Author

Wendy Muller and Ngala Education Team

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It’s important to teach children from an early age how to manage their emotions and bounce back from any positive or negative moments that they’re faced with. While we may want our little ones to have a carefree upbringing, children at some point, do meet challenges and adversity. Being able to cope with those situations in a healthy way will benefit your children for a lifetime.

Being able to positive self-talk, openly express your emotions, use age-appropriate calming strategies, and generally coping with whatever life throws at us, are all part of a jigsaw puzzle called ‘resilience’. Resilience can change and depend on what is happening at a particular point in time – if you have multiple negative stressors at a vulnerable stage in your life, you can be less resilient.

 

So why is resilience an important skill to develop? Well, it has been found that people who are resilient, or who have good coping skills are healthier, live longer, have happier relationships, are more successful at school and work, and are less likely to feel depressed. The good news is that our capacity to be resilient develops as we age and experience life’s ups and downs. Therefore, by preventing children from experiencing any challenges and disappointments, we are actually preventing them from developing resilience.

People who are resilient, or who have good coping skills are healthier, live longer, have happier relationships, [and] are more successful at school and work

Helping children develop resilience involves the following:

Safe and caring relationships within the family

  • Children do best when they feel loved, understood and are protected from harm. Positive daily interactions with the important people in their lives helps them have confidence to explore their environment, form other caring relationships and ask for help when they need it.

 

Being a positive role model

  • Young children in particular, copy what adults say and do. When parents and other significant adults handle stressful and challenging situations with resilience, this also teaches children resilience. Being a positive role model also includes taking care of your physical and mental health, reaching out to social networks and community resources, and being mindful and present in the moment.

 

When parents and other important adults handle stressful and challenging situations with resilience, this teaches children resilience.

Good sleep, good nutrition and opportunities for lots of movement and play

  • Children thrive when they know what to expect so family rhythms around sleeping and eating can help. Not getting enough sleep and poor nutrition negatively impact children’s ability to learn and regulate their emotions. Play and movement is how children learn about themselves and about how the world around them works. Outside, nature play in particular, is highly beneficial for children.

Play and movement is how children learn about themselves and about how the world around them works.

Labelling your own emotions as well as your child’s

  • This helps children use words rather than their bodies when they are feeling frustrated or challenged; and also helps them develop empathy over time for other people’s feelings.

 

Developing a growth mindset

  • Children who are resilient believe that they, and not their circumstances, affect their achievements. Adults can help develop a growth mindset by commenting on the process, rather than the end result, encouraging children to problem solve by asking “what if” questions and conveying to children that mistakes (and failure) are part and parcel of learning.

 

Providing opportunities for your child to practice waiting and restraint

  • This can be done in an enjoyable and fun way – play games that require turn taking, or sing rhymes and counting songs about waiting, and put in place rituals that require them to wait, eg. only giving them pocket money once a week, or make them wait until the holidays before visiting a fun park.

 

Opportunities for learning and practicing life skills

  • This involves providing opportunities for children to have responsibility for small tasks that allows them to contribute to family life; providing time and opportunity to practice self-care (getting dressed, going to the toilet unaided, feeding themselves). All learning takes time and requires a lot of patience and energy from involved adults. Development of self-care skills increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Time spent on supporting this aspect of development impacts on their dispositions, attitudes and motivation in many areas.

 

 

Supporting children during stressful times

  • Adults do this by facilitating problem solving steps to work through a situation positively, teaching strategies to calm down and relax (relaxation breathing) and chatting about what happened afterwards – which helps to reinforce learning and remind children that things turned out alright in the end even though it was a stressful event

 

Developing a positive outlook

  • A positive outlook builds hope and can change a challenging situation into a more manageable one. Help children develop a positive outlook by being a positive role model, encouraging the use of humour to lighten a situation, thus teaching them that challenges are an opportunity to learn and grow. Spending time in nature and finding meaning in things that happen is a wonderful opportunity to help children develop.

 

Building resilience starts in infancy and continues throughout our lives

Parents have the biggest role to play in helping their children develop resilience. However, parents are not alone, other adults in their child’s life such as teachers and other relatives, plus community support systems and resources also play a significant role.

 

For more information visit:  WiringKids on 0447 648 044 (Julie) or 0402 668 752 (Wendy) or visit www.wiringkids.com.au

An increase in natural disasters and a growing media coverage of catastrophic world events can be very confronting for children, making it necessary for parents to help them cope with any related fears that might arise as a consequence.

Natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods and severe storms, can have a strong impact on families, especially children. Indirect exposure to these events through media coverage or through them overhearing conversations, might have more of an effect on children than we realise.

The good news is, most children who are impacted by such natural disasters ­– whether directly or indirectly – are able to recover with the support of important adults in their life.

Children are active participants in their world. Even though they might not fully understand the meaning of what they see and hear, they are finely tuned to the emotions and feelings of the important people in their lives.

Very young children do not have the words to talk about their feelings or what they have seen, so they may act them out. As a result, you may see changes in their behaviour, sleep and eating patterns. However, not all these changes are due to exposure to natural events – some of them may be a result of normal development and life events.

Some of the changes you might observe in your child include:

Behaviour

  • Returning to earlier behaviour eg. they may suck their thumbs again or wet their beds.
  • More fearful of strangers, darkness or monsters.
  • More clingy with the important adults in their lives and may become very anxious about being separated from you.
  • Becoming upset easily and more difficult to comfort.
  • They may express their trauma repeatedly through play or drawings.
  • They might become withdrawn or act out with disruptive or aggressive behaviour eg. might bite or hit more.
  • They may become hyperactive.
  • They may react negatively to changes in routines and environments.
  • May complain of unexplained aches and pains.

 

Sleep

  • Sleep patterns may change; eg. they may seem very restless in their sleep or have difficulty falling and staying asleep.

 

Nutrition

  • Eating patterns may change: eg. they may refuse to eat certain foods and want to drink from a bottle again.

If the changes in behaviour continue for longer than a few weeks, or suddenly appear much later, you may need to seek professional help from your local GP, child health nurse, parent helpline, child psychologist or counsellor.

What can you as parents, or significant adults, do? Whatever you say or do, be guided by your knowledge of your child’s temperament and age.

  • Look after your own physical and mental health. Seek the support of families, friends and professionals if required.
  • Discuss and agree with your partner on the best way to support your child
  • It is alright for your child to see that you are sad or teary. However try not to show intense emotions such as uncontrollable sobbing or screaming, as this is scary for children. It is also a good idea for you to label or name your own feelings, such as being sad.
  • Pay close attention to your child’s feelings. Let him know you understand by naming his/her feelings: “I know you are ‘scared,’ ‘sad,’ or ‘angry.’” Ignoring feelings does not make them go away.
  • Communicate in a calm and clear manner as children absorb your emotions along with your words.
  • Give your child lots of cuddles, verbal support and your full attention. They need that extra loving devotion to help them feel safe and secure when things are so uncertain.
  • Reassure your child that you will and can look after them and that you love them.
  • Use language that your child understands and give basic facts as appropriate to their age and temperament.
  • If your child wants to talk repeatedly about the disaster, listen calmly.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to express their feelings through play or drawings, and possible re-enactment using dress-up clothes – this is how your child tries to make sense of what has happened.
  • Maintain, where possible, predictable and consistent routines. Tell your child about what is happening next and details of what to expect. Routines make children feel safe. It can be very comforting for them to sing the same goodnight songs or play the same games.
  • Spend time together doing activities they enjoy. Laughter is a great stress reliever!
  • You may need to spend extra time with them prior to bedtime.
  • Some children might prefer to share a bedroom until they can return to their own without fear.
  • Answer your child’s questions according to their level of understanding: “Yes, a bad thing happened but we are keeping you safe.”
  • Protect your child from seeing and hearing troubling media coverage. Turn off the TV, iPad and radios.
  • Don’t talk about scary events around your child. Young children understand more than we can know.

 

If you feel you need additional support and information, contact the Ngala Helpline on 08 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country callers, or email helpline@ngala.com.au. Other sources of information include your GP, child health nurse, child and adolescent health service in your health area, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

There are a few other important things you and your partner need to think about before baby is born.

So you and your partner are having a baby – congratulations! In the flurry of all the decisions you need to make, ranging from baby’s names through to car seat restraints, there are a few other important things you and your partner need to think about before baby is born that would be helpful to both your baby and your relationship.

The term co-parenting has been around a while and it refers to the extent to which you as parents support each other and work together to share joint responsibility in raising your child. This includes issues such as the sharing of caring for your baby (who is getting up at 5 am?), the extent to which each of you will be engaged in the day-to-day organisation of your baby (organising the babysitter) and the division of household chores (who is cooking dinner and when?). When parents are able to co-parent in an adaptable and flexible way, children blossom.

Since both of you are unique, you will each have your own style of relating to your baby, and that is ok. However it’s the differences around parenting decisions that may cause problems. Everybody brings attitudes, values and behaviours into relationships from previous experiences and your family of origin (the environment in which you were raised).

Some of these influences are conscious, but many are unconscious. Below are some questions and issues to discuss with each other to encourage the sharing of attitudes and behaviours, possibly changing and replacing them with attitudes and behaviours that work for your new family.

What are your memories of how you were parented as a child?

Having this discussion will help you both develop an understanding of each other’s perspectives on child rearing, especially if they are very different from your own, and jointly decide beforehand how you are going to raise your child. For example, if your partner was raised by very strict parents and your were not; or you slept in your own room from a young age but your partner slept in the same room as their parents, this may influence how you respond to your baby (e.g. how quickly will we respond to our baby’s cries?); where your baby will sleep (e.g. in their own room or in your room); and how you will guide your baby’s behaviour when they are a toddler (e.g. when your toddler does not want to stay in their bed). Family of origin also influences how we learnt to communicate, express anger, show affection and manage conflict. This also relates to how you are going to create a shared meaning for your new family ­– for example, how you are going to celebrate birthdays.

What are your expectations of how life will be when baby arrives?

Many parents seem to underestimate the sheer hard work a baby can be! Hormonal changes, the physical demands of childbirth and nursing, lack of sleep, an abrupt shift from the working world to being at home with an infant; lack of time to have a meaningful conversation with your partner; and changing roles and priorities – not to mention the fact that new parents often find it hard to fit in intimate time with each other. All this needs to be acknowledged as normal challenges facing many new parents. By discussing realistic expectations with each other, you can jointly identify the support networks you have and who you can ask to help once baby is born; and how active (or not) your social life will be after baby is born.

How are we going to resolve disagreements?

Parents who successfully resolve disagreements have a number of strategies in common.  They are respectful of each other and have a gentle approach; they focus on their own feelings rather than attacking their partner; and if they feel overwhelmed with feelings, they do not continue with the conversation until they have calmed themselves down.

Preparing your relationship for the arrival of your baby.

There are a number of strategies that will help strengthen your relationship prior to and after baby has arrived:

  • Both of you need to invest energy and time to strengthening the friendship aspect of your relationship by building a strong foundation of affection and fondness for your partner. Spend some time each day talking with each other using open-ended questions. Even after your baby has arrived, try and make some time for this each day.
  • Be aware of what is going on in each other’s lives and respond sensitively.
  • Problem-solve together and view problems as something you and your partner have control of.
  • Develop connection rituals such as sit-down dinner time or family fun time. This helps create a shared mutual daily purpose and family identity.
  • Communication is key. Make a commitment to share information about your baby – whether it is something you have read, or been told, or something you have observed once baby has arrived.

 

Nurturing and predictable relationships help babies get wired for learning and communication.

“In the uterus a baby will grow about 8000 new brain cells every second”

Our brains are so complex that they take over 20 years to fully mature. Although the brain continues to adapt and change throughout life, this ability decreases with age. It is most malleable early in life and less flexible as we age. Nurturing and predictable relationships help build babies brains.

A baby’s brain begins developing long before birth. By around three weeks after conception a baby’s brain begins to form, and whilst in the uterus a baby will grow about 8000 new brain cells every second.

Far from being a passive passenger while in the uterus, babies are busy learning about themselves and the world around them through their senses. The senses continue to develop after birth and the senses all work together to help develop an understanding of who we are, where we are and what is happening around us.

  • At about 8 weeks into the pregnancy a baby can feel their lips and cheeks and by around 14 weeks they can feel the rest of their body. A baby is developing his sense of touch moving his limbs and body against the uterine wall, putting hands against his own face and mouth, and bumping into the umbilical cord. Babies rely on their mouth to sense things and in utero they suck their thumbs and swallow amniotic fluid. This is priming their brains to seek learning experiences through touch with their mouths and reaching and grasping with their hands after birth and into childhood
  • Senses of taste and smell develop next at around 12 weeks. Taste receptors can even pick up the mother’s dietary habits in the amniotic fluid.
  • The vestibular sense, (i.e. balance) which provides a baby with information about the movement and position of its body within the uterus, develops at around 14 weeks. Through the vestibular sense babies can tell when their mother is walking, standing or lying down.
  • Around the same time proprioception develops which helps a baby become aware of their body – his brain receives feedback from his joints, muscles and tendons which help him to understand where his body parts are in relation to each other and also informs his brain when and how his muscles are contracting or stretching, and when joints are bending, extending or being compressed. As your baby begins to move his limbs, each movement of the spinal cord causes his muscles to relax and contract. These movements are essential for the future activities of eating, drinking and breathing.
  • Hearing begins to develop in the second trimester. Between 21 – 25 weeks a baby can hear and can startle at sudden noises. It is amazing to realise that a baby in the womb has already a clear picture of his parents and siblings speech and voice patterns which will bring a feeling of familiarity and comfort when he is born. Newborns will often turn their heads when they hear Mums or Dad’s voices.
  • The last sense to develop is the sense of vision which develops in the third trimester at around 26 weeks. A baby sees shadows and its own limbs. These experiences prepare a baby to visually explore its parents’ faces and to begin eye to eye contact which is so important for the parent-child relationship, also known as attachment and social skills.

At about 8 into the week’s pregnancy a baby can feel their lips and cheeks and by around 14 weeks they can feel the rest of their body.

Babies communicate to their parents through verbal and non verbal ways when they need attention. For example, they may frown, move their arms and legs in a jerky fashion, fuss and cry. Babies actively seek protection, nurturing and understanding, which is vital for their survival, growth and wellbeing. Crying is the means by which a baby lets their parent know when they need love, nurturing or support to achieve a certain state (eg. need calming, feeding or changing). Generally speaking, crying begins to increase at approximately 2 weeks after birth and peaks in the second month after birth (4 – 6 weeks) and gradually diminishes by the fourth month after birth. Over time when babies are predictably responded to (i.e. picked up and held affectionately, when they seek to be picked up), they learn to use other ways other than crying to get their parent’s attention such as gestures, facial expressions and noises. Parents can promote their baby’s learning and communication by:

  • Being predictable and nurturing
  • Promptly responding to their baby’s needs.
  • Observing their baby’s non-verbal gestures or signals (eg. a baby’s clenched fist and jerky arm movements may mean that their baby is tired) and responding appropriately. This may take time before parents get this right!
  • Providing their baby with age appropriate opportunities for play and supervised floor time

You can book into an Ngala parenting workshop Building Young Children’s Brains by visiting www.ngala.com.au

Discover why sleep is so important for two to three year olds, and how you can make the bedtime-sleep process easier.

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime.

You might think that your baby’s developmental changes, such as achieving motor milestones like crawling and walking and learning to talk, have little to do with sleep. However, the two go together like bread and butter. Each time your baby reaches a new milestone, it’s a double-edged sword – just when you think you have settled into a sleep pattern or rhythm, your child learns a new skill or behaviour and this may impact on their sleep.

Think about what an amazing process this development is. Between birth and age three, babies learn to roll, crawl, stand, walk, and run. They learn to talk, joke, rhyme, and sing. They may create imaginary playmates (which typically disappear before your child turns 6). The line between reality and fantasy is still blurry. Your child might say that he didn’t scribble on the wall because he wishes he hadn’t – not because he’s deliberately lying.

The following characterise this age group:

  • They have increased negotiation skills at bedtime (eg. one more story)
  • They tend to wake early
  • They can be fearful
  • They internalise what they see/hear on TV for example, as they have difficulty discriminating reality and fantasy
  • Show resistance to going to bed by using delaying tactics
  • They may dream more at night as imagination increases with exposure to fantasy
  • There may be a healthy increased reliance on comforting security blankets, toys or objects as your child develops and more readily associates them with sleep and bedtime
  • They begin to call themselves by name, to use “I” and “mine,” and to assert their new feelings of competence and independence by insisting on “doing it myself”

 

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime, or a rest period during this time. Be guided by your child’s day time behaviour as to whether they need a rest or sleep or not. Keeping a child up later in the evening does not guarantee that they sleep later in the morning – as many sleepy parents can confirm.

Between their second and third birthdays, most children have lots of energy. Try to give your child a chance to run around outside each day. Moving helps your child build strength, increases their coordination and helps them to calm down.

Children are usually ready to go to bed between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. However, if they have slept later than 4 pm they may find it difficult to go to sleep at the usual time. In this case their evening behaviour will let you know when they are ready for bed.

Some time from 24 months of age onwards, unless your child has shown earlier signs of climbing out of their cot, your child will be ready to move to a bed and this will bring with it new challenges! This is the age that children like to climb in and out of bed or on and off the mattress on the floor. Involving your child in the move to a new bed is an important step but will not always guarantee an easy transition.

 

For many children the move is more likely to be smoother when they have:

Expect a child in this age range to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight and during the day they may need a sleep of 1 to 2.5 hours around lunchtime, or a rest period during this time. Be guided by your child’s day time behaviour as to whether they need a rest or sleep or not. Keeping a child up later in the evening does not guarantee that they sleep later in the morning – as many sleepy parents can confirm.

Between their second and third birthdays, most children have lots of energy. Try to give your child a chance to run around outside each day. Moving helps your child build strength, increases their coordination and helps them to calm down.

Children are usually ready to go to bed between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. However, if they have slept later than 4 pm they may find it difficult to go to sleep at the usual time. In this case their evening behaviour will let you know when they are ready for bed.

Some time from 24 months of age onwards, unless your child has shown earlier signs of climbing out of their cot, your child will be ready to move to a bed and this will bring with it new challenges! This is the age that children like to climb in and out of bed or on and off the mattress on the floor. Involving your child in the move to a new bed is an important step but will not always guarantee an easy transition.

 

For many children the move is more likely to be smoother when they have:

 

  • Enough language to discuss their concerns
  • Involvement in the decision making – including a timeframe for the move
  • Read books about going to bed
  • When you have checked your child’s room after dark for possible scary shadows and have removed the object causing the shadow
  • Been supported if they change their mind. Telling a child to “be a big boy/girl” or to “stop being a baby” will NOT help. They need to feel secure in the transition from a familiar cot or family bed to a completely new sleeping arrangement; and reassurance as to where exactly you will be if they need you. Communication is the key.

Additional strategies and safe sleep messages include:

  • Planning for the fact that your child will now be able to get out of the bed and move around the room and perhaps out the door. Therefore do a safety check. Watch out for and secure curtain and blind cords, electrical dangers and furniture that could topple over if climbed on.
  • Making a plan regarding the bedroom door. Consider using a safety gate if worried about your child roaming. The introduction of a bed can have unexpected consequences and some children who have previously slept with the door closed, may now want it left open.
  • Encouraging your child to climb into the bed if able. Teach them to pull up covers and allow them an opportunity to arrange blankets, pillows and favourite comfort toys.
    Comfort aides can make settling less difficult and should be chosen by your child.
  • Secure curtain and blind chords and never use electric blankets or hot water bottles.

For more information visit www.ngala.com.au to view or download their new Conversations About Sleep (0 – 3 years) video, for free. This video offers practical tips for overcoming common sleep challenges.

Spring has arrived, and for Ngala helpline staff, this also means many calls for information on toileting from parents of preschoolers. Here are some tips to help get your child toilet trained.

Toileting is something that varies from one child to another. All children are unique and as such develop awareness and readiness for bowel and bladder control at their own pace. This is not a race, just part of your child’s learning journey. Children learn to roll, sit, crawl and then walk in order but the last motor skill to learn is toileting. A plan…

By 3 years of age, 60% of children are toileted and by 4 years of age, 98% are considered competent.

What do you need?

Can your child reach the door handle of the toilet? If not, leave the door open.

Does your child need a step or two? Children need to have their feet resting on the floor or a step.

Consider whistling or blowing bubbles while your child is on the toilet as this will assist in pushing (yes, it involves the same muscles).

When out and about, make sure you know where the nearest toilet is located.

Offer plenty of water, fruit and vegetables and exercise to promote a healthy bowel.

The long term goal is for your child to wee or poo into the toilet. To develop this skill you need to teach them to listen to and respond to their body.

What is your child’s role in successful toileting?

  • To take ownership and responsibility of the toileting process.
  • To communicate the need to go to the toilet and be able to identify what that need is (wee/poo).
  • To discuss their feelings and progress at any time.

 

What is your role as a parent during this time?

  • Praise your child – do not punish or criticise (ensure that praise is directed at the effort not the end result (i.e. the poo or wee) eg. “it was great how you listened to your body”.
  • It is important to use words that can be easily understood like ‘wee’ and ‘poo’ as well as appropriate words to describe your child’s anatomy.
  • Assist your child by giving him/her the language to describe what is happening eg. “Is your body telling you something?”, “Have you got a feeling in your tummy?”, “Do you need to do a wee?” (if you observe them doing the ‘wee dance’).
  • Keep a diary – this gives you an accurate picture of how your child is going with his/her toileting skill as well as give information on any patterns that may cause possible disruptions to their daily routine (eg. illness, travel, changes at home – i.e. a new baby)
  • Stay calm- toileting is a skill that takes time to develop.

 

Contact the Ngala Helpline, your Child Health Nurse, or your GP if you have any concerns or need further information. Remember, each child is unique and some children may need more time and assistance to achieve successful toileting.

 

More info…

Ngala facilitates Successful Toileting workshops regularly. Ngala can also provide parenting workshops for your school or playgroup. For more information go to www.ngala.com.au or call the helpline on 08 9368 9368 or for country callers 1800 111 546, between 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week.