Helen Rimington

One of the nation’s leading workplace
mental health trainers and facilitators.
Special Projects Officer at Drummond Street Services Inc.
Mother of two. Passionate voice on respectful relationships and gender equality.  Has great insight and experience.

As part of Playgroup Victoria's relationship month, we spoke with one of the nation’s leading workplace mental health trainers and facilitators. Through her work at Drummond Street Services, Helen Rimington is running a unique project, in partnership with Playgroup Victoria. Girls ‘n’ boys come out to play is about respectful relationships and gender equality. It is never too early to teach our children to respect one another and accept their differences- we want future generations to celebrate their differences! Helen helps us navigate the modern world of relationships and all that brings.

Why should we be educating very young children about gender equality?

We know that communities where there is a smaller gender gap generally have happier people, less mental health issues and lower rates of family violence. Gender equality ensures everyone feels valued and has similar opportunities- it doesn’t mean boys and girls or men and women have to be the same- we can be very different- but still equal.

What would you say to parents who are worried that some of the topics are too grown up for their young children?

Encouraging girls to be more assertive and giving them chances to take some risks rather than always asking them to be good, be careful, be quiet, helps the girls achieve their goals and develop equal relationships in life. Encouraging the boys to tune into their feelings, communicate their needs and ask for help – rather than always telling them to be brave and toughen up, encourage them to look after their emotions, build empathy and develop respectful relationships in life. That stuff is not too complex for kids- these are just life skills they enjoy learning.

How important is it to refresh and re-educate parents/carers and teachers about respectful relationships and equality?

We tend to take it for granted that the society or the workplace or our local community is a fair place- especially if we are not discriminated against. However research shows we still have some way to go in Australia. If we are to close the pay gap, reduce violence against women and help men to seek help and look after their health we need to be promoting respectful relationships and rejecting unhelpful gender stereotypes.

What advice would you have for a parent/carer who is finding it tough at home raising a young child? What kind of things can improve their relationships and general well-being?

Yes it is a tough job at times. My tips are:

Talk with people about what you are finding challenging

Be part of your community – get out often and be active

Set goals around self care- perhaps half an hour to read a book or a massage or regular walk every morning with the pram- these small things helps us feel more in control and remind us that our own health matters

Spend time listening and sharing your feelings with your partner – use I messages rather than accusatory you messages- remember everyone wants to be acknowledged and loved and sometimes we need to coach people on how to do that for their partner.

It has been a time of big change with the Harvey Weinstein case, the #Metoo campaign and Tracy Spicer leading a movement in Australia about sexual misconduct in workplaces. What does this mean for future generations?

It has finally reached a tipping point. I am convinced the future will be different for children growing up in a more enlightened age where peoples rights and feelings are seen as something worthy or protection. We have certainly taken long enough….

Are you ever concerned that children are exposed to too much explicit content?

Yes whether it be potentially upsetting new casts, webpages or inappropriate texts, social media or talk by teenagers or adults we do tend to protect our children a little less that we used to. Perhaps it all seems too hard or we have forgotten how small exposures can have a lasting negative impression for some. Checking what the kids are up to is harder when we are exhausted – another reason self care really matters, so we have the energy to monitor and actively parent our children as needed.

How should parents encourage curiosity while still protecting their children from the dangers associated with the internet/social media/explicit images?

Story telling, time spent together, sharing experiences (regular scheduled special time together with mum and or dad) , entering child’s fantasy world, and connecting with nature and the arts are all possibilities– whatever you are into! There are so many other aspects to our family lives than technology. It is one element and it can be used together to great advantage. It’s when kids are left unmonitored that problems develop.

Recently Amy Everett killed herself due to online bullying. She was just 14 years old. It is a complicated web for young people as they try to fit in and use online tools that can invade their every space. What role should social media have? Do you have any ideas for balance? 

Parents who negotiate the issue of social media with children as they grow older can consider allowing use of certain platforms provided parents can do regular spot checks. A favourite relative may be preferred – but children shouldn’t be left to manage their own boundaries in this ever changing manipulative setting.  Open communication about feelings and experiences from both sides will lay foundations that encourage children to seek help when they feel uncomfortable.

Watch this documentary excerpt below to see how significant gender roles are for seven year olds.

Article by Sinead Halliday.