to follow it. Today my heart is free from that pain and anger and sorrow because I gave it away. The Saviour took it from me because I let him. Many people would have me believe that I need to spend the rest of my life suffering and sorrowing over past experiences but the Saviour has already paid the price for us, He has already felt our pain and sorrows. We just need to give ourselves permission to be free from it, to trust him and to let it go.

My goal in life became to move from being a victim, to that of a survivor to where I am now, what I like to call a thriver. As women we need each other. We need to talk to each other, to share our burdens and to trust each other. We need to be women who can keep confidences, who can gain wisdom and inspiration for those who are hurting around us. We need to share a smile, a hug, a kind word and show forth kindness. I know that so many women already do that in their lives and I am so thankful for the great support and help they are to others. My hope is that we will continue to love and care for each other and that we will keep looking forward with faith and striving to be the best we can be.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

skype grandparenting


Our family sadly, lives miles and miles away from all other family members. It is just us here in Queensland and we really miss being able to see them on a regular basis. One of the ways we love to keep in touch with other family members is to Skype them. 

The technology we have available today to allow this to happen is wonderful and we love that we can bring Grandma right into our lounge room. The children love that they can hear her voice, keep updated on what she looks like (she is one good looking Grandma!) and can receive words of wisdom from her on things that are happening in their lives. 

We also love to use Skype to have fun cousin sessions and have delighted to see our children singing and dancing for younger cousins, getting excited and sharing the joy that our other families members are experiencing and also simply chatting about the everyday routine that they follow. 

I love that it allows our family to stay connected and to help foster relationships even though we have such a great distance between us. It is also fun to use and it even feels like we have family in our home even though they are so far away.

Do you ever use Skype? How do you stay in contact with family? 

Friday, January 25, 2013

beautiful country Australia


Since being home from our holiday, I have been missing the beautiful Australian countryside. Even though it was a long way to travel from Brisbane to Adelaide, in a bus with nine people, I really loved the wide open country side that we are blessed with here in Australia. We have such a unique landscape and when you are travelling you can really appreciate just how gorgeous and special it really is. 


One of the hardest parts of our trip for me was trying to take pictures out of our bus window. I found the countryside breathtaking and was constantly asking if we could stop the bus so I could quickly just jump out and snap a picture. I adored the clouds, the sky that stretched on for miles, the dry paddocks with the contrasting flourishing fields and plentiful gum trees that lined the road. 
As we often left early in the morning to start travelling we treasured the moments when we were all able to be awake to see the sun rise over the paddocks. It was sweet to be able to share that moment together and to talk about how wonderful it is that the sun rises every day!
What a wonderful country we live in. Even though most of the land we saw was very dry from all of the hot weather we have been having lately, it was still inspiring. Having travelled a little in my time, I always come home and appreciate living in Australia. As we celebrate Australia Day this weekend, I am going to be extra mindful and grateful for this beautiful country that we live in after having the opportunity to drive across so much of it.  Happy Australia Day Weekend!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How do you determine success as a parent?

I have been a stay at home mum for 14 years. When I made the decision to stop work and to focus full time on caring for my family, being a mum or a parent became my career. Just like any other profession or career, I want to be good at what I do, I want to excel at my career and feel as if I am having success frequently. I want to see results from my efforts and labours. The challenge I have found as a full time mum is trying to determine if I am being a good mum or a successful parent. Determining what success means for me has been a difficult process and I have finally found a comfortable guide to let me know how I am doing with all my efforts.

The greatest part of this challenge in my full time career is that what I exhaust myself with each day ends up with little proof that I have even put in any effort or worked hard for hours by the end of the day. I may spend several hours cleaning a room only to walk past an hour later to see it destroyed and back to the same state it was in before I started cleaning it. I may wipe a sweet cherubs face 15 times during the day and by the end of the day it will still look as it did when I first started that morning. I may spend time cooking a delicious meal only to find that nobody wants to eat it and I could have just served up butter on bread and used that time doing something else! 

Spending 14 years so far as a full time mum has been very rewarding, a dream of mine yet at times I have found it very frustrating! I have to admit that in the early years I spent most of my life waking up as if I am living in Groundhog Day, stuck on replay. Some mornings I would dread the thought of doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing any change or results. I spent days thinking I was never, ever going to be a good enough mother. I was tempted to daily line all the kids up and to measure them just to make sure they were actually growing!!

In determining what my personal guide would be to determine if I was being successful as a parent, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what a successful parent was to me. Some questions I asked myself were:

Do I determine my success by the happiness of my children?
(With seven kids, someone in my home is always unhappy!)
((Actually, when I serve up ice cream everyone is happy!))

Do I determine my success by how clean my house is? 
(I may have a spotless house and yet find my children are miserable because I don't have any time to play with them or I am exhausted every day because I am spending all of my nights cleaning when they are in bed.)

Do I determine my success by my children's behaviour?
(Children are children. They all misbehave at times!)

Do I determine my success by the manners my children have?
(I don't know about your family, but in my family someone always likes to burp at the table, fart when we have people over and to say words we don't approve of at the most inappropriate times!)

Do I determine my success by the rewards or achievements they receive?
(Well what if I have a child who never receive any rewards, yet you know they are trying their best?)

I personally found I needed to work out how I was going to gauge my success as a parent because after a couple of years as a full time mum, it really started to affect my self worth. I needed to know that I was doing a good job as a mum and I had to feel that within myself. I did not want to reply upon my the praise of my husband or children to tell me so. 

Determining what success for you is as a parent is not an easy task. It can be very complex. We all determine our happiness and success in different ways. We also all have very different families and personal situations. What might be success for one parent is not going to be success for another. Along this parenting journey it is of no worth to compare ourselves to other families and other parents because our children and parenting styles are all unique. We need more parents who are willing to follow their own path, to be a tailor-made parent and who will parent the way our children need us to. 

When I had three young children in three years, success for me was to simply have a shower every day. I would celebrate when I made it happen. I would tell myself I was a good mum because I took the time to do one thing for myself amongst all the craziness back then and having clean hair was definately worth celebrating!

As my family grew to include seven young children in nine years, the definition of success came each night when I fell into bed and announced that I had managed to keep all the children alive until the end of the day...success! My success became determined by my survival of the day even though at times I had days where I felt like I was a lonely mother

It was also during this time that my feelings started to change and I began to have more and more moments where I actually felt that I was pulling this large family parenting gig off! You know those days where you know that everything just went well, where you stayed on top of the housework, the children played nicely, everyone ate most of their dinner and you found the time to give all the children the attention that they wanted and needed and where you fell onto the bed at night exhausted with a smile on your face because you had success! Yeah. That!

Now that my children are a little older and are able to take care of themselves a little better, my definition of success has changed as well. Now I determine my success by the relationship I have with my children. It has little to do with how clean my house is or what I cook for dinner, it has more to do with how close we feel to each other, how much love we have for each other and the unity we feel in our home. 


I often look at my adorable family and feel so blessed that I get to be with them full time. I know that I still have so much more to learn about being a good mother to them and of how to be a successful parent the way they need and want me to be. Yet, I love the challenge of it all. I find motherhood is rewarding and has given me more skills than I could have learnt in any other environment. For me personally, I have discovered so much about myself and become a far more giving, loving and compassionate person because I am a mother. I have learned to lighten up on myself and to find success each day in the little things I do. I find it is often the little things that make the biggest difference as a parent.

How you do find success are a parent? How do you determine what success means to you?

Monday, January 21, 2013

10 tips to protect your children from being sexually abused


This year I am going to write every blog post I have always wanted to write but was too scared to share. Some of you are not going to like the type of blog posts I have planned. They will make you uncomfortable and they will make you think about yourself and your family. I make no apologies for that.  One of my personal blog goals is to use my blog to be a voice for children who have no voice. For the many, many children around Australia and the world who are sexually abused each and every day. 

I am a survivor and thriver of childhood sexual abuse. I have no problem sharing that. It does not define me but it sure has shaped me. As a mother and parent I am passionate about making sure childhood sexual abuse stops with my generation and is not passed on to the next generation: my children. With one in five children in Australia sexually abused in childhood and as the mother of seven children I know that the odds are seriously against me in preventing this from being passed on to my children. So I have worked really hard to make sure I keep my children as safe as I can. I know I can't protect them from everything but the things I can protect them from, I WILL.

With this in mind I want to share with you my tips for protecting your children from sexual abuse. Of course these tips are in no guarantee that your children will be safe but my hope is that after reading this you will take time to educate your children, talk to them about protecting their bodies and will pay more attention to how your children are feeling and behaving. You may feel that I am being a little over the top with my advice but as a survivor of this evil, I can't help but be passionate about protecting my children. Even if you only implement one of these suggestions, you are helping to stop prevent childhood sexual abuse around the world. Here we go:

***

1. Have no family secrets: One of the ways that abusers manipulate a child is through secrecy and silence. They tell the child that the abuse is their private secret. A secret so special it is just shared between the two of them. By doing this they try to make the child feel special and they constantly remind them that it is just between the two of them only. When an adult tells a child to be quiet or to keep a secret, a child will generally obey. They see the adult as the authority figure and will do what they say. Children who are abused hear such statements such as: "Don’t you ever tell anyone. No one will believe you anyway. If you tell, I’ll hurt your family. If you tell, I’ll keep hurting you. It’ll always be our secret."

It is important to tell our children that if someone tells them to keep a secret, they should immediately come and tell you what it is. Teach your children the difference between a secret and a surprise. A secret is something that you are told not to tell anyone else. A surprise is something fun you are going to do for someone to help them feel happy, like giving them a birthday present. Children need to know that no matter what the secret is, it is always fine to tell Mum or Dad. This needs to be emphasised and repeated over and over again. Children need to be constantly reminded that they can come and tell you anything at any time and that we have no family secrets in our homes.

2. Don't force children to show affection: One thing that I worry about a lot personally, is when I see parents forcing their children to show affection to other people. I know most parents act innocently when doing this and they do it out of love but as a victim of childhood sexual abuse I panic when I see children acting scared and crying when being asked to kiss grandpa, aunty, uncle, cousin, family friend etc. Often these children are told off for behaving in such a way and the parents tell them off because they are embarrassed that their child won't show love towards that person. For me, I say who cares if they don't want to kiss or hug someone. What if they are scared for a reason? What if the way they are acting is their way of telling you they don't feel safe? What if that person you are making your child kiss goodbye is hurting them...what message are you sending your child by making them kiss them? To the child it shows that you encourage it. 

Next time your child clings to you and doesn't want to kiss grandpa or uncle ... let it go, make no fuss and simply leave. Find the time later on to talk to your child and ask them why they don't want to do it. Ask them how they feel about that person and really listen to what they say. It might be nothing at all but it also might be because they are scared and are being hurt. 

3. Talk to children about their bodies: From an early age, talk and educate your children about their bodies. Make your conversations age appropriate, simple and use real names of body parts, not fun made up names. As a parent, determine what you want your children to know and understand to protect themselves. Teach them that they have special or private or sacred parts of their bodies that no-one is allowed to touch, even family members. If you have young children that need help 'cleaning' certain parts of their body make sure they know that only Mum or Dad are allowed to help in that way and sometimes a Doctor may need to have a look or touch their bodies but that Mum or Dad will always be with them. These parts of our bodies are not to be used for games and are to be respected. For example: teach your children that any part of your body that is covered by a swimsuit is private.

Sadly, most cases of abuse happen by someone that a child already knows: a family member or a family friend. They need to know that even family members can hurt them. You do not need to go into a lengthy conversation about stranger danger or mean family members. More simply educate them about what is appropriate touching and what is not. Help them to see that there are boundaries with their bodies that they have every right to protect and guard from everyone around them.  

4. Role play situations: For a child, trying to imagine someone hurting them in a sexual way, is hard for them to grasp or imagine. The same applies to us as parents!!! It is also hard as a parent to work out how to realistically teach children to deal with abuse that may come their way. We really don't want our children to be thinking about sexual abuse yet we need to teach them how to deal with situations that they may be faced with. One of the best ways to do this is to role play situations they may be faced with. You can do this hopefully in a family setting, in the safety of your own home. 

Discuss what they could do and what they could say in situations that may involve someone trying to inappropriately touch them or hurt them sexually. Share with them how the touching may start out nicely and seem fun but can then end up hurting them and making them feel scared. Teach them that they can say NO, loudly and repeatedly if need be. There is nothing wrong with having to say NO over and over again! For example: Role play situations such as (make them age appropriate), If an adult asks you, "Can I touch your bottom... what are you going to say?"...(child) "NO!" or if a friend asks you, "Can I see your penis...what are you going to say?"...(child) "NO!".

My children all know that if anyone tries to touch them in anyway that they don't like or they feel uncomfortable with that they have my permission to yell as loud as they want the word NO and any other words they feel and to then run as fast as they can. It is one of the few times my children know they are allowed to scream and scream and scream for help and to not stop until they get it. 

5. Teach about feelings: The younger children can learn about feeling safe and comfortable compared to unsafe and uncomfortable the better they are able to protect themselves. When children are young they are still developing and struggle to understand different emotions and feelings. They may describe how they feel about a person in a way you would never think of and will use simple childlike wording to attempt to share how they feel. 

For example: A child may say to you that Cousin Tom is gross or that Grandpa is dumb or that Aunty Sue is cool because she always give me presents when I help her do special jobs. Now, this is the difficult challenge as parents in relation to childhood sexual abuse: these statements can be a big challenge in trying to determine what they mean because they could mean that Cousin Tom simply had a day where he had snot hanging out of his nose in the pool one day or that Cousin Tom actually crossed the line and flashed his genitals at your child. The earlier that children learn to share how they are feeling, the easier it is as parents to protect them and to really understand what they are saying and mean by their emotions and feelings. 

One of the reasons children never speak up about abuse is because they are scared and they are ashamed. Older children can sometimes understand that what has happened or is happening is wrong. Therefore they keep quiet because they feel dirty, guilty, embarrassed, disgraced and total shame. We need to encourage children to recognise those feelings and be brave enough to speak out against them. The challenge is that we need them to know that these feelings are normal when you are abused and there is nothing wrong with feeling that way but to also recognise that what is happening is wrong so that they can speak up to protect themselves, heal themselves and to live a safe life. 

6. Have a family code word: As a family, pick a simple word that your child can say at anytime, anywhere to let you know that they are not feeling safe. For example: You could use the word dollhouse and your child could say, 'I want to play with my dollhouse' or you could use the word blanket and your child could say, 'I want my blanket'. This is so that if your child is visiting at someone's house, at a family gathering, at a birthday party or even at a park, they know they can walk right up to you, call you or message you and let you know how they are feeling. Be sure to let them know that if they say that word to you, you promise that you will act immediately and take them to safety. 

7. Use common sense: With most cases of sexual abuse happening by family members or family friends it is very important to use common sense in protecting your children. Think about situations where your children have their bodies on show so to speak. Be very protective of who changes nappies, who bathes your children, who dresses them and of where they sleep. Avoid situations where you may have an older cousin sharing a bath with a younger cousin naked, where children are left unattended to dress themselves, where adults constantly volunteer to help change and dress your children or where adults refuse to give your children any privacy. Use common sense in sleeping arrangements. Be very wary of adults or other youth age children who request and insist on special alone time in a sleeping arrangement with your child away from other adults and children.  Also chose carefully who you have as a babysitter. If your children seem afraid or don't want to be left alone with a babysitter, family member or friend, be wary and very cautious. 

8. Let them know you will always believe them: I can't stress how important this is. It is vitally important that your children know that no matter what they tell you, even if it shocks you and makes you feel sick, that you will believe what they have to say. One of the way abusers get away with abuse for so long is because they manage to convince children that nobody will believe them if they tell. Often children have no proof that the abuse is taking place and it is only their word against those who are harming them so they stay silent. This then allows the abuse to go on longer and can even span for generations.   

Make sure that your children know that if they share a 'secret' with you, that you will not get mad or upset at them. Children need to know that they have someone to talk to that they can trust and turn to when they are being hurt. They simply do not make these stories and events up! We need more children speaking up about childhood sexual abuse so that we can put an end to this evil in our country and we need more parents and caregivers who will believe them.

As a child who spoke up about sexual abuse, was not believed and was told off for saying such things, I can personally share that it is so, so damaging to not have a parent or family member to turn to for help. It is scary, lonely, it leads to the child believing it is their fault and it is soul destroying. Please, please, please from the bottom of my heart, have a relationship with your children where they can come to you with any situation or horrible story and have them know that you will believe them, love them and help them.

9. Trust your instincts: As a parent we know our children best. We can normally tell when they are acting out of character or if there has been a slight change in behaviour. If at anytime you feel uneasy or worried but can't seem to work out why, it might be because your child is being harmed in an abusive way. Please keep in mind that abusers typically do not look like bad people. They are often normal nice, helpful, kind, loving people who just happen to also be an expert at gaining trust, manipulating and harming children. As parents, we often parent our children by following our instincts. When it comes to the protection of our children, we need to be more cautious and follow all gut feelings we may have. 

10. Be repetitive: Once you have established as parents how you want to address teaching your children to protect themselves, make it a repetitive teaching. Children need to be reminded over and over again how to protect themselves and as they grow they face new challenges in this area. What you teach them also needs to change to become more age appropriate throughout the years. Do not assume that just because you told them once how to protect themselves that they now know how to do it.  There is no need to be over the top in teaching your children about sexual abuse. Even just bringing the topic up every 4-6 months will go a long way in helping to protect your children. 

***

I have shared these tips not to cause panic. I have shared these tips to help you be more educated and more aware. To open your eyes to what might be happening around you. Of course we should not spend all of our time looking at every kind family members as if they are abusers but don't think for one second that this type of thing would never happen in your family. It is happening in family homes all around the world. In homes of nice people, in homes of successful people and in homes of people we often look up to the most. Also please don't think that this type of horrible behaviour happens only from adults, children perform these acts as well, to other children. 

I know this topic is sensitive and emotional. I know teaching your children about childhood sexual abuse is hard, believe me I know it! I also know that it is extremely important and in today's society we need to start talking about this topic more and more. I hope that you have found these tips helpful even though I am not a professional, I am simply a mum and survivor. I just ask that please can you keep your eyes open and use these tips to help you trust your instincts more and to be more mindful of your children. We want our wonderful cherubs to live safe happy lives. They deserve it. Every child deserves to feel safe. 

For professional tips please check out:

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013: a personal restoration


After much pondering and prayerful consideration, my word for this year is: RESTORE. With all my cherubs now attending school, I will have a little more free time on my hands (I hope!) to work on getting to know myself better, for trying new things and for returning some parts of myself to their normal state or situation. I know. I may be aiming a little too high here but I am hopeful that by working hard I can achieve the results I want :)

One of the reasons I chose the word restore was because I love the meaning:

*bring back or reinstate (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); 
*return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position
*repair or renovate so as to return it to its original condition 

Oh my! After spending 14 years working full time at home caring for my family, I am hanging out for a couple of days to myself a week! I am craving it even. I adore my cherubs so much and my main focus has alway been on putting them first, yet still, I have to admit that I am so looking forward to putting into practice more what I share with you all in my Pockets of Happiness Ebook. I have already started planning some dedicated time out moments for myself to help add a dash of joy and happiness to my life. 

So far I have planned in new recipes to try, craft projects to finish, ebooks to complete, pinterest boards to actually read, exercise program to follow, suburbs I want to explore, holidays to plan and save for, new books to read, cards to send to friends, movie's I want to watch...I am looking forward to being able to make a decision on what I will do with my time and then being able to follow through on it without many interruptions from cherubs. 

Although, I know I am going to feel great sadness as I will not have moments of cherub chatter and laughter during my day. I will miss the crazy games they make me play and all the hugs I receive. 

This year, 2013, really marks a time of change in our family. We will have four children in primary school and and three children in high school. Eeeek! The homework...let's not go there! My cherubs are growing up so fast and I am reminded to cherish them all the more whilst they are children as the years are flying by so fast. 

I am looking forward to being a mother in a new way, with more time to help out at school and more time to serve my children around the home. Even though I am looking forward to this, 2013 really is a time and season for me. It is time for a personal restoration and I am looking forward to what this new year has to offer. 

What are you looking forward to this year?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

passing on childhood memories

I spent my early childhood living only a couple of minutes from wonderful beaches and rocky coastlines. I have great memories of climbing over the rocks searching for periwinkles, poking my fingers at wonderful sea creatures, eating divine seafood and of exploring the beaches for shells and anything else I could find. On our recent holiday I took our family to see the beaches I grew up exploring. The smell, the view, the sound of the waves and the general atmosphere flooded my mind with sweet memories. 

One such memory I shared with the children was the day a large white whale was washed up on the beach. I have no memory if it was alive when it arrived there as the first time I saw it, it was dead. I clearly remember the colour, a completely white whale! I also remember being shocked at how large it was and with my child's mind wondering how it could possibly have ended up on the beach. I felt a great sadness at the sight of it and later on whenever we drove past it, I remember the horrible smell, seeing it deteriorate and wishing that it was back in the ocean. 
It was lovely to see that not much had changed over the years. The water still looked gorgeous, the same rock formations still existed and the scattered towns along the coastline were all still there, only with a few flasher houses than I remember :)
We took the children to see the first little farm house that I lived in. Still there. Still looks the same. Still blessing a family. Then I showed them the small school I attended for my first years of school. I told them stories of how I always got in trouble when I had to read to the teacher because I could never stand still and how in the first grade my teacher taught us how to make marmalade. I remember being so upset after all that effort we put in to make it, only to find out that marmalade tasted terrible! 

I showed them the country hall I went to kindergarten in. None of this flash classroom stuff with loads of toys and resources. Simple teachings and simple fun. It was amazing to visit these places and to see how far I have come in my life. To see my wonderful country beginnings and to rejoice in the great opportunities that I have had over my life time to allow me to be where I am today.

One place I was really looking forward to visiting was the home I remember living in with both my parents. We were only in this home together for a couple of years as a family before they divorced and both remarried. I know during this time I had a great childhood. We had a simple home with farm animals and paddocks that went on for miles.


I was surprised to discover upon arrival that the house had been knocked down and replaced by a pine tree forest. That dark line of pine trees on the left of the picture above is where our house and land used to be. As you can see I grew up surrounded by wide open spaces, big clouds and dirt roads. Bliss!
Even though I was saddened by not being able to see the sight of the house, the picture on the left is what the driveway now looks like, I was thrilled to find that a tree I had won at school and planted by the front gate was still living and growing there. I planted this tree as a young school girl in her first year of school and I could still even see the bricks placed around the base of it to protect it and help it grow.

Now my tree has grown into a wonderful healthy tree. Full of life, reaching towards the sky. As I stood under the shade of my tree I reflected on how much time had passed since I had seen it, the wonder and amazement that it was still there growing and living and how much the both of us had changed. I pondered how much growing I still had to do in my life and that I needed to take inspiration from my tree to continue to reach new heights. I know for the kids they must have been thinking....why is Mum so excited about this plain old tree?...but for me...it was a wonderful gift to be able to see it and to reflect on my life. Passing on childhood memories may have had some boring moments for my children at times but for me, I was in absolute heaven revisiting my childhood years. I hope later on they appreciate what I was trying to share with them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

some thoughts on editing my book


EDITING. WOW! Who knew it was so difficult. I thought the process of writing my book would be harder than editing by far but I am finding it a real challenge. Here is why: I am personally torn. With every word, every sentence, every experience I have written about, I am torn between deciding what to boldly share with the world and with what to let die inside me. Two quotes are the source of my angst.

One from Brene Brown: "Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do." (The gifts of Imperfection)

I have the desire to be brave, to speak the unspeakable and to tell my story in the hope that it may help heal the hearts of others. That is my main purpose in writing it. I also have loved the process of learning more about myself and loving who I now am. It has been a journey!

However, I worry. I stall. I hold myself back and delay the finishing of my book because it contains moments of pain, of suffering and of deep feelings from my heart. Ingrid describes how I feel the best.

The second quote from Ingrid Betancourt: "As you share memories, an evolution occurs. Some facts are too painful to be told; in revealing them you relive them. And then you hope that as time goes by, the pain will disappear and you'll share with others what you've experienced and unburden yourself of the weight of your silence. But often, even if you no longer suffer when you revisit the memory, you keep quiet out of a feeling of self-respect - a reluctance to expose your humiliation. Over time, you sense you must not distress others with the memory of your own misfortune. If you share certain things, they will stay alive in other people's minds. So the most gracious and appropriate thing to do would be to let them die inside you." (Even Silence Has an End)

Deciding what to let die inside of me has been the challenge. Each page that I work on I am torn between being a voice for those who have been abused and of sparing people more pain by reading my words. It is not an easy task to work through and right now it feels like a burden. Maybe I am taking this editing process too seriously, or maybe I need to lighten up? 

My heart tells me to take my time, to carefully consider each word, each experience and to prayerfully decide and include those thoughts and words that I feel others need to hear. It is tempting to make the book all about me, it is after all my story, but that is not my purpose in writing it. So I will take my time to work through this important editing process and take extra time to be kind to myself along the way. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

bountiful gardens and extreme icecream

Thriving gardens full of colour relax me and help me know I am alive! I love to sit and feast upon the beauty on display and enjoy the variety of textures, smells and colour around me. Whilst in Mount Gambier we made it a priority to share some of the lovely gardens available to explore with our cherubs. 


I was delighted to see the children run free, climb trees and enjoy the beauty just as much as I did. I remembered running around and exploring these same gardens as a child and I watched with wonder the excitement in their eyes. I marvelled at how fast time flies and that now I was visiting these places as a parent watching my own children finding the same joy as I did.  
Whilst there, I adored the flowers in bloom, dreamed of having my own garden like this one and thanked God for the beauty of this Earth. After driving many miles across the dry countryside of Australia, with paddocks and paddocks of brown, it was wonderful to be surrounded by so much green!


My Dad acted as a great tour guide for us and helped the children have a more enjoyable experience. Especially when he took us out to my favourite ice cream shop ever! I have very fond memories of visiting this shop as a child and on every trip to Mount Gambier have stopped at this out of the way ice cream shop.
They serve the largest serving's of ice cream I have ever found and therefore naturally the ice cream tastes the best I have ever eaten. My cone actually cracked from the weight of the ice cream it was piled up so much...The poor shop owners did not know what to think when we all piled in to order ice cream. The owner actually looked out the window to see if a bus had arrived. Technically, yes a bus had arrived. The Seven Cherubs bus had arrived for ice cream!


As you can see on our family holiday pictures so far, we did not spend time living it up in luxury or being extravagant. We enjoyed time together as a family participating in simple activities that provided wonderful memories for us. Although a stay in a resort would have been nice, we are thankful that we were able to have this time together and for family who took care of us and made it happen. We really are so blessed as a family. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

overgrown and neglected


This is my grandparents home. Overgrown, run down, unloved and neglected. It has been several years since they both passed away and on our recent trip to Mount Gambier I really wanted to see how their home was going. As I pulled up in our bus out the front of their home, I was in shock. I wanted to burst into tears at the sight of it.

In my mind this home was large. It was full of fun memories of going to the beach, of hanging out at the dairy, of playing with animals, of eating wonderful meals in the small kitchen, of listening to my grandfather play the organ, of art, of craft, of bad wallpaper and of love.

Standing on the side of the road, this home looked small, it looked plain and it looked dead. I wanted to buy it immediately, to restore it, to love it and to fill it with life again. I wanted to keep those memories alive, to spend time in this home once again and to pass them onto my children. 

As I stood on the side of the road looking at the run down state of their home, trying to hold back the tears, I knew that it was time for me to let go and to move on. It was now up to me to keep those memories alive in our family and it was time for me to take over and to create a home just like I remember enjoying. 

I came to see how my own children feel about our home. They don't care about what new gadgets we have, how much money we have or if we are keeping up with the latest trends. All they care about is how they feel in our home, the wonderful memories we create there and of being loved.

Those few seconds that I stood on the side of a country road were a wonderful reminder to focus on what matters most this year. To nourish my family with love and kindness and to not neglect them at any cost. I am determined to give it my best shot in making it happen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

blogging: I don't work for free


This year I am going to value myself more as a blogger by not working for free. You see, my blog is my personal space, my part time hobby and work all in one. I spend time sharing personal adventures we have as a family but I also use this space to promote other products and business that I think relate to my readers. Over the years this space has allowed me to earn a little pocket money and I have had a great time working with wonderful companies. 

The personal challenge for me has been deciding what to count as a hobby and what to count as work. Finally, after a lot of trial and error, I have it clear in my mind what I believe is blog work. As soon as a company or social media representative or public relations representative contacts me...it becomes work. It requires me to take time to co-ordinate with them how to best promote them, planning how I will write a blog post, what images I will use and time trying to organise what compensation I will receive for doing so.

Compensation I know is different for everyone. I know what compensation I like best for me and what is worth my time and effort. I believe I have a lovely space here on my blog and by placing more value on myself, my words and my time, I think I have a lot more to offer those I do end up working with. I am looking forward to sharing many personal posts in the next year and sharing a few select work blog posts with companies who also value my words and space. So this year, with my blogging vision clear in my mind, I am putting it out there, that this year: I don't work for free!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

adoring the blue lake and reaching new heights

One of our 'must visit' places on our holiday was Mount Gambier in South Australia. It is where my father lives and where I spent the earlier years of my life. We have never had the chance to take all of our cherubs there and I really wanted to let them see just how beautiful the town is and to show them some landmarks that have special meaning for me. 
After our long drive from Brisbane, one of the first family activities we did was to set out walking and climbing to the top of Historic Centenary Tower. It is the highest point in the district and has great views of the Crater Lakes, the city of Mount Gambier and surrounding area's. It was lovely to walk and chat and to be out in the open air after spending so much time together in a bus!
It was not an easy climb to make to the tower, way too many stairs for my liking as we went the back way, but the view at the top was simply wonderful. It was a reminder to us all that we can do hard things and that often only after working hard and pushing ourselves in life, we see our reward and a new vision or view. My mind was filled with many memories as I looked out over the surrounding area and I enjoyed pointing out special places to our children.
We took our time looking around, enjoying the bush scenery and adoring the different crater lakes that scatter the area. It was a lovely way for my children to get to know my father a little better so they could feel more relaxed in his presence. In my heart, I was waiting with great anticipation to see The Blue Lake. I simply adore it. 
The bright blue colour of the water that often changes day by day is breath taking. I have many memories of being a young child and marvelling at the enormous size and beauty of it. My children had heard me raving about it the whole drive down and knew how excited I was to show it to them. I am sure they were thinking that The Blue Lake was just like my addiction to clouds...over the top! Now I have a new wonderful memory of being there with my father and with my family and that alone was worth the long drive!