Letting kids be kids.

An interview with Dr. Susie O'Neill - Founder and CEO of KIDS Foundation.

Letting kids be kids.

An interview with Dr. Susie O'Neill - Founder and CEO of KIDS Foundation.



In this episode, Angela explores the balance between fostering childhood risk-taking and nurturing our kids. Angela is joined by Dr. Susie O'Neill, Founder and CEO of KIDS Foundation. The KIDS Foundation reaches over 400,000 children each year in Australia through 10,000 early childhood education centres through their safety awareness programs and recovery programs for young people who have experienced life-changing injuries. Susie shares stories of recovery and healing for kids and how starting early in educating our kids is the first and simple step we can take to support the health and wellbeing of our kids.

Episode Transcription 




Dr. Susie O'Neill's Books: When bad things happen...good things can grow and Let Kids Be Kids

How you can help the KIDS Foundation


Children life kids foundation book years people happiness happy kindergarten susie teacher parents amazing ended support program injured mentored developed



Angela: Welcome to A Kid's Life podcast. I'm Angela Lockwood. And for the last 20 years I have been working in schools, supporting teachers to build inclusive classrooms. Through A Kid's Life podcast, my goal is to help us adults better understand the complexities of life as a kid. My guests and I share stories, reflections and simple strategies to support kids of all needs as they walk through life. So, whether you're looking for inspiration, direction, guidance, tips, or just a laugh, A Kid's Life podcast is the place for you. Enjoy.


Angela: Welcome to A Kid's Life podcast. I'm Angela Lockwood. In this episode, I am joined by somebody who I have watched and admired her work for many years. So, I'm very excited. I've told a few people, I have to admit, that I've got this lady on and they've all gone “Oh, how in the world have you gotten to speak to her?” So, I am really excited because the work of my guest today is really far reaching, it makes a direct impact in the lives of thousands of children each and every year. And not to mention the direct work that they do, but also in the indirect work through educating people on how to better support children. And I am joined today by Dr. Susie O'Neill, the founding director and CEO of KIDS Foundation. Welcome, Susie.


Susie: Good morning, Angela.


Angela: Look, I'm so happy to have you on here. You know, I love looking at you right now, you have the KIDS Foundation banner behind you with these little heads sticking out. And I can't wait to sort of dive into the work of KIDS Foundation. But just for those listeners who aren't familiar with the work of KIDS Foundation, it's an organization that's been supporting children who are at risk for over 25 years. And the focus is on childhood injury prevention and recovery from injury which I'm sure we're going to get into it. Dr. O'Neill is a Doctor of Philosophy of Education, and a qualified preschool and primary school teacher, and a super-duper author who we will get into these two amazing new books that she has just recently launched. And so, you can see that Dr. O'Neill is somebody who is very welcomed on A Kid's Life podcast, because on here, it's all about kids, and helping kids have the best start in life. So how do you feel when I read that out? This bio of this amazing woman, you've just recently released two new books, not one but two. How are you feeling right now? Because that was only last week? Was it?


Susie: Yeah, so it was pretty exciting because the book writing started well over 10 years ago, and in between doing my PhD. And after finishing it, I just thought I don't want to write for any length of time, I need a break. But then when COVID happened, and I had this extra time, I sort of pulled all the stories out and started to piece it together. And it started off as one book. And then an author looked at it and they said, “You know what, you've really got enough content for two.” And so, it turned out to be two books.


Angela: Which we will talk about shortly. Because the titles are amazing, “When Bad Things Happen, Good Things Can Grow” and “Let Kids Be Kids”. So, I'm really excited to jump into that. But before we do, I did of course do a lot of research on you, you have a lot of things that you have done in your life, which was amazing, just to dig deep on some of that. But one of the things that really jumped out for me, Susie was when I went to your website at www.susieoneill.com.au, the head of banner has a picture of you surrounded by children who looked like they've, you know, had an experience of burns or they've, you know, they've had been in through some sort of physical trauma. And you have a byline on that, that says “Helping you find your happy”. It just I looked at I was like, well, I need to talk to you about. Tell me about why you chose that image and why you chose that tagline to be the front facing page.


Susie: I suppose the word happy and happiness is my most important word to me. And I just, I can remember when I had my children and they were really young, and people were saying “I want my child to do this.” And my thing was I just want my child to be happy. And that would make me happy. And I think I have four children and now 10 grandchildren and all I want them is to be happy. So that's sort of the reason I chose that. And I have a favourite quote and it is all about happiness.


Angela: So, what we hear a lot about happiness now like we, it's something that's talked about a lot. I was very fortunate one year to actually be a speaker with the Dalai Lama at the World Happiness conference. So, happiness is very, is something that I'm really interested in. What do you think is really the definition of happiness for you, you know, what brings you happiness?


Susie: Really simple things and I think COVID also helped us to reflect on things that are not such big picture things but more little everyday things that make us happy. And the things that I started to enjoy was just sitting in a hot bath or not having to be somewhere at a certain time. And I'm a very creative person. So, when I create something, I get this really warm feeling. And or if I see that I've been able to help somebody and I watch them, then that gives me this really warm feeling. And it's my happiness.


Angela: So, what do you think for parents and adults, when they say, you know, that I just want my child to be happy? What do you think, as adults, we really mean by that?


Susie: I think, you know, as a parent, we all have lots of challenges. And if your child is coping okay and they are quite resilient, and to sit back and watch them, and allow them to have their own space in creating that resilience, and their own happiness, and I think it is important that we sometimes don't put our idea of happiness on children. So, everybody owns their own happiness. And it's not something that anybody can advise them on. So, I think you have to let kids just be, and they will show you their happiness without having preconceived ideas of what that should be. Because everybody's happiness is different.


Angela: It's interesting, we're talking about this this morning. Only yesterday, I was at the beach with one of my friends who has a two-year-old daughter, and I had my little puppy walking along the beach with them. And we were just chatting. And I looked at her daughter, and I said, “Look at how joyful she is.” Isn't that really amazing that the young children just seem to have an innate sense of joy, don't they? They just seem to see the simple things. What do you think? I don't want to say that children lose it at a particular time. But is there a shift? You know, for adults listening to this for little kids, we see this beautiful, happy joy. What are some of the things that happen throughout a child's life that might lead them to become less happy, less joyful?


Susie: Interestingly enough, I think it has a lot to do with relationships. I found in my own life, if somebody isn't treating you the way that you want, then it really makes you feel uneasy and unhappy. Whereas when somebody is showing you gratitude, or, and I think what happens with children growing up, they have so many if they have too many expectations put onto them. And they're trying to achieve not necessarily their own goals. And I think that's where, and also, I believe that peer relationships have a lot to do with it. And that sort of really, from my own family's perspective. And I know that, you know, I've got four very happy, healthy children that are now adults with families of their own. But I can remember one of my children going through a really difficult time. And he had actually joined up with a group of young people, and certainly had been involved in activities like drug taking. And he was ended up in a very bad place. And I can remember the one day, we found him when he wasn't so good, I actually thought he had died. And he's just said, he hit rock bottom. And I think that was the thing that really turned him around, he came to us and we, as a family do Ironman events. And he came to us and he said, I want to do an Ironman. And he went and got we thought, we're not going to give you any flash bike, you can just get an old bike. And he went and did this event. And he placed it in the first time. And he had no expectations. But that gave him confidence. And you know, that turned his whole life around. So now he's in the fitness industry. He's the most amazing motivator for young people in that area. And he's even helped that many people just that have gone down the wrong path to come back. And they're now off, you know, drugs and alcohol and got great jobs and family life. So, I'm sort of really proud of him. But he I think, you know, peer relationships play a huge part. And you know, and kids sort of go through a phase where, mum and dad are everything, and then all of a sudden, they will be centered around their peers, and they want to be accepted. And sometimes that's going outside what really makes them comfortable and takes them a while to find themselves again.


Angela: So, Susie, the work of KIDS Foundation is very much, what's the story, the age range? Is there a younger age or an older age of the children that you predominantly work with?


Susie: No, look, with the KIDS Foundation in our prevention program. There's almost go back to when the KIDS Foundation started, but I was a teacher straight out of university and actually at university, I had to go and do a placement and the first little girl I met in my first placement day was a little girl with their hands covered in cigarette burns. And I ended up reporting the incident and the Children's Protection Society asked me to come and work as a volunteer with them which I did for about three years and spoken a lot of the functions. And so that was when I sort of thought I want to be more than a teacher. And I then went on and I remember coming out of university, and they said, “Look, there are going to be no teaching places until September, we've got, you know, far too many teachers and not many positions.” So, I looked around, and there was a position advertised, and it had educational coordinator for a daycare center to run the kindergarten. And I thought, “Oh, this sounds great.” So anyway, I applied and got the job. And they said, “You must commit for a year because in this group of children that you're going to be working with, they have varied abilities, and they need reliability.” And I said, “Okay”, so I've said committed for a year and a pet a month later, I got a teaching position at regional primary school, and I deferred for a year.

But that was life changing that. And I stayed there for a number of reasons, firstly, because I really was keen to have my own family, and I could take them to work with me. So that was a real bonus. But I ended up my first class, I had four children in the class, and seven of the 12, were actually registered with the gifted society. So, they were very intellectually capable. And then I had a little boy that had down syndrome, and another little boy that was intellectually challenged. So, the program that I was going to give the children had to be stimulating for all of them. So, I thought, “Okay, we'll do Monday and Thursday,” we're doing the kindergarten on a Tuesday, used to take them to a local library. And they could and we sort of developed a love for books. On a Wednesday, I would take them to an aged care center where they would adopt a grandparent. And they would go and each week and they had amazing relationships with these elderly people. And then on Friday, I took them to a pool and taught them to swim. So, by the end of that year, they could all confidently swim 25 meters, but it was more about the safety aspect of it rather than teaching them to swim.

When we're at the Aged Care Center, on a Wednesday, there was a young boy there one day that came down, and I said, “How come you're here?” And he said, “Oh, well, I've been in a horse-riding accident, and I, and there's no place for me to be rehabilitated”, he was actually sleeping in a ward with three elderly men. So I went home to my husband that night, and I said, you know, what can we do? And he said, “Well, I've got tradie mates, maybe we couldn't find an area within the hospital that we could renovate and, and make it more child friendly.” So, I went to the director the next day, and he said, “Yeah, look, there's an old cafeteria down the back, if you can get it together, you can have it.” So, we raised some money, and we got all the people in ready to start. And then the government said, “Look, we're going to refurbish the whole hospital. So, if you put all your money and the resources that you've purchased into making it child friendly, we'll develop it.” So, they developed it, and that that center today exists that has about 650 children that go through it each year, both for day and overnight therapy. And so, it has a therapy pool, and it was far more no fancy in advance than we had ever dropped off, but to see it now, and some of the children actually end up coming back to the foundation. So, the foundation, they quite often will come as a child, but it's a lifelong relationship. So, they stay with the KIDS Foundation for their entire life. And then they have families and the families wonder why are mom and dad look different because of a burn injury or whatever their injury may be. And then they see other families that are the same. And then they've developed some really beautiful relationships and supporting each other in many different ways. But sort of being a teacher, I wanted to find out why there were so many children that were being injured.

There are 5000 children that present to an emergency department of a hospital every day in Australia. And what were we doing about educating them. And when I went and had a look at the programs that were offered, they're all offered to educators of educators. So, it was the teachers and the parents. But then nobody was talking to the children and I, after working with the children in the kindergarten and just seeing how capable they were and how much they could contribute to their own learning. I thought this is a gap here. So, the minister at the time loved the concept that I had. And I remember him saying, you know, I would meet with him quite regularly and tell him sort of where we're at. So, we developed this program. And originally it went into the primary schools. And it was going extremely well, was sponsored by WorkSafe Victoria and I can remember WorkSafe doing independent research on it and it actually rated the highest of any of their performing partners, because of the success rate it had in building safety awareness. But when after a new minister came in, and he said you know, “We're not going to fund any more programs that educate under 16 years of age. So, we can no longer support the foundation.” They said, “But if you can prove to us that these values that you are doing young people lost a lot flat steam, then we'll reconsider.” So how do I do that?

I ended up bringing teacher and at the university, and they said, “Well, maybe we could look at doing some research on it.” And then they said, “Well, even better, why don't we apply for Australian Research Council grant, and look at doing a PhD?” And I said, “Okay, that's fine.” So, they looked around for somebody, and they came to me one day, and they said, “Susie, we think you're the right person for this”, I'm going, “Oh, no, I couldn't possibly know, work full time and do this.” And anyway, I did, I ended up taking it on. And I did have to sit down and reduce the hours that I was working at the foundation. But we're only very short sort of into the probably the first year and one of the supervisors came to me and she said, “Look, I want you to go away and read all this information, and then come back and tell me that you're working with the right age group.” So, I went away, and I did quite a lot of reading on theorist Vygotsky and realize that the Cultural Historical concept behind what we teach was more appropriate. And it basically said that, and I don't like using age here. So, this is very much about stage. So, it's that preschool stage, that usually between the ages of four and six, that children can act with understanding. So, if we're going to start instilling self-awareness, and so forth, and safety, risk management, then we needed to do it as at a much younger age. So, our sort of grade five, six program all of a sudden came down to four, six, but there was nothing there that I could use as a tool to do the research on. So, I started writing the books on same or safety. And they said, “You know, these books are great, and your resources are terrific, but they need to be validated.” So, then I had to say, I sent them off to the Geelong safe, smart program, and they took it for two years. And they ran it through a lot of Kinders in the Geelong region, and came back to me with the results, and then that allowed it to be validated for the university. And that program exists now. And we were so excited because we actually reached 10,000 preschools and kindergartens, this year, and 465,000 children's books were printed.


Angela: Wow, I feel like if I was good at audio, I could insert a clapping over audio. That is absolutely remarkable. You know, and I just listening to you, I was so just in awe of how just one idea, one interaction with a little girl has sparked this lifetime commitment for you. And you know, it's led you on these paths. That's why I've always loved watching the work of KIDS Foundation, because it seems like you're never satisfied that your work is done, that there's always something more to do, does it feel like that for you that there's always something more?


Susie: Ah, I think I need like 48 hours a day.


Angela: To do magic, what can be done with more Susie O’Neills.


Susie: So, imagine that we have a fabulous team here. And it's only very tiny, there's only seven of us. And we're all part time. But our reach is fantastic. And I love it. We work on a budget that's well under a million dollars, but reach over 400,000 children. So, we are extremely proud of the work that we do. And some of the feedback like every day, we get feedback from educators that say, you know, and they'll send us photos or little videos when even when our office was broken into and we had all our computers and things stolen. These little kids did a little story video telling them how much they loved us and how much they love Seymour just to cheer us up on that particular day. So yeah, there's some really lovely educators and schools out there that are kindergartens that really that value our work.


Angela: Susie, you mentioned the values that you instill through your programs. Can we talk a little bit more about that? What are the values that you're working with kids? Are they think that you know, for a kindergarten child student they already have? Or is that something that you're helping them develop? Sort of felt like that was a two-pronged question, then what are the values and how they'd get developed?


Susie: Now see what worries me a bit about educating children first of all, obey you children, or programs that allow children to have agency in their learning, so they need to be the decision makers. And quite often children are pushed into things that they're just not ready for. And with self-awareness, risk management is equally self-awareness because the children, for example, if a child's push too soon into something they have a very negative experience. And what we try to do is say to children, everybody is different. We all have different capabilities, like little Johnny here, who jumps on his bike without training wheels and go round and round. And he's okay with it. But the other little child who's even scared to get on the bike, we're here to help you. So, let's see how we can help you first of all, we're going to, you know, ride beside you, and then you actually give them little tiny steps, so that they achieve them. And then once they've achieved and they can move on, and eventually, they'll be able to achieve what the other child has achieved in a much different timeframe. And it's all based on the experiences that they have in life. So, I had the values that I have is that children need agency in their own learning, I, the three, probably words that I use most is trust, loyalty and kindness. So, I try and instill in a trusted person is one of the greatest assets that you can have to be kind to somebody, and then you'll always have their back or they'll always have yours, there'll be that ongoing loyalty. And I, those three are in KIDS Foundation, they are very much and I really believe in individualism. So, to let a child just be the way that they feel comfortable to be.


Angela: On that note, it's a perfect segue into the title of one of your new books, “Let Kids Be Kids”. What does that title mean? And you know, as for adults, how can we let kids be kids? Because I don't know if I could, you know, being an occupational therapist, worked with kids, for 20 years, I've seen the way children interact with the world change very much. And you would expect that over 20 years' time. But letting kids be kids, I'd be really interested. Actually, I'm going to get to that question in a minute. Because I want to know, I've gone off on tangents, because there's so much, I want to know from you. Tell me about the title of “Let Kids Be Kids”, and what does that look like?


Susie: Okay, so “Let Kids Be Kids” is really about raising happy, healthy and safe children. So that's sort of the book.


Angela: Oh, yes, we're looking at the title of the book. And I love it. You've got a little tiny child there with the helmet on it on a skateboard. I love it. So simple and beautiful.


Susie: Yeah, so it's very much about that. And I'd like to just read this quote that I absolutely love. And it really sort of stands for everything it was, “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.” And I think that is just my favourite quote. And I remember when I put the book out, Professor Marian Fleur, who was my supervisor during the PhD, she read the book, and she said, “What is so special about this book is that it recognizes that children are curious and amazing human beings are a muddiness, they have not experienced the world for as long as we have.” And I think that's sort of really important that children need the opportunity to be able to learn through a relationship with a more advanced adult or child so that they can progress and reach their optimal potential that they want.


Angela: I'll go back to my ramble earlier that, is there a fine line between we hear about the helicopter parent that wants to keep the child safe, because we watch the news, we hear about all these awful things, I don't watch the news, because it's, I know that things are out there. I just don't want to be bathed in it. And you know, I live my life in fear. We know that that's there, that the risk is there, that there's a lot of things that children need to cope with and deal with. But then, how do you balance that with allowing them to let kids be kids and let them explore and let them take risks at an age-appropriate level?


Susie: Two words that I think are too defining that I don't really like, I think stranger danger is a word that doesn't resonate with me because it talks that labels a person, whereas I think most people, and most people we don't know, are really lovely kind people. But there occasionally is a person that displays bad behavior. And we need to be aware of them. And there's things that we can do to work out. And I have a number of things in the book that I talked about there. And then the other word that I really don't like use the word bullying because it really is a meaningless word. I just believe it's about respect and kindness and understanding. So, if we can raise our children, to show how life is much more enjoyable when you show to others, that understanding if they are different, or being kind to somebody, just the rewards that you can personally get, then I think our generation will be a lot more resilient and understanding.


Angela: And I'd imagine those conversations need to start with parents as well, not just teachers, but with parents as well, that having those conversations in the home around being respectful and having good positive relationships. So obviously, I know that through your book, you talk about some strategies also for parents to be able to work through it. Can we just really quickly talk about role models? It's something that I'm really fascinated by, like, I look to you. And I think you're a role model within supporting children and ensuring children have a good start in life. How important a role models in the early lives of children?


Susie: Role models and I would say and peer support are the two critical things for a child, especially when you work in the foundation. And you see the children that like, there's one young boy that came to the foundation, and he was 10 years old. He was extremely, he'd been burned as a child and his upper body was extremely disfigured. And he spent his heart he said, “I'd only ever been to church and school.” And he hated going to the supermarket because of the stares and the questions that people would ask. He came to the foundation. And on the first camp that we had, we've mentored him with a gentleman and the gentleman was a karate instructor. So, one of the activities we did was, I actually met this young boy met on this particular day, because we were playing this game with karate, and we're running around tagging each other. And one thing you had to do is if you got tagged, you had to get down and do push-ups. And so, Matt had been tagged and he was doing push-ups and I accidentally tripped over him and landed on him and face planted him into the sand, and we got up, he was covered in sand. And I jokingly said to him hoping to get a black belt. Anyway, he did, he went on to get his black belt. And so, this gentleman mentored him for a number of years in the KIDS Foundation program. And he's a young kid that, so now he's a 23-year-old, that has his own business has built his own home, which he did some manual work himself. And he is the greatest speaker and the most adored role model now for the young people. He spoke with me in front of two and a half thousands of people. And he is amazing. But I think I met he had, you know, wonderful parents, but just building his confidence up over those years. And he talks openly about it in the other book about what a mentor and having support people around them. And I think, what the other thing that we found with the KIDS Foundation in the winter survivors in the recovery program is when the children come, they think they're the only ones that have experienced that sort of trauma, or that sort of injury and some of the trauma. Well, 1/3 of the children that come into the KIDS Foundation have actually been injured by a parent or a carer.


Angela: Sorry, so was that 1/3 of children?


Susie: Between 25% and 30% of the children that come into the Foundation have been injured by a parent or a carer.


Angela: Wow, just does take your breath away doesn't even listening to that.


Susie: So, one camp, we had two boys that came along, and one of the boys had been put in boiling water by his mother. And when he was that badly injured, he died several times on the way to the hospital and so forth. The other mother had put the child in the car seat and sort of in rubbish that was on the floor and set the rubbish alight. So, these two boys had both been injured, burned by a parent that they trusted. So, they little babies or little young people that and they ended up having to they were then sent to foster homes that foster families ended up adopting them both. So, for them to come together at the camp as young teenagers, they had something in common that they could share that nobody else could understand. So, there's lots of children in the foundation that are in that situation. But surprisingly enough that I sort of really feel for the ones that you can't visually see that they've been injured. So, we've got this beautiful little girl, that was actually a car ran up the back of their car, and she has now acquired a brain injury. And she's very intelligent and capable of doing lots of things, but she can't control her emotions. And the saddest thing is when we sort of when you go somewhere, and somebody sees a child that is visually injured, or then they have empathy, whereas when they see a child that is not acting the way that what they call normal, which there is no normal, then they're already judging. So that's what I also meaning in understanding showing kindness because everybody has a story.


Angela: Susie listening to those and examples, you've helped so many thousands of children through the work of KIDS Foundation. And I'm sure a lot of those stories are very common that you just shared. How do you look after yourself? How do you take care of your own mental wellbeing? And I know you're an Ironwoman, and that's amazing. Seventeen, I don't know how you do it. I have no aspirations of even doing one. So, to do 17 maybe even more. I'm really in order but your mental wellbeing, how do you stay mentally strong?

Susie: Well, I'll probably I might just jump back to the Ironman story because I remember going along to and I think physical exercise is absolutely something that I will do every single day of my life. Because I believe that is really important in mental and physical wellbeing. But I remember going along to the Ironman, I don't have one bit of physical capability in my body, I think as far as ever being a champion at anything, but I can remember going watch the Ironman and I stayed around to the end, and it was a 15 and a half hour cut off then. And the last five people that came across all of chair, all the pros had come out, they'd all they lit the finish shoot, and they had thousands of people cheering them on. And they came across just in time for cut off. And I remember thinking, “Well, if you ever felt like you're an Olympian or a champion, this would be it.” So, I decided, “Okay”, I went home and I didn't own a bike. I'd only ever had one trikes thing as a child. And I couldn't swim more than 25 meters. So, my father-in-law was a swimming coach, I said, “You think you teach me to swim”, because you know, we can teach anybody to swim. And then I went and bought a bike. And then 18 months later, I did my first Ironman. And I remember, the emotions of finishing that day where I came fifth last, they'd have about 1000 people, but I didn't care. It was one of the best days of my life. And I remember, and my dream was one day to make it to a why but to make it to the wine Ironman, you actually have to qualify. But I done that many that I got an invitation to compete as a legacy athlete. And so, my first Ironman was amazing. And so was my last and that was the wine I meant in 2017. So, it was only four years ago.

Ironman actually changed my life in many ways. And it also saved it. Because I use a heart rate monitor every day to monitor, you know, my heart rate. And I remember going for a ride one day and my heart rate wasn't quite the normal heart rate that I usually display. And I was riding with my GP and I said to him, “It's really funny. My heart rate today isn't such a little bit” and he goes, “Oh, your family history with heart isn't so good. So, let's get it checked out.” So, I did and they said on everything's fine, but we might just do an ultrasound and the ultrasound they found a tiny spot. And the cardiologist said, “Look, it looks like you've got a little tumor there. But you've probably been born with it. So, let's just forget about it more come back in six months.” He said it's point four, it doesn't get dangerous until it's one centimeter. So, I went back six months later, and it was 1.7 centimeters. And they said right, open heart surgery and they had to remove the band actually fell off in the surgery. So, if I hadn't had it operated, then I probably had only a couple of weeks to live. But I remember because I was so fit that three months later, I did 200 kilometer walk through England, which I'll have to tell you a story about with Let Kids Be Kids. And then six months from the surgery, I competed in the half Ironman World Championships in Las Vegas. So, the fitness level allowed me to do it. So, fitness is extremely important for my own wellbeing. But I just talked about walking across the English countryside and we came to this property. And I thought it said be we're free-range chickens. And I thought “Oh, that's okay.” So, we sort of get up there and as I got closer, it said be we're free-range children. And so, we get up there and there are children pedaling in the creek, and there's some on the fence and some on the back of a cow. I'm thinking, “My goodness.” So, we go in, and we make this shepherd is who was actually from Australia, and she'd moved to England. And she had seven children, and they were climbing, you know, they were amongst the sheep, the animals wherever it was. And I thought this was fantastic. Because they obviously learned to be supervised by their brothers and sisters. But also, they're extremely capable. Anyway, we went in and we noticed she was pregnant. And she said, “Oh, yeah, I'm actually due tomorrow.” Going. So that was number eight. And she said, we said “All pictures so far from the hospital?” She said, “Yeah, I usually did, we usually have them in the car on the way to the hospital.” So, I thought, but what I really loved about that was their attitude to their, on a farm, the children, obviously, they had learned these skills by the parents, allowing them to be free range. And they had a beautiful life, and they were extremely happy children.

Angela: Susie, you've got so many stories, I feel like, I can't wait to read more of your books. Because I think having the history, I could only imagine what goes on inside your mind around what you've seen with kids, the stories you've had with kids your own life experiences you've got for children of your own. But you've also backed it all up with so much research as well. And I think for people that are listening to this, we can't cover everything in Susie's life on this podcast, I think or in the work of the KIDS Foundation, because it's so far reaching, and so deep, as well. But, Susie, before we finish up, for people that are listening to this, what and thinking, “Okay, I really want to navigate this world and support my children the best that I can for teachers and for parents. How can I do that? How can I help support young people to have the best life that's available to them by also keeping them happy?”

Susie: Yeah, well, I suppose this book sort of says it all. But I've sort of broken it down to different sections. And the sections are titled Happy, Healthy and Safe. And there's a lot of different ways with in the happiness, and it talks about mindfulness. But it also educates parents on why your child acts how they do. And by that, I mean, recently, we're talking before about wellbeing I went to a retreat, and I had never been sort of engaged with a psychotherapist before. And I never really understood where our personalities or how they're actually formed. But we sort of know that all that child's got just like their mother or that child, but actually like it 90 plus percent of their personalities come from our parents. So, from you as a parent, and yeah, the biological parents are actually, you know, having an opinion on the way our children are acting, sometimes we need to look at ourselves. And then the rest is really about the way that you educate and you raise them. So, you know, they've already got a lot of their personality installed way before you can make sure that they're happy, healthy children. But yeah, so there's lots of different ideas in the book. But we talk about, you know, just simple things like mindfulness breathing, that there's proper ways to breathe, eating healthy foods that taste wonderful, developing great relationships, there's exercising. So, it talks, there's lots of different ideas in there, I'm drinking plenty of water, like water is one of the greatest things that we can do for our health. And we just don't drink enough water. So just a little simple thing like that, and fun ways that if your children challenge you a little bit with the food that they're eating, just some fun things that you can do with the food to make it more encouraging for the children to enjoy.

Angela: And I, listening to you then go through some of those items, it's sometimes goes, we sort of know this stuff, you know, but it's like, we know this stuff, but we don't do it. And we need constant reminders. And we need it simplified because I think sometimes as adults, we just over complicate things. Don't we make things so overcomplicated that it really is those basics that you just talked about, that are so powerful, and for kids can make such a big difference. And for listeners right now, whether you're having a child in your life as a teacher, or as a parent, or even as a carer, and I absolutely encourage you to please go and grab yourself a copy of both of these books. You know Susie has really, and Susie I'm speaking to you but I'm going to pretend you're not there for a moment, that the work of KIDS Foundation is so impactful for young people. We focus a lot on older kids, which we know is equally as important. But often these young children really do get overlooked. And it's those early stages those early developmental milestones for them and they're the behaviors that they do that that really do shape a lot of their, their growing up and a lot of their experience of life. So, the work of Susie and her team at the KIDS Foundation is something that people really need to pay attention to. And now we have easy access to Susie through her two books. I thank you so much. Now, Susie, where can people buy them from? I know that it's everywhere, and you've just launched. So where can people go to get it if they want a copy before Christmas?

Susie: Well, we haven't, we've really just had a soft launch, but hoping that they will be in bookstores soon. We haven't gone out to the bookstores at this point. But you can get it on Amazon, both books are on Amazon, there's “When bad things happen, good things can grow” both in hard and soft copy. And then there's the other book is also available, “Let Kids Be Kids” Raising happy, healthy and safe children, both on Amazon, through the KIDS Foundation website, or through my own website, there's a link there that they can purchase the book, if any of the listeners do purchase that and they'd like me to sign something and send it I'm more than happy to. And I'd love their feedback. Because I think the title of “When bad things happen, good things can grow”. And there's so many stories in that book where it is that absolute worst tragedy that could have happened to this person. But it's turned out to be the best thing in their life. Because it's set the path that they've gone on. And they wouldn't be the people today if it hadn't had happened the way it did. So, I think there's a mean one stories that can follow on from that book. But and if there are people out there that have their own story and would like to share it, I think we've got the second version of that one coming along already.

Angela: It'll be the first of many. And of course, at the bottom of the show notes of this episode, we will have everything to Susie link to her website, as well as kidsfoundation.org.au, and all the work of where you can purchase both of books from. Susie, I want to thank you so much as I know, you're extremely busy lady doing very, very important work. And I just want to thank you because my whole purpose in life is helping kids have the best start in life and to look to people like you who each and every day are doing that. And not just on a small scale, but a grand scale. You know, you're the unsung heroes for our kids that not a lot of people know about and you just go along your work making a difference each and every day. And so, I just want to thank you so much from me, from people who work with children. And please keep going. And you know, there are people out there who are listening right now who if you have been affected by any of the things that we've talked about, there are links to where you can get support as well. But if there are also people who are listening and go, I want to be involved in KIDS Foundation, I want to support them. I want this work in schools, where can I get more of Susie and more of the KIDS Foundation. I'll have all those contact at the bottom as well. So, Susie, thank you so much for your time. It's been such a pleasure speaking with you.

Susie: And thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed the chat.

Angela: Thank you have a beautiful Christmas break Susie and all the best with the rest of the launches and also actually keep an eye out because Susie may be coming to a place near you to have a book launch. So please go along and support Susie getting this book out there far and wide. I'm Angela Lockwood. Thanks so much for joining me on A Kid's Life podcast and I have been had the very, very privilege of speaking to Dr. Susie O'Neill, the founding director and CEO of KIDS Foundation. Thanks for joining me. Until next time, enjoy.

Angela: Thank you for listening to A Kid's Life podcast. To stay up to date with all new episodes, please subscribe or any of Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google podcasts. If you want to know more about the other programs I provide, please go to angelalockwood.com.au. And until next time, slow down, have fun and enjoy.

*This podcast represents the opinions of Angela Lockwood and her guests to the show. The information contained within is not intended to provide specific mental health advice. If you are in crisis or in an emergency situation, call your doctor immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts or need to talk to a trained counselor, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.