Melanie and Dean Evans with their baby girl Elliana. Picture: Tara Croser
Melanie and Dean Evans with their baby girl Elliana. Picture: Tara Croser

How Queenslanders are equipping their kids

PARENTS only ever want the best for their children - but how do we give them the opportunity to thrive when technology threatens to reinvent the very world we live in? Should we tell them to learn coding and create the robots that might come to define mankind - or encourage their creative sides?

Qweekend spoke to several families to find out their approach. And as Dean and Melanie Evans show, it's never too early to start thinking about how to prepare your child for what's to come.

HEALTH AND HAPPINESS ARE PARAMOUNT

ELLIANA Grace Evans has been on this Earth for exactly one month today, long enough for her parents Dean, 29, and Melanie, 31, to fall deeply in love with her - and to think deeply about their daughter's future.

 

Melanie and Dean Evans just want Elliana to be healthy and happy. Picture: Tara Croser
Melanie and Dean Evans just want Elliana to be healthy and happy. Picture: Tara Croser

 

Dean, an engineering superintendent with a mining company, and Melanie, a primary school teacher, from Shailer Park in Brisbane's south, say they began talking about their hopes and dreams for Elliana long before she was born.

"Until a couple of weeks ago I would have said for Elliana to have the same, wonderful opportunities I did was a really important thing for us," Dean says.

"But we had a scare where there was thought to be some trouble with her breathing [thankfully, Elliana was fine], and that brought into very sharp focus for us that actually good health is paramount."

Other than that, Dean says he and Melanie are both very comfortable with technology and the idea that their daughter will grow up in a world where skills in coding and artificial intelligence are highly valued.

"We have both kept up to speed with technology in our professional and personal lives because we understand that is the way of the world now, and we're not frightened by it at all.

"What we are far more concerned with is the issue of your digital identity, how your digital imprint can follow you your whole life. I don't think kids today have fully grasped that, and we hope to teach Elliana the importance of that, and how to have a positive digital presence."

Dean and Melanie also have discussed teaching Elliana resilience, and for Dean especially, working in the male-dominated field of engineering, how not to allow her gender to affect her career choices.

But mostly, despite the heady, ongoing tide of digital influences in our children's lives and the changing face of the workforce, what Dean and Melanie want for their daughter is what parents have always desired for their offspring.

"It might sound corny," Dean says, "but we just want her to be happy."

 

Brenton and Kate Trevethan with daughters Sophie, almost 4, and Milly, almost 2. Picture: Adam Head
Brenton and Kate Trevethan with daughters Sophie, almost 4, and Milly, almost 2. Picture: Adam Head

LET KIDS JUST BE KIDS

AS their girls dish out pretend breakfasts and happily play in the living room, Kate and Brenton Trevethan watch on in delight.

Each day that their children Sophie (almost 4) and Milly (almost 2) learn new things and discover new talents is a day they witness what they're capable of.

Kate, 29, a pharmacist, and Brenton, 30, who works in electrical transmission, realise the importance these early years have on their girls' development.

The questions never end. Are they reading enough? Should they be doing ballet already? When should they start learning piano? But they also know - more importantly - they need to let them be kids.

Kate and Brenton want to let daughters Sophie and Milly be kids, which they recognise as being important for their development and learning. Picture: Adam Head
Kate and Brenton want to let daughters Sophie and Milly be kids, which they recognise as being important for their development and learning. Picture: Adam Head

 

"One of the main things we try to do is not put them in a box," Kate says.

"My understanding is the free play the kids have, on their own or with other kids, is where they figure out a lot of things."

Kate and Brenton plan to expose their girls to as many opportunities as possible, and nurture any interests they develop.

"We want them to have a great childhood where they can be themselves and let them pick the things they want to do," Kate says.

Sophie is a couple of years away from school but the Trevethans, who live in Daisy Hill in Brisbane's south, are already researching educational programs.

"Language and music programs are the two main things we're looking at," Kate says.

"We'll probably get the kids doing music lessons outside of school, even if they don't end up wanting to continue it, it's probably a good skill to learn. If they hate it or don't particularly like it, we don't have to keep going with it."

Both parents are well aware of the significance technology will play in their children's lives and support learning new subjects in school, such as coding, to move with changing times.

But they place a higher value on learning core skills and values which will carry them throughout their lives.

"We just want the girls to grow up in a world where people are kind to each other," Kate says.

Most of all, Kate and Brenton want to "be there for them, love them and set the best example for them that we can".

 

Paul Fairweather with son Nicholas, 12, and daughter Camille, 9, at their home in New Farm. Picture: AAP/John Gass
Paul Fairweather with son Nicholas, 12, and daughter Camille, 9, at their home in New Farm. Picture: AAP/John Gass

CORE VALUES THE FOCUS

"I look at my kids and I can't remember my life without them at all, and I can't imagine a life without them in it at all."

For Brisbane architect and artist Paul Fairweather, 59, becoming a father (a little later in life than many) to Nicholas, 12, and Camille, 9, has profoundly changed the way he views the world. It has brought him deep love, immense pride, renewed wonder, and a real sense of the fleeting nature of time.

Paul Fairweather with wife Kara and their kids Nicholas and Camille. Picture: AAP/John Gass
Paul Fairweather with wife Kara and their kids Nicholas and Camille. Picture: AAP/John Gass

Married to Kara, 47, a boutique owner, Paul says the time with his two children "seems to be going by so quickly", and he is well aware the teenage years are nearly upon his family.

But despite the relentless march of technology (Paul's decided to go with the flow, learning how play Fortnite with his son) and predictions of rapidly changing career opportunities, he believes that the importance of core values and personal skills remains the same.

"I hope that Kara and I are teaching them to have a real sense of self, and of personal responsibility, so that they have clarity in what direction they want to go.

"I believe that is what will serve them best, whether they go into business or university or
pursue a more creative path."

The Fairweathers, who live, work and play in New Farm, Brisbane, are also aware that, as their children grow older, social media may encroach upon their family life.

"I think what we will be working on is for them not to lose their sense of self within that digital world," Paul says.

But if their kids - as kids do - falter either online, or off, Paul and Kara are also guiding their children towards coping with tough times.

"I hope my kids don't have too much trouble. I hope their hearts don't get broken too badly - but if they do, I want to teach them that it just becomes a part of them, it doesn't define them.

"I want them to see that they can learn, take responsibility, and move on."

Anita Link and Michael Hassall with their children Elsa, 12, and Alex, 8. Picture: Liam Kidston
Anita Link and Michael Hassall with their children Elsa, 12, and Alex, 8. Picture: Liam Kidston

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HONEST

Talking to their kids openly and honestly about life, especially mental health, is the most important tool in Anita Link and husband Michael Hassall's parenting kit.

Anita, 45, experienced postnatal psychosis about a week after the birth of Elsa, now 12, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when son Alex, now 8, was about three years old. She has been hospitalised several times.

Anita and Michael try to prioritise time as a family. Picture: Liam Kidston
Anita and Michael try to prioritise time as a family. Picture: Liam Kidston

 

"Basically, if the kids do seem to be worried about something, rather than sweeping it under the rug we try to sit down and deal with it, talk about it," says Anita, a veterinarian from The Gap, in Brisbane's west.

"The other thing is building resilience by not cushioning them too much.

"You don't want to throw them into stuff that they're not able to cope with, but the only way to build some resilience is for them to be exposed to challenging things in a controlled way.''

Ms Link and Mr Hassall, 45, a director with PricewaterhouseCoopers, try to prioritise time as a family, eating dinner together when possible, regular exercise, and a balance between screen time and other activities.

Neither Elsa nor Alex has a social media account, their phones are only used for photos or games, and all computers are kept in central areas of the home.

"In general, the biggest risk to kids' mental health, both mine and everyone else's, is just the speed of life, where it can be really easy to get caught up in doing things and not checking in with each other," Anita says.

"It's really hard, but try not to overschedule; leave some white space and wiggle room in your diary."

Nicola and Peter Buck with kids Abby and Ben, both 11, and Oliver, 13. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP
Nicola and Peter Buck with kids Abby and Ben, both 11, and Oliver, 13. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP

FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER STAYS HEALTHY

The Buck kids are outside kids, getting their daily dose of vitamin D on the bikeways, creeks, basketball courts, parks and hockey fields that dot their north Brisbane neighbourhood.

For Oliver, 13, and twins Ben and Abby, 11 keeping fit is not so much through organised sports (although they do plenty of those) but part of enjoying everyday life.

"We are always throwing them outside", their mother Nicola, 46, says.

"We'll send them out on their bikes to do errands, or down to the nets to have a hit, or out to the basketball courts have a throw, and I appreciate that where we live has all of those things in walking or riding distance."

More often than not Nicola, 46, a relocation consultant, and husband Pete, 51, a legal recruiter are right beside them.

"Pete and I were pretty active before kids, and we also both have a real love of nature.

"We know how getting outside can invigorate and relax you, and it was important to us to pass that love of outside to our children."

Nicola says that because their children spend much of their daily life using screens at school and for homework, getting them outside is a parenting priority, but not always an easy one.

"Like all kids ours can be resistant to getting off their screens, so what we're trying to do is balance it out, we'll say if you go outside, you can go on your screens when you come back.

"And we try to encourage them to understand that once you do go outside, you'll have fun and feel better, so that it's not this chore, but just something they do that makes them feel good."

The Bucks also encourage their children to play organised sport - all three kids play field hockey in the winter, and swim in a squad in summer.

"I think playing in a team is not just about fitness, it's also about meeting other kids that might not be at your school, just broadening your horizons a little." Nicola says.

"I know it's increasingly hard to compete with technology but I don't think it has to be one or the other, I hope we are teaching our kids to appreciate both."

 

 

The Buck family are an outdoor and sports-oriented family. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP
The Buck family are an outdoor and sports-oriented family. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP


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