A Hug Goes a Long Way by Shannon Bradford

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All throughout high school I worked as a babysitter/nanny and sometimes it was 2 children, sometimes a newborn baby and my most challenging job thus far was caring for 5 children under the age of 9. I adore children and have always wanted to be a mother but this job definitely put my skills to the test. These children would act out for attention and wouldn’t listen to anything I asked which was a challenge of its own as I hadn’t ever worked with children like this before. I did my best to encourage and support their behaviour but it became quite unmanageable and I felt I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t equipped with the knowledge to care for these children.

I started to do some research into parenting techniques such as making cleaning up bedrooms a game. I would set a timer and say ready, set, go in an attempt to make the process fun. I tried encouragement using a reward system by giving out stickers for beautiful manners or for helping clean up from dinner or simply for hopping in the shower as I had asked. This too worked for a short period of time until the novelty had worn off.

The stress of this job started to hit home and I became emotionally overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do or how I could do things better. I then started to think about why these children weren’t like others I had cared for before, why no matter what technique I tried I couldn’t get through to them. I decided to change my perspective and method of thinking and approach this situation as if it where a case I would treat as a holistic nutritionist. My degree focuses on treating each patient as an individual and not placing the person in a disease category. We must treat the underlying cause rather than the presenting symptoms. By identifying what the cause is we can assist with reducing the symptoms rather than sedating the symptoms and ignoring the underlying cause. So in this case the children where acting out for my attention, they wanted to be seen and heard. All any child wants is to be loved and feel wanted. So the next time I went to visit the first thing I did when a child wasn’t listening or was misbehaving I simply said “come give me a hug”. We sat and hugged for 10 minutes just listening to each others heart beat. Now that didn’t work every time but it certainly changed their attitude.

 Bio – Hello my name is Shannon Bradford and I’m 19 years old and probably one of your youngest audience members. I’m not a mother but I wanted to share this story relating to parenting/care giving. I’m the eldest of 4 children in my family and when I was 12 years old I prayed every night that god would bring me a baby sibling and I now refer to my youngest brother as the miracle child, my mum however would say the surprised child as he wasn’t planned. My Dad works overseas so when I was 12 my mum said I became a mother because I helped share the load of looking after a newborn whilst having 3 other children to be there for. I’m currently studying Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine at university here in Australia and plan on continuing my study after graduating to become a midwife also. I want to specialize in women’s health, fertility, pre and postnatal nutrition and infant nutrition. I want to be able to support women every step of the way including their birthing journey. 

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