Craft-y therapy!

focused african american child dipping brush in watercolor before painting
By Psychologist Judy McKay

With the summer holidays swiftly approaching some of you might be starting to scratch your heads, thinking about new and creative ways to entertain the kids over the break. 

See below for 3 art and craft activities you could try that also have a therapeutic element to them.  (Hint: they’re cheap and often use things you already have lying around the house!)

Calm Jar

Used for: Emotional regulation. 

Calm jars provide visual sensory stimulation, in turn providing a calming and distracting effect. They can be added to a sensory toolbox for your child to help them regulate when feeling emotionally heightened. Search “Calm Jar Instructions” to find a step-by-step guide and list of required materials.

DIY Board Game

Used for: Emotional regulation, social skills, conflict resolution, gameplay etc. 

You can tailor the theme of the board game however you please. Search “blank board game template” or create your own.  Some themes include: feelings (think subtle emotions as well as more common ones), scenarios to develop social skills; colour-coding according to the zones of regulation, or coping skills.

Worry Box

Used for: Anxiety

Delaying worries that aren’t urgent can help children to take some control over their thoughts so that they aren’t all encompassing. Using an old shoe or tissue box, decorate and turn it into a personalised worry box. Spend time with your child writing down their worries on some strips of paper and put them in the box overnight for safe keeping. The next day, go through the worries with your child and remove the ones that are no longer on the child’s mind. They can also add any new ones that might have come up. 

We’re writing this from Melbourne so no doubt there will be some rainy days over the break where these activities might come in handy! In the meantime, gather your empty drink bottles, glitter, and cardboard scraps in preparation!

Judy is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Judy has experience working with young people, their families and extended support networks across educational, clinical and community-based settings. Judy enjoys working creatively and flexibly with children and adolescents to explore their difficult emotions and experiences. In the past, Judy has supported young people experiencing a range of neuro-developmental disorders, anxiety, trauma, social skill and emotional regulation difficulties. Judy values the individual needs of each client and attempts to incorporate their personal interests, strengths and goals throughout therapy. Judy utilises a client-centred approach to her therapy which is grounded in cognitive-behaviour therapy and other evidenced-based techniques.

Judy has a background in providing pastoral care to children and adolescents within educational settings. These experiences have enabled Judy to connect and build relationships with students of all ages, in addition to understanding the challenges typically faced by school-aged children. Judy encourages her clients to take a holistic approach to therapy and values communication with a client’s wider support network. This helps to promote positive client outcomes across all aspects of day to day life. Outside of work, Judy loves spending time at the beach or in the countryside. She further enjoys playing social sports and prioritises spending time with friends and family.

How to help my child feel good about their body

By Psychologist Alex Almendingen

Body image refers to the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs we have about our body. As people travel through childhood and adolescence, their bodies undergo rapid and dramatic changes. It’s not surprising therefore that some young people may have mixed feelings about how their body is developing and how they look.

While many us may experience some body image concerns from time to time, for some young people, these concerns become highly distressing. Pervasive body image concerns can influence a young person’s self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-worth. These can all contribute to experiences of disappointment, guilt, and shame. It is therefore valuable to identify these concerns early to foster mindsets and a culture of positive body image for the young person…..and within the family unit as whole.

If you’re wondering what to look out for, here are several potential red flags amongst young people who may be experiencing body image-related concerns:

  • An increased interest in food and counting calories;
  • Cutting out certain food groups and no longer eating previously enjoyed foods;
  • Increased focus on body weight and shape, as well as sudden changes in weight;
  • Excessive body checking (e.g., weighing, mirror checking) or actively avoiding body checking;
  • Avoiding social situations that involve eating in front of others or when body image may elicit anxiety (e.g., swimming);
  • Often talking about body image (e.g., thinness, muscles, physique) and comparing one’s own body with others; and 
  • Other compensatory behaviours (e.g., excessive exercising, skipping meals, using smaller plates/bowls, eating more slowly than usual, purging).

While professional support can be paramount in addressing body image concerns, parents and caregivers also play a key role in fostering favourable body image in their children. Some tips that can foster positive body image in young people may include:

  • Modelling positive body image (e.g., acceptance of one’s body despite flaws, focusing on the health and function of the body rather than how it looks, seeing beauty in the diverse range of appearance and internal attributes);
  • Avoid appearance-focused commentary (e.g., making positive or negative comments about appearance that can encourage young people to heavily focus on how they look). Instead, focus can be on internal characteristics such as personality, effort, hard work, kindness, good listening etc.;
  • Avoid diets and unhealthy weight control practices (e.g., encouraging eating and exercise behaviours for health gains and mental wellbeing rather than to elicit weight and shape changes); and
  • Having open conversations about body image concerns (e.g., normalising changes that occur during puberty, challenging messages that reinforce weight stigma and a diet culture).
Alex is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Within school-based and public mental health settings, Alex has experience in conducting comprehensive mental health assessments and delivering evidence-based psychological therapy for young people and adolescents with a range of behavioural, emotional, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental challenges. Alex is also committed to strengthening the confidence and capacity of caregivers to support their children’s development and overall wellbeing. Through his person-centred, empathic, and collaborative approach, Alex is dedicated to building and maintaining a trusting, safe, and supportive therapeutic environment for all his clients and their families to create lasting positive changes.

Help! How do I care for my neurodiverse grandchild?

grandfather and grandson holding their string instruments
By Psychologist Emily Coen

Grandparents play such an important role within the family unit. They also have so much to teach children from their incredible life experience! Many grandparents often want to connect with their grandchild, but are unsure what to do, or say. Here are some tips to support you:

General Strategies: 

  • Have a general understanding of their diagnosis and how it relates to the child. Ask the child’s parents to relay important information about the diagnosis to you. What do you need to know about the child and how they engage with the world? 
  • Encourage independence. Children quickly learn who will do things for them and therefore won’t do these things. The more a child can be independent (within reasonable expectations of age and ability) the more they will thrive as they become older. 
  • Let your grandchild lead and teach you things. Take an interest in your grandchild’s game or current interest and follow their lead in play.

Communication 

  • Our neurodiverse kiddos often take longer to process information, so give them 10 seconds after you speak to process the information and respond. 
  • Use brief and concrete instructions rather than lengthy sentences with too many words.
  • If your grandchild requires an additional means to communicate such as visual or sign language, use that! This will assist them to understand what you are saying.
  • Offering a choice of two options rather than picking anything you like. Choosing from a small amount of items helps to reduce feelings of confusion, overwhelm and stress of making the wrong choice. 

Behaviour

  • Children will use adults around them to help regulate themselves. When a child is upset or angry, yelling at them will also escalate their behaviour. Use a calm but firm tone with your grandchild so they can understand the situation and respond appropriately. 
  • Identify their triggers to emotional outbursts or coping mechanisms and help the child to regulate themselves. Engage in some sensory games or relaxation techniques to assist with calming your grandchild.
  • Have clear and consistent expectations and boundaries when it comes to behaviours. Set expectations so the child knows what to expect and what is not ok in your home. 

Most importantly, focus on your grandchild as the unique person that they are, not their diagnosis. Show the child love and affection as you would with any of your grandchildren. And above all, have fun together!

Emily is a registered psychologist with a Master of Professional Psychology. Emily has experience working with children, adolescents and their families across home, clinic, and educational settings. Emily has a special interest in working with autism spectrum disorder, developmental disorders, anxiety, behaviour management, and emotion regulation difficulties. Emily is passionate about working with children and their families in a flexible and creative manner, to best support their goals. Outside of work, Emily enjoys spending time with her family, reading a good book, playing netball, and cheering on the Geelong Cats.

Helping children with loss..

photo of boy holding heart shape paper on stick
By Psychologist Kim McGregor

Loss can present in many ways and children will experience many kinds of loss throughout their lives. While some losses can be tragic and monumental such as the loss of someone or something they love (e.g. a family member or pet), others can be positive and include developmental and transitional stages (e.g. transition to school or to a new friend group). 

Today, children are also experiencing loss related to episodes such as an accident, environmental occurrences such as bushfire; changes in their educational environment such as the transition to online learning and the loss of face to face teaching. They may even experience changes such as illness in family members or in their community. 

Children will process loss in their lives in relation to their development, their age, past experiences they have to draw on and how important the loss is to them. How we respond and support them through the stages of loss will assist them to process and express the changes in a more helpful way. 

So how can we help? As adults we can do the following to support a child feeling loss and dealing with changes with courage: 

  • Understand that children observe and sense more than we know
  • Offer your time, attention and comfort in a safe and appropriate place to talk at an age appropriate level using concrete words (eg. keep the language simple)
  • Listen carefully to their story, how they explain their thoughts and feelings to you which may be through talking, play or drawing
  •  Take note of their behaviours. Their behaviours may represent a range of strong feelings including shock, panic, anger, anxiety, confusion, or excitement and overwhelm
  • Be available for questions and discussions
  • Be open that every child will react differently. Offer security and predictability by maintaining family routines where possible
  • Follow your child’s lead to make time to express themselves at their own pace: to retell good memories, use art or whatever medium they choose to document or tell the changes and loss with courage

Kim McGregor is a registered Psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational & Developmental Psychology. She has worked extensively with infants, children and their families in not for profit, early childhood, specialised school and government multidisciplinary settings providing assessment, diagnosis and treatment for their developmental, cognitive, social, emotional and learning needs.

While Kim enjoys working with and celebrating all children as they grow and develop, her experience and interests include understanding the specific strengths, abilities and support needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, developmental delay, intellectual disability and learning disabilities to reach their full potential through comprehensive assessment.  

Her goal is to always work from a person centred and family focused partnership with parents providing clear communication, empathy and support throughout the journey of understanding and helping their child.  She incorporates evidence based therapies to support skill development, having trained in CBT programs such as The Cool Kids Anxiety program (Cool Kids) and the Secret Agent Society program (SAS) and in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).

While Kim has spent most of her life in Sydney, she now enjoys all that Melbourne has to offer with her family and pets. 

How should I play with my child?

girl in white long sleeve shirt sitting on bed
By Psychologist Laura Moresi

Play is an essential part of child development. It offers children a space to use their creativity while developing important skills that support their cognitive, physical and emotional abilities. Through play, children can create and explore a world that they can master, playing out wishes, conquering fears and practicing roles that they would otherwise not be able to. As children learn to master their world, play supports their development of new competencies and increases their confidence and resiliency. 

Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their  children, but sometimes it can be tricky to know how or when to jump into this play. The most important tool for connecting with children through play is being able to follow their lead. While this can sound easy it takes a lot of practice and patience to truly immerse yourself in child-centered play. Some of the tips that can help you to follow your child’s lead are:

  • Get face to face with your child – getting down to your child’s level allows you to connect more easily and share in the moment, so whenever you can get into a position that makes it easy for your child to look right into your eyes.
  • Observe your child – children can have very different styles and methods of playing, before jumping in it is essential that you take the time to watch what your child is doing. By pausing and tuning into your child’s play you can pick up on important messages about what your child is interested in and how they engage with this.
  • Really listen and give the child your full attention – while observing your child’s play it is important that you show your interest through active listening, this can be shown by leaning forward and looking at your child expectantly. Observing in this way communicates to your child that they have your full attention and you are ready to fully immerse yourself in their world.
  • Use less questions – while questions are often our way of showing interest and getting more information, when this is done during a child’s play it can be disruptive and at times direct the play. Try limiting your questions and instead comment on what you see the child doing with interest and enthusiasm (i.e.,that looks like a big mountain for them to climb, your tower is getting so tall, I wonder where the dragon has gone).

Above all else, remember to have fun. Your children know you better than anyone and when they see you letting go and getting into their play it makes them feel like superstars!

References:Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191.

Laura Moresi is a psychologist completing the Educational and Developmental registrar program. Laura is passionate about working collaboratively with families and other professionals to support children and adolescents to reach their best potential. Laura has experience working with a variety of development and mental health concerns.

How to turn a meltdown into a learning opportunity

photo of woman and girl talking while lying on bed
By Psychologist Alex Almendingen

Emotional meltdowns – they’re so ‘big’ that they warrant two blog articles to deal with them! In my previous article – “What to do after a meltdown” I outlined how there is often “unfinished business” that we need to work through with a child after an emotional outburst.

Some questions that we can ask ourselves during the post-meltdown phase include:

‘What caused that meltdown?’,

‘what was my child going through at the time?’, and

‘what could have stopped this from happening?’

Thinking about these questions can help us to process what was going on at the time and perhaps what we could begin to do differently next time.

So, what next? The following strategies can be used to help parents and young people reflect on and learn from these emotionally-charged outbursts during the post-meltdown phase after everyone has had a chance to cool down:

  1. Identifying, talking about, and evaluating triggers allows open dialogue around what might have led to the emotionally-charged outburst. Engagement in such discussions can help ourselves, as well as our child, develop greater awareness of potential high-risk situations or events.
  2. Encouraging an open discussion of the young person’s unmet needs can act as a powerful tool in identifying, acknowledging, and processing the emotions and internal experiences underlying triggering events. Maybe our child was lacking emotional connection or attention when they were feeling lonely; perhaps they were overwhelmed as a result of overstimulation; maybe they felt worried in a stressful or anxiety-provoking situation, perhaps they felt their rights and boundaries were violated, or maybe they just were not feeling understood. Once we can identify the unmet need, we need to help our child to express it. And tell them we understand how that must feel – empathy is paramount!
  3. Reasoning and problem-solving provides the opportunity to reflect on and consider how a given situation may have been handled in a more helpful way. You and your child could brainstorm possible solutions and weigh up the pros/cons of each option. In doing so, this can help address unresolved issues in the present and prepare for future occurrences of similar challenges. 

Here’s hoping these strategies give you some patience, reflection and strength to turn ‘unfinished business’ into a vehicle for positive change!

Alex is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Within school-based and public mental health settings, Alex has experience in conducting comprehensive mental health assessments and delivering evidence-based psychological therapy for young people and adolescents with a range of behavioural, emotional, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental challenges. Alex is also committed to strengthening the confidence and capacity of caregivers to support their children’s development and overall wellbeing. Through his person-centred, empathic, and collaborative approach, Alex is dedicated to building and maintaining a trusting, safe, and supportive therapeutic environment for all his clients and their families to create lasting positive changes.

What to do after a meltdown – unfinished business

loving mother comforting crying son on couch
By Psychologist Alex Almendingen

Emotionally-charged outbursts typically involve a constellation of unmanageable frustration, explosive anger, as well as disorganised behaviours (e.g., yelling, hitting, throwing). We know that these behaviours present a major challenge for many parents, to say the least!

Oftentimes, after the screaming has stopped and the dust has settled, it’s tempting to tell ourselves that ‘all is better now’. It can be easy to simply carry on with our day without looking back, all the while hoping they don’t occur again. BUT, as difficult and distressing as they are, emotionally-charged outbursts can represent key moments of learning and growth for parents and young people alike.

In next week’s blog, I will outline some strategies to help you and your child learn from their emotional meltdown. But before we get to that step, consider the following tips to prepare you both for the “lesson” to come:

  1. Achieving relaxation: Whether it’s in an hour, sometime later that night, or even the following day, it’s essential to give ourselves and our child the time to relax and reach a point of emotional stability. We must both reach this point of calm before we are able to engage in reflective discussions, reasoning, and problem-solving.
  2. Striving for reconnection: After everyone has had a chance to calm down, reconnecting with our child forms an integral next step to re-establish bonds necessary for later reflection, reasoning, and problem-solving. Whether this takes the form of physical contact (e.g., cuddles), engaging in collaborative activities, or playing games together, showing our child that we still love and care for them helps us get back in sync with them on an emotional level and can help repair a moment of discord in the parent-child relationship.
  3. Invitation for collaboration: Upon establishing reconnection, it can be helpful to invite your child to have a chat around the emotionally-charged outburst. Framing such an invitation as a chance to reflect on and learn from the experience, rather than to reprimand, discipline, or punish misbehaviours is incredibly important. It provides a beneficial and constructive approach to encouraging collaborative discussions grounded in mutual understanding of each other’s experiences.
Alex is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Within school-based and public mental health settings, Alex has experience in conducting comprehensive mental health assessments and delivering evidence-based psychological therapy for young people and adolescents with a range of behavioural, emotional, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental challenges. Alex is also committed to strengthening the confidence and capacity of caregivers to support their children’s development and overall wellbeing. Through his person-centred, empathic, and collaborative approach, Alex is dedicated to building and maintaining a trusting, safe, and supportive therapeutic environment for all his clients and their families to create lasting positive changes.

3 tips for managing screen time during lockdown

little girl holding a tablet
By Psychologist Judy McKay

China recently announced that they are tightening online video gaming restrictions for children under the age of 18. Under the new rules, online video gaming will be limited to a maximum of 3 hours per week (I know right?!) and can only be played between 8pm and 9pm Friday-Sunday or on official holidays. In the wake of this announcement, I’ve been thinking: how much screen time is healthy and how do parents put boundaries around screen time during extended periods of lockdown? 

With this in mind, here are my top 3 tips for managing screentime during the lockdown. 

  1. Limit screentime based on game type: With limited opportunities for socialisation during the lockdown, many children use online gaming as a means to communicate and play with their friends. Additionally, many games require the child to use their creativity and to utilise their cognitive thinking. Try to limit games that don’t serve this purpose, rather than those that do.  
  2. Set reasonable screentime boundaries: Rather than banning online gaming altogether, set boundaries around what time of the day the child can play, for how long and what is required of them before they can play online games. For example, first they need to complete their school work, spend half an hour playing outside or use their screens after school and before dinner only. 
  3. Optimal screentime varies from child to child: The Australian government recommends that children aged 5-17 years should have no more than two hours of screen time per day (not including schoolwork). I think it’s fair to say that COVID-19, online learning and extended periods of lockdown allow for more leniency! Limit screen time based on the individual characteristics of your child – notice how online gaming affects their mood, sleep, their schoolwork or concentration levels and adjust accordingly. 

Credit: https://www.kidsnews.com.au/technology/tough-new-limits-on-screen-time-for-chinese-children/news-story/e8bef056e521855a9ea47c0f504edb76

Judy is a registered psychologist with a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Judy has experience working with young people, their families and extended support networks across educational, clinical and community-based settings. Judy enjoys working creatively and flexibly with children and adolescents to explore their difficult emotions and experiences.
Outside of work, Judy loves spending time at the beach or in the countryside. She further enjoys playing social sports and prioritises spending time with friends and family.
https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/2021/08/05/too-much-time-screens-screen-time-effects-and-guidelines-children-and-young-people

Does telehealth therapy work for young kids?

By Madeline Sibbing, Psychologist

Many of us are now experts at running virtual meetings and appointments thanks to the COVID pandemic.  Yet equally, for many of us the thought of having to adapt to therapy online still remains  daunting. This has particularly been the case for our families with younger, pre-school aged children, who might be asking: 

Can my child sit and focus online enough for it to be worthwhile? 

Can the psychologist be as effective and engaging online? 

DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK? 

So here are the answers, and some things to think about if you’re weighing up whether to give telehealth therapy a try for your young child. 

  1. PARENT SUPPORT – For very young children, most of our work is focused on supporting parents.  This means that we can continue to provide families with the same frequency of support, just simply doing so online. We can help families identify challenges in the home, establish appropriate strategies to address the challenges AND even observe parents trialling new strategies with their child via telehealth.  Thus, we can coach parents by monitoring and adjusting the strategies over time.
  2. PARENTAL CONSISTENCY – With many parents working from home, this has enabled some parents who would normally be unavailable to now attend sessions. We’ve found this has enabled caregivers to adopt consistent parenting strategies and really target the client’s goals in a focused way. This has led to some incredibly positive results for our clients! 
  3. IT’S FUN! Our psychologists have had a LOOOOOOT of practice by now at running sessions via telehealth. We’ve learned how to adapt games and therapeutic activities electronically, and frequently ‘book-end’ our sessions with a fun round of online games that kids seem to love. (OK we love them too – who doesn’t enjoy a round of Uno to finish up a therapy session?)
  4. RESEARCH SAYS ‘YES’ – Research shows universally that therapy provided via telehealth is AS effective and sometimes even MORE effective with children than face-to-face therapy. Why, you might ask? Well, one way it can be more effective is that sometimes parents expect that the psychologist will jump in and do the work with the young child. Through telehealth, however, the parents are taught and empowered to do the strategies themselves.  As we know, building up the support system around the child is vital in helping that family to function in the best way possible!

So the answer is……YES! Telehealth therapy can absolutely work for young children and their families, We’ve seen it with our own eyes!  It’s just about adapting it to suit each child and their family.

So if you’ve been reluctant up until now – take a leap of faith, and give it a go!

Madeline Sibbing is a Principal Psychologist at the Northern and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development. Madeline holds a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her sixteen years of professional experience has been attained within government and independent schools in assessment, therapeutic interventions and consultation with children, adolescents, parents and teachers. She also developed primary prevention programs, mental health awareness activities and teacher training in a secondary college. Madeline spent several years working as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK, as a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society. She is a registered supervisor with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, supervising Masters of Psychology candidates and newly-registered Psychologists.
Consistently described as an engaging, down-to-earth and knowledgeable therapist, Madeline obtains enormous joy from working with children and young people… as often evidenced by the sounds of laughter and silliness emanating from her therapy room

Parents – RU really OK?

Amanda Abel – Paediatric Psychologist & Founding Director

Earlier this week I received a late-night email from Madeline Sibbing – one of our Principal Psychologists. It was something along the lines of “I can’t (insert expletive!) believe I forgot to write a blog post about RU OK Day – it is this week”. She mentioned how angry she was with herself.

After reminding her not to beat herself up, it got me thinking about the situation we find ourselves in right now and that Madeline’s 2020 RUOK Day blog post would unfortunately still apply this year as we still find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, juggling remote learning and working from home. But this time it is different. This year we are all exhausted. We’ve been playing this juggling game intermittently here in Melbourne for 18 months now – with little teasers of ‘freedom’ in between the 6 lockdowns we’ve had so far. And as for the rest of Australia and the world – everyone is struggling in some way or another as a result of COVID.

There’s no doubt that COVID and lockdowns have significantly impacted parents. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in June 2021 that 23% of women experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress due to the pandemic, compared with 17% of men. The same survey also found that more Victorians experienced psychological distress than the rest of Australia. And here we are again – locked down, working from home and remote learning. But this time, we are seeing the impact that 2020 – and the continuation of the pandemic, has had on our children. Hospitals are seeing a significant increase in child and youth mental health admissions, and our mental health system is overloaded with demand for services. Many of the parents I’ve spoken to clinically are experiencing stress about work, guilt about their children’s education and are mentally and physically exhausted.

I share this story with you because Madeline’s feelings of anger at herself might ring true to you. We need to accept that this is NOT a normal situation to be in. We can’t expect ourselves to perform to our usual high standard, remember everything, be the teacher to our kids, support our family and come out of the other side of this pandemic in one piece.

So please, have a read of last year’s RU OK Day blog post, where in 2020 Madeline reminded us to check in with our friends who are struggling. This is still applicable today unfortunately.

And if you need some ideas to keep going through the remainder of this lockdown take some simple steps to help your body’s natural response to stress kick in:

  • Slow your breathing down – inhale for a count of about 5, hold, then exhale for a count of 10. Ensure your ribcage and abdomen expand.
  • End your shower with cold water or immerse your face in cold water
  • Laugh
  • Engage in non-screen-based activities that you really enjoy

Some general ideas that can help parents who are working from home with little remote learners by their sides are:

  • Set aside time to play and connect meaningfully with your kids (make a list if you find it hard to think on the spot)
  • Get physical daily – even if it is dancing with the kids or playing chasey
  • Spend time in nature – which is known to reduce stress
  • Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to extra work demands
  • Allow yourself dedicated ‘worry time’ – try not to think about work stress until your designated ‘worry time’ each day. This allows you to be more present with your kids and contain your stress so that your reactions to the kids can be focussed on their emotional needs rather than a response to your own stress.
  • Try mediating apps (Headspace is great, or even try YouTube for some freebies) – there are some super short 3-minute mediations that you’ll be able to fit in. You can even try embedding meditation into the daily routine with the kids so they can reap the benefits too.
  • Be flexible in your working habits, with later or earlier starts or day swaps if needed and if possible.
  • Increase structure into your workday by forming some WFH routines (coffee breaks, lunch with the kids etc.).
  • You can also increase structure into your kids’ lives which reduces anxiety and difficult behaviours – things like visual schedules, reward charts and house rules can work a treat if used consistently.
  • Try to embed fun into your lockdown life. Have a picnic in front of the TV for dinner or camp in the back garden. As important as structure is, we also need some variation to keep a sense of novelty in our lives!

Remember, this won’t be forever so it can help to find solutions that simply work for now. If you need to let things slip a bit with the kids, then that is absolutely what you should be doing. At the end of the day, the most important thing your family needs is to know that you’re all loved – and for your kids to understand that they are a priority in your life. If choosing not to argue over your child’s schoolwork means that you’ll all still be talking to each other by the end of the day, then that’s the option to take. Help is available at Parentline Victoria on 13 22 89, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 or Lifeline 13 11 14. You can also speak to your GP about a referral to see a psychologist for ongoing support.

Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD). She consults monthly in Beechworth in North-East Victoria. Amanda frequently presents at both academic and parenting events, most recently at the 7th Learning Differences Convention in Melbourne and Sydney in 2019 as well as many other events hosted by PR companies in Melbourne. Amanda is media trained, appearing on Channel 7 and 9 News and regularly features in print media. As a contributor to Finch Publishing’s “Working Mums” book, Amanda shared her insights about juggling a business and parenting.