LINDA SAVAGE, CONVENOR OF THE VCI, LAUNCHED THE BOOK ‘PARENTING IS FOREVER’ – BY DR. ELIZABETH GREEN, ON WEDNESDAY 1st NOVEMBER 2017 at UWA CLUB.
Let me begin by welcoming you, and acknowledging that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Wadjuk Noongar people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and future.
My name is Linda Savage, I am the Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative, and it is my great pleasure to be here tonight to launch Dr Elizabeth Green’s book, ‘Parenting is Forever’.
Many of you here tonight are friends and colleagues of Elizabeth’s, and so know that there are few people more qualified than Elizabeth, to write a book about parenting.
Elizabeth is a specialist paediatrician whose many years of professional experience with children has included working both in cities, as well as rural and remote Australia, including with the Flying Doctor Service. At the same time she has raised a family, and in recent years has also added a growing media profile to her achievements because of her talent in providing evidence based commentary on the challenges facing children and parents, and her ability to offer sound, supportive and calming advice.
Elizabeth and I first met at an Early Childhood Conference some years ago, and connected over our mutual passion for promoting greater understanding of the critical impact the early years of a child’s life, including in the womb, has on their future health and wellbeing. For me, learning about the science of early years brain development and attachment, was a revelation. It completely reorientated my understanding about what should underpin policy in this country to ensure a fair start for all children. It also reinforced the vitally important role of parents and carers of children, a role that still fails to be valued as highly as it should be.
But not by Elizabeth, who I think can be fairly described as a champion not just of children, but of parents.
What shines through this book from the beginning is her respect for, and her genuine care for parents. Not only does she provide advice about what to expect at each stage of a child’s life and what might be of concern, but from the very first words of the book she seeks to empower parents to trust themselves, and to be kind to themselves.
When you pick up a copy of her book you will find the Introduction begins with words:
‘Parenting is not a competition.’
I didn’t really appreciate just how important that simple sentence was until last week, when I was meeting with a number of Community Health Nurses and asked them what they saw as the biggest challenges facing parents today. What they said was that many parents felt they were being constantly judged, particularly with social media offering so many opportunities to compare every aspect of parenting. And although as they said, comparisons and competition has always existed, it is now so amplified and so continual, they believe it is having a noticeably negative impact on parenting. And parents of children who I have spoken to recently, have also said that for all the benefits of social media and the connectedness it brings, the constant sharing also feeds into anxiety and a sense of rivalry. This is all part of the world of parenting today for parents who are also increasingly time poor, and at the same time, overwhelmed with information of all kinds, including about the pitfalls of parenting.
Elizabeth calls this ‘social shift’ and describes it as:
‘.. the result of evolved technologies and frenetic lifestyles. It changes the way we talk, listen and socially connect with each other. This ‘shift’ she writes – replaces kindness with selfishness, hypersexualises our children and takes respect out of relationships. Children sense and feel these emotions and become anxious.
These are powerful words, but she is not alone in her concerns that children are in a range of ways, signalling to us that the world we have created for them, and they are forced to navigate, is having an adverse effect on them. Not just in their increasing anxiety and depression, but their rising levels of obesity, and the diminished social skills and regulation they are exhibiting.
I personally believe that we all have a role to play in standing up to the forces that undermine children’s right to a safe and healthy childhood, something they deserve and have a right to expect. And I also believe that every adult who comes in contact with a child, as well as the culture and society they grow up in plays a significant part in what a child experiences. But no one plays a greater role than a parent. These are the people who most need to be empowered, and encouraged to do the job they have chosen and overwhelmingly want to get right.
I am always in awe of anyone who can write a book, and especially a book like ‘Parenting is Forever’ It combines the highest quality of advice and information in a style that is easily read, and is underpinned by a soothing narrative to reassure that no one is a perfect parent, that parenting changes as children grow and become adults, and that parenting is a continual process of learning, not to be feared, but to be embraced.
It is why Elizabeth’s book is so special. It provides guidance and advice about what to expect in parenting, the do’s and don’ts and what might require the assistance of experts. Yet at the same time it urges parents to take a deep breathe, and believe that by and large they do have the intelligence and common sense to parent if they trust themselves, and are prepared to grow and learn alongside their child.
It is a book that provides wise counsel, encouragement to all parents and carers of children, and inspires confidence.
So it is a great pleasure then to join with you this evening for the launch of ‘Parenting is Forever’, and to now introduce Professor Wai Chen, Professor of Child Psychiatry at the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Australia, to say a few words.