Kids who thrive in social and emotional development tend to do better at school.  So we need to encourage this area of development as soon as we can…. Like from the time they are born.  Its never to early….  And it becomes good practice as a parent.

There is a relationship with children who were cooperative, social and helpful during the early years wth achieving better results in the later years.  

And also a relationship with children who engaged in aggressive or disruptive behaviours (including tantrums) during the early years with lower grades later on.

How can we help our children as they enter the early years?

Guide them how to make responsible decisions when they have choices;

Teach relationships skills such as listening, communicating, and cooperating;

Teach them to be self aware e.g of their own emotions, feelings as they arise, acknowledge their strengths [important for problem solving skills] and areas that they need to improve [help them discover these on their own so they feel empowered];

Teach them by role modelling empathy;

And what ever other skills you think they need. 

Please be careful to notice anxiety in your child.

Children are feeling the pressures of school and feel pressured to do more and achieve more. And this occurs at a very young age.  Unfortunately a lot of this comes from adult pressures whether from school, or home.

What does anxiety have to do with screen time?  Let me touch on this.  You do realise that having screen time means they have access to media that may stress them e.g. violence, bullying, mean things, aggression, and more.  This leads to worry and worry is anxiety.  Kids have access to catastrophic events, terrorism, fights and more.  How terrorising is this for them?

What you see through your eyes or hear through your ears [via screens] often gets taken to bed.  And I’m noticing lots of kids are spending their wind down time [before sleep] to go over “worries”.  What happened to spending that time going over the fun parts of the day or the fun parts of the days ahead?

Why are children given permission to relax with screen time?  Why are they needing to be kept so occupied and busy whilst having dinner? Or driving in the car?  I wonder how many kids have not looked out the window.  I see babies in prams with screens in front of them.  These babies are too young to even ask for it.  How unfair is it to take it off them in a few years when parents decide they are on them too long?  

One thing I have begun to do with kids and teens that come to my clinic, is to deliver the message that making boo boos [mistakes] are usually a good thing.  Failure is feedback I say to the older ones.  And to the younger ones I say “I love making mistakes, because I learn from them”.  But most kids really fear failure.  And because of this fear, they stop trying.  And then the rollercoaster begins where they become isolated, low self esteem, lack of confidence etc.   

As the owner of 4 child care centres, and being aware that fear of failure occurs in the prep years of school, I ask my employees to make boo boos and role model to the kids how to carry on, how to fix boo boos, to accept them, to learn from them, and to sometimes be amused.  

But lots of stress comes from home too.  Kids see stress and they take it on board too.

When it comes to adults, we know we exercise and this de-stresses us.  So what’s the solution for kids.  I’m going to say yes I know most kids play sport, but unfortunately this has become stressful too.  There is so much pressure for kids to make certain teams to score goals, to prevent goals etc.  Sport has become stressful.  So I’m going to suggest playing outdoors is more relieving for anxiety than playing competitive sport.  I hope you get what I mean.  Watch kids play out in the park with their friends…. They are laughing, smiling and being creative.  Watch kids on the fields playing sports and they are being yelled at, ridiculed, and more.

I once came across this article that said “kids would you please start fighting?”  The title alone made me read it and I loved it.  It gave an example of a good argument not being personal.  It wrote about parents stopping siblings from fighting, and how parents fight when kids are not watching.  Naturally you think this is the right thing to do.  But what are the drawbacks?  First of all it limits their creativity.  Kids need to learn the value of an open disagreement.  Infact very creative adults have often come from families which had a high volume of tension.  And this does not include physical fighting or personal insults.  But true disagreements where they were permitted to use their voice.  

Im sure you have your own view on this as you have your own family values, but try and see the benefit in what I just mentioned.  After all, it is with great debates that we end up with good decisions.  Panels of unique and diverse individuals usually get together to argue and come up with the most appropriate decision /solution (sometime for an entire country).

So I am going to suggest, encourage your child to use their voice (respectfully). 

When parents disagree with each other (respectfully) in front of their kids, this encourages kids to think for themselves.  A necessary skill.  Of course choose wisely. And argue constructively.  Kids from this end believe it or not tend to do better socially and emotionally.

Model respectful conflict and teach kids to have healthy disagreements.  Don’t use the term conflict, rather call it a debate.  Make sure listening is part of the equation. And its always a step in the right direction to announce what you learned from the debate.  Sure things can get shaky but we rather our kids learn to walk after they finish shaking, rather than to stand still.

We want resilient children but if our kids are overworked and exhausted, they cannot be resilient.  Even us adults burn out.  And I warn you, if kids are feeling this now at school, how do you think they will cope in the workforce.  Our children need the opportunity to rest.  How’s this for a healthy formula: try your best, stop, recover, and try again.

Please note, rest and recover are not the same thing.  We need internal and external recovery periods.

Lets move forward to the teen years.  This is a wild and emotional path.  Our kids become sensitive to their friends opinions and react rather strongly.  This may often become a miserable time as they do not have the maturity to understand what their friends really intend.

This is an important time to guide teens and model healthy coping behaviour.  Exercise, meditation, yoga and other skills may be useful here.  Our teens need coaching and guidance.  Especially with friendships, and choosing them based on interests, not popularity, teach them about apologies, and compromising.  Let me just say the teen years are difficult.  And can feel rather lonely.  

Ive noticed that young kids are keen to talk, and talk and then talk some more.  Of course some kids take time to warm up to you and then, … forget it, they just talk and ask and talk.  Then they kind of quieten down as they approach the tween years.  But amazingly when they are teens sometimes I have a difficult time getting them to talk.  So I use some tricks and encourage them to engage in a deep speak.  Our teens often feel misunderstood.  They do lack the skills to see beyond.  Quite often they can feel rather miserable just because of one social comment, or one social media interaction not in their favour.  As we get older we learn skills to be more in control of ourselves and to choose to filter out that which does not serve us.  This is what we need to teach our teens as they transition into adulthood. They may not get it right away, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hear it.  They may remember it later on and bring it up to their consciousness and implement it in their coping skills.  

Forgiveness is an important skill to learn.  At all ages.  When we cant forgive, we suffer.  Many people feel that forgiveness is an indication that the other person gets away with what they say or did.  But its not that at all.  Forgiveness doesn’t make the other persons words or actions right.  Forgiveness sets you free.  And this is the most important feeling.  Forgiveness is not just towards others, but just as valuable for yourself.

So we live and we learn, and we can only do the best that we know as parents at any given time.  We learn from what we read, we learn from experience, and we learn from our children.  What works for one doesn’t work for the other.  So be patient and become an observer and a teacher.  

I have created many workshops for kids based on areas that I feel are important, this is usually by what I see in the media or by what parents bring me as concerns.  But I also find that whilst I have kids in my care, they bring up new ideas for me so that I can create new workshops.  I once had a workshop on school stress, and during this workshop the kids brought up other issues that helped created another workshop.  This is the beauty of social and emotional development.  Meeting the needs of our kids and current standards.

May we raise resilient kids who are curious and not afraid to try and be their best versions of themselves.

Take care

Amanda Dounis

Psychotherapist and Early Childhood Teacher

Positive Thinking clinic

1/7 Magdalene Terrace, Wolli Creek, 2205