It’s been about 3 months since the start of the pandemic spread and isolation. We are happy that restrictions are loosening and Australia and NZ have managed well during this time.
For now, we hope that things are getting back to normal for you and yours – until things settle for everyone, we will continue with 3 (and sometimes a few more) Simple and Useful FIP TIPS each week for those with young children.
Week 13: Preparing for School Holidays
School holidays are just around the corner! It’s shaping up to be a bit of a cold one too! Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind this school holidays. Stay warm!
- It’s OK to be bored. The great news parents is that you don’t have to ‘solve’ the problem of boredom. The unstructured time gives children an opportunity and challenge to explore their own interests and make decisions for themselves about how to use periods of their own time. Most kids will organise themselves with something interesting (after a period of complaining). For those who need a little more support to get started, talk out loud about how you are going about finding something to do. Here’s one suggestion we came across in a parenting forum as a response to “I’m bored….”: “Wonderful! Bored is that feeling of spaciousness that happens before you create or explore or discover! I can’t wait to see what you do with that feeling!”
- Are screens really that bad? This is a hot topic in any school pick up line these days. There are some sensationalist claims mixed together with some quality science. Overall, the research literature in general presents a very complicated picture of this topic. It appears that, with the exception of sleep, the impacts of screen time (both positive and negative) vary from person to person, and context to context. So the answer at this stage, frustratingly is ‘it depends’. In the future, we’ll learn more and more about the effects. In the meantime, supporting our kids to have a rich range of play experiences and social interactions, joining with them for screen time to make it a joint activity, and setting a good example for screen use in moderation, may be a reasonable place to start.
- Tricky transitions. Having kids stop something fun they are doing to come and do something mundane – like eating dinner or taking a shower, can be a challenge. Using your wonderful PCIT skills, you can scoot in close to notice and describe what they’re doing (e.g. Wow, looks like you’ve been building some cool stuff in Minecraft…). Acknowledge how fun it looks (e.g. That looks really fun, I can see you are really into building that barn – looks great!). Then introduce the transition (e.g. It’s dinner time now so please save your game and turn it off). Stay close by if you need and give praises for positive behaviour. You may need to do a little empathising with how hard it is to stop when they were really enjoying the game.
Keep the kids entertained this school holidays – for FREE: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/23-free-ways-get-kids-moving-active-school-holidays
Internet safety videos for kids from the Australian government: https://www.esafety.gov.au/educators/classroom-resources/hectors-world/your-personal-information-online
Internet safety tips for parents: https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents
Week 12: Managing Sibling Conflict
We hope you have all been having a smooth transition back to school, work, and shops! It seems like just yesterday we finished up with home schooling and sent them back to school, and now we’re getting ready for school holidays! With multiple children under one roof, arguments are bound to break out from time to time. Research show that children who are close in age, and/or same gender tend to experience more sibling conflict than those with larger age gaps, and opposite gender. This week’s FIP Tips present a few ways to handle sibling conflict:
- Play Fair. “It’s not fair!”, “He got more than me”, “Why can’t I ….?”, “You love her more than me”. Sound familiar? Children often have a sense that things are not fair. One way to help reassure a child of their importance is to give them your undivided attention. Not all the time, of course. Think about a time during the day/week that you sit down and spend time with your child anyway (e.g. homework, bath time, reading, bedtime, driving to school etc.). Let your child know this is dedicated ‘me and you time’. Let them know you’re not going to be distracted by anything (e.g. other children, phone, house work).
- Change the Flow. Children (and adults) can get a bit “stuck”, especially when in conflict with a sibling. Changing the tone and/or scenery can help them move on and out of that rut. Start a “dance mode”, take a drink break (water for kids that is), ‘diagnose’ kids with “emergency cuddles” or send the kids outside for a change of scenery.
- Guilty or Not Guilty. We’ll often never know exactly what has gone on, and sometimes it doesn’t matter. Asking kids for an explanation or demanding a confession often isn’t helpful. Instead, use the opportunity to help your children resolve conflict and get back on track. Describe what you see (e.g. There is water all over the floor, and Rita you’re holding Tim’s water bottle), and let them know what will happen next (e.g. I’m going to take the water bottles away and Rita is going to help clean up the mess).
Reflecting on “Fair”
Week 11: Daily Routines – making them run smoothly
As you and your little ones get back into the swing of daily routines, you may see a return of some of those not-so-cooperative behaviours. While these behaviours are largely developmentally appropriate, here are a few tips that might help make at least some of these situations a little smoother:
- Offer choices (where appropriate). Giving your child a sense of independence might increase their motivation to keep moving with a task (e.g. time to get dressed “you can choose the dinosaur pjs or the spotty ones” OR bathtime “you can choose bubbles or no bubbles).
- Catch your child being cooperative. No matter how small or fleeting the moment, when you see your child cooperate (i.e. do as you ask, share, take turns, listen to someone else talking, tidy, help out with something etc.) pounce on it! Praise it specifically and let them know exactly what it is that you like (e.g. “I like how you moved over and made room for your sister” or “Thank you for coming straight away when I called you; that was great listening”.
- Model and describe. Describe out loud when you are being cooperative (e.g. “it looks like you want to sit on the couch too. I’m going to move over and make room for you” or “wow – that’s a big mess to clean up. I can help you” or “That was a great story! I liked listening to you talk. Now it’s my turn to tell you a story”.
Connect – connect – connect! Investing 60 seconds connecting with your child before asking them to do something could make things a lot smoother (and quicker!). For example, you might take a little time to notice and describe what they’re playing: “wow, you’ve made a whole dinosaur land here. I can see…..and you’ve got….wow this looks like a lot of fun. Just two more minutes then it’s time to hop in the bath…”
Week 10: The Benefits of Unstructured Play
There are so many benefits to having unstructured play with your children at home. Benefits include relieving stress, creating moments for connection and bonding, and improvements in problem solving skills.
Here are some tips to help children develop their imaginative and creative play skills during unstructured play:
- Let the child take the lead. During the play, let the child choose the toys and follow their lead in play (while still ensuring their play is safe and appropriate). For example, if the child is using a toy stove as a drum, you could say, “That’s a creative idea using the stove as a drum, you are using your imagination!”
- Encourage pretend play. Encourage children to think outside the box with play by modelling for children how toys can be various objects – for e.g., modelling how a building block can be a piece of fruit or a telephone. You do not need a large play space, just try adding simple materials like a small cardboard box to inspire imaginative play.
- Incorporate playfulness into everyday activities. Incorporate playfulness into everyday activities such as cooking dinner/meals, planting a garden, or cleaning up toys. This turns chores into games and increases children’s participation.
- Make pancakes into triangles, squares, or dinosaurs
- Have children pretend the garden is their own, ‘farm’
- Turn pack up into a ‘game’ to see who can pack away the fastest
An idea for creative & imaginative free play: https://www.learning4kids.net/2012/05/13/kids-car-wash-tunnel/
Click on these links for brief videos exploring the importance of free play:
Week 9: Young Children’s Friendships at School
Now that schools are open again, it may be helpful to review friendship skills. As children play with their peers, they build skills to help navigate current and future friendships. These are skills like: sharing, taking turns, cooperating, listening to others, managing disagreement, and negotiating different points of view.
Here are a few tips to help your child learn more about being a good friend:
- Model friendship skills in play: you can teach your child friendship skills in play by acting out: sharing, gentle hands, and taking turns with toys in play. Here is an example:
- “Bear is sharing his bike with bunny. We make friends when we share with others.” You can also use puppets to demonstrate friendship skills.
- Helping your child learn about being a good friend: you can help your child learn about friendship skills in everyday life, such as when your child needs to take turns and share with their sibling(s). In these instances, you can:
- Promote turn-taking: “Let’s tell a story where we all get a turn with the toy.”
- Praise positive friendship skills: “I like the way you both listened to each other before deciding what to play with.”
- Practice friendship skills during mealtimes. Talking and listening, and showing interest in what others are saying, are important friendship skills. You can model these skills during family mealtimes (e.g., ask questions about their day) and allow your child to practise these skills at mealtimes with other family members.
- Competitiveness. When you play games (e.g., board games) with your child you can model for them how to win and lose graciously.
Week 8: Transitioning Back to School #3
For those families with kids in grade 2 – 10, it’s your turn!! Back to school next week. What a wild, frustrating, beautiful, challenging adventure it has been. Here are a few extra tips this week to assist your family making the transition back to school life:
*Coping with transition: It will take time for everyone to get back into the swing of things. Continue to listen to and acknowledge your children’s stories of triumph and tears from the school day. Resist the urge to “fix” things immediately. Let them know you get it and offer comfort and soothing before moving on to problem solve together (if necessary).
*PRAISE the process. Give your child plenty of positive attention for the things they do that you like. Keep these focused on the process thater than the outcome. For example you might praise things like: trying hard, not giving up, trying again, concentrating, listening, accepting a caregiver’s answer.
*CELEBRATE!! Give yourself the morning off, or treat yourself to something yummy at during the day at home or work. You’ve worked hard having the kids home for the past 5+ weeks; being a teacher, a caregiver, a worker and running a household. You deserve a treat!
Week 7: Transitioning Back to School #2
*Improve sleep quality. Many things go into the formula for “good night’s sleep”. Some of the most important ones include:
- keep up exercise habits – whether that’s indoors or outside
- sunlight – make sure they get enough to maintain their circadian rhythm (the signals in our brains that tell us when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up).
- calming bedtime routines.
*Oxygen. That’s right! Even though we all ‘breathe’ all day, every day, taking deep, long calming breaths gives our brain a good dose of oxygen. This is just what our brains need to keep them in working order during our times of worry. When we are stressed, we tend to take short shallow breaths that don’t quite get enough oxygen to the part of our body that needs it most!
- Breathe in through the nose, deep down into your belly so it rises (not your shoulders) – just like you’re smelling a beautiful bunch of flowers/coffee/pizza
- Breathe out through your mouth, nice and slow (deflating your belly) – just like you’re blowing out a candle
*A little bit of worry is ok. Worry is a perfectly appropriate emotion to have in the current situation (or any time, really). Let them know you ‘get’ it. Listen to what their worries are. No matter how small or silly it might seem to us, to them, it’s real.
Week 6: Transitioning Back to School
With Queensland’s lower and senior grades returning to school next week, and the rest of the grades possibly returning by the end of the month, here are some tips to help with the adjustment back to school. During periods of transition and change it is normal to see an increase in some behaviours while children settle back into their previous routines. However, there are some things we can do to help make the transition a little smoother:
- Get back into the swing of things. During school holidays and the period of online learning, the routines you used to have in place may have relaxed a little, or look a bit different. Talk about and practice the routines for school; including getting ready in the mornings, mealtimes, and bedtime routines. Try to keep it fun and light, you may even want to pack a practice lunchbox and have a picnic outside or in the loungeroom.
- Avoid avoiding. When children are feeling anxious they may try to avoid the thing they are worried about. However, we know that continuing to avoid something can make our worry feel even bigger. Take the time to listen and empathise with how your child is feeling, and support them in facing their fear. Once they get past the initial hurdle they may even remember how much fun they have at school!
- Be aware of your feelings. You may also have some feelings about your child returning to school, you might be worried about how they will go with the change, or might miss having them at home with you. Children are very good at picking up and mirroring the emotions that we experience, so try your best to keep things light and convey positivity and optimism about returning to school.
- Use your resources. Just like the start of a new school year, teachers are prepared for children to take some time to transition back into the classroom. Let your child know that they can talk to you or their teacher if they are feeling worried about something. If you have concerns with how your child is adjusting talk to their teacher about things you can both do to help them.
- Treat yourself (and them). If possible, try to organise a fun activity you can both enjoy once the school day is over. You might enjoy going for a bike ride together, or doing some special playtime!
Turn the morning ‘getting ready’ routine into a fun game! https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/behaviour/behaviour-management-tips-tools/-beat-the-buzzer-
Week 5: Responding to Your Own Needs
During this time of isolation, working from home, and home schooling, the demands we place on ourselves can be high, and it can feel overwhelming at times to get everything done. It is important for our own mental health to make sure we look after our own well-being that we can be there to support our loved ones. Here are our tips for the week on how to implement a little self-care into our lives.
- Find some time in your day. Find a small pocket of time each day where you can focus on yourself. For some people that may be first thing in the morning before the children wake up, in the afternoon when the kids are watching a TV show or playing computer games, or in the evenings once the kids are in bed. If there is another adult in the house, talk to them about keeping an eye on the kids while you take some time to yourself.
- Spark joy. Pick an activity that brings you joy – it may be sitting down with a cup of tea, doing an online exercise class, listening to a podcast, taking a bath, getting creative, or getting some fresh air.
- Ask for help. This is a tricky time, so it may be helpful to reach out to others for support. You can phone a close friend or family member, or call support lines such as Lifeline (13 11 14) and Parentline (1300 30 1300). If you need more one on one support, you can talk to your GP about a referral to a psychologist (many are offering telehealth services).
Week 4: Responding to Children’s Education Needs
- Manage your time. If you know your child needs extra support with an activity, schedule it for when you have the time to sit with them.
- Set yourself up for success. You know the times your child is at their best, schedule more challenging activities when they in their prime time.
- Be kind to yourself. Teachers spend many years studying before taking on a classroom full of students and it’s unrealistic to expect you to become a teacher overnight.
Week 3: Entertaining Children
With the recent Education Queensland announcement, it looks like many families will be at home with the children for a while yet. With this in mind, here are our top three tips for keeping the kids entertained at home.
- Schedule dedicated joint play time: Having a set time where you sit down and play together, can help kids get on with independent play outside of those times (so you can get some work done). Make it a “play date”, put it in the calendar, or on the fridge, set your phone alarm or even give your child a “ticket”. Be sure to follow through and stick to your word.
- Notice bids for connection. If you find that your child is making constant bids for your attention and they don’t seem to be able to get on with independent play, investing a small about of time (e.g. 5 minutes) will help them feel connected and secure. When bids for connection are missed (and this happens to all of us), kids will often settle for attention instead – of any kind. To connect with your child, sit with them, describe what they are doing, reflect what they say to you, and give praise for the behaviours you like. When it’s time for you to get back to your work, let them know when you can check in with them again.
- Get creative. Setting the kids up with some creative fun can keep them entertained for hours – when you find just the right one for them. Here are some our favourites from around the web.
Week 2: Managing Meltdowns
A common theme that many of us have come across this week is that of increased meltdowns (kids and parents!). With this theme in mind, here are our top three tips for the week, plus a resource to check out.
- Adjusting Our Perspective: Rather than seeing your child AS the problem, see them as HAVING a problem. Rather than seeing them as doing something TO you, see them as needing something FROM you.
- Stay Close. Although it can be uncomfortable to see your child having a meltdown, and we might be tempted to send them to their rooms to be alone, research suggests that kids actually do better with difficult emotions when a connected caregiver remains with them. If your child is being physically aggressive and it’s not safe to stay close by, make sure they are in a safe space, pull back on your interaction with them, and remain nearby.
- Describe What You See. By describing what is going on for your child, you’re letting them know that you ‘get it’. Knowing that someone understands is important for children (and adults!). You can say things like “You’re crying. You look really sad. You’re sad because I said you can’t have another cookie. I know you really love those cookies”. Describing and connecting in this way helps children to move on from their upset.
A short video on staying calm when your child is acting out:
Week 1: General Tips for Isolation
March 2020: A major week of isolation!
In Week 1, we at the Family Interaction Program put together some tips, activities and resources to help you maintain effective parenting and entertain your children!
- Kids do well with structure and predictability. Where possible try to follow a similar routine each day.
- Use your Parent-child Interaction PRIDE skills throughout the day. Notice the things that are going well and let your kids know.
- Continue to practice daily special playtime. During these uncertain times one on one time will help your children feel more connected to you and secure.
School aged children: