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It is more than likely that by now you and your children are being exposed to sources of anxiety and panic around the coronavirus (COVID-19). As always, when parents worry or panic, children can pick up on this without really understanding what it is all about. Typically their questions will start with “what is … or … what if”. Rather than just telling them not to worry, simple explanations with age-relevant objective information can be very helpful.
Helping kids understand the worry about the Coronavirus
One of the best antidotes to anxiety and panic is knowing more about the topic. It may be helpful for you to know that recently the statistics are indicating that children are not being greatly affected by the Coronavirus. To date, it seems that children may be less likely to catch the virus, and if they do, they may have mild flu like symptoms that seem to resolve without further complications.
If the children see people wearing masks on tv or in shopping centres, you might talk about it helping to prevent the spread of germs, and why washing your hands is very important. Teenagers might like to discuss the pros and cons for wearing a mask. These are easy conversations that will assist them with any sense of worry or anxiety. However, it is very important that adults discussing this with children are well-informed, not by the news but by our science forums.
Getting helpful information
News reports exacerbate anxiety and panic around people stockpiling staples. Rather than it being the situation of every-man-for-himself, this is a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children about being organised, and thereby being able to support your family and community. When buying extras (if this is what you choose to do), you might discuss how you as a family might need to support others who aren’t able to be as organised. For example, if you know near-by elderly people, you might talk in terms of making sure that you will be able to help them if this is needed. Depending on their age, your children might also understand the need to support other families with people who are often sick (the immunosuppressed). Indeed, there may be families in their school that are already identified, and this close-to-home example allows the possibility of thinking about what others might need too.
Yes, there is concern about COVID-19. Do we need to panic? Absolutely not and it is imperative for our children that we don’t. Our children can catch anxiety as easily as any virus. Protecting them from the germination of our own anxiety is the best preventative.
You are of course very welcome to discuss your concerns about your child’s level of anxiety with our psychologists. We can’t help with medical advice but we can help with anxiety management.
Please call reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
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Some of our little ones, and even our no-so-little ones, might be finding it hard to say good-bye to their parent at the classroom door. At the beginning of the school year, particularly for under 6’s, this is understandable in terms of their attachment to us, as well as the unfamiliarity of a new room and teacher. By now, most of our kiddies are settling into their new routine and are comfortable with a quick kiss and wave. However, for some children, this parting can still be an excruciating time, with great distress for all involved.
Why do children find it hard to separate?
Sometimes the reasons for this can be quite clear, especially if they’ve suffered a recent loss or trauma. For others, their distress is unexpected, and parents can find this very confronting and concerning. When there is great wailing or screaming, and clinging to the parent for dear life, both parent and child are likely to need support and assistance to reduce everybody’s anxiety. Old school thought included ripping the children off their parents with the belief that the child will forget them once they’ve left. These days we tend to adopt a more gentle approach, with less painful measures and less lasting repercussions.
What can I do to help?
Just as you might have done when they were little, give them a period of time for adjustment, with some words in their ear about what you will do together on pick-up. Give them something of yours to hold and settle them into an activity close to their teacher.
When these soothing words and support are not enough, we need to determine what is going on for them and give everyone coping strategies to help with this situation. Whether or not it is actually separation anxiety, teaching staff and parents, as well as the children, will do well with a nurturing plan moving forward.
If you would like more support, we have psychologists experienced in this area that can assist you. Please call us on 9274 7062 for more information about our services.
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It’s the first (or second for some) week back at school. Hopefully, all that hard work over the last few weeks has paid off and your child was ready for school. At the very least, you got all your school shopping done.
The first week back at school is always a busy one. Children have to get used to new teachers, possibly new peers, and new routines. Parents and carers have to adjust to after school routines again.
As the dust settles, it’s important to spare a thought for setting up your working relationship with your child’s teacher or teaching team this year.
Teachers also have to get used to lots of new faces and new routines too. The first week back can be challenging for teachers as they learn about their new students. And then there is also all the administrative work that has to happen in the background during the first week.
Positive relationships with teachers
Having a strong positive relationship with your child’s teacher is important. They are going to be a very important person in your child’s life for the next year. They are also going to be the person who celebrates your child’s successes and is there to help when things don’t go to plan.
Here are my top five tips for how to start off on the right foot with your child’s teachers:
1.Be thoughtful about how and when you communicate with teachers. Pouncing on the teacher at the start or the end of the day isn’t likely to lead to a quality conversation. Keep in mind that there will be other parents lining up for a “quick word”. Use class emails or request a time to meet with the teacher if you have something that needs a longer conversation, e.g. a worry that you want to share with about child. That way you can have your child’s teacher’s undivided attention and a more productive conversation.
2. Go to any parent-teacher class introduction sessions where you can. These sessions are often when teachers explain their processes and their aims for the year. It’s also a chance to ask about anything you are not sure about. Chances are you won’t be the only one in the group who wants to know the answer to your question too.
3. Volunteer – not only a great way to build a relationship with a teacher but a neat way to help the children in the class.
4. Back to emails again. If you can’t get into the classroom, then email is your best friend. Many teachers will use apps and emails to share information about what’s happening day to day. Some will send out photos of activities too. Email can be a useful way of forming that connection if you can’t physically be there for drop-offs and pick-ups.
5. Lastly, keep your teacher in the loop. Teachers want to know about things that are happening in the life of the child that will impact on children day to day e.g. sickness. The challenge is always to find the most appropriate way to communicate with the teacher…which takes us back to the first point.
I hope your child has a very successful year at school. Schools like to see parents as partners in children’s education. Getting to know your child’s teacher and working out how best to communicate with them is the first step towards that partnership.
As always you are very welcome to talk through any concerns you have with the team.
Please call Reception for further information about our services on 9274 7062.
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As adults, we know what it feels like when we have a poor night’s sleep. We can wake up the next morning feeling like we don’t have energy, grumpy and can even experience “brain fog”. Children also are affected by poor sleep, particularly when poor sleep happens night after night.
As we approach the start of the school term, this week is a good week to get those sleep routines back in place.
Setting up Sleep Routines
A good place to start is to look at how they prepare for sleep. A sleep routine is all the routine actions we take on the way to putting our head on our pillow. We all have a sleep routine but some actions are more helpful than others.
A helpful sleep routine might look like:
- some quiet time (e.g. reading & drawing);
- laying out clothes for the next day;
- getting into PJs;
- brushing teeth and visiting the toilet;
- having 10-15 minutes with a parent reading a story together; and
- lights out.
Some habits are not going to promote good sleep. Try to avoid the following:
- Don’t let your child have sugary and caffeinated drinks before bedtime. Too much sugar and caffeine makes it hard for their bodies to wind down;
- Don’t let them take an electronic device to bed. The light that these devices emit gives the brain the message that’s its day-time, making it harder to fall asleep. Plus, the visual stimulation that comes with video games keeps the brain alert…the opposite of what it needs at bedtime;
- Don’t give in to repeated calls for drinks, cuddles and more stories. A gentle (but brief) reminder that you are near-by and that it’s bedtime is all that’s needed. Giving lots of attention at bedtime, only helps to keep your child awake;
- No vigorous exercise for your child before bedtime. Exercise energises us…again the opposite of what we need to feel at bedtime; and
- Don’t spend too much time trying to settle the child (e.g. rocking or cuddling the child) when they can’t sleep. Aside from giving lots of attention, it may be stopping the child from learning self-soothing skills themselves and may actually keep them awake longer.
Some actions which are more likely to promote good sleeping in children include:
- Making sure that there is sufficient quiet time in the routine…at least 20-30 minutes and putting this in at the start of the routine. Very few of us wind down in 5 minutes!
- Trying to incorporate a bath into the routine (for those children who like baths). A warm bath is an excellent way to relax the body. Be careful with showers though – they tend to refresh us and wake us up.
- Leaving nightlights on. Younger children, in particular, find this comforting and fortunately we are spoiled for choice in terms of brightness, colours and shapes.
- Reassure anxious children that you will come back during the night and check on them and that you are in the next room etc. This can help soothe any worries.
- Being consistent. Sleep routines take a while to establish.
Need more help with your child’s sleep?
These ideas are general and a good place to start. Some children struggle with sleep and need more than just good sleep routines in place. The psychology team in the Centre can help with further assessment and strategies. Please call our Reception on 9274 7062 for more information.
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Aside from getting back into routine, going back to school is a great time for children to reconnect with their friends. It’s also another year ahead of learning and fun. For some children the transition back into school can be challenging. Rather than leave that transition to the night before, there is quite a bit that you can do right now to help with getting your child ready.
5 Tips for getting ready for school
If you haven’t already started, this week is the time to start focusing on getting everyone ready for school again. How can you prepare?
- Sit down and plan out with your children what you will need to do to prepare for school. Create a checklist and timetable of all the steps that are required. This helps reduce any overwhelming feelings to something more manageable.
- Talk about the good things that are likely to happen when your child is back at school. The start of the school year is a time to make new friends and meet new teachers. There’s also lots of cool stuff to learn about.
- Adjust sleep times. During the holidays most children tend to go to bed later than they would on a school night and sleep in later. Starting to adjust sleep times gradually before school starts is likely to be more effective then suddenly demanding that your child be asleep at their usual time the night before school starts!
- For younger children, do a walk around the school showing them where their class will be, how to find the toilets and where school drop-offs and pick-ups will be and
- Celebrate back to school with a party or special event. Include one of their friends or classmates for school to make the occasion that little bit more special.
What about the anxious child?
Some children become very worried at the start of the new school year, often imaging the worst is about to happen. As parents, it’s important that we acknowledge those worries. Telling someone not to worry seldom works! Instead the focus on coping strategies and helping the child find things to help them manage these worries.
For some children, rehearsal strategies like social stories are really helpful. They explain what is going to happen and can reassure the child that things will be fine.
For other children, finding gentle ways to challenge their worry thoughts is what’s needed. For example, reminding them of all the other times they were worried and good things happened.
Being a little worried about going back to school is perfectly normal. However, if you feel your child is “too worried” then our psychology team is there to help with strategies to help children back into school. Please call reception on 9274 7062 for more information about our services.
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Bushfires have dominated the news these holidays. For some, the holiday season has been about survival and trying to keep a roof over their heads. For others, it’s been the mixed feelings of sadness and at times anger as we monitor the news. There have been stories we have read about where we have felt proud about our fellow Australians – mixed in among the distressing ones. For many of us, we have experienced worry as we have watched daily coverage about the bushfires. Sometimes, even frustration as we look for meaningful ways to help.
Through all of this time (and times to come) our children have also been watching. Through the media, they are learning about the impact of the bushfires on people, communities and animals. They are also learning from how we as parents respond to the news. While older children may be able to use their words to ask about what is happening and seek reassurance, younger children often can’t. Changes in behaviour are often how we know if a child is feeling distress or anxiety.
Signs to look out for
Whether it’s to do with the bushfires or other natural disasters, children may be displaying symptoms of anxiety and distress through their behaviour. During the school holidays, these are some behaviour changes to look more closely at:
- sleep changes – nightmares, sudden difficulties sleeping alone and/or difficulties falling asleep
- eating changes – loss of appetite or a sudden increase in appetite
- mood changes – increased anger or irritability (this can also look like a sudden increase in defiant behaviour).
- increased clinginess – needing to be physically close to their parents, needing more physical affection, separation anxiety
- increased complaints about feeling unwell – complaining of tummy aches, headaches – where there is no underlying medical concern.
How can parents help
There are three keys things that parents can do to help children feeling anxious about bushfires:
- Limit how much exposure your child has to the news. Re-occurring images about devastated communities, the impact on wildlife and the anger people are feeling are scary for children. If anything, it’s the news stories about bravery, communities supporting each other, animals being cared for that is the range of stories to let young ones see. Make sure to talk about any of the stories children are seeing -both to provide balance and to provide reassurance.
- Monitor your own feelings and responses. Big feelings (anger, fear, sadness) being expressed by parents can be overwhelming to young children. As parents, we need to find places to express these away from our children.
- Reassure children. When children are expressing their own fears, they need to be reminded that they are loved and cared for and most importantly, personally safe. Let them know that there are people in the community helping those that need help, including the animals.
These same strategies are also relevant for older children too.
Lastly, it’s normal for everyone to have big feelings when terrible things are happening in the world. However, if your child continues to remain anxious after the bushfires, then it might be time to seek help. Your GP or school student services team (once school is back on board) are good places to start. You are also welcome to talk to one of our psychologists.
Please feel free to ring Reception on 9274 7062 for information about our services.
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I’m hoping that everyone is having a great holiday. Our team is back from theirs and the office re-opens today (Monday 06 January).
Please feel free to call reception on 9274 7062 to schedule appointments or to enquire about our services.
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Our offices will be closing on Tuesday 24th December (Christmas Eve) at midday. The last day that therapists will be working is Saturday 21st December 2019. When our office closes phone calls and emails won’t be monitored.
We will re-open on Monday 06 January 2020 and we will be working through-out the January period with the exception of Public Holidays.
All of us from the Child Wellbeing Centre wish you a safe and happy holiday! See you in the New Year!
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The holiday season for many families is a time to unwind and enjoy time with loved ones. For some families, it can be a stressful time as many of the usual services and supports are no longer available. It can also be a challenging time finding ways to keep children busy and calm. Not to mention that parents are also meant to be having some downtime too!
During the festive season, our office will shut from midday on Tuesday 24th (Christmas Eve) and then re-open on Monday 06 January 2020. Most other services shut down during this period too. If you need help or advice…for what-ever reason…there are a range of helplines to call:
Some useful help numbers for families to have over the holiday period include:
Crisis Care Helpline 1800 199 008
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Here’s hoping that you have a great holiday and that you don’t need extra support. However if you do, support helplines can be invaluable as they provide a space to talk through concerns while you hang in there waiting for services to resume. Helplines can also be called 24 hours 7 days a week.
As mentioned our team will start coming back from holidays on the 06 January and we hope to hear lots of great stories about Christmas (for those who celebrate) and the holidays so far.
From all of us at the Child Wellbeing Centre we wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday! See you in the New Year!
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The Child Wellbeing Centre provides a comprehensive range of therapy services to children and adolescents needing support for social and emotional difficulties. In addition to providing regular therapy options, we are now offering single session therapy for families who may need some targeted advice or brief intervention.
What happens in Single Therapy Sessions?
One of our psychologists will meet with you and your family to discuss the concern that brought you to the Centre. They will use this session to let everyone talk about the problem, identify solutions that have been tried and help you identify the changes that need to be made.
Single session therapy often involves the psychologist providing information on child development and on the referring reason. On occasion, it may also be about linking families in with other community support services that may be useful.
The single session therapy approach draws on the current strengths of the family in working out how to get things back on track.
Our psychologist will follow you up a month after this session to check in with you. It may be that more regular therapy is required. In which case they will discuss with you the options available to you in our Centre. They may also talk to you about other programs in our Centre that may be beneficial to your child.
Who could benefit from Single Therapy?
Single session therapy isn’t for everyone. Single session therapy works best for families who may need some gentle advice about how to resolve issues.
Single session therapy may be useful for families who may not be able to attend sessions regularly.
One of the benefits is that there is a much shorter waiting period for session that our standard waiting time. We are able to offer sessions within one to two weeks.
Do I need a referral?
No, you are welcome to contact the centre directly to enquire about an appointment.
Single session therapy isn’t for everyone. Please feel free to talk to our reception about this or any of our other services in the Centre on 9274 7062.
Please click on the following link to read up on our other psychology services: