The school holiday period can be a great time to reflect on the last term, prepare for upcoming changes and review skills that need to be improved.
Returning to school is typically experienced with mixed emotions. For some parents, it is a welcome relief after what feels like a very long holiday. For others, the return to school signals the end of a carefree, relaxing break and there can be feelings of sadness and/or anxiety associated with the return to routine and the academic and social demands associated with the school.
Children and young people equally experience a range of feelings about the return to school. For some, there is great excitement about starting a new school, seeing friends or perhaps finding out who their new teacher will be. For others, there may be sadness about the end of the holidays or anxiety about a raft of possible concerns such as making friends in their new class or coping with the work/homework requirements.
A tried and test way to prepare for changes and transitions is by focusing on your child’s social and emotional adjustment.
Tips to Help Your Child Settle Into Term 3
Whilst a lot of focus is placed on the academic tasks associated with school, paying particular attention to a child’s social and emotional adjustment over the coming weeks/months is also critical. Below are 3 tips to get you started:
Make time to check in with your child about how they are feeling and coping with the school year so far. It’s important to really listen to what your child is saying. To do this, begin by just repeating back or paraphrasing what your child is telling you. Where your child is experiencing uncertainty try to normalise this and remind your child that it can take a few weeks to really settle in. It is not uncommon for children (and parents) to express disappointment about a new teacher they may have been assigned or about the discovery that they don’t have as many close friends in their class. Rather than jumping to solve the problem for your child, build resilience by encouraging your child to come up with some ideas about ways to help themselves cope in such a situation.
It can often be a good idea to make time to check in with your child’s teacher as soon as terms resume. Whilst you will, of course, wish to discuss their educational strengths/weaknesses, also address how your child is feeling about their progress and to highlight anything (e.g. camp, homework) that may be worrying your child. Make sure you also discuss your child’s social skills with the teacher. If they are struggling with friends, ask your child’s teacher how the school can help in facilitating friendships. If your child has had any ongoing incidents of bullying/teasing it is critical to mention this again and ask how they can help to ensure that such incidents don’t occur again during the next terms. Equally, if your child has a history of seeking attention from others in a class by misbehaving, check on how this is been handled at school. Teachers will undoubtedly find your insights into what works and what doesn’t work at home very useful.
Encourage friendships and further consolidate social skills in by organising playdates or outings with any new classmates made throughout the term. Whilst children often request existing friends, it can be worthwhile trying to extend friendship networks by inviting new children over. This is not only good for your child but can also help to expand social support networks for you as a parent. In secondary school, it is equally important to encourage friendships by providing opportunities for your son/daughter to have friends over or by offering to drive them to a movie etc. This not only helps foster friendships but also gives parents valuable insights into the type of friendships that your child is building.
Why social-emotional learning is so important
The importance of focusing on the social and emotional well being of children is becoming increasingly acknowledged. In the current climate of increasing rates of mental illness in young people and concern over youth suicide rates, the NSW government has reportedly decided to tackle the problem more aggressively by proposing to adopt a more preventative approach in addressing such issues. The Government’s decision to begin at the grassroots level and start better-educating school-aged children (from Kindergarten) about mental health issues is welcome news to everyone here at Quirky Kid.
The changes to the Personal Development, Health, Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus which are apparently due for implementation from 2020 include a more comprehensive effort to address social-emotional learning and mental health issues from primary school onwards. Beginning in Kindergarten, it is proposed that children will begin with simple social-emotional concepts such as feelings and building relationships with others, but as they progress to higher grades the aim will be to address important issues such as coping with success and failure, overcoming adversity, grief and death, coping with controlling behaviour in others, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
Helping Children to Build Important Social-Emotional Skills
Equipping children to cope with the social and emotional demands of school fosters increased coping and resilience skills. The evidence suggests that well developed social and emotional skills are both protective and helpful. Strong social and emotional skills in children not only predict fewer behavioural problems in the classroom but they are also related to positive academic outcomes and improved school performance (Myles-Pallister, Hassan, Rooney, & Kane, 2014; January, Casey & Paulson, 2011; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011)
The government and other mental health agencies hope that by tackling such topics in school and by better-educating children about mental health, steps will be made to not only demystify such issues but will crucially equip children with a more effective toolkit for managing difficult feelings. It is further hoped that lessons learned at school will have a lasting impact as children become adults.
How Can Quirky Kid help develop your child’s social-emotional learning skills?
At The Quirky Kid Clinic, we are strong advocates for prevention and early intervention when it comes to children’s mental health issues. Prevention, is, of course, the preferred approach. In our experience, providing intervention to children and families before problems become too entrenched can often be the key to success. Where issues have been developing for some time, it can be much harder to address problems and for both the child and family such situations can feel insurmountable.
The Best of Friends® gives children the knowledge skills and confidence to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, develop and maintain friendships and make good decisions. Designed for children aged 7 to 11, the program teaches these critical skills to children in an age-appropriate and practical way.
So embrace this potentially challenging time with your son/daughter and remember children tend to take the lead from their parents. With this in mind, try to model calm, brave behaviour whilst at the same time keeping the doors of communication wide open. By adopting these strategies your child should feel a little braver about adapting to their new classroom, teacher and school expectations.
Term 3 Social and Emotional Learning Programs for Children
Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432
January, A.M., Casey, R.J., & Paulson, D. (2011). A Meta-Analysis of Classroom-Wide Interventions to Build Social Skills: Do They Work?. School Psychology Review, 40(2), 242-256
Myles-Pallister, J.D., Hassan, S., Rooney, R.M. & Kane, R.T. (2014). The efficacy of the enhanced Aussie Optimum Positive Thinking Skills Program in improving social and emotional learning in middle childhood. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 909.
Greatness comes in many forms and is quite subjective depending on an individual’s age and abilities. For a child overcoming anxiety, greatness may be winning a public speaking competition or finding the courage to confront a new fear. For others, greatness may reveal itself through academic or sporting achievements, kindness, creativity or thoughtful leadership. In any case, discovering one’s unique strengths or passions is easier with the help of a caring coach, an attentive teacher, or a dedicated parent.
According to a recent survey of Australian students in Year 4 to 12, parents and teachers are the greatest influencers of a student’s sense of satisfaction and fulfillment (State of Victoria, Dept of Education and Training, 2017). Therefore, it is essential for parents and teachers to give sound advice on the subject of achieving greatness as defined by the child.
Leadership expert, Robert Kaplan (2013), developed a roadmap for reaching potential. In brief, he suggests greatness is achieved when we know our strengths, take the initiative and connect our daily actions to a clearly defined goal. For most children, defining a goal is easy but taking the initiative to make it happen is usually dependent on the adults around them. That’s where we come in!
Here’s what you can do:
Foster their self-belief. For example, if you know a child who aspires to be a professional soccer player, help them find a great coach or coaching clinic. For those with more left-of-centre skills outside the areas of sporting or academia, keep an open mind to the activities available that might help push their strengths to new levels. Show them that you believe in them and make it happen!
Research together. Show young people how to take the initiative by helping them to research and connect with experts in their field of interest. A child with a passion for making robots would be forever empowered if you showed them how to contact the Head Inventor at Battlebots. Imagine if they said yes to a Skype call?
Use a wide-angle lens. Think broadly when it comes to inspiring young people. Be proactive and organise a range of guests to visit your school to spark an interest in every child. These could include artists, refugees, adventurers or someone with a “diffability” who is pursuing a passion. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Set an example. Take on a challenge of your own and you will inspire others to do the same. Show some initiative and take steps on a daily basis to reach your goal. Share your journey’s highs and lows with the young people around you and make haste towards your destination.
Work together. Challenges aren’t meant to be simple, but staying focused on the task at hand is easier when those around you are doing the same. Achieve greatness among your classmates, family or friends and your success will be even sweeter!
Our online Performance Psychology program Power Up! has been specially created for kids who want to push their performance skills to the next level. Power Up! gives them the power to: build self-confidence, cope with the pressures of competition, overcome self-doubt and negative self-talk, set goals and make plans to achieve them and maximise performance in any chosen field.
Kaplan, R.S. (2013) What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Roadmap for Reaching your Unique Potential.Ebook. HBR.
Right School-Right Place (2017) State of Victoria. Department of Education and Training (Vic).
Understanding the peer relationships of academically gifted students continues to be a concern of both researchers and practitioners in the field of gifted education. On one hand, the literature suggests that in most situations, being intellectually gifted is generally an asset socially and emotionally (Robinson, 2008) and gifted students tend to be well-received by peers (Neihart, 2007). On the other hand, some evidence reveals that many gifted students express that they do not “fit the mold” and “feel different”, and this sense of difference may, in turn, lead to general feelings of unease or lack of competence in social situations and difficulties creating and maintaining relationships with other people, including peers of the same age (Gross, 2015).
Common social and emotional experiences for gifted children can reflect:
differences in their abilities compared to same-age peers
tendencies toward introversion and perceived issues with social acceptance
conflicts or anxieties associated with their inner experiences of giftedness
a critical and self-critical nature, often resulting in perfectionism or low self-worth
It is clear that there is no single manner in which a child can be gifted. Emotional and social difficulties vary, also, from one gifted child to another. These difficulties have their roots in asynchronous development. Gifted children have emotional, physical, and intellectual development that are not equal; not in ‘sync’ according to Miraca Gross, director of GERRIC (Gross, 2001).
Academically gifted children have an intellect above their emotional and physical age-level. An intellectually gifted 5-year-old may have the intellect similar to that of an 8-year-old, emotional development similar to a 3-year-old, and physical development on par with a 6-year-old. The higher the intellect, the more out-of-sync with emotional and physical development they may be.
A gifted child understands concepts that he is not able to deal with emotionally. Death, the future, or world hunger may become overwhelming concerns. Situations like this can create frustration and distress.
What can you do to support your gifted child emotionally ?
You can support your child to:
Make time for friends.
Be open to new friendships.
Practise being a good host.
Practise friendship skills by role-playing situations.
Be a good listener, use eye contact to show interest and caring for others.
Avoid bragging, while still being sincere about their own abilities.
Participate in a variety of group activities, to create different friendship opportunities.
Accept those who think and act differently from you.
Spending time with like-minded peers can provide your child with opportunities for engaging with those who think and learn in similar ways. They can share their values and interests, and challenge one another. This is likely to result in improved chances of being understood, with better prospects of forming stable and supportive friendships, and the comfort of feeling accepted.
Remember your child’s emotional needs may be at a different age-level to their intellectual ability. Recognise your child’s chronological age and comfort them according to their needs. A 6-year-old with the maths skills of a 10-year-old will still likely require the emotional support appropriate for a 6-year-old.
Some of the issues described throughout this article may be addressed by providing appropriate educational and counselling interventions. For example, The Best of Friends program has been carefully designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted students. You can find our more about the program by visiting http://bof.quirkykid.com.au or https://childpsychologist.com.au/workshops/
For more information about how to support the social and emotional needs of your child, contact us with any questions.
Adams-Byers, J., Squiller Whitsell, S., & Moon, S. (2004). Gifted students’ perceptions of the academic and social/emotional effects of homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping. Gifted Child Quarterly, 48(1), 7–20
Gross, M. U. M., (2001) From “play partner” to “sure shelter”: What do gifted children seek from friendship? GERRIC News, 4-5
Gross, M. U. (2015). Characteristics of Able Gifted Highly Gifted Exceptionally Gifted and Profoundly Gifted Learners. In Applied Practice for Educators of Gifted and Able Learners (pp. 3-23). SensePublishers.
Neihart, M. (2007). The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping Recommendations for Best Practice. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 330-341.
Robinson, N. M. (2008). The social world of gifted children and youth. In Handbook of giftedness in children (pp. 33-51). Springer US.
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.
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?
Have there ever been times when you have looked at your child and just felt so different from them? Have you ever been left wondering what tree did they did in fact fall from?
Writer, activist and Psychiatrist, Andrew Solomon has recognised the commonality of these feelings amongst parents and families in his book ‘Far From The Tree’ and discusses how negotiating difference within families is a universal phenomenon.
While the diversity and uniqueness of all humans provides the rich tapestry of the world we live in, feeling very different to our own children can be a challenge to embrace and can cause friction in families. Common challenges include negotiating routines and family structures, finding things all family members enjoy doing together and questioning your parenting abilities and capabilities. Often parents at the Clinic stress that it is not the love for their child that is lacking but the ability to accept their child and enjoy their uniqueness that poses the challenge.
Acceptance in parenting can be conceptualised as being able to see and acknowledge the uniqueness in your child, without pressing for this to change, as Andrew Solomon states, it is “finding the light in your child and seeing it there” (Solomon, 2014). This doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to shape our children’s behaviour, educational outcomes, sporting ability etc, but rather, we accept and validate with warmth their unique personality, we love them for being them. Studies consistently tell us that children who feel accepted by their parents have a better more secure relationship with their parents, a heightened sense of family connectedness, higher self esteem and fewer psychosocial challenges, such as anxiety and depression (Ansari & Qureshi, 2013; Dwairy, 2010). The heartening news is that acceptance is something which can be learnt and developed over time. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we use some practical strategies to facilitate acceptance within families.
Assess your own expectations
One of the biggest blocks to being able to accept your child is holding onto unrealistic expectations of your child and yourself. Some common expectations include “my child should be academic”, “to be successful my child must focus and work hard”, “it is not normal to be so fussy”, “I am a bad parent if I don’t like spending time with my child”. Statements that include “should”, “must”, “meant”, “not normal”, “bad parent” will invoke stress, anxiety and often anger, and typically do not reflect the true reality of the situation. Most parents can agree that having a happy child that achieves within their capabilities, academically, socially, physically and emotionally, is their hope and dream. Just because your child is not like you doesn’t mean that they are not valuable and certainly doesn’t mean that you have failed in your role as a parent in any way. Replace these statements with more helpful and realistic statements, like “my child may not be academic but they have other skills”, “being successful is finding a happy balance”, “most children can be fussy”, “all people are unique and so is my child” and “I am a normal parent experiencing common thoughts among parents”. Most parents don’t have mini-clones of themselves and most experience the challenges of raising unique children at some stage.
Become a child- scientist
Acceptance is fostered through understanding and knowing. Get to know what makes your child tick, what they love doing, what interests them, who they feel close to, what they want you to be doing with them. A helpful way to elicit this information is to discuss these questions during parallel communication times (ie. when you’re talking but not face to face) such as in the car, taking a walk, playing a game or at bedtime). For younger children, drawing can be helpful. A lovely activity to do together is draw a world and put all the people that are in their world onto the picture (you can write or draw). Using stickers, you can then identify people who love them (heart stickers), people who are good to talk to (dot stickers), people who are good to have fun with (star stickers) and people who help them (triangle stickers) (Lowenstein, 1999). Use this information to develop and strengthen your child’s support network.
Take turns in doing things together that you and your child enjoy and make time in your schedules to have fun together. Make space in your house to cater for your child, whether it be a spot for lego, music, games or special interest books. It can also be helpful to have a family friend whom you can enlist as a support person for your child and who can also take an interest in your child’s life.
Become a mindful parent
Mindful parenting focuses on developing awareness around interactions with your child through focusing your attention on your child’s needs in a particular moment whilst regulating your own emotions (Duncan, Coatsworth, D & Greenberg, M., 2009). Being in tune with your child is likely to help your child feel accepted and valued. While mindful parenting sounds difficult to achieve, there are some steps you can take to help develop your skills in this area.
Listen with your full attention: focus on what your child is communicating to you, what words are they using? what facial expressions do they have? look them in the eye, down at their level and show them that you can hear them. Active listening helps parents understand the needs and meaning behind behaviour.
Communicate: reflect back to the child what you hear them saying. Try and not make judgements here, just reflect what you can see and hear. For example, “you are feeling very angry because your brother used your special cup”. This can help your child build awareness of their own behaviours and acknowledge you are listening and hearing them.
Help your child label their emotions: it is important for children to be aware of the emotions they are feeling as it can really help them make conscious choices about how to respond to them. For example, parents may say “ it looks like you are angry because I can see your fists tensing up, your face looking red and you are shouting”.
Demonstrate self regulation and compassion: Pausing before your own reaction and teaching your child to do the same (eg. count to 10 before reacting or blowing out 3 breaths to blow off the anger) can help to limit unplanned and heated arguments or words that can impact negatively on children and parents. Showing empathetic concern towards your child shows them that you love them despite the situation and demonstrates your acceptance despite the behaviour. Following on from this process, behaviour can then be addressed through using calming strategies, timeout and removal of privileges in a calm and planned manner.
Warmth and Praise
Feeling accepted comes from feeling validated as a person. Warmly validating your child on a daily basis can improve relationships, behaviour and family connectedness. Some helpful ways to validate your child include:
making a photo wall of all the things you like about them and what they do. For example, taking photos of them hugging their sister, playing their lego and of family outings can help your child know that you notice and feel happy about special things they do or may be interested in. You can write in captions and put the date on the photos to elicit more meaningful memories of the special time/ activity/ quality.
use plenty of specific praise: tell your child you love them and praise specifically every day. For example, “I loved how you noticed when mummy felt unwell and thought to get her some tissues”. This tells the child exactly what things you have noticed and loved about them.
make a Brag Book (Lowenstein, 1999): at the end of every day, write one praise point in your child’s book that you can read together before bed. Again, make the praise specific. This book can be a concrete reminder to your child that you love and accept them.
Ansari, B. & Qureshi, S. (2013). Parental Acceptance and Rejection in Relation with Self Esteem in Adolescents. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4 (11), 552-557.
Duncan, L. Coatsworth, J. & Greenberg, M. (2009). A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent-Child Relationships and Prevention Research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12 (3), 255-70.
Dwairy, M. (2010). Parental Acceptance-Rejection: a Fourth Cross-Cultural Research on Parenting and Psychological Adjustment with Children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19 (1), 30-35.
Lowenstein, L. (1999). Creative Interventions for Troubled Children and Youth. Higell Book Printing.
Soloman, A. (2014). Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Scribner.