Young people, Sexting, and the laws you need to know

When we were teenagers, sharing a nude or semi-nude image of ourselves wasn’t even a thing, so it’s no wonder it is incredibly worrying and stressful for many parents.

Research conducted by the Australian Government in 2018 found that 33% of teens aged 12-19 were engaging in some form of sexting activity either with a boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, or other. We are confident in saying that this figure has risen substantially in the last four years since this research was released, and a more recent study is quoting that up to 70% of tweens and 87% of teens have been exposed to nude images online.

The peer pressure on teens today to fit in and share nudes is unprecedented and is also a double-edged sword in most cases. If they share an intimate image, they are often critiqued for their bodies and judged for sharing, and if they don’t share, they are also evaluated for being boring and considered not ‘worth it’ by their peers or crush.

For a lot of young people, sexting is often fun and consensual. Teens often see sexting as part of building relationships and self-confidence and exploring sexuality, bodies, and their sexual identities.

To most adults, sexting is risky, dangerous, and illegal. Yes, this is the case. There are risks, and teenagers can be pressured into sexting, but it isn’t always simple.

Young people DO worry about their images being shared with other people including friends and family members.

Many try to reduce this risk by making images without their face and send only for people they trust, and with whom they have or hope to have a romantic or intimate relationship. But some teenagers do send sexual images to people they’ve never met.

So what can parents of tweens and teens do?

Discuss this topic with any tween or teen child in your house with a device or phone. We experience that kids discuss these topics and share their experiences around this in the schoolyard way before we think they are old enough to discuss it. Early discussions and open conversations ensure that kids feel safe to discuss it at home with you, and a lot of potential problems are cut-off and dealt with quickly. We always suggest a good place to have these conversations is one on one in the car. They are beside you or behind you and it is less intimidating to a teen rather than sitting across a table face to face.

Young people want to be able to talk openly and honestly with their parents about sexting. But often this is not possible.  If you are a parent, talking with your child is the best way to help them learn about the risks and what to do if something goes wrong.

As parents, we need to talk about what sexting is and what to do if they see or receive a nude or a sexy selfie and the laws around this. What the risks of sexting are. Whether sexting can be part of a respectful relationship. The younger you start talking about this the better.

Here are some questions that can get a conversation going:

Do you know people at school who’ve sent or received nude?

Do they do it for fun or to flirt?

Was it their idea to send the photo, or did someone persuade them to?

What do you know about people sharing sexual images of someone to get revenge?

Do you have any questions about things you’ve heard?

Do you understand the law?

If your child has questions about sexting, try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can. If you have concerns about the risks of sexting, you could explain your concerns and why you’d prefer your child didn’t send sexts.

Once you’ve started talking about sexting with your child, you might find talking gets easier the more you do it.

Get familiar with the law

Make sure your child knows the legalities and laws around sharing intimate images. Please get to know your own state’s legislation and discuss it with your child. For example, even sharing personal photos between two similarly aged children is illegal in all states in Australia until sixteen years old. (or older in some states). We have added all the state laws at the end of this email.

Discuss and explain

Even private messages or messages that seemingly disappear are not private. Screenshots, screen recordings, and forwarding images can happen with a couple of taps on a smartphone. Once an intimate image is shared with someone, there is no way to control what happens to the image once it’s sent. Discuss with them how it might make them feel if a photo of theirs was shared? Empower them to understand that there are laws to protect them from image-based abuse and sextortion should this happen to them. Encourage teens to think about what could happen if they broke up or fell out with someone who had sexual images of them. For example, that person might share sexual images to get revenge. You could also explain that once images are on the internet they can be very difficult to remove. It’s also important to help your child understand the legal consequences of sexting and image-based abuse.

Come up with a plan together

Talk about what they can do or say if they are asked for a nude or have a nude sent to them. By helping them plan for the eventuality of being asked, they can make an informed choice and decision instead of acting under the pressure of the situation.

Explain that sexting is sexual activity. All sexual acts – including sexting – need consent from a partner. (they cannot legally consent under 16yrs). Breaching consent by sharing a sext isn’t respectful or OK. It’s also not OK to share other people’s sexts or to send a nude to someone who hasn’t asked for one. It’s important for teens to know that they have a right to say ‘no’. For example, ‘It’s never OK for someone to pressure you into doing anything sexual, including sending sexual photos of yourself’. It’s also a good idea for teens to practise saying no by just saying, ‘No, I don’t send nudes’.

If young people have seen sexting photos of another teen they might feel guilty, ashamed, and uncomfortable about doing ordinary things like going to school or socialising. The situation can be very humiliating, and their reputation may have been damaged.

It can also harm friendships and social network.

Sexting can expose them to bullying or cyberbullying. For example, when people share images, they might also post nasty comments, attack their reputation, call them names, ask for more images or make other inappropriate demands. Often girls get more of this kind of bullying and criticism than boys. This is because some people apply different standards to girls and boys. This situation can lead to mental health issues like depression and self-harm in extreme cases. We also regularly hear of ASD kids, others with learning disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ kids purposefully targeted.

As scary as the nude and sexting culture is, the reality is that our young people are dealing with it regularly. But as with any issue, education and empowerment is the key to resilience!

To read the “Laws you need to know about” please read the full article here

For more tips and hints, check out the Safe on Social Toolkit. www.safeonsocialtoolkit.com

Access CBRSS Safe on Social resources here

Art Gallery of NSW exhibition of work by Swedish artist, spiritualist and medium Hilma af Klint a ‘wake up call’

Spending time with the paintings of Hilma af Klint feels a little like having the furniture in your psyche gently rearranged.

Her visual language – marked by botanical illustrations, refractions of light and colour, spiralling snail shells and swans, coded letters and colours – tilts at the complexities of the human experience and our place within the cosmos but defies the brain’s attempts to pin down meaning.

It’s not surprising that so many describe viewing the Swedish artist’s paintings as a spiritual or wonder-filled experience.

Writing about her “flabbergasting” work in The New Yorker, art critic Peter Schjeldahl described af Klint’s work as having a “transcendent intensity”.

So why are we only really learning about her now? And why is she having such a profound effect on so many of us?

When af Klint died in 1944, she left behind more than 1,300 paintings and over 26,000 pages of typed and handwritten notebooks – a fraction of which is currently on display in the major exhibition Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW).

Her work and research was initially withheld from the world at her own behest, but then disregarded by an art establishment not much interested in re-writing the history of early-20th century modernism, particularly to make room for a woman considered more mystic than artist.

This is despite the astonishing fact that af Klint’s earliest abstract works precede the likes of art historical greats (and men) Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich – the so-called ‘fathers of Abstract art’.

But it’s not just af Klint’s art-historical significance, or even her formative experiences as a female artist and spiritualist, that make her so compelling — though these are important facts. It’s that her work and messages continue to feel so utterly contemporary.

Perhaps because she knew she was painting them for us? But we’ll get to that.

Af Klint was born into an aristocratic naval family in Sweden in 1862 and went on to study at Stockholm’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts (one of the first colleges in Europe to accept women, however modest their ambitions for their female students may have been).

Af Klint’s family was supportive of her education, and outside the Academy she was also educated in science, botany, map-making, mathematics and astronomy.

For Sue Cramer, who co-curated the AGNSW exhibition, this evidence of af Klint’s intelligence, curiosity and deep research into the scientific and spiritual discoveries of the time should put paid to any lingering romantic ideas of af Klint as a recluse or quack.

Much has been made of af Klint’s spirituality and work as a medium, but her interests in spiritualism and theosophy were not unusual for the time. It was, historically speaking, a period of genuine wonder, with discoveries such as radioactivity and quantum theory demonstrating the existence of things beyond the visible, while psychoanalysts including Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were also beginning their enquiries into the unconscious mind.

At the same time, “the tenets of civilisation were being greatly questioned in the aftermath of the wars, and she was part of all of that”, says Cramer.

Cramer reflects: “It was a period of intense questioning. And although she [af Klint] was a Christian, she believed in the idea of flexible thinking, and in open-ended truths and inquiry. She didn’t believe in black and white … but in the blending and harmonies of things.”

In 1879, at the age of just 17, af Klint participated in her first spiritualist séance, and two years later claimed to have received her first messages from spiritual beings. In 1896 she founded De Fem (The Five), a spiritual group with four other female artist friends.

De Fem conducted seances, painted, and undertook automatic drawings, claiming to receive messages and predictions from other realms through guides they called “High Masters”.

While af Klint would continue to paint and occasionally exhibit her more traditional portraits and landscapes during this time, Cramer suggests that it was (somewhat ironically) her gender that gave her the space to make her more spiritual works.

“Because she was marginalised, she was forced to work outside the strictures. She found a space through spiritualism where she could realise this extraordinary artistic ability that she had, this vision.

In 1906 af Klint reported receiving a commission from one of the High Masters, called Amaliel, to create a series of works that would become known as The Paintings for the Temple.

By 1915, af Klint had completed a staggering 193 paintings, many of which are included in the AGNSW exhibition.

The exhibition opens with works from the very first series for the Temple, Primordial Chaos, and closes with the three Altarpieces from 1915, which marked the conclusion of the so-called ‘commission’.

Af Klint’s series The Ten Largest, given its own room in the exhibition, is absolutely jaw-dropping. Created in 1907 and painted in bursts of four days at a time, these 10 dazzling and staggeringly large paintings (3 metres high each) meld geometric forms, spiritual diagrams, strange scientific languages, and coded symbols, in arrestingly bright colours.

Af Klint spoke of them as documenting the human life cycle, and they do seem to thrum with a strange life force.

Frustratingly for curious fans and art historians alike, af Klint didn’t write much about the experience of receiving her visions.

Elsewhere, however, af Klint wrote of the spirits standing beside her, and of her disobeying them.

“It has emerged that there was a dialogue between them and that she was very active in her decision to take on this commission that Amaliel offered her,” says Cramer.

“So more has emerged about the complexity of that, which goes hand in hand with her as a really informed person who’s bringing ideas of science and botany, and the religious ideas of her time [to these conversations]. And so, we start to get a much deeper idea of where these works are coming from.”

So much for the origins and intentions of af Klint’s work; but what about where it went?

In 1908, with The Paintings for The Temple already underway, af Klint met Rudolph Steiner, one of the leaders of the Theosophical movement, and showed him some of her work. It’s not known what he said, but many have noted the four-year break af Klint took from Amaliel’s commission shortly after.

Nevertheless, af Klint continued to follow Steiner’s teachings and to paint her more conventional landscapes and portraits, which don’t feature in the exhibition here.

Read the full article by the ABC here

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings is at the Art Gallery of NSW until September 19.

Read about Hilma af Klint and her connection to Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy at reverseritual.com here

Listen to an ABC podcast about Hilma af Klint here

Marlon and the octopus – Marlon is in Class 8 at CBRSS

From The Echo 

Lennox Head’s 13 year old Marlon Denning had an exciting and educational experience during the home-schooling lock-down period in 2020.

Before the Netflix hit My Octopus Teacher came out, Marlon made friends with not one but two octopuses (these were the common species, not the poisonous blue-ringed octopus).

His mother Sharyn Denning told Echonetdaily, ‘He’s got a very unusual affinity with most animals, or really weird animals anyway! Frogs and lizards and snakes.’

Normally Marlon goes to Cape Byron Steiner School, but during lock-down he spent time every day at the ocean rock pools with his mum, who’s an environmental scientist.

Marlon remembers, ‘I just stuck my face in the water with the goggles on, and I looked around and I saw a tentacle and thought, there’s an octopus over there, so I went over to where I saw it, and sure enough there he was.

‘I wriggled my fingers around the water, then he started chasing them around. He chased me back to a shallower part, then he found a little cavern thing, and he hid there.

‘Then he came out and he was swimming around me, and trying to catch my toes and fingers,’ said Marlon.

‘He was there for a week and then one day he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the same spot for a few days.

‘Then we went back there, and my dad was wading through a slightly deeper part of the pool and then he latched on to his ankle. He grabbed his foot and he screamed!’

Mr Big
When the smaller octopus disappeared for a few days, Marlon made friends with a larger one.

‘That’s when I found the big one you see in the photos that’s touching my hand,’ he said.’That’s Mr Big.’

Marlon’s mum Sharyn says it didn’t take long for her son to build up trust with the normally shy sea creatures.

‘He’s really gentle, so most animals just stay with him for hours, even lizards and things he finds in the garden, he’s a bit unusual like that.

‘He knew that octopus were quite smart, ’cause he reads a lot of nature books. And I’m saying, “Oh it’s not dangerous is it?” He said “no Mum”.

‘They’d just play with him. It was quite incredible really. Then he taught them how to high five, and he knew all their little spots, where they’d be, ’cause this went on for three months.’

‘I had a great time,’ remembers Marlon.

Sadly, he lost contact with his octopus friends after the lockdown period ended.

Sharyn Denning remembers, ‘Then he was back to school, so he could only go on the weekends if the tide was right, so we weren’t there as often.

‘And he hasn’t been able to find them again, so they’ve either moved on or – specially the real big one – that might have just been his life. They only live a year or two. But the little one, he might have just moved on, especially if the tide’s real big, they might use it as an opportunity to move on.

‘But it was really quite incredible, and the really big one, it had an injured tentacle, so over the months we saw it regrowing. That was pretty cool too.’

Octopus art


Marlon still hasn’t seen My Octopus Teacher, but says he’s looking forward to it.

Recently he’s been busy helping artist Austin NITSUA complete a spectacular new mural at the Lennox Skate Park, which has just been finished, and includes an octopus.

‘Yes he said he would put an octopus into the mural after I told him my story,’ said Marlon. ‘There’s tentacles coming out of the waves and kind of touching the hand, which is surfing on the waves.’

Marlon told Echonetdaily he’d like to do something with animals when he’s older. ‘Yeah definitely, I’d love to own a zoo, or work at a zoo.’

Marlon has already been in touch with BBC nature journalist Steve Backshall, and made it to the top ten of Australia Zoo’s nature photo competition for his photo of a frog, out of 6,500 entries.

David Attenborough watch out!

Below is a link to a video shot by Marlon’s mum, Sharyn, showing Marlon with one of the octopuses:

https://youtu.be/cWPDCo8NDdE

Safe on Social

Kirra Pendergast from Safe on social visited the school Monday the 31st of May to talk to HS students and also parents of classes 4-12 in the evening.

Safe on Social Toolkit link

Social Media is viewed by most people as a fun way to share information about themselves, friendships, family and things that happen in their day-to-day lives.

But things can go wrong…

It is important to understand that what you post on social media sites can affect your life both in good ways and bad. The guides available on our website contain detailed information to help parents and students make informed decisions when using various platforms.

Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School E-Safety Information 

Instigating downtime with no screens

Story by Caitlin Read from Kidspot.com.au

Caitlin Reid is an accredited practising dietitian, yoga teacher and accredited exercise physiologist from Health & the City.

Kids today are busier than ever with jam-packed schedules containing everything from school and homework to play dates, birthday parties and multiple sporting ventures. Then there are the ever-present lure of screens, which can seem like the perfect option when parents need some peaceful minutes to complete everything from household chores to work calls.

While time lazing on the couch watching Netflix or playing video games might seem like downtime, these activities still require children to be fully engaged. Too much screen-time overstimulates kids instead of giving them the break they need to chill out. So if true downtime does not involve screens, what actually is downtime you ask?

What is downtime?
Downtime is a time to relax and to not do too much. You can think of downtime as simply playtime without any structured activities that involve rules and directions. When play is unstructured, children are free to do what interests them without any guidelines set in place.

Psychologist and teacher at Kid Psychology, Kate Plumb, says downtime is an opportunity for kids to be kids.

“Activities for downtime can be anything that interests your child, gives them the freedom to choose what they want to do and uses the brain and body in different ways. Whatever it is your child chooses to do, the point of downtime is to enhance creativity, imagination, executive functioning and social skills,” explains Plumb.

Things like playing outside, daydreaming, creative play, taking a bath, arts and craft, walking in nature, reading a book and playing a card game are all examples of downtime.

Why do kids need downtime?
While parents have been guilted into thinking that good parenting comes with exposing our children to endless opportunities, this overscheduling can lead to stress and anxiety. Children need time to rest, relax and recharge. Downtime allows your child’s brain the break it needs to consolidate memories, revive focus and renew the drive to learn. Downtime is also vital for all aspects of your child’s development.

“Downtime is vital for your child’s cognitive, academic, social and emotional development. Giving your child the time and space to have downtime enables them to develop self-determination where they express their own wants and needs. Kids develop best if they are free to create, use their imagination and explore the world around them,” says Plumb.

Free time or that feeling of “being bored” also helps children to learn how to manage their feelings. This time teaches children the ability to occupy themselves without relying on others to amuse them, while also giving them the ability to cope with uncomfortable feelings like impatience. Children who are constantly occupied with structured activities don’t have the time to engage in problem-solving like children who experience downtime.

How much downtime do kids need?
A little bit of downtime each day is recommended for all kids. However, exactly how much they need depends on a few things.

“In terms of how much downtime is needed on a daily basis, depends on the age of the child, the amount of structure they already have in their lives and the competing demands of sticking to a routine,” explains Plumb.

“Generally though, the younger the child, the less they need an itinerary of structured activities.”

How to schedule in downtime
Downtime isn’t something that just happens – we need to schedule it in. Creating regular and frequent time for children to unwind is essential for keeping them in balance. Each day set a limit on screen time and encourage your children to spend some time outside each day. You could also set up a special place like a reading corner to encourage relaxation.

Establish a household rule of quiet time before bed where your children can either read a book or draw quietly. This is a great way for the whole family to reduce stimulation and get ready for bed.

As parents, we should lead by example and make downtime a priority. Children tend to mimic the adults around them, so if we want our children to participate in regular downtime, we need to take the time to relax.

“This can be done by organising a relaxing outing as a family, chatting to your child about how much better you feel when you get your own downtime, or even making appointments for downtime if your current schedule is that jam-packed,” explains Plumb.

When you make downtime a priority, you show your little people the importance of having unstructured time each day where they get to take the time to follow their own interests and just be.

It isn’t always easy to protect this downtime so parents need to remain vigilant in making sure their children have space to take a breath and relax. Give yourself and your children permission to enjoy free play each day.

“Play together. Play alone. But make sure you play. Your mental health depends on it,” finishes Plumb.

Visit here kidspot.com.au for references and citations.

Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking

by Kristen Duke, Adrian Ward, Ayelet Gneezy, and Maarten Bos

Summary.
In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. Before completing these tasks, the researchers asked participants to either: place their phones in front of them (face-down on their desks); keep them in their pockets or bags; or leave them in another room. The results were striking: the closer the phone to the participant, the worse she fared on the task. The mere presence of our smartphones is like the sound of our names or a crying baby — something that automatically exerts a gravitational pull on our attention. Resisting that pull takes a cognitive toll.

“Put your phone away” has become a commonplace phrase that is just as often dismissed. Despite wanting to be in the moment, we often do everything within our power to the contrary. We take out our phones to take pictures in the middle of festive family meals, and send text messages or update our social media profiles in the middle of a date or while watching a movie. At the same time, we are often interrupted passively by notifications of emails or phone calls. Clearly, interacting with our smartphones affects our experiences. But can our smartphones affect us even when we aren’t interacting with them — when they are simply nearby?

In recent research, we investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. In one task, participants simultaneously completed math problems and memorized random letters. This tests how well they can keep track of task-relevant information while engaging in a complex cognitive task. In the second task, participants saw a set of images that formed an incomplete pattern, and chose the image that best completed the pattern. This task measures “fluid intelligence,” or people’s ability to reason and solve novel problems. Performance on both of these tasks is affected by individuals’ available mental resources.

Our intervention was simple: before completing these tasks, we asked participants to either place their phones in front of them (face-down on their desks), keep them in their pockets or bags, or leave them in another room. Importantly, all phones had sound alerts and vibration turned off, so the participants couldn’t be interrupted by notifications.

The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were those whose phones were on their desks. We saw similar results when participants’ phones were turned off: people performed worst when their phones were nearby, and best when they were away in a separate room. Thus, merely having their smartphones out on the desk led to a small but statistically significant impairment of individuals’ cognitive capacity — on par with effects of lacking sleep.

This cognitive capacity is critical for helping us learn, reason, and develop creative ideas. In this way, even a small effect on cognitive capacity can have a big impact, considering the billions of smartphone owners who have their devices present at countless moments of their lives. This means that in these moments, the mere presence of our smartphones can adversely affect our ability to think and problem-solve — even when we aren’t using them. Even when we aren’t looking at them. Even when they are face-down. And even when they are powered off altogether.

Why are smartphones so distracting, even when they’re not buzzing or chirping at us? The costs of smartphones are inextricably linked to their benefits. The immense value smartphones provide, as personal hubs connecting us to each other and to virtually all of the world’s collective knowledge, necessarily positions them as important and relevant to myriad aspects of our everyday lives. Research in cognitive psychology shows that humans learn to automatically pay attention to things that are habitually relevant to them, even when they are focused on a different task. For example, even if we are actively engaged in a conversation, we will turn our heads when someone says our name across the room. Similarly, parents automatically attend to the sight or sound of a baby’s cry.

Our research suggests that, in a way, the mere presence of our smartphones is like the sound of our names — they are constantly calling to us, exerting a gravitational pull on our attention. If you have ever felt a “phantom buzz” you inherently know this. Attempts to block or resist this pull takes a toll by impairing our cognitive abilities. In a poignant twist, then, this means that when we are successful at resisting the urge to attend to our smartphones, we may actually be undermining our own cognitive performance.

Are you affected? Most likely. Consider the most recent meeting or lecture you attended: did anyone have their smartphone out on the table? Think about the last time you went to the movies, or went out with friends, read a book, or played a game: was your smartphone close by? In all of these cases, merely having your smartphone present may have impaired your cognitive functioning.

Our data also show that the negative impact of smartphone presence is most pronounced for individuals who rank high on a measure capturing the strength of their connection to their phones — that is, those who strongly agree with statements such as “I would have trouble getting through a normal day without my cell phone” and “It would be painful for me to give up my cell phone for a day.” In a world where people continue to increasingly rely on their phones, it is only logical to expect this effect to become stronger and more universal.

We are clearly not the first to take note of the potential costs of smartphones. Think about the number of fatalities associated with driving while talking on the phone or texting, or of texting while walking. Even hearing your phone ring while you’re busy doing something else can boost your anxiety. Knowing we have missed a text message or call leads our minds to wander, which can impair performance on tasks that require sustained attention and undermine our enjoyment. Beyond these cognitive and health-related consequences, smartphones may impair our social functioning: having your smartphone out can distract you during social experiences and make them less enjoyable.

With all these costs in mind, however, we must consider the immense value that smartphones provide. In the course of a day, you may use your smartphone to get in touch with friends, family, and coworkers; order products online; check the weather; trade stocks; read HBR; navigate your way to a new address, and more. Evidently, smartphones increase our efficiency, allowing us to save time and money, connect with others, become more productive, and remain entertained.

So how do we resolve this tension between the costs and benefits of our smartphones?

Smartphones have distinct uses. There are situations in which our smartphones provide a key value, such as when they help us get in touch with someone we’re trying to meet, or when we use them to search for information that can help us make better decisions. Those are great moments to have our phones nearby. But, rather than smartphones taking over our lives, we should take back the reins: when our smartphones aren’t directly necessary, and when being fully cognitively available is important, setting aside a period of time to put them away — in another room — can be quite valuable.

With these findings in mind, students, employees, and CEOs alike may wish to maximize their productivity by defining windows of time during which they plan to be separated from their phones, allowing them to accomplish tasks requiring deeper thought. Moreover, asking employees not to use their phones during meetings may not be enough. Our work suggests that having meetings without phones present can be more effective, boosting focus, function, and the ability to come up with creative solutions. More broadly, we can all become more engaged and cognitively adept in our everyday lives simply by putting our smartphones (far) away.

From the Harvard Business Review

Worries about sex, drugs & technology

From Conscious Creative Courageous Living with Children, Susan Laing’s resources for understanding creativelivingwithchildren.com

With the media continually reporting stories on the worrying behaviours of some Tweens and Teens today, many parents become anxious about their own children’s possible use of drugs, early sexual intercourse and the effects of the new technologies and all these allow access to. While the consequences for these children and teens at high risk are great, and our concern for them remains, their numbers are actually smaller than is usually assumed. The majority of young people, perhaps even 85 %, do not regularly partake in unhealthy behaviours related to these risks.

Parents need to do a number of things: assess the risks for their own children, and act to alleviate those risks; educate their children well on all the issues involved, for example on sex education, cyber safety, sensible and safe use of technology, and the effects of drugs on the body; get help for those at high risk; then, having done what you can, work together with your children with trust in helping them to keep themselves safe and healthy, while still allowing them to take on new responsibilities, experiences and adventures.

Click this link to read 3 articles available on sex, drugs and technology for pre-teens and teenagers.

Creating a meaningful Easter

For those Christians with religious inclinations Easter will already be a significant time, but, for many, Easter has become a secular celebration and, in some countries, an opportunity to get away for a few days. Yet it also offers an opportunity to build a meaningful celebration around the universal values it contains.

Finding the universal human values to celebrate in the Easter traditions.

The original significance of the Easter story and many of the Easter symbols has been lost in the commercialization of Easter. Easter in the broadest, most universal sense, is the celebration of new life, of resurrection, of the archetypal loving deed done on behalf of others. It is about seeking for the best part of ourselves, our spirit. For children ideally it is about the joy of Easter Sunday, of the risen Christ in the Easter event, not the darkness of the crucifixion of Easter Friday; for sensitive young children can understand simple death, and burial, but not torment, torture and agony.

The date of each Easter is set at the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox, a powerful time for the forces of growth in the earth in the northern hemisphere. Many of the symbols of Easter – in the egg, the chicken and the hare, (which has transformed into the rabbit)— are ancient symbols of spring, of the coming of new life after the hard winter. These are northern hemisphere traditions.

In the southern hemisphere, it is of course autumn at Easter, a very different time when the hens may even stop laying eggs! Nevertheless, in the temperate zones in the south, we can also observe a renewal of life in nature. For with the first autumn rains, the earth really sings, the plants and the insect world come alive again. The plants and the microbial activity in the soil, which have withdrawn from the scorching heat of summer, open up, to grow in the gentler autumn sun again before the cold of winter takes hold; the grasses begin to shoot; the autumn wheat is planted, along with the bulbs and seedlings which will flower later in the southern spring.

In the tropics, the rhythms are different again. Perhaps April at Easter time creates a breathing space between the tropical cyclones and storms in the south and those in the north. We need to observe what is happening with nature in each place. What is flowering or fruiting? What are the clouds, the rain and the winds doing? What is changing? Can we find the symbols of Easter, the cross, the egg form, in the flowers, fruits and seeds or in signs of new life and of resurrection here too?

Creating meaningful Easter celebrations

Much can be done to make a meaningful beautiful Easter within the sacred religious traditions of course. But we can also bring more meaning to what has become secular, the eggs, the chicks, rabbits, Easter hunt and hot cross buns. You may want to research the origins of these symbols on the web for ideas—Wikipedia articles have more depth, than a general search. You can work with the concepts of new life, service to others, and the seeking in the Easter egg hunt.

Traditions like finding a hill to watch the sun go down on Easter Friday in a quiet contemplative mood, and come up on Easter Sunday, with the experience of the renewal of life in all the joy of increasing light and life and bird song, can provide special moments in the festival. Planting something for the future in the earth on Easter Friday can be a wonderful thing to do with children— bulbs for later flowering, trees for the good of the earth, flowering plants for the native birds to feed in. Such activities can bring a continuity of awareness from Easter to Easter as the children watch their gifts to the earth grow. In such activities children can experience the joy of the traditional Easter event, of renewal, of unconditional love, of the re-enlivening of the earth and humanity. Easter can be a festival of life and hope in a world which can be depressing at times as we listen daily to stories of violence, poverty, war and environmental degradation.

Can the love of the beautiful form of the egg, with its endless possibilities of decoration, display and discovery, bring a different sort of joy and richer memories than just being given cheap eggs from the supermarket (often of poor quality chocolate at that). Home-made, blown decorated eggs can be hung from a branch to make an Easter Tree or placed in a bowl of freshly sprouted wheat. Eggs, and nests for little eggs, can be made from healthier ‘treats’ like roasted nuts and seeds, shredded coconut and dried fruit mixed with melted carob or chocolate. You could even make jellied rabbits in colourful salad gardens. You can find food from your multicultural traditions, like we had in our family in our own Nonna’s Pizza Chiena, sometimes called Italian Easter pie, a bread made with cheese and salted meats at its centre.

Family traditions can be made in your own Easter egg hunt. We have an Easter story in my family of when my mother was a small child in the early 1920s. Her family got together with another family to hide eggs in the garden for everyone, adults included. One year my grandfather’s egg was hidden at the top of a pine tree. When everyone had found their eggs but him, they stood around the tree looking up until he scaled the tree to find his egg. He was in fact a church minister, with considerable athletic ability and a very good sense of humour. In my own family here, we would hide a nest of eggs for each person in the garden late at night, until one night a fox made off with one of the nests before we had our hunt. Such stories become part of our family traditions, memories of which can sustain us through our lives.

The delight in the seeking of eggs in the garden in an Easter egg hunt, is best if the motivation is as much in the seeking, like the enthusiasm for the living of life, seeking for meaning, for inner riches—rather than just in the finding and accumulation of prizes. A collection basket, where all the found eggs are placed for sharing out more equally later, makes it less competitive.

The possibilities are endless for you to create your own Easter festival, into which you can bring your values, love and appreciation— making it meaningful and relevant for your own family. Ideally here we make our primary motivation to bring meaning and human values to what we do, not just adding more ‘decorations’ or ‘activities’ to our festival. For more ideas on creating meaningful family festivals in general see the photo link below.

With thanks to Creative Living with Children, Susan Laing’s resources for understanding children.  creativelivingwithchildren.com

Click for the full article including links to Easter activities

Child Safety Handbook

A new edition of the Child Safety Handbook is now available online with updated safety content.

We urge all parents and carers to download this latest edition and discuss the safety content with your children.

Read the Child Safety Handbook here

Waldorf education and social justice

Created by Neil Boland 04/09/2020.

Neil Boland would like to focus on Waldorf education as an education for social justice, to explore how Rudolf Steiner phrased this a century ago and then consider how it can be approached in a twenty-first century context. What the author wants to encourage here is a wider conversation, wider debate on social justice within Waldorf education, what it might mean, what is (not) working, how the ideal can be strengthened and how we can engage more widely with social justice partners to facilitate this.

Social justice has multiple meanings, but for me it is that all members of society are acknowledged as of equal merit, value and importance. In addition, no group or groups within society should be privileged to the detriment of others, be that based on gender, class, wealth, resource ownership, culture, belief or non-belief, ethnicity, sexual or gender orientation, education, physical or mental abilities, epistemological viewpoint or other identifying characteristics.

Waldorf education has its roots in the movement for social renewal envisioned by Rudolf Steiner, the three-fold social order. This movement was created at a time of great social upheaval and need after the First World War and the Russian Revolution; the world is perhaps at another moment of great social need. Waldorf education is the child of this movement which has found greatest success and acceptance in the intervening 100 years. There are praiseworthy instances of Waldorf schools working strongly with notions of social inclusion and social justice. Individual teachers work hard and achieve similarly praiseworthy results. Of the three independent areas of the movement for social renewal which Steiner identifies, I am going to be taking two, the legal sphere and the cultural sphere.

Legal and cultural sphere
In the legal sphere, equality reigns. The current English translation of Towards Social Renewal puts it like this: “In the political and legal sphere, each individual has an equal voice simply through being a human being” (1). I find it a call to action as many people in our societies so manifestly do not have an equal voice.

In what Steiner calls the cultural sphere, we are free, all different, all individual. I would like to take freedom in the same sense as Bloom when he points out, “By freedom, Steiner meant it in the spiritual sense rather than political. Each person must be left free to form her or his identity” (2).

Now I presume that you agree with these two ideas – that all people should have equal voice simply by being human beings and that each person should be left free to create their own identity. However, as Steiner also says in Towards Social Renewal, “People do not always judge their own motives and impulses correctly” (1), and therein lies the rub.

We live in a world in which social justice is not realised. Racial discrimination and attacks, religious intolerance, increasing inequality, the plight of refugees and immigrants, oppression of minorities are all in the news. We read of fear, oppression, intolerance and suspicion around the world. Sexism and patriarchy are not new to any of our societies, neither is the affluent minority being able to wield power over the less well-off majority. Many of us grew up in societies which were to a greater or lesser extent homophobic, white-dominated and which saw gender as a binary concept. Many of us grew up in societies in which the indigenous inhabitants of the lands we live in were often marginalised, forgotten and not considered part of current debates.

Education cuts both ways
What we can lose sight of is how this influences what we think, feel and do. It is difficult to have lived through the past and not have been influenced by systemic racism, sexism etc. These form unconscious biases which we then can unwittingly carry into our work and so perpetuate. Education cuts both ways: it can empower and liberate; it can work just as easily to replicate the inequalities and injustices of our societies. We may well be people of goodwill, wanting to do good in the world, but have we identified things which might be holding us back?

What or who do those biases involve? They involve difference, dealing with the Other, with people who do not come from dominant groups in societies (some of these change according to society, some seem to remain constant). They can include being of non-dominant gender (aka female), different colour skin, different religions, different world views and historical perspectives, different sexual identities, different expressions of gender, speakers of other languages, those who dress differently, the handicapped, the poor, refugees, the homeless. The list goes on. If Steiner’s ideal was that everyone has an equal voice by virtue of being human, how well is that expressed in the society you live in? What do students learn about these groups within their Waldorf education? Is what students learn nuanced and rich in complexity?

In order for people to have equal voice, it is necessary as teachers to identify ways in which we unconsciously and unintentionally discriminate and, unwittingly and unwillingly, are ourselves biased (3), so we can experience “what it means to unlearn certain regressive behaviours, ideas, habits, and values that the dominant culture imposes on [us] as second nature” (4). Without this first step, worthy actions we undertake in the direction of social justice can only have limited success.

Social renewal
The roots of social justice in Waldorf education are long and deep. The education was established in order to renew society. It is possible that this impulse has to some extent been eclipsed by the myriad other concerns and challenges schools and early childhood settings face.

I would like to suggest that this initial aim be revisited in light of two short passages by Steiner. The first comes from Towards social renewal again: “Social structures continually give rise to anti-social forces. This has to be overcome again and again” (1). A similar quotation comes from The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness which is both stimulating and sobering:

“We … must seek ever-new ways, look for new forms over and over again … however good the right may be that you want to bring to realisation – it will turn into a wrong in the course of time.” (5)

To what extend does this apply to accepted Waldorf forms? There is a documented tendency within Waldorf education to accept what has gone before as how it is, as what is accepted, and often as how it should be. Are there anti-social forces which can be discerned within Waldorf education today and which need to be reviewed? Is there anything within Waldorf education which, by not remaining contemporaneous, not staying current, through not finding new forms again and again, it can be argued, has turned into “a wrong”?

A final quote from Steiner draws attention to the notion of inclusivity. “All those who think about the proletariat [Steiner’s term] rather than with it have only the vaguest notions … notions which … can have a harmful effect” (5). If we expand what Steiner says here about the working class to any group, when wishing to act for social justice, we have to work with groups, not do things for them or teach about them. This challenges the notion of the well-meaning, liberal teacher as ‘do-gooder,’ wanting to help the disenfranchised. How do you work with or think with marginalised groups? This can be as simple as reaching out and contacting people, visiting them, asking advice on how to bring minority viewpoints into lessons, asking for advice on the complexities of alternative readings of history, belief and worldview.

Social justice as a notion seeks to level the playing field, to empower the disenfranchised, to acknowledge the forgotten, to give voice to the marginalised. It is challenging and uncomfortable as well as rewarding, complex and not given to quick fixes. Above all it is an open-ended process, a process which, once entered into, does not stop, working towards an unrealisable ideal which must, nonetheless, be striven for.

Lastly, working towards a socially just education can be linked to striving to embody aspects of the consciousness soul, taking Elan Leibner’s definition of the consciousness soul (6) as the “empathetic soul”. For me, working towards social justice, towards inclusion and decolonisation requires and is what happens when you have empathy for the Other. Feeling within yourself how the Other suffers when marginalised, oppressed, caricatured or rendered invisible, and not just understanding or knowing it, marks the beginning of change. It is an important step towards social renewal, which lies at the heart of the Waldorf movement.

To read more about Neil Boland and to access the full article and references please visit waldorf-resources.org

Happy International Women’s Day for yesterday!

What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (8 March) is a day for us to join voices with people around the world and shout our message for equal rights loud and clear: “Women’s rights are human rights!”

We celebrate all women, in all their diversities. We embrace their facets and intersections of faith, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity, or disability. We celebrate those who came before us, those who stand beside us now, and those who will come after.

It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of women, whether social, political, economic or cultural.

What is the theme for International Women’s Day in 2021?
The global theme for International Women’s Day in 2021 is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’. COVID-19 has impacted women and girls in profound ways, amplifying the inequalities they face every day. It is fundamental that diverse women’s voices and experiences are central to national and global recovery plans.

A key contributor to a more equal COVID-19 world is increasing women’s access to leadership roles. Unfortunately, women still face significant cultural, socio-economic and political barriers to accessing leadership. You can read more about this in our research Women’s’ Pathways to Leadership: Our Pathways, Our Voice, which investigates how and why women become leaders, and the gendered barriers they face along the way.

Click here to find out why it matters and how to get involved.

From IWDA iwda.org.au

Why we need much more than consent training in our schools to stop sexual assault

POSTED ON MARCH 8, 2021 maggiedent.com

Warning: This article discusses sexual assault and uses sexual terms.

One of the main reasons I wrote my bestselling 2020 book From Boys to Men was to help parents and those who work with tweens and teens to raise boys to be happy, healthy men. No-one wants to raise their son to be a creep, a sexual predator, an abuser of girls and women or worse, a murderer who kills his female partner and children. Sadly, on this International Women’s Day we know that statistically violence against women is increasing.

At last there is some serious light being shone on the dark underbelly of inappropriate sexual behaviour and abuse and most specifically rape from boys and men in Australian schools, communities, businesses and parliament. From the moment that the courageous advocate for survivors of sexual assault Grace Tame became Australian of the Year, something shifted.

Then, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins finally disclosed her alleged (I use that word only for legal purposes) rape in the office of a Federal Minister. This disclosure from an eloquent young woman has been the catalyst for others to speak up about similar assaults in our Federal Parliament.

Then appeared the petition by former Kambala student Chanel Contos now signed by almost 30,000 girls and young women. The testimonies that they have left are harrowing and distressing to read however the light needs to shine on the stories so that we collectively know the truth of this violent culture and stop it happening to other girls.

Chanel has now set up www.teachusconsent.com and this is a message from that website:

“Those who have signed this petition have done so because they are sad and angry that they did not receive an adequate education regarding what amounts to sexual assault and what to do when it happens. These are uncomfortable conversations to have with young teenagers but it is far more uncomfortable to live knowing that something happened to you, or a friend, or perhaps that you were even the perpetrator of it, and it could have been avoided.”

Many of the stories shared are about appalling behaviour from boys from elite private schools. Since then, stories have been shared that include government schools so it is safe to say this is problematic for many adolescents, not just in Australia but around the world. I know and I want to acknowledge that not all boys behave in these disgusting ways, but many decent boys stand by and do nothing, and that has to stop too.

In Chanel’s words.

“The following testimonies were sent to me by those who passionately believe that inadequate consent education is the reason for their sexual abuse during or soon after school.” www.teachusconsent.com

First, let me explore some of the reasons why I believe things seem to have got worse since the digital world arrived. Indeed, most children and tweens have smart phones which give them access to content that can be shattering their child-like innocence and feeding a ‘hook-up’ culture where sex without intimacy is almost the norm. We need to keep in mind today’s children, teens and young adults DID NOT create the digital world. It was created by adults and, sadly, it is our young who are paying the price.

Access to free porn
Porn is freely accessible and sadly many children stumble upon it accidentally. Heck it can even be found on Kids You Tube where sickos embed links that take children to graphic hard-core pornography. There has been a significant increase in inappropriate sexual behaviour, often of a penetrative nature, with children under five. One of the main ways children learn inappropriate sexual play is by seeing pornography or through having another child who has seen it, doing it to them. Research has shown that sibling-on-sibling sexual violence is common among children with problem sexual behaviours – and the vast majority have experienced early sexualisation via porn.

The first thing we can do to better prepare our children to avoid being sexually abused or becoming a sexual predator, is to ensure that access to all pornography needs to have an age verification. Many good parents have told me that, even with parental controls and conversations about how to avoid seeing bad pictures and videos, their children have been exposed to porn by other children. With smartphones, this can happen on the bus, in a school playground or on a play date or sleepover.

Protective behaviours and body awareness education must start in the home and thankfully there are many excellent picture books and resources that can help with these conversations. We must teach our children about their ownership of their own body and that it’s not OK for anyone to touch their private parts. This is also where we first start talking about the importance of consent. It is now built in to early childhood education and in our schools however we need to be addressing this in our homes just as importantly. No matter how awkward the conversations are, they need to happen, often.

Adolescent sexual maturity
Evidence is now showing that today’s children are beginning puberty earlier than ever. There are so many changes on this journey – physical, emotional, cognitive and hormonal and one of the drivers on this journey to adulthood is sexual awakening. This is normal, however if our young people are learning how to express their sexuality by watching pornography it is problematic. Why? Firstly, because they are watching porn during a stage where they lack the cognitive capacity to understand and make sound choices through reasoned decision-making using a fully formed executive functioning brain (this doesn’t develop til the mid-20s or so). Secondly, during adolescence, they are biologically driven to belong, and to be liked and validated by those of the same age so they’re more prone to being influenced and so we can understand how this could become problematic. There is plenty of research that indicate that our young people’s sexual behaviour is being shaped (negatively, more often than not) by porn.

This problem of male entitlement where boys demand that girls meet their sexual needs, or where boys think there is no problem with raping a sleeping or unconscious girl, has to come from somewhere. It has been a part of traditional patriarchy for years but it seems to be reaching a tipping point for teen boys today – attitudes aren’t shifting as we might expect. This is not just about the lack of consent education. This is a lack of character building from not only their family and society at large, but also their school community, and the communities that surround them whether that be sport, faith or the arts.

Raising healthy, happy respectful men takes a lot of time and measured intention and cannot be left to chance or the world wide web.

Read the full article by Maggie Dent here

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call the 1800 Respect national helpline on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Wholesome Ways to Prepare for Christmas with Children

By Annie Bryant

Christmas is all about the journey, and here’s some daily rituals and activities to help bring wonder, patience and joy into your family home during the festive season.

Even if you’re not ‘into’ Christmas, it’s very difficult to avoid the busy energy and consumeristic onslaught that unfortunately dominates the Western culture in the lead up to December 25th. I think it was my own massive aversion to this unsavoury aspect of the season that inspired me to research and create wholesome ways to bring Christmas to my own children.

Children LOVE Christmas, and it just didn’t feel right to me as Mother to deprive my boys (or myself) of the wonder and joy and beautiful messages that can be found within the Christmas stories from around the world.

By consciously celebrating the lead up to Christmas in a meaningful way, I find it helps immensely in grounding and connecting our family at a time when packed schedules and neverending to-do lists can otherwise scatter all of our energies!

Read the full article by clicking this link

Finding Christmas – An Australian Christmas Story by Annie Bryant

Where do you find Christmas in your family?
Is it hidden within the pages of your favourite story book?
Maybe it’s wrapped up in a gift made especially for someone you love?
Or perhaps, it can be found amongst the delicious smells of a Christmas feast?
Well, this is the story of a little boy who went on his own search for Christmas….and you’ll
never guess what he found!

Joey had looked everywhere, but still had found no signs of Christmas.

They were staying on his Grandparents farm, way out west for the whole month until after Christmas – and while Joey usually loved the tractor rides and farm adventures – this time he couldn’t help but think about all the ‘Christmassy’ things he was missing out on back home.

First, there was the Christmas Market & the end of year school Concert.

Then, there was the Santa sleighs and giant candy canes and bright lights up and down his street, not to mention the fake snow and happy carols playing in all shops.

But out here on the farm there was no shiny tinsel or red hats to be seen and he was starting to worry that maybe Christmas just wasn’t going to happen at all?!

And he also missed Dad.

Dad was coming to meet Mum and Joey and his little sister May at the farm on Christmas Eve and it felt like such a long time away.

When they chatted on the phone one night Joey whispered his concerns about Christmas and Dad reassured him, “Don’t worry mate, you’ll find Christmas out there – you just need to know where to look.”

But so far, he hadn’t found anything.

So, before bed that night Joey asked Lil-Ma & Jo-Pa in a very serious voice, “Do you know where to find Christmas on your farm?”

His grandparents looked at each other with mischievous smiles before Jo-Pa turned to Joey and replied with a wink, “I think we might have a few ideas.”

Read the full story from talesandsongs.com here

Bridging the Divide – Conversation with Lisa Romero and Jonah Evans

Jonah Evans and Lisa Romero dive into essential questions for our future: the human heart and being of Christ; the moral forces of our humanity in relationship to technology and the spiritual beings connected to it and how this impacts the future of human culture and the earth.

Please click to listen

Online safety tips for parents to keep their kids safe this holiday season

Whether your child is receiving their first device, or they may be online more over the holidays. Remember you wouldn’t give your child the keys to the car and let them drive off down the highway without lessons. It is the same with devices. Here are a few tips which will help you to support your children in navigating the online world better.

1. Talk as a family about what is ok and not ok to share online.

For example:

· Whether any member of the family shares a photo of the house or pet’s name online.

· When to share family holiday photos and what photos can be shared.

· What is not to be shared online.

If your child is receiving their first device, make sure that you get them to do a little presentation or write a small project sheet on cyber safety in the lead up to their first social media apps on the device.

3. Respect the age recommendations; it is not illegal for a child to use social media under the age of 13yrs with their parents’ permission. But they need to remember to update their age on any site that has asked for it when they turn 13yrs. This way, the app will not think they are older. As an extreme example, if your child signs up to use Facebook when they are 10yrs, and they have to lie and say they are 13yr, by the time they are 15yrs, if not corrected, the app will think they are 18yrs. Then they can get a Tinder account as it relies on Facebook for verification!

4. Respect the classifications on games. The average age of a gamer is 34-36yrs old. Classifications are there for a reason. It is not ok for a child under the age of 18yrs to be playing R Rated games even with their parents!!! If your child is playing online games, set healthy boundaries around time playing as well.

5. Teach your kids to think twice before they accept a friend request or chat to a random stranger through a game. Just because someone is a friend of their big brother or sister or cousin who goes to another school does not mean they should let them into their life. Also, talk to them that online, someone may ask to be their online boyfriend or girlfriend (we hear this a lot from primary school-aged children at the moment). If this happens, they need to tell you immediately so that you can help block and report. They never know who they are talking to.

6. Know how to block and report on every app and game your child is using so that you can help when things go wrong if you don’t know how to sit with your child and learn together.

7. Put healthy boundaries in place. Don’t ban them from their device if they forget to do a household chore or are naughty for something unrelated to their device. Do not take it off them if they speak up about something that has happened online because you are scared. This is the quickest way to drive all the conversations that you want to be having underground. Instead, if you have a healthy boundary like all devices are banned from the bathroom or bedroom. So then, if they are caught with their device in either place, you ban them for a week. This way, they will learn that it is safe to speak up about what is going on online without punishment unless they break the rules about device use.

8. Be a good role model. Keep your screen time in check and set a good example for your children. Teach them to review who they are following often and unfollow accounts that make them feel bad about themselves. Teach then to follow accounts that inspire them, health, happy and creative is always a good place to start.

9. Please help them to check and manage privacy settings. Set all of their accounts to private. This is something you can do together when they are younger by making it a shared experience.

10. Ensure they are not being moved from another social media site or game to another by someone they don’t know. This is a big one that I hear about far too often. Particularly for kids under 13yrs, but it may happen to older teens also. They make “friends” in games such as Roblox. Their new “friend” suggests that they connect on TikTok. Once they are both following each other, they can message each other for free. This includes sharing videos. This can become every parent’s worst nightmare in the blink of an eye.

11. Teach them to look for the verification symbol there is verification symbol on all social media sites proves it is the actual verified celebrity or group. On most, there will be a little blue circle with a white tick in it next to the name; on YouTube, it is a grey circle with a white tick, and on Snapchat, it is a yellow circle with a black star. No tick, no follow. Predators can set up fraudulent accounts with a small spelling mistake or a similar version of a celebrity name.

12. Encourage your kids to speak up. Kids need to understand that an adult can help when they know what is going on and will help them without the worry of being banned from their device or game for speaking up.

13. What are they looking at? You may never know what they see, and there is a lot of graphic content, porn, and other inappropriate content online just an accident click away. Ensure they know to get off the app immediately if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried.

14. Know how to take a screenshot. In case you need it as evidence. This is a great tool to teach kids as young as possible.

15. Teach them not to give away any personal information. Use a fake username like “popcorn fairy” or something. Teach your kids never to give away things like name, address, age, phone number, where they go to school, etc.

16. Watch out for what is in the background. It is easy for people to determine a location, take a screenshot, and zoom in on a certificate on the wall.

17. Turn off location tracking in your device settings, turn location tracking off for major social media apps completely.

18. Set time limits and be very clear about how long they can be online, or they can be watching all kinds of stuff for hours!

19. Teach them the importance of a strong password and not to use the same password for everything.

20. Strategise with your children. Most young people would first turn to their friends for help. We need to teach young people how to support their friends, and while they are young, they must understand that the best way to keep their friends is to speak up. By default, we are teaching them what to do to help themselves at the same time.

Ask them questions like these:

· What would you do if a friend came to you because they are cyber bullied?

· How would you address your friend who is sharing too much information online?

· What do you do if a friend shares an inappropriate photo of themselves? Then define inappropriate.

When you feed this information to a young person so they can support their friends, at the same time, you are teaching them that they can be a leader and someone their friends can count on. As long as they respond to any of those questions with “I would tell you,” you are winning.

However, with older teens, you must always advise when there is absolutely no other option other than to get a parent or a trusted adult involved when the issues are:

· Friends sharing inappropriate photos.

· Friends are going to meet someone they have met online.

· Someone is self-harming or talking about self-harm.

This way, you are giving young people a lot of authority and autonomy, but you are also defining healthy boundaries.

21. If bullying occurs:

· Make sure your child knows not to respond

· Take screenshots or screen record

· Block and report the bully to the app that is happened on

· Support your child

· If the bullying material is not removed within 48hrs report to esafety.gov.au/report or straight to your local police or Crime Stoppers crimestoppers.com.au

From safeonsocial.com

To subscribe to the safe on social parent toolkit click here

Celebrating Advent

Advent starts this year on Sunday the 29th of November and is celebrated for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, Advent season ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.

In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas falls near the Summer Solstice when the light is at its strongest and we celebrate the triumph of light at its greatest point in the yearly cycle. As the year draws to an end we increasingly spend time outside enjoying “the sun in the heavens”. With the long warm days, intense light and balmy nights we are drawn out into the elements rather than into “the sun in our hearts”.

It can be challenging to develop a sense of inwardness, patience and contemplation when the Spirit of the Earth is on its outward breath. To balance this we can consciously choose to “receive the light” and celebrate what is both universally human and universally spiritual. Celebrating Advent can provide an opportunity for some quiet ‘breathing in’ during this outwardly busy time of year and help your children to practice preparation, reverence and patience through the ritual of counting the weeks and days to the special celebratory event. The lighting of candles each week also reflects our own ‘Divine Light’ and helps to bring us a little inward contemplation.

Traditionally Steiner schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week (see verses below).

Here are some ideas that you might like to include in your own advent celebrations:

  

An Advent verse
‘The gift of the light we thankfully take, But not shall it be alone for our sake, The more we give light, the one to the other, It shines and it spreads, growing still further; Until every spark by friends set aflame, Until every heart, the joy to proclaim; In the depths of our souls, A shining sun glows.’

Advent Wreath  – on a special table made with greenery and seasonal flowers, four advent candles to light each consecutive Sunday of Advent.

Advent Garden – assembled and added to each Sunday of Advent with the four kingdoms celebrated each week try adding tiny crushed shells (collected from the beach) in a spiral pattern for the spiral on which Mary and Joseph figures walk.

Advent Crib – a nativity scene of the four kingdoms, adding a different one each of the Sundays- Crystal Kingdom, plant kingdom, animal and human kingdoms.

Advent calendars are available from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore by following this link

Verses for the 4 weeks of Advent

Week 1: Crystal Kingdom
The crystal kingdom comes first and is honoured by decorating the wreath or garden with crystals, seashells, stones or little bones you may find.

Week 2: Plant Kingdom
In the second week the plant kingdom is honoured by adding little dried flowers, seeds and pine cones and greenery.

                     

Week 3: Animal Kingdom
The animal kingdom, in the third week, is honoured by adding little wooden animals or beeswax creatures the children make.

Week 4: Humankind
The fourth week sees us honouring humankind by adding a little felted or beeswax child and figures.

      

Additional Reading:
Our library has some Advent handouts available.
Possible stories include The Star Money from the Brothers Grimm, (and if you have the book “Rose Windows”, there is a lovely idea for a window transparency in there); craft ideas in The Children’s Year and Families, Festivals and Food. Other stories include the ones from “The Light In the Lantern: Stories for Advent” from Wynstones Press; Advent Sunday Stories, Collette Leenman; Mary’s Little Donkey, Gunhild Sehlin; Advent and Christmas Stories, Estelle Bryer and Janni Nicol.

Creating a World of Wonder: The Gift of Developing Imagination

In Waldorf (Steiner) education, early childhood teachers give children a great gift — the time and space to live fully into their imaginations. Fostering children’s imagination and awe allows them to master their will and develop empathy. But how?

We spoke to Patricia Cornelius, Early Childhood Teacher and Faculty Chair at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia to learn how Waldorf education’s focus on imagination benefits children for years to come.

She says, “Essentially, Waldorf education is founded upon the idea that we educate the head, heart and hands of our students. This equates to educating the intellect, the inner feeling life and their will. Our primary task in early childhood is to develop the child’s will and we do this by enriching their feeling life. We do this by creating a sense of awe and wonder.”

But why develop a sense of will at all? Patricia explains how this is an essential skill to live a productive life as adults. It’s also an essential skill for children to do well in their academic lives. She draws on the example of cleaning a closet, asking us to imagine why we have been delaying the project, but now feel it is time to move forward.

“As an adult, think about where you need to go inside yourself when you have to clean out that close. What do you draw upon?”

Patricia says this internal motivation and discipline is your will and if it is not developed properly, then the closet may not get cleaned. Developing these inner capacities begins in early childhood and they key is to allow children, as often as possible, to practice using their will to motivate themselves towards positive behavior.

Instead of telling children what to do, Waldorf early childhood teachers encourage them to find the will within themselves to do it. How? By cultivating their sense of awe and wonder. The relationship between awe, wonder and will is nuanced, but Patricia explains it beautifully.

“We can use awe and wonder to help entice children to find the capacity within themselves to do what is needed. For example, when it is snack time, we want the children to start snack quietly, because children tend not to eat when they are talking and we want them to be well nourished. Now, as an educator I could use my own will and impart consequences on the children to make them be silent. But then they won’t learn how to manage their will. But if I wait to light the candle at the table and say, ‘The fire fairy wants to come to the table, but needs quiet,’ then the children can find a way to hold themselves, hold their will, and develop that will, to be quiet at snack time.”

Patricia emphasizes that children need multiple opportunities each day to discover their will and influence their actions. Some might call it impulse control, but it is such an essential life skill that it is best learned at this early age, along with empathy and compassion. And it cannot be learned by being told to do it. It must be cultivated and encouraged, which is no easy feat.

Patricia says, “If we do everything for young children or tell them what to do beginning to end, they will not draw upon their will. They will not find their inner capacity if they are relying on the adults capacity.”

It becomes, in many ways, a cultivation of internal over external motivation, which many studies have shown is key to later academic success. Patricia gives another lovely example of how she encourages both will and empathy development in children at circle time by tapping into their imaginations.

“Throughout the year, each child will receive a doll, which is small enough to fit into their pocket. We build a whole imaginative world around the doll. The doll is given a name, the children say that their doll talks to them. At story time, if a child is having trouble focusing and keeps falling on the ground, I might say, ‘Poor Elderberry [doll’s name] might be worried about getting squished.’ Very often this leads to the child deciding, on their own, to stand up at circle time because they empathize with the doll being worried and they have compassion to make the doll feel more comfortable and not get squished. This leads to them using their imagination and empathy to find the will to stand up at circle time.”

Patricia goes on to say that of course she could tell the children they must stand up. She could exclude a child unwilling to do so from the circle. But would that child really learn anything positive in that classroom scenario?

And this gets to the heart of what is most important about the development of will in early childhood — the essential nature of learning these lessons at this moment in child development.

We have all the time in the world to teach facts, but only this very limited time to develop empathy and will through the imagination. Early childhood is the time when we want to bring these lessons forward, so they have the chance to develop these skills. Between the ages of 3 and 6 is the ideal time to develop these capacities before the intellect takes hold. Once a child is 6½ or 7 they will wake up to the world of the intellect and be ready for academics. But if we shake them awake, without taking the time to develop the heart sphere, we’ve lost our opportunity to nourish their hearts and really develop their inner will and compassion.”

With thanks to the Waldorf School of Philadelphia

Teenage brains are under siege but there are three ways parents can connect

By Maggie Dent

When I was 14, my bottom “showed up”. Previously, I’d been tall and skinny, then all of a sudden, she landed — a rather protruding bottom, inherited from my grandmother.

I remember thinking: “Well, I’m not going to have a milkshake with my friends after school because if I walk in, they’ll go ‘Oh Maggie’s here with her big bum to ruin the day’.”

Despite being an intelligent young woman, I actually believed this was true.

Years later in my work as a teacher and then counsellor, this memory was an insight into what the world looks like for our adolescents, thanks to the necessary brain changes they undergo.

Imagine our world is viewed through a car windscreen. Now imagine if I hit that windscreen with a sledgehammer: that’s how distorted the world looks to our teens and it doesn’t make them feel good about themselves.

I wish I had known that when I was a teenager. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for me trying to navigate my changing adolescent body in 2019 with all of the “perfect” bottoms on Instagram!

The ‘pruning’ of the teen brain

Caring, empowering communication indicates an ability to understand another’s reality. We often assume others understand us when they can have a different viewpoint.

We know the neural shearing or “pruning” of the teen brain — just one change they undergo — makes them forgetful and challenges their organisational skills.

This can make them feel dumb and useless, and self-loathing is common.

When I taught Year 9, I didn’t punish students when they had forgotten that they had homework, or forgotten they’d written a task in their homework diary, or that they even had a diary in their bag.

Ultimately, it wasn’t their fault.

Even really capable kids who might have always been really organised can suddenly find things a challenge.

Being an adolescent can feel a bit like having a temporary brain injury and if my son or a student had a brain injury I would not yell at them for being forgetful or overwhelmed. I would support them to remember things and treat them with patience, compassion and kindness.

When we lecture our teens, they feel they can’t do anything right. When we criticise, they feel useless and incapable. When we nag, they feel disrespected.

At least these days parents have the option of messaging their teens. It’s much easier for teens to receive a well-timed, gentle reminder via SMS or instant message with an emoji and a “love you” at the end of it, than to have us nagging them.

Behavioural psychologists have been studying human behaviour for years we now know that human communication can be modified to achieve better outcomes, via a nudge or the power of suggestion.

Being there

As beneficial as technology is, it’s never been more important when your adolescent wants to talk to you face-to-face to put your phone down and show them you’re interested in what they have to say.

Using eye contact, posture and presence shows someone that we’re really listening, and being heard is important to adolescents.

Reflect back to them what you’ve heard, make encouraging sounds and encourage them to tell you more. It might sound simple but often we’re quick to jump in with an opinion or try to solve their problems.

Adolescents don’t need us to solve their problems — they have a biological need for autonomy. Instead of asking “Why?” I suggest you ask encouraging things, such as “How might we sort this out?”, “What do you think needs to happen right now”, “I noticed this” or “Tell me how I can support you right now”

Read the full article from the ABC here

Play, Games, and Sports in Childhood – The Right Thing at the Right Time

By Jaimen McMillan RSMT, RSME and Adam MacKinnon

As parents and educators our challenge is to help our children develop into healthy, happy, free adult human beings. To do that, we have to realize that a child is not a miniature adult, but a unique, developing being who has to go through a process of becoming a mature human being.

The infant, the young child and even the adolescent are to some degree “outside” themselves. They are in a process of incarnation, of bringing into their growing and changing physical bodies other dimensions of their being—energetic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Rudolf Treichler, a psychiatrist who was a student of Rudolf Steiner, held that parents can help children by bringing them IN in such a way that they can go OUT again freely, IN enough so that the children are really present in their bodies (fully incarnated), and OUT in such a way that they can come back in. This rhythmical breathing of OUT and IN is necessary in becoming a mature, free adult.

If children are not brought in to their bodies in a timely way, they may ‘hover’ on the periphery of life—seeming dreamy, perhaps lazy, or even disengaged. On the other hand, if the outside world drives them in too much, they can get stuck, and then they can’t get back OUT in a healthy way. They may then seek inappropriate ways to get out, such as alcohol and drug abuse.

A predictable, observed daily schedule with established times for meals, play, going to bed, and getting up support a healthy “going in” and “going out.” Family time sharing experiences of the day in relaxed conversation is also good. Screen time with computers, smart phones, and television, especially for the young child is not helpful. The more time spent in front of a screen, the harder time the children will have to go “out”, to enter, for example into imaginative play or deep sleep. It is important that parents be role models in these areas.

One way children venture ‘out’ is through healthy movement. As a child grows and develops, there is a deepening relationship to the three planes of space: progressing from the horizontal (transverse) plane; to the frontal (coronal) plane, and finally to the symmetry (sagittal) plane.

Birth to Seven – Mastering the Horizontal (Transverse) Plane

Until children are six or seven they are mainly involved in mastering the first plane of space, the transverse plane, the plane that unites UP and DOWN and involves balance. Play is the work of young children. Their primary task is to find and experience a balance between levity and gravity, and they seek out activities that help them do so. They love to climb—trees, monkey bars and the like—and to jump down. They love swings, slides, and teeter totters. For parents a good general rule is—let the children do what they love to do in nature or in a playground even if it may seem to involve some minor risk. It is what they need. Look for their rosy cheeks. When the children create their own relationship with above and below they are simply joyous. Anything that has to do with balance is helpful learning for them. Balance is the basis of every activity in life.

Adults have to provide opportunities for the children to fall down—even get hurt a little bit, without seriously injuring themselves of course. The experience of falling is really important. They need to hurt themselves just enough to learn consequences. A little bit of struggle, a little bit of disappointment—even temporary failure—is exactly what they need to find their own feet, and their way in life.

With infants, parents should see that the child spends time on its tummy as well as on its back. This switching of position challenges the child in important ways to deal with up and down. It is also helpful in integrating reflexes. Tummy time will help the infant develop the ability to lift up its (relatively) heavy head.

Even the simplest movement one does with babies, for example rocking them up and down gently, with subtle hovering pauses, can be a comforting and effective aid to helping them befriend the horizontal (transverse) plane.

Seven to Fourteen — Mastering the Frontal (Coronal) Plane

Moving the frontal plane involves fluctuating between the front and back across a central plane. During the second seven-year period of development, children love games that involve forward and backward movement. One excellent game for children during this time is “Mother, May I?” It exists in variations in cultures all over the world. The aim of the game and the desire of the children is to come forward, but they can do so only when given permission by the “Mother.” The Mother gives instructions and the other children must strictly follow them. The game is also an exercise in self-control. The children have to ask permission.

Hide and seek is another perfect game for the frontal plane game, as is Tag. Red Light/Green Light is another great activity through which children can learn to rein themselves in within the borders of the frontal plane. The fact that this and similar games are played by children all over the world, even when adults are not around to organize them, shows that, at some level the children realize that learning to master the frontal plane is important for them. I once had the joy and challenge of teaching a second-grade class that had a pupil who had serious problems controlling himself I introduced the game Red Light/Green Light to the children and this boy responded with “I hate this game! This is a stupid game.” However, one day we did not have the time to play Red Light/Green Light and this same untamed boy came up to me, tears streaming down his face, and said, ‘We didn’t play that game where I have to stop myself!’”

The key is to get children moving and for them to learn to control their movements -to be able, by themselves to stop on a dime. When they can, they have mastered the frontal (coronal) plane.

Fourteen to Twenty-One — Mastering the Symmetry / Sagittal Plane

The sagittal plane creates the symmetry between right and left and directs the young person forward with intention. In the middle school and high school years, the adolescent needs to learn to focus, aim, and direct his/her force towards definite goals.

Fencing and archery are two activities that challenge young people at this time and can help them move through this stage. In fencing, one turns one’s body onto the sagittal plane and seeks to touch the other fencer, with precision, at lightning speed. In archery, one stands still but sends the arrow out along the plane. Basketball is another excellent activity during this period. The adolescent learns to extend him/herself forward in an arc, directing the ball toward the basket. The sagittal /symmetry plane is the plane that demands and develops precision. Mastery of this exacting plane can come only after healthy relationships to the other two planes have been developed. Baseball, Volleyball, Tennis, and Soccer (without “heading” the ball!) are some of the other competitive sports that also develop mastery of the sagittal plane.

Timing

Thus, from infancy through age seven, the child is finding balance in the horizontal/transverse plane. The next phase requires that the child learn to find the middle between forward and backward, developing restraint and self–control through an experience of the frontal/coronal plane. Then comes the satisfaction of setting a goal and going after it along the sagittal or symmetry plane. The important thing is that the intensive work on the symmetry plane comes after mastery of the other two planes.

This brings us to the question: At what age should a child begin participating in organized competitive sports teams?

The dominant trend in North America is “the earlier the better.” This trend is based on the idea that if a child learns and develops the basic skills of a sport at an early age, he or she will be able to play at a very high level later on.

There are a couple of problems with this hurried approach. One is that, if a child has been playing on a soccer team since age six, for example (not at all uncommon today), then by high school he or she may have burned out and may even have lost all joy in playing. Many high schools are in fact discovering that fewer and fewer students are trying out for school athletic teams. They have had enough! There is an emotional element also. Young children may experience losing a game or making a crucial mistake in a game as much more distressing and traumatic than we adults can imagine.

Another problem is that the bodies of young children, bodies that are still growing and developing, are not up to the demands of recurrent practices, repetitive drills, and intense competition in games. Injuries sustained by over-training in childhood can last a lifetime. Movement therapists are seeing serious injuries among teenagers caused by the overuse of muscles and joints that hadn’t developed enough to support the kinds of stresses that competitive sports were putting on them.

The following analogy may give a helpful perspective on having children begin playing on sports teams before they are twelve years old.

“I love butterflies, so I collect caterpillars, and I tape my caterpillars onto kites, and I fly the caterpillars up in the sky on these kites, so that they will fly better when they are butterflies!”

This is obviously ludicrous, but why then are we hoodwinked by the premise and the promise that children will do better at some do we think that children will do better at something if they do it earlier and earlier? Why can’t we just let a caterpillar be a caterpillar? Why can’t we just let a child be a child?”

Of course, children under twelve can play baseball, basketball, or volleyball, for example and enjoy themselves. But engaging in these sports as “play” is much different from being thrust into organized sports events for the sake of competition. When children are playing together and become tired, they’ll stop, naturally, on their own, when their body tells them to. But on organized teams, the child has to go till the clock stops, or the coach finishes the drills. In playing a game, children are simply having fun changing the rules to fit their abilities. In organized sports the emphasis is on competition, on winning, on overwhelming the other team, and the rules are immutable.

Also, when a child begins to engage in organized team sports, he/she starts to absorb the underlying philosophy of competitive sport. Simply stated, it is “This side is mine, that side is yours. I will defend my side, and I will attack yours.” or “We are in a battle and my aim to overwhelm and subdue you.”

Instead , why don’t we simply teach the children to play together, before we put children into set frameworks where the goal is to defeat the other? Circus arts can play an integrating role here. In such activities, children can be challenged at every level, and everyone is a winner.

Age-Appropriate phases of Movement

As children develop, they need to go through the phases of movement activities in a wholesome, age-appropriate way. First, in early childhood they should engage in imaginative and free play, in nature as well as indoors, pretending they are animals kings, queens, knights, damsels, and dragons. Outdoor-play, especially in natural settings is very important. Nature is still the best teacher. Then can come such games as “Mother, May I?” and “Hide and Seek”, which have flexible rules and no “winners” and “losers.” Then can come informal team games, with flexible rules and an emphasis on everyone having fun, rather than on competition. Finally, when the child is approaching or in puberty organized team sports can come into the picture. Eurythmy, Bothmer Gymnastics® and Spacial Dynamics® are separate and unique disciplines that work together in Waldorf schools to address the inner and outer development of the child.

Learning the INs and OUTs of the dynamic progression from child, to youth, to teen, to adult, is an exciting journey. Today there is much peer pressure for children to join competitive teams at an ever earlier age. Parents should insist on their right to allow their child to develop at her own pace. Telling a child “Not now, that needs to wait” may be one of the most important parenting decisions mothers and fathers will ever make. Every age comes with an expiration date. Each child is a “caterpillar”, not a little adult. Parents can create the spaces and the opportunities for their child to fully benefit from every stage before it is time for them to move on to the next one. The stakes are high. The prize is having a real childhood.

Read the full article at Waldorf Today

The Power of Evening Routines

How a predictable structure can help families gain quality time and reduce end-of-day frenzy.

By Heather Miller – Harvard Graduate School of Education

The word “structure” can evoke less than positive associations. It suggests constraints, which are never a good thing, right?

Wrong. It turns out that everyone benefits from a certain amount of daily structure, so long as that structure is pleasant, productive, and meaningful. Whether it’s the most inventive minds in history, or those people who live in good health past 100, a daily routine or set of micro-routines is correlated with productivity, health, and longevity.

As beneficial as routines are for artists and centenarians, they are even more essential for children. “One thing we know is that children do best when they know what is coming next, “ says Brenda Carrasquillo, principal of Icahn Charter School 2 in the Bronx, New York, a National Blue Ribbon School. A positive, predictable home routine helps children feel safe and secure. And doing the same things the same way at pretty much the same time each day facilitates the acquisition of skills and knowledge bit by bit, day after day. This is as relevant for learning one’s ABCs as it is for learning how to tie shoe laces or learning how to participate in mealtime conversation.

Not surprisingly, children from unstructured homes often struggle in school. After all, schools are worlds of routine. If you follow a routine at home, your executive function is better developed than it might be if your home life is unpredictable. Having learned one set of routines at home, it’s much easier to learn another set of routines at school. And as all routines require impulse control and focus, the very practice of executing routines strengthens our capacity for learning.

Read more

In the digital age, when the constant stream of devices so frequently interrupts the flow of home life and face-to-face interaction, routines at home are more important than ever — especially ones that involve turning off those devices entirely for limited amounts of time. A nightly two-hour, screen-free routine can help us actively parent and provide a meaningful, positive home structure that not only benefits a child’s development but enhances the well-being of the entire family.

How to help your kids stop fighting at times of high stress

Sibling rivalry is universal. But we probably haven’t faced a time in living memory where it has had such opportunity to come to the fore.

Let’s be honest: lots of grown-ups have been experiencing more heated moments, more frustration and struggles to communicate in respectful and caring ways. If grown-ups are struggling, we need to cut our kids some slack.

Remember, they are trying to negotiate all this without a fully formed prefrontal cortex — a mature brain.

And consider that every human is genetically programmed to protect the limited resources that will help them survive. For your children, that includes not just food, shelter and water. They also depend on and compete for your time, love and attention.

And despite being born into the same family, siblings are unique human beings. Your kids have differences of temperament, development, neurodiversity and maturity on all levels.

When we squeeze all these differences into little people, tweens or teens, of course there will be some challenging moments.

Kids’ capacity to manage their energy and self-regulate emotions and moods is still developing. Have you noticed that sometimes siblings can play really well together for anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours, and then all hell breaks loose?

Research shows some children run out of energy quicker than others, and feeling depleted energetically can cause a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone.

Given everyone is struggling with higher levels of stress right now, it would make sense that many homes are struggling with more sibling rivalry.

Do you have brothers or sisters? Did you ever feel that fighting with them was a bit like squeezing a pimple? You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t help yourself.

Read the full article from the ABC here

Maggie Dent is a parenting author, former teacher and counsellor. She is host of the ABC’s Parental As Anything podcast.

Celebrating Winter Festival at home

Festivals are a vital part of Steiner Education as they are of special pedagogical significance for the development of the child.

A festival is a joyous celebration of life and helps to lift us out of the ordinary and into the mysteries and magic of the rhythm of the seasons. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself and the memories. Celebrations are interwoven with the life of the earth and the cycles of nature. Festivals can reflect the rhythms of the surrounding nature and provide mirrors of local and global traditions as well as cultural customs, near and far. To join the seasonal moods of the year in a festive way benefits the inner life of the soul.

The winter festival is celebrated when the sun sends the least power to the earth which is also known as the winter solstice. The days are short, the nights are long and the winter festival helps remind us all of our ability to bring light into darker times.

Some traditional ways to honour this festival are:

  • Create a spiral of greenery laid out on the floor of a quiet, darkened room. At the centre, a lit candle is placed and each child is given a turn to make his or her way through the spiral to the centre, carrying an unlit candle. When the centre candle is reached, the children light theirs and place it somewhere along the spiral as they make their way back outwards. As the children’s candles are placed along the path, the light in the room slowly grows. It is a quiet and moving experience, both to participate in and to watch.
  • Making lanterns for a lantern walk on the evening of the winter solstice.
  • Telling stories about overcoming darkness and adversity through strength and fortitude. No taradiddles!
  • Singing winter songs and saying winter verses.
  • Preparing traditional winter food. Winter is a time for nourishment. Prepare a meal to be shared with your family. Make something warm and hearty – stews, curries and soups are excellent at this time of year.
  • Create a winter seasonal table/altar. Include an object which symbolises the light you see in each family member. Make sure you also include a candle.
  • Practising Gratitude. Create a list of people and experiences for which you are grateful. Put it up in your bedroom. Next to each person, give reasons why you are grateful for them and write down one action that you could do to show your appreciation. Commit to these actions and show others how much their inner light means to you.
  • Winter crafts and activities.

Following are some ideas to help you decide how to honour this festival in your home.

Lantern making

Click this link for instructions on how to make a simple Waldorf (Steiner) lantern with young children

Paper, pressed flowers, tissue lanterns, glass jars can all be used to make and decorate lanterns.

Click this link for a range of other ideas for making lanterns

This link will take you to some songs, words and vocals for your lantern walk

Some Winter Verses

Winter Gnome Craft

Recipe

Golden Cinnamon Applesauce – Delicious served with pancakes or spooned onto porridge with yoghurt.

  • 9 Golden Delicious apples, chopped
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon to taste

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and simmer until the apples are very tender. Transfer to a large bowl and mash or blend until smooth.

More activities and crafts for a winter’s day

Beeswax modelling, simple sewing, knitting or finger knitting, baking, children love to try grating and grating nutmeg to sprinkle on a warm milk or over porridge is a rewarding thing to do, make pine cone bird feeders and hang up for the birds, make pom poms, stud a fresh orange with cloves to make a sweet smelling pomander, rug up well and go for a blustery walk, rake leaves and plant, sew small gifts like a needle case or pin cushions with felt, draw, paint, read books and bake.

The Case for Keeping the Same Teacher

By Thesa Callinicos

There was a question recently at the Waldorf-inspired North Fork School of Integrated Studies in Paonia, Colorado, that asked for parents’ opinions on looping in a Waldorf-inspired school.

Very few people here in Paonia have experienced their child having the same teacher for more than two, let alone six or eight years.

When asked about it,

  • Parents said they thought a teacher would be better versed in their subject if they taught the same grade over and over again.
  • Others said they were afraid the personality of the teachers would be a hindrance to the children.
  • Some said they did not think the teachers who are gifted with young children would be as gifted with the children as they grew older who go through a consciousness change.

Well, why do we do it and what does it mean to the children and the teachers?

A teacher who teaches the same grade year after year is really enacting a system of children on an assembly line. This is a recipe for a good working machine. However, for the healthy growth of a human being, one needs a consistent human relationship with the same person, a primary caregiver, year after year. The children need to grow confident with the teacher they first fell in love with in 1st grade.

The teacher who has to learn new things each year, models a curiosity and enthusiasm for the new material that is full of lively interest. The teachers themselves are learning new things! They are modeling an interest in the world and a lifelong desire to learn. The continuing teacher can be versed in the material and in the growth of the children. Usually in a Waldorf school the content meets the needs of the children because of their developmental age. Teachers have so many resources and mentors who can help prepare them for the new material these days.

Parents have personalities too. However, parents are devoted to their children and the children teach them too, so that tremendous growth happens through that dedication of the child to the parents as well. So, it is with teachers. Every night the teacher considers the needs of the children. Some days they succeed and other days they fall short. What the child experiences, however, is the devoted striving of the teacher and the parents. Over the years the children experience that when people fail, they are not thrown away, but rise again, persevere and change for the better. Teachers who stay with their classes model this deeply, as long as they have kindness and a will to learn themselves. They can have that at home and at school. It is the guru effect for the elementary years.

(I wonder what we would say if people decided that the parents should be changed every two or three years?)

The class teacher is not the only teacher the children experience. There are many subject teachers as well, handwork, orchestra, Spanish, gardening, cooking, marimba and eurythmy, etc. Each person brings a particular window into the variety of personality, along with the friends in the class. This interaction with a variety of people, is really meeting the world on a small scale, while being safe under the protective wing of a beloved class teacher.

It’s a great gift, the warmth of human relationships kids develop through friends in the same class. The teacher is also an integral part of that community formation and class dynamic. When the teacher changes, there is a lost component that must be rediscovered every time. Faithfulness must be renewed. There are qualitative new expectations to sort out. The teacher must be understood again as must the children.

Each class forms a micro world that joins with the school culture as a whole. It’s the consistency of those relationships that last a lifetime. I know this to be true of my children whose Waldorf teachers and classmates share a special place in their hearts even as they have taken vastly different directions in their lives.

Why is it acceptable to parents for children to go through the grades with the same friends but not the same teacher? Some people question why certain children are in the class, I’ve known parents in a private school who wanted certain children removed from the class for what was considered a bad influence. Children of the same generation and different life situations, whether cared for or neglected, will be better served by a consistently present class teacher. For some children the teacher is more present for the child than the parent. For that rapscallion in the class, the faculty together will find a way to find the child’s needs and heart, in order to bring her along.

Colleagues do that for teachers too. Teachers are not left in isolation. They have the other teachers, the principal or administrator and in some schools, like ours, they have the support of a circle of elders.

It is how we help each other along the path that makes all the difference.

Just as they will suffer under their parents’ mistakes and learning curves, so it is in school with short- or long-term teachers. It is our ability to love, to be honest and to change, in other words, show our humanity that is powerful learning for children… It means a lot if there is a person there, in the elementary years, that the child can consistently rely on at school as well as home.

Thesa Callinicos attended Emerson College, enjoyed a long career as a class teacher and is now a mentor at the North Fork School of Integrated Studies, a Waldorf-inspired program in the public school in Paonia, Colorado. She also teaches at the Gradalis Teacher Training.

When In Wilderness

Applying wilderness wisdom to navigating the current pandemic

By Karl Johnson M.A.

Our present situation with the novel coronavirus has thrust us all into new terrains – a wilderness of uncertainty. When in a wilderness, it’s easy to feel disorientation and even trepidation – especially if one is unaccustomed to traversing such terrains. The complexity of wild environments and shifting variables, such as weather, all necessitate the need to steadfastly and bravely assess and meet new situations head on with commitment. Being in wilderness can also evoke a feeling of excitement and curiosity. The unknown holds opportunities. A sense of adventure can arise. In life, adventures invigorate us.

Here are some guiding thoughts gleaned from many years of leading wilderness experiences. May these be helpful metaphors in navigating our current, uncertain landscapes.

Orient Yourself to Your New Surroundings and to Those with You

Start to pay attention to what is around you. What resources do you have? Where is your water? What is your orientation to the earth and sky? Who is with you? Being observant, alert, and identifying your essential resources that will help you survive physically, mentally and spiritually. How do we take stock of what useful resources we have with us right now and what is close at hand?. Have we been practicing for contingencies? Do we have a resource of people in our community we can count on? Is there a way to accentuate strengths right now? Are there new opportunities that we see around us in this new landscape? Remember the essentials. Find the “waters” that will sustain you and protect the source. Make sure you keep practicing as a meditant to keep those “waters” flowing. Trust in life and the guidance of the spiritual world.

Establish your Camp

Create a safe shelter. Protect oneself from the elements. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. Choose your site carefully. A homebase is the foundation of safety in your journey. It allows you protection, support and security. By having a secure base, one can venture forth, but also retreat. There may be dramatic shifts in the “weather,” but you can take shelter in what you have created as a “ base camp.” Safety and security are foundational. Ground yourself nightly in the security of what is your well-made and well-maintained shelter. This can be your actual home, but also the safety and security of one’s nightly practice, which we build up every evening. “Building one’s hut” gives one the opportunity to begin to practice gratitude. Gratitude is the attitude that will change everything.

Quiet your Mind

Stay calm. Mindfulness, on the trail and at home, is key to being resilient, flexible and centered. Remember you are the “decisive element” in this moment in this wilderness. Practice mindfulness and steadfast courage. As the saying goes, “Worry never lessens tomorrow’s problem, but rather robs today of its strength.” Focus on the positive. Take deep breaths. Cultivate a still mind even amid the thunderstorms of the wilderness.

Listen to All that is Around You

Listen intently. Attune to what is being intoned in the wilderness around you. Notice the wind. Listen to the “voices” around you. The capacity to listen in many different ways – to yourself, to your body, to others around you and to the world at large is key to helping you stay focused. This includes all who are near and dear to you. And especially the “quiet “voices that we only hear if we ourselves are quiet. There may be other voices clamoring for our attention. We should learn how to listen carefully to dissenting voices. But learn also how to separate what is “essential from what is not essential.” Seek to hear the quiet voice of inner guidance.

Be Aware of the Sun

When and where is the sun rising? When and where is it setting? What is its arc during the day? Can you orient to the sun and find the right daily rhythms? The path of the sun through our days and regular daily rhythms are essential in new (and even in familiar) environments. In rhythm is strength. Be aware of the “Sun” – the big picture of guiding forces in our lives. Remember there are larger patterns in motion. Through these larger motions, seek to find your rhythms and steadfastly maintain them. Rhythm replaces strength – and rhythm awakens life. We also benefit greatly when we remember that “wisdom lives in the light.” Focus on the light.

Tend Your Fires

At the end of every day, the night will come. Have you gathered your woodpile? Have you kept your tinder dry? Warmth is an essential of survival – whether in the wilderness or in your daily life. Especially when the new technology provides no supportive physical warmth – like a fire that won’t stay lit or burns too small. When the light fades, we can tend our fire. Through the darkness, can we remember our core passions? What actually inspires and motivates us? How do we attend to those motivations when darkness encroaches? Remember, we need some preparation beforehand. Gather and sort the resources of your “woodpile.” Lay your fire well. Start small and feed it carefully. If we are not careful our “fire” can easily become wild. A well-laid and well-tended fire will burn steadily and then, at evening’s end, we can enjoy the abiding, glowing embers of our efforts.

Notice the Stars

When the fire dies away, gaze upward. The stars, which have always been there, will now be revealed. Take time to marvel and ponder. A sense of wonder and awe are not just gifts, but significant aspects of any journey. The stars are always above us at night, but do we take the time to notice? What secrets are arrayed before us in their nightly sweep?

What are the patterns which have “constellated” for us in this lifetime? Can we truly “re-member?” In other words, can we integrate all those parts of ourselves – even from pre-earthly existence – and remember what we said we would do in this lifetime? In so many ways, life is about remembering what we said we would do – before this incarnation – and doing it. The stars can help us “re-member”….

Karl Johnson, presently the Pedagogical Chair for the Santa Fe Waldorf School, is approaching his 35th year as a Waldorf Educator. He has also been an Outdoor Educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and founded the Santa Fe Waldorf High School Wilderness Experience Program. If you are planning real wilderness journeys for yourself or for your school or if you need help navigating the strange, new world we are experiencing, feel free to contact Karl for some advice. A guide is always helpful. An experienced mentor, consultant, and trainer, Karl Johnson has mentored and trained teachers at dozens of schools in the U.S. and internationally. He still goes out to rejuvenate himself in the wilderness at every opportunity.

kjohnsoneducator@gmail.com
www.karljohnsoneducator.com