9 ways to encourage your toddler to speak

As children grow older, language becomes a critical means of communication. If a toddler has difficulties communicating using words, they may resort to other behaviours, such as aggression, to express their frustration. It is therefore important that you foster language development in your child by encouraging it as much as possible, and by seeking support from a Speech Pathologist if your concerns persist. Some general strategies to keep in mind include:

  • Monitoring the presence of ear infections, as these can have a significant impact on language development. It is also strongly recommended to get your child’s hearing tested to eliminate this as a factor contributing to their difficulties.
  • When your child makes attempts to use language, always respond. If their pronunciation is incorrect, repeat what they said with correct pronunciation (e.g. “I see’d the shark”, “yes you saw a shark”). Avoid seeming overly critical of your child’s speech, as this will discourage their efforts.
  • Frequently using new words in front of your child and asking them questions.
  • When needed, helping ‘translate’ for your child during their interactions with others.
  • Encouraging your child to talk about things in the past and in the future.
  • Encouraging the use of non-verbal communication strategies, such as gestures and eye contact.
  • Pretending to be ‘forgetful’ (e.g. put their shoes on without their socks to prompt them to ‘remind’ you).
  • Creating opportunities for communication, such as putting a desired object just out of reach or by giving them some pieces of a puzzle (to encourage them to make requests).
  • Continuing to repeat and build on what your child says, to read to them, to engage in songs and social games and to minimise screen time.

As always, if you have any concerns or would like more specific advice, get in touch with us!

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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How do I know if my child is anxious?

We have all experienced nervousness, worrying and fear. Anxiety is part of our human experience and plays an important evolutionary role in making us aware of risks and keeping us safe. Anxiety becomes problematic when it is out of proportion to the situation and has an impact on daily life. Children are not immune to anxiety; however, they often lack the awareness or vocabulary to express what is going on for them. Instead, they may communicate this through certain behaviours, which may include:

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Difficulty falling asleep or frequent waking during the night
  • Reduced appetite
  • Seeming more irritable than usual, fidgety or ‘on edge’
  • Complaining of stomach aches, diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath or a racing heart
  • Crying often
  • Being extra ‘clingy’ and not wanting to separate from parents
  • Reporting being ‘worried’ or having ‘bad thoughts’
  • Avoiding certain situations or asking others to do things for them
  • Seeking excessive amounts of reassurance from parents
  • Not being willing to try new things

Certain factors can make children more vulnerable to anxiety. This can include their temperament, a family history of anxiety and the presence of a developmental difference, such as ASD or ADHD. Certain situations, such as parental separation, bereavement, moving schools, bullying or illness can also predispose children to anxiety.

The good news is that anxiety is manageable, and there are many strategies that parents and children can use to reduce the effect that anxiety is having on their life. This is a great time to explore meeting with a psychologist (someone who is experienced in working with children your child’s age) to learn some effective, evidence-based strategies for managing anxiety in kids.

Olivia Smith is a registered psychologist and is completing her registrar program in Educational and Developmental Psychology. Olivia is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. Outside of her work at NCCD, Olivia works as a clinician in the area of early identification of autism in children (aged 12 to 36 months) at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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How do I talk to my child about their “private parts”?

Parents are often uncomfortable talking to their children about the ‘private’ parts of their body and may refer to them with different euphemisms. We have all heard endless varieties of these terms- ‘doodle’, ‘wee-wee’, ‘hoo-ha’, ‘fanny’… you don’t need me to continue! The problem with this roundabout way of talking to children about their private parts is that we are implicitly teaching them that these parts of the body are rude, shameful and something that should not be talked about. Unfortunately, when we do this, it means our kids are less likely to talk about any issues they may have with these areas (including the nightmarish situation that someone has done an indecent act to them or abused them). More broadly, it teaches your child that they can’t talk to their parents about some things, and hinders open communication, the effects of which can continue into adolescence.

So, what do we do? The first important thing is to call body parts by their proper, anatomical names. That’s right- penis, testicles, vulva, vagina, anus. By doing so we are teaching children that these are body parts- just like our tongue or our knee. We can then explain that these are parts of our body that are usually covered, and that only certain people (such as parents or a doctor) can see or touch these. By being willing to talk about things that make you uncomfortable, you are teaching your kids that they can talk about ANYTHING with you. Bath time or getting dressed can be natural opportunities to talk about these things, as can appearing at ease with your own body. Take cues from your kids regarding when to have these conversations- as they get older, this may include discussing names that other children may call these body parts (to reduce confusion). The more open and honest we are with our kids, the more likely they are to reciprocate and feel confident and knowledgeable about their own bodies.

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. Olivia is also a trained and registered SOS Feeding Therapist.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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Try these two ways to encourage eye contact in your toddler…

Although making eye contact when interacting with others comes naturally for most toddlers, some children need a bit more support in this area. Some children find eye contact uncomfortable, so it is important to work on this gradually and make doing so rewarding and fun. 2 tips to encourage eye contact include:

  • Holding a preferred item of your child’s in front of your nose and giving it to them when they request it by meeting your gaze. Ensure that you lower yourself to your child’s eye level (so that it is easier for them to look at you).
  • Regularly playing interactive social games like ‘Peekaboo’, which encourage close face-to-face interaction.

If you have tried these strategies and are still concerned about your child’s eye contact and social communication skills, please do not hesitate to seek professional support.

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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Try these 7 ways to encourage your baby to talk!

Sometimes parents are concerned that their baby is not exhibiting the language development they expect at a certain age. The following are some general tips to encourage your child to develop their language skills further, however if you have concerns we would always encourage you to share these with your Maternal Child Health Nurse, General Practitioner or a Speech Pathologist.

  • Chat to your baby throughout the day about what you are doing, including labelling different objects in the environment.
  • Engage in social songs and games, such as ‘Round and Round the Garden” and “Peekaboo”.
  • Read to your child regularly.
  • Notice and build on your child’s interests, i.e. if they point to something in the distance, talk about this (e.g. “Wow that is a red bird! Look how high it can fly in the sky!”).
  • Minimise ‘screen time’ in the form of television and devices (it is recommended that children under the age of 2 years not be exposed to screen time at all).
  • Imitate your child’s babbling.
  • Use regular words during interactions with your child (rather than simplifying your language to ‘baby talk’).

 

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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Surviving Homeschooling…

Amanda Abel, paediatric psychologist

So, Day 1 of ‘homeschool’ or ‘remote learning’ is happening right now. I can’t lie, it has been a challenge so far at my house. And we are only a few hours in…For many parents, the anxiety surrounding not actually knowing what we are doing in advance, not knowing the expectations, and having to manage an academic curriculum along with our other responsibilities (i.e. work; other children etc.) is not making this process easy. But no one said it would be easy, did they? I know how important it is that we all stay home to stay safe, so I’m determined to make this home schooling business work for both my daughter and me!

I read a helpful article in the paper about it and have a few take home messages along with my recommendations which I hope will help those of you sharing this crazy journey with me…

Firstly, they (the educative powers that be?!) have said that the school day isn’t something that can be replicated at home, and parents shouldn’t try to replicate it. My take on this – lets not set ourselves up for failure. Flexibility is going to be required – if we want to start earlier, cram it in to a specific time frame, take more frequent breaks, reward our child for persistence with breaks etc. then that’s what we will do!

Secondly, it was noted that the official schoolwork day (at home) will involve far fewer hours (than at school). My take on this: What we DON’T need to do is start at 9 and finish at 3.20 and fill those hours with torture for the mere sake of it! What we need to remember is that things take A LOT longer in a classroom. Teachers have 20-odd students and their individual needs to be addressing, which means there are a lot of periods of ‘downtime’ and waiting and breaks. Have you ever been parent helper? I have, and I can vouch for this! So – what might take a few hours at school, could potentially be smashed out at home in 30 minutes in an interruption free environment…

boy doing homework

Another point was the importance of not ‘stopping’ learning altogether so that students don’t fall behind in foundation areas – things like maths and reading. This makes sense and it also lends itself to us ensuring our kids try to keep up with these important areas in our own way. Being gentle with ourselves and our kids is going to be essential.

To quote the article: “It’s not about parents becoming teachers. We’re asking them to help with setting up a space – for younger children that should be somewhere near an adult because of cybersecurity – and we’re asking them to ask about the work that children are doing. Say, ‘What have you done there? Explain that to me. What did other people do? What did your teacher say?’ – the kind of stuff you would say after school. My take on this – not sure if this is how it is actually going to play out for many of us, but it’s good to know the expectation.

Fundamentally, I believe we need to keep the home schooling experience in perspective. As the article said, If some gaps in learning do occur, teachers and schools will identify them and make up for it and, “in the grand scheme of 13 years’ education, it is not going to be the end of the world”.

My personal biggest concern is the impact this is going to have on YOUR mental health as a parent – and that of your kids as well. My tips around this are:

  • Preserve your sanity – don’t set yourself up for failure, just stay afloat and if you don’t get through all the learning tasks, that’s fine and probably expected.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself AND your child
  • Be flexible – yes I know I’m always banging on about being consistent, but now I want you to bend that a bit. What works today may not work tomorrow with your kids, and that’s okay. It’s normal. But keep trying different things and don’t beat yourself up or feel like you’ve failed if things aren’t going according to plan.
  • Let balls drop – now is the time to practice being okay with things being less than perfect…in all domains of your life.
  • Put some structure in place – for your sanity and that of your kids. Structure your ‘school day’ as broadly as you need to – this is the one thing to try to stick to so make it doable. It might be breakfast – play – learning time – break – learning time – break – learning time – finish. You can then be as flexible as you like with what slots in to each of those breaks and learning times.
  • Expect behaviours – we are doing things differently. Our kids sniff this stuff out like there’s no tomorrow and they will try to push the boundaries. And we will probably cave because, lets face it, we are juggling about 10 balls in the air at the moment and sometimes saying yes to playing Minecraft when you’re supposed to be naming percussion instruments (which mind you, your mum who studied music at a tertiary level -yes that’s me, can’t even name!) is just going to have to happen sometimes.

Lets just try to get through this, remembering that it will pass. There might be some positives for some, but I know for many of the families I work with this period of homeschooling is going to be incredibly hard. Please reach out for help guys.

Wishing you all luck and please let me know how you go!

 

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Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD) – multidisciplinary paediatric practices in Melbourne. Working directly and indirectly with hundreds of clients each year, Amanda’s mission is for every child to achieve their best outcomes by equipping families and educators with the tools they need to help kids thrive.

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.

Amanda draws on her own experiences of being a parent along with her extensive training and well-honed skill set to get families thriving. Having worked with families for almost two decades, as a psychologist for the past 11 years in a variety of settings, and a valued board member of the Autism Behavioural Intervention Association, Amanda loves building the confidence of the adults in the lives of children so that they can connect meaningfully, help them reach their full potential, and live a life that reflects their values.

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.

 

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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Staying sane (or close enough to it!) during home isolation.

By Madeline Sibbing (Psychologist)

A few short weeks ago, my family took off for a holiday to New Zealand, something we’d been looking forward to for ages.  Little did we know that, in the ten days that we were away, the world would completely change under our feet!

Thus, we returned home (with a few cheeky toilet rolls stashed in our luggage)  to two weeks’ mandatory home isolation imposed by the government for all Australians re-entering the country – followed pretty much immediately by stage 3 restrictions.  For those who are feeling a little lost and overwhelmed at the prospect of weeks or months of isolation, here are my tips. As the government has just announced that Term 2 is likely to be taught remotely for most children in Australia, some of these tips might be handy if you’ll be trying to work from home AND home-school your kids…

child with computer

Madeline’s sanity-saving strategies for home isolation with kids:

  1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. It’s just simple maths. Having kids to entertain plus paid work to complete plus school work to get through plus social connections to maintain plus bills to pay plus jobs to try and keep in the current economic situation plus worry and uncertainty………EQUALS STRESS!!!!!! We can’t do everything. Trust me, I tried and it doesn’t work.  As I discussed with a lovely client of mine today, what will our children remember in the future from this unique time in their lives? The times tables that they learned? The adjectives they used appropriately in sentences? OR, the connection and closeness they felt with their families? The bedroom fort they made and played in with their siblings each day? The ritual of sitting together for dinner each night with no rush and nowhere to be, whilst Dad tells bad jokes?
  2. Try and stick to regular sleep-wake times and meal times. I mean regular and NOT regimented. Keeping our body clocks and ‘tummy clocks’ ticking along nicely means our bodies are well regulated, thus reducing the chances of emotional outbursts due to tiredness and hunger. Further, when it’s time to return to our normal working/school lives, our bodies are already in an appropriate routine.
  3. For parents who are working from home: “Do not disturb” signs for the study door work a treat. Get your kids involved in helping to create a sign so they know when parents are in meetings and cannot be disturbed. Make sure you get up and take the sign down when meetings are finished (even if you are still in there working) and put them back up when you really can’t be disturbed. This allows the child to exercise patience and wait for your attention until you are available (not a bad thing to learn) AND it gets you up and your legs moving briefly in between online meetings.
  4. On that note, a little list of activities to get through each day can be helpful for kids whose parents are unavailable due to work for many hours of the day. Once again, I do not mean you should make a daily schedule mapping out each hour of the day! Just sit together as a family and make some agreements about what needs to be completed each day and who is response. Eg. we all get dressed and tidy our rooms. Each day we do a bit of exercise, some reading and our nightly dance party before dinner. (Of course the day can involve a lot more than that, but these are the basic things we want to try and get through each day).
  5. Self-care is key. No doubt you will have been flooded with suggestions of free exercise programs, meditations and yoga poses you can do at home. Find what works for you. For me, after a long day of telehealth sessions my muscles really need to move, so doing my dance classes online has been a saving grace! Sure, my kids think it’s hilarious when I jump around doing hip-hop in the backyard but frankly, who cares? I’m modelling self-care and showing them the importance of taking time for myself to nurture my body and mind in a way that works for me.
  6. Reflect on how you want your life to be. I love the quote currently doing the rounds on social media that states “In the rush to return, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to”.  Personally, this time of isolation seems to have given me something I’ve needed for a long time: slow paced days and connection with my family.  It seems crazy to me now that I’ve been desperately trying to find ways to achieve these things for years now and it took a worldwide health crisis for me to finally do it! I definitely think this will help me to re-prioritise my responsibilities going forward, and hopefully bring a bit more balance into my world.

 

I hope this helps and gives you all a bit of permission to slow down, connect with each other more and get through this crazy time buffered by the laughter and love of your families.

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Madeline Sibbing is a Paediatric Psychologist with a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her fifteen 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.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

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stock image credits: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash;

Entertaining the kids at home during COVID-19

Amanda Abel – paediatric psychologist.

To be honest, the thought of potentially self-isolating or worse, being in quarantine, for days or weeks on end, is literally creating a physiological sensation of anxiety that I have not felt since the early post-partum days. One of the things I’ve worried about is that my daughter (a very active 7 year old girl going on 17!), also an only child, could find being home-bound a little tough which in turn would make things tough for me.  I’m also trying to run two paediatric psychology practices (not without its own concerns during this COVID-19 period) and potentially educate said child if the school closes down! Although I’m okay with my child having some TV and a very small amount of iPad, I don’t want to fall into a habit of using these for days or weeks on end to keep her entertained. Many kids will struggle to self regulate if they’ve had too much screen time and it’s just not healthy for them anyway.

But like most things, if we’re feeling anxious a good way to move through it is to regain a sense of control.

There are in fact heaps of ways to keep your kids busy while you’re stuck in isolation or quarantine. But my recommendation is to sit down and think about it first and try to have a plan or a list like what I’ve created below.

The best way to extend many of these activities is to get your child to plan it out first. This is a good way to develop your child’s executive function skills and it helps them slow down and think about what they want to achieve. They can write or draw the plan first and then start executing it if you think that would be helpful for them.

These activities could be used simply to keep kids busy, or if you are in the unfamiliar home-schooling territory now, these activities would be great for breaks or motivators – a reward for getting some of their work done. If you need ideas re educating your child at home during school closures thanks to COVID-19 see my post here.

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So this is what I’ve come up with for some creative screen-free ways to keep the kids busy:

  • Create a treasure hunt
  • Camp in the backyard – even if just during the day
  • Make an art gallery down the hallway where the children need to create the artwork, then hang it up with blu tack
  • Set up a ‘car wash’ – they could clean your car, their bikes etc.
  • Have a movie day with popcorn and Netflix. Darken the room and make popcorn boxes out of paper or cardboard. The kids could even make tickets and set up a sales booth!
  • Keep the recycling and build cities with the boxes in the backyard (or inside)
  • Paint the fence with water and a paintbrush or roller
  • Take the chalk outside and decorate
  • Make a drum kit out of containers or pots
  • Make a tent under the dining table with a sheet
  • Make a cartoon flip book
  • Make a boredom box – put lots of ideas for things to combat boredom written down on paper in the box and they do a lucky dip when they say they’re bored.
  • Listen to kids podcasts
  • Play eye spy
  • Set up a tub with water and bubbles/soap and encourage some water play – not just for the younger kids! The older kids might be interested too, especially if you put lego or something similarly motivating in the water.
  • Cut a pretend TV screen out of an old cardboard box and set it up so your child can pretend to be a newsreader or TV character
  • Make playdoh
  • Give them a simple recipe to follow
  • Set up a restaurant and get the kids to prepare simple meals (sandwiches; dips and crackers etc.) for you. They can design the menu and signage as well.
  • Have your child research a topic like a different culture or country. Get them to draw the flag and write 3 facts about each country.
  • Set up a hair salon
  • Get the dress ups out and set up a fashion boutique
  • Reframe little household jobs into games i.e. get them to clean your makeup brushes!
  • Design a theme park
  • Make a zoo in the garden (or inside) with the soft toys, also make up tickets and a map.

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My daughter got wind of what I was typing and she has decided to add some of her own ideas below…

  • Play with your toys
  • Read a book
  • Play with a ball in the backyard, or if you live in an apartment use your apartment backyard or the nearest park
  • Make a toy school with the soft toys
  • Pretend you’re a superhero – tie a towel around you to make a cape
  • Make dress ups for soft toys out of old clothes

 

So, good luck to all the parents hoping to stay sane over the next few days, weeks or months. Stay healthy! Follow me on instagram if you want more frequent tips!

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Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD) – multidisciplinary paediatric practices in Melbourne. Working directly and indirectly with hundreds of clients each year, Amanda’s mission is for every child to achieve their best outcomes by equipping families and educators with the tools they need to help kids thrive.

Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!

good night toolbox title slide

Home-schooling during COVID-19

Amanda Abel – paediatric psychologist

Most parents I speak to at the moment are feeling pretty terrified not only about COVID-19 but also about potentially having to home-school their children with looming school closures on the horizon.

While I haven’t personally home-schooled my child before, I definitely have some ideas that I know would assist with the potential challenges associated with educating your kids at home.

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Tips to make the ‘school’ days easier with your child home during COVID-19

  • Use a visual schedule to structure the day – simply write a list of what’s going to happen and roughly when (you don’t need to include times if that’s going to hard to stick to)
  • Factor in movement breaks so they can burn off energy – movement helps many kids focus so having breaks every hour or so will be required.
  • Get creative – practice skills in different ways i.e. writing in the dirt outside, using sticks and leaves for maths, cooking to practice maths skills, getting your child to write a review of their lunch to practice their writing etc.
  • Use a “first this then that” system to keep motivation high i.e. “first we’ll do writing, then we can have a picnic outside”. You can even write this down to show the kids that there’s something fun on the horizon once they’ve finished their work.
  • Use token systems to keep your kids on track and show progress through the day. You might give points for positive behaviour and once they earn 10 points they get a break for example.
  • Use time timers to show how long various tasks will take – these are great (there are apps on the phone as well so you don’t need to go out and purchase anything) because they help show kids that time is passing which is super helpful if they’re doing something boring and you don’t have the authority of their classroom teacher to keep them on track!
  • Set up an area of the house for school work – keep it distraction free, tidy and organised. Many families won’t have enough space so consider rearranging furniture for this period of time or utilising spaces like the dining table. You can keep all the school work and materials in tubs which can be packed up at the end of the day so that the dining table can be used for its intended purpose again!
  • Set blanket rules like ‘no tv until after 3pm’ and stick to them from the start so that you don’t end up having battles around screen time every day. This is likely to be the biggest battle for many parents because kids are accustomed to having screens at home – and with their school and home worlds colliding it will be hard for them to understand why there are now different rules. Setting a clear expectation and being consistent with it is the kindest way to make things predictable for your kids, as well as easier for yourself in the long run.
  • Limit screen time to avoid issues with sleep amongst other things and if your kiddo struggles with sleep try these ideas.
  • Stick to a routine and keep it predictable – this links in with using a visual schedule but even if you don’t use one, keeping things predictable means your kids are less likely to feel anxious and consequently play up.
  • Set up house rules to make everything clearer!
  • Get the kids as active as you can – make sure they are getting enough exercise and activity even if it’s running up and down the hallway if you can’t go outside.
  • You might also find this post helpful which I wrote about making school holidays easier as it has tips about how to manage at home during an unstructured time.
  • Keep your mindset positive – remember it’s not forever, and we are all doing our bit to minimise the impact of this virus.

 

Good luck parents! As always, get in touch if you need more support during this time – our team of psychologists are available via phone and video call if you’re unable to get in!

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Follow Amanda on instagram for more tips each day

Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD) – multidisciplinary paediatric practices in Melbourne. Working directly and indirectly with hundreds of clients each year, Amanda’s mission is for every child to achieve their best outcomes by equipping families and educators with the tools they need to help kids thrive.

Talking to your kids about coronavirus

Written by Amanda Abel – paediatric psychologist and founder of Northern & Hawthorn Centres for Child Development

Well it’s pretty hard NOT to take notice of the toilet paper that’s flying off the supermarket shelves along with hand sanitiser and flour right now. What are your kids saying about it? I wonder what their thoughts are? What have you said to them? Have they asked any questions?

If your kiddos have seen the news, which lets face it, has had pretty graphic imagery of drastic measures being taken to control what is now an epidemic, they might be feeling a little nervous about catching coronavirus. Add to the equation, parents and caregivers encouraging the hand sanitiser a little more than usual, and we are left with some kiddos who are probably pretty confused and anxious.

Here are my tips and thoughts to manage parenting through the coronavirus epidemic without causing undue stress for your kids:

Limit exposure to the media – This is the same as for any disaster, don’t let your kids see the tv or newspapers if you can. Particularly primary school children who don’t have the reasoning skills to understand how this is likely to impact their lives. Remember, the child brain is far less developed that your own. If you are struggling to comprehend the coronavirus epidemic, how do you think your kids are feeling? Unless you are able to censor the coverage and sit down and talk your child through it in an age-appropriate way that helps them understand it, don’t expose them to the media coverage.

Don’t talk about it too much – again, at risk of repeating myself with my piece about the recent Australian bushfires, don’t initiate too many conversations about this. Your kids don’t need to hear the adult perspective of coronavirus and how many deaths there are, what the fatality rate is, and how it started. Contain your anxiety, answer your kids’ questions in terms that are appropriate for them to understand, and focus on more relevant and real issues for their daily life (i.e. homework, friendships, what’s for dinner!). Don’t make it taboo to talk about, but also don’t focus on it.

wash hands

Talk about Likely Vs Unlikely – I use this a lot clinically to help children with anxiety. We talk about perceived threats and try to put them into perspective. I.e. “it’s unlikely that you’ll catch coronavirus right now”. OR “you might catch coronavirus, but it’s unlikely that it will be any worse than a case of the flu like you had last year” etc. As parents, we need to remember to put things in perspective too, and be rational so that our kids don’t pick up on our anxiety.

Give them some control – if your child is really worried, show them how they can follow rational medical advice to help ease their anxiety. At the time of writing, the medical advice is suggesting we focus on washing our hands properly as a preventative measure for contracting coronavirus. Encourage your child to put some measures in place like washing their hands when they get home from school and before they eat. Let them know that this is a helpful way to manage their feelings of stress.

 

I hope these ideas help, it can be really hard to navigate disasters and epidemics as parents – so reach out for help if you need it.

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Amanda Abel, psychologist, is the founder of Northern and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development. She has over fourteen years’ experience working with families and has a special interest in paediatrics, autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, learning difficulties, disabilities and behaviour management. She has worked in a variety of settings in both the public and private sectors which has allowed her to gain extensive experience helping a wide range of clients.

While working with children witih Autism during her tertiary studies, Amanda developed a particular interest in early intervention for children with autism, developmental delays, disabilities and challenging behaviours. Amanda’s honours thesis investigated the social skills, friendship expectations and attention of high functioning children with autism, and this was presented in 2004 at the 3rd Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Forum, Melbourne.

After her own experience becoming a mother, Amanda undertook the Circle of Security Parenting® (COS-P) training and is now a registered COS-P parent educator. She has now combined her knowledge of behaviour modification with the attachment principles from the COS-P program to provide families with practical strategies that are sensitive and responsive to their child’s emotional needs.