Thursday, 20 December 2012

End of year reflections!

I don't know if it is the terrible slaying of school children in Newtown, Connecticut, the end of the year or advancing age, but I've been in a reflective mood for the last few days.

  • The death of a child always seems worse than the death of an adult, and to have so many children, together with their teachers, killed in one incident is tragic.  It has raised the issue of greater control over the kind of weapons available in the US and I hope it is possible to get some limitation on this.  It is not for Australians to give advice on this, though the talk back lines and other media have run hot, but we should be grateful that guns are not such an important part of the culture here.  We should not overlook though, the continued violence to be found in our homes, which scars young lives and which, often fuelled by alcohol and drugs, is particularly prevalent at this time of year.  As adults who care about children we must set a better example, work to stop bullying and to practise and teach peaceful dispute resolution.
  • The recent death of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch at the grand old age of103, has drawn attention to the wonderful role she paid in supporting the Royal Children's Hospital, the arts and many other charities.  While she was obviously a very wealthy woman, thanks to her husband and son's business acumen, she was public about much of her giving, not to gain personal glory but to set an example for us all to follow.  In your gift and food buying this Christmas have you put aside extra for those in need?
  • In an obituary for Tony Charlton, a well known event and sports commentator, much was made of his sporting knowledge, but also of the fact that he volunteered 5 days a week at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.  Such voluntary work is another worthy example to follow.
  • I'm very much a beginner in the blogging world, but note that this is the forty second that I have posted since March.  It has been a learning experience, and sometimes I find it hard to think of topics, and sometimes the words just don't come.  I have been amazed to see that I seem to have readers in such a variety of countries, and while I have been disappointed not to have generated more comments I hope that some of you may linger long enough to start some sort of discussion.  I would really enjoy the feedback.
  • Looking at past posts I have noted that the most popular posts have been those relating to the work of nannies, particularly saying goodbye to families; nurturing a love of nature and the dance of parenthood.  I'm not sure if that represents a desire to see more on these subjects, or if they have been sufficiently covered....Let me know, please!
  • I must thank my young models and their parents for allowing their photos to be used to illustrate these blogs.  Sienna, Hazel, Fraser, Jeanie, Logan and Ally your participation is much appreciated, and I hope Santa has something lovely in his sack for you to enjoy.
This is the last post for 2013: Christmas and summer holidays are just around the corner.  Look for more from SusanSays in January!

The office of Susan Rogan Family Care will be closed from Monday, 24th December and will reopen on Wednesday, 2nd January. 

From me, Susan, and everyone at Susan Rogan Family Care have a happy and safe Christmas and a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Safe Summer: a refresher course

It's December and with it have come a few 30°C days and already there are reports of children being locked in cars, bush and grass fires have started in various parts of the state and soon we'll have warnings about water safety on TV.  Each year it seems as if summer catches us unaware, and the things we knew last year have to be refreshed.  While we support the ideas of Free Range Kids and other advocates for children not being cocooned, this freedom should have some limits as far as basic safety is concerned.

So let's have a refresher on summer safety:

  • Never leave children unattended in a car.  This morning's Age had a report saying that in the 12 months to August, Ambulance Victoria received reports of more than 900 children locked in cars.  their tests show that even on 29°C days temperatures inside a car can reach 44°C in 10 minutes and 60° within 20 minutes.
More information on leaving children in cars from the NRMA
  • Dehydration affects babies and young children very quickly.  Feed babies more often, offer water to children before they play outside and then about every 20 minutes, and even when children are playing inside ensure water is always available.  Sugary drinks are not a replacement for water as they can often dehydrate. If the children are outside, try to alternate very energetic activities with some quieter play.
For more information on dehydration and children in hot weather see this page from the Better Health Channel
  • Australia has very high rates of skin cancer, and the problems can start in childhood.  Remember the old: Slip on a t-shirt, Slop on the suncream (a broad spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+,at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun) and Slap on a hat (with a broad brim, not a cap).  Limit the amount of time children are exposed to direct sun, especially in the middle of the day, as suncream only reduces the risk of sunburn it does not prevent it. 
For further information on sun safety see the leaflet about Outdoor Play the Sunsmart Way, published by Sunsmart
  • Water safety is essential, as children aged 0-4 have the highest rate of drowning of any age group in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  The figure suggest though that few of these children die while swimming, paddling or wading, but rather as a result of falling or wandering into water.  The difference seems to be attributed to the fact that children of this age are generally not allowed to swim or paddle without adult supervision.  Backyard pools and inland waterways are high danger areas and children of this age are not able to reliably obey rules like 'don't go near the water'.  Often drownings in these circumstances are the result of confusion about who is meant to be supervising the child, so be sure to make this clear.  Older children are not appropriate as supervisors for their younger siblings as they can get involved in their own games.  Most public swimming pools now have signs about the minimum age required for those supervising little children.
For more information on water safety see the Child Safety Handbook published by the Royal Children's Hospital and Safe Fun with Water on the Raising Children network site.
  • Supervision of children around barbecues, and camp fires, is essential.  Burns can be very painful and can scar for life.  Charcoal barbecues can be easily tipped over by children, or knocked over when they run past, and all retain enough heat to cause a burn for some time after they are extinguished.  Campfires are fun, but need to be properly extinguished and children kept away from the site until the ashes are cold. It should go without saying to obey the laws relating to Total Fire Ban days but this is just a refresher!  Given the weather on these days, it is also wise not to venture into bushland for a picnic.
For more information on children and barbecues I found a great page on
  • Insect bites can be a problem in summer.  Use the various repellents if children will be outdoors, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. Snakes can be a problem in some suburban areas, especially near lakes and creeks.  Teach older children to keep well away from snakes and keep a look out if younger children are outside in areas where snakes are prevalent, especially at dawn and dusk.
For more information on bites, stings etc see the Child Safety Handbook .

Summer in Australia is a wonderful time for holidays and outdoor living, which with a few sensible precautions can be a safe experience for people of all ages. Enjoy it, have fun and be careful when the weather is extreme.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Chri... the word I've been avoiding!

I've been avoiding it, but now December has started I really can't pretend Christmas is not upon us, though perhaps not, if the predictions of Doomsday on 21 December come to pass.  I have however lived through many such predictions so I think I just have to face reality and the growth of pre-Christmas hysteria: 

Shop 'til you drop... parties... baking... ideas for home-made decorations and gifts... food, food and more food... the odd drop of drink... trees to trim... arrangements for family get-togethers... Carols by Candlelight, all combined with end of year concerts... school break ups and speech nights and complicated by the weather, which in Melbourne at least can be 39 one day and 17 the next. Yes. it's December and we're creeping towards the Christmas climax.

Every year we wonder why we put ourselves through it and promise that it will be simpler, that we will be better organised, all presents will be bought by the end of November...yet somehow the fever strikes again.  

So why do we do it all?

Religious reasons.  For Christians it's the celebration of the birth of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us and is thus the basis for their celebrations, for carol singing, nativity scenes and plays and church services.

Cultural reasons. There is also the cultural overlay of Santa Claus/Father Christmas and a mighty commercial push to give bigger, better, more expensive gifts, to gather friends and families together to eat at tables groaning with food and to drink copiously, again the subject to much advertising.  Christmas has become a celebration of family, or of an ideal we have of family, often not matched by the reality of feuds and undercurrents!

Unavoidable reality. We can't avoid the fact that in Australia Christmas coincides with summer, the end of the school year and the long holidays so there will be a range of school/kinder/child care year activities combined with Christmas ones and younger children in particular will tend to be suffering from end of school tiredness and associated behaviours!

Tradition.  We've always done it this way.  Thus there are the historical images of bush huts sweltering in the heat with women over wood ovens turning out rich roast dinners and hot steamed puddings.  Fortunately over recent years, more and more people are turning to more weather appropriate meals: seafood, cold meats, salads, berries, ice cream puddings, but often each of these changes has been greeted with some mutterings about how 'Mum wouldn't have done it like that.'  And then there are the difficulties when couples marry. Where to go for Christmas: lunch at one and dinner at the other? Christmas Eve at one, Christmas Day at the other?  And still more complicated when there are different cultural and religious traditions in the two families!  And let's not forget all those songs and images of white Christmases!  Still we see Santa arriving on surfboards and fire trucks, by plane in outback communities, by Six White Boomers according to Rolf Harris.  And occasionally we might even sing an Australian Christmas Carol like 'The north wind is tossing the leaves' or the 'Carol of the Birds' to give a taste of reality amongst all that northern hemisphere snow!

Newspapers, magazines and blogs since about September have been full of advice about:
  • stress free approaches to it all;
  • the need in our wealthy world to adopt a simpler approach;
  • the value of taking time to enjoy the excitement, especially of children;
  • the fact that many people will go without, so we should give time and money to enable them to share in the seasonal festivities;
  • the perennial debate about whether schools, preschools and child care centres should sing Christmas carols or have nativity plays, or even celebrate the season at all out of deference to those of other or no religions
Unfortunately for many in our community, this is a difficult time of the year.
  • Those who have lost much loved members of their family during the year face the fist celebration without them.  In our house, we always toast 'absent friends' which brings to mind these family members, and those who are also separated by distance interstate or overseas.
  • Alcohol and drugs and the road toll will spoil the season for many families, bringing death, injury, violence and unpleasantness and each year the joy will be tinged with the sadness of remembrance of these events.
  • The lonely, mentally ill and the homeless members of our society feel excluded from the spirit of family and togetherness and sentimentality that pervade our celebrations and media.  Many wonderful people give time and effort to including these marginalised members of society in various charity meals, but this cannot completely erase the pain and rates of hospital admissions and suicides soar at this time of year.
Whatever approach you take to Christmas, give generously, receive graciously, enjoy the season and keep safe.

At Susan Rogan Family Care, we wish all our families and their nannies, and all our readers a joyful Christmas season and a happy new year.