Adolescents

Building Social and Emotional Learning during the School Holidays

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

child inside a backpack. social and emotional skills for kids

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

If you are looking for a more extensive approach to preparing your child for Term 3, book now for our The Best of Friends® holiday and Term 3 Programs.

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References:

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.

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Podcast: How to Help Children Cope with Bad News

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Poscast on Helping Kids to make friends by Quirky Kid

We’d love to share our latest podcast recorded by Dr Kimberley O’Brien for a local magazine with you. This weeks topic is helping children cope with bad news.

Quirky Kid has produced a full range of creative and engaging Therapeutic Tools.


 

[00:00:00-00:00:32] Dr. Kimberley O’Brien introduces strategies for parents to help kids cope with traumatic news.

Hello Bonnie. It’s Dr. Kimberley O’Brien here. I’m auto-recording in Japan, so I hope there won’t be any background distractions. I’ll talk for five minutes on strategies to help kids cope when they’ve seen a tragedy, or had some sort of unfortunate event. I’ll have some tips for parents as well – I’ll fill you in on that towards the end of the interview.


 

[00:00:33-00:02:27] Parents shouldn’t shield children from all forms of adversity. Instead, teach them coping strategies for stressful events, since those are an inevitable part of life. 

The first thing you said was about helping kids to deal constructively with bad news, rather than sweeping it under the carpet. I agree that it’s a healthier approach, because it’s really setting them up for life. It’s giving them the skills to overcome adversity, without feeling like a parent is required to shield them from something that’s not appropriate for kids to hear.

From a young age kids are learning how to overcome physical injuries. Like toddlers grazing knees – they hop up and brush themselves off, and then life goes on. They can cope with those sorts of little incidents. And if we do shield the kids from all adversity, then they don’t learn the coping skills they need in certain situations, like if they are not good enough for a sports team, or if they’re excluded from a game at school. Teaching them coping skills is like teaching them life skills that help them to be more resilient. And it gives them confidence to be able to overcome issues moving forward. That’s part of healthy psychological development.

Imagine adults that haven’t learned to overcome adversity. They’re more likely to react negatively, perhaps need a lot more support, and need to take time off work if they haven’t learnt to cope with life’s issues that will come our way. That’s just part of life, isn’t it? Kids will have to change schools, or they may lose a pet or loved one. That stress is a part of living, so it’s something that kids need to learn to cope with.


 

[00:02:27-00:04:08] Encourage children to express their feelings in words, rather than through actions. Praise them for expressing themselves clearly, and empathise with them verbally. When something bad happens, let kids write down questions in a booklet, so you can answer those questions when you feel prepared to remain calm during the discussion. It’s a way to model good coping skills. 

The best way to do this, for parents, is to prepare for question time if it’s something that’s happened for a young person, like the loss of a pet. Have a question booklet that kids can record some questions in. And then make sure you feel prepared emotionally to answer each one of those questions. When I say prepared emotionally, I mean that children often take their cues from their parents. If parents are very emotional, kids will often follow suit and become quite emotional. So being prepared to model good coping skills as a parent is important. Say “these things happen but we will get through it”. Use words to explain those feelings.

Sometimes kids will use actions or behaviour to express their emotions. For example, they may feel disappointed, or upset that they didn’t make the sports team, and they may throw their sports bag across the room. But what we want kids to do is to use their words, and say “I feel so disappointed, I’m so jealous that my best friend was selected and I wasn’t”. Parents should then use verbal praise to say “I’m so glad to hear you express yourself so clearly, now I understand how you feel”. Parents can empathise with young people: “I’ve felt that way before, this must be hard”. Empathising is also part of helping kids to express their feelings in words, rather than in actions.


 

[00:04:08-00:05:01] When it comes to family trauma, such as a separation or a tragedy, it’s better to get professional help because they can remain objective and provide the family with support.   

Just a final point now, for parents on how to help kids through family separation. It’s good to encourage them to see a psychologist, such as someone at the Quirky Kid Clinic or a school counselor, to help them normalize those feelings. Often if parents are involved in situations, like if there’s been a tragedy or trauma within the family, it’s better to get professional help. A professional can remain objective and provide kids and parents with stats on how often these things occur, how long it may take kids to recover, and what the phases of grief and loss may be. It’s good to have an expert when dealing with family separation or similar situations.


 

[00:05:01-00:05:58] When a tragedy happens, stick to the basic facts when relaying the news to the child. Avoid delving into the causes, or exposing them to distressing images, to avoid more of an emotional response. 

And finally, a tip about how to relay the news to a child. Say it was something that happened in the world, like a tsunami. We often get rising referrals when there’s been a trauma, like a tsunami, and kids have seen it on TV. It’s best to switch off the news when there’s lots of visual, distressing images for kids to catch. Parents have more control when they’re giving the news to the young person. Stick with the facts: what happened, how it happened, when it happened. Avoid going into the whys, because that’s often going to trigger more of an emotional response.


 

[00:05:58-00:06:50] Apart from verbally expressing themselves, it can also be useful for kids to use art or visual props to talk about how they felt before, during, and after an incident. 

I’m going to wrap up now. To help kids deal and process emotions, help them to use their words to understand those feelings, or to seek help from a professional. Sometimes kids will express their feelings using art, so give them an opportunity to draw what happened. Or, they can select images, such as from our “Face It” cards, which are feelings cards with a whole bunch of different facial expressions. Children can use them to talk about what they felt before, during, and after an incident. Visual props can be very helpful.

Bonnie, it’s been a pleasure to answer your questions today, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future. I’m Dr. Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid Clinic. That’s www.quirkykid.com.au. And keep in touch. Thank you.

5 Tips on Building Entrepreneurship Skills in Teens

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

We have had the privilege of working with some amazing adolescents over the years, and as a team, we have noticed how creative, connected and educated many of our youth are. 

More adolescents are walking through our doors armed with ideas on where they want to head in life, with strong ideals of managing a future work-life balance, being productive with their time and helping others along the way. Our youth are at an age where they are masters of digital communication and used to working in collaborative, team-based contexts where multitasking and connecting through social media has just become the day to day norm – they are young entrepreneurs

At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we are committed to harnessing the strengths of those we see in the clinic, and often we are talking with families about how to develop the entrepreneurial skills of our youth who are growing up and responding to their world of connectivity, creativity and innovation.

Here are five tips to foster entrepreneurial skills in your adolescent:

1 – Build Resilience

Becoming a young entrepreneur by its nature requires a great deal of resilience. To have the courage to try out something new and manage setbacks and failures in the process requires the strength of character. 

Building resilience in children starts from an early age, with children learning how to delay gratification around the preschool years. This ability to understand and feel comfortable with situations in which rewards take time and effort is one of the first building blocks for resilience in our children. 

While resilience skills typically develop with age and social interactions, resilience can be fostered and directly taught. Some helpful ways of promoting resilience amongst our adolescents include: 

  • helping them develop problem-solving skills,
  • ensuring they feel socially connected with peers and their community and embracing their differences. 

With adolescence comes a desire to be independent and providing age appropriate independence with clear and consistent limits helps adolescents develop resilience. Eric Greitens (2015), author and Rhodes Scholar wrote:

Entrepreneurs jump on the wild roller coaster ride of life where the tracks haven’t yet been fully built. They’d have it no other way. They’re happy that way — with the wind in their hair.”

and being resilient is a necessary quality to develop and manage the ride ahead.

2 – Harness Creativity and Personal Experiences

All too often, we as parents and carers can focus on developing compliant children. It comes with the territory of helping our children conform to rules in school, manage their time and activities and be part of a happily functioning family system. Sometimes we can lose sight of just being a kid and the creative and unique ways our children often see the world. 

Entrepreneurs need to be creative, seeing opportunity where others have not and taking risks where others don’t dare. Bearing in mind your child’s interests, passions and creative outlets can really help foster their positioning to become entrepreneurs. Take the time yourself to be interested in your child and schedule plenty of time for them to fill with their own interests. Utilising and reframing personal experiences can also be valuable. 

Take Bridgette Veneris, the 10-year old Melbourne girl who won the littleBIGidea competition for her invention of an easy-to-use adhesive bandage dispenser (Charpentier-Andre, 2016). Bridgette utilised her experiences while in a hospital recovering from leukaemia to develop a sticky bandage that was quicker and easier to peel off. Ideas and inventions can come from unexpected places, even negative experiences, with the right support and interest.

3 – Develop a Growth Mindset

Children are becoming increasingly exposed to the concept that our abilities and capabilities are not fixed but rather, malleable and changeable. 

This growth mindset is becoming part of our children’s language in the educational setting. Children are learning to swap their “I can’t do it” attitude for the “I can’t do it yet, but with effort and support I can!” mindset. Recent advances in neuroscience indicate that our brain has an amazing ability to change in response to situations, attitudes and support. 

Parents and carers are positioned to support children’s development of this growth mindset. Entrepreneurs succeed with a growth mindset – they need to be flexible on the start-up roller coaster ride, learn from experiences and attribute failures to things that they can change. Parents can foster a growth mindset in their adolescents by encouraging them to problem solve issues that arise, take a flexible approach with failures and embrace the learning process involved, encourage taking a leap of faith with ideas and praising effort, persistence and self-reflection. Companies such as Google, Apple, Disney and Amazon are known for fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation and risk taking and valuing the growth-mindset of their employees.

4 – Call in the Community

Helping your child connect with those around them that have similar interests as well as complimentary skills will help position them for success in making their ideas not only a reality but a sustainable one. Entrepreneurs not only need great ideas, but they also need to be able to bring ideas to fruition and ensure the scalability and longevity of their enterprises, and having a team around them to provide backing, guidance and reflection is important. 

Building a team and support network around your adolescent is an essential ingredient for the making of an entrepreneur. Some ways parents can help is by providing their adolescent with guidance, particularly on their experiences with running a business and managing success and failure, helping their adolescent link in with an appropriate mentor and fostering a network of like-minded adolescents. Adolescents need to know their parents have their backs, even in times of challenge and failure.  

5 – Provide Guidance around the Practicalities

To become an entrepreneur requires knowledge around the logistics of how a business works, from understanding how to set up a bank account all the way to the knowing about the commercial guidelines and laws surrounding your business idea and model. 

Parents and carers can share their business experiences and facilitate the growth of financial literacy by stepping their adolescent through the processes of setting up bank accounts and navigating business structures. It can be helpful to call on mentors or link your child into courses that may be helpful for their business, e.g.,. Commercial law or coding courses. Of course, parents and carers are also positioned well to help their adolescent understand and learn about self-care and balancing the demands of what comes with becoming an entrepreneur with those of being a child.

Our youth are growing up in an environment which is thriving on connectivity, creativity, and innovation, which for many adolescents, provides a perfect base from which to encourage their strengths and foster their entrepreneurial skills.

Do you want to help your child excel in their field? 

Here at Quirky Kid, we run a program to do just this, and it’s called Power Up! Run both at clinics and as a unique online program, Power Up! takes all the essential psychological techniques used by elite performers and makes them accessible to children through the teaching of Performance Psychology.

References

Greitens, E. (2015). Why resilience is the key ingredient for successful entrepreneurship. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243910

Charpentier-Andre, S. (2016). Melbourne girl NASA-bound after creating bandage dispenser while undergoing chemotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/bridgette-veneris-invents-adhesive-bandage-dispenser/8006780

Robinson, J. (2014). The 7 traits of successful entrepreneurs. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230350 

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Gifted Children and their Social and Emotional Difficulties

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

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:

  1. differences in their abilities compared to same-age peers
  2. tendencies toward introversion and perceived issues with social acceptance
  3. conflicts or anxieties associated with their inner experiences of giftedness
  4. 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.
    • Enroll in a Comprehensive Social and Emotional Learning Program
  • 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.

References

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.

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Perfectionism in Children: Top 8 Strategies

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

 

Imagine a child who keeps a perfectly neat desk in class, a super tidy room at home, spends afternoons ensuring their homework is meticulous and correct and who expects the very best of themselves at all times. What could possibly be awry here you ask?

Well, at the Quirky Kid Clinic, we know how important it is to foster the hopes and aspirations of children and awaken and strengthen a desire for children to strive to be their best, however, we know that for some children, this desire can become an all-encompassing, all-consuming striving for flawlessness, which can become a difficult load for children to carry (Hibbard & Walton, 2014).

Perfectionism, characterised by the setting very high, even impossible, standards for oneself and becoming self-critical if these standards are not reached, is a common feature of many of the children we see at our clinic. While it is well established that many children can manage perfectionistic characteristics adaptively to help them stay motivated, organised and on task to meet high personal standards, perfectionism can also lead to high levels of avoidance, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and exaggerated reactions to mistakes, all of which can interfere with a child’s functioning (Gnilka, Ashby & Nobel, 2012). We frequently see perfectionism getting in the way of a child participating in class, being able to complete assignments and homework, having a go at new activities and gaining pleasure from social and sporting activities.

How perfectionism in children starts?

A common question we are asked is where does children’s perfectionism come from? The research is quite mixed when talking about the developmental roots of perfectionism. It appears that a child’s early experiences play a role, such as the messages children receive and hear about success, achievement, and failure. For example, children with highly critical parents and who seem to perceive their parents as expecting them to be perfect,  show a greater likelihood of showing perfectionistic traits (Hibbard & Walton, 2014). Additionally, we know the temperament of a child also plays an important role, with children who are highly sensitive and prone to anxiety, becoming more likely to express perfectionism.

Features of perfectionism in children?

One of the hallmark features of children who are perfectionistic is the distorted and rigid ways in which they tend think (Fletcher & Neumeister, 2012). Perfectionistic children commonly think they must adhere to meeting impossibly high standards (eg. “I must get 90% in my exam, I must make sure I am the best in my class”). They may also overgeneralise when they fail (“this bad mark means I’ll never do well”), display black and white thinking (“if I make an error, I will be a complete failure”) and focus on the negatives while discounting the positives (“I messed up every ball in that game, I played terribly”). These distorted thinking patterns act like filters, such that these children tend to see the world quite differently to their peers, honing in on information and experiences that confirm underlying fears that their best efforts will never be good enough and filtering out more positive experiences. This can fuel self-critical beliefs and exacerbate avoidance behaviours as children become more unsure of themselves over time.

So, how can we best support our children who appear to be setting impossibly high standards for themselves?

  • Take care of yourself:    Setting high standards for ourselves, whether it be in our parenting, career or sporting achievements can have a multitude of benefits for children, however, be mindful of the pitfalls. Are we constantly frustrated? are we constantly comparing rather than focusing on our unique capabilities? are we avoiding things for fear of failure? Children learn greatly about developing resilience, perseverance, enjoyment of a challenge and their own strengths and weaknesses from watching us as parents set goals, shift the goal posts and cope when things don’t quite go to plan. Showing your children a ‘have a go’ attitude and the enjoyment and learning that it brings will help them navigate and cope with their own challenges in life (Greblo & Bratko, 2014).
  • Support High Achievers early on: It is important to support high achiever early on with the right messages, instructions and education. With this in mind, The Quirky Kid Clinic has published a unique online program called Power Up: Using Performance Psychology to do your best. This rich and engaging online program covers key areas of performance to assist children and young people aged 10 to 16 to perform at their best.  See http://powerup.quirkykid.com.au
  • Seek additional assistance from your school counsellor or psychologist: There can be times when perfectionism can really get in the way of your child’s ability to function at school and home. If your child is avoiding things for a fear of failure or making a mistake and is showing exaggerated reactions and changes which may signal anxiety or depression, it is recommended you seek further opinion from your school counsellor or psychologist.
  • Focus on coping skills: Help your child develop positive coping strategies for managing their fears and worries about achievement. Two practical strategies to help your child are breaking down goals and developing a problem solving approach (Gnilka et al., 2012). Often, children avoid tasks like homework or writing in their books, speaking out in front of classmates and playing in team sports because the task at hand appears so daunting and thus is avoided altogether. Help your child break their goals down into more achievable goals, like completing smaller amounts of homework at more regular intervals for example. Helping children problem solve is also important. We know problem solving capabilities are learnt, and, important to the development of children’s resilience-skills. Help children define the ‘problem’ they have and explore and test out possible solutions. Over time, children will be better equipped to confront problems and hurdles with greater flexibility and be better able to generate a range of possible solutions rather than feeling overwhelmed as soon as an issue is presented.
  • Challenge distorted and unhelpful thinking styles: One of the central factors which appears to perpetuate the anxiety and avoidance so frequently associated with perfectionistic children is the distorted and unhelpful ways in which they think. What is often frustrating for parents, teachers and coaches, is that perfectionistic children rarely have experiences in which, given attempt and effort, they fail. Helping children develop more helpful and realistic self-talk is the key. Some key questions to ask children are: what evidence do they have for their fear or negative thought being true? What is helpful about their negative thought and what is unhelpful about it? What is the worst that could happen if their feared outcome occurred and how terrible is this on a scale of life events? What could be more realistic and helpful to say to themselves? Challenging children’s cognitive distortions and replacing them with more realistic and helpful self talk is central to children understanding and knowing they are not defined by their mark or mistake and realising how unhelpful rigid patterns of thinking can be (Fletcher & Neumeister, 2012).  Great activities are also covered on the Power Up Program
  • Set the scene: Set the language in your household and with your child’s school and interest groups, to demonstrate to your child that mistakes are ok, everyone makes them and having your best go is more important than the outcome. Where appropriate, talk openly about your own mistakes and encourage teachers and coaches to do the same. Model making mistakes and your own coping reactions in response. Discuss with your child the positives which come from making mistakes and focus on the positives of situations that were gained despite of, or in light of, a mistake. Encourage enjoyment of activities and make this a focus with your child. Set limits on things which need to be limited, such as how long your child spends on their homework, and use words of encouragement for effort.
  • Find a positive role model: Find a healthy role-model for your child, a person who can take an interest in your child’s hobbies and skills and who can strengthen the language of ‘effort over success’ , ‘everyone makes mistakes’ and the ‘have a go’ attitude with your child.
  • Foster a ‘growth mindset’: Recently, there was a very good article published in the New Scientist about how to raise successful children and core to the article was the idea that we need to foster a ‘growth mindset’ with our children. In essence, we need to move away from thinking in rigid and fixed ways about our talents, intelligence and personalities (eg. “I am no good at sport”, “I can’t change this”) to a flexible mindset focused on the possibilities of growth, benefits of effort and development through perseverance and support. For our children who are perfectionistic, this can help children move from “I can’t” or “I will never” to “I will have a go”, with this effort and attempt being praised from the sidelines to see these children not only fulfill their potential in their focus area, but also branch out to find meaning and joy in activities and pursuits which aren’t being done perfectly.

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References

  1. Fletcher, K. & Neumeister, K. (2012). Research on Perfectionism and Achievement Motivation: Implications for Gifted Students. Psychology in the Schools, 49 (7), 668-677.
  2. Gnilka, P., Ashby, J. & Noble, C. (2012). Multidimensional Perfectionism and Anxiety: Differences Among Individuals With Perfectionism and Tests of a Coping-Mediation Model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90, 427-436.
  3. Greblo, Z. & Bratko, D. (2014). Parents’ perfectionism and its relation to child rearing behaviours. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 55 (2), 180-185.
  4. Hibbard, D. & Walton, G. (2014). Exploring the Development of Perfectionism: The Influence of Parenting Style and Gender. Social Behavior and Personality, 42 (2), 269-278.
  5. New Scientist (2014), March Issue. The Secret of Success by Michael Bond.
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