010: [Q&A] How to Empower Young People

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

The 10th episode of the Impressive gives you answers to the questions that came from one of the listeners about how to empower your children. Just because they are still young, who are in the stage of discovering themselves and exploring the world, doesn’t mean that they can’t participate and give their insights on issues around them. Actually, they can if you allow and courage them to do so. In this episode, Doctor Kimberley will give you tips on parenting approaches that would motivate your children to better themselves and be part of something good.

Listen up as we explore:

  • How to inspire young people to make a difference in their school community
  • Why it’s important for school leaders to survey students to gain their perspectives
  • What types of activities can parents and children do to feel empowered

Enjoy the Episode

Keep updated with The Impressive Podcast

Join Dr Kimberley O’Brien on the Impressive Facebook Group to receive news, share your opinion and learn about resources for home and school. You can also Join the Mail List.

About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds 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.


009: An Intensely Rewarding Year Abroad with Rachael Mogan – McIntosh

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

This is Impressive on its ninth week. Here, Doctor Kimberley gets to chat with Rachael Mogan-McIntosh, a mother of three, as the latter shares her family’s story of spending a year full of adventures in the south of France.

Listen up as we explore:

  • What to expect if you’re considering an international school transition
  • The challenges children may encounter and how to help them cope at school
  • What are the benefits of moving your family outside of their comfort zone

Enjoy the Episode

Recommended Resources

Keep updated with The Impressive Podcast

Join Dr Kimberley O’Brien on the Impressive Facebook Group to receive news, share your opinion and learn about resources for home and school. You can also Join the Mail List.

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.


Positive Body Image in the Age of Selfies and Social Media

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

Developing Positive Self-Esteem & Body Image in Pre-teen Girls

We all want to raise confident girls who respect and feel positive about themselves. High self-esteem can aid mental health. It is linked to lower anxiety, greater resilience, better outcomes when dealing with adversity and stronger relationships (Mann, Hosman, Schaalma & De Vries, 2004). Unfortunately however, for girls, self-esteem is often tied to their self body image. Our culture has a tendency to value girls by how they look, instead of their achievements or successes (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013).

The link between appearance and self-esteem for girls in Western society, thinness, youth and beauty are valued attributes for girls. Think about the actresses you see on television, celebrities in magazines and models in advertising. Media portrays thinness as the ideal and young, beautiful women are portrayed as stylish, successful, and popular. Attractiveness has become synonymous with self-worth and value.

Women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. Only 5-10% of women are in the same height and weight range as models, but thinness prevails as the ideal attractive body type.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, have lead to increased social comparison and greater body surveillance (Holland & Tiggermann, 2016). With 75% of teens having a social media profile, there is a vast public platform for self-presentation, communication, and social comparison (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013). However, girls don’t just compare themselves to realistic images of their peers; they also compare themselves to Instagram models who use filters, airbrushing and other digital enhancements (Holland & Tiggermann, 2016).

When young girls are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards, they can internalise these standards, creating greater dissatisfaction with their own body. As a result, girls might begin to hate their bodies, develop unhealthy attitudes about food, engage in dieting, develop eating disorders, feel worthless, self-harm, avoid going to places where they might be judged based on their appearance such as the beach, or develop mental health disorders such as anxiety, or depression (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013).

While body image has long been a concern for teenagers and pubescent girls, research has shown that girls as young as 6 years old are aware of their appearance and have expressed a desire for thinness (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). A U.S. study found that one in four children had engaged in some kind of dieting behaviour before 7 years of age (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). Additionally, a child’s weight is a strong predictor of self-esteem and body satisfaction (Jones, 2002).

Puberty is a particularly difficult time due to the developmental changes in girls’ bodies. Puberty brings on rapid changes in hormonal, emotional and physical development. The ideal body image or appearance is likely to be markedly different from the reality of a developing pubescent body, causing greater body dissatisfaction by comparison. As many as 75% of Australian high school girls feel fat or want to lose weight (The Butterfly Foundation, 2019).

Explaining the natural changes that occur throughout puberty can help girls accept their body and reduce pressure to look like the body images represented in the media.

Developing positive body image

Body image is shaped by socio-cultural values, role models and social comparisons (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003). This means that family, friends and the media are important influences on a young person’s self image.

Some do’s and don’ts (The Butterfly Foundation, 2019):

  • Don’t focus on your child’s appearance or tease them about their appearance.
  • Don’t talk about your own body in a negative way or focus on what you’re eating. Avoid labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or discussing diets or methods of weight control.
  • Don’t comment on how people look. Watch those subtle comments, such as “You look great!…Have you lost weight?” or “That would look horrible on me.”
  • Do model healthy choices and make healthy eating and exercise a part of your daily life and routine.
  • Do model healthy attitudes about body image, accept and value people no matter how they look.
  • Do use a critical eye when looking at pictures in the media or images on social media. Explain to your child that images have been altered, filtered or air-brushed to enhance their appearance – they are not realistic representations or ideals to aspire to!
  • Do prepare children for the physical changes that come with puberty. Explain what to expect and allow your child to ask questions.
  • Do compliment your child on their non-physical attributes. Focus on their personalities or skills. Try compliments like, “You show great kindness to your friends,” or “You have a very creative imagination.”

Supporting girls to develop positive self esteem

Self-esteem grows from a sense of accomplishment, achieving personal goals, learning new skills, receiving recognition from others and internalising positive values (Child Mind Institute, 2019).

Let’s celebrate what girls do rather than how they look. Notice and praise the things girls do while engaging in activities like art, sport, dance, writing, maths. Encourage girls to continue their extra-curricular activities based on their strengths and interests.

Focus on personal strengths. Are they kind, smart, strong, witty, or funny?

One way to build self-esteem is to start a proud moments album. A visual record of proud moments such as photos, drawings, certificates, and positive comments from significant others can help to boost self-esteem, and can be particularly helpful when children are feeling low about themselves.

Giving compliments can help boost your child’s self-esteem. For compliments to be effective they need to be meaningful and genuine. Don’t say “Wow that is the best artwork I’ve ever seen!” Instead, comment on the details. For example, you could say, “the colours that you used are really beautiful.” Some children might not receive compliments well and they might need you to tone down the compliments. Try saying, “It looks like you put in lots of effort with this artwork.” Or you can encourage self-reflection by asking questions like, “How do you feel about this artwork?” or “How did it feel to play your first game of soccer?”

Praise the effort rather than the results (Child Mind Institute, 2019). Encourage girls to try new things and praise them for their perseverance. Be specific in your praise. Positive examples include, “Great effort with goal-shooting today,”  “You did so well at staying calm and not reacting,” or “Amazing drawing, I love the colours and detail.”

Set a positive example and model kind comments (Child Mind Institute, 2019). Mums, be careful not to put yourself down. Other adults in the family should also be mindful not to put other women down in front of your child. Comments such as “that outfit looks horrible,” or using labels such as: “she’s so fat” can be harmful to girls listening. Instead, make an effort to comment on what other women are doing. Try  “She’s inspiring because she donates her time to charities,” or “Wow, she’s worked so hard and now she represents her country in her sport.”

Encourage girls to engage in a fun form of exercise or team sport. Exercise can improve self-esteem, help children gain a sense of mastery, improve physical strength and lead girls to feel positive about their bodies (Mann et al., 2004).

If you would like some help learning how to implement these strategiesplease contact us on 9362 9297 to discuss the ways in which our team could assist. Alternatively, you could book a consultation with us. We are always here to help support your family!


The Butterfly Foundation (2019). What is Body Image? Accessed on 15th May, 2019, from

Child Mind Institute (2019). 13 Ways to Boost Your Daughter’s Self Esteem. Accessed on 21st May, 2019, from

Holland, G., & Tiggemann, M. (2016). A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body image, 17, 100-110. Doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.02.008

Jones, D. C. (2002). Social comparison and body image: Attractiveness comparisons to models and peers among adolescent girls and boys. Sex Roles, 45(9/10), 645–662. Doi: 10.1023/A:1014815725852

Lowes, J. & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children. The British Psychological Society, 8(2), 135–147. Doi: 10.1348/135910703321649123

Mann, M. M., Hosman, C. M., Schaalma, H. P., & De Vries, N. K. (2004). Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion. Health education research, 19(4), 357-372. Doi:

Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2013). NetGirls: The Internet, Facebook, and body image concern in adolescent girls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(6), 630-633. Doi: 10.1002/eat.22141


008: [On-Air Consult] How to Make Family Mealtimes More Fun with Janna Lundquist

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

Happy Holidays! Toddlers could be very active during mealtimes and would rather do other things than eat. On the eighth episode of the Impressive, Janna Lundquist, a Leadership Team Advisor, consults Doctor Kimberley for tips on how to encourage her kids to sit down longer during mealtimes.

Listen up as we explore:

  • How to change dinner time dynamics
  • When to use rewards at the table
  • Why we shouldn’t negotiate with children in relation to food

Enjoy the Episode

Recommended Resources

Keep updated with The Impressive Podcast

Join Dr Kimberley O’Brien on the Impressive Facebook Group to receive news, share your opinion and learn about resources for home and school. You can also Join the Mail List.

About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds 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, travelers and other hand-picked parents.


Top Tips to Prepare Children for Tests and Exams

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

As we prepare to begin term 3 in Australia, now is a good time to star to prepare for  the dreaded tests and exams period. Whether it is your child’s first experience with formal examination periods or they are a seasoned regular, it is easy to feel unprepared and nervous. The following article will discuss strategies to assist with these nerves and help boost your child’s confidence!


Sometimes the most obvious strategies are overlooked. Make sure you know when your child’s exam is. Mark it on the calendar. Knowing how long you have to prepare will help you and your child to appropriately schedule study times and reduce the chance of your child feeling overwhelmed.

Similarly, find out what is on the test! Some exam notices will indicate particular chapters and topics of importance. For the Higher School Certificate (HSC), students will be provided learning outcomes that explicitly highlight what knowledge will be examined. The Board of Studies has created helpful pages for each exam that outline what to expect as well as the equipment needed for each tests and exams, which can be found by following the link here.

Strategy #2 TIMETABLE

This is the time to get out the coloured highlighters and get organised! On a weekly planner, mark out all the times where you have commitments already scheduled (e.g. school, dance class, soccer practice, family BBQ, etc.). Then, working with your child, (let them do it on their own if they are capable), schedule in one to three 30 minute blocks of time on weeknights (depending on the number of tests and exams: and child’s capability) to cover a particular subject. Prioritise the subjects they find most difficult.

Breaking up the work into more manageable chunks of time will make the pressure of exams less daunting. Structuring study this way will also help to overcome any avoidance tactics.

For the weekends, you may want to discuss adding a couple more study blocks, where your child can choose the topics. Remember to schedule in fun breaks and small rewards to keep your child motivated. For example, spend 15 minutes playing their favourite game or having a snack after 30-40 minutes of study.


Research has shown that your memory recall is best when it is in a similar environment (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). Although you cannot take your child to school to study in their regular school classroom, you can try to make their study space at home reflect the conditions of tests and exams.

For example, encourage your child to study at a desk, sitting upright in a supportive chair, in a quiet environment. Although it may be more comfortable, studying in bed will be less effective!


How does your child study? Most commonly, children and adolescents alike will flick through their books and highlight more words than not. Though this can be helpful, it can often lead to an illusion of knowledge – “if it is highlighted, I should know it!”

Instead, encourage active study. This includes rewriting information in their own words, making mind maps, talking about topics, creating quizzes, using past exams questions and testing knowledge. Children can either do this independently or with parents and/or friends. Research shows that this leads to better learning and understanding of the material (Prince, 2004).

Strategy #5 SLEEP

Adequate sleep is so important, especially for the exam preparation! During sleep, our brain consolidates learning, so while your child may think it is better to stay up studying until the early hours of the morning, they will be better off getting in the zzz’s (Stickgold, 2005).

Strategy #6 NUTRITION

There is no one key ‘brain food’ that is guaranteed to lead to success. However, a diet rich in whole grains (oats, brown rice, wheat bread), omega-3 (fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado) and vitamins (eggs, leafy greens) has been shown to improve brain function and development and improve concentration (Torrens, 2017).

In particular, for older adolescents, limiting caffeine is recommended. Although energy drinks or coffee may be considered helpful because they increase alertness, their stimulant effects may make it difficult for adolescents to wind down, negatively impact sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness (James, Kristjánsson, & Sigfúsdóttir, 2011).

Strategy #7 EXAM DAY

Important things to remember on the day:

  • Make sure your child has a good, wholesome breakfast – think brain food, such as eggs on toast with avocado.
  • Engage in positive self-talk: remind your child of the hard work that has gone into preparing for the exam. Remind them they can do this! Manage expectations and focus on the effort your child has put in, not the achievement.
  • Arrive early: this is especially important for the HSC, as sometimes exams can be in rooms different from normal exams or classes.

Remind your child to:

  • Take three deep breaths to help settle their nerves.
  • Read all the instructions carefully.
  • Wear a watch to keep track of time.

Have something enjoyable arranged for after the assessment – your child has earned it!


Though the above strategies can help support your child, it is normal for them to experience anxiety. Recognising the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety can help your child break the anxiety cycle.

Racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worry and negative self-talk are common psychological symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms may include an accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, upset stomach and tension throughout the body (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Some strategies to help reduce anxiety include: deep breathing exercises (long, slow breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth), positive self talk (“I can do it”), grounding exercises (focus on what is in the room, not racing thoughts), and taking a break to go and exercise (Furner, & Berman, 2003; Otto & Smits, 2011).

If you notice your child’s exam anxiety is persistent and detrimentally affecting your child’s ability not only to study but to effectively function in other areas of life, it may be indicative of a more serious issue. Should you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.

Best of Luck!

Done with your assessments? Or just going back to school? Check out our term programs!


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Furner, J. M., & Berman, B. T. (2003). Math anxiety: Overcoming a major obstacle to the improvement of student math performance. Childhood Education, 79(3), 170-175. doi: 10.1080/00094056.2003.10522220

Godden, D. R. & Baddeley, A. D. Context‐dependent memory in two natural environments: on land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66(3), 325-331. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1975.tb01468.x

James, J. E., Kristjánsson, Á. L., & Sigfúsdóttir, I. D. (2011). Adolescent substance use, sleep, and academic achievement: evidence of harm due to caffeine. Journal of adolescence, 34(4), 665-673.

NSW Education Standards Authority (2018). Exam advice and resources for students. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from

Otto, M, W., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety: Proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.

Stickgold, R. (2005). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature, 437(7063), 1272-1278. doi:10.1038/nature04286

Torrens, K. (2017). 10 foods to boost your brain power. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from