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Tips for improving your child’s relationship with food

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

child choosing healthy food

Children are notorious for being fussy eaters, especially when it comes to healthy eating. With the abundance of fast food specifically marketed towards children, a parent’s job isn’t made any easier.

Improving a child’s relationship with food from an early age will help ensure that they adopt healthy habits as an adult. The following article will list some ways to help improve a child’s relationship with food.

Offer them a variety of food choices

Whilst this can be difficult for larger meals, it is important to let children have more choice when it comes to what they consume. Children do not like to be forced to do things, and they can form negative connotations around food they are compelled to eat. 

Giving children a choice between different healthy foods, rather than railroading them with a specific food, will help combat this issue. Offering a variety will also keep things interesting for them and teach them that enjoying new and different food is part of life.

Involve them in cooking and meal preparation

One of the best ways to improve a child’s relationship with food is to involve them in cooking and meal preparation. Knowing what goes into preparing the meals they enjoy, you can give them a great appreciation of food by exposing them to the sights, sounds, and smells of the cooking process.

A lot of the time young children are fussy about eating foods that seem strange to them, and this is a natural survival instinct. By making them familiar with food in different stages of preparation, they will become more open-minded about what they eat as they grow up.

Involve them in cooking and meal preparation

One of the best ways to improve a child’s relationship with food is to involve them in cooking and meal preparation. Knowing what goes into preparing the meals they enjoy, you can give them a great appreciation of food by exposing them to the sights, sounds, and smells of the cooking process.

A lot of the time young children are fussy about eating foods that seem strange to them, and this is a natural survival instinct. By making them familiar with food in different stages of preparation, they will become more open-minded about what they eat as they grow up.

Many children develop unhealthy habits as adults because they have not grown up learning how to cook. Adults who don’t grow up with kitchen skills tend to find cooking a chore and resort to unhealthy options, like takeaway or microwaveable meals.

It’s a good idea to get your kids involved in the cooking process as early as it is safe for them to do so. There are a variety of ways that children can participate in cooking without needing to handle knives or mess with stovetops; just make sure you are supervising them.When a child is involved in preparing the meal they later get to eat, they will naturally have a greater understanding and appreciation of cooking. Teaching them the benefits of cooking their own meals while they are young is something that they will thank you for as they get older.

Slowly introduce new foods to them

Children can react negatively to new food if it is suddenly introduced to them as a departure from the norm. This experience can make them suspicious of new foods and give them a narrow outlook around what they eat.

It’s smarter to slowly introduce new foods to them by incorporating them into dishes they already like. For example, if your child loves macaroni and cheese, then you can introduce finely diced vegetables to enhance the nutrition of the meal and get them to experience new tastes.

This is particularly effective if you are trying to improve the nutrition of older children who are already set in their ways. A few small healthy changes here and there can snowball over time and make them more open to trying new things in the future.

Try to learn about new balanced dishes that you can cook and introduce to your children in a gradual manner. The more variety you present to your child, the quicker they are going to open up to healthier food experiences.

Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones

Snacking is the bane of both child and adult diets, and the wide variety of unhealthy snacking options out there can make it very difficult to get away from. Many snacks are packaged with flashy colours and cartoon characters that make them more appealing to children. These snacks are then placed strategically at checkouts, so children see and demand that you buy them when you go shopping.

If you have a child that likes to snack, see what you can do about replacing their snack of choice with something healthier. There are plenty of options for healthier snacks out there that are packaged with children in mind and make ideal additions to their school lunchbox.

Try giving plenty of variety to keep things interesting for them. Keep in mind that children will demand fewer snacks if they have healthier main meals that give them the energy they need throughout the day.

Summing up

There are so many challenges that come with raising children. In most families, a child’s  relationship with food typically takes a backseat to more immediate concerns. However, it’s essential that you nurture a good relationship with food so that your child grows into an adult with a healthy body and mind.

References:
Raising Children Network, Healthy Eating Habits for Kids. Access on 20 October 2020, Updated on 13-12-2018

Kids Health, Healthy eating. Access on 17 October 2020, Updated on June 2018

Interview with Dr Kimberley O’Brien. Principal Child Psychologist, Quirky Kid Clinic on 16 October 2020

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Working from home: the lockdown survival guide for families

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

child relaxed working from home with help of quirky kid

How can we create a productive space for the whole family to work from home? Maintaining your child’s education, your ability to be productive in the workforce and your family’s financial stability has never been so challenging.

Many more parents are working from home alongside their children. Quirky Kid has developed our Top 5 Tips to help families prepare, adapt and conquer working and studying from home together.

Tip #1: Plan a daily schedule together

Routines are essential for children’s growth, development, and sense of normality. To help with creating health routines, each night, sit as a family and map out a schedule for the following day (and support all family members to stick to it!). We prepared a quick fun video to help you create a visual schedule that actual works.

Include tasks for the whole family and allow all family members to contribute ideas to the schedule. Use visual images and/or colours to make the schedule fun and accessible.  For two parent households, alternating ‘work shifts’ may be helpful.

Tip # 2: Include varied activities in the family’s day

To make the most of focus and motivation while working from home together, start the day with cognitive stimulation. This will help siblings get along and adults to be more patient.  Some ways of doing this include:

  • Complete academic activities firstAdults and children are more able to sustain effort and achieve desired outcomes earlier in the day. Parents may need to work before dawn to meet deadlines before children wake up. It may also be helpful to speak with your child’s teacher to access more online learning options. Check in with your young person every 10-15 minutes, depending on their attention span, to praise their ability to work independently.
  • Find fun ways to teach new concepts: YouTube science tutorials are a great way to inspire young scientists to conduct experiments at home. Baking is another way to teach children about measurement and timing. Folding paper planes and using a tape measure to record their top 10 distances is also useful to develop fine motor skills. There are many more examples.
  • Get Physical For younger children, combine your child’s interest in Pokemon, Spiderman or Mermaids with a themed yoga class. These classes are free and go for 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Keep Social: Support all family members to remain connected with each other and the outside world. Family mealtimes and scheduled breaks are an opportunity to take part in a video call to grandparents or school friends. If social skills need refreshing, Quirky Kid is offering The Best of Friends and Basecamp program online. Sign up here.
  • Plan ahead: Parents need time alone too!  Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign and explain the rules and reasons for this boundary in advance. Rewards for respecting boundaries are recommended. Think fun family activity over food rewards.

Tip #3: Proactively manage conflict.

 With family members in such close proximity, conflicts may arise.

  • Create a calm zone under a table or inside a cupboard with quiet music, pillows and picture book. Your young person might like to make their own cozy space behind a lounge or up a tree. Encourage creativity and a Plan B for wet weather.
  • To reduce sibling rivalry, create separate workstations featuring a long-term project for each individual, such as a complex puzzle, Lego build or similar. 
  • Quirky Kid recently published Siblings – a book about appreciating all our brothers or sisters have to offer.

Tip #4: Have a definite start and end to the workday!

To reward your child for their focus throughout the day, try to end your workday at the same time as they end their school day. This will prevent children from feeling frustrated by parents who continue to work when they’re ready to play. Pushing back on your work commitments may be required for the good of your own mental health.

Suggesting alternative work hours, such as 1-9 pm, may suit your situation better and your workplace may be more accommodating than your children.

Tip #5: Support the emotional needs of the whole family

During these periods of uncertainty, supporting the emotional needs of the whole family is important to ensure everyone continues to thrive. To help support your child:

  • Take care of your own mental health! Children are highly perceptive to the emotional states of their parents.
  • Open the lines of communication, and allow them to speak about their concerns.  Here’s a resource to help.
  • Some children may find it difficult to articulate how they are feeling. Play-based activities such as ‘messy play’ (eg; slime, playdough, water-play) and art tasks (eg; drawing and painting) may help children express themselves and process how they are feeling. For more information on the power of play, see this podcast.
  • If you would like further advice about how to support your child during this difficult time, our team at Quirky Kid has well-established telehealth options for our clients during social distancing and isolation.  To schedule an appointment with one of our friendly psychologists, go to our website, or to find out more please contact the QK reception on 02 9362 9297. 

We are here to help you. Join our weekly Lunch & Learn on supporting children’s wellbeing during COVID-19 session for parents with our psychologist.

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Managing Children Anxiety About COVID-19

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

Managing children anxiety about Covid-19

As the international impact of the COVID-19 virus continues to increase, news about the virus dominates the media, and has entered family discussions and classroom conversations throughout our global communities. Parents and educators are sharing best-practice information on how to manage children’s anxiety about COVID-19.

While families grapple with changes to their daily work and school routines, an increasing number of children are feeling uncertain and anxious about the future. Similarly, many parents and educators may be left wondering how to best support the children in their lives around their anxiety. So, what can parents do in the face of  COVID-19 worries?

Top Tips for Parents to help manage children anxiety about COVID-19

The exact information you provide your child about the Coronavirus is dependent upon their age, and your family’s experiences. However, some general tips to support your children include:

  • Offer alternatives to speaking. Some children may find it difficult to articulate how they are feeling. Play-based activities such as ‘messy play’ (eg; slime, playdough, water-play) and art tasks (eg; drawing and painting) may help children express themselves and process how they are feeling. If you have any concerns, schedule a telephone or Zoom call with a psychologist at Quirky Kid.
  • Keep routines in place. Routines are essential for children to grow and develop typically. In the event of enforced changes to school and work routines, implement an adapted daily routine within your household (i.e. regular self-care, chores, homework). Include fun and stimulating activities, as permitted by health regulations. Some ideas include: baking, family games and outdoor play. Frame changes to routine in a positive way.
  • Recognise and manage your own feelings. Children are highly attuned to the responses and feelings of adults around them. Remain calm when speaking to your children and others about the virus, and model calm behaviour in implementing prevention efforts (including hygiene practices or other changes to routine). Ensure you identify any signs of trauma.
  • Find out what information your child already knows. For school aged children, gently ask what they have heard about the Coronavirus. Offer them an opportunity to discuss any concerns, and calmly correct any misconceptions they may have. To avoid unnecessary anxiety in young children, you may not wish to raise the topic with them directly. Instead, listen carefully for any worries they may raise, or references they make to the virus. Offer reassurance and calmly correct any false beliefs.
  • Provide children with the information they need to know.
    Be honest and accurate in the information you provide and answer any questions they may have. Do not dismiss any questions or concerns they raise. Inform your children calmly and reassuringly about any changes to hygiene practices or school and home routines, this will help in managing children anxiety about Covid-19. and prevent children from gathering inaccurate information elsewhere.
  • Make yourself available to spend quality time with your children. This helps to reinforce that they are safe and offers them ample opportunities to speak to you about how they are feeling.
  • Limit exposure to media. Non- age-appropriate information may increase anxiety and confusion, especially in young children.
  • Positively encourage hygiene practices. Prompt your children to engage in positive hygiene practices calmly and positively. Where possible, make it fun and enjoyable for your children (eg; timing hand washing routine to a popular song).

Seeking Support

If you would like further advice about how to support in managing children anxiety about Covid-19, or you are concerned about how your child is coping, it may be helpful to seek some professional support. Quirky Kid has well-established telehealth options to allow us to continue to provide services for our clients.  To schedule an appointment with a Quirky Kid Psychologist visit our website.

Quirky Kid has in place the following services to held Manage children anxiety about Covid-19:

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Please note: As the information and advice about COVID-19 are rapidly changing, some information contained in the article above may no longer be current.

References
Australian Psychological Society. (2020). Tips for Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety. (Retrieval date: 16th March 2020).

National Association of School Psychologists. (2020). Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource.
(Retrieval date: 16th March 2020).

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Supporting Children through Trauma and Natural Disasters

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

supporting children in natural disaster

Large traumatic events, such as the recent Australian bushfires, have a significant effect on the emotional wellbeing of individuals and communities as a whole. Media coverage and widespread discussion about these events and associated political issues have also led to repeated exposure to distressing images and information amongst the wider community.

Naturally, children and young people are especially vulnerable to the impact of such events, with research indicating they adversely affect young people’s development, alongside their social, psychological and academic functioning. As a result, many children may experience symptoms of emotional distress in the aftermath of such events, including stress, anxiety and low mood. 

While some effects may persist or be delayed, for many children and families directly impacted by bushfires, the initial days and weeks after an event are likely to be particularly difficult, as change and upheaval impact their routines and sense of safety. Importantly, as children look to their caregivers for emotional support and reassurance, parental distress may also impact upon young people during this time.  Media coverage is often also likely to be greatest immediately following an event, reaching and affecting children in the wider community.

Recognising Distress in Children

Every family will experience an event differently based on their unique circumstances, and all children are different in the way they respond to, and cope with, traumatic events. However, signs in your child’s behaviour that may indicate they are anxious or distressed include:

Young children (under five years)

  • Changes in their sleep patterns
  • Going backwards in their development (e.g. wetting the bed, reverting to “clinging” behaviour)
  • Changes in their play (eg; different themes or style of play)

School-aged children (Five years and over) 

  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Anxiety about sleeping alone 
  • Nightmares
  • Behavioural difficulties or emotional outbursts
  • Physical symptoms (e.g. headaches or tummy aches)
  • Concentration difficulties and reduced academic performance
  • Feeling anxious or worried about the safety of self or others
  • Questions about death or dying

Young Adults  (12 years and over)

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Appearing withdrawn or depressed
  • Aggressive or emotional outbursts

Ways to Support Your Child

The type and amount of information you provide your child about the bushfires is dependent on their age, and your family’s individual situation and experiences. However, simple explanations that reassure children that they are safe and let them know that you are there for them are often helpful. 

  • Try to keep your family’s usual routine as much as possible. If they have been disrupted,  help re-establish routines as soon as possible, as these are essential for children to grow and develop typically. 
  • Support children to gain a sense of self-control by allowing them to make choices that are age-appropriate.
  • Monitor and limit your child’s exposure to the media and adult conversation about the bushfires. 
  • Make yourself available to spend quality time with your children, play with them, and provide them with lots of physical affection. This helps to reinforce that they are safe and loved and offers them an opportunity to express how they are feeling.
  • Give children a chance to discuss their individual experiences of the bushfires with you and to share their personal fears. Don’t try to change the subject if your child brings it up. Answer any questions that your child may have honestly, calmly,  without giving a lot of detail. Let them know you understand how they feel, offer them reassurance, and correct any misconceptions or ‘false’ ideas they may have. 
  • Children are highly attuned to the responses and feelings of adults around them. Ensure you look after yourself and seek your own support if needed, to enable you to best be there for your child. 

Support Seeking

For most children, symptoms of distress will reduce over time with support from caring adults in their lives.  If you notice that your child’s distress and/or anxiety does not appear to be lessening over time, or is becoming worse, it may be beneficial to seek some professional support. For more information on how the Quirky Kid Clinic can help, or to schedule an appointment please contact us

Information on Medicare rebates for mental health services for individuals affected by Bushfires can be found here.

Register below and select ‘ Workshops for Professionals’ to be invited for the free workshop for the teacher.

References

Australian Psychological Society. (2016). Looking After Children Who are Anxious about Bushfire Season. Retrieved from: https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/5c0d043b-11b4-467e-be7c-f56743b366b0/Preparing-children-for-the-threat-of-bushfires.pdf. (Retrieval date: 28th January 2020).

Emerging Minds. (2019, 25th March). The ongoing psychosocial needs of children following a community trauma. (Audio Podcast).

Foulks, D. (2005). Nurturing Children After Natural Disasters. A Booklet for Child Care Providers, National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. Arlington, Virginia, 1-16.

Gibbs, L., Nursey, J., Cook, J., Ireton, G., Alkemade, N., Roberts, M., … & Forbes, D. (2019). Delayed disaster impacts on academic performance of primary school children. Child development, 90(4), 1402-1412.

O’brien, K. (2011). Children and Natural Disasters. Retrieved From: https://childpsychologist.com.au/children-and-a-natural-disasters/

Stafford, B., Schonfield, D., Keselman, L., Ventevogel, P., Stewart, C. (2009). The Emotional Impact of Disaster on Children and Families in Pediatric Education in Disasters Manual. Retrieved From: https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/disasters_dpac_PEDsModule9.pdf#page=3. (Retrieval date: 28th January 2020).

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014: [Q&A] Navigating Children’s Screen Withdrawals

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

Now that the world is living on the digital age era, it is inevitable for the young people to spend most of their time using their iPads, laptops, and other similar gadgets. This actually takes a toll on the kids’ wellbeing because they would rather be confined at home with these devices and playing online games instead of going outside, exploring new things and broadening their interests. Most of all, socialising is lessened. And for the parents to force limits on the screen time would result to the child’s withdrawals.

In this Q & A episode, Doctor Kimberley O’Brien answers the questions coming from our listeners about how parents can help manage and minimize their kid’s screen withdrawals.

Enjoy the Episode

Recommended Resources:

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About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds a new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.

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