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School holidays can be a great time to hop out of routine and reconnect with children. For many children it’s also a very necessary break after a very busy term. While some parents love school holidays, we also have families in the Centre that approach it with a sense of dread. Aside from keeping one (or a mob) of hungry, tired, easily bored children busy, there is also the challenge of staying on top of all those other responsibilities that don’t stop too.
Some tips to help have a positive experience during the school holidays (in no particular order)
- Set a school holiday budget for activities (and stick to it). Feeling out of control about finances can add to the stress. Rather than have children asking to go to everything that happens during the holidays, set a budget and involve them in the decision making about outings and special events. Aside from teaching good life skills, this will also help to head off some arguments.
- Plan activities in advance so that children have something to look forward to and some structure during the week. This isn’t just about special outings. It can include things like swimming lessons and play dates. Have a calendar up somewhere easily visible so that children can see when things are happening. It helps them to anticipate and make the most of their “free time” at home. There are lots of school holidays activities that don’t cost anything (other than time and travel). Draw on the activities that the council, local shopping centre and libraries have to offer to help mix things up and keep things interesting.
- Set rules in place at the start of the holidays for things like device and TV time. Being clear about expectations helps reduce arguments. Also we want children outside taking advantage of the sunny weather when it’s shining. Think about all that lovely exercise they could be doing during the day, to help them fall asleep at night (and create some quiet time for you!).
- Have other family members help where they can. Where you can involve other family members in school holidays plans. It’s helps make the time fly, gives children other interesting experiences and parents time to have some down time or catch up time.
- Combine forces with other families and schedule play dates or activities. Wandering around Perth Zoo is so much more enjoyable with another adult present to chat to as the children roam. Having a chat with another parent (s) while the kids occupy themselves is a great thing in so many ways. Aside from the kids entertaining themselves, the parents get some down time too.
- Set designated “Parent Rest” times. A miserable stressed parent makes for miserable school holidays for kids too. Give yourself permission to take some time for self-care.
The Centre is open all holidays. Some of the consultants will be taking leave though. Please contact Tracey at reception on 9274 7062 to find out when your consultants are on board or to make at time to check-in with them.
From all of us at the Centre we hope that you and your family enjoy the holidays!
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Temper tantrums are never fun. Children are wonderful things but boy can they challenge us at times. Staying calm as a parent when others around you are melting down into little puddles of anger, frustration and hurt requires skill, patience and practice. Even more so if you have more than one temper tantrum going off at the same time.
We always aim to avoid them where we can but even with the most amazing parenting, temper tantrums will happen. Aside from children not getting what-ever it is they want, temper tantrums can be triggered by other things such as hunger, sickness and tiredness.
What is a temper tantrum and why are they so hard?
Nearly every parent, teacher and therapist who has had anything to do with children will know about temper tantrums. However just to be clear, a tempter tantrum is an emotional outburst which involves a range of different behaviours depending on the child. It can include: crying, screaming, kicking, throwing, spitting, unpleasant words and my personal favourite, breath holding. You may even be able to add a few more behaviours to the list!
The goal when dealing with a temper tantrum is to be firm and consistent. Despite what your child may be doing, we also need to stay clam. Giving too much attention through shouting or being angry back at the child often backfires on us or at least makes the next temper tantrum that bit harder to handle.
What can you do once the temper tantrum starts?
Start by breathing – deeply and slowly. Getting angry or giving the adult version of a temper tantrum is not going to help. The more petrol you pour onto the fire, the more behaviour you’re going to get (which may include an escalation of behaviours or longer temper tantrum). Your job here as the parent is to get your child to slow down and calm down. Essentially we want the child to calm and make wiser choices.
What you do next will depend on the age of the child, what triggered the temper tantrum and how well the child can calm themselves. Some children may need to be held and rocked as they clam down (think little ones), others may need to be ignored and redirected to a more appropriate action. For those temper tantrums that are triggered by physical needs e.g. hunger, tiredness and sickness, your next steps may be more about addressing those needs.
Here are some extra strategies you may find helpful:
Take a deep breath from your stomach. Anyone who has done singing, yoga or pilates will have been taught the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe in while counting to five, then hold the breath. Breathe out slowly, letting the air escape naturally from your lungs. You may need to do this a few times to stay in that calmer place.
Some of us are able to engage our imagination and take ourselves to a more relaxed space. For example visualise yourself at the beach on a warm, sunny day, or any place that you associate with peace or calm.
Walk away – if it’s safe. Time out isn’t just for children. If it’s safe to leave your child for a moment, step out of the room until you’re ready to re-engage. Put some music on (not too loud) and wait until both you and the child are calm.
Need more help?
As mentioned above temper tantrums are very normal. There is help available through our Psychology team if your child starts to have them regularly or it’s getting harder to manage temper tantrums. Please feel free to contact Reception for more information about our Psychology 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 effected by poor sleep, particularly when poor sleep happens night after night.
Sleep Difficulties in Children
Poor sleep patterns in children can lead to increased irritability, behavioural problems, memory and learning difficulties. While there are different kinds of sleep difficulties, the two most common are sleep onset and sleep disturbance.
Sleep onset difficulties are where your child simply struggles to fall asleep. This can look like frequent calling out or “escape” attempts from the bedroom. Your child will be complaining that they just can’t fall asleep. In the more extreme cases, you and your child may end up arguing and in tears over their inability to settle. And all of this occurs at a time when both you and your child are naturally tired.
Sleep disturbances are where your child falls asleep but wakes up and finds it hard to resettle. For some children this can happen once a night, for other multiple times. In either instance, this causes difficulties for other family members (not just the child) as they go looking for you or siblings in the middle of the night.
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 bed time 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?
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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The Child Wellbeing Centre will be running another Secret Agent Society program for children in Term Three, 2018.
What Is Secret Agent Society?
Secret Agent Society is a small group program designed by an Australian clinical psychologist, Dr Renae Beaumont, to help children ages 9 to 12 to improve their social and emotional skills.
By the end of the 9-week small group program, the junior detectives graduate as secret agents. They would have learned the following skills:
- Recognise emotions in themselves and others
- Express feelings in appropriate ways
- Talk and play with others
- Solve friendship problems and
- Cope with change and deal with bullying
The program uses role play, home missions and a computer game to strengthen the skills learned in the group setting. Parents and schools are an integral part of the program and receive resources and support to help young agents practise their new skills.
For more information about the program please have a look at this website:
When will Secret Agent Society Run?
Club sessions are from July 28 until September 22, every Saturday 9-11am. Parent training session will be held July 21st.
How to register for the program?
To register interest, please contact our reception on 9274 7062.
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One of the saddest things to hear as a parent is that your child has no one to play with at school. For some children making friends is such an easy thing to do while for others, it is fraught with difficulty. At the Child Wellbeing Centre, we often see children with social difficulties – both at the primary and secondary school level.
Some simple tips to offer children struggling to make friends include:
Say hello – It’s such a simple thing to do but so many children forget to start by being friendly themselves. A big smile, eye contact and a cheery hello are a great way to make connections with peers.
Ask a question –“Can I play too?” or “How are you?” or “What is that?” are all good ways to show someone that you are interested in being their friend. But the questions have to be positive and relevant to what the peer is doing.
Share something – Children can share something about themselves or an idea they have. For example, suggesting a game to play. The trick is to make sure it’s on topic – that is – it’s related to what the other child is saying.
Suggest an activity- Suggest playing a game. Asking for play-dates is fine too so long as parents are consulted along the way.
Give a compliment- Tell peers something you like about them. We all like hearing positive statements about ourselves. Compliments always need to be genuine though – merely saying something nice (just for the sake of making a compliment) can sound fake and back fire.
Listen too- Children need to listen to what their friends want to talk about…not just focus on what we want to say. Taking turns is an important social skills in games and in conversation too!
Need more help?
Fortunately friendship skills can be taught. The Speech Pathology, Psychology, Occupational Therapy and ABACAS team all work with children to help them develop the skills they need to make and keep friends.
Please call our reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
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Feelings of grief and loss can be triggered for children by changes such as the death of a loved one, the loss of an important person from their life, parental separation, and moving to a new school or home.
As a parent you will want to protect your child from distress but grief and loss is often a very natural reaction to something very sad that has happened in a child’s life. It doesn’t mean that the child is not coping. Rather it may mean that the child is just very naturally expressing their emotions.
How do children express grief or loss?
Depending on the age of the child, children may express their grief differently to adults. And as with all children, you may notice differences in the way that individual children respond.
Children sometimes do not understand what a loss means. Particularly for young children who experience the death of a loved one they may not comprehend the implications of death. This may mean they act as if nothing has happened. It’s important to plan how you will explain a death or change to your child in a way they will understand.
Some children will respond to feelings of grief or loss by acting angry, oppositional and defiant. This is usually because they do not know how to process their feelings, and feel out of control. This is particularly true for teenagers who may begin to push boundaries in response to feelings of grief and loss. It is important to respond to underlying feelings, be supportive and understanding, and find ways for children to express feelings in safe ways.
Children can sometimes feel despair in response to grief or loss; this may include sadness, crying, hopelessness, anxiousness, being clingy, and being fearful of separating from loved ones. It is important to provide lots of love and reassurance, and model that you can be sad but still live your life.
Some children may feel guilt, blame or responsibility for events surrounding grief or loss. Letting children talk about their worries openly will allow adults to challenge ideas, give more realistic explanations, and remove burden from children.
Tips for responding to children’s grief:
- Gradually children will accept the reality of loss, try to encourage them to also find some hope for the future.
- Let children be involved in rituals around loss such as choosing and decorating their new room, making photo collages of their memory of a loved one.
- Allow children to continue talking about loss and their feelings around that. Give permission for children to express whatever emotions they may have, even if they differ to your own.
- Consistency can help children adjust to changes; having familiar people, places, and things around them can provide a sense of security in a difficult time.
- Model the expression of your own emotions regarding the loss in healthy and appropriate ways.
Our psychology team at the Child Wellbeing Centre are also there to help you if you are still worried about how your child is coping.
Please call 9274 7062 for further information.
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Parenting can be stressful and all parents will feel stress at some point of their parenting journey. Stress can start in pregnancy as the body experiences change. Then in the process of caring for babies, stress can be triggered by lack of sleep, competing demands and changes in routines.
Later as children get older, stress can come with the many demands of parenting….a bit like trying to juggle many balls in the air at the same time.
How do you know you are experiencing stress?
The most common signs of stress include physical symptoms of tiredness, low energy, aches and pains. We can find ourselves more susceptible to the colds, flus and bugs going around. Mentally we can have difficulty concentrating, remembering and being organised. Emotionally we can feel sad and depressed or find ourselves quicker to anger than usual.
What can you do about stress?
Some simple steps to start you managing stress includes:
Identify your triggers. Knowing is half the battle. Identify your triggers for stress. Things like relationship issues, work and and coping with illness can add to the stress of being a parent. Some of these triggers can be predicted – and when this is the case – you can aim to support yourself during these periods.
Notice your symptoms of stress. Knowing your symptoms of stress helps you to identify them early on. Irritability, interrupted sleep, headaches and changes in appetite may signal that you are becoming more stressed. The following strategies should help to reduce your symptoms.
Lifestyle. Eating regular meals, attending to your sleep routines and exercising regularly are important lifestyle factors that improve mood and decrease stress. Make time for yourself in your busy routine to engage in these activities.
Socialising with other adults. Find some time to meet up with friends or family members. Compassionate friends can make all the difference.
Relaxation. Developing a relaxation routine or even brief techniques to calm yourself may reduce your stress. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation and guided meditation are some examples. Mindfulness and grounding can be used to stay connected to the present.
Address unhelpful thoughts. How we think affects how we feel. If you have having negative thoughts you may like to speak to a friend or a counsellor. It is possible to train your brain to dispute negative thoughts and find balanced alternatives.
Of course if you are feeling stress it may not be anything to do with the children. Other things cause us stress too – relationship difficulties, financial strains, having to care for others in the family. The list goes on!
Always feel free to talk to you consultant in the Centre. If we are not the right people to help, we can help you find other professionals who may be able to help.
Please contact Tracey on reception for further information about our services on 9274 7062.
Occupational Therapist Team / Psychology Team
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Children’s eating (or not eating) can cause parents lots of worry and stress. Good nutrition in childhood is important for so many reasons. It supports children growth, overall health and learning. Yet some children are very fussy about what they eat. This may look like only choosing some foods, refusing to try new foods and skipping some food groups all together! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve come across children and the only thing they will eat reliably is chicken nuggets.
Why are children so fussy?
Children become fussy eaters for a range of reasons. Sometimes it’s due to habits, strong wills and/or sensory difficulties. On this last point, some food textures and tastes can cause distress. While most children grow out of their fussy ways, some will need some help along the way.
What can you do to improve eating?
The following are eleven tips to help improve your child’s eating:
- Model good eating: Children learn so much about the world from their caregivers and modelling eating the type of food you would like them to eat is an excellent start. It is also great if they are surrounded by other children eating different food types.
- Make eating fun: Why not create a fruit face or cut vegetables into cool shapes? By making eating healthy food fun, children are going to be more motivated to try some. There are lots of great websites that you can try for recipes for children. For example: https://www.parents.com/recipes/familyrecipes/
- Have realistic expectations: Don’t expect your child to finish the plate or try new food everyday. Set small but achievable goals such as trying 1 bite of everything on the plate. Also keep meals friendly. It is better to put a small bit of new food alongside a larger amount of food that your child likes.
- Make mealtimes happy & social: Try and make mealtimes an important time for the family to sit down together. Avoid distractions such as having the TV on. Try not to worry about anything that goes wrong during dinner (such as spilled drinks or food). Meal times as positive as possible.
- Praise your child for trying: Its very important to praise and give attention to your child when they try new foods. For some children, a reward chart may be appropriate. However, do not make the reward a different food. This will teach your child that one food is more desirable than another.
- Do not give attention when your child is refusing: It is similarly important not to give too much attention to your child when they are refusing to eat. This can act as a motivator for children to refuse more. Try and ignore the behaviour as best as you can.
- Do not make special meals for your child: Tying in with the previous tip, by making a special meal for your child you are giving them special attention when refusing. This can encourage them to refuse more as they know they will get food they prefer.
- Give your child some say: Refusing food is often a response to wanting greater independence. You can give your child that independence in allowing them to choose their food from a range of healthy options. This way children still feel in control and are more likely to try the healthy option that they choose.
- Choosing new foods with a similar texture: If your child has a sensory aversion to a particular type of food due to it’s texture, try and think of some healthy options which have a different texture. This is particularly relevant if your child has ASD or another developmental disability.
- Offer the new food repeatedly: Your child will most likely have to see the food quite a few times before they will try it. You can also set smaller goals such as touch, smell or lick the food before trying it.
- Involve your child in cooking: You can also involve children in the preparation of a meal (e.g. chopping vegetables) which increases their engagement as well as giving them a chance to feel the food out before eating it.
Still need help? Then feel free to call the Centre on 9274 7062 for more information about how we can help. Our occupational therapy and psychology team can parents with fussy eaters.
Written with help from Ruby Simms-Cumbers (Behaviour Therapist).
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A very natural response to anxiety is to try to avoid the thing that makes us feel anxious. For example, if being near dogs causes makes you feel anxious, then it makes sense to cross the road to avoid the dog sitting patiently at the neighbour’s gate.
Children are no different.
However there is a problem with avoidance. Yes, in the short term, it relieves anxiety. In the example above, the further you move away from the dog, the less anxiety is experienced. However in the longer term, avoidance actually strengthens anxiety. The child who stays home from school because they are worried about a test, is only going to be anxious (or more anxious) the next time there is a test at school. And if they stay home every time there is a test, their anxiety about tests may even grow.
What’s the alternative to avoidance?
We need to teach children how to cope with anxiety.
- Children need to learn positive coping strategies to help manage unpleasant feelings and thoughts.
- Parents need to model positive coping strategies. Children learn so much through observation of how their parents and peers cope with worry and stress.
- Children need to have the opportunity to practice their coping strategies a little at a time in a supported way and experience success.
- Children need praise when they try to beat their worries and recognition for the big steps they are taking.
When you are stuck for ideas…
There are a lot of great resources written with parents in mind that gives lots of great ideas for how to do this. A favourite of mine is “Helping Your Anxious Child” by Rapee, Wignell and Spence. Your local library should be able to order this one in for you if they don’t have it in stock. Many online book shops sell it too.
And of course there is the Psychology Team at the Centre to help with therapeutic approaches.
Please call Tracey on 9274 7062 for more information about our services.
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Most children experience worry and/or fear about a range of things growing up. For example many children will go through a phase of fear of the dark only to grow out of this. Some children though develop worries and fears that seem to stay put and start to impact on their quality of life.
No one really knows why some children experience anxiety more than others. Some children are born with an anxious temperament which makes them vulnerable to worrying. Some children unfortunately are exposed to life events which teach them that the world can be a scary place. And for some, it may simply be about a need to be taught how to cope with worries.
There are all kinds of anxiety disorders in childhood however they have a few common elements. Firstly the child will have a re-occurring and persistent worry or fear about something that lasts for at least six months. Anxious feelings are often accompanied by complaints of sore tummies, headaches and other physical symptoms. For some children their worries affect their sleep with some finding it harder to fall asleep and/or some finding it hard to stay asleep.
Children’s thinking can also change, with children spending a lot of time engaging in “worry” thinking. Parents often find themselves spending a lot of time providing reassurance.
And lastly, children will at some point want to avoid the thing that is causing them concern. For some children this may involve wanting to stay home, rather than go to school. For others it may look like refusal to do things that they normally would and could.
The key to breaking out of this pattern is to help the child develop positive coping strategies. There are a lot of great online resources that can help parents. Our team of psychologists at the Child Wellbeing Centre are also able to help children overcome their anxiety.
Please call Tracey on 9274 7062 for more information.