Tag: Transition

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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Preparing for Kindergarten

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Commencing kindergarten is a very exciting and sometimes scary time for children and parents alike. To ensure your child has an enjoyable and successful transition to school it is important to allow yourself and your child plenty of time to prepare. Below are some tips to assist you.

Things to consider when choosing a school for your child

  • Does your child have any specific interests that you would like the school to nurture? This may include sports, music, or languages,
  • What facilities does the school provide that will assist your child to reach their full potential?
  • Does the school offer any transition to school programs, to assist children and parents to settle into the new community?
  • Does the school share the same values as your family with regard to attitude, beliefs, and behaviour? This may include their policies towards punctuality and dress code,
  • Do you have religious beliefs, or educational philosophies that you would like the school to share?
  • Consider if you have a preference for single sex or co-ed.
  • The distance between your home and the school is another important decision, it is important to also consider how your child will get to school.
  • Finally, if your child has already established friendships, consider where they are going. Knowing  someone at their new school will assist your child in their transition to kindergarten.

Preparing for school

  • To ensure your child has an enjoyable and easy transition to school talk to your child about what to expect at school. This includes:
  • Talking about the children they already know who will be starting school with them, what it will be like to make new friends, and the many games and activities they will be able to take part in.
  • Discussing with your child who will pick them up from school, and reassuring them that someone will be there on time to collect them.
  • Practice using their new school bag and lunch box before their first day at school. This will allow your child to get use to opening and closing them, so that it will not be difficult for them when they are at school.
  • Practice putting on their school shoes and uniform jacket prior to starting school. This will help them to get use to doing it for themselves.

This is a special time for parents and children, and we hope you enjoy this stage of development with your child.

Other suggestions:

The Quirky Kid Clinic has social skills and communication program, The Best of Friends™ that assist children and developing key skills prior to kinder garden:

Recommended resources

The Quirky Kid Shoppe is full of useful resources. Below are some recommended resources by our psychologists:

Preparing for Kindergarten - Enjoyable and Successful Transition to School

References:

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

Chandler, L,K. (1993). Steps in Preparing for Transition: Preschool to Kindergarten. Teaching Exceptional Children. Volume 25, page 52-55.

Transition to School

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Recently, Kimberley O’Brien discussed ‘ transition to school’  and  the pressures children and teenagers face at school particularly as they head into Year 6, 7 and 12 with MTR 1377 Talk Show Presenter  Colette Mann, from Melbourne

This was an interesting conversation and you can listen to the podcast by clicking below:

You can further participate on the discussion by visiting our Forum – The Quirky Kid Huddle – https://childpsychologist.com.au/forum}

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AARE Conference

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Posted on by Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

I enjoyed my drive down to Canberra for the AARE (Australian Association for Research in Education) to present my Ph.D. findings for the first time to the public at the National Convention Centre. For the initial two days, I was inspired by Assoc. Prof. Lesley Rex’s eloquent keynote address (Michigan University) and Prof. Martin Westwell (Cambridge/Oxford University) combination of English humour and intellect, as they both lead the audience on a fascinating exploration of directions in research and education in Australia and overseas.

The delegates were all very friendly and happy to share stories about their ventures in NT Indigenous communities (Dr. Wendy Giles) and those with similar research topics were eager to gather and share references or powerpoints to make the most of our commonalities – It was an enlightening experience!

After sufficient build-up, the time came to present my project to my new found colleagues…and thankfully, it was well-received. My Monash Supervisor, Assoc Prof. Helen Watt was in the audience for additional support but I managed to breeze through my explanations of graphs and stats without incident. I must say my return trip to Sydney through the flood plains on the outskirts of Canberra at sunset was filled with a combination of elation and relief.

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Transition Research in USA

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Posted on by Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

During a recent trip to New York (11-24th Sept 2009) I hired a car for the day and ventured 2 hours north to the University of Connecticut (UCONN) to meet with Dr Julie Aikins, an expert in the field of early adolescent friendships. Julie organized a forum for post graduate students and I presented my own PhD research on “Self Esteem and Social Relationships among Students in Transition from Primary to Secondary school”.

The outcome was an abundance of new ideas for the future direction of my thesis. Julie fearlessly devised a new model to further explore the impact of loneliness, self-esteem, belonging and friendship quality during school transition. She also suggested the introduction of  two (2) new variables:

  1. Stability of friendships
  2. Reciprocity of friendships

Once again I would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr Julie Aikin and her team of research assistants for their generosity and wisdom. UCONN is also a place I would highly recommend as a well-resourced and service-oriented university – The library and the library staff were phenomenal!

Now back in Sydney, I have returned to the ‘writing-up’ stage of my project, aiming for 80 000 words by mid- 2010 with ongoing support and guidance from my long-distance supervisor, the amazing Dr. Helen Watt at Monash University. Helen selflessly shared the art of connecting with international experts and it was well worth the effort.

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