The List part 2: resources for tween and teenage boys

First up – if you’re looking for my resources list for teenage GIRLS. Click here.

So.

Houston, we have a problem.

Go searching for inspiring, uplifting books, websites and docos for teenage girls and you’ll be drowning in content. DROWNING.  From websites like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and A Mighty Girl  to gorgeous, inspiring books like Amazing Babes  and The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo to docos like Miss Representation and Killing Us Softly— there are hundreds and hundreds of choices all designed to inspire our girls, remind them of their worth and help them navigate those tricky high school years.

But boys?  Tumbleweeds, people.

Am I missing something because I’ve just spent close to two weeks trawling the net and it’s disheartening to see how little is out there. And I’m not sure the “boys don’t read” argument really cuts it anymore.

Anyway.

The good news is there are loads of great men to follow on social media — 21st century men who show us what it looks like to be a good man:  a good person, a good colleague, a good boyfriend, a good friend, a good father, a good husband.  What does “good” even mean?  It’s subjective but to me it means a man who has integrity, who knows what they stand for, who contributes to their community (school, uni, work)  in a positive way, who sees women as equals and champions their fight for equality. A good man is a man who moves through this world with kindness, empathy, humour and  integrity.  Added to that there certainly *are* some great books, organisations and websites out there.

But let me repeat what I said at the start of my list for teenage girls … there is no ONE conversation to have with your son about drinking or drugs or sex or consent or respect for women or depression or homophobia.  It’s an on-going discussion. It’s about using every teachable moment that comes your way. It’s a running dialogue in your family so that when stories hit the news you can talk about the Stanford Rape Case and watch the Consent is Like A Cup of Tea video and discuss what consent MEANS. You can talk about the boys from Orange Sky Laundry winning Young Australians of the Year and the genius of their mobile laundry idea and how it will change lives . You can talk about Chris Hemsworth wearing a ‘Livin’ t-shirt and what that represents for male depression.

My opinon (for what it’s worth)  is that we need to start the ‘big’ conversations early with our young kids (boys and girls):

“When someone says STOP – the game stops”

“When someone looks upset and isn’t having fun anymore the game STOPS”

“Do you have your brother’s consent to touch his stuff?”

“Keep your hands to yourself”

These can all become part of your daily conversation. We need to teach our kids (but especially boys) to read people’s facial expressions and body language. “Is this person still having fun?”  And,  of course, do lots of reading (including an equal amount of stories with female protagonists) since reading is one of the key strategies to help build empathy.

So here’s my work-in-progress list.  I’d love to hear your suggestions …

SOCIAL MEDIA

Nearly every teen is  on social media. (Keep in mind kids are meant to be 13 before signing up for accounts … ). So once they have signed up, the key is to CURATE your feed and make it work for you. Protect your headspace and give priority to those people and organisations who motivate and inspire you.

Here are some great men for teenage boys to follow on social media:

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett /  Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas from Orange Sky Laundry

Nic and Lucas are what good men look like.  These two mates, both aged 20 from Brisbane, created a mobile laundry service in the back of a van so that homeless men and women could access clean clothing.  In 2016, the were awarded Young Australians of the Year.

John Green and Hank Green  Ah, the Brothers Green.  John Green is one of the most successful YA authors on Planet Earth (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska.) He is (according to wikipedia) an American author, vlogger, director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, stunt performer and actor. Together with his brother Hank (educator, musician and producer) he set up the VlogBrothers Youtube channel which now has over a million subscribers. Their Crash Course online series  talks through everything from politics to history to astronomy and philosophy. (info source from Wikipedia)

Waleed Aly Waleed is an academic, lawyer, radio host, writer and one of the hosts of The Project. He’s not on social media (DAMMIT!) but his monologues on The Project on topics ranging from terrorism to racism to homelessness routinely go viral. Follow The Project on social media and you’ll be guaranteed to see his latest monologues. Waleed is married to Dr Susan Carland and has two children.

Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada — Fiercely intelligent, Trudeau identifies himself as a feminist  and in 2016 marched in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Canada’s Prime Minister is setting the benchmark on the new manhood.

Adam Hills:  He continues to be best-known as the host of Spicks and Specks and Adam Hills Tonight but this Helpmann award-winning comedian also travels the world appearing at comedy festivals, hosting TV shows, covering the Paralympics and doing stand-up comedy to sell-out crowds. He’s a good egg.

sr3-0445.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Hugh Jackman  He can play Wolverine one day and then tap dance at the Tony Awards the next.  Jackman is a big advocate for meditation.  He is an invested husband and father.  He also happens to be married to actress and activist Deborra-Lee Furness.

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee  Hilarious? Absolutely. sure.  But Hamish and Andy  have created nothing short of a comedy empire with their national radio show, TV series and podcast. Better than that they’re both excellent examples of a good men. Hamish is utterly devoted to his wife Zoe Foster Blake and their son Hamish. While Andy won Uncle of the Year in 2016 for  surprising his sister by writing (and having published) a children’s book for his nephew George’s first birthday.

Johnathan Thurston:  JT is considered to be one of the greats of rugby league. He’s a three time Dally M medal winner. He’s currently the captain of the North Queensland Cowboys and is well-known for the work he does in Australia’s indigenous communities.

Dave Burton:  Dave is an author, playwright, producer, director, podcast host and sometimes creative writing teacher. I feel really tired just writing all that down.  His Facebook page is funny, serious and engaging.

Markuz Zusak best-selling Australian author of New York Times best-selling novel The Book Thief as well as Fighting Ruben Wolfe and The Messenger.

Chris Hemsworth Best-known for his roles in Thor, The Avengers and Ghostbusters, Chris Hemsworth is clearly a softie at heart. He cherishes his wife and three small kids and in his spare time Chris supports a range of charities including  Livin –  a charity to support people with mental illness. In 2016 his most famous social media post was a photo of the dinosaur cake he baked for his daughter India’s birthday.

 

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Waleed Aly: academic, writer and TV host.

Troy Cassar Daley  Award-winning indigenous Australian country music star, devoted husband and father and all round great man.

Tom Harkin Tom has been called the Aussie ‘Bloke Whisperer” coming to national attention with his work with male high school students on the documentary series Man Up.

Matthew Reilly  Matthew Reilly has sold more than 7.5 million novels worldwide. He got his big break by self-publishing his first novel. His best-selling novels include the Jack West series, Ice Station and Area 7. Matt currently lives in LA.

Hugh Evans  is best described as an Australian humanitarian. He is the co-founder of both The Oaktree Foundation and the Global Poverty Project. He has received numerous awards for his work in promoting youth advocacy and volunteerism in order to reduce extreme poverty in developing countries.

Osher Gunsberg  TV host, radio host, vegan, feminist and avid cyclist. Osher has been very open about his mental health challenges and how he stays on top of them.

Peter FitzSimons   A former Wallaby, FitzSimons is a poetry-loving, newspaper columnist  and best-selling author (take a breath) AND the current head of the Australian Republican Movement. He is married to Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson and the father of three children.

Jamie Oliver Jamie is the perfect example of someone who uses their passion to give back to the community. This world-renowned chef has dedicated much of his career to providing training and employment to young homeless people as well as improving the quality of food served up in school canteens around the developed world.

Tim Minchin  Comedian, writer, actor, musician, director. ‘ He is the composer and lyricist of  Matilda the Musical, based on the Roald Dahl book Matilda.

Bill Gates  Co-founder of Microsoft, Gates is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor and programmer. Bill together with his wife Melinda founded the Gates Foundaton.

Robert Hoge   Rob is an author who writes about ugliness, disability, politics, social media and everything in between. His memoir Ugly became a must-read on  high school reading lists across the country.

And these women:   Captain Catherine McGregor (army officer, cricket commentator and author), Tara Moss (author and feminist), Turia Pitt (athlete and motivational speaker), Leigh Sales (Walkley Award winning journo and host of 7.30),  JK Rowling (author and social justice campaigner) and Emma Watson (actor and UN Global Goodwill Ambassador)

 

 

ORGANISATIONS TO FOLLOW

Real Aussie Blokes This is a website to go with the three-part ABC TV series “Man Up” that will air in October 2016. It’s all about what it means to be an Australian bloke in 2016, masculinity  and men’s mental health.

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want this is the website based on the book of the same name by author Rosalind Wiseman – mother of two sons and author of the best-selling Queen Bees and Wannabes.

Geena Davis Insititute of Gender in Media “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.“The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

The Gates Foundation:  Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the GF aims to improve the lives of people everywhere.  Their work (and their social media feed) is inspiring, educational and eye-opening.

Penguin Teen excellent facebook page from Penguin with YA reading recommendations

GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)

Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Important articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.

 

FOR PARENTS/EDUCATORS

VIDEO: The trailer for Man Up

VIDEO: Tom Harkin chats to ABC News about the need to challenge the stereotypes of masculinity and address the issues that lead to high rates of suicide.

VIDEO:   What Your Boys Aren’t Telling You  — a video with Rosalind Wiseman and three teenage boys talking about the things you may not know about your teenage son.

VIDEO: Masterminds and Wingmen — another video from Rosalind Wiseman about what she has learnt from researching and talking to teenage boys for two years.

Maggie Dent:  The mother of four sons, there is nothing about boys Maggie doesn’t know. She’s a parenting and resilience expert and her Facebook page is a wealth of information and guidance on raising kids but especially BOYS.

Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys Community – Steve Biddulph’s books have sold millions of copies for a reason. He is a voice of the new manhood and provides brilliant, helpful guidance to parents of sons.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg — Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is probably Australia’s most well-known child and adolescent psychologist.  His books on parenting offer valuable, sensible advice for parents of teens.

Dr Justin Coulson: I really love Justin Coulson whose mantra is to help make families happy. Justin is a parenting, relationships and happiness expert. He graduated with first class honours in Psychological Science (UQ) and completed his Ph. D. at the University of Wollongong, researching parenting and happiness.  He runs parenting workshops and while often focused on smaller children — he still offers up great advice about raising boys.

Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human.  This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.

 

FICTION FOR TEENAGE BOYS

My current recommendation for teenage girls AND boys  (which was given to me by Megan Daley at Children’s Books Daily) is:
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of one of the three perpetrators (two male and one female). If your sons can get passed the fact there’s a girl on the cover, they’ll like it.

AND (this one comes recommended by a group of teacher-librarians)

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler  – “Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.”

For suggestions for tween and teenage boys go to Children’s Books Daily (parents) and Guys Read (parents and teen boys).  Authors to look for include John Marsden, Marcus Zusak, Nick Earls, John Green, Will Kostakis, Matthew Reilly, Tristan Bancks and Andy Griffiths.

 

 

BOOKS – Non-Fiction (for teens to read)

Standing Tall: on confidence, teamwork and leadership by Tom Harley “Tom Harley considers himself a lucky man, having captained the Geelong Football Club to two premierships in three years. Never the club’s top player, he set personal goals, working hard and pushing himself to achieve them. On his way to becoming the greatest leader he could be, Tom discovered what qualities he values most, and how to bring out the best in others.   Respect, courage, risk, pride, gaining confidence, finding your passion, leading under pressure and coping with failure —  using his own experiences, Tom shares his thoughts on what makes both great leaders and followers. He shows what it takes to stand tall, on and off the field.”

How To Be Happy: a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion by Dave Burton  I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read this memoir yet but it comes SO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by so many people.  Dave Burton is a bit of a creative genius — he writes plays, hosts podcasts, directs, produces, teaches … all of it.  Here’s the blurb about his memoir :”How to Be Happy tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.”

The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want  by Rosalind Wiseman. This is Rosalind’s book for teenage boys covering everything from friendships to dating to the ‘bro code’.

The Manual To Manhood: how to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl & 97 other skills you need to survive by Jonathan Catherman I’m in the process of reading this book but what i have read, I like.  While the book does cover dating (how to ask a girl out, how to meet her parents), there’s zero advice in here about love or sex or sexting or porn. But put that and the traditionally heterosexual nature of this book aside, and I can see that this book would be popular with teen boys.  It’s  easy to read, clear instructions on how to do loads of things all of us are expected to be able to master from changing tires to putting on a tie to writing a resume. The author Jonathan Catherman is a father of two sons and specialises in teaching leadership and building character in adolescents.

Surviving Year 12: a sanity kit for students and their parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg  Every year, more and more emphasis is placed on achieving good results in the end-of-school exams. This can lead to students feeling extraordinary pressure and having unrealistic expectations. In this new edition of Surviving Year 12, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia’s leading adolescent psychologist, gives advice to students on how they can cope with the pressure, work smarter and actually enjoy their final year of high school.  Dr Carr-Gregg includes advice on:

• how not to get trapped by social media like Facebook and Twitter

• the secrets of studying smarter

• overcoming anxiety and stress

• getting enough sleep (the best study tool of all!)

• setting goals

• dealing with procrastination

• ensuring exercise and diet regimes are good

• how to cope with the exams themselves

 

Ugly – a memoir by Robert Hoge  Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness.   Ugly is Robert’s account of that life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

 

Ask Me Anything : heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions for teenage girls by Rebecca Sparrow  I wrote this book for teenage girls but I’ve found over the past 12 months is that teenage boys WANT to read this book to better understand how teenage girls see them and the world.  Ask Me Anything covers everything from friendships (How do you know if your friends really like you?) to dating (How do I let a boy know I like him?) to sex (How do you say no?) to family and school issues.

 

Resources For Parents and Educators

Articles to read:

Why Building Young Boys’ Mental Resilience Is So Important 

What Teens Need Most From Their Parents – Wall Street Journal Article

Sydney Grammar Students recreate a life-saving drug  

To The Men I Love About The Men Who Scare Me 

Before Hitting On A Woman, There’s One Question Every Guy Needs To Ask by Luca Lavigne

Rising To The Challenge of Raising Boys One Football Match At A Time by Jacinta Tynan

A Letter To My Son About Porn by Harriet Pawson

It’s No Coincidence A Vile Instagram Account Was Set Up By Boys From An Elite Private School by Catherine Lumby

 

Non-Fiction Books for parents to read:

Raising Boys: Why boys are different and how to help them become happy well-adjusted men by Steve Biddulph

The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph

The Making of Men by Arne Rubinstein

Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker

 

WORKSHOPS RUN IN SCHOOLS

Goodfellas  Brilliant Australian organisation headed up by Enlighten Education’s Dannielle Miller offering  in-school workshops for teenage boys covering a wide range of issues.

Tom Harkin

 

DOCOS

Man Up – Gus Worland’s documentary on what it is to be an Aussie male.  Has resources for middle and high school students.

Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women:  this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.

Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all teen boys (and tween and teen girls)
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
Bully

 

VIDEOS TO WATCH

Man Up Doco Trailer

Sportsmanship Jack Sock and Leyton Hewitt  Tennis player Jack Sock shows great sportsmanship when he encourages his opponent (Hewitt) to challenge a wrong-call that would go in Hewitt’s favour.

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young men  and women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

DUSTIN HOFFAN talking about what he learned playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. This is a really powerful video about the expectations society places on women to be beautiful.

Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.

Waleed Alley – here is his Gold Logie speech on racism and social justice. Here is his ‘ISIL is weak editorial. Here’s his editorial about Sonia Kruger’s comments about Muslim immigration.

Tim Minchin’s University of Western Australia address 2013 (Tim offered 9 life lessons to university graduates).

Comedian/actor Russell Brand talks about ‘the harmful effects of porn and how it alters ideas and perceptions about sex, drawing from science, research, and examples from his own life.’

 

 

POSTS TO TALK THROUGH

“You’re Going To Die, Poofter! – why we need Safe Schools” by Shannon Mollloy

Former Stanford University student Brock Turner raped a 22 year old woman behind a bin after a college party. This is his victim’s devestating impact statement about the impact of his crime.

 

POETRY (!!)

The Storms Will Come by Tyler Knott

The Journey by Mary Oliver

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline

 

 

 

 

The List: My go-to resources for tween and teen girls …

Here it is. My go-to list. (If you’re looking for my list of resources for teenage BOYS click here)

I feel like so many parents are feeling anxious and panicked about the world our daughters currently live in. Every day we’re faced with screaming headlines about teenage sex. Binge drinking. Eating disorders. Depression. Risky online choices. ARGH! But let’s not panic. As someone who is regularly in high schools talking to teenage girls — the girls I get to meet are smart and funny and strong BUT that’s not to say they don’t need help navigating this new world we’re in. (I cannot tell you how glad I am that smart phones didn’t exist when I was 14). So what I’ve listed below are just some of the terrific websites, books and docos I would recommend to anyone who has a tween or teen girl in their life. The most important thing I can say to you is that there is no ONE conversation to have with your daughter about online choices (or friendships or sex or whatever for that matter). All of these topics are BIG and it’s about having lots of conversations all the time. Start a running dialogue which includes items in the news, storylines in books or movies or TV shows and other issues that come up day to day. Keep talking. Everything is a “teachable moment”. Think back to what it was like being in high school. And practice listening to your daughter.

This list is just a starting point. There are loads of other great books and sites out there. List your suggestions in the comments! And I’ll keep adding to this list too.BiMsRN3CIAAS2fg

Here’s to raising strong, smart, fierce girls who refuse to play small ….

Bec Sparrow xxx

SOCIAL MEDIA pages for you and your daughter to follow

Here’s the thing with social media (whatever platform you use Instagram, Facebook etc) is that you need it to work FOR you not against you.  If the only people you’re following are friends (or friends of  friends of friends!) then you’re mostly just looking from side to side.  Make sure your  feed is full of people who make you look OUTWARDS.  Fill it with people who inspire you, who call forth your best, who remind you of your values or what you stand for or who simply make you laugh.  This is about protecting your headspace —  so think about curating your feed so that what is given priority are those people and organisations who make you smile rather those who leave you feeling less than.
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler? Right? This is a great resource for female role models and women doing cool things around the world. Official blurb: “Founded by actor and writer Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, the Smart Girls organisation is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
A Mighty Girl – A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books, toys, and movies for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls
Beauty Redefined — A not-for-profit site dedicated to redefining the meaning and value of beauty in our lives.
The Body Image Movement  Celebrating body diversity and body positivity – a site created by Australia’s Taryn Brumfitt. (AWESOME! And Australian!)  While you’re there also show them the Dove Evolution video. Yes, I know it’s Dove. And it’s been around for a while but this video is still a great reminder to tween girls about AIR BRUSHING OF IMAGES!
Enlighten Education  Enlighten Education runs programs in schools to help girls decode the mixed messages they receive. Enlighten is all about girls developing their self-worth. AMAZING Australian organisation run by Dannielle Miller.
Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media  “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.This site will arm you with facts and stats. “The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human.  This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.

Orange Sky Laundry: This is what good men look like.  Two Brisbane men (uni students and mates) created the first mobile laundry service providing homeless people with access to free washing/drying facilities. LOVE.

UN Women Australia “Empower a woman, empower a nation. The Australian National Committee for UN Women is one of 18 National Committees worldwide. We are committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Join us in supporting women and girls worldwide by ending poverty, ending violence against women and creating a better future for all.”
Children’s Books Daily — this site run by award-winning Brisbane teacher-librarian Megan Daley is my go-to source for kids and YA recommendations. Megan KNOWS books like nobody else. If you or your tween/teen are looking for reading recommendations, Megan has them.

Words With Heart – an Australian company who produce eco-friendly notebooks and journals for girls and women. Fantastic covers! And part of the profits go towards educating girls around the world.  The WWH Facebook page is always full of interesting posts about women and feminism.
Penguin Teen (they do a great FB page on what’s hot in YA books)
Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.

GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Interesting articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.

RIZE UP:  Providing practical assistance to Australian families affected by domestic violence.

Charity Spam: An Australian hub for all things socially kind. Get involved in your community.

 

A FEW OF THE INTERESTING WOMEN I FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Here are just a few you may not already be following …
Lucy Perry CEO   I love Lucy Perry – she’s the CEO of Sunrise Cambodia and she regularly posts inspiring, smart, cool stuff. She’s brilliant.

cropped-Screenshot-2016-01-15-17.48.05
Turia Pitt – Um. it’s TURIA PITT. She’s fierce.

Emma Watson  Actress (beloved for her portrayal of Hermione in the Harry Potter films) she is a feminist, UN Global Goodwill Ambassador and actor.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied   2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a mechanical engineer, social advocate, writer and petrol head. At 16 she founded Youth Without Borders. Born in Sudan, raised in Australia she is a force of nature! 

Mia Freedman:  Creative genius, feminist, entrepreneur, empire-builder, tea-lover and the co-founder of the Mamamia Women’s Network. BOOM.  Mia’s podcast No Filter is where she has extraordinary conversations with some of the most fascinating women (and men) in the country.

Chrissie Swan:  hilarious, brilliant TV and radio host. Mum to three small people. I love her.

Caroline Overington: Caroline is a two-timeWalkley-award winning journalist and best-selling author.  You want your daughter to be following smart, strong women? Caroline Overington is one of them.

Meshel Laurie: Meshel is more than just a comedian, a columnist and a radio host, she’s an activist. Following Meshel’s Facebook page and listening to her podcast (The Nitty Gritty Committee) I have learned so much about so many marginalised groups and people in Australia.  Meshel is using her time in the sun to spotlight important social justice issues.

Tara Moss author, speaker, feminist and ambassador for the Full Stop Foundation  (an organisation dedicated to putting an end to sexual assault and domestic violence).

Natasha Stott Despoja Natasha is Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls. She is a  former politician and former leader of the Australian Democrats. Natasha’s Twitter feed is always informative and inspiring.

Gloria Steinem:  Feminist icon, writer, activist.

Jean Kilbourne:  Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising. She is must famous for her documentary KILLING US SOFTLY

Malala Fund Inspired by teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, this page is focused on allowing girls to go to school and raising their voices for their right to an education.

Melinda Gates  Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, businesswoman, and mother. Dedicated to helping all people lead healthy, productive lives.

Michelle Obama: Because, you know, it’s MICHELLE OBAMA

J.K Rowling:  No explanation needed, really.

Jamila Rizvi – writer, presenter, political junkie.  I fully suspect Jam is going to end up as our next female Prime Minister. Just watch …

Maya Angelou: Facebook page of the late, great author, poet and  feminist

Elizabeth Gilbert  the official FB page of author Elizabeth Gilbert is hilarious, fiesty and kind. She does swear a lot so keep that in mind if your daughter is younger and/or you are easily offended.

Carly Findlay – award-winning blogger, writer and appearance activist

Brene Brown:  Brene is a research professor at The University of Houston studying vulnerability, courage, shame, and authenticity. www.brenebrown.com

Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell:  Olympians, World Record Holders, Australian swmming legends

Laura Geitz: Captain of the Queensland Firebirds and the Australian Diamonds. Netball, baby!

Gretchen Rubin   The New York Times best-selling author is a happiness expert. Gretchen posts lots of links and interesting research on habits and happiness.

Other great names for teenage girls to have on their radar:  journalists Sarah Ferguson, Julia Baird, Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales, Susan Carland, Kate McClymont, Dr Fiona Wood, indigenous author Dr Anita Heiss,  Captain Catherine McGregor, indigenous author Tara June Winch, the late disability activist Stella Young, Olympian Anna Meares, cook Poh Ling Yeow, entrepreneur Therese Rein, Australia’s first indigenous woman elected into the Lower House Linda Burney MP and former politician and now Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja.

 

BOOKS – NON-FICTION for you and your daughter to read

9781922070715Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos (this book is BRILLIANT — gorgeous hardcover brimming with female role models. Makes a great present!)

Girls Think Of Everything: stories of ingenious inventions by women by Catherine Thimmesh and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran My favourite book on feminism by comedy writer Caitlin Moran she covers everything from brazilians to strip clubs to abortion to workplace sexism.
Girl Stuff by Kaz Cooke (this is the bible on everything relating to teenage girls — great resource to have. Note: there is a new edition coming out for girls aged 8-12)

 

Speaking Out by Tara Moss (I haven’t read this yet but it comes highly recommended)
Half the Sky: turning oppression into opportunity by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt
The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo by Danielle Miller
Lovability: an empowered girl’s guide to dating and relationships by Dannielle Miller and Nina Funnell (Great book!)
The Gift of Fear (and other survival signals that protect us from violence) by Gavin De Becker
For Foxes’ Sake: everything a fox needs to know about sex by Row Murray – this is a really great book by an Australian author that dishes up terrific advice about sex and your body. Highly recommend.
Ugly by Robert Hoge

How To Be Happy (a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion)  by David Burton

Everything to live for by Turia Pitt
If you are Christian and want something reflecting those values then go for books by Sharon Witt.

My non-fiction books for teenage girls …AMA
* Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) by Rebecca Sparrow
* Find Your Feet (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school) by Rebecca Sparrow
* Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls) by Rebecca Sparrow

BOOKS – FICTION for you and your daughter
My current recommendation (which was given to me by Megan Daley at Children’s Books Daily) is:
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of three perpetrators (two male and one female).

 

BOOKS – NON-FICTION FOR PARENTS
Girls and Sex: navigating the complicated new landscape by Peggy Orenstein (this is BRILLIANT)
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Sexts, Texts And Selfies by Susan McLean (also known as the Cyber Cop)
Queen Bees and Wannabes (helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends and other realities of adolesence) by Rosalind Wiseman
Keep an eye out for articles online written by Mia Freedman who writes terrific stories on feminism for Mamamia.com.au
The Butterfly Effect: raising happy, confident teen girls by Dannielle Miller
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt

VIDEO FOR PARENTS:  Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wannabes). This is talk she gives on parenting teenagers.

DOCOS

Big Bad Love: With young women 18-24 being most at risk of abuse, Australian comedian Becky Lucas sets out to understand what an abusive relationship looks like, how it begins and why it’s so hard to intervene.

Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women:  this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.

Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all tweens and teens
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
Bully

VIDEOS

We Should All Be Feminists TEDX Talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This Ted Talk is brilliant and discusses the importance of feminism. It’s so powerful that Beyonce sampled part of this speech in the opening of her song Flawless.

Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!

Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.

INTERESTING ARTICLES/COLUMNS

Charm Offensive: A surprising red flag for domestic violence (Sydney Morning Herald, 2016)

Four Things To Remember During Schoolies Week by Rebecca Sparrow

To The Men I Love About The Men Who Scare Me

The Day Iceland’s Women Went On Strike

PODCASTS

There are thousands but a new one to give a whirl is Eliza Starting at 16 by Eliza Rubin ( Eliza is the teenage daughter of Happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin).

Also No Filter by Mia Freedman will introduce you to some of Australia’s most fascinating people past interviewees include Lisa Wilkinson, Captain Catherine McGregor, Ita Buttrose, Sarah Ferguson and Gloria Steinem.

The Nitty Gritty Committee hosted by Meshel Laurie is an education in being human.

 

STATIONERY

Words With Heart is an Australian company who produce eco-friendly notebooks and journals with fantastic covers for girls. Covers that say things like “She believed she could so she did” and “Small acts can change the world” and “Be Bold Be Brave Be Kind”. Best of all the company donate a percentage of their profits to educating girls around the world.

POETRY (!!)

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

The Storms Will Come by Tyler Knott

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

The Journey by Mary Oliver

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

 

RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)

Headspace: National youth mental health foundation 

Youth Beyond Blue

Kids Helpline

 

“What advice do you have for us for Schoolies Week?”

Isn’t that a great question? A SMART QUESTION.  Yesterday I was speaking to the Class of 2015 at Somerville House. So it was me and a room of 200 teenage girls and we were talking about life – the importance of resilience, how perfection is over-rated, why it’s a good idea to come up with your own definition of what “success” looks like and the value of giving back to the community.

When I opened it up to questions, one student asked me for advice about Schoolies Week.

I get the appeal of Schoolies Week. I mean, I WENT to Schoolies Week back in 1989 (of course, I left after 3 days because I hated it but that’s not the point …).

AMAThe point is, it’s perfectly understandable that students want to celebrate the formal end of their schooling life. Remember what it felt like to walk out of those gates for the last time?   And the vast majority of students go to Schoolies Week, have a great time and return home  safe and sound.

But … I was asked for some advice, so here is what I said to the students yesterday. Keep in mind, this advice is for both males and females …

Don’t behave like a predator.  Whether you’re male or female – it’s never okay to behave like a predator. Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state (whether that’s taking advantage of someone who’s drunk or under the influence or taking photos of someone when they are hammered or passed out) is NEVER OKAY. Consent is key. If someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they are asleep (or passed out), if they are in a situation where they feel threatened or there is a power imbalance – then they are unable to give their consent. If you take advantage of someone who is vulnerable you’ll either be breaking the law or behaving like someone who is, you know, MORALLY BANKRUPT.

Trust your instincts.  The world is busy and loud and it can be hard to tune into your gut instinct sometimes. But we’ve all had those moments when we’ve been introduced to someone new and every fibre of our being has been creeped out.  Whether you’re at a crowded party or walking somewhere alone – if your mind starts waving big red flags at you then trust those instincts. If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. If you get a bad vibe from a person or a situation – get the hell out of there. What if you’re wrong? WHO CARES? It’s always, always better to be safe than sorry.

Understand the impact drugs and alcohol have on your judgement.  Whether you’re male or female, when you’re drunk or under the influence of drugs, your gut instinct is at an all time low. When you’re drunk or high, you trust people you wouldn’t usually trust, you agree to things you wouldn’t usually agree to, you go places you wouldn’t usually go. So stick with your friends, keep an eye on each other and agree that NOBODY gets left behind.

 

Ask for help.  If at any time you’re feeling overwhelmed, worried or anxious about anything – ask for help. Ring an adult you trust, call the local police station or (depending on where you are) contact a Red Frog or Schoolies Week volunteer.

 

“I’m ugly. So how will I ever get a boyfriend?” [extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)]

Define ‘ugly’ for me.

Ugly in what way? Because let me tell you what ugly means to me. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is racist or homophobic or sexist. ‘Ugly’ is the person who belittles others to make themselves feel better. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is disloyal and unkind. ‘Ugly’ is the person who is verbally or physically abusive to others.

But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.

You’re calling yourself ugly because you have too many moles or sticking-out ears or chubby thighs. You think you’re ugly because you hate your stupid flat hair or your boobs which are too small (or too big).

Darling heart, that’s not ugly. We all have things we dislike about ourselves – even supermodels like Megan Gale and actors like Jennifer Lawrence. ‘Beauty’ is subjective. So often it is our physical flaws which make us unique.

Life is about learning to love what you’ve got. And it’s about putting your best self forward. If you’re feeling like one big hot mess (and everybody does at least once a week!), there’s nothing wrong with reading up on how to dress to suit your body shape or talking to a hairdresser to get a haircut that beautifully frames your face.

AMABut it’s not your face or your cute skirt or your haircut or a thigh-gap that someone falls in love with. It’s your spirit, your personality, your talent. It’s the way you really listen when people talk. It’s your ability to see the good in others. It’s your glass half-full attitude. It’s the way you always nail the art and culture questions when you play Trivial Pursuit. It’s your kindness, your patience, your famous lip-smacking chocolate cake. It’s your joy, your compassion, your empathy. It’s the way other people FEEL when they’re around you. It’s the delight you take in laughing at yourself. It’s your passion for human rights or saving the orangutans or student politics or all of the above. It’s your magnetic confidence when you walk into a room with a smile that says you know who you are.

You’re ugly? No, you are not.

And the boyfriend will come. Give it time. Wait for the person who notices the quirky things about you that make you special. Wait for the person whose eyes light up when they see you. That person who truly loves you will arrive. There is a lid for every jam jar, as my friend’s grandma used to say.

PS You don’t ‘get’ a boyfriend. YOU get to CHOOSE that certain someone. If you wanted a boyfriend (or girlfriend) that badly you could have one by now – you and I both know that. You could just nod your head at the next desperate teenage boy who walks by. But I think you’re talking about someone special.

PPS Maybe you’re not quite ready for a boyfriend yet, anyway? Because if you can’t appreciate how awesome and magical and beautiful YOU are – then how can someone else see it? Fall in love with yourself first, and that will give permission for others to follow your lead and fall in love with you, too.


Extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)” by Rebecca Sparrow, University of Queensland Press. 

 

 

Who you are in high school is NOT who you are for the rest of your life.

FeetIt’s this:  Who You Are In High School Is Not Who You Are For The Rest Of Your Life

There are two big things I remember about high school: truly ridiculous amounts of homework. And being labelled. Do any of these sound familiar? You’re the sports star or the geek or the loner or the teacher’s pet or the brain or the gossip or the one who is always gossiped about. Or maybe you’re the bully or the loud mouth or the school captain or one of the “choir kids” or a muso or a science-lover or part of the “cool group” or the guy who spends his lunch hours in the library researching Japanese anime or the girl who seems to spend her entire life organising charity cake stalls and fashion parades. Maybe you did something in year nine that people were still talking about in year 12. Or maybe it’s what you didn’t do that set tongues wagging.

That can be the problem with high school. It’s like being forced to live in Summer Bay for several years. It seems like everyone remembers everything. The place thrives on rumour and gossip. And it feels impossible to shake off a label once it’s been super-glued to your back. Thankfully this doesn’t last forever. It really doesn’t.

 

The good news: once school ends you get to reinvent yourself

Some people – lots of people – feel tortured in high school because of the way they’re perceived or misunderstood, or the reputation (deserving or not) they get stuck with. But here’s the good news;­ whatever label was smacked on your head in high school can be peeled off when you walk out those gates for the last time. Think of it like an Etch-a-Sketch that gets wiped clean. Your reputation gets packed away along with your school uniform and textbooks.

See, the great thing about The Rest Of Your Life is that you get to reinvent yourself. And you get to reinvent yourself as many times as you like. A bit like Lady Gaga (except maybe without the meat dress).

Here’s an example. A girl in my year 12 class who was seen as Mayoress of Dorktown transformed into this incredibly cool political science student after high school. She went to uni and suddenly found her tribe – other students who were into the same stuff that she liked (the student union, rallies, clever jokes about politicians that no-one else understood). Her new friends were people who couldn’t have cared less that she was always chosen last when we played basketball in high school. At university she found people who liked her for who she was.

That’s the thing — many people blossom when they’re given the freedom to be themselves.

The great thing about the real world is that all of a sudden you’ll find yourself exposed to new ideas, philosophies and ways of seeing the world. After years of having to wear a uniform, adhere to ‘regulation sock height’ and live by certain school values — you’ll have the freedom to experiment with different looks and ideals. And nobody is going to be hovering by waiting to give you a detention because your fringe is too long.

In exactly the same way, whoever you were in high school can also end on that last day of year 12. Maybe you’re not that proud of how you behaved in high school (or the friends you were hanging around) but you felt trapped by a label and continued to play the role of the bully or the socialite or the brainiac. Well the world outside of high school is full of people who don’t know anything about you, so you get to start over. Sort of like being in a witness protection program (okay, not really). But my point is you get to start afresh with a clean slate. Learn from your mistakes. Decide what you want to do differently. Make a decision to be the best version of yourself that you can be and then go for it. It’s never too late to change.

Lastly, the great thing about leaving high school is that those people you really, really didn’t gel with — you never have to see them again. Huzzah! Once you’ve graduated you can choose who you’d like to see each day. You can kiss the bullies or the mean girls goodbye (not literally… that could be awkward.). High school ending is really just the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life.

The bad news: small fish in a big pond syndrome

While some people cannot wait to finish high school, move on and shrug off the labels assigned to them, other students may not be quite so keen to leave their glory days behind. I mean, what if you were school captain? Or voted The Girl Most People Want To Be Stranded on A Deserted Island With? What if you topped Maths or Biology and loved the fact you were the smartest person in your class? Now what?

You can really struggle when your environment changes and you no longer have the ‘status’ you had in high school. What I mean is, you become a small fish in a big pond (having spent maybe five years being a big fish in a small pond at high school). Maybe you were the smartest person at your school and now everyone in your first year Science degree is like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. Suddenly, nobody thinks you’re special (well, except your Nanna). But try to look at the bright side — the pressure is off you a bit. You can actually relax instead of having to maintain the reputation of always topping Chemistry or English. Or maybe what you were missing in high school was the challenge to push yourself. Suddenly you’re with a whole heap of other smart kids you can learn from. Maybe instead of being made to feel like a freaky genius, you can choose to revel in being around other students who love talking about politics and current affairs and who actually understand nuclear fusion. Accept the difference as a good thing.

Or perhaps you were extremely popular in high school and all of a sudden you don’t have an entire school community in awe of you. Maybe at your job, people don’t really notice you or give you any attention the way they did in grade 12. Again, look at the positive. You no longer have the pressure of having to behave in a certain way. Let me get all Dr Phil for a second and remind you that you don’t need to be the most popular person in the room to be happy. If you behave in a way that is kind and friendly, if you demonstrate integrity and compassion and can laugh at yourself — you’ll find your feet. And anyway, the more popular you are, the more people want a piece of you. Enjoy being part of the crowd for a change — sometimes it’s a relief to have no expectations on you.

 

You are not defined by your Year 12 score

Finally, let me repeat something I wrote an entire chapter on in Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERwish I’d known in high school) — your future success does not rely on your year 12 score.

For the first few months after high school is finished your friends will probably be obsessed with knowing what score you (and everyone else) received but then they’ll moves on. A great score is fantastic (go you!) but is no guarantee that your life is going to be all ponies, kittens and rainbows. Long-term success is about being resilient.

In a similar way, a terrible score doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a failure either. So you bombed out? Okay, that sucks. But if you really want to chase a goal, you’ll find another way to get there.

It’s worth remembering that some people are late bloomers. A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow author) Kim Wilkins. Kim writes:

“I was a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest “dag” in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food jobs and typing jobs. In fact, I’d say that I didn’t really blossom until my mid-twenties. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven’t looked back.”

 

Let me tell you, Kim’s being modest. Today she’s an internationally acclaimed author of twenty books. She’s a university lecturer. She’s won a University Medal for pete’s sake. She’s living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school. So if you too bombed out in high school… don’t despair. Tomorrow is another day. Just look at Kim.

*This is an extract from FIND YOUR FEET (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school). You can by that book here or here.

Is this the conversation you need to have with your child before school goes back?

Have you taught your child how to recognise a good friend?

When you write a book about the importance of choosing the right friends in school, it goes with the territory that other parents come up and tell you their concerns. Or, you know, HORROR stories.  Horror stories from kids who are in primary school. Horror stories of kids behaving badly and I mean BADLY even in Prep or year one.

And what I’ve realised is that in the past week in between getting uniforms and school shoes and covering schoolbooks and finding lunchbox lids there’s a whole slew of kids and parents who are worrying about school staring next week.

And you know what the source of that anxiety is?

It’s been about friendships.

The kids were either anxious about starting a new school and making friends (totally understandable) OR they were anxious about going back into their current friendship group. A group that perhaps is not so great. A group that is perhaps making the child in question miserable.

And it made me think that perhaps we don’t talk enough to our kids about friendship. Are we actively teaching our kids how to recognise a good friend and a bad one? Are we explaining how to be a good friend yourself? How to handle the ups and downs of friendship? How to know when to leave a friendship and how to do it?

FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERObviously this is something I cover in detail in Find Your Tribe (and nine other thngs I wish I’d known in high school). The first chapter deals exclusively with what girls starting high school need to know about choosing the right friends. My theory being that at least 50% of whether or not you enjoy high school is based on WHO you choose to hang around.

So I thought I’d do an extract from that chapter here (see below). And I’d also include some conversation starters for parents who have children in primary school.

If you or your primary-school aged child are worried about friendships, here are some talking points. It’s worth remembering that making friends and being a good friend is a big learning curve for kids (and, er, some adults). Sometimes our kids will make bad choices. Sometimes our kids will behave badly themselves. But if we keep having these conversations, I think that’s the key to making the right decisions.

FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS:  What does a good friend look and feel like …  

  • A good friend is someone who you love to spend time with.
  • A good friend cheers you up when you’re feeling sad.
  • A good friend sticks up for you if someone else is being mean in the playground.
  • A good friend makes you laugh.
  • A good friend is someone who is happy to take turns when it comes to deciding what to play in the playground.
  • When you’re with a good friend, you feel happy and comfortable.
  • A good friend doesn’t tease you or make fun of you.
  • A good friend will tell you how they are feeling if they are upset.
  • A good friend doesn’t make you feel sad or embarrassed.
  • A good friend doesn’t lie about things or cheat at games or refuse to take turns.
  • A good friend doesn’t refuse to play with you or refuse to sit with you or talk to you some days at school for no reason.
  • A good friend doesn’t hit or kick or bite you.
  • A good friend apologises if they hurt your feelings.

How to be a good friend:

  • Smile and be friendly!
  • Try to be encouraging and helpful to your friends and other kids at school.
  • Be willing to take turns at games.
  • Stick to the rules of the game. And don’t cheat!
  • Don’t boast or tell lies.
  • Don’t tease your friends (or anyone at school).
  • Don’t say mean or hurtful things to your friends.
  • Be direct and if something upsets you or hurts your feelings – be up front and tell your friends.
  • Apologise if you hurt your friend’s feelings.
  • Be a good loser if you lose at a game. Don’t get upset or angry.
  • Be willing to forgive your friends if they do something that upsets you.
  • Understand that all friendships have ups and downs and just because you have one small fight it doesn’t mean the friendship should be over.

 

FOR HIGH SCHOOL KIDS:  An extract from Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school)

Happiness in high school, I believe, is determined by two things: having fabulous, inspiring teachers and having great friends. Now unfortunately the ‘fabulous, inspiring teachers’ thing isn’t something you can control. But if you’re lucky enough to have a few fab teachers in high school who challenge you and inspire you, who make you want to be in their classroom even on a Friday at two o’clock and who can still join in a conversation on your total addiction to the Twilight series, then count yourself extremely lucky.

The other major factor that will determine the quality of your time at high school is who you hang around. Your friends. And this is the bit you can control.

I’m going to cut to the chase: Life is too short to hang around with bitchy, negative people. So don’t. In high school you want to surround yourself with people who ‘get you’. You know, people who get your sense of humour and think you’re funny (well, most of the time – maybe not when you’re trying to see how many Tiny Teddies you can fit in your mouth). True friends are those who support your dreams, who cheer you on and who are prepared to do CPR on you when you start choking on those Tiny Teddies. They provide a soft place for you to fall and are there to comfort you (and eat cookies’n’cream ice-cream with you when you’re blue). Real friends don’t slag you off the moment your back is turned or routinely put you down or humiliate you in front of others. Real friends don’t leave you out. Instead real friends ‘have your back’ – in other words, they’re fiercely loyal and protective. My friend Franny describes finding real friends as finding your ‘tribe’ which I think is the perfect way to describe it. Your tribe are people you met who you immediately click with. People you can trust. People who see the world the way you see it. People who like the same things as you. So choose friends at school who are from your tribe and high school will be waaaaay more enjoyable.

All friendships have ups and downs and, for whatever reason, girls can be incredibly bitchy to one another for no apparent reason. But when you’ve got great friends these little spats will last for maybe a day. Not weeks. Not months. And then you’ll make up and want to get together again to plot a way for that hottie who catches your bus to finally notice you.

You know what else? You don’t need to be in the cool group to enjoy high school. Aim to be someone who is friends with all different kinds of people at school. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes calls this being a ‘floater’. Floaters do their own thing, have high self-esteem and they definitely don’t pay attention to peer pressure. Be authentic in your tastes. In other words, be who you are. Don’t change your personality or your interests or your taste just to hang around with girls who spend all their time bitching and making fun of other people.

All this sounds obvious, right? And yet many adults will tell you it took them years (and some painful friendship experiences) to finally get this lesson. For some reason, many of us spend our spare time with snarky, negative people who make us feel worthless.

And don’t think for a second that hanging around with the cool group will make you seem more attractive. There’s nothing attractive about someone who behaves like a sheep and follows a leader. You’re way better off hanging around with your tribe. After all, what’s attractive is a girl who is confident, who can laugh at herself, who smiles a lot and who exudes a generous spirit.

While we’re talking about friendship let me just say that part of having good friends is being a good friend. (Stop rolling your eyes). It’s true. Don’t bitch. Don’t be the big mouth spreading rumours. Defend your tribe when others are trying to tear them down.

 Two Tribes Are Better Than One …

If possible, try and have a second group of friends or even just one great friend outside of school. Maybe you do a drama class on weekends, play a sport, are President of the People Who Hate People Who Can’t Differentiate Between You’re And Your Society, are part of a youth group, Girl Guides, yodelling. Whatever. The point is sometimes when your school friends are driving you up the wall with their Robert Pattinson obsession, it’s good to have another friend or friends outside of school that you can turn to and hang out with.

In short: Hang with your tribe.

The key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Epictetus, Greek philosopher

If you’re after a feel-good movie, go see this one …

Once upon a time I went to the movies ALL THE TIME.

On a whim! I’d be bored in an afternoon and think “I’m going to pop out to a movie!” There is no popping now. None. Going to the movies takes organisation and babysitters and lists of instructions.

So when I do FINALLY get to a movie, it had better be enjoyable. If I’m going to put on fancy clothes and make-up and pay money for a ticket – I want to enjoy myself.

And that’s what happened last night when I grabbed a raspberry slushie (don’t judge) and saw “The 100-Foot Journey” starring the legendary Helen Mirren, famed Bollywood actor Om Puri, the delightful Charlotte Le Bon and the captivating Manish Dayal.

The film – adapted from the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais – is the story of an Indian family headed by Papa Kadam (Puri) who move to the exquisite town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Va in the South of France and decide to open an Indian restaurant across the road (100 feet, geddit?) from a Michelin-starred and rather up itself restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Mirren).

100 foot journey If youre after a feel good film, this is the movie to see this weekend.

Cinematic comfort food. Yep, it’s a thing.

Look, I’m no fancy-schmancy reviewer. I’m not going to analyse performances or the direction. All I can tell you is that I loved this film. I just did. It’s not perfect – and about two-thirds of the way in it loses traction for a while. And sure it’s a bit Hollywood and a bit of a fairytale. BUT. But there is something undeniably lovely about this film.

This movie cheered me up. And it reminded me of things I still love about the world: red bicycles with wicker baskets, mouth-watering plates of ripe tomatoes and French cheeses or dahl and cheesey naan bread, fairy lights and rowdy backyard family meals, unexpected friendships and, of course, heart-fluttering crushes.

At a time when life feels bleak, when we seem to have lost our ability to walk in another person’s shoes – this film reminds us we are more similar than different. It’s a beautifully packaged lesson in the benefits of opening your mind and your heart to different ways of doing things.

The 100-Foot Journey is cinematic comfort-food.

The scenery will make you want to buy a plane ticket to the South of France. The food will make you want to grab a wicker basket and head to your local farmers’ market. And the storyline is a reminder that sometimes breaking bread with your enemies is as nourishing as any Chicken Tikka Masala.

Cliched? Maybe. But it’s good to be reminded.

HERE’S the TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEO1TWeM5JU

And FYI – this is not a sponsored post! I just thought I’d tell you about a movie I enjoyed! icon smile If youre after a feel good film, this is the movie to see this weekend.

What’s the last movie you enjoyed?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

That awkward moment when you realise your favourite song is actually about crystal meth.

Three years ago I confessed here on Mamamia about a rather embarrassing episode where I was publicly outed for singing the wrong song lyrics. Do you remember? You don’t? Well, cue the fog machine and the xylophone because let’s go back in time and I’ll remind you of what went down:

I got caught singing the wrong lyrics to a song. I was trying to look cool at the gym while running on the treadmill. Trying to look hip in front of Jason my trainer who has the looks of The Commando and the personality of, well, The Commando.

And I found myself attempting to sing along to some cool-ass-gangster-rap-hip-hop-yo-yo-wassup-dawg song as I shuffled along on the treadmill like Cliff Young. And somehow I ended up singing the words “Like a cheese stick, like a cheese stick” to a song that apparently is not dairy-focused. The song is called “Like a G6”. Allegedly. I think that sounds ridiculous. I mean, what the hell is a G6? My trainer however thought this was HYSTERICAL.Oh how we laughed at my mistake. Well, he laughed. I made a mental note to send him an email virus.

Thankfully after this humiliation, friends revealed to me some of their own lyrical car crashes. Cheap Wine and A Three Day Roast (Cheap Wine and A Three Day Growth by Cold Chisel); Save the Whales (Sail Away by Enya); Turn the Heater On (Turn The Beat Around by Gloria Estefan); Alex The Seal (Our Lips Are Sealed by The Go-Gos). And then there was my personal favourite: Our Father And Mark and Kevin (Our Father Who Art in Heaven, The Lord’s Prayer).

I just really love the idea that Jesus had these two other brothers called Mark and Kevin roaming around like the Biblical version of the Daddo brothers or something.

Anyway.

Three years later and I had another confronting experience with song lyrics but this time I wasn’t getting the lyrics wrong. This time I just didn’t realise what the hell I was singing.

So picture it, I’m in the car and I’m singing a peppy, cheery, up-beat song I’ve always loved. Third Eye Blind. Semi-Charmed Life.

Remember this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCI4EGjIZx4

It came on the radio and I clapped my hands and said “I love this song!” because I’m five-years-old and lame.

And my husband looked at me suspiciously and said, “You know what this is about right?”

“It’s about someone thinking they have a semi-charmed life?” I said sounding, err,  five and lame.

And he said, “It’s about a guy doing drugs. Bump is a drug expression for a hit.”

WHA?

Hang on, wha?

And then I made the mistake of sitting in the car and googling the lyrics. I needed to take some Panadol and have a lie down after I’d read them:

The sky was gold, it was rose
I was taking sips of it through my nose (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???)
And I wish I could get back there, someplace back there
Smiling in the pictures you would take
Doing crystal meth (OH SHIT, I HADN’T EVEN NOTICED THEY SAID THIS), will lift you up until you break

It won’t stop, I won’t come down
I keep stock with the tick-tock rhythm, I bump for the drop
And then I bumped up, I took the hit that I was given
Then I bumped again, then I bumped again
I said…

How do I get back there, to the place where I fell asleep inside you (I JUST VOMITED)
How do I get myself back to the place where you said…

I want something else, to get me through this
Semi-charmed kinda life, baby, baby
I want something else, I’m not listening when you say good-bye (GOOD BECAUSE I HOPE SHE’S SNEAKING AWAY TO RING NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS)

moment youve realised what the song lyrics are 380x266 That awkward moment when you realise your favourite song is actually about crystal meth.

Anyone else?

So now, this song is ruined for me. Ruined. I mean I can’t listen to this song now without thinking it’s being sung by some guy called Dave wearing a beanie, eating chips and doing crystal meth on 100 day old feral bed linen.
Naturally this led to a conversation with Brad about weird men in beanies but also on songs that I used to love until I found out they were weird.

Like the song  “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. Which is romantic IF YOU LIKE HAVING A FREAKING STALKER.

And Summer of ‘69, which I found out last year, has nothing to do with the summer of 1969 and everything to do with Bryan Adams having a summer brimmimg with oral sex. Nice one, Bryan. Next week why don’t you write a song about slapping the salami over the Easter break. #Klarssy.

And then there are just the lyrics which make NO SENSE TO ME.

For example.

When Beyonce sings Bootylicious and she says, “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly”

WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?

Jelly?

WHAT THE WHAT NOW?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.

Tara Brown 380x316 Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.

 

Tara Brown, you nailed it.

You bloody nailed it.

That’s what I wanted to say last night when I watched Tara Brown conduct one of the most horrific and disturbing interviews I’ve ever seen on television.  I am of course talking about the interview on Sixty Minutes with David and Wendy Farnell – otherwise known as Baby Gammy’s biological parents.

I think every Australian wanted answers as to how any parent could abandon their child overseas – to an impoverished Thai surrogate, no less. Australians wanted answers too, to claims of child sex convictions, paedophilia, jail time for those crimes.

And Tara got those answers for us.

Make no mistake it wasn’t an easy interview to watch. But Tara made the unwatchable watchable as she calmly, systematically dismantled the arguments put forth.

Gammy parents 2 Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.TARA BROWN: As a child sex offender, as a convicted child sex offender, what right do you have to have access to young children?

DAVID FARNELL: Well, I’ve been convicted of, yeah, child sex offences, and I hang my head in shame for that. And I am deeply regretful for that. And I’m so, so sorry to those people.

TARA BROWN: And it wasn’t just one, was it?

DAVID FARNELL: …

TARA BROWN: I mean, it is people.

DAVID FARNELL: …

TARA BROWN: Many people that you have to apologise to.

DAVID FARNELL: Yes. So…

WENDY FARNELL: It’s OK. It’s past.

DAVID FARNELL: Yeah, OK. So yeah, I was convicted and I went to jail. And when I got out of jail I thought, “Well, I can run and hide and change my name and move to another town.” But I thought, “No, I need to face everybody and I can say, yes, I’m taking responsibility for what I did.” So I stayed, I stayed in Bunbury. I copped abuse, I copped a lot of horrible things, but I stayed there and I faced it. And I said that I will continue until I can hold my head up high again. And I think that I have done that.

TARA BROWN: When did you learn to be remorseful? Because the judge at the time said that you showed no remorse and that through counselling you tried to minimise your crime. When did it hit you that you actually did do the wrong thing?

DAVID FARNELL: I think just seeing my children and thinking that if somebody did that to my children I would be devastated.

TARA BROWN: But you had children when you did it, didn’t you?

Tara Brown  Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.Those questions are easy to ask from the safety of your couch at home but in front of people who are teary or acting remorseful (be it a sham or not) it can be tougher to stay on course. To not let them off the hook.

But Tara Brown brought her A-game last night. She was fierce, she was unrelenting and she wasn’t going home until she had the answers every Australian has asked themselves over the past few weeks since this story broke.

And it got me thinking last night. When I was growing up and talk turned to the amazing achievements of female journalists … Jana (Wendt) and Ita (Buttrose) always headed the list but then there’d be a pause and names like Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey took over. We had to sort of look outside of Australia for big names in terms of female journalism.

Today it’s different.

I look around and I see that the names I turn to for answers, the people who challenge me and push me to see alternate points of view or to see the truth for what it is are names like Leigh Sales, Sarah Ferguson, Caroline Jones, Helen McCabe, Georgie Gardiner, Carrie Bickmore, Eleanor Hall, Lisa Wilkinson, Caroline Overington, Jennie Brockie, Fran Kelly, Kate McClymont, Annabel Crabb,  Julia Baird, Ellen Fanning, Tracy Grimshaw, Melissa Doyle, Sarah Harris, Chris Bath, Samantha Armytage, Madonna King, Kathleen Noonan and Virginia Trioli.

And in a world where we leap on screw ups and so rarely offer a pat on the back  – I’m giving one to Tara Brown. Consider this a thank you. From one viewer.  Love your work.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Some advice for the family and friends of Ada Nicodemou

I was in the kitchen last night buttering toast for my five-year-old daughter – when my husband gasped from behind his laptop.

I looked up.

“Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.”

He kept talking I think. But I didn’t hear anything else. I didn’t need to.

Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.

bec and georgie 300x400 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.

Bec with Ava, when she was pregnant with Georgie

That’s all I had to hear for my heart to feel like it was suddenly wafer thin and shedding layers. For September 2010 to come rushing back to me. For the moment I too found out that the baby I was carrying – my second daughter Georgie –  had suddenly, inexplicably – died inside me at 36 and a half weeks.

And tears came to my eyes for a woman I do not know. For her husband. And for the excruciating road that lay ahead for them both. A road that I am still on.

This column I’m writing today is not for Ada and Chrys.  Not now. Not yet. Today and in the days and weeks ahead they will be in their own protective bubble. Today, my guess, is that they will have disconnected from the world – both physically and emotionally  – as they try to fathom the cruel hand they have just been dealt.

I remember.

One minute my baby was here. Wasn’t she here? I felt a kick. And now. I don’t understand. She was just here. But we have the clothes. The cot. That new  jumpsuit I bought on Monday. I don’t understand.

I remember.

The raw primal pain. Collapsing in the shower screaming for my daughter. The numbness. The overwhelming desire to stop participating in the world. To just sink into my darkness only to be pulled out again by my two-year-old daughter Ava.

I remember.

But I am here, four years on – strong and happy. I survived something I thought I never could. I have gone on to have two more beautiful healthy, happy children. And my grief somehow sits comfortably side by side with my happiness. Make no mistake  I miss Georgie every single day but she is also an inextricable part of who I am. She has made me more fierce. More compassionate. More wise. I am grateful for how she has shaped me into the woman I have become. These days it is Georgie who is the light in my darkest hour.

Today is not the day for me to offer advice to Ada and Chrys. Today they will be blocking out the world and wanting only to wake up from this nightmare.

No, this column is for Ada and Chrys’s family and friends who right now are in shock and anguish themselves. Who are reeling from the news of Harrison’s death. And who are most likely now asking themselves “What do we do? What can we do? How can we help? What should we say?

And since Ada and Chrys themselves won’t even know yet what they need,  I thought I would step in as someone who has been there and who understands exactly how they are feeling.

So for Ada and Chrys’s friends and colleagues and in fact for anyone who today has been told that a friend has lost a baby – this is what I want you to know …

1. Do not be afraid to say Harrison’s name or the name of any stillborn baby.

Harrison was very real and very loved and he will always be Ada and Chrys’s second baby. Don’t be afraid to use Harrison’s name not just now but in the years to come.  Hearing friends and family use Georgie’s name brings me such happiness I can’t describe. It brings her back to me. So rather than say “the baby” or “your loss” … talk about Harrison and how much you had been looking forward to getting to know him, cuddling him, watching him grow up. Does that hurt to hear? Of course but what hurts more is friends and family behaving as though he never existed in the first place.

2. Give out lots of love and expect nothing in return.

However Ada and Chrys decide to grieve will be the right way for them.  They may shut out the world or embrace it. They may go silent or they may want to talk and talk and talk. But what they will most surely need  is knowing that people care. That they are loved. Send a card. A handkerchief. Flowers. A Christmas ornament bearing Harrison’s name. A candle.  Organise a food roster.  Send a daily text message of love and support and know that you may rarely or never get a reply. But that’s okay.  For me, just knowing that my friends were thinking of us helped us get through each day. Every message I received made me feel like Georgie mattered.

Ada  300x302 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.3. Don’t try to fix the situation.

You want to take the pain away. Of course you do. But trying to explain this tragedy or ‘find the positives’ will only cause more pain.  You don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Just say that your heart is broken for them and for their two year old son Johnas.  Just say that you love them. That you’re sorry.  Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just help. Leave a meal on the doorstep. Arrange a play date for Johnas. Now is the time to step up.

4. Go to your calendar now and circle six weeks ahead of today.

The six week mark – it’s a particular punch in the guts for anyone who is grieving a loved one. At the six week mark people have moved on and you find yourself feeling very much alone. The world is moving around you as though life is normal. But life is not the same for you. At the six week mark, make a call, send an email, post a card – just don’t  stay silent because the silence is deafening.

To Ada and Chrys – on the off-chance that you read this post one day, I wish for you such love.  And know this, you will get through this. One day at a time. One hour at a time.  It doesn’t feel like it now, I know, as you struggle to breathe in and out but you will be happy again.  You will learn to live with this pain – a pain that will not always be so raw. I promise. (I also know that right now the idea of being happy is the last thing on your mind. It feels like the act of a traitor. So for now just focus on getting through each hour.)

And I am offering you my hand of friendship and understanding. Four years ago a stranger reached out to me and took my hand and navigated me through the crashing waves of grief.

Mia Freedman saved my life.  I hope you find your own Mia as this storm of hurt and pain swirls around you. And if you don’t  – my hand is here ready to pull you through the waves.

 

screenshot 1654 300x348 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.Later this month, Mamamia will officially release a book, Never Forgotten,  for parents like Ada and Chrys and all the tens of thousands of families who have experienced pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth and neo natal death. The loss of any child, particularly during pregnancy or soon after birth, is an extraordinarily traumatic process and one it can be impossible for other people to understand.

Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman and senior writer Bec Sparrow have both been there and after helping each other through the grief process began to reach out to other women going through similar trauma.

Mamamia readers and writers have joined together to contribute their stories to this book, compiled by Bec and Mia and edited by Paula Ellery. The book is available as an E-book download or in print form [click here to order].

All the proceeds will go towards charities who help families who have suffered this very common yet widely misunderstood type of loss.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.