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Lockdown and Teaching Meditation to Children

By Dr Balvinder Khaira

Meditation in children is a growing field of interest and research. There is emerging evidence that it improves attention, improves learning and information retention, improves self-awareness and by that regard the ability to self regulate, it also is linked to enhanced social-emotional development, especially kindness and empathy.
Some schools have introduced meditation programs instead of detention and found it lowers aggressive behaviour while also giving children a reprieve from external traumatic and chaotic environments.
During the recent lockdown, I have been experimenting with teaching my 5-year-old meditation. It is a delicate process as we have to be vigilant that we don’t create any aversion or misunderstanding towards meditation. However, it is an excellent antidote to the uncertainty, confusion, loneliness and increased stress children could be going through at this time.
There are a couple of great programs, online meditations and apps that could be useful (please see the links below).
I think the most important (and challenging) thing for parents would be to create the space and time to practice meditation and to also engage with these exercises themselves, as a shared experience. I would suggest using a gradual and playful introduction and keep persisting.
After some gentle perseverance over the last six months, my 5-year-old now requests the “sitting still like a frog” guided meditation every night, and he knocks right out.
Please note that meditation in children can be quite a complicated endeavour; it is vital to practice yourself as a parent, seek out reading material and get advice along the way.
There is also a meditation studio in West Footscray which holds weekly zoom meditations during this COVID period by donation, please see http://www.dharmacircle.com.au/

Temporary changes to vaccination services at Eleanor Clinic

We wanted to give you an update on the status of vaccinations at Eleanor Clinic.

As you would have experienced, we take extreme care at Eleanor Clinic to ensure that all our patients have minimal risk of exposure while with us. In fact, we have been contacted by other clinics who have adopted our COVID-19 safety protocols, which is humbling. However, our high safety standards take considerable effort regarding time and staff on our side.

The recent rise in people contracting COVID-19 in Victoria shows that there is currently a bigger degree of community transmission than there was previously. This means there is a somewhat higher risk of catching this illness when out and about in Melbourne than there was at any stage before.

To us this means doubling down on our already extensive safety measures, particularly when performing vaccinations at Eleanor Clinic. These efforts are so time consuming that we can currently only offer vaccinations to those with the highest clinical need.

Those groups are:

  • Infants up to the age of 4 months (incl. 4 months vaccinations)
  • Pregnant women
  • People with immune-deficiencies or severe chronic disease as assessed by their treating GP

Please accept our apologies that we will have to defer immunisations for other groups than those above for a few weeks until the number of new COVID-19 cases within our community has decreased. This may mean that your child older than 4 months of age or other adult will have their immunisations with us a few weeks later than originally planned. In our mind this is currently the safest option.

To be clear: this is only for a few weeks until the COVID-19 numbers come down again and we can somewhat reduce our stringent safety protocols. Immunisations are very important – which is why we are focussing on being able to provide them for those in highest need. We’ll keep you updated on any changes.

As always, please speak to your friendly Eleanor Clinic GP with any questions you might have.

National Diabetes Week

Today marks the start of National Diabetes Week, and this year the focus is on Diabetes and Mental Health. As a Type 1 Diabetic for over 20 years, I certainly agree that Diabetes can have a significant impact on a person’s mental and emotional health, as well as their physical health. However, there is growing evidence that the use of a low carbohydrate, real food diet can help both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics improve their blood sugar control, which makes living with Diabetes feel like less of a burden.
Since I started following a low carb, real food lifestyle over four years ago the improvement to my physical and mental health has been nothing short of amazing. You can read more about my journey here.
If managing your Diabetes is starting to feel like a burden, Diabetes Australia has resources and support available at https://headsupdiabetes.com.au or make an appointment to see your friendly Eleanor Clinic GP. We are always here to help support you.

The Changing Face of Fatherhood

By Dr Balvinder Khaira

When I sat down to write this piece I realised just how broad this topic is. Fatherhood is such an individual experience. It is an experience and role that not only for men but anyone who identifies with the position. Given the breadth of the topic, I chose to write from my experience of fatherhood.

I grew up with the tradition of storytelling in my family. I never met my grandfather, but my father would tell me stories of him that would exemplify sacrifice and courage. I think those kinds of ideas encapsulate the traditional role of the father in my culture. It was a role defined by values such as providing, protecting and sacrifice. My father remembered his own father as a hero and model of fatherhood. However, the world changed quickly between my grandfather and father. My father lived during a paradigm shift from a traditional culture into modernity. He now had the choice to become more involved with child-rearing and my mother also was able to work and contribute financially. It is essential here to acknowledge that the efforts of women in liberating the role of motherhood had an equally strong effect on men’s traditional roles. Men were now also able to choose to step beyond the confinements of the traditional father and now had the privilege of choice to deepen their involvement with their family and children.

I read a study recently that was looking at brain imaging of new mothers and found their emotional centres grew after childbirth. Interestingly, gay men who identified as the primary carer for their child had almost identical changes as birthmothers. It shows that humans as such have enormous abilities and we grow and adapt according to our roles.

Some social commentators postulate that after modernity came postmodernity, a movement characterised by scepticism towards society’s grand narratives of gender, sexuality and fixed roles. The concept of the postmodern father is much more fluid, as postmodernity comes with the invitation to advocate for all permutations of the family unit.

When my son was born I had to contemplate what fatherhood meant to me. There wasn’t a fixed traditional role that I could reference. The postmodern identity of fatherhood is much less tangible. I realised that fatherhood is what I make of it. I could reference and integrate the traditional archetypal values of the father such as safety, protection, guidance and support. However, I was equally as free to incorporate many other qualities that I saw suitable. For example, I chose to work part-time until my son was three years old; this was the freedom that modern fatherhood offered me, the privilege to be intimately involved with my child’s formative years.

Some people say we are entering a cultural paradigm shift once again, this time from a postmodern into the post-postmodern. It seems a bit wordy. In my experience of this, it is one of integrating the previous and current permutations of the role – from the traditional to the modern era. It is to acknowledge the liberation that modernity provided to fatherhood, while simultaneously not denigrating the traditional role. Coming back to my grandfather, he seemed to have intuitively predated this movement: although he was traditional he still was a man of great pragmatism and what he did was motivated by kindness and love.

All these changes to our understanding of what fatherhood means can cause quite a bit of confusion to new dads. The current definition is wide open – if there even is one. And maybe that’s not a bad thing because it means it is what you make of it. If you are a new dad I’d encourage you to speak to someone, aim to build a strong support network and actively look for that support. Some of the links at the bottom of this article may be a good start.

Whatever the role looks like in your family is just one aspect for new fathers. Other factors will shape your role which you may not immediately associate with it. Things like sleep deprivation, changes in partner intimacy and shifting family dynamics, shifts in social circles and a host of other changes. Parenting is a personal experience and we live in a world where this role has much potential and freedom.

I think this is very exciting and such a privilege that we can decide for ourselves how we would like to contribute to shaping the next generation.

Further reading