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Anxiety, anger and trepidation are all common feelings your children might face when going back to school. Here are some tips to help ease them back into the school routines.

Amidst lockdowns, work from home and isolation requirements the last two school years have been nothing but linear. With a new year emerging from the hopeful end of the tumultuous pandemic brings new precautions, routines and expectations for what school might look like. There are some things you can do to prepare for onsite learning and remember you have been ‘back to school’ before.

Talk to your child about what is happening and set goals

Open conversations will be important, as your children will probably have a lot of questions about the new procedures their school has in place, or why some of their friends or teachers are away. It might be difficult to get your children to like school again after the flexibility of at home learning. Set goals with them they can achieve over the school year, such as packing their bag each day, learning to tie their shoes or to get their pen licence.

Schedule normal family time as something to look forward to for after school. Ask them what they are excited for and what they have missed, whether this is school choir or playing in the playground.

children in classroom art

Be ready for a range of emotions

You might need to prepare for school refusal, your child being extremely upset about going back to school and not wanting to attend classes. Every child will be different, so assess the needs of yours individually.

It is normal for your child to come home from their first day back at school feeling overwhelmed, anxious or even disappointed that school feels different. It could be that their best friend hasn’t come back to school, or that their friendship groups have changed over the break. Talk candidly about friendships and how they evolve over time.

kid reading book

Use a planner and establish routines

Learning from home meant children could work at their own pace, so they might face fatigue and stress upon going back to a full school day. Start now by setting up playdates so that your child will be more prepared for a full classroom setting and the noises and sensory overload that comes with a busy playground.

There is no need to rush back into everything, and it may be hard to see great progress immediately. Ease your child back into extracurricular activities or seeing their friends outside of the classroom. Use lunchboxes for daytime meals at home, and go over drop-off and pick-up routines. Rehearse a normal school day in the week before its return to re-establish familiarity. Do the school shopping together and get a new item such as coloured pens to get your children excited about going back to school.

children and teacher in classroom

Reassure your child it is safe, and believe this yourself

Where you can, give your child stability in processes that you can control. This may be getting them in great hand-washing, mask and sanitisation routines or teaching them about air purification devices that may be present in the classroom to stop the spread of infectious particles.

Assure your child that decisions will be made if it were unsafe to go back to school, and acknowledge that their range of emotions such as excitement, relief, worry, anger and disappointment are all normal. Reinforce good hygiene practices – consider singing their favourite team song when washing their hands.

apple on stack of books

Reach out for support when necessary

Communication with teachers will be crucial to understand how your child is coping coming back into the classroom. After a hands-on home-schooling experience, your child might require more 1:1 support moving forward. Talk to your children about what they are learning, and engage with their curriculum to assist when you can. Parental stress might also be an issue, with fears of the changes to school and work life that come with challenging times.

If you or your child are struggling, visit your local GP, contact 1800 333 497, or visit findapsychologist.org.au.

children studying

Moving into the tail-end of the summer holidays, this is the time where many kids will be getting bored and unsettled.

Fortunately, there are a range of fun ways to keep them occupied, from outdoor adventures to DIY projects and fun games at home.

Here are some easy activities to keep them entertained:

DIY home theatre

theatre
Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

With the pandemic affecting the accessibility of theatres, many kids are missing the novelty of the movie-going experience. But there’s no reason why it can’t be recreated at home. These holidays, encourage the kids to build their own home theatre.

Simply pick a room in the home and all you’ll need is a projector to display your chosen film on the wall. Throw some popcorn in the microwave and there you have it – the theatre experience in the comfort of your home. The kids may even enjoy it all the more for its cosiness.

Act out a play

play
Photo Credit: Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

This is a great way to keep your child’s mind sharp before they go back to school, while also letting them have fun. It’s a great activity to get creative with – they could choose from a range of popular plays or even write their own script.

From Shakespeare to a Harry Potter play, there are options for all ages and interests. Plus, the whole family can get involved and make a day of it. To add to the excitement, you could invite relatives or neighbours to watch the performance.

Have a dance-off

dance
Photo Credit: Yan Berthemy on Unsplash

This is a fun activity for a group of kids to get involved in a movie-esque dance competition. It’s a simple way to encourage socialisation, while also tackling boredom. And, with the added bonus of physical exercise, it’s a no-lose situation.

The kids could make their own playlist and come up with some unique dance routines. The best part is, it costs nothing and can be done anywhere and with anyone. It could be a family affair, or you could encourage the kids to invite some friends over.

Outdoor sports

swimming
Photo Credit: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

There’s never a better time to get exploring outside than in the summer. It’s a great time to try out some outdoor sports like open-water swimming. Explore your local area – or travel further out to your nearest beach – and dive into the deep end. This is a great opportunity for the kids to hone their swimming and water safety skills. There are also other activities for those who’d like to stay closer to the shore, such as playing around the rock pools and looking for shells.

Bike riding is a great option to get outside, while also having fun. There are a range of bike tracks out in nature so you can hit two birds with one stone – get the kids in the fresh air and get them exercising. Other types of wheel-based activities can also be a fun solution to holiday boredom, from roller skating to skateboarding – it’s the perfect time to try out some new interests. It could even lead to a long-lasting hobby and reduce hours spent looking at phone and computer screens.

Set up an indoor tent

tent
Photo Credit: Kate Darmody on Unsplash

Making an indoor tent is a novel activity that will thrill kids of all ages. They can design the interiors themselves and could even watch movies or solve puzzles in their cosy new space. It’s a great way to incorporate family bonding time into the holidays and could even become a mainstay the kids to enjoy well into the future – it may even serve as a retreat for them during stressful times.

Festive fairy lights could be added to improve the aesthetics, along with music and colourful pillows to make the space welcoming. The kids could even create their own decorations to make the space their own.

Have a picnic

picnic
Photo Credit: Jarritos on Unsplash

It’s the perfect weather to head down to the park and get some family time in. A picnic is a fun way to get outside and it also gives you a chance to combine it with other activities such as walking through park trails, birdwatching or playing cricket in the park.

To really keep the kids entertained, they can even prepare the food themselves. From finger sandwiches to muffins to sushi – the options to get creative are limitless.

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be looking for a solution to holiday boredom, and getting the kids in the kitchen for some festive cooking is a great way to entertain them.

Here are our top picks for some simple and fun recipes the kids will enjoy making – and you’ll get to enjoy test-tasting some of their creations in the process.

Gingerbread men

ginger
Pictured: Gingerbread biscuits

These biscuits are popular for good reason – they have a unique and festive taste and they’re also surprisingly easy to make. The kids will love the decorating process and it makes for great entertainment that they can enjoy from the kitchen table.

Ingredients:

  1. 115 grams butter
  2. ½ cup golden syrup
  3. ½ cup brown sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. 2 cups plain flour
  6. 1 tsp. bicarb soda
  7. 2 cups plain flour
  8. 2 tsp. ground ginger
  9. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  10. 1/3 cup icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Coat paper with cooking oil. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour.
  • Then add in the egg yolk, followed by the syrup.
  • Separately, mix the dry ingredients together: the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Combine the two mixtures together, then wrap the dough in plastic or parchment paper and leave it in the fridge for an hour.
  • After this, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out gingerbread man-shaped pieces. Position these onto your lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • For icing: Mix icing sugar with a tablespoon of hot water, then put into a piping bag. Decorate gingerbread men with your desired design.

 

White chocolate snowflakes

White chocolate
Pictured: White chocolate snowflakes on top of biscuits

This is a very simple recipe, requiring only one ingredient, but the results are impressive and sure to thrill children of all ages – and the adults too. They also go well as a decoration for the shortbread biscuits.

Ingredients

  1. White chocolate

Method

  • Set out a tray lined with baking paper.
  • Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, put it into a piping bag.
  • To make the snowflake shape either use cookie cutters, baking paper with the pattern cut out, or style your snowflakes freehand.

 

Peppermint hot chocolate

peppermint hot
Pictured: Peppermint hot chocolate

This comforting beverage puts a festive spin on the traditional version, and can be decorated with any number of toppings, from sprinkles to chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  1. 2 tbsp. milk chocolate melts
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 2 drops peppermint oil
  4. Whipped cream for decoration

Method

  • Put the milk into a saucepan on a low heat.
  • Stir the chocolate melts in.
  • Turn the heat off them add the peppermint oil.
  • Pour it into a mug and top with whipped cream.

 

Christmas shortbread biscuits

christmas biscuit
Pictured: Christmas shortbread biscuits

These classic biscuits are a hallmark for many families at Christmas time – and for good reason. They involve only a few ingredients and there’s a limitless number of shapes to be made, as long as you have the cookie cutters for your desired shape the kids can choose anything from Christmas trees to stars to reindeer.

Ingredients:

  1. 220 grams butter
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups plain flour
  4. 1 cup cornflour
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.
  • Coat the paper with cooking oil. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until pale in colour.
  • Then add in flour and cornflour. Wrap the dough in plastic or baking paper and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  • Then, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes.
  • Place them on the baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then decorate as desired.

 

Cheat’s mango trifle

trifle
Pictured: Cheat’s mango trifle

This is a classic summer dessert, but many are put off by the complex steps and elements involved in the recipe. This version is simple and quick – perfect for kids to get creative with.

Ingredients

  1. 2 store-bought sponge cakes
  2. 2 cups custard
  3. 2 cups of thinly sliced mango
  4. 85 grams raspberry jelly powder
  5. 300ml heavy cream
  6. 2 tbsp. raspberry jam

Method

  • Set out a large round bowl and place the first sponge cake in the base.
  • Make raspberry jelly according to package, then pour half over the sponge cake.
  • Then, pour half of the custard on top, followed by half of the mango – arrange it evenly on top of the cake.
  • After this, add the second sponge cake and pour over the rest of the jelly and the rest of the custard.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Position the cream on top, then drizzle the jam on top and add the other half of the mango for decoration.
  • Leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

 

Berry summer mocktail

Berry mocktail
Pictured: Berry summer mocktail

Mocktails are perfect for the entire family – with a touch of elegance and festivity that is sure to impress any guests you have over. It’s also a great opportunity for the kids to get creative with a range of garnishing ideas they come up with, from lemon or lime wedges to mint leaves or even more substantial decorations like coating the glass rim in sugar. Here’s an easy and fun starter recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup blueberries
  2. 1 cup crushed raspberries
  3. 4 cups lemonade
  4. 8 mint leaves
  5. 1 lemon, neatly sliced

Method

  • To begin, make the berry syrup by putting the berries, sugar and a cup of water into a pot. Bring to the boil then set aside.
  • Set out four glasses – if you need to make more, simple adjust the recipe – and add the crushed raspberries into the bottom of each glass.
  • Mix a mint leaf into each cup, then add in a tablespoon of the blueberry sugar syrup mix. Add half a cup of lemonade to each glass then fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
  • For garnishes, add a mint leaf and a lemon slice, along with any other fruits or herbs of choice.

 

Candy cane yoghurt bark

yoghurt bark
Pictured: Candy cane yoghurt bark

This recipe puts a Christmassy twist on the easy yoghurt bark recipe with nostalgic candy canes. This dessert is so simple and safe for kids to make as there’s no hot temperatures involved.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups plain yoghurt
  2. 2 candy canes, broken into small pieces
  3. 1 cup raspberries
  4. 1 tbsp. honey (or to taste)

Method

  • Line a freezer-safe tray with baking paper and set aside.
  • Mix yogurt and honey in a bowl.
  • Add crushed candy canes and raspberries.
  • Pour the mix onto the tray, then freeze for 3 hours. To serve, break into 10 pieces.

 

Alcohol-free pina colada

Pina Colada
Pictured: Pina Colada

It’s not summer without a pina colada, and although this beverage is known for its alcoholic kick, there’s no reason the kids can’t enjoy this summery drink – minus the rum, of course.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen pineapple
  2. ½ cup coconut milk
  3. ½ cup ice cubes
  4. ¼ cup pineapple juice
  5. 4 maraschino cherries

Method

  • Place all ingredients in a blender for 1 minute or until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour into 2 glasses – you can double the recipe to make more.
  • Garnish with maraschino cherries, 2 for each glass.

 

These are a few simple cooking ideas to encourage the kids to get creative in the kitchen. Some of these recipes involve using electric equipment, hot water and the oven, and as such they may require parental supervision to ensure safety for these steps.

Despite affecting an estimated 5 to 10% of the population, there’s a learning disability lacking much needed awareness – the lack of which is leaving children to fall behind their peers. This condition is known as dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a mathematical learning disability known as a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) – a group of learning disabilities which usually involve mathematics, spelling, listening, speaking or writing. People with dyscalculia generally have difficulty with arithmetic, numbers and mathematic reasoning. The most common components include:

  • Trouble understanding numbers
  • A delay in learning to count
  • Difficulty connecting numerical symbols with words
  • Losing track when counting and
  • Struggling to recognise patterns

As maths education often involves a series of ‘building blocks’ that become incrementally more complex over the years, children who miss out on some of the foundational ‘blocks’ of maths are put at an intense disadvantage to their peers when it comes to more advanced applications of mathematics.  It’s especially difficult for children with dyscalculia as they may fall behind due to a lack support and recognition from the adults around them.

This can negatively impact their mental health, school marks and their options when it comes to higher education and their future career. Some of the main predictors that can indicate a child potentially has dyscalculia include:

  1. Difficulty adding single digit numbers
  2. Difficulty identifying numbers
  3. Inability to understand the relation numbers have to each other.
  4. Having limited working memory
maths
Photo Credit: Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Dyscalculia is not something to be ‘fixed’ or that children will ‘grow out of’, with studies showing that the condition is generally lifelong and that a mentality of ‘fixing’ learning disabilities has been extremely damaging. However, there are techniques that can be used to manage difficulties, cope with challenges and improve their maths skills. If children lack the proper support, this can be a major source of distress for those with the condition, especially in a school setting.

There are fun ways parents, guardians and teachers can help children improve their mathematic skills. These can include playing counting games together, offering homework help, playing online maths games or apps and using maths memorisation cards. Board games are also an excellent tool for improving mathematic reasoning skills.

games with children
Photo Credit: Adam Winger on Unsplash

With 1 in every 10 Australians suffering from a learning disability, research shows this lack of education is a major inhibitor to effective treatment. Children with conditions like dyscalculia and the more well-known dyslexia, often go under the radar, especially if teachers aren’t adequately trained to look out for the signs.

With the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy report finding only 5% of the curriculum in Bachelor of Education training courses is dedicated to teaching reading, there is concern that many kids who are struggling may go unnoticed. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Dyslexia, which is considered the most common learning disability
  • Dysgraphia, which relates to writing and spelling difficulty
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysphasia, which relates to speech difficulties

Depending on the age of a child with dyscalculia, the signs to look out for can be different, although they may overlap:

Primary school-aged children

During primary school years, the condition may go unnoticed or symptoms may be attributed to another cause. Unfortunately, this puts children in a disadvantaged position with the consequences to continue for years. The signs that a child in primary school is dealing with dyscalculia usually include:

  • Difficulty keeping count in games or activities
  • Difficulty making sense of numerical value
  • Trouble writing numerals legibly
  • Struggling with fractions
primary school
Photo Credit: Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Secondary school-aged children

Although the signs among high-schoolers may include the same as those listed for primary school, these signs are more common to find among secondary school students:

  • Struggling with maths relating to finance, for example understanding how to make change or to take a percentage off of a price
  • Difficult with understanding graphs or other visual representations of numbers
  • Has difficulty understanding measurements for recipes or science experiments
school
Secondary school students may show different signs of dyscalculia

If you’ve noticed these signs in your child or student, the next step is for the child to get a proper assessment and rule out any other possibilities, such as eyesight or hearing impairments. Dyscalculia can be diagnosed by a psychologist who will assess the individual’s unique situation. It is generally required that the child being assessed receives 6 months of intervention involving mathematical assessment and instruction before a diagnosis can be made.

While all children may struggle with maths at some point and will learn at different speeds, they can usually improve with time and practice, but for those with dyscalculia, the problems may remain despite regular and intensive practice. If a diagnosis is made, the psychologist will recommend the best course of action for the child based on their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Over 45% of parents feel the effects of parental burnout. The crippling exhaustion, overwhelming stress, and the feeling that everything is just a bit too hard, is a shared experience with nearly half of all parents. Here is what you need to know about this common phenomenon – and the steps to take to feel like yourself again.

Many parents have come to realise that having children is exhausting… And even more exhausting when a pandemic, working from home and recurring lockdowns are thrown into the mix. The overwhelming feelings of stress and exhaustion associated with trying to juggle both life itself and the lives of their children too, can sometimes feel like a bit too much to handle. If you, as a parent, felt this too, don’t worry – you are definitely not alone.

It’s important to realise that these feelings are completely valid and parental burnout is more than just general tiredness or irritability. If left unmanaged, the all-consuming sensations of burnout can have significant consequences on not only parents’ mental health, but the sense of equilibrium within the family itself.

The first diagnoses of parental burnout dates back to 1983, but more extensive research was carried out in 2017, by Belgium researchers Dr Isabelle Roskam and Dr Moïra Mikolajczak – who really delved into the prevalence of parental burnout, especially in the 21st century.

They found that since previous studies, society has placed more pressure on families to raise high-performing, healthy and stable children – as well as a shift in gender norms – especially during COVID – which has generated an increase in more working mothers, and less who stay-at-home full time. These subtle changes can make the act of parenting more difficult and stressful and thus, emerges the patterns of parental burnout.

Beyond the initial feelings of exhaustion, parental burnout can also manifest in:

If these symptoms are left untreated for too long, the damage to parents’ mental health, hormones and relationships with both partners and children, can be significant. Research has found that parents who experience parental burnout, are likely to be more coercive or neglectful towards their children – despite the initial burnout often resulting from putting too much time and energy into your children and neglecting your own needs.

Other common factors that can lead to the development of parental burnout are:

For parents experiencing this level of burnout – despite how difficult it may seem – there are several ways that this burnout can be alleviated. Here are some common and scientifically proven ways that parental burnout can be reduced:

  • Establish a routine: by creating a set schedule within the family that allows time for everyone’s respective activities and obligations – as well as carving out time to be together as a family – parents can set boundaries between work and home and lessen the expectation to be doing everything at once.
  • Communicate your feelings: whether it is with a partner or a friend, telling someone how you are feeling is the first step to treating parental burnout. As this condition is often provoked by bottling up stress and exhaustion, the first way to fix this is to let someone know you need support.
  • Go to a support group: support groups for parents are a great way to feel like you’re not alone. By talking to other parents who may be sharing the same struggles, feelings of isolation that may be contributing to the burnout can be alleviated.
  • Exercise: it’s a well-known fact that moving your body releases endorphins and, for many, provides an outlet where you can release pent up stress. This doesn’t have to mean killing your body in the gym six days a week. If you are starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, even a ten-minute walk or stretch can help release the feel-good hormones to make you feel more relaxed.
  • Consult a therapist: regardless of if you think you don’t need it – everyone can benefit in some way from talking to someone professional about your everyday problems, or perhaps past trauma that has led to burnout. There is no shame in getting help, and if you feel you need to talk to someone, a psychologist may be able to provide the informed guidance that you need.

The chance of developing parental burnout doesn’t go away as your kids grow up. As parents, it is likely that you will always put their needs above your own at points in time. But it is the acknowledgement that you are struggling, communication that you need help, and the seeking out of support that will help you on your journey to feel like yourself again.

 

 

 

 

Anxious Mums author, Dr Jodi Richardson, offers advice for mothers and children experiencing anxiety.

One in four people will experience anxiety within their lifetime, making it the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia. Statistics determine it is twice as common in women, with one in three, compared with one in five men, diagnosed on average.

Having lived and studied anxiety, Dr Jodi Richardson  is an expert in her field, with more than 25 years of practice. In addition to her professional background, it was ultimately her personal experiences and journey in becoming a mother that shaped the work she is passionate about. 

Jodi’s books, Anxious Kids; How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Resilience,  co-written with Michael Grose (2019), and her latest release, Anxious Mums; How Mums Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Strength (2020), offer parents, in particular mothers, advice on how to manage and minimalise anxiety, so they can maximise their potential, elevate their health and maintain their wellbeing.

The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first-hand experiences have inspired her work today, stating, “The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first signs of experiencing anxiety appeared at the early age of four. Her first symptoms began in prep, experiencing an upset stomach each day. Her class of 52 students, managed by two teachers, was stressful enough, on top of her everyday battles. Jodi recalls, “There was a lot of yelling and it wasn’t a very relaxing or peaceful environment, it obviously triggered anxiety in me, I have a genetic predisposition towards it, as it runs in my family.”

Twenty years later, the death of a family member triggered a major clinical depression for Jodi. She began seeking treatment however, it was in finding an amazing psychologist, that helped her to identify she was battling an underlying anxiety disorder. Jodi discloses, “It was recognised that I had undiagnosed anxiety. I didn’t really know that what I had experienced all my life up until that point had been any sort of disorder, that was just my temperament and personality.” 

After many years of seeing her psychologist, Jodi eventually weaned off her medication and managed her anxiety with exercise and meditation. Offering advice on finding the right psychologist Jodi states, “For me it was my third that was the right fit. I really encourage anyone if the psychologist you were referred to doesn’t feel like the right fit, then they’re not and it’s time to go back to your GP. Having the right professional that you’re talking to and having a good relationship with is really important for the therapeutic relationship.”

Jodi highlights the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, affirming, “The more we can open up and talk about our journeys, the more we encourage other people to do the same and normalise the experience.”

Anxious Mums came into fruition after a mum in the audience of one of Jodi’s speaking engagements emailed Jodi’s publisher stating, “Jodi has to write a book, all mums have to hear what she has to say.”

Everyday efforts new mothers face, consign extra pressure on wellbeing and showcase the need to counteract anxiety before it subordinates everyday lifestyles. While Jodi’s children are now early adolescents, she reflects upon the early stages of new motherhood, “Ultimately when I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

When I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

New mothers experience heightened anxiety as they approach multiple challenges of parenthood; from conceiving, through the journey of pregnancy, birth and perpetually, thereafter. Becoming a mother provided Jodi with insight into new challenges, in particular struggles with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. She shares, “It’s something that we don’t have much control over, particularly as new parents. We just kind of get used to operating on a lot less sleep and it doesn’t serve us well in terms of our mental health, particularly if there have been challenges in the past or a pre-existing disorder.

Research suggests women’s brains process stress differently to men, with testosterone also said to be somewhat protective against anxiety. This, along with different coping mechanisms of women, highlight statistic disparity between gender. For early mothers in particular, it is a time of immense change, as their everyday lives are turned upside down. New schedules, accountability and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are also commonly triggered in the postpartum period.

Jodi elaborates on important hormonal timeframes that shift women’s mental wellbeing stating, “Anxiety is heightened during times of hormonal changes as well as in the key points in our reproductive lives. Through having children and menopause and alike. It’s more disabling in that it impacts our lives in different ways to men, particularly I think, because we’re usually the main carers. There are stay at home dads, but predominantly that’s what women tend to do.”

Normal anxiety is infrequent and settles down, but when someone suffers a disorder, they can have incessant worry and avoidance. This can include anxiety around not wanting to participate, attend a function, for example, try something new or step up in a work role. Anxiety disorders can be crippling, leaving sufferers feeling as though they are unable to live their best life.

There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

There are many telling physical signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some indicative signs to look out for include a racing heart, trembling, sick stomach, frequent perspiration and dizziness that accompanies shortness of breath. Jodi says, “If you think that your anxiety might be a problem, that’s absolutely the time to go and make an appointment to see your GP. There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

“Half of all mental illness comes on by around the ages of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children.”

Just as anxiety is common for mothers, it’s also important to observe and be aware of in children. Jodi reveals, “For parents it’s important to know that half of all mental illness comes on by around the age of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children. 75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety.”

“75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety

These pre-covid statistics highlight significant numbers of anxiety in adolescents. However, with the current climate prevalent of immense loss of control, many are facing new heightened emotions and increased numbers of anxiety. Early research coming out of Monash University is showcasing significant growth of adults with depression and anxiety, including statistics of children in the early ages of one to five experiencing symptoms.

Similar research has given light to evidence portraying children mirroring stress responses of their parents. Jodi further explains, “They can pick up the changes in our own heart rate, in our stress response — we are told that as new mums aren’t we, that our babies can pick up on how we are feeling but the science proves that to be true as well.” Parenting is a consequential way in which children receive cognitive biases and behaviours, “Just the tone of our voice, the expressions on our face, the way that we speak, what we say, certainly can be picked up on by kids and mirrored back.”

Noticing these early signs in your children is essential to alleviating anxiety before it progresses, Jodi lists some signs to be aware of, “Avoidance is a hallmark sign of anxiety — I don’t want to go, I don’t want to participate, I don’t want to deliver that oral presentation in class, I don’t want to go to camp and so watching out for that sort of thing. Other signs and symptoms to look out for include big emotions. If your children seem more teary or angry than usual, are feeling worried or avoidant, can’t concentrate, having trouble remembering or difficulty sleeping.” It’s important to be aware and help counteract anxiety when you see it. 

Jodi offers parents, who are struggling coping with their children’s anxiety some advice stating, “It’s an age old question, how much do we push and when do we hold back; I think as parents we are constantly answering that question. We don’t always get it right, but the thing about avoidance is it only makes anxiety worse. So for the child who is anxious about going to school, the more they stay home, the harder it will be to front up on another day. Sometimes, we need to nudge them forward in small steps and that’s a technique called step-laddering. It’s about making a step in that direction.”

Jodi encourages parents to observe their children’s symptoms and to never feel ashamed to go see a GP.  She urges, “Sometimes we get that reassurance from a GP, it might just be developmental, but the sooner kids are getting the help they need, the better, and it’s the same for us as mums.”

There are simple everyday steps we can take to combat anxiety. When someone is anxious a threat has been detected within the brain, this part of the brain is called the amygdala, one of the most powerful strategies for managing this stress detection is regulant meditation. 

Jodi explains, “What meditation does is it brings our attention to the present, so we are paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.” Meditation recognises deliberate breathing with a focus equally on exhalation as inhalation, proven to be calming to the anxious brain, using the relaxation response. 

Commending the importance of the practice and its effect on functioning, Jodi describes, “Meditation is more that sort of seated and formal practice of focusing the breath. What we know this will do over time, is it reduces the size and sensitivity of the amygdala, so it’s less sensitive to threat which reduces long-term anxiety. For the average person, our minds wander around 50 percent of the time, when we can bring our attention back to the present we are much more likely to be able to settle our anxiety, and feel happier as well.”

Another everyday strategy for combatting anxiety is exercise. Jodi shares her experience and routine stating, “Exercise is something I’ve used my whole life to calm my anxiety. Even now, I do cross-fit, karate and walks every week. I think naturally I was managing my health and wellbeing without really understanding why, I just knew that it made me feel good.”

The fight or flight response tied to anxiety powers us up to fight physically to save our lives or to flee. So often, when someone is anxious, they are powered up in this way, but not doing anything about it. Jodi shares, “When we move, it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. Not only that, when we exercise we release serotonin, which is a feel good neural transmitter, among with gamma aminobutyric acid, a neural transmitter that puts the breaks on our anxiety response helping to calm us down.” 

Jodi’s practice in physiology, working with clients using exercise to help them with their mental and physical health has led her to her understandings, “One of the things I can 100 percent tell you is that it’s best not to wait until you feel motivated — the motivation will come once you get into the routine of it.

Dr Jodi Richardson, anxiety & wellbeing speaker, bestselling author & consultant

I’d just like to say, anxiety isn’t something we need to get rid of to really be able to thrive, to do what we need to do and accomplish what’s important to us. But I really encourage to anyone, that there are lots of ways to dial it back. I think it’s very easy for us to wait until we feel 100 percent to do something, but doing anything meaningful is hard.

So don’t wait until your anxiety is gone because you might be waiting a long time.”

 

 

 

 

Anxious Kids Penguin Books Australia, Author: Michael Grose, Dr Jodi Richardson RRP: $34.99 Anxious Mums Penguin Books Australia , Author: Dr Jodi Richardson  RRP: $34.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

Kids Helpline: : Is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800

To learn more about Dr Jodi Richardson’s work, watch the full interview below or on our YouTube channel.

 

 

You might think gambling isn’t a kid’s problem, but most children have gambled in some way by the age of 15. Gambling is illegal for young people but is becoming increasingly common. This is why it should become a normal conversation to have early, like talks of drinking, drugs and sex.

The problem

A 2020 NSW survey found that 30% of young people aged 12-17 gambled over the last year, and their introduction to gambling began at age 11 or 12. Despite its illegality, a 2018 report by Growing Up In Australia found that one in six adolescents aged 16-17 reported some form of gambling.

1 in six 16-17 year olds gambled in the past year
Source: Growing up in Australia 2018

There are several risks linked with excessive gambling. These include:

classroom statistics
Source: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation 2017

Types of gambling

Gambling may begin in childhood with games at home, buying lottery tickets or scratch cards, and in adolescence betting on races or sports. The use of video game gambling is increasing, with excessive video gaming recognised as a growing health concern.

With the options available in the online world, spending money on virtual goods is becoming more common. The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found in 2017 that 34% of Australian young people made in-game purchases for online games.

Loot box features are becoming more common, where random rewards can be purchased with real money, a sort of lottery to increase playing incentives. Social casino games are often engaged with as an introduction to the world of gambling.  A 2016 study found that 54% of Facebook games had gambling content, and 22% alluded to slot machines, showing the need for education on the risks of gambling.

graph describing youth gambling activities
Source: Growing up in Australia 2018

Risk and protective factors

Children are more susceptible to gambling problems due to developmental and cognitive immaturities combined with peer pressure. Some common risk factors associated with higher likelihood of engaging in gambling include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Impulsivity
  • Violence
  • Temperaments
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Poor academic performance
  • Mental health disorders

A 2018 report by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation recognised protective factors that could limit a child’s exposure to gambling problems.  These include:

  • No substance abuse
  • Low impulsivity
  • High self-esteem
  • Low risk-taking
  • Future-oriented thinking
  • The ability to regulate emotions

credit card and laptop shopping

Preventing the problem before it begins

Gambling should be a topic of conversations when children are young enough to understand the implications of betting and using real money. It can become a problem early in adolescence, carrying into adulthood. There are recognised ways to prevent gambling becoming a problem which mostly involve open communication and limiting screen activity.

gambling problems beginning
Source: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation 2017

Explain how gambling works

Children in primary school will generally be ready to learn about gambling. Talk to them about the likelihood of winning compared to other chances. The likelihood of winning the jackpot for Powerball is around 1 in 290 million. However, the chance of finding a four-leaf clover is 1 in every 10,000! They should know that gambling your own money is something to be taken seriously, but having fun is also okay. Encourage sharing your betting activities, so habits that can get out of control are not hidden.

Ensure your family attitudes and activities are a reflection of your stance

Your family’s attitude to gambling can influence your child. The less they are exposed, the less likely they could develop a problem. If you gamble regularly, your child might see this as normal behaviour and want to copy. Gambling language, such as ‘I bet you can’t shoot three baskets in a row, if you do we can go for ice-cream’ can be used to encourage children. There is a fine line between healthy gambling messages and unhealthy habits.

Set limits for screen use and online gambling

Allowing your children to play online video games with gambling content can lead to addictive habits and make them want to play until they keep winning. Do not connect your credit card to gambling-type games, and ensure your children know life is not always about winning. Supporting positive mental health by promoting non-digital interests is important.

young person with mobile phone

Look out for warning signs

If your child is struggling at school or with friends, they might be more susceptible to develop a gambling problem as an escape. Be on the lookout for these problems, such as focusing on sports odds rather than the sport itself, or changes in the amount of money your child has. Encourage more positive extracurricular activities than betting or gambling games. Ask them what games they play and remember to talk to them about how real-life betting works.

teenagers and adults gambling

Compulsive gambling is a recognised addiction that is treatable, but easier to prevent. It is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents, so it is important to recognise gambling behaviours to prevent betting from becoming a bigger problem. If you know or suspect anyone to be struggling with gambling behaviours, seek help at Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858.

This year Halloween falls on the last Sunday of the month and for any parents struggling with costume ideas for their children, this article provides some options.

October is well and truly in swing and spooky season is upon us! Coming up with Halloween ideas for our kids can sometimes be a tricky and tedious process. The following is a list of potential possibilities with accompanying visuals for any parents needing assistance.

  1. The Classics

Halloween fantasy originals such as witches, zombies, ghosts and even skeletons or demons are always a solid choice. There are so many possibilities!

Kids in line in costumes

Two kids in Halloween costumes

 

  1. The Incredibles

This is an option for the whole family! Dressing up as Disney Pixar’s favourite superheroes, The Incredibles. Violet, Dash, Mr and Mrs Incredible and even Jack-Jack for the babies.

Family dressed as The Incredibles

  1. Favourite Pop Star

There are so many different possibilities for this one! Each child can pick their favourite artist and then go from there.

Group dressed as Spice GirlsTwo singers

  1. Favourite Athlete

In the same vein, but for our sporty kids, there are so many different team, sport and player options.

Kid in football uniform

Two kids playing tennis

  1. Foods

A chance for kids to show off their favourite foods. Sushi, fries, fruits or vegetables, tacos or even toast!

Family dressed as food

  1. Marvel Superheroes

These are always a popular choice as there is an option for everyone! Iron Man, Black Widow, the Hulk, Captain Marvel and so many more.

Marvel superheroes

Kids dressed in Marvel costume

  1. Fairies and Princesses

Always a classic fairies or princesses are a fun, colourful and softer option for Halloween. This is less spooky and more cutesy.

Kid dressed in fairy costumes

Kid dressed in princess costume

  1. Animals

Another one that has so many options – zoo animals, farm animals, wild animals or domestic animals! All the way from cats to lions.

Kids dressed in animal costumes

  1. Demon and Angel

This is an option for siblings and friends to show off their true colours! Demons and angels don’t have to be in pairs, there could be a whole group or just one!

Kids dressed as an angel and a demon

Halloween is on Sunday the 31st of October 2021.

Olympic gold medallists such as Emma McKeon in the pool and Logan Martin in the BMX event have wowed the nation with their achievements. However, there is more we can learn from our Olympians and Paralympians beyond their pursuit of gold.

This Olympic game for Australia has been our most successful gold medal, Olympic Games since Athens, 2004. Over August, Australians have come to love watching the world compete as well as learning about the lives of athletes outside of competition. Below are 10 inspiring lessons today’s youth can learn from our Australian Olympians and Paralympians about success, regardless of their future career.

1. Your character is just as important as your achievements.

Name:  Emma McKeon

Age: 27

Sport: Swimming

Emma McKeon has become Australia’s most successful Olympian in history, with 11 gold medals to her name. Her accomplishments surpass Olympic legends such as Ian Thorpe! Emma’s humbling attitude towards her achievements sets the precedence for all young aspiring athletes that your character is as important as success. 

2. Just because something has not been done before doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen.

Name: Shae Graham

Age: 34

Sport: Wheelchair Rugby

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Shae Graham was the first female athlete to represent Australia in wheelchair rugby! After being in a car accident in her late teen years, her journey with wheelchair rugby began after losing a bet to her brother. Shae debuted five years later internationally as a wheelchair rugby player in the USA, representing Australia.

Through Shae’s experience, she shows all young women that they too have the power to be the next ‘first’ for women in sport.

With her sights set on gold in Tokyo, as the first female Paralympic Wheelchair rugby player for Australia, she is sure to continue paving the way for young female athletes.

3. Women can be in healthy competition and still support each other.

Name: Ariarne Titmus

Age: 20

Sport: Swimming

Credit: Swimming Australia and Delly Carr
Her healthy rivalry and positive relationship with the USA’s legendary swimmer, Katie Ledecky, has been unwavering.

Ariarne is an excellent demonstration of how women can push each other to be better without resorting to toxic behaviour. Her healthy rivalry and positive relationship with the USA’s legendary swimmer, Katie Ledecky, has been unwavering, despite the media’s interference and speculation. Both Katie and Ariarne always speak highly of one another, modelling how women should treat one another on and off the clock, wherever life may take them.

4. Success is not a solo achievement.

Name: Cedric Dubler

Age: 26

Sport: Athletics, Decathlon

Credit: Cedric Dubler (pictured left)
Not only has Cedric become the pinnacle of sportsmanship, but he teaches us that success is even better when shared.

Cedric Dubler has sent the press into a frenzy, and it is not because he won gold. Rather, Cedric encouraged his teammate, Ash Moloney, in the final leg of the decathlon to push ahead and secure himself and our country a medal! Cedric could have kept running and finished his race but instead used his energy to lift Maloney when he needed it the most. While Cedric didn’t receive a medal, he teaches us that success is a team effort – even in a singles event like the decathlon. Not only has Cedric become the pinnacle of sportsmanship, but he teaches us that success is even better when shared.

5. You should never let a setback stop you from achieving your goals. 

Name: Liz Clay

Age: 26

Sport: Athletics, 100m Hurdles

Credit: @thewolfferine courtesy of Liz Clay

Liz Clay is the epitome of perseverance, constantly bouncing back from injuries and setbacks on her road to Tokyo. Driven by passion and determination, Liz qualified as a debutante in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team as the second-fastest Australian in history and broke two personal bests in her 100m hurdle event.

She never lets her setbacks define her worth.

While Liz did not leave Tokyo with a medal, she never lets her setbacks define her worth or ability to succeed as a person and athlete. We can learn so much from her attitude towards success and setbacks. She will definitely be one to watch for in Paris 2024!

6. It is important to pursue your passions.

Name: Deon Kenzie

Age: 25

Sport: Para-athletics

Credit: Deon Kenzie

As a child, Deon accidentally discovered his passion for running after he began running to support his AFL training. He has been representing Australia, internationally for eight years, and Tokyo 2020 will be his second Olympic games. Deon is a world record holder and has an Olympic silver medal to his name. While running is his life, Deon also owns his own Kombucha brand. How cool is that!? Deon is a stellar example of how passion fuels success. We also learn from him that once you discover your passion, you should take it and run with it – quite literally in Deon’s case!

7. Hard work pays off.

Name: Christie Dawes

Age: 41

Sport: Para-athletics

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Christie has represented Australia in six consecutive Paralympic Games, which calculates to over 24 years of training and competition. Not only does she have two world titles and three medals to her name, but she is also a mother, wife and has a career in teaching as well! There is no doubt that Christie Dawes’ long career as an athlete is founded upon a hardworking, dedicated attitude to para-athletics.

8. Resilience is key.

Name: Alistair Donohoe

Age: 26

Sport: Para-cycling

Credit: Paralympics Australia

Alistair, since childhood, always had a tunnel vision goal of becoming an elite athlete, even after an incident at age 15 that could have stopped his pursuit of this dream altogether. Instead, after falling into para-cycling, Alistair put in the work, making it to Rio to compete in the 2016 Olympic games.

There is more we can learn from our Olympians and Paralympians beyond their pursuit of gold. 

Unfortunately, a collision on the course wiped him out of medal contention. Fast-forward 4 years, he is back at peak form to compete in the Tokyo games as a contender for gold AND as a reigning champion in two of his events. What a comeback!

9. It is never too late to follow your dreams.

Name: Zac Incerti

Age: 25

Sport: Swimming

Credit: Swimming Australia and Delly Carr

Zac Incerti is inspiring for two reasons. Firstly, Zac did not begin competitively swimming until he was 18 years old! He challenges the notion that all Olympians began training in childhood. More so, Zac uses his Instagram platform to openly speak of his mental health journey, namely his battle with anxiety. We can learn from Zac that there is no right timeframe to achieve our goals. He also teaches us the importance of both physical and mental health, contributing to normalising the conversation around mental health for men.

10. There is more than one way to reach your goals.

Name: Logan Martin

Age: 27

Sport: BMX Freestyle

Credit: Con Chronis, courtesy of AusCycling

Logan Martin is the protagonist in the epic story of a man who builds an Olympic sized BMX training park in his backyard to secure himself a gold medal in Tokyo. Martin had two options to remain competitive in his sport. He either had to move abroad for international competition or find a way to increase his training from home among the COVID-19 lockdown.

Logan’s story teaches us that there is always another way, and it is important to be resilient against our obstacles.

Yet, Martin found another way. He created a training facility in his backyard. Logan’s story teaches us that there is always another way, and it is important to be resilient against our obstacles. Logan could have quit or moved abroad, away from his family, but instead, he has left Tokyo with a shiny gold medal!

 

The adoption process is not easy, but for some parents adoption it is their last chance at a family.

After 10 years of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments, plus two and a half years of waiting in the adoption program, hairdresser Pina and her husband John were finally able to have that chance.

The Melbourne couple, are one of the lucky sets of parents who were able to adopt a baby boy 20 years ago. Both had wanted children since their mid to late-twenties and after exhausting all their options to have their own biological child, they turned to adoption.

The 10 years of IVF treatments had taken their toll on Pina physically and mentally, seeing her future continuously taken away from her, made her feel like the adoption process would be just another form of torture and in some respects it was.

Still, she felt she had nothing to lose and if IVF had taught her anything, it was that she was willing to risk it. Thankfully, luck was on her side and after 13 years of waiting, Pina and John welcomed a baby boy into their family.

Pina explains how the IVF treatments hurt her. “We kept making beautiful embryos, through IVF,” Pina shares.

“For whatever reason, they never stuck to me. However, I think there is a reason in life, why things happen – I was meant to have Damien.”

IVF is an intrusive procedure that has a success rate per fresh embryo transfer of 38.8% for live birth and 44.9% for clinical pregnancy (ages 18-34) and 32.2% (live birth), 41.7% (clinical pregnancy) for ages 35-38, ages greater than 38 it drops even further.

“They kept saying to me that there is absolutely nothing wrong, my husband had the low sperm count that’s the reason we went on it. As the woman, I had to go through a lot,” Pina recalls.

I was at the point where I thought, I’m not meant to have kids and that’s it, end of story.” It was then, Pina’s husband, John mentioned adoption.

Although adoption seems like a great back-up plan for a family, in reality, it’s a very complex system with the average wait time being between five and seven, if one passes the qualifying stages. Between 2018-2019 there was a total of 310 adoptions Australia wide, 82% were Australian born children and 67% of the 310 adoptions were from their foster parents.

With the increase in women’s rights and family planning and the resulting drop of children in the adoption system, means there are more parents waiting to adopt than there are children needing to be adopted.

Australia’s adoption policies differ depending on the States. In Victoria there are three kinds of adoption systems: local adoption, inter-country adoption and permanent care.

There are also only 13 partner countries with Australia for adopting children, each having independent rules and regulations which can restrict options. Factors such as being married, single, male or female, in a de-facto relationship, one’s age, gender orientation and sexuality can all affect one’s chances of adoption.

The local adoption requirements are less strict, for example a persons’ orientation or relationship status does not matter but there is a demanding application process which examines a person’s life in minute detail.

The biological parents learn everything about the adopting parents as well has gaining many rights, one of which is the right to visitation.

Even though we would be adopting their children, they still get to see them,” Pina says.

Pina didn’t have a problem with this requirement because she believes it’s important for a child, any person for that matter, to know their heritage to better understand oneself.

To be qualified and placed in the adoption program would take two years for Pina and John. As Pina says, “They wanted to get to know us better than we knew ourselves.”

Answering endless questions fuelled a gruelling and extensive qualification process. It was also yet another period of trying not to get their hopes up in fear of disappointment.

The final step, after 2.5 years of the application process, was an intimidating interview with a panel of lawyers, doctors, psychologists and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff.

Pina says she thought they were successful because of her view of it not mattering to her who or where the child was from, to her a child was a child and if she could supply the home then she would gladly do it.

Two months later, they got the call that they were to be the parents of a 4.5-month-old baby boy, whom they named Damien.

The first time I lay eyes on him, I just thought he was the most beautiful little baby ever,” Pina recalls.

However, their adoption story did not end there, it has always been in the background through Damien’s childhood, adolescence and even into adulthood.

Damien has known he was adopted from an early age. Pina took the approach to start filling him in as soon as he could understand.

Pina strongly wanted Damien never to question where he belonged, she made sure he knew he was a part of this family and nothing could change it.

I told him little bits and pieces and as he got older,” Pina says.

“He knows that he has biological siblings, and yes that was a bit hard, I did not know how he would take it. I suppose growing up he knew nothing other than us; we are his parents- this is his family. He never really questioned it and had no interest in meeting her (his biological mother) or his siblings.”

Although Damien never questioned who he was and where he belonged it was still difficult to understand why his biological mother gave him up, especially when she had children already.

Even though Damien’s biological mother hardly used the visitation rights, as she wanted a clean break, she has been in contact with Damien over the past 20 years.

In some ways it was more detrimental than good for Damien. Each time would raise his expectations, to have some sort of relationship and understanding, only to be rejected all over again.

Damien does not know who his biological father is, although he knows it is where he gets his aboriginal heritage. While having no information on the biological father has been challenging in having real access to the Australian Indigenous community for Damien, both Pina and John made sure he was in touch with his cultural heritage.

“Adoption is a gamble. Any child is a gamble. Whether you adopt or whether you have one biologically. They can grow up to be the best, they can grow up to be the worst they can grow up to be anything,” Pina explains.

It has nothing to do with whether you gave birth or not. In the end it’s all the same.”

Adoption and its process are not for the feint hearted but if fate is on side it’s the best chance at having a family.