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2020 is the year that is testing our collective and individual Resilience. As we watch tragic events around the country and world, it’s hard not to feel worry or sadness, and in some instances anger. This is proving to be a very tough year on us all, including our children.
What do we mean by resilience?
Resilience is our ability to cope well with the ups and downs of life. A bit like a rubber band, how well do we spring back after we’ve been stretched by a challenge. Depending on the type and number of challenges we face, our resilience might be quite low, and we don’t’ spring back easily. Low Resilience can result in feeling anxious about the next challenge, feeling down about ourselves, and perhaps not managing the next challenge as well as we would like to. When challenges pile up, like they have been doing this year, our resilience suffers and we might begin to feel overwhelmed.
There are different ideas about how resilience develops. The most common theory is that it is a mixture of personality factors, our environment (e.g. home and school), and our perceived level of support. As a parent, now is a good time to check in with our children and gauge our children’s resilience.
How can we improve our child’s resilience?
Here are some areas to consider…
Mental health research consistently points out that children who feel supported and have strong relationships with their parents are better able to cope. Now is the time for open discussions that provide reassurance and demonstrate care. Simply having a strong positive relationship with your child, all by itself, helps them.
We all need to feel that we are capable and confident. It’s also how we learn to problem solve and cope with failure. Experiences of success at home and school, coupled with your recognition and praise, can really help to improve confidence and resilience. Giving your children challenges, helping them to succeed and acknowledging their success, goes a long way in supporting their resilience, emotional well-being and sense of stability. At the same time, undue or harsh criticism can erode this too.
Managing strong feelings well is a sign of healthy resilience. However, many children don’t manage strong feelings easily or naturally. You can help by showing how you cope positively with challenge and teach your own calming strategies to your child. There are so many resources online about different ways that we can teach our children these skills.
Interested in knowing a bit more about resilience? We’ve included a link to another article that you might find helpful: https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-raising-resilient-kids/
If you feel as though your child’s resilience or capacity to cope at the moment is low, and you need some assistance in supporting them, our experienced psychologists are ready to share their expertise. Please call our Reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
Naomi Ward, Director and Sharon Jones, Principal Psychologist
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With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions this week, we are now looking forward to running our group-based social skills programs in Term Three.
Sessions are run by two facilitators. They work hard to make sessions fun and motivating while teaching the important skills needed to make and keep friends.
In each group the team employs a four-part training approach using modelling, role-playing, performance feedback, and generalisation to teach essential pro-social skills to children. Programs are tailored to meet the needs of the children participating in groups.
Toni Schmitz, Provisional Psychologist will be coordinating Term Three’s program. We are planning to run three sessions after school.
Our “Best Buddies” program will help to build confidence in your child for making and keeping friends. We will be using modelling, and role-playing to practice new skills and refine existing skills.
Who is suited: Children aged 6-7 years of age who need help with making or keeping friends.
Where: Child Wellbeing Centre – Brockman Office, 5 Brockman Rd , Midland.
When: Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons 4.00pm – 5.30pm during Term Three.
The “Fantastic Friends” social skills program aims to build and develop more complex social skills. In this cohort, we will focus on a range of skills including starting and maintaining conversations, how to introduce yourself and others, asking questions, and apologizing.
Who is suited: Children aged 8-11 years of age who need help with making or keeping friends.
Where: Child Wellbeing Centre – Brockman Office, 5 Brockman Rd , Midland.
When: Thursday afternoons 4.00pm – 5.30pm during Term Three
How to register interest?
Please call Reception on 9274 7062 for more information and to register your interest. Toni will then be in touch to schedule an initial appointment with you to find out more about your child and their needs.
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Experiencing stress and anxiety at various times as a parent will be familiar. All parents know that our role has its highs and lows. Whether our children are at school or home with us self-isolating, they are in our care and thoughts 24/7. It doesn’t take a pandemic for parents to feel anxiety and stress around the job of parenting. Life can throw us many curveballs along the way. First, though, let’s have a look at what we mean by parental stress and anxiety.
What is parental stress?
Parental stress is the sense of being overwhelmed, which occurs when the demands of parenting overtake our capacity to manage it all. We all have moments when we want to pull our hair out as we are driven crazy by the competing demands for our time.
Over the longer term, this consistent stress becomes a concern when it impacts negatively on our relationships with our children and reduces our capacity to support them. We may become irritable and grumpy and overly negative. Our relationships with partners may suffer as well. This situation feels awful, and we may judge ourselves badly. Worse still, our children will start to see and possibly copy our very poor coping strategies.
What is parental anxiety?
Parental anxiety is defined as excessive worrying about the current wellbeing and/or future needs of our child. Common to parents of children with a disability, it may also develop with families where a child presents with complex or challenging needs.
While all parents have moments of worry for their children, parental anxiety is a pattern of worry that is long-standing and of such an extent that it impacts on the daily functioning of the parent and/or child.
Parental anxiety can start to look like paralysis, where decisions become difficult if not avoided altogether. Parents find themselves trying to minimize any risks for their children, which is where the term helicopter parenting comes from. And again, poor coping strategies are being modelled. Additionally, the child picks up on the parent’s anxiety and may take this on themselves too.
What can you do about parental stress and anxiety?
The first step starts with recognizing that things are getting out of control and seeking help. At our Centre, we are currently seeing a spike in parental stress and anxiety. Hence, we are now opening our Parental Stress and Anxiety Clinic (PASC) to parents of children who are not currently accessing Child Wellbeing Centre services.
In PASC, we match you with a psychologist who can help you get on top of any stress and anxiety. Typically, this is about learning new ways of managing thoughts and feelings. We also include opportunities to learn helpful parenting strategies and relaxation techniques. Sessions are currently available face to face or via online Telehealth sessions. All you need to do is let us know what will work best for you and we will make it happen.
Please contact our Reception on 9274 7062 for more information about our services and let them know that you are interested in PASC. We’re here to help!
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Did you know that up until the 30 September this year children under 16 years of age may be eligible for Bulk Billed Telehealth services with psychologists? Social distancing doesn’t mean therapy has to stop.
Who is eligible for Telehealth Bulk Billed Services?
To be eligible for bulk bill rates, your child must have a current referral from a GP, child psychiatrist or paediatrician (as required) under one of the following programs:
- Mental Health Care Plan
- Helping Children with Autism (therapy items)
- Chronic Disease Management or
- Eating Disorders Services
What does Telehealth involve?
Telehealth is where the psychologist provides therapy via the telephone or via the internet (videoconferencing). Aside from a quiet place in the house for you and your child to talk to the psychologist, you will need a device such as a phone, tablet or laptop. The bigger the screen the better.
Videoconferencing is more than just video. When our psychologists work with children and families, they have access to virtual whiteboards, can share documents and even play games online with children. We are starting to use a platform called Coviu which gives us lots of different ways to engage children.
Reception has put together a checklist to help you prepare for your first video-conference.
What if Telehealth isn’t for me?
We want to make Telehealth works for our clients so this means we can vary the frequency and length of sessions. For example, some of our families find 30 minute sessions easier to manage. Particularly when there is a house full of other children in the background!
Our psychologists are still seeing some clients face to face in our Centre. We are an allied health service and plan to continue providing supports this way for as long as we can. Therefore it’s possible to mix things up with some Telehealth and some face to face sessions. Where our staff have to self-isolate then Telehealth is still an option open to you to explore.
It’s important to let your psychologist know if there are any concerns about Telehealth as they may be able to do things differently.
Need more information?
Our staff are embracing Telehealth and exploring all the ways we can make it work for children. We’re recognising that with the pandemic that it may be some time before things return to “normal” and we want to make sure that all of our clients can access the help and support they need.
Please call our Reception for further information about our services on 9274 7062.
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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.