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 the sixth episode of Impressive, a young scientist by the name of Angelina Arora, the inventor of bioplastic, tells the story behind her interesting work and how it has been taking her to greater heights. Also, she shares the insights that she gained while on her journey towards success.
Listen up as we explore:
How Angelina’s parents supported her passion for science and inventing.
How to seek out a support network of teachers, professors and mentors to make your dreams a reality.
How to find friends who are equally passionate about their own endeavours, while balancing schoolwork with international research.
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.
Connecting Young Minds is located in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Headed up by Michelle Wright, a Family and Educational Consultant, her space specialises in creating individualised programs for families. As a result, these programs assist her clients in promoting positive mental health growth of their children.
Furthermore, we are impressed with the passion and commitment of Connecting Young Minds to social emotional learning. We are working with their team to deliver their first program to eight children during Term 4.
How we will implement the Best of Friends Program™ at Connecting Young Minds
The first 10-week group of The Best of Friends® program is taking place in Term 4 2018. Currently, our team of facilitators are closely supporting Connecting Young Minds in the delivery of the program. Each participant receives a copy of the exclusive workbook developed by Quirky Kid. Further, facilitators and parents have access to an extensive series of information, manuals and regular supervision as required.
To ensure adequate evaluation, each child and group complete pre- and post- psychometrist testing of their social and emotional skills. As a result, Connecting Young Minds can monitor the outcome significance of the intervention. Evaluation and Monitoring is an important part of The Best of Friends® program. We are working closely with Connecting Young Minds to support them in this.
Interested in offering ‘The Best of Friends® ’ program at your clinic?
Connecting Young Minds is one of the 15 other school or clinics offering our programs around Australia. Further, their enrolment continues to establish our Social and Emotional program as a cost-effective and evidence-based intervention. The programs aim is to improve children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
We continue to work incredibly hard to produce innovative programs and resources. Parents, clinics and schools love these resources, using them around the world.
Best of Friends®has a comprehensive implementation, evaluation and monitoring plan. Likewise, we are keen to identify partners committed to the implementation and evaluation of social emotional learning programs.
Finally, you can contact us or visit the program websiteto find out more about how you can meet and develop the needs of your students or clients through The Best of Friends® program.
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.
The holidays are nearly upon us and that’s great fun!
We offer group workshops designed to help children make and manage friendships, communicate better, overcome anxiety and perform at their best.
Our workshops have been creatively developed by Dr. Kimberley O’Brien and the Quirky Kid team over 16 years in the Child and Family field. We strive for innovation (winning local and international awards in Innovation) to make sure our programs are inspiring, practical and effective for small groups in the clinic setting or demonstrative for large audiences in an auditorium. Quirky Kid workshops draw on our micro-skills in working with children combined with current research and practices in Australia, the USA and UK.
The Best of Friends
The Best of Friends® program gives children the knowledge, skills and confidence to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, show empathy for others, develop and maintain friendships and make good decisions.
The Why Worry workshop helps anxious children aged 5 to 13 years to manage their own symptoms of stress and worry at home & school. Participants learn to identify personal triggers for anxiety and practice coping strategies to reduce any impact on the individual or family. By exploring solutions through play-based activities, participants learn to understand and appreciate anxiety in a fun, non-threatening setting.
Register for Why Worry? workshop this school holidays!
This program is designed for children and young people aged 10 to 15 years who are (or want to be) involved in sports, music, performance or academics in a competitive way. Power Up! gives children 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; maximise performance in any chosen field.
Find a Power Up! workshop near you this school holidays!
How to Register
Sessions for all of these workshops are available in our Sydney and Wollongong clinics. Places are limited so get in quick!
Stay in the loop! Join our mailing list to be notified of the dates of the upcoming workshops.