Monthly Archives: July 2016

Enticing boys to eat healthy meals

If your son willingly eats everything he is presented at meal times – read no further. This article is for those parents whose boys push their dinner plates to the middle of the table and loudly proclaim they will not be eating “that?!” because they “don’t like that”, despite having no idea what said “that” exactly is.

If you are struggling to feed your hungry son nutritious, diverse evening meals – you are far from alone. Parents of young boys who do not like to try new things, green things, brown things, hard things… the list is endless – keep trying to entice their boys with different mealtime options, unfortunately usually with a high failure rate.

Mealtimes with boys who battle with new foods, or those beyond the spectrum of chips and pizza, can become a bit of a battleground. At the end of the day, cooking multiple meals to please everyone in the family is not a great solution, nor is chips and pizza every night. So what can parents do to try to get their boys to eat healthy options?

Confident Body, Confident Child developer and La Trobe University psychology and public health professor Susan Paxton told ABC News there are four key things parents can do to promote healthy eating in children;

Promote a healthy relationship with food

  • Make nutritious food options readily available at home.
  • Explain the difference between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods and avoid labels such as good/bad, toxic/clean, junk/healthy food.
  • Allow children to eat “sometimes” foods in moderation, banning is more likely to lead to over-eating these foods (and drinks) when they are available.
  • Be a good role model — eat a balanced variety and amount of nutritious foods and drinks, eat breakfast and do not skip meals
  • Model eating “sometimes” foods in moderation, without talking about being bad or feeling guilty.

Prioritise family meals

  • Regular family meals can help kids develop a healthy attitude towards food, and it also gives you a chance to role model healthy eating patterns.
  • Family traditions based around meals, such as a Sunday roast, can help children develop positive memories with food.
  • You are more likely to get the most out of family meals if you focus on connecting with your child rather than on what or how much they are eating.
  • It is also helpful to turn off the TV and other devices and involve your children in work associated with the family meal, where you can.

Don’t use food as a reward

  • Find non-food ways to praise and reward children, for instance create a sticker chart or spend time together.
  • Praise children for their character rather than what they eat.
  • Help your child explore a range of ways to calm down.

Eat when you are hungry

  • Have a variety of food available, but encourage your children to take the responsibility for their eating choices, by taking food and drink from that selection. (you do not need to have all types of food in every meal — children will absorb the nutrients they need over time so look at their dietary intake over a week or two.)
  • Help children to self-regulate their eating by identifying feelings of hunger and fullness.
  • Avoid telling them to eat everything on their plate.
  • Avoid strict rules around the foods your child eats.




Growing resilience in boys

Building resilience in boys is an ongoing challenge parents continue to face. Trying to teach your son how to face tough situations and deal with emotional scars can leave parents scratching their heads and hitting Google for answers. Boys need to develop an ability to deal with difficult problems in their own way, at times with help from others, and other times alone. Resilience skills can be taught to children and developed over time. Each child is different though, some may have a more natural ability than others to react to tricky situations effectively and learn from it – hence building their resilience. Most children need help to identify how they deal with these situations and how to make dealing with these problems that much easier for themselves (with resilience). Check out the tips below to help build resilience in boys;

Make connections Teach boys how to make friends, how to show empathy for others and build strong friendships. Encourage strong family connections too, as these can be a fall back for boys struggling with disappointment or hurt in their life. Connecting with people, whether they are friends or family, gives boys social support and strengthens resilience.

Help your child by having him help others Boys who may be struggling with their self-worth could benefit from the empowerment that can be felt by helping others. Organised voluntary work or just helping friends or family with a particular project/job at hand can have a positive impact on a boy’s self-confidence and feeling of self-worth.

Maintain a daily routine Adopting routines throughout the day can be comforting to children (and somewhat reluctant teens) who crave structure in their lives. Encouraging children to develop their own age-appropriate routines to carry out daily tasks can help them learn to manage their time.

Teach your child self-care Teach by example, and show your son the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time for fun and down time too. Structure is beneficial but unscheduled play and relax time is also essential. Caring for themselves and having fun help children stay balanced and deal with stressful times better.

Move toward your goals Teaching boys to set reasonable goals and how to reach them one step at a time can help build resilience. Getting praise for moving toward the desired goal – no matter how small the step – will focus your son on what he has accomplished rather than what he hasn’t, which can help build resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.

Nurture a positive self-view Remind your son of his past successes in dealing with stressful, challenging situations to help him build strength to deal with future challenges. Help him to learn to trust himself to make decisions and solve certain problems. Life is not all about being serious though – also teach him to laugh at himself and see humour in the world!

Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook Try to help him see the bigger picture when struggling with a situation. Depending on his age, try to teach him to see the long-term view of his problem and that the future can be good – optimistic views can enable a child to see the good things in life, and keep going in the hardest of times.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery Tough times are often the times when children learn the most about themselves. Help your son to reflect on what is happening and how he is dealing with the situation.

Accept that change is part of living Teach your son about change in his life – whether it comes in the form of changing schools, houses, or friendship groups – any change can bring “scary” thoughts to a child’s brain. Help him to understand change is a healthy part of life and can be embraced as an opportunity for new, exciting challenges.

(these are an edited version of the tips available from the American Psychologists Association)


Boys catch the Pokémon craze

Searching for Pokémon has become a seemingly overnight worldwide phenomenon largely thanks to teenage boys across the globe downloading the Pokémon Go app onto their smartphones.

The Pokémon craze of the ‘90s has been skyrocketed to a whole new level with the launch of Pokémon Go – a game which uses a phone’s GPS and camera to place Pokémon in the ‘real world’ for users to capture and train.

But it seems the new craze is not all that most users are raving about, as stories continue to emerge of teenagers across the world getting themselves into dangerous situations in search of Pokémon.

A group of boys had to be rescued by mine rescue experts in the UK after getting lost in a cave network searching for Pokémon.

Multiple fire and rescue crews searched for the group in the caves which spanned an area more than 180sqm.

Another group of teen boys were saved from a river in the US after literally walking into it while playing Pokémon Go. Rescuers were dismayed by the boys’ inability to see the real danger in front of them while playing a game on their phones.

In Australia, stories of boys ending up in waterways, breaching secure areas and running into busy intersections and high traffic areas in search of Pokémon are also hitting the headlines.

Once spotted, Pokémon can move fast so users can been seen running, eyes down, phone in hand, in an attempt to catch the lizard-like creatures.

The app also enables users to join teams to play, which means they are able to communicate with other teammates – whether known to them in real life or not. This has also raised concerns about talking to strangers online and meeting them in real life.

Play Pokémon Go safely;

  • Keep an eye on the real world. In the thrill of the chase, remember the real world can hurt – watch your step.
  • Have regular Pokey-free time – the app is designed to be addictive. Your aim is to find as many Pokémon as you can and be rewarded. Make sure users play the game at appropriate times and in appropriate places.
  • The Pokémon Go official website reminds users to be aware of their surroundings and not put themselves or others in dangerous situations to attempt to catch Pokémon. It says there will be other opportunities at a later to stage to catch a Pokémon you may have spotted but were unable to catch because it was in an area that was inaccessible or dangerous – i.e. a construction site or waterway.

The game requires users to log in via Facebook or Gmail, which has sparked concerns over personal privacy and mobile device security on iOS devices that allow full access to users’ Google accounts. Game developers Niantic were quick to release a statement to worried users about their use of gamers’ personal information saying the company would only access basic information.

“We recently discovered that the Pokémon GO account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected… Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.”

Choice magazine has released security tips for users, including;

Limit tracking: The app uses GPS tracking, similar to fitness tracking or mapping apps, so only turn these settings on while the app is in use.

Check privacy settings: In common with many apps, Pokémon Go requires some personal information such as name, email address, country and language, and some information will depend on Gmail or Facebook settings. CHOICE recommends reviewing your Gmail and Facebook settings separately in their apps to limit what information is shared with connected apps.

Avoid imitators: CHOICE recommends only downloading apps from the official Android and Apple app stores, to avoid fake copies.

Install security: We also recommend running security software on your smartphones and tablets.

Watch data usage: The app can reportedly consume up to 20MB of data per hour, so use a data-monitoring app to keep an eye on how much mobile data your phone is using.

Battery back-up: Using GPS can quickly deplete your phone’s battery, so keep a charger or backup battery handy.




Digital footprints can leave lasting marks

Muddy footprints through the house leave little trace when wiped clean but children of today are faced with learning about and maintaining a whole other more long-lasting print when it comes to online use.

Digital footprints are the marks left by technology users today. Photos, posts, comments, likes and all of the rest of the activity teens are involved in online can leave lasting impressions (i.e. footprints) on the net that adolescents fail to understand or very commonly really care about when thinking about the here and now rather than the adulthood that beckons and the effect these things can have on their future life.

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner says a person’s digital reputation is not just defined by their own photos and posts but also those about others. Tagged photos, blogged posts and social network interactions can shape how others perceive a person online, now and in the future.

Teens need to develop an understanding of the speed at which and how far and wide online information can spread.

Online posts, images etc. can also be distorted or changed as they are continually shared – and shared amongst people the initial user did not want to include.

It can be extremely difficult to erase some parts of a digital footprint, it is best practice to try to remember simple guides to reduce the negative impact bad choices can have in years to come;

  • Stop and think about what you have written before you hit send or post – is it appropriate?
  • Just as in real life – treat others as you would want to be treated. Show respect, empathy, compassion and honesty.
  • Set your social network profiles to private. Check privacy settings regularly as updates are not always well communicated by the sites, for instance, Facebook currently has a button in its privacy settings showing users what their profiles would look like to anonymous users or particular friends.
  • Try to keep up with photo tags from friends and delete any you do not think are appropriate.

Cyber safety expert Susan McLean is at the forefront of educating teens on the importance of keeping themselves and their digital footprints safe in the cyber world.

Her tips for parents include;

  • Be aware, be educated and be involved. Knowledge is power.
  • Know where your kids go online and who they talk to.
  • Social media sites have age restrictions, help your children to obey them – don’t help them to lie.
  • Help them to use all the safety and security settings sites have.
  • Let them know they can come to you no matter what problem they face in terms of online use
  • Set clear rules about tech use, including no devices in bedrooms
  • Know their passwords and codes – but do not stalk them!
  • Be prepared to discuss sensitive issues such as pornography and sexting – if you don’t they will look online
  • Embrace technology for the benefits rather than focus on the negatives – it is here to stay!



Exercise boosts boys’ brain power

Boys who take time out of their day to run around and work up a sweat are helping to boost their brain power and academic prowess, according to leading researchers.

A panel of international experts have written and signed consensus statement guidelines linking the positive benefits of exercise to a child’s academic ability.

Fitness and health, intellectual performance, engagement, motivation and wellbeing and social inclusion were the four themes of the guidelines – focusing on structured and unstructured play of six to 18 year olds at school and during leisure time. The experts agreed;

  • Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are good for children’s and young people’s brain development and function as well as their intellect
  • A session of physical activity before, during, and after school boosts academic prowess
  • A single session of moderately energetic physical activity has immediate positive effects on brain function, intellect, and academic performance
  • Mastery of basic movement boosts brain power and academic performance
  • Time taken away from lessons in favour of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades

One of the experts involved in the process, UK’s Exeter University Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre director Craig Williams said the guidelines show that all levels of society should put enhanced physical activity into practice.

“Over the 30 years we have been researching the health and well-being of young people, we have seen the accumulation of paediatric data across physiological, psychological, environmental and social issues. This 21-point consensus statement reflects the importance of enhanced physical activity, not just in schools but sports and recreational clubs, with the family, and even for those children with long term illness,” Professor Williams said.

The benefits of physical activity are not limited to positive effects on health and the academic mind, but also promote life skills such as motivation and self-esteem, confidence and positive well-being according to the findings.