Saving us from perimenopause, one Hot Flush at a time

Saving us from perimenopause, one Hot Flush at a time

Nobody ever signs up for perimenopause, and yet, here we are. Is it not enough that we’ve already been through puberty, pregnancy, childbirth and Year 9? Is. it. not. enough? Apparently, it isn’t. Just when you start to relax a little, our bodies throw this ghastly thing called perimenopause at us. Luckily there are women out there like Kim Berry and Kayte Murphy – aka Mrs Woog – the friends behind podcast The Hot Flush.

By Mrs Woog

It was not my finest moment. Armed with my six-week-old baby I approached a brand-new mother at the hospital. She was beaming with happiness, gazing at her day-old offspring all wrapped up in that iconic pink and blue hospital blanket in a Perspex bassinet on wheels.

Speaking as someone driven by sleep deprivation with a nasty case of mastitis as I was, I leaned in and hissed: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”

She looked at me with horror as I took my leave.

Fast forward 16 years and again, I tell women of my age: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”

Mrs Woog and Kim Berry - discussing perimenopause like it's everybody's business

Because it is not enough that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood change your body forever, the female form must endure another round in the ring. This time it is menopause. More specifically, the period of time leading up to menopause – which can last for TEN years – perimenopause.

In 2015, I was approached by a start-up hosting company to gauge my interest in starting a podcast. Having spent a decade being a prominent lady writer of the internet and not one to be shy from offering an opinion, I was up for the new medium.

Cirque Du Soleil moves

It was also around this time that I had was noticing a few changes in myself. My monthly cycle had become completely un-cooperative. My mood swings were so spectacular in speed, scale and agility I could have successfully auditioned for Cirque Du Soleil. The sound of my partner chewing his food would leave me twitching in the corner with rage. And my ability to sleep was no longer guaranteed.

None of this was ideal. What was happening to me?

I started reaching out to friends to see if they too were feeling like their body was fighting them or if it was just me. One of those mates, Sydney writer and editor Kim Berry, was very sympathetic. In fact, we complained so often and so loudly to each other we knew it wasn’t just us. If we didn’t know what was going on, then how many other women were out there with similar experiences thinking they were losing their mind?

And so, The Hot Flush: The Premier Podcast for the Perimenopausal was born.

A place to be heard

To call ourselves “premier” might sound presumptuous, but when we started five years ago (we officially rebranded to The Hot Flush in 2017), it was the only show that was specifically aimed at 40–60-year-old women who, like us, were sad sacks of sweat, surfing an unfamiliar wave of crashing and rising hormones and who needed a place to be heard.

We bought a basic recording device, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and pressed record. We didn’t understand production values or marketing plans, we still don’t, but we did – and do – understand women. We know what it feels like when your body seems intent on destroying you one murderous mood, one hot flush, one lost libido, one sleepless night at a time.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Hot Flush. The little place in the podcast world that was not aspirational, not sexy and in many ways was not particularly coherent, but we kept turning up each week to discuss what on earth was going on with us.  

We started to gain a small and loyal following. My prominent writer lady of the internet profile and word-of-mouth helped spread the news that there were these two loud, sweaty, sweary Aussie chicks to whom no topic was off limits. And they came, stayed and have downloaded the podcast more than 325,000 times.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Perimenopause is so much more than a list of medical conditions. Combined with what is going on physically, mentally and emotionally, most women are also dealing with family, parenting, marriage/relationships and career.

Ain’t that the truth: Puberty vs Perimenopause: Let’s get ready to rumble


Connection is key

Perimenopausal women are the sandwich generation – raising children on one side and caring for aging parents on the other. We also fall into the peak age bracket for divorce.

There are, of course, wonderful things about being in your 40s and beyond, but the obstacle course some women have to navigate before they can bask in those golden rays can be an ultra-endurance event.

What Kim and I were determined to do was not sugar coat it. To lay it bare, and then laugh, cry, rage and inform others about what was going on.

Mrs Woog and Kim Berry - The Hot Flush

Our private Facebook group has swelled to more than 5,500 members from all over the world. We encourage conversations saying: “There are no stupid questions.” Members – our Hotties – now organise meet-ups with each other, a godsend for those in remote or rural areas or for those with few family or friends nearby.

What is wonderful for us is level of comfort many of our listeners felt when sharing their own stories and asking questions that would have never seen the light of day. From relationship or parenting advice, to shared medical experiences and what has helped with any of the myriad medical wildcards peri has thrown at you this week, to life events and mental health concerns.

We have come to realise that we are providing a much-needed platform for women to know they are not alone and that they are heard. Oh, and to just keep plucking!

Listen to The Hot Flush here.

All images Instagram/@woogsworld – used with permission

When to have the first period talk with your tween

When to have the first period talk with your tween

If your tween has started being grumpy for no apparent reason, answering back, or crying and doing a lot of extra sleeping, it’s a sign that her hormones have really kicked in and she’s in the early stages of puberty. Yep, it’s time to sit her down for her first period talk so you can let her know what she can expect.

By Elizabeth Chapman, Australian distributor of Lunette and co-founder of the Sustainable Period Project

Generally, the sooner you have the period talk, the better. Periods can start anytime between eight-16 years old, with the average age being 12 or 13. If you haven’t had a conversation about periods with your tween yet, then you need to. Otherwise she will hear about it in the playground and you’ll have no control over what she’s told.


One mum’s experience: What it’s like when your daughter gets her first period


 

Early signs

The first signs of periods can come long before a change in mood arrives. Early signs include an increase in body odour (particularly underarms) and pimple break-outs or tiny spots on her face. Small breast buds develop and pubic and underarm hair starts growing. 

She will notice the changes in her body, so one way you can start to introduce the idea of periods is by emphasising proper body hygiene. Encourage her to shower daily, focusing on her face, underarms and vulva.

You may also notice a light discharge on your tween’s underwear (clear or white). This usually occurs around ovulation and your tween’s body may start cycling for three to 12 months before her first actual ‘blood discharge’ period. This is all normal.

Casually point out the discharge to your girl and mention that it’s a sign of her body getting ready to have periods. Mood changes, headaches and tummy cramps (PMS) may accompany this cycling, so encourage your tween to take note of any patterns as her body gears up for the next stage of her life. It might be helpful to buy her a book about periods and puberty, so she can have it on hand to refer to whenever she feels ready.


For her library: 6 good books about starting your period


The first period talk needs to happen sooner than you think

Pads, tampons and cups

An easy way to introduce sanitary items to the first period chat is to leave a box of tampons, period undies, or a pad or your menstrual cup out and let the questions come.

Make sure you cover all the options when talking to your tween about sanitary products and allow them to own their period by choosing the products they want to use.

Modern cloth pads and period underwear are brilliant for younger tweens and offer sustainable options that will save a fortune in the long term. Menstrual cups are suitable for teens who are more confident with their period and can take a few cycles to master.

First period kit

Make a ‘First Period Survival Kit’ together. This is essential!

You’ll need one for home and one for the school bag. A pencil case or small make-up bag will do the trick and should include; a spare pair of underwear, a pad (disposable or cloth) or a pair of period underwear. Talk about how to use the products and go through what your daughter would do if she got their first period at school or a friend’s place or while you were at work or away.


More about kits here: What’s in our first period kit and some thoughts about starting


Remember to talk to your tween about periods in a factual and positive environment, as this will build confidence and normalise her attitude towards menstruating and her changing body. Just keep it light and matter-of-fact. You can add lots of little conversations into everyday situations to build on the ‘period talk’ and remind her that getting her first period is just a part of life.

Are you looking forward to having the first period talk?

Images by Annie Spratt

Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

We’re all looking for ways to engage the kids in non-screen activities, especially right now when screens often feel like the only option. There has to be a reason why we’re fighting with the kids about screens all. the. time, right? Georgina Manning, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing For Kids tells us why it’s so important that we keep finding them other things to do.

by Georgina Manning

Busy parents often find the work–life balance difficult to master, with the urge to plug in and tune out ever tempting. Under the current climate, this has only amplified – particularly for mums with teens. Among the endless list of responsibilities, we’re already juggling, COVID-19 has successfully doubled the load. Sometimes, technology seems like the only option we have to keep our kids entertained.

Non-screen time for kids like reading and board games

With remote learning now in full swing, Australians’ internet consumption and screen time is at an all-time high. In fact, it’s increased more than 70% since February 2020. While remote learning can be tricky to navigate, encouraging your child to engage in non-screen activities in their free time will not only improve their skills, it can also bring your family closer.


Try some of these ideas: 100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen


 

Which is why non-screen activities like Pictionary and Scrabble have announced a new rule change. All players must now put their smartphones into the empty game box lid at the start of every game. The new rule aims to eliminate any distractions – and potential cheating! – promising a fun night in with your family.

Taking the time for tech-free activities is one of the best things we can do for our children. Playing freely allows the mind a moment to stop and rest and to nourish the brain and body.  Non-screen gameplay also has a huge range of cognitive and emotional benefits.

Educational development

Regular non-screen activities has a powerful impact on cognitive skills and memory. It also helps open the lines of communication, creating lasting positive family memories.

Games like Scrabble can also help with a child’s vocabulary.  Pictionary will help improve fine motor skills while stimulating creativity and self-expression. Board games keep the entire family entertained with some (healthy!) competition and help children keep their brain active, building on their problem-solving and communication skills. 

Non-screen time for kids like reading and music


Plenty more non-screen activities here: 100+ engaging, non-cringe things for teens to do at home


 

Emotional intelligence

Setting time aside for non-screen activities – and ultimately, face-to-face communication – is important for relationship building and fostering interpersonal skills for all ages.

New circumstances, particularly the one we’re in currently, can bring up feelings of worry. A shared task is a great opportunity to open up conversations with our kids. During these conversations, we are able to validate the kids’ concerns and emotions. Often, just listening is enough to put them at ease while learning the importance of communication for years to come.

Time for mindfulness

Disconnecting from tech when playing board games will help drive mindfulness and wellbeing. It brings people together to enjoy the present moment with our loved ones.


It’s so important: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword


 

Often we find ourselves caught up in the online world, losing touch with the physical world and those around us. This is no different for children. It’s important they understand and distinguish between the two realities and remain mindful to ease any anxiety.

Now more than ever before, it is critical we find ways to connect. We need to set positive examples for our children to follow. Devices can’t always be off the cards, but we need to take regular breaks from screens. Use this time to connect together and be fully engaged in appreciating each other’s company.

And, of course, let’s have lots of fun introducing routines our kids can continue to enjoy.              

Georgina Manning is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing for Kids. As a national wellbeing speaker with over two decades of experience working in schools supporting children and parents through seminars and professional development days, Georgina prides herself on reaching effective social and emotional outcomes for both parents and children. Continuing her passion for children’s wellbeing, Georgina created the ‘Peaceful Kids’ and ‘Peaceful Parents’ Mindfulness and Positive Psychology programs, holding training across many states in Australia. For more information on Mattel’s new rule, you can visit Scrabble or Pictionary on Facebook.

Feature image by Suzy Hazelwood; screen time by Julie M Cameron; records by Sofia Garza 

3 tips to get girls reading books again

3 tips to get girls reading books again

We’re thrilled that best-selling author AL Tait has shared her tips to get girls reading books again. AL is the author of seven books for readers aged 10-14 years, including her latest hit out this month The Fire Star. Find a full review of The Fire Star here, or read on for AL Tait’s best strategies to keep girls reading.

by AL Tait

Tweens, teens and reading. It’s a fraught subject in most households, I know, because as a co-admin of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, it’s a topic that comes up over and over again:

How do I get my daughter off screens and onto books? 

Can anyone suggest books for a tween who wants to read YA? 

My 12-year-old daughter used to be an avid reader, but now she’s lost interest. Any suggestions?

These are just some of the requests for help we’ve received over the past few weeks.

So, what to do?


Don’t miss Al Tait’s list of book recommendations: 21 books older girls will like


 

3 tips to get girls reading books

1. Let her read what she likes

When I was writing my new novel The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery), I wrote exactly the kind of book that my 12-year-old self would have loved.

Full of mystery, adventure, with a clever heroine who does not suffer fools, a secret society, lots of intrigue, a charming hero who proves to be a great friend, and even a noble wedding.

Too often, I think that we try to steer our young readers away from the stories that engage (even engross), amuse and enchant them towards the kinds of books that we think they ‘should be reading’.

Or we worry that they’re venturing out into waters that might prove too turbulent for them in terms of content or themes.

It’s not easy when this happens, but try to trust that she’ll put it aside if it’s too much for her, or at the very least come and have a chat with you about it.

Tips to get girls reading again

2. Offer her books she may not have thought of

One of the best things we can do to get girls reading again is, as I like to put it, throw books at them. Graphic novels, non-fiction, poetry, all manner of books.

Bring them home from the library, swap them with friends, get them from book fairs or bookshops.

You never know which book will be just the right book to make her a reader for life – and it might just surprise you.


AL Tait recommends these books, or try one of these: 21 awesome books for reluctant readers (they won’t be able to resist)


 

3. Get some help

If you’re struggling to come up with potential books for your young reader, don’t be afraid to chat to your school or town librarian or your local bookseller – they’re the experts and have no doubt encountered situations just like yours, over and over.

But sometimes your school doesn’t have a librarian, or you don’t get to the library often (hello lockdown) or your town no longer has a specialist bookshop. One of the reasons that I set up the Your Kid’s Next Read community was to bring together parents in this situation with not only other parents, but with teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, and other publishing industry experts.

No matter what kind of book you’re looking for, someone in the group will have the perfect answer. Join us!

A.L. Tait is the author of three epic and engaging series for readers aged 10-14, including The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and The Maven & Reeve Mysteries. Find out more at allisontait.com.

Read AL Tait's latest book - The Fire Star

Images by Bron Maxabella

7 reasons why gaming is good for kids (and a few things to look out for)

7 reasons why gaming is good for kids (and a few things to look out for)

Video games tend to get a bad rap from media, parents and society as a whole as the world laments the impact they’ve had on a nostalgic world of books, board games and outside play. Yes, they can while away many hours from a child’s day, promote violent play and misogynistic themes and prevent children from getting the exercise and sleep they need. However, gaming is good for kids too.

By Martine Oglethorpe

They are a valid form of entertainment, storytelling, pastime, social platform and sometimes even a stress reliever that can be a perfectly healthy addition to our children’s lives. Rather than cower in a world of anxiety and fear, constantly clicking on the alarmist headlines, let’s instead take the reins and choose to work with our kids and the technology to ensure it can be a positive addition to their lives.

The Modern Parent by Martine Oglethorpe

Why gaming is good for kids

I first need to make it clear that I would never advocate for a child to play video games non-stop at the expense of their wellbeing. It goes without saying that they should not be playing games so much that they don’t get any homework done, or that they skip meals or sleep or stop hanging out with friends or doing activities they always did.

I am also not advocating for children to play inappropriate and violent games that are sending all sorts of crazy messages about violence, gender roles, breaking the law, etc. 

There are; however, many, many video games out there that are actually great for your child as well as being something they simply enjoy doing. And there has been a significant increase in research into why gaming is good for kids. The findings of researchers such as Daphne Bavelier and Jane McGonigal dismiss the notion of gaming as being mindless and time-wasting, but rather espouse the benefits of gaming to actually ignite positive change to social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.

If your child loves playing games, instead of spending all your energy worrying about how you can stop them from playing, remember that there are some really good reasons why you should continue to let them play. Here are some of the reasons why gaming is good for kids.

1. Gaming provides a sense of achievement

Going through different levels, accomplishing tasks, gaining access to new worlds or environments and creating and making things, allows them to feel the excitement and satisfaction of achievement. For children who may struggle to attain a certain level of success in other more ‘popular’ arenas, the positive benefits of conquering a game or level can never be underestimated for its ability to boost confidence and create a positive sense of self.

2. Gaming increases coordination and tracking skills

The physical benefits of game playing also refer to improvements in spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination and attention to detail. Many careers now use gaming as part of their training to simulate situations and build on these skills.

3. Games provides a sense of belonging

For many children, video games give them a sense of belonging they may not get to experience in other areas of their lives. Not all kids get to feel the sense of community from their peers, they may not enjoy sports and being part of a team, they may not have any other avenue of feeling connected. With over 70% of game playing involving collaboration or competition this also emphasises the interactive nature of video games as opposed to the more passive nature of other screen time activities.

Positive benefits of gaming - collaboration and community


More good advice: 5 common screen time issues and realistic ways to handle them


4. Gaming is good for stress release

When kids get home from school sometimes they need time to ‘switch off’. Having to participate, to be ‘on’, be present and interacting with others all day can be emotionally taxing on many kids. Video games have been reported to have huge benefits for those needing to simply ‘chill out’ for a while and do their own thing without the demands of others.

5. Gaming develops persistence and resilience

Persistence and overcoming obstacles is one of the most valuable skills we can teach our kids. Many video games require you to experiment with different ways to do things. They require you to change tactics, be creative in your thinking and strategy and come up with new ways to solve problems.

6. Gaming is good for cognitive thinking

Gaming is not always about shooting people, or racing cars. And even in these games as well as the many other types of games kids play, there is some pretty high order thinking that is required to conquer challenges, solve puzzles and advance to other levels.

Positive benefits of gaming - sense of belonging

7. Gaming is good for teamwork and collaboration

Many games require players to play in pairs, teams and collaborate with others for the greatest outcome. Negotiating what tools to use, trusting others to have your back in battle and deciding on the best course of action as a team can all be great ways to learn those important skills of working with others, compromise and trust that may well transfer to the work they do both at school and beyond.

How to spot a problem

It’s not all good news, of course. The creators of games know what appeals to our brain and our reward systems and thus they come complete with hooks and never-ending loop systems that make it very difficult for us to put them down.

With the lure of getting to one more level, making one more kill, finding one more bag of loot, crushing one more piece of candy, having one more chance to be the last man standing, the brain of a young person can find it difficult to naturally tell themselves when they have had enough. So we do need to help them with that.

The Modern Parent by Martine Oglethorpe

That means we can have some boundaries around the times they play, particularly if they are having trouble regulating that for themselves. And we must look out for the red flags that tell us our children are struggling to control their time spent.

We want to avoid them heading down the slippery slope to obsessive behaviours that get harder to manage the older they get, and the more entrenched those behaviours become.

Red flags may be:

  • having a tantrum or becoming aggressive when they are told to come off the games
  • skipping meals or losing sleep because of game playing
  • no longer participating in activities they once enjoyed
  • slipping in school grades or not wanting to attend school.

 


This should help: How to set boundaries on Fortnite and other video games


The problem, of course, is that all of the above can also be seen as normal tween and teen behaviours. But if we think that our child’s game playing is impacting other areas of their life in an increasingly negative way, then it may be time to step in and make some changes. Discuss together those concerns and how you can come up with a plan to help them remain in control and avoid
slipping into those obsessive behaviours.

+  +  +

Martine Oglethorpe is a speaker, author, educator and Trusted eSafety Provider with the Office of the eSafety Commission. She has a background in secondary education, a Masters in Counselling and most importantly, is a mother to five boys. Through her personal and professional work with families she recognises the important role technology plays in the social and emotional wellbeing of young people. Her new book The Modern Parent: Raising a great kid in the digital world is out now.

Have you found that gaming is good for kids, or is it more of a struggle at your place?

 

 

Why gaming is good for kids

Feature image  by Teddy Guerrier ;  Nintendo Switch by Howard Bouchevereau; Two consoles by JESHOOTS.COM 

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