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Curb Bullying with these Social and Emotional Learning Skills

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Bullying in schools has become a nationwide concern, with many anti-bullying practices being implemented in every state. Social and emotional learning  (SEL) can provide an effective foundation for reducing bullying in schools. Practicing SEL skills will create a school environment that fosters positive interactions. Here are four characteristics of SEL, that aim to curb bullying in schools:

1. Open, supportive relationships between students and teachers.

Open communication between students and teachers presents an opportunity for students to learn positive conflict resolution techniques. These techniques allow students to resolve problems before they escalate into fully fledged bullying.

2. Solid communication between schools and families. 

Families need to be involved with their child’s school. When a parent is actively engaged in what happens to their child at school on a daily basis, they can help teach positive behaviour and reinforce messages from the teachers. Working as a team with the child’s school, ensures that the same positive messages are being taught on a variety of levels and in a variety of environments.

3. Emphasis on respect and tolerance. 

SEL requires school policies that highlight respect for peers, acceptance and appreciation of everyone’s differences. A school community in which students understand and embrace differences is a place where positive behaviour will thrive.

4. Teaching skills that allow kids to recognise and handle emotions, and engage in caring peer relationships. 

In addition to school policies requiring respect and tolerance, students must be taught how to engage in positive social interactions and develop caring peer relationships with one another. Teaching students how to express and handle emotions positively will support responsible decision-making and avoid negative scenarios that could escalate into bullying.

SEL skills arm students with the ability to handle their emotions in a positive way that results in enhanced social problem solving, supportive attitudes toward others, and overall academic success. Social and emotional learning provides students with many benefits that enhance the school community as a whole, creating a caring and nurturing environment in which bullying has no place.

Quirky Kid has also recently published a comprehensive SEL program called The Best of Friends. Find out more about it online. Equip your child with some of our therapeutic resources such as the Quirky Kid ‘Face It’ cards, which are designed to increase emotional awareness. Most importantly, please feel free to contact us to learn more about the benefits of social and emotional learning.

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Sports Psychology Tips to Stop Negative Self-Talk

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Sports Psychology Tips to Stop Negative Self-Talk

When it comes to improving performance. building self-esteem, good sportsmanship, and camaraderie, one of the most important aspects of sports psychology is positive self-talk. Research suggests that positive self-talk is associated with better performance. In fact, the Australian Sports Commission has carried out research that demonstrates the detrimental impact negative self-talk has on performance and having a positive attitude when it comes to athletic endeavours improves performance.

Young people, in particular, can benefit from learning more about positive self-talk. Improvements in their inner dialogue can improve both their attitude and performance and can have a positive influence on their interactions outside the sporting sphere. Quirky Kid has developed a program designed at young people aged 10 to 16, called Power Up. 

A common presentation for our young athletes is an inner dialogue that is dominated with doubt and negativity. Common expressions we hear from our young athletes are

“I’ll never be able to do it!”,
“I am no good at it,”
“there is no point trying.”

This type of negative self-talk can prevent a young athlete from performing well and create a negative cycle of poor self-esteem and poor performance. If a child feels they can’t be successful at a task, they often accept, and even expect failure. Negativity can turn a child’s insecurities into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is that positive self-talk is a skill that children can learn and utilise with practice. By using positive self-talk, young athletes can build the confidence they require to accept new challenges, maintain a healthy self-esteem, and build on new skills, even when the task is personally challenging. The first task in helping children challenge and change their self-talk is to support them in recognising negative self-talk patterns and identifying unhelpful language such as “can’t” or “never” in their internal dialogue. Some children put themselves down by referring to themselves as “stupid” or by using other put-downs. Once a child has identified negative self-talk, they can be assisted in challenging and replacing those thoughts.

Like many habits, the process of replacing negative self-talk can take some time. Children need to learn to interrupt patterns of self-doubt with more realistic and helpful thinking. For example, a young soccer player who tells herself, “I’ll never score this goal,” can replace this thought with a more helpful and realistic thought such as  “I’ve made the goal many times during practice and I can do it again!”. Just saying happy things is not enough, children must believe the positive thought and thus the key is to replace negative thoughts with thoughts that reflect reality and that are helpful.

One way to practise positive thinking is through practising self-talk out loud each morning in front of the mirror. Write a daily affirmation on a Post-It note and stick it on the child’s mirror so they can start each day in a positive frame of mind. Ask them to say the affirmation out loud in the morning, and to remind themselves of it whenever they’re thinking negatively throughout the day.

Interrupting and replacing negative self-talk can be a challenging task for children who suffer from low self-esteem, but with practise, young athletes can learn to accept challenging situations without putting themselves down and can and learn to feel good about both their strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re interested in learning more about how sports psychology can help children develop their self-esteem and athletic skills, and be positive teammates, please contact us.

Support network:

Purchasing Power up

 References:

Austin, M (2016). Listening to the voices in your head: identifying and adapting athletes’ self-talk. Volume 28 Number 4
Bunker, L, Williams, JM and Zinsser, N 1993, ‘Cognitive techniques for improving performance and self-confidence’, in JM Williams (ed.), Applied sport psychology: personal growth to peak performance, Mayfield, Mountain View, CA. pages numbers?

Carlson, R 1997, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Bantam, Milson’s Point, NSW.

Carlson, R 2005, Easier than you think, HarperCollins, New York, NY.

Hardy, L, Jones, G and Gould, D 1998, Understanding psychological preparation for sport: theory and practice of elite performers, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, UK. pages numbers?

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5 Things To Do To Be A Great Parent After Divorce

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Parenting children in a perfect way after divorce.

Parenting is a big project and can be challenging under any circumstances; after divorce, however, it can become even more complex due to the new dynamics between family members.  Most parents want to ensure their children continue to thrive, socially, emotionally and academically at all times. To help with this process, we have compiled some useful techniques to ease the transition and help to create new working relationships between divorced couples.

Communicate with respect

When speaking to your ex-partner, it is crucial to keep it positive. This is especially important when emotions are high, and you don’t feel in control; take a break and implement some relaxation strategies to help you cope better and to think and speak rationally. For example, take deep breaths or leave the room and visualise a scene, place or situations that you consider safe, restful and happy. While living arrangements may have changed, it is essential that you continue to interact positively with your ex-partner to successfully co-parent your children. Studies have shown that parents who remained calm and communicate in a respectful manner with their former partner were able to improve their relationship as a result (Markham, 2015). In an article from the Child Study Center (NYU School of Medicine) it states that parents can have robust disagreements about a variety of topics in front of their children without necessarily causing stress and anxiety. The key here is for parents to do so in a way that shows their kids that conflict can be managed and even resolved with love and mutual respect. 

Agree on a consistent schedule

One reason communication between parents is so important is to increase consistency and stability for your children. Children require consistent rhythms in their life that do not change frequently (Pruett, 2014). This does not necessarily mean that the children must be cared for in a single environment; it merely requires consistency in each parent’s responsiveness from day to day. If children can keep regular daily schedules regardless of which house they are living, their internal clocks will remain in check. Regular schedules help to reduce behavioural problems, separation anxiety, regression, and other issues which are prevalent in children of divorced parents. From the age of 7 years, children can contribute to defining their options for schedules, so make sure to consult your child when changing their plans.

Maintain consistent discipline

Like with schedules, consistent discipline is necessary for children’s well-being. This is not confined to punishment; discipline includes chores, homework, manners, and attitude.  If there are fundamental disagreements about how to discipline your child, it is advisable to reach a compromise where possible. If it is not possible, maintain consistent discipline in your home (McMurray, 2008).

Stay in close contact, if possible

It is often in the best interests of your child for both parents to remain involved after the divorce (Kelly & Johnston, 2001). Certain accommodations will be necessary within the family dynamic to support the arrangement (McIntosh and Long, 2006). While shared custody is often an ideal, if the child lives with one parent, try to ensure that the child sees the other parent regularly.

Moving away is sometimes necessary for one parent. However, it is important to consider the consequences for their child. Relocating can create an imbalance in the parenting, and can create a more formal relationship with the parent who has relocated. Is it important to make it as easy as possible for the child to have a relationship with the parent who has relocated. For example, the child may benefit from having a mobile phone to contact the other parent without feeling as though their relationship is being mediated.

Manage your new relationship with your children

Divided loyalty is common but needs to be managed. Avoid making children choose sides. It is likely that your relationship with your child will change as a consequence of the divorce. You may choose to take a more proactive role during after-school sports; be more present in the school setting; or perhaps due to circumstances, have less time with your child after the divorce. During this new stage you may develop new routines and experiences to share with each other.

Try to keep activities inexpensive with a focus on quality time to avoid competing between parents and encouraging divided loyalties. Consider attending key events together, like graduations, concerts, school meetings. By role modelling positive relationships in the community, your child will feel safer and securely attached with both parents. During special events and celebrations, if spending them together is not an option, try to ensure your child is involved and informed about what decisions have been made. If your child it is not happy about the arrangements, acknowledge their feelings and try to encourage children to spend time with both parents.

Support network:

References:

Kelly, J.G., & Johnston, J.R. (2001). The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review, 39(3), 249-266.

Markham, M. S., Hartenstein, J. L., Mitchell, Y. T., & Aljayyousi-Khalil, G. (2015). Communication among parents who share physical custody after divorce or separation. Journal of Family Issues, 1-29. 10.1177/0192513X15616848

McIntosh, J E. and Long, C. M. (2006) Children Beyond Dispute: A prospective study of outcomes from child focused and child inclusive post-separation family dispute resolution. Final Report. Australian Government Attorney General’s Department. Canberra

McMurray, S. (2008, 08). Discipline after divorce. Today’s Parent, 25, 43-45. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/232888210?accountid=12528

Pruett, M. K., & DiFonzo, J. H. (2014). Closing the gap: Research, policy, practice, and shared parenting. Family Court Review, 52(2), 152-174.
http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/coparenting.html

Roffman, A (2016). The Art of Arguing: Tips for Handling Parental Conflict around Your Kids
http://www.med.nyu.edu/child-adolescent-psychiatry/news/csc-news/2016/art-arguing-tips-handling-parental-conflict-around-your-kids?mc_cid=f08198a623&mc_eid=039ce82960}

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How to prepare for 2016 with the help of a Child Psychologist

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Posted on by Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

How to Prepare for 2016 with the Help of a Child Psychologist

Children present with a whole range of interesting characteristics. Amazing vocabularies, confidence in the company of adults, endless creativity and emotional intelligence beyond their years. While others struggle with background noise and refuse to put pen to paper due to sensory issues and perfectionism. The start of a new school year is often when parents decide to have their children assessed to gain clarity and direction for the year ahead. Armed with information for teachers, parents are empowered by an expert opinion.

Deciding to seek a professional opinion can take months or years of deliberation. Some put off an assessment in the hope their child will ‘catch-up’ or ‘settle down’ with maturity. Others proactively seek a standardized assessment with the view to access evidence-based intervention as soon as possible. In my experience, young people respond positively to intensive support tailored to meet their needs in the home, school and community setting. They thrive with extra attention and understanding.

A significant event or developmental milestone, such a starting kindergarten, changing school or starting secondary school may trigger parents to make an appointment with a psychologist. Common goals for intervention include ‘behaviour management strategies‘, ‘greater classroom support’ and ‘to help my child maintain friendships’. Whatever the precursor, the assessment process begins when parents engage in a joint appointment to provide background information. The initial interview is an opportunity to learn more about the child’s developmental history while gaining a detailed account of the child’s presentation at home and school.

Many parents bring school reports or previous assessments to pinpoint their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Telephone consultations are often recommended between the teacher and the psychologist to gather current insights into any social or behavioural issues. The information provided by teachers and parents is essential to establish the best way forward. The psychologist’s plan is referred to as a ‘case plan’.

A case plan may include a selection of standardized assessment tools to be administered in the clinic setting; playground and classroom observations or programs to be facilitated with same-aged peers. Popular goals identified by young clients in their initial appointments are often on par with developing academic confidence, gaining independence and establishing organizational skills. For children, this often equates to greater understanding from the adults around them, as opposed to frustration or pressure to perform. For parents and teachers, the assessment process often brings about clarity, direction and initiates a team approach to solving the issues.

In some cases following an assessment, parents and teachers are divided by a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis. According to some parents, pre-school teachers have been known to confidently diagnose Autism based on observation alone. We also hear from schools seeking “a DSM-V diagnosis” in order to apply for funding. In these circumstances, a psychologist is likely to suggest a case conference at the school, involving parents and teachers to mediate around the pros and cons of a diagnosis or a label.

Semantics aside, most parents are more interested in the recommendations included in an assessment, as opposed to a diagnosis. This detailed list of practical ideas is designed to harness individual strengths while addressing areas in need of support. Community-based programs, such as daily swimming or kid’s yoga courses, often compliment clinic and classroom interventions.

For teachers navigating a new mix of students in the coming weeks, a well-considered assessment including practical classroom strategies is peace of mind for parents wishing to give their child a jump start to the year ahead. To learn more about developmental assessments, see: https://childpsychologist.com.au/service/

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Teaching Kids Emotional Regulation

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Teaching Kids Emotional Regulation

One of the ways in which children develop an ability to manage their emotions is by watching their parents and mimicking their coping strategies (Cole, 1994).  Naturally children develop those emotional regulation skills gradually and parents need to consider suitable modeling strategies for the different developmental stages. A three-year-old, for example, may express anger by throwing a tantrum, while a five-year-old might be able to more clearly verbalise the source of the anger. Many children will, however, struggle to cope with the intensity a specific emotion. For some children, the development of emotional regulation does not come automatically and requires more focused input from parents.

All Emotions are Valid

There are no “bad” emotions.  Children will experience a range of emotions everyday from mild to extreme ones. Help your child to understand those emotional changes, name them and explain how each emotion feels in their body. You can continue to explore what behaviour comes out of those emotions and if there may be a better way of expressing it. The Quirky Kid ‘Face It’ Cards are designed to increase emotional awareness.

To a child, the disappointment of missing out on a play date may be every bit as intense as what you would feel if, for example, you missed out on your best friend’s wedding. Allowing your child to experience, recognise and name that disappointment lets them know that you care about them and their feelings (Denham, 2012).

The same is true for anger.  A child who is angry about a perceived unfairness – not being allowed to watch television, having to leave a birthday party, or being “mistreated” by a sibling, for example, needs your acknowledgement that their anger is legitimate. You aren’t denying them the emotion; you’re simply asking that they express it appropriately.

As the children develop, and with some assistance from their parents, this process is transferred from an external source (e.g., parents calming a crying child) to internal (e.g., children using language to calm themselves).

Managing Behaviours

You can’t change what your child feels.  In fact, your child needs to feel safe expressing a full range of emotions.  You can, however, help shape the behaviour that occurs as a result of those emotions.

For example, a child who is prone to violence can have his anger validated while still knowing that hitting, kicking, or pinching are not acceptable.  It often helps if you’re able to control your own behaviour.  Yelling, smacking, or punishing harshly in an effort to get the undesirable behaviour under control will spark further negative emotions in the child, making it more difficult for them to get their behaviour under control.

On the other hand, modeling appropriate behaviour will help your child to learn how to control their own emotional responses.  Show your child that sometimes, you need to take a moment to think things through or remove yourself from the situation.  Modeling these behaviours will give your child a clear example of how they should act.

Share Your Own Feelings

Because children learn from your responses, they need to understand what has prompted those responses too.  It can be very helpful for children to have their parents share how they feel and how they have behaved. This can help with not only validating how children feel but can also provide opportunities to discuss appropriate coping responses and develop a sense of understanding of the child’s situation. Participating in discussions about emotions gives children new tools for regulating their own expression of emotions.

Through modeling positive ways to cope with different emotions, a parent implicitly teaches children how best to express emotions and regulate them (Valiente, 2004).

Helping your child to manage their emotional responses can be a challenging part of parenting, however, it has immeasurable benefit for children as they grow up and learn to navigate the world and the world’s increasingly complex interactions.

Extra Help

References

Cole, P. M., Michel, M. K., & Teti, L. O. D. (1994). The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development59(2‐3), 73-102.

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3), 137-143.

Valiente, C., Fabes, R. A., Eisenberg, N., & Spinrad, T. L. (2004).The relations of parental expressivity and support to children’s coping with daily stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 97–106.
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