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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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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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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:
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Hearing that a child is being bullied can be heartbreaking for parents. However not all conflict between children is bullying.
Bullying is where an individual or a group use their personal power repeatedly to cause physical, social or emotional harm to another. Usually the person being bullied feels powerless and unable to stop it. Bullying can take the form of verbal or physical aggression and social exclusion. It can occur face to face and online.
Let’s look at what you can do to help child if they are experiencing bullying
What are some first steps?
For some children, telling a parent that they are being bullied at school can be hard. The child may be worried about how their parent’s reaction. They may fear that they are about to get into trouble or worse still, that the parent will do something to make it worse! Listening (as calmly as you can) to your child then becomes the first step in helping them with bullying. Your aim is to help them tell the story. After which you can then reassure them that they are not to blame and that you are not angry at them.
As parents our first response is often about protection. We want to leap into action to sort the bullying out and make sure it never happens again. Our solutions though may not be what the child needs. Before we jump in its important to ask what solutions the child has thought about and also what they have tried. A classic mistake here that parents make is the “all you have to do is ignore them” suggestion. Usually the child has tried this already and for various reasons, has found it didn’t work.
A careful and considered response is always helpful. There are many different ways to help children with bullying. Fortunately, there are also lots of online sites with different strategies that you can look up. A personal favourite is the Bullying. No Way! website. Not only is it an Australian website but it also captures what the research tells us are helpful responses. I’ve included the link here for you:
Bullying needs to be reported to schools too. This is often something that children feel very uncomfortable about as they are scared about the consequences. Schools however have the responsibility to keep your child safe and can’t do this if they don’t know what’s happening. Request a time to meet with the teacher to talk through what you’ve learned and how the school will respond.
What else can you do?
Keep monitoring what’s happening with your child. Often bullying will die down for a while only to start again a little later when the adults aren’t paying attention. If this happens, schools need to be brought into the loop again. Children who bully others try very hard not to be caught in the act so sometimes it can be missed by teachers.
Keep reading up and sharing different strategies with your child for them to try. Older siblings can be helpful here too as they may have some great ideas here too. Avoid strategies that escalate conflict such as the “fight them back” idea. Not only will your child be in trouble but this strategy rarely works.
Need more help?
Our psychology team is able to help in this area. They can help children with ways to increase their own safety and better ways of managing bullying (both face to face and online). They can also help parents and work with teachers to put in place more helpful strategies.
For more information about our psychology services please call reception on 9274 7062. Below is a link to our website with information about our psychologists and more:
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An educational assessment can be a useful option to consider when children aren’t achieving their learning potential.
Literacy (reading, understanding and writing) is an area that children experience difficulty with but sometimes, numeracy may also be a concern.
An educational assessment can help identify the barriers to learning for children. Assessments maybe helpful as they can give greater insight into why difficulties are occurring, highlight supports that children need and help with decisions about schooling options.
What does an educational assessment involve?
To start with our psychologists will want to talk to you and find out about your child’s developmental, school, social and emotional history. This appointment is with the parent/carer (s) only as this gives you the opportunity to talk freely about your concerns.
From this, the psychologist will be able to work out which standardised tests may be helpful. They will want to schedule 1-2 sessions with you and your child. These assessments may include a cognitive assessment (looking at learning potential) and an academic assessment (looking at literacy and/or numeracy). Other assessments may also be suggested.
When our team see children, we work hard to put them at their ease so we can see them at their best. The first session in particular may involve rapport building strategies.
The psychologist may want to talk to the teacher too. While school reports have a lot of useful information, our team can learn from talking to the teacher. Sometimes we may even arrange an observation of the child in class to observe behaviours.
What happens after the assessment is completed?
The psychologist will meet with you to give feedback on what the assessment has revealed and their recommendations for how to move forward. They will also provide you with a written report which you may choose to share with school and other therapists. The aim of this session is to answer your questions and to help you as a parent direction into how to support your child.
For more information about our educational assessment services please call Reception on 9274 7062.
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Traditional thinking used to be that sparing young children details about their operation or serious medical procedure was the best course of action. Many parents and carers saw this as a way of avoiding unnecessary stress for the child. Parents would then shoulder the burden of worry. All of which makes a lot of sense, given our need to protect our children.
The problem with this approach is that parents are always left wondering whether this is the best course of action. Sometimes it comes down to working out just how much information is the right amount of information. Medical staff have different views on this issue and often err on the side of less information being better than more.
So what does this research say?
A study earlier this year tried to answer the questions of how much information to give children. The results were really interesting. This study included 91 children and parents of children (between 3-13 years of age) about to have surgery. Prior to the operation, the researchers held an information session which included an interactive video about the specific procedure and a discussion with an allied health member. These sessions involved both parent and child. They then followed up the child and parent after the surgery and compared how they fared on various psychological measures. In this study, the researchers were very interested in symptoms of trauma in children post surgery.
Using all the information collected above, the researchers then compared the results of their participants to the results of children and parents who had been approached but opted out of the study. The results showed significantly higher rates of distress (post-operation) for children who did not receive the full information about their surgery. Even the younger children (3-5 year olds) had more positive outcomes in this study. The researchers noted that the findings in their study were consistent with previous studies focusing on children with HIV and with cancer.
Of course this study, like all studies has limitations. Firstly there was a wide range of surgical procedures that may have been a factor in recovery. The time in hospital also varied greatly. I suspect, level of parental stress and anxiety may have been a factor too.
How can we best help children?
What this study does show is that children are more resilient that we think they are. Even at a young age, they have capacity to process more information than we think they can about their treatment. What the emerging research is showing is that when children understand what is about to happen to them are less likely to experience psychological distress post surgery.
It’s something for us to think about as parents should our children ever need major medical intervention. It’s also something we should be talking through with their medical staff as we help them prepare for up and coming surgery.
As always you are very welcome to contact the Centre for information on our psychology service on 9274 7062.
Ref: Amichi et al (2019) Should parents share medical information with their young children? A prospective study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 88. Pages 52-56.
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A provisional psychologist is someone who has completed their tertiary qualifications and is undertaking a program of supervision as they develop their applied skills “on the job”. Typically this can involve one to two years of weekly supervision with a senior psychologist.
Supervision is where the provisional psychologist discusses the work they are doing with clients (in our case children and young people) with a senior colleague. It’s a space for them to check in that they are being helpful for the client. It’s also a space for the supervisor to make sure that client’s needs are being met by the provisional psychologist.
Who are the provisional psychologists in the Centre?
At the Child Wellbeing Centre we have four provisional psychologists on our team. Two have completed masters level qualifications in psychology & two have extensive experience working with children in other behaviour therapy roles. Our provisional psychologists are:
Each comes with their own background of qualifications and experience. The one thing they all have in common is an enthusiasm and commitment to work with children. You can read a bit more about them on our website:
Why might I consider a provisional psychologist for my child?
As provisional psychologists aren’t eligible to offer Medicare rebates, they charge out at a much lower rate than the registered psychologists in the Centre. They aren’t limited in the number of sessions they can provide either. When working with families, they are still doing exactly the same things a fully registered psychologist would be doing with a family. However they have a psychologist on call that they can check in with to make sure they are heading in the right direction.
They are also required to do extensive professional development each year which means they are regularly learning about different ways to help their client.
Not all clients will be referred to our provisional psychology team in the Centre. We try to make sure that clients are matched with the psychologist with the right skills mix. However you are welcome to enquire about seeing a provisional psychologist if you think this is an option for your child.
Please contact reception for more information about our provisional psychologists or any of our other services on 9274 7062.
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Aside from getting back into routine, going back to school is 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 feelings of overwhelm 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 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 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.