Publishers of books that change lives

How to manage your kid’s screentime this holidays

Dr Kristy Goodwin

According to children’s technology and development expert Dr Kristy Goodwin, if you worry about the amount of time your children spend staring at a small screen during school holidays you are not alone. Dr Kristy says many parents are concerned and confused. Deciding on the right amount of screen time and the appropriate level of access to touch-screen devices, mobile phones and video games – as well as issues of addiction and cyber-safety – are just some of the ‘digital dilemmas’ facing modern parents.

Dr Kristy says the amount of advice circulating for parents is overwhelming, contradictory and, more often than not, inaccurate. Author of  Raising Your Child in a Digital World, Dr Kristy, has made it her mission to give parents peace of mind by arming them with facts, not fears about what young children really need to thrive in the digital world.

“However, rather than fearing or banning technology, we should aim to create healthy digital habits in our children. The technology is here to stay so we have to show our children healthy and helpful ways to use it so it doesn’t derail their development. Technology is changing the ways young children learn, develop and play. We can use the available research to leverage technology to meet children’s developmental needs, help them learn and minimise any potential harmful effects.”

“Here are a few things I say to parents about what children need to thrive in a digital age.

“The early years are vital for a child’s optimal development. Eighty percent of brain architecture is established before a child is 3 years old and 70 per cent of this development can be attributed to the experiences they encounter. Digital technologies are shaping this process.

“Developing brains and bodies need simple things. Also called ancestral parenting, the way our grandparents parented is an ideal model.

“Supporting healthy tech habits can involve:

  1. Being mindful about how we use technology with or around our children – they are watching and absorbing our digital habits (the scientific explanation is that kids have mirror neurons and are actually wired to imitate)!
  2. Ensuring that screen-time doesn’t interfere with children’s seven basic needs (especially their sleep, play, movement and relationships).
  3. Establishing boundaries around how, when and for how long technology can be used in your family by creating a ‘family media plan’ – this can be a formal, written document or simply a conversation about how technology will (and won’t) be used with our children.
  4. Set firm boundaries and use web-filtering software to limit what your child can access – there are increasing reports of young children (as young as 8 years) accessing and sharing pornography, violent and scary media.
  5. Balancing their screen-time with their green-time in nature is critical for their nervous system and their brain.”
Book by Dr Kristy Goodwin

Raising your child in a digital world

Raising Your Child In A Digital World is available at bookstores






“Important and compelling reading’

Review of Transformation: Turning tragedy into triumph (Dr Tim Sharp, ed) by Annette Marfording, Radio 2bbb FM

On 24 May the ABC evening news reported the shocking new statistics about youth suicide, with deaths from suicide surpassing road deaths in many regions of Australia. In this context, the new book Transformation: Turning Tragedy into Triumph makes for important and compelling reading. The book is a collection of twelve personal stories of tragedy and trauma suffered by their authors, and importantly, of how the writers managed to turn their lives around and now spend their lives motivating others to do so, too.

Dr Tim Sharp

Dr Tim Sharp, editor, Transformation: Turning Tragedy into Triumph

Some of the contributors’ names will be known to you, others will not, but each of their stories is profoundly moving, informative and inspiring. At the end of each, editor and Director of the Happiness Institute Dr Tim Sharp analyses and lists what can be learned from it.

Contributors include Lana Penrose, who overcame extreme depression and whose book The Happiness Quest I reviewed on this program about a year ago; Ingrid Poulson, whose estranged husband killed her father and her two children before killing himself; Jean Paul Bell, one of the founders of the Clown Doctors; Wiradjuri man Joe Williams, a former rugby league player for South Sydney, Penrith and Canterbury and now a professional boxer, who overcame his problem of alcoholism and drug addiction rooted in depression; and Dr Tim Sharp, the editor of the book and Director of the Happiness Institute, who for the first time in his life reveals his own struggles with depression.

The stories of three contributors struck a particular chord with me:

Sam Cawthorn was the Young Australian of the Year in 2015. His life was profoundly changed when a major car accident left him Sam Cawthorn quoteclose to death, without his right arm and with a permanent disability in his right leg. He begins his contribution with the words ‘Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.’ A very important guideline for living, albeit one many of us don’t think about often enough. Here are another two important passages from his contribution, which I found very thought-provoking [read out from middle p 11 and p 12].

Petrea King is the founder of the Quest for Life Foundation, which offers support for people living with cancer, depression and other traumas. In her essay, she tells of how her life came unstuck while in Assisi, suffering from leukaemia which the doctors had told her she would soon die from. And here is the passage which was central to me: [read bottom p 36-7].

Finally the story of Allan Sparkes, a former police officer based in Coffs Harbour, recipient of the Cross of Valour, the highest award for bravery, and of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. He writes about central incident

(Un)happy Mother’s Day

When Mothers’ Day isn’t a happy day …

Mother’s Day is celebrated the world over as a day of remembering mothers; their love and their goodness, their kindness and their sacrifice. Breakfast is made by little fingers and served in bed, complete with wobbly, hand drawn cards and presents carefully chosen. Yet, as we rapidly approach Mother’s Day on Sunday, I am very mindful that for many women it is not a day of celebration and good feeling, but one tinged with complex feelings.

On a day that society tells us we should be feeling joyful, many women are met with feelings of loss and disappointment.Two mums talking The reasons for this may be many. For many women, the day may serve as a painful experience of grief and loss as we mourn a mother who has passed away, whether it be yesterday or ten years ago. The experience of missing our mother and longing for her presence may be felt on any day, yet on Mother’s day is reminiscent of something more primitive, a deep ache that no words can soothe.

For others, Mother’s Day may herald the arrival of loss and grief borne not of death, but of estrangement. Disconnection and unresolved issues seem especially poignant on a day where we are expected to feel a sense of belonging. The celebratory nature of the day can be hard to reconcile with a maternal relationship that is fraught with tension, is already stretched tight by the strain of toxic interactions or has been neglectful or abusive.

For many other women, Mother’s day is a day where they may be reminded of unfulfilled desires, of wombs that wait to be filled, of arms that remain empty of a baby. Of the memory of children who have passed away, now so painfully absent. The loss of a mothering dream feels especially powerful on Mother’s day.

And for others the day may simply be awash with unfulfilled expectations of validation and recognition of all that we do as mother’s. I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a mother whose children and husband had simply forgotten that it was Mother’s day. As she lay in bed waiting for the breakfast that never arrived and the presents that never appeared, her sadness was overwhelming. Eventually she got up, got dressed and continued with the day. As she loaded the washing machine, picked up the shoes from the floor and continued with the hundred other unseen tasks of motherhood, her eyes welled with tears on what should be a day of happiness.

The question for many women on Mother’s day is not how we celebrate it, but rather how do we survive it? On any ‘special’ day, whether it be Mother’s Day, Christmas day, birthdays or any day where there is an expectation of connection with family and celebrating our sense of belonging with each other, how do we navigate the uncomfortable feelings that may arise?

I have no perfect answers. I am reminded however of the wisdom of a young woman whom I saw in therapy for a number of years and for whom Mother’s Day evoked many of the above feelings of loss.

She consciously chose to rewrite the story. She created new rituals on Mother’s Day which helped her navigate the hours from sun up to sundown. She filled the day with self kindness, surrounded herself with others who felt like family (yet weren’t biologically related to her) and she celebrated the lessons she had learnt from being mothered and from being a mother herself. She survived the day and by sunset some of the angst she had carried into the day had lost its sting.

This may not work for all and there’s something to be said for hanging on by the skin of your teeth and just waiting for the day to end. But if our Mother’s Day story is one tinged with pain, sadness and disappointment, perhaps we can reflect upon ways to create new rituals and make new meaning of a day which, thankfully for some, comes just once a year.

Republished with the kind permission of Leisa Stathis. View her original blog post at:

Leisa is a social worker and qualified family therapist with over 20 years experience. Her book Becoming a Mother aims to help and reassure new mums and guide them through the first early, challenging days.

“Can You Say More About This?”

When I was writing the memoir chapter for Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall, I spent a lot of time crying and yelling at my husband. It went like this:

Painfully, I would dredge up something about, say, the “opening” experience I had while I was at Cambridge, forcing out each word. I’d send it to my editor in England. Back would come her email: “Can you say more about this?”

Meltdown. Icannotpossiblysayonemorewordaboutanyofthis! Ihavesaideverythingeverything! (tears)

My husband was always sympathetic. How can she say that? What does she want from you? Exactly! But after a couple of days, he’d say quietly, “You know, I think I kind of see what she means…”

“How can you say that? How?” (yelling, tears).

Clearly, he’d gone over to the dark side. Over the next few days I’d manage to calm down and write a bit more about it. And so it went if not now whenon.

Now I look at that chapter and think, “Unh-huh, that’s fine, that’s how it happened.” So what was my problem? Veteran of thousands of pages of autobiographical Freefall, I had thought I could pretty much say anything about anything, any time.

At first I thought the problem was that I didn’t quite know what the truth was, and I didn’t want to say what wasn’t true. Sure, I knew that in a certain way, all memoirists have to “lie.” I’ve always loved André Aciman’s statement:

We alter the truth on paper so as to alter it in fact; we lie about our past and invent surrogate memories the better to make sense of our lives and live the life we know was truly ours.”

But perhaps some experiences were too precious to be “lied” about – too precious to be written about, in fact. Was I afraid that if I “made sense” of whatever happened in words, I’d start believing them and lose what really took place?

Perhaps. And it may be that now, when I look back at what I wrote, my life does make “better sense,” and I like that. Yet strangely, since I wrote that chapter, I have felt changed as a person, too. I feel calmer and less muddled, more capable of coping with what life throws my way. Clearly, that question must have brought me to some edge of myself – and past it.

What I suspect is that I was afraid of defining such experiences in case I lost the magic. I kept them vague and inchoate in my mind as a way of staying under my own radar. I think I must have learned, somewhere along the line, to hide my most precious experiences even from myself, as I imagine many of us must do.

But what I discovered is that the magic isn’t going to go away, even though any attempt we make to define it will always be inadequate. And the struggle to articulate anything about it is worthwhile. Don’t try to hide, I realized. “Do not stoop to strategies like this,” as Leonard Cohen says.

My editor’s question forced me to discover that hidden taboo – and I’m grateful. But when someone says I made it look “easy” to be “vulnerable,” I have to shake my head in wonder. Just ask my husband how easy it was, I’m thinking. Fortunately, he survived to tell the tale.


Barbara Turner Vesselago is an author and writing teacher. Her most recent books is Writing without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall.

Your child and colour

You know all the colours of the rainbow; colour is such an automatic concept for us as adults – ‘Get me the red mug’, ‘I just bought a purple sweater’. But it’s really hard for small children to learn. Is the sun yellow because it’s round or because it’s too bright to look at? How can the sea and the sky both be blue? The sea’s not the same as the sky. There are so many shades of the same colour, and so many colours are very similar – is turquoise blue or green? You might have expected children to learn the bright primary colours first – red, yellow and blue, but a lot of children don’t. They often learn black quite early, but their next colour often depends on their own preference – a lot of small girls love pink (so many clothes and toys for small girls are pink) but lots also adore purple and that’s not so easy to explain. And girls don’t necessarily learn colours earlier than boys do.

  • Artist's paletteIt’s best to avoid colour with very small children.
  • A lot of children go through a stage of matching colours before they actually name any
  • Most children know two colours by age three
  • Some children know more, and some don’t know any
  • A set of objects that are all the same except for colour (like blocks that are all the same size and shape) will help your child sort out the different colours

Don’t worry if your child doesn’t seem interested in colours – they’ll learn them when they’re ready. And trying to teach colour before they’re ready for it just doesn’t seem to work. There are lots of other ways to describe things – like how big they are – that children understand long before they understand colour.


Margaret Maclagan and Anne Buckley are the authors of Talking Baby.

How to be happy

Here’s Andrew Fuller’s memorable tips on how to be happyclinical psychologist and author Andrew Fuller

What will you be called?

What will you be called?

No matter how many times you become a grandparent the thrill and joy when a new grand child, or a great grandchild arrives, never goes away.

Our 11 grandchildren have grown up in what seems like a blink of an eye. Now ten of our 11 grandchildren are 20 and 30-somethings and some are living independent lives. Our youngest grandson is nine years old and we have three great grandsons in our family.

Being a grandparent, a great grandparent, aunt, great aunt, or that special person in a child’s life is a privilege.

When our great grandsons were born the what-will-we-be-called question loomed on the horizon again. In modern blended families deciding on names to be called can be a problem. There can be teams of grandparents and your preferred names may be taken. Diplomacy and creativity will be essential.

Our new names as great grandparents came out of the blue. Without any discussion we became Grandma June and Grandpa Max.

I remember jumping to attention when I heard the familiar ‘Grandma’ distress call. I replied to the help call and was told very politely, ‘Not you Grandma June. I mean Grandma!’

‘Right!’ Our grandson’s precious Grandma, our daughter, took centre stage.

Our great grandsons are very savvy. They let us know we’re special in their lives. Ben always ends his phone calls to me – ‘Love you Grandma June.’

In Part Two, on Page 251, How to Thrive as a Grandparent there is more info to help new grandparents decide the name they will choose as a grandparent.


[An extract from Modern Grandparenting by June Loves.]

Creativity, a pathway to hope

Here is a wonderful post from one of authors, Marie Williams, on an unexpected benefit of creativity…

Creativity, a Pathway to Hope. – Marie WilliamsGreen Vanilla Tea

As a parent you’re an expert in translation

You’ve got so many different roles when you’re a parent – chief protector, feeder, and general dogsbody. But once your baby starts to talk, one of your most important roles is as their personal translator. You may not understand everything they say, but you’ll understand a great deal more than other people will. When your one year old points and says ‘ta’ are they asking you for something, or pointing to the car on the street outside? You’ll know, and you can reinforce them by saying ‘Oh you want the ball’ or ‘Yes, that’s Grandad’s car’, whichever is appropriate. And when your child is older and starting to say a lot, you’ll still need to be their translator. A four year old can say so much, and when they’re excited they tend to talk very quickly, so again you’ll need to translate what they say for other people.

Here are five quick tips for translating what your baby is saying:

  • Talk to them – they need to hear you talking so they have a good model for their own speech.
  • Repeat what they say – your baby says ‘bo’, you say ‘oh, you want your bottle’.
  • Watch what they’re looking at – if you don’t know what they’re looking at, it’s almost impossible to understand what they’re trying to say.
  • Other people who see a lot of your baby can often be a translator as well as you.
  • Don’t worry when they’re hard to understand – they’re just learning!

Here are 5 tips for interpreting for your 2 to 4 year oldMother and son talking

  • Talk about what you’ve done together, then you’ve got an idea what they’re talking about.
  • Say back to them what you think they said – they’ll quickly correct you if you’ve got it wrong.
  • Don’t correct their pronunciation, but do repeat back what they said with the correct pronunciation.
  • It’s OK to ask them to repeat what they said more slowly.
  • Ask where, what, who questions to clarify what theyʼre talkinɡ about, but why questions are a lot harder to answer so avoid asking why until they’re about four.

By about four your child will be understood by most people most of the time, so long as they’re not too excited. That’s when your role as an expert in translation will still be vitally important.

Margaret Maclagan and Anne Buckley are the authors of Talking Baby: helping your child discover language.

Long live the local library author talk!

When Still a Pygmy was published Isaac and I knew that speaking engagements would be a good way to generate interest in the book at the local level. I also thought that getting out and talking to ordinary Australians about his memoir would help Isaac feel at home in mainstream society – a rare experience for Indigenous people the world over.

One of our very first speaking engagements was for a community organisation known for its good works. On the night, the President of the association stood up, welcomed everyone … then told a blond joke; the Deputy then stood up … and told an Irish joke. I sunk my head into my hands and wondered what on earth I was doing there wanting to talk about writing. We were the entertainment and no one was interested in the book.

A few days later we got a second invitation, this time at Rockdale Library. “Surely”, I thought, “a library will attract people who buy and read books”. And so began what has been the most fulfilling series of talks and insight into communal literary life in Sydney. If you need reassurance that the skill of reading and hunger for books is alive and well, go to your local library!

Isaac and Michael library talkThe stalwarts of these events are those champions of society: women d’un certain âge. Before we start our presentations I scan the audience and it is always the same: women with keen intellects who have come along to learn; anticipating a Q&A where they can engage with authors and big ideas they’ve been mulling about life, society, migration, people, or history. It is the Grand Old Dames who are the most fun. They bring a wealth of perspective from youthful adventures in Africa or the Pacific in the ’50s and ’60s to raising broods of children before moving in to the workplace, or simply because age has made them matter-of-fact about the ingredients that make marriage work.

Isaac is a terrific speaker and for an hour or two we all are transported out of the world of 24/7 infotainment into a world of discussion where there is effort to analyse and make sense of the lives of others. Our library talks are a continuation of that long tradition of enlightened conversation, not dissimilar to the 19th Century salons of Jane Austen or George Elliott.

The questions Isaac receives have similar themes – about living in the forest, parenting 10 children, and establishing a new life as refugees in Australia – but the topic of Isaac’s mother’s efforts to kill his wife is the favourite. In the first few talks I think this is because it is so exotic: ‘Pygmy Mother Hires Witchdoctor to Kill Daughter-in-Law; Trades Youngest Daughter as Payment’. Who could resist that? But as we do more and more events I realise I am wrong. The audience relates to Isaac’s family experience; people who initially thought they could not possibly have anything in common with a Pygmy from the forest, realise the universality of those complicated tensions around parental expectations of a suitable match, and between husbands and wives, mothers and daughters-in-law, and with difficult children.

Our talks end in an atmosphere of camaraderie, fresh air after the divisiveness of politics outside the library. The audience laughs and applauds and wants to greet Isaac personally, and sometimes have their photo taken with him. They can hardly believe they’ve met a Pygmy from Africa who has shared his life with them, in the process making them reflect on their own lives as wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, activists, entrepreneurs, and travellers.

As for Isaac, after years of feeling marginalised in Congo as Pygmy and initially in Australia as a refugee, he is enveloped in the humour and warmth. The library has become a meeting house on the pathway to his new Australian life.


Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest are the authors of Still a Pygmy.