Christmas Day 2020 – a reason to hope

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year. Even now as…

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year.

Even now as I write, we are watching aghast as NSW closes down with what seems to be a new outbreak, and Christmas and summer plans for thousands and thousands of people are being wrecked. The nightmare of Covid-19 lingers on.

In Australia we have charted the year better than most countries, graciously, but even here we have experienced huge doses of fear, frustration, isolation and disruption. As if this was not enough, we have also seen vast bush fires, global racial conflicts, and fierce divisions over politics, vaccines and almost every issue of importance.

So we come up to Christmas, surrounded by the familiar and strangely comforting trappings of carols, decorations and shopping. In such a different year this public holiday is looming with extra meaning and value.

As I ponder why I am feeling Christmas more than in past years, I have been struck with three reasons that the season brings me hope:

  1. Simplicity – there is much that we normally do that we’ve been forced to give up (which changes depending on where we’re located), like travel, parties, going to the movies, avoiding crowds at shopping centres, and not being able to see some people we love. Our world has shrunk, as we have spent so much time at home. For many of us, Christmas will be smaller, local and with just the basics. This pared back experience initially felt like a loss, but as it gets closer I am finding it special and wonderful. After all, that very first Christmas was a simple, yet wonderful and meaningful affair.
  2. Family – or more specifically, the people I love and who love me. I sadly concede that not everyone has or relishes time with their own family, but whether it be one person or a crowd, Christmas presents a time to find and hold onto those who are yours. We are social beings who share a bond with our flesh and blood, or tribe or mob or gang, or those who we feel at home with. Especially in a year of so much separation, Christmas invites fresh connection – in person if we can, or virtually – if necessary.
  3. Gifts – I cannot shake the weird wonderfulness of giving at Christmas, the selflessness of finding and buying things to give to others. This entails spending hours at the shops (or online), spending our money, wrapping our presents and placing them under a tree – all so we can hand them out so that our special others can rip off the paper and discover the treasure they have received. This is quite literally a gesture of national generosity, unlike any other single time in our lives. Ok, so it is capitalism gone crazy, but still, isn’t the giving of gifts amazing.

It may not surprise that each of these reasons also remind me of the background story of Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, this man-made celebration is based on the truly remarkable story in the Bible of the arrival of a baby to earth.

The creator of the universe came as a mere baby, in a most simple and completely unremarkable fashion. While fully God, this baby came to a young family, Joseph and Mary, under social and moral clouds because of a virgin conception. They were without a home due to a government ruling and a threat to the life of their child. This baby came as God’s gift to our world, to reveal in human form his character and teachings, and to ultimately offer a sacrifice that would save the world from our sin and struggles.

I do love this time of year. And this year maybe more than ever before in my life. May you and yours find new hope in this Christmas season, and may your 2021 be full of joy and blessing.

 

About the Author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

Posted: 24/12/2020

4 reasons why it’s important for everyone to understand mental illness

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through…

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through serious mental illness.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for children aged between five and 17 years. One in every five Australians are affected by mental illness every year, 1 in 7 are aged 4-17, yet many don’t seek help. (Mental Health Australlia).

Why is that? And what can we do to support our Children and Youth in seeking help?

Mental Health can have a negative stigma when viewing a person suffering from mental illness. They are treated differently and can be viewed as “Dangerous” or “Crazy”. Having these stigmas can lead to discrimination, bullying, and in some cases it can lead to them becoming a target for violence or abuse.

However, if a person suffering from mental illness is feeling that negative stigma it can also mean they are less likely to seek treatment when needed.

What can we do about it?

1. Educate yourself about mental illness

This will help you understand how mental illness impacts a person’s life and how we can support those around us.

2. Use facts

Media can be a powerful tool to reinforcing negative stigma, so be sure to know the difference between fact and myths when it comes to mental illness

3. Help reduce stigma

Advocate for those who are suffering from mental illness, encourage those around you to seek the facts and know that people with mental illness have the same rights as everyone else.

4. Encourage to seek support

If you know of someone suffering from mental illness, encourage them to seek help. Let them know that it is okay to look after your mental wellbeing, and that stigma should not stop them from seeking treatment.

 

It is important for us to be able to contribute to how we can increase the awareness of mental illness and how it is viewed in our communities and schools.

If we can have a positive view of mental illness, we can help reduce the negative stigma and encourage those around us to seek the help they need.

Our children and young people need to know that it is okay to look after your mental health and ask for help.

 

About the author…
Jane has been involved with SU Camps and Community Outreaches for 15 years. She has experience working as a chaplain and has a background in nursing. Jane currently works as the Camp Specialist for SU QLD, overseeing the camps and missions across Queensland.

 

 

References:
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-stigma
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
https://mhaustralia.org/our-work/world-mental-health-day-oct-10

Posted: 11/12/2020

Why do I celebrate NAIDOC Week?

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than…

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than the usual July dates due to COVID-19). This time is about our First Nations people, and I feel a little like an intruder.

Standing for “National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee”, NAIDOC has its roots in the 1920s and 1930s as a protest against the status and treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Nowadays the week – which sometimes extends over the month – is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of these First Australians.

So while with trepidation, I am also embracing the chance to reflect on why I personally believe NAIDOC Week is so special and why we all need it:

1. First Australians have had and continue to have unfair struggles

Sadly my starting point is the disparity between life experiences of First Australian peoples compared to the majority of us from non-Indigenous backgrounds. The statistics are shocking, necessitating a national government policy called, strikingly, “Closing the Gap”. Just a couple of the stats include:

  • A child death rate of 146 per 100,000 for Indigenous children, compared to 70 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children – twice as high!*
  • Life expectancy of 71.6 years and 75.6 years for Indigenous males and females, compared to 80.2 and 83.4 years for non-Indigenous males and females – a gap of 8.6 and 7.8 years!** However in 2018, the median age at death for Indigenous Australians was 60, compared with 82 for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15 and 24 are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people the same age.***

These numbers are only a small part of the picture, and do not include challenges like rates of incarceration, deaths in custody, low levels of education, and the general blight of racism. These are unfair and not right.

However – this is not the whole picture! Despite these sobering realities I do not see our Indigenous peoples as victims and helpless pawns forever defeated by history. There are many other reasons to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

2. First Australian have an amazing culture

Australia is a unique country in the world, marked by a rich, vibrant and unique contribution from our First Australian peoples. No one else has their didgeridoos and boomerangs, art and dance, dreamtime stories and connection to country.

I have to confess that my perspective on this comes from my own experience of having grown up in an Indigenous community, and from having lived overseas and missing home, but I still feel a sense of pride whenever First Australians are represented in the image we project to the world. I feel a sense that this beautiful and ancient culture is ours, and we’re so blessed to have it.

3. First Australians have much to teach us, to build a better Australia

As someone who is wired to rush through life, being busy and productive and ticking off my never ending to-do list, I admire and quite honestly envy our First Australians’ approach to life. In fact, I find myself becoming a student of their values and rhythms, and reckon they hold powerful truths we could all benefit from.

One of these is asking “who is your mob?” where they cherish the past, our roots and the people who we come from, and so intentionally recognise our cultural identity. We are not islands but connected to our ancestors, and knowing this is invaluable to establishing where we fit in now and how we will see and build the future.

Another priceless lesson is their practice of yarning or conversation, where they take the time to sit down and talk, to tell stories, to listen and to learn from each other, and together work out solutions. My nature fights this, but as I practice this discipline I start to see different solutions and experience different feelings of what progress might be.

4. First Australians are people like me

The Bible tells me that God made all people and that each is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and Jesus tells me that I should “love my neighbour as I love myself” (Mark 12:31). My First Australian neighbours were made by God just like I was, and each have hopes and dreams and fears and struggles just like I do.

However as a tiny minority (less than 3% of our population) their voice is small. Every single one of us have at times experienced being the odd one out, the newbie, the exception to the group – and know how good it is when we are included, when we are invited into the whole and made to feel special.

Like on our birthday when our family and friends celebrate us being born, NAIDOC Week is a special time to lift up and honour our First Australians.

May NAIDOC Week be a step, together, for all Australians to better understand each other, to revel in and learn from each other, for every week of the year. And like in any relationship, we need to acknowledge the hurts and the misunderstandings, but also to be open to being changed and having our perspective widened.

I know I’d like that, so that is what I seek for my First Australian friends and countrymen. In fact, it’s what I would like to see for our nation, and even our world.

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

*  [Indigenous child mortality and life expectancy] https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/ed34c67c-e1aa-4d4f-9ff2-366ea6f27b52/aihw-aus-221-chapter-6-3.pdf.aspx

** [Indigenous life expectancy and deaths – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-life-expectancy-and-deaths)

*** [Suicide rate for Indigenous Australians remains ‘distressingly high’ | NITV] https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2019/09/26/suicide-rate-indigenous-australians-remains-distressingly-high

Posted: 12/11/2020

Make Empathy Great Again

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed…

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed a less publicised movement.  Make Empathy Great Again, commenced in the lead up to the 2016 US election and is a small, but expanding movement/operation. Both campaigns aim to make a difference. I wonder if we were to compare the potential long-term outcomes, which would be the most world changing?   

You may ask whether empathy ever stopped being great or has it just disappeared from view. In the Gonski-Growing Up Digital Study*, 80% of the almost 2000 Australian teachers and school leaders surveyed, reported student empathy has declined over the last five years.  This statistic means the majority of our country’s classrooms and playgrounds have been impacted. In a time when our young people would benefit from more rather than less understanding, maybe it’s time to Make Empathy Great Again.

Empathy is the ability to feel with someone, it’s about creating connection that leads to compassion.  It’s a skill that can be modelled and taught to young children and according to Brene Brown*, also mastered in adulthood.  It is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone else.  Empathy improves relationships, reduces conflict and is essential for good leadership. 

Screen time is up, face-to-face time is down. Competition has become a lifestyle, and our culture of offence and blame are some of multiple explanations for declining empathy.  It’s worth reflecting on these causes, as is Making Empathy Great Again, by modelling, encouraging and deliberately creating opportunities to develop it as part of family life. As in most learning there will be setbacks but practicing empathetic responses can only happen in relationships.

Here are three areas that might be worth focusing on.

In Conversation

The weight of a problem lessens when we sense we have been heard. Being aware of our own feelings and thoughts as we pay attention in conversation is important to really listening.  Being curious without trying to fix someone, recognising and tuning in to the other person’s feelings and checking for meaning can be encouraged in general conversation, after school debriefs and while reading books or watching movies – particularly those with some emotionally charged moments. Modelling and explaining the aspects of empathetic conversation with our kids will give them real tools they can use in relationships outside our homes.  

In Conflict

Conflict is often the reason students visit my chaplaincy room.  Rather than lecturing and expecting reluctant, meaningless apologies, I’ve noticed the transformation that occurs as I start by acknowledging the pain and how difficult it is to get along. Next, I encourage kids to consider how their own feelings may have influenced the way they acted and then I ask them to listen to the perspective and feelings of the other person. Often this leads to the realisation that they were actually trying to achieve the same thing.

I must admit smiling (internally), as two teary, fighting girls, realised that they both simply wanted to be accepted and valued.  They voluntarily offered, “I am sorry I called you a Ranga.”  “I am sorry I called you a Monobrow.”

As a parent, I realise the times I have blamed or lectured my kids for fighting with their siblings may not have been the empathetic modelling they needed.

In Connection

Jesus spoke about inviting those in need to our dinner table. This could be the elderly neighbour, the family with a different cultural background, or the isolated single parent of the “class behaviour problem,” among others. When we have opened up our home, I have at times, struggled with my own attitude while simultaneously learning from people who I presumed had not much to teach me.  I have fielded complaints from my kids, “Do they have to come over?” It has at times been inconvenient and out of my comfort zone and it has grown empathy.

In Romans, Paul wrote, bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate with the lowly. It sounds like a way to Make Empathy Great Again!

 

About the author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

References

Gonski Institute – Growing Up Digital Report, (2020)

Brene Brown – Dare to Lead, (2018)

Posted: 5/11/2020

Halloween – Finding Light in the Darkness

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event…

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event in our local calendar. But this hasn’t always been the case. The enthusiasm for Halloween seems to have grown quite dramatically over the last few decades in our area.

I remember when I was in Year 7 (almost 40 years ago now), I went trick or treating up and down the street with my friend and most people weren’t prepared for us at all, with many having no idea that it actually was Halloween night. We didn’t fare that well in terms of treats and I don’t think we played any tricks. We didn’t bother heading out the following year…

Halloween’s origins are believed to go all the way back to a Celtic festival that celebrated both the harvest and the change of season towards the colder, darker half of the year. It was believed that during this night, the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds would blur, resulting in heightened interactions between the living and the dead.

The festival morphed over time, influenced particularly by the Roman Empire and the Christian Church in the early centuries of the Common Era, but it’s clear that certain elements from these early expressions have stayed with us up until this day, for example, people might not wear disguises today to evade the dead’s trickery, but they still enjoy a good, spooky dress-up.

It’s been a long time since Halloween has been taken seriously as a genuine commemoration of the blurring lines between the physical and spiritual worlds.

For well over a century now, it’s been considered more of a community holiday where people get together for a party, to eat too much junk food and to freak each other out with spooky costumes, rubber masks and scary costumes. It’s supposed to be fun. I guess that’s why it’s grown in popularity over the past decades.

However, I do know people who aren’t sure about Halloween and whether it’s right to participate in a festival with seemingly such dark and unwholesome themes.

I have some sympathy for that view. I don’t love Halloween for some of those same reasons and I don’t usually go out of my way to get involved. But despite myself, I can’t help thinking that Halloween provides an opportunity to look not just at the darkness, but to look through it and see the light on the other side.

There’s a great verse in the Bible that says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:15 GNT)

It makes we wonder if I’ve failed to see the light that sits beyond the apparent darkness of my local Halloween celebration. Sure, there’s darkness on the surface. There’s lots of skeletons, zombies and scream masks, and people are certainly enjoying the shock factor in all that. But at the heart of it, people are getting together to have fun with their neighbours and friends. Surely there’s light in all that, brighter than the apparent darkness…?

So, maybe this Halloween, I won’t avoid the big community event like I usually do, even though it’s not my thing and aspects of it don’t sit completely right with me. Maybe I’ll join in and look for the light that is there under the surface. Maybe I’ll even try to be part of the light of the occasion.

I might even dress up.

Perhaps I’ll go as an angel.

Just to be sure…

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 30/10/2020

How to build a life giving home

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way, “All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family…

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way,

“All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family and profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of today’s accelerative thrust. In the midst of all this change sits the family – stunned by the shockwaves of novelty, shifting values, and information overload, wondering how they are going to survive. The family has been called the ‘giant shock absorber’ of society. Home is ‘the place to which the bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world, the one stable point in an increasingly flux-filled environment’.”

This is my picture of what family should be – what God intended for families to be.

In a world that is changing at a frenetic pace, where values are being diluted and eroded on a daily basis, all young people need a place of safety and security in which they are enveloped as they make sense of life.

When Marg and I welcomed our firstborn into the world, we talked together about what kind of home we wanted for our children. We had the opportunity to build a home that was shaped by our values and not a house that was shaped by our budget. We wanted a home that would be a safe place where all voices were validated, where anything and everything could be talked about. We wanted a home where we could laugh and cry together, and where our children felt secure in the knowledge that they were a part of a family that would always be there for them.

As followers of Jesus, our greatest hope and desire was that, in this journey, they too would grow a faith that was active and lifelong.

Put simply, our vision was for a life-giving home.

These were easy words to say those many years ago! We certainly didn’t achieve all we strived for, but we are thankful to God that our three children are living out an active faith today. When children are brought into this world through something called labour, this provides a clue of the commitment required of us as parents as we take on the responsibility given to us.

In the fast-paced world of today, when so much of our thinking is shaped by scanning and swiping and reading just 147 characters, I wrote a small 32-page book as a manageable read, to unpack this vision further.

Listen to the chorus of voices in these pages that amplify the urgency to return to the central place where life is formed, celebrated, experienced and matured.

What is proposed is a counter-cultural paradigm shift away from quick-fix solutions and program-centred strategies towards a return to the ancient, God-given priority for growing lifelong, active followers of Jesus.

Read on to find life for both yourself and your home.

Click here to access the 32-page book: Life-Giving Homes TW

 

About the author…

Terry is married to Marg and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. His developing gifts are in UNO, LEGO, Monopoly, racing cars, fairies, dinosaurs and Zooper Doopers. Terry is also a specialist in ministry with families and children at Scripture Union Queensland, where he has worked for 36 years.

Posted: 1/10/2020

Mentoring Matters: 5 keys to help your teens thrive

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were…

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were the significant adults in your life?

I was blessed with an abundance of aunts, uncles and family friends who all played important roles in my youth. I have great parents too (*applauds my mum and dad*), but there is a special place in my heart for those grown-ups who didn’t have to invest in my life but chose to anyway.

Research tells us that high-quality relationships are crucial to the development of young teens and young adults. However, 40% of young people report feeling lonely (Search Inst. 2017) and possess one or less relationships they would deem significant (Search Inst. 2017). In a hyper-networked world, teens and young adults lack real relationships, and are at a high risk of not having a significant adult in their life to guide them through the unstable landscape of young adulthood.

In short, teens and young adults need mentors.

When I think about mentoring young people, I am reminded of this little gem from the Bible;

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Young people in our communities need invested adults to walk beside and guide them through the sitting, walking, laying and rising of life. Mentors for the mundane and monumental.

How does mentoring benefit teens and young adults?

The Search Institute uses the term ‘developmental relationship’ to describe the nature of healthy connection between significant adults (mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) and young people.

In layman’s terms, a Developmental Relationship is a close connection between a young person and an adult that positively influences the young person to help them thrive.

Through their research they identified three key benefits of these relationships;

  • Help discover identity
  • Help develop capability
  • Help discern purpose.

If you think about the important people in your life during your adolescent years, can you recall how they helped you discover your identity, develop your capabilities, and discern a sense of purpose?

How can I help the teens and young adults in my life?

The Search Institute’s research found five essential components of developmental relationships that benefitted young people the most.

Express Care. Young people don’t just need to be told they matter; they need to be shown. Think of how you can practically demonstrate to a young person that they are valued.

Challenge Growth. Young people need to be encouraged and pushed to keep getting better. Consider how can you encourage a young person to give their best and keep them accountable.

Provide Support. In order to grow, sometimes we need a little help. How could you assist a young person to complete their tasks and achieve their goals (without taking over)?

Share Power. We all want to feel empowered to make decisions and take action in our lives. How could you treat a young person with respect and give them a say in what is happening around and to them?

Expand Possibilities. I don’t know what I don’t know. Can you connect a young person with people, places and experiences that broadens their horizons?

Consider how the significant figures of your teens and young adulthood demonstrated these key elements, and how they impacted your life?

As the African proverb says; it takes a village to raise a child. Mentoring Matters, not just to avoid loneliness, but to assist teens and young adults to thrive on their journey to adulthood.

To read the full Search Institute report click here.

 

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 24/09/2020

Covid-19 and mental health

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow. For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our…

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow.

For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our daily lives.

We loved this article from the World Economic Forum about caring for mental health in the midst of the pandemic.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/covid-19-and-your-brain-6-ways-to-control-the-damage-to-your-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR1D1_PlrD1d7L2B5wC-tTKdKO1gW5cNG_CJWYz6slnh2h6cghUZo1QZlrU

Posted: 16/09/2020

Schoolies as a ‘Rite of Passage’

In November 2000 I graduated from high school. At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as…

In November 2000 I graduated from high school.

At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as you moved into adult life.

For me, that experience was a big moment I’ll always remember. A point of transition – a rite of passage.

Fast forward 20 years and our 2020 high school graduates are facing a very different rite of passage.

COVID-19 has limited numbers for events and gatherings, and is already influencing end-of-school processions with bans now in place for the traditional mass schoolies events on the Gold Coast.

While some think that Gold Coast schoolies events are a horrible ‘rite of passage’ for our high school graduates, the fact is that schoolies options available to previous cohorts have been taken away from the class of 2020. What will this mean?

Rites of passage have changed through the generations – but all support the same general premise: an event or ceremony to mark an important transition in someone’s life.

For Gen X and Gen Y some rites of passage included owning a first car, leaving home and getting your first job. For Gen Z and Millenials, who are staying home longer and studying/working simultaneously, there are fewer points that we can label as ‘rites of passage’.

This makes the milestone of finishing school an even more important marker for this generation.

If you’re a parent or mentor of someone finishing high school this year, here are some things I think are really important to keep in mind.

1. Talk talk talk!

Talk about the year – and ask them what are some of the symbolic markers they feel they have missed out on because of COVID-19. What are some creative ways they can experience these?

2. Help them to share their feelings

It’s okay to be disappointed – but allowing feelings to stay bottled up can have really negative consequences. Encouraging your teen to share what they are going through is vital to help them have a positive experience as they approach this key transition in life.

3. Celebrate with them!

Celebrate the successes of this year, and of the last few months of their schooling journey. Focus on the ‘lasts’ – celebrate when they finish their final assignment, final exam, etc. Help them plan a safe schoolies celebration with the friends they have valued through their schooling journey.

Regardless of the changes COVID-19 has had on our society, helping our Year 12 students to find positivity in the midst of all the things they have missed out on is key. Let’s give them the joy-filled rite of passage they deserve!

The good news for SU-Schoolies Sunny Coast is we have a COVID Safe Plan for our event, which we’ve developed in conjunction with Alex Park Conference Centre. This will allow us to proceed under the appropriate Industry Action Plan.

While this plan includes a cap on participants and restrictions on some activities, rest assured we are putting together a program that will allow you to still have the time of your life as you celebrate finishing your 12 years of schooling with your peers.

www.su-schoolies.com

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 16/09/2020

How can we safely talk to young people about ‘that’ Tik Tok video?

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its…

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its impact reaches far beyond its victims.

The media’s coverage of the viral TikTok video has left many parents concerned about their children’s exposure to traumatic content online.

There are many questions to be answered and a lot of avenues of support. Here are some answers and helpful resources if you are trying to work out how to talk to your child about traumatic online content.

Should I ask my child if they’ve seen the video?

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant advises against drawing young people’s attention to the issue. If your child has not seen the video, raising the topic could cause unnecessary worry, distress or increase their curiosity about the video. Instead, monitor your child’s demeanour and behaviour for any changes, particularly those who may be considered more vulnerable or at risk. If you want to talk about it, raise the conversation generally, asking about both their online or offline activities. Parents should keep an open dialogue with their children about their online activity.

How do I talk to someone about their mental health?

If you are concerned that your child or loved one is thinking about suicide or has been triggered by online content, have a conversation. Most people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and make it worse, so they avoid the conversation. This is not true. Initiating the conversation will allow the person an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and ask for support. For more specific guidance on how to conduct a conversation about mental health and suicide, follow the links below.

R U OK: How to ask guide

Suicide First Aid Guidelines (MHFA)

ChatSafe: Talking safely about suicide online

Parent TV: How to talk to your child about suicide

How can I comfort my child who is upset by the video?

A young person may be significantly upset by what they have been exposed to online. It is not possible to unsee what we are exposed to. So how can we help alleviate their distress?

1. Express care. Reassure your child they are loved, valued and safe.

2. Normalise feelings. It’s natural to want to get rid of unpleasant feelings. We often say things like; “It’s okay, don’t be sad” or “chin up”. However, our emotions are signals to our minds and bodies that tell us something. It is normal to emotionally respond to inappropriate content online. Having a “yucky” feeling tells us that what we saw was not okay. It’s not about getting rid of the “yuck” feeling but working out what we should do when we experience that feeling.

3. Encourage positive activity. This is a good time to take a break from the online world. Suggest an ‘offline break’ to do something that will make your child feel better, taking a walk, playing with the dog, doing some art or cooking a meal, the options are endless.

4. Invite further conversation. Keep the communication channels open, allowing your child an opportunity to keep talking, if it’s helpful.

5. Keep an eye out. As mentioned above, monitor your child’s ongoing behaviour and demeanour, if you notice a persistent change, follow it up.

How can I protect my child from harmful images, videos and online commentary?

The internet is a big place full of wonderful and horrible things. Trying to eliminate the bad content is like a game of whack-a-mole; just when you hit one on the head three more pop up. Understandably, parents often feel helpless when it comes to managing their children’s activity online. But, there are a number of great organisations that are empowering parents to keep their kids safe online. The eSafety Commission is my first port of call when I want information about internet safety for young people. Parental controls might be an option for your family, restricting certain content and websites while keeping parents up to date on their child’s online activity. The Communications Alliance LTD has a list of reputable products on the market. The Australian Council for Children and Media helps parents determine what will be appropriate content/platforms for their child.

Should I ban my child from social media?

It may be helpful to keep your child away from social media for a time, to allow the platforms opportunity to remove the explicit content, but also to give your child a break to positively work on their mental health. However, for many young people around the world, social media is a vital connection to their network of friends. Perhaps less of an “All or Nothing” approach and more of a healthy balance is needed. The eSafety Commission has loads of excellent information for young people regarding healthy use of social media. As a parent you know your child best and should feel empowered to make decisions for the wellbeing of your child.

What should I teach my children to do about traumatic content online?

We cannot avoid or block every piece of inappropriate content online; our power lies within our response to these images, videos and commentary. Here are some steps to respond to traumatic material.

1. Close the video/image. Just because you started the video doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If your feelings are telling you something is wrong – get out. Don’t share/repost it.

2. Report the content. All social media platforms have a reporting function, use it. The eSafety Commission also has a reporting page where you can make official complaints about online content. You can also call the police on 000.

3. Tell a trusted adult. It’s important your child shares any inappropriate online activity with a trusted adult (parent, school teacher/support worker). This will ensure they receive the support they need, and the problem is dealt with properly. They should know that they won’t get into trouble for telling someone about what they experienced.

4. Unfriend/Block. Children should never connect online with people they don’t know. However, sometimes even known friends can share and upload inappropriate content. It is okay to unfriend or block someone who is willfully sharing harmful material.

If you require extra support, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. R U OK is as much a question for us as it is for our young people.

Call:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Click here for other support agency details

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 10/09/2020

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