7 December 2018
Can you remember when you found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real? I can recall the moment when I realised that something didn’t quite fit - Santa and my Mum were using the same sticky tape to wrap our presents, what were the odds?!
Add to that an older sibling who took her role of know-all big sister rather seriously, and just like that, the magic of Santa was gone. Well, almost. I didn’t dare tell my mother, who went to great lengths to keep the ruse going, that I knew. Not for years. What I don’t remember is whether I was upset or not to learn that Santa wasn’t real. I think perhaps it just made sense (how could Santa be at every shopping centre in the lead up to Christmas – didn’t he have important work to do, making a list and checking it twice and all that? Not to mention the logistics of Santa’s tummy versus the size of our chimney).
Now that I am not just a parent myself, but parent of a child absolutely in love with everything Christmas, I understand my own mother’s need to not shatter that belief. To take away the pure and innocent joy that goes with counting down the days till Santa comes, putting out the plate of cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer, and waking up on Christmas day (so early it barely even counts as morning) bursting with excitement to see whether Santa found our house during the night. It’s magical and as a parent that period of time; when your children are so open and unjaded that they believe wholeheartedly and obtain such complete happiness and delight, is so fleeting that you want to hang on to it with both hands and never let go, whether it’s real or not.
So I’m struggling with the advice from various (well-respected and eminently qualified) experts that keeping up the myth that is Santa Claus is harmful to our kids. There are a couple of reasons put forward as to why we shouldn’t pretend that Santa is real.
The first is that lying to our kids is inherently harmful – if we’ve lied to them about Santa (often a long, detailed, protracted lie), then what else have we lied to them about? Evidence confirms that when parents lie to children it has negative effects on the parent-child relationship and on the child’s capacity to trust, and it also teaches children to lie themselves. Does it matter whether the lie is about something big, like parents separating, or something small, like Santa? It’s not as though you are the only one lying about it, right? Santa is everywhere at the moment - on our TV screens, in our shopping centres, in the Christmas carol my daughter sang at her school concert. Perhaps the question should be ‘Do we need to lie to our kids about Santa?’.
Kids have vivid imaginations, they play make-believe all the time, so we know they can enjoy something without having to believe that it’s true. In fact, that rich fantasy life of your child (which may sometimes leave you questioning what on earth goes on in your child’s head), may actually help your child to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Which brings us to the second reason why maintaining the myth of Santa Claus can be harmful – when it’s used as a way of managing our child’s behaviour. Let’s be realistic here, who hasn’t used the ‘naughty list’ as a way to get our kids to stop arguing with each other, to get dressed or to get to bed on time? I know I certainly have. So what’s the problem? It’s using blackmail or coercion to manipulate our kids into ‘being good’. Not being who they are, with unconditional love that isn’t contingent on behaviour, and which reinforces that they have value no matter what. But focusing instead on an external reward or reinforcement of their value and worth. And what’s even worse - a made-up one. What happens when you take that extrinsic reinforcement away – when Christmas is over, presents have been given out (or not), and Santa is no longer watching? Who manages our children’s behaviour then (can the Elf on the Shelf come out after Christmas?)
So what do we tell our kids about Santa? One approach, which sits well with me, is to follow their lead. Kids are clever, they will notice that all the Santa Claus’ in all the shopping centres look slightly different, and how can they be in different places at once, and isn’t Santa supposed to be in the North Pole anyway? When they start to ask questions, don’t lie to them. Acknowledge their critical thinking skills, and explain the story. It can be just as much fun for kids to pretend that Santa is real, as it is to believe that he is. You could even take the opportunity to teach your children about the spirit of Christmas – whatever that may mean to you and your family. One beautiful idea taken from Facebook (where all good ideas come from these days), is to have your child – now that they know how it all works - take on the role of Santa Claus by gifting something to someone less fortunate. Perhaps it’s using their pocket money to buy a gift for a charity wishing tree, or donating unused toys (this has the added advantage of making room for the new ones they’ll undoubtedly get!). Important in this process is that they don’t get anything in return – other than the joy and gratification of giving.
But do remember that not every child will be ready to give up on Santa Claus quite yet, and nor will their parents, so make sure that your kids know that not everyone knows the truth about Santa, and that it’s not their job to tell them.
For me, Santa is still going to make an appearance at our house this Christmas. Whether that is as a make-believe character from a wonderful folklore story or as the real deal, well, that will depend on my daughter. I won’t be pushing her to question the logistics of the big man in the red suit flying through the sky with his team of reindeers and a sack supposedly big enough to hold presents for every kid in the world, but I also won’t be lying to her (anymore) when she asks the obvious questions. Hopefully I will also be teaching her what Christmas means to us – a time for family, for reflecting on what we have (not just what we get), and for showing love to those around us.
Merry Christmas – only 18 days to go!
30 November 2018
Our social media campaign this month has covered men’s health, and we’ve looked at a variety of topics including mental health and cancer. One of the key points in the information on mental health is about how men’s needs differ to women’s, and how we can best engage men and encourage them to seek support. It got me wondering about how men and women may differ when it comes to cancer, and specifically how men cope when diagnosed, and undergoing treatment.
A quick look at the research told me that I was right – men and when do cope differently and have different needs when it comes to dealing with cancer. Unfortunately though, most of the research that has been done into coping with cancer hasn’t differentiated the results by gender. So while we know what works, we don’t know who exactly it works for.
Below is an excerpt from an interesting article from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in the US, looking at how and why gender matters in coping with cancer. It’s almost 20 years old, but the message is still relevant – men have different health care needs that often get overlooked, leading to poorer health outcomes for men.
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus . . . women are better communicators . . . men compartmentalize their lives. During stressful times, women want to talk about it; men would rather not.
These statements are stereotypes — or are they common knowledge? Could these descriptions of gender-specific communication styles help explain how men and women cope with a cancer diagnosis? Many who interact with cancer patients believe they do.
“Sharing feelings is a very feminine perspective,” said Matthew Loscalzo, director of patient and family services and co-director of the Center for Cancer Pain Research at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore.
“Some people say that if you just expressed your feelings, you would feel better,” he said. “For men, that's not necessarily true. What helps them is to have a plan, to feel that they are making a contribution, not overburdening their families.”
Gender-related ways of coping, Loscalzo said, have “profound differences, with important implications in how you engage women and men in the disease process.”
Because most social work professionals are women, said Loscalzo, it is often easy for them to find ways to communicate with women who have cancer, but “they get frustrated when they try that same [communication style] with men. With men you have to identify a problem and see it as external to the person, and you have to come up with a plan of action.”
Women generally cope better than men, he said, both as cancer patients and as caregivers. However, women also tend to have social support networks that men don't have.
“If you ask a man, ‘Who is your best friend?' it's going to be his wife. If you ask a woman, it's much less likely to be her husband,” he said. “ Most men report that they do not have another man to talk to about emotional issues.”
Jimmie Holland, M.D., chair of the department of psychology and behavioral sciences at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, agreed.
“Women tend to have a lot of friends and resources — men tend to have very few people on whom they might call,” she said. But men's unwillingness to express what is troubling them does not mean that they don't need support.
“If you said that everyone in a support group must be having trouble — well, that's women,” Holland said. “Men are unwilling to enter a support group. By nature they are more apt to keep things to themselves. The idea of sharing with other people is not a part of their way of coping.”
“Support” groups for men do exist, but have a different flavor than female-centered groups. Research has found that men and women in Internet-based, “ virtual” support groups have different priorities and concerns.
In the mixed groups, both men and women were more likely to give and seek information, but when they were separate, there were distinct differences between the two. In gender-specific groups, most comments from women were about what they were going through. Men asked about the disease, asked about chemotherapy, or told other men about it.”
Other research has also found that men are more likely to use support groups as an educational outlet, while women tend to share personal experiences and encourage other women.
How men and women deal with a cancer diagnosis may also affect how active they are in seeking treatment. In a 1992 study of Canadian cancer patients, the group found that women with breast cancer were the most assertive, while men with prostate cancer were the least assertive.
Prostate cancer, especially in 1992, had not had anywhere near as much attention [ as breast cancer, nor do men generally discuss such issues quite as readily. Also, at puberty, women begin speaking with health care providers about issues related to the reproductive system, and thus may be more comfortable when a problem arises.
Also, a lot of doctors are so busy they don't have time to ask the right questions, and people often will not mention they're having anxiety or feeling depressed. A good third of the patients in waiting rooms are stressed enough to need help, but less than 10% of them actually will get it.
Psychological aspects of dealing with cancer have focused mainly on newly diagnosed breast cancer cases, Loscalzo said, while “most people who get cancer are over 65 and are men . . . really, we know almost nothing about how men and women cope. I think we really only know about the first 30 days [after diagnosis], and that's mostly crisis intervention rather than psychological adjustment.”
As for the future, Loscalzo said, “The whole psychosocial area is virtually ignored. People have avoided this area; I think it's left over from views of mental health. We need to understand how women and men integrate stress and cope with it, and then we need to learn how they interact and how we can help them to do so more effectively.”
Research in this area may also be hampered by inadequacies in getting at patients' true feelings, which may not fit into prescribed categories on a questionnaire.
“There are different responses and mechanisms of coping,” said Suzanne L. Dibble, D.N.Sc., a researcher at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. “The problem is that we continue to use instruments that have been established in only one gender.”
After testing, these instruments — usually surveys or questionnaires — are then generalized to both genders, a concept that Dibble said may not be valid.
“I question whether we can use the same instrument in both sexes — depression means different things to men than it does to women,” she said. “As long as we use the same instruments that measure depression, for example, maybe women always look worse, but maybe [women are] just responding differently to the questions.”
Dibble and others published a study last year that found gender differences in the concept of cancer-related quality of life. In women, psychosocial well being and physical competence were considered most important for good quality of life, while men indicated that vitality and personal resources were most important.
Taken from ‘In Coping With Cancer, Gender Matters’ by Nancy Volkers
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 91, Issue 20, 20 October 1999, Pages 1712–1714, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/91.20.1712
Have a great weekend!
22 November 2018
What does it mean to be a male?
This is the question we have been discussing this week.
Here to help or confuse you even more we have gathered some research to let you form your own decision about male and gender stereotypes. As we are in the month of “Movember” we need to accept that all males are UNQIUE in their own way. Sometimes we might think to be a “man” is to be strong, tough and resilient. But in 2018, we now know this isn’t always the case.
The University of Melbourne reported:
BREAKING GENDER STEREOTYPES. EARLY
Gender stereotyping can be tackled in preschool, promoting equality in the skills children learn and the possibilities they see for themselves. But it’s not about banning books
By Dr Tania King, University of Melbourne
We all know that children are like little detectives. They are constantly seeking to classify and categorise the world around them in order to make sense of it.
Part of a child’s development is the process of beginning to understand, and grapple with, the complex concept of gender. – university of Melbourne”
Kari A. Dudte The Ohio State University May 2008 reported the following:
Studies show that gender role norms affect the way people act, feel, and think. They are instilled in us at an early age and can affect our day to day lives. The present study investigates the strength of gender norms, and whether one’s self-perception of the norms they relate (or do not relate) to can be effected by social influence. Undergraduate students at The Ohio State University Mansfield in an introductory psychology class took part in the study. Results were non-significant, but the trends found went in the direction of the hypothesis. With insignificant findings, it can be assumed that gender roles are relatively resistant to social influence. Weaknesses of the methodology and suggestions for future research are discussed.
“Our Watch” Published by Our Watch GPO Box 24229, Melbourne VIC 3001 reported the following
Parents and children alike are immersed in a social and cultural environment that produces and perpetuates gender stereotypes – clothing, toys, television shows, books, friends and extended family members all communicate messages, explicitly and implicitly, about what is considered ‘appropriate’ for girls and boys. While this wider context has a significant influence on young children’s developing understanding of gender, research confirms that families, and in particular parents, are young children’s first and primary source of information and learning about gender.1 This is why Our Watch, with support from Australian accessories brand MIMCO, has chosen to focus on the potential for parents of young children to challenge restrictive gender stereotypes and roles, a key driver of violence against women. Parents of young children can play a powerful role in helping to drive the generational cultural change required to see an end to violence against women.
In early 2017, Our Watch conducted a survey to ask parents of children from 0 to 3 years old what they think about gender equality and violence against women, how they divide key household tasks and childrearing responsibilities within their family, and whether they believe that gender has an impact on their children. The findings
The survey found that the majority of parents believe that girls and boys should be treated the same in the early years. However, there are some complexities in the findings, as parents may also inadvertently or subtly reinforce gender stereotypes and differential treatment of girls and boys. The survey showed that parents of young girls were more comfortable with the idea of them engaging in masculine-typed play, such as playing with trucks, whereas parents of young boys had lower levels of comfort in regard to their sons’ participation in feminine-typed play, such as playing with dolls. Furthermore, more mothers were comfortable with the idea of their child acting in opposition to gender stereotypes than fathers, for example, more mothers than fathers were comfortable with the idea of their young sons crying when feeling sad. The survey also revealed that the majority of parents want to be equally involved in their young children’s lives, indicating that the previously very rigid gender stereotypes related to care-giving are shifting in today’s society. This finding highlights an important role for government, workplaces, media and others to play in helping to support these aspirations, by enabling parents to practice and promote greater equality in caring for children. We all need to support parents to create and model an environment for their children that promotes gender equality and gives children the freedom to be themselves. 5 Evidence Paper Executive Summary Importantly, the survey showed that the majority of parents want to take action to challenge traditional gender stereotypes. There are a number of ways in which parents of young children can do this, such as by being aware of the ways they may unintentionally and subtly reinforce gender stereotypes and by modelling gender equality and respect in their own relationships.
Implications for primary prevention
The survey suggests there is a positive role for Our Watch and others to play in supporting parents of young children to practice putting such strategies in place as a way to both support their aspirations of gender equality for their children and help challenge the rigid and harmful gender stereotypes that drive violence against women. Adapted from https://www.ourwatch.org.au/getmedia/e42fe5ce-8902-4efc-8cd9-799fd2f316d7/OUR0042-Parenting-and-Early-Years-AA.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf
There is no normal. There is no perfect. Human Experience shapes who we are. Gender stereotypes are shaped by society and all of the influences just discussed. Everyone is unique.
Let me ask you again…
What does it mean to be male?
16 November 2018
Only women get depression,
Depression is not a real illness.
Depressed people are always crying.
If I get treatment for depression I will have to take drugs for the rest of my life.
Men should be able to suck it up and snap out of it.
Only women get depression: The fact is that millions of men worldwide suffer from depression every year and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. There are some common symptoms of depression anyone can experience, which can include being withdrawn, losing interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy, and difficulty concentrating on things, sleeping too much or too little, excessive worrying, weight loss or gain. While we may all experience some of these symptoms at times, if you experience a number of these symptoms and they persist it is likely you are experiencing a depressive episode. When depressed, men can become irritable and aggressive, work compulsively, isolate themselves from friends and family, drink more than normal, and engage in high risk activities.
Depression is not a real illness: Depression is a serious health condition that millions of men contend with every year. It’s no different than if you develop diabetes or high blood pressure—it can happen to anyone. Depression can be a symptom of something else going on physically. Low testosterone can cause many changes in mood, energy, and sexual libido. And one of the things a hormonal imbalance can cause is depression. Men with low testosterone are four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression.
Depressed people are always crying: Not all people cry or act sad when they have depression. Some feel useless, emotionally blank, or worthless. Depression affects people in different ways, but it still takes a toll on families and prevents people from living life to the fullest. When depressed, some men can become irritable and aggressive, work compulsively, isolate themselves from friends and family, drink more than normal, and engage in high risk activities.
If I get treatment for depression I will have to take drugs for the rest of my life: Medication is not the only treatment for depression. Your General Practitioner may recommend medication and for some people a course of medication can support other strategies they use to overcome depression, this does not mean you have to take it for the rest of your life. Studies show that a combination of medication and psychological intervention has proved to be more effective than either medication or psychological intervention alone. Psychotherapy is a proven treatment for depression. It’s useful for gaining new perspectives and developing new coping skills.
Men should be able to suck it up and snap out of it. Fighting depression is difficult. Not only do you have to fight the illness but you also fight the stigma attached to it. For men, the fear of looking weak or unmanly adds to this strain. Anger, shame and other defences can kick in as a means of self-protection but may ultimately prevent men from seeking treatment. Trying to battle a mental health condition on your own is like trying to push a boulder up a mountain by yourself—without a team to back you up, it’s going to be a lot harder.
9 November 2018
JOIN THE MOVEMENT
“Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends face a health crisis that isn’t being talked about. Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent.”
BREAK THE STIGMA
Weather it be a mental illness, physical illness an injury or as basic as getting a general check up by your local GP, our men are NOT TALKING.
Research has indicated that men’s mental health is worse than ever in Australia:
“Incidence of mental health issues in young men
Between adolescence and young adulthood, anxiety, depressive, and attention-related disorders are the leading causes of disability for young Australian males. In any one year, 1/10 young Australian males experience suicidal thoughts, and 1/5 young Australian males feel as though life is barely worth living.
Barriers to accessing services
Upon entering adolescence, males tend to disconnect from healthcare services, and this often continues throughout early and middle adulthood. This could be due to a number of reasons:
- Males tend to experience greater ridicule and social punishment for engaging in non-traditional gendered behaviours, such as displaying vulnerable emotions, seeking help, or expressing hurts. As a result, they often feel the need to conceal vulnerability and maintain independence
- Many men report being unaware of services that are available to them, have little time to access services, or fail to believe that a healthcare provider can help with their symptoms
- In particular, mental health practitioners have been identified as the least accessible sources of mental health support by young men
- Men may experience barriers to seeking help from health professionals when they perceive other men in their social networks as disparaging the process.
- Cost or presumed cost can also play a role in young men not seeking help There can also be fear and uncertainty regarding acceptance of differences (i.e. cultural, sexuality)”
Statistics adapted from https://headspace.org.au/assets/clinical-toolkit/CT-At-Risk-Young-Men.pdf
A national stigma persists to this day that goes back generations, that men HAVE to be STRONG, TOUGH and RELIABLE with whatever the circumstance. Whatever circumstance it may be, research has shown that this is NOT working. It is NOT SUSTAINABLE in the long term.
Did you know that your brain is connected to the rest of your body?
It is hard to believe for some, that when our brain is stressed, anxious, nervous or depressed that this may be why we feel the way we do physically. Do you feel sick to the stomach? Do you forget things easily? Do you sweat? Do you have trouble sleeping? Or do you sleep all the time?
“I have no energy…no motivation”
What can you do?
“Its okay not to be okay”
The following have been scientifically proven to assist with mental and overall well being and health.
Talk to someone, whether it be a psychologist, GP, wife, parent, child, friend. Talk to someone. We are all HUMAN and sometimes we all need a little help. We can’t know everything all at once. Humans are designed to learn and grow. And sometimes we get hurt, but that’s okay. YOU have the power to prevent things from happening.
Exercise has been proven to release endorphins which is a hormone that promotes a feeling of happiness. Exercise also allows oxygen and blood circulate the entire body so your brain gets enough energy to survive the day. And I am not talking about physical activity with your work. I don’t know about you but farmers or tradies will constantly say “I work out all day long” ….Yes this is true, but is it associated to something negative or stressful? Movement and physical activity should be a time away from all stressful stimuli. You only have ONE body, ONE brain, ONE heart, we have to look after it.
Listen to others. When you talk to others, you should listen to what they have to say also. It may surprise you at what someone might have to offer. You might even find they are going through the exact same thing at the EXACT same time.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Eating well will allow you to gain all of the nutrients your body physically needs to function well and gain energy. Have you tried running car or engine without putting fuel in it? It may not start…or even more extreme blow up your engine.
Find a balance within your life. Whether it be work life balance or Life family balance. You must try to find a balance with everything. There is only so many hours in a day, you can not do it all as sad as that may be.
- SEE YOUR GP
Technology has invented this amazing thing called a telephone, heard of it? I am sure you use it a lot during the day. Pick it up, call your GP or call a psychologist. There are people everywhere around Australia who their soul job is learning and treating men just like you. You will be surprised at what they have to offer. Do not be shy, no one will judge you for being HUMAN.
“WE ARE ALL HUMAN”