Tag: Family

Keeping Cool for School Camp

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

School camps, slumber parties and sleepovers are important steps to your child gaining their independence, but for some kids and their parents, this potentially positive experience can be riddled with anxiety. Thankfully, there are effective strategies which resolve some of the most common concerns around sleeping away from home or without the comfort of family.

For kids in later primary school, Term One here in Australia often includes the obligatory school camp. Similarly, the school holidays for tweens and teens often provide an exciting opportunity for children to engage in fun overnight holiday camp programs, or perhaps your child may be invited to their first sleepover at a friend’s house. Whether it is a slumber party, school trip or even an overseas camp, the emotions and concerns you and/or your children may have remain the same. Although it is not unusual to have apprehension around first-time sleepovers, the good news is that there are ways to manage these worries and make it the positive experience it should be for both parents and kids.

Read on for our top tips for successfully navigating this adventure together.

Why can Overnight School Camp seem scary?

Just like anything new, overnight trips present children with a series of unknowns. These can range from primal concerns around their safety, to social concerns about fitting in and getting along with peers, to practical concerns like whether they will remember everything or pack the right things. Knowing the main theme of your child’s concern will be the first step in assisting them to feel more confident.

Strategies for Parents of first-time School Campers

Overall, the main goal for parents is to focus on positives. Think about what your child has to gain from this experience. It is very likely to be a great opportunity to establish new friendships, participate in hands-on learning experiences and, importantly, gain a sense of independence outside of the family network. The following considerations and tips may be helpful for parents:

  • Are you yourself anxious? In preparation, it is important to check-in on how you are feeling yourself. What are you worried about as a parent? How are you addressing these concerns? In these times, if you are worried, you are more likely to present as flustered and somewhat erratic. This can heighten anxiety in young children, who could interpret camp as something to be concerned about. It is important to manage your own anxiety first!
  • Homesickness chat. This is a big one! You may have experienced some separation anxiety with your child in the early years when beginning preschool. This experience is quite relatable in that it is an unknown situation. If your child is worried they may miss home too much to enjoy themselves, an easy fix can be to have your child bring with them an important item from home that can easily be popped in their bag.
  • Pack together. Make it fun! Often camps will provide you with a list of required items.For a sleepover, you can call the other parent and jot down a list. Then turn packing into a game, such as collecting the required items as if on a scavenger hunt. Further to this, make sure you do not leave packing to the last minute! Think of the classic saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’; packing ahead of time will allow you to make any last trips to the shops if required.
  • Reduce the sense of the ‘unknown’. Talk about what to expect and perhaps see if you can get a rough schedule for the camp. Where possible, make a rooming request with teachers/staff if the child is not given the option.
  • Share your own positive experiences. Simply talking with your child about your good experiences on camp may help to further ease the fear of the unknown. It is okay to talk about experiences that also didn’t turn out too well, however it is important to emphasise the learning that came out of that experience!
  • Normalise that some anxiety is okay. It is always important to emphasise that all feelings we experience are normal, and good, and part of our body looking after us. Holding onto anxious feelings is not helpful in the long term, however. Help your children to recognise when they don’t feel good, and to challenge an unhelpful feeling with a helpful thought or saying to themselves, for instance, “I’m feeling nervous, but I know I’ll have a great time with my friends on camp”.
  • Account for any travel sickness or dietary needs in advance. As parents, you know what your child can and cannot handle. It is important to make staff aware of any accommodations that need to take place to help mitigate the likelihood of any predictable problems.

 

Strategies to Enhance your Child’s Confidence during School Camp

While there is a lot you can do to put your child at ease, it is important that they know how to be present and manage their anxiety while they are at camp without you. Teach your child to:

  • Ease physical tension. When we are anxious, our body responds physically. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can linger and perpetuate negative feelings. Practicing relaxation techniques at home will help your child to self-soothe while away. Examples include deep breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
  • Worry diary. If something is bothering your child, encourage them to write it down in a journal, and leave the thoughts there until they are at home again.
  • For the night-owls. If there is a certain item at home that helps your child get to sleep, let them take it to camp to help put them at ease. If your child seems embarrassed about having a comfort toy at camp, you could find a small precious object to pop under their pillow instead. A drawing/portrait of the toy or letter (perhaps even written in the voice of their special toy) are also good substitutes.
  • Practice talking to staff. If your child does require assistance, often they may feel too anxious to tell someone about it because they do not want to get into trouble or bother anyone. Practice at home ways to approach and engage with staff or get their attention. This can be practiced with regards to how to complete activities, if a peer is unkind, when feeling homesick, or where to get their special dietary food from.

Some anxiety around first camps and overnight stays is normal and an important part of your child’s emotional development. If this distress is persistent, however, and detrimentally affecting your child’s overall functioning in other areas of life, it may be a warning sign of an ongoing issue. If you feel that you and/or your child require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.

For more on understanding children: Why Don’t Kids Like Chores?

References

NSW Government (2019). Preparing for School Camp. Retrieved from, https://education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/practical-help-for-parents-and-carers/family-wellbeing/getting-ready-for-school-camp

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Curb Bullying with these Social and Emotional Learning Skills

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

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

1. Open, supportive relationships between students and teachers.

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

2. Solid communication between schools and families. 

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

3. Emphasis on respect and tolerance. 

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

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

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

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

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

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Family Fatigue @ SMH

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Kimberley O’Brien, our principal child psychologist, discussed family fatigue with the Sydney Morning Herald reporter Alicia Wood yesterday.

You can read the article by visiting the SMH online. You can find useful, practical and informative advice about parenting and young people by visiting our resources page, – or discussing it on our forum.

If you have a story and would like to discuss it with us, please contact us to schedule a time.

Kimberley O’Brien enjoys sharing the best of her therapeutic moments with the media. View our media appearances to-date.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);

Helping Kids with Homework

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Helping Children with HomeworkNaturally, parents want to help their children and to see them succeed, but where do you draw the line with regards to their homework?

Parents often assist children by sitting down to help with homework, sometimes checking for mistakes, and occasionally completing entire projects.

Some research shows that helping with homework can be beneficial for children’s performance at school. However, other studies show different  results about helping children with homework.

The Quirky Kid clinic  suggests that the difference between parental involvement being beneficial or not is dependent on the type and the amount of involvement.

By constantly cutting in on the job your kids are doing, you may risk undermining their confidence. This may make them feel inadequate when it comes to completing tasks on time or may inhibit them from developing the knowledge and skills to do it themselves.

Tips to assist your children with homework.

  • It is best to establish a routine for homework at the beginning of the year. Decide with your child when and where homework should be completed. Creating a homework schedule together is a great way to discuss this, and put down in writing what you agree on.
  • You can make homework something children will look forward to by making it special one-on-one time with  you. But remember to let children keep most control of it – make sure the pencil is in their hand, not yours.
  • To help children focus at homework time, set some boundaries, ensure they have a clear work space, and establish some goals, such as a time limit. Additionally, by placing a clock near their work space children will be able to monitor their own time.
  • Provide your children some wind down time after school. Allowing them to play for a while and have a healthy snack, will help them to concentrate when they start their homework.
  • Many schools have implemented a homework policy. If you think your child is receiving too much homework, or it is too difficult, get in contact with the school to discuss your concerns.

Most importantly, by allowing children to complete homework themselves, they will have greater sense of achievement. Additionally, providing parents with a legitimate reason to pile on the praise. Remember to always praise effort rather than intelligence.

Need more help?

  1. The Quirky Kid Clinic provides private consultations and a range of resources to assist with homework challenges and performance. Please contact us to make an appointment or visit our resources page.
  2. You should also check a great book for sale at the Quirky Kid online ShoppeHow to do your Homework without throwing up – check it out.


Information for this fact sheet was taken from an interview with Child Psychologist Kimberley O’Brien, and the following article.

Hoover-Dempsey, K.V., Battiato, A.C., Walker, J.M., Reed, R.P., DeJong, J.M., and Jones, K.P. (2001) Parental Involvement in homework. Educational Psychologist, 36, 3, 195-209

Back to School @ Daily Telegraph

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Kimberley O’Brien, our principal child psychologist, discussed starting the new school year with Daily Telegraph reporter, Mercedes Maguire. You can find useful, practical and informative advice about parenting by visiting our resources page, – or discussing it on our forum.

To view the full article please visit the Daily Telegraph online.

If you have a story and would like to discuss it with us, please contact us to schedule a time. Kimberley O’Brien enjoys sharing the best of her therapeutic moments with the media. View our media appearances to-date. Visit our website for more information about Quirky Kid Clinic and Quirky Kid Team.