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Learning to raise a family - How will I be as a first time parent?

5 evidence-based tips for overcoming early parenthood stress and building resilience

How am I going to do this? I don't know anything about raising a family.

If you’ve ever had those thoughts, you're in the company of millions of other Australians who at some point before and during early parenthood just weren't sure how they were going to cope.

Stress, depression and anxiety are becoming more prevalent in Australians, young people especially. Around 20% of young women aged between 15 and 34 will experience depression and anxiety at some point in their lives. With society putting such high expectations on parenthood and it appearing so wonderful and easy from the outside, it can be very difficult to admit you are not coping.

The importance of healthy educator-child relationships on childhood development

How healthy educator-child relationships improve development in children

Building positive relationships with young children is one of the most essential tasks of a great educator. Being able to form trusting and communicative relationships with students of all backgrounds and abilities is a fundamental component of good teaching. Research shows that children learn, grow and thrive much more effectively and broadly in close and dependable relationships that provide nurturing, security, respect and responsive interactions. A positive educator-child relationship built on trust and understanding and being able to create these relationships will enhance children’s cooperation and motivation and increase their positive outcomes at school.

What is a self-care plan and why is it important?

The importance of having a self care plan for adults

Have you ever found yourself thinking heavy thoughts or feeling like 'I am barely keeping my head above water' and daydreaming about escaping it all to live on a mountain top or a remote island in the sun? You're probably the perfect candidate for a self-care plan.

Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, like when you may be experiencing personal or family issues, serious health concerns, work stresses, money woes, or other challenges life throws at us. Resilience is not about not feeling negative emotions; it's the ability to bounce back from challenges in spite of them. One of the most effective ways of building resilience is to focus on self-care. It is essential to take care of yourself. Just as you would look after a physical injury by seeking support and taking positive steps to ensure your recovery, the same is true for an emotional, psychological challenge or obstacle. Remember that the brain is just as ingenious as the human body when it comes to working out ways to mend itself.

How Neuroscience uncovers the effect of stress and trauma on brain development

How Neuroscience can help us understand the impacts of stress and trauma on brain development

Experiencing stress or trauma at any age can have a detrimental effect on the brain, behaviour, mood, cognitive performance and much more. These detrimental effects are exacerbated if the stress and trauma is experienced early in life, particularly if the cause can be associated to a caregiver or close adult in a child's life. Brain development during infancy and early childhood serves as the building blocks for future development, with disruption to this process by stress and trauma serving to reduce the brain's ability to form the neural pathways needed for adaptive behaviour. Early life is when the brain is at its highest level of plasticity, a time when experiences can profoundly shape cognitive and social development, for better or worse.

Why it's important for children to understand how their brain works

Why it's important for children to understand how their brain works

The brain is an amazing organ capable of incredible feats and also susceptible to a number of quirks. Neuroscience has been combining physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, mathematical modelling and psychology with the goal of understanding the fundamental properties of neurons and neural circuits and how to optimally utilise and train them. The field of neuroscience should be important to all human beings, and is incredibly helpful in teaching children about their brains and what they are capable of. If we truly want to empower and educate children, teaching them how to understand and control their own cognitive and emotional health is an important step on that journey.

Using Neuroscience in the classroom to engage children after school holidays

Using Neuroscience in the classroom to engage children after school holidays

Sometimes it can feel like the school term ends just as great learning momentum was building in your students. 10 weeks can fly when you are engaging with and teaching children of any age, and it is important to maintain and build upon that momentum after any holiday break. As the old saying goes if you don't use it, you'll lose it and neuroscience has shown how that also applies to memory and learning new skills and ideas. It's been called "learning regression," "Summer Slide" and "Summer learning loss" and has been shown to occur more commonly in disadvantaged children during long holiday periods. During the holidays many children won't read a book, write a story or practice their times tables which can result in children's learning levels regressing.

Understanding children's behaviours through social and emotional learning

Understanding children's behaviours through social and emotional learning

Identifying, understanding and guiding children's behaviour is a critical part of educating and caring for children. It is important to develop positive strategies to encourage children and help them to learn appropriate ways of behaving. Children display a range of different behaviours that are a reflection of their perception of their current situation physically and emotionally. These behaviours are not always easily understood and may appear to be deliberately challenging or negative. This is not the case. Social and emotional learning (SEL) and resilience programs for children give a deeper insight into what the behaviours mean, and how to engage with children to best develop their emotional and coping mechanisms.

The importance of Resilience and personal Wellbeing for Educators

The importance of Resilience and personal Wellbeing for Educators

If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what the most stressful job in the country was, what would you say? Police officer, Doctor, Executive or business owner? No, no, no and no. Studies have shown that Teachers report the highest level of occupational stress in Australia , with 41% of teachers reporting high levels of occupational stress. In fact, teachers make more mental stress claims than any other Australian industry. Teachers are responsible for providing stimulating learning environments for children in order to facilitate optimal academic outcomes and to provide a positive emotional climate to support student social-emotional functioning. But how can they possibly do this if their own wellbeing and resilience is being pushed and eroded each day? Although efforts to improve school wellbeing have emphasised the importance of student social-emotional functioning, many programs overlook the wellbeing and social-emotional functioning of the Educators themselves.

The importance of resilience in building mentally healthy workplaces

The importance of resilience in building mentally healthy workplaces

Did you know that mental illness is the leading cause of work related sickness absences and long term disability worldwide? In 2011 mental illness eclipsed musculoskeletal problems as the leading cause of disability support pensions in Australia, accounting for close to one third of all DSP claims and cases. Poor mental health and wellbeing has a profound physical and psychological effect on people's lives and livelihoods and has been increasing each year for over a decade. While the effects on individuals can be life altering, poor employee mental health also has a large effect within an organisation emotionally and financially. It has been estimated that in Australia alone, depression and anxiety costs the economy more than $12 billion per year, primarily due to lost or diminished productivity and high instances of staff turnover.

5 benefits of practicing mindfulness for wellbeing at home

5 benefits of practicing mindfulness for wellbeing at home

What if the simple act of clearing your mind for just 15 minutes each day could lower your blood pressure and actually change the way your genes regulate inflammation, circadian rhythms and glucose metabolism? According to Harvard University researchers, it does that and more. Hundreds of studies have been conducted by top universities around the world looking into mindfulness and the effects it can have on building emotional resilience in all areas of life. These studies consistently show that mindfulness, an ancient practice spanning over 2500 years, is even more relevant today than it was when it was first derived from Asian contemplative traditions.

How Neuroscience for kids is calming classrooms around Australia

How Neuroscience for kids is calming classrooms around Australia

The human brain is the 'organ for learning' and as such it would be expected that teachers, as the facilitators of learning, should be taught neuroscience at University as it relates to child brain development. Unfortunately most preparatory programs do little to educate teachers on the transformative connections between neuroscience and learning and development in children. It has now been over 3 decades since researchers proposed the idea of a 'neuroeducator' - who would have a place in schools after thorough training in disciplines relating to psychology, neuroscience, and learning sciences and still today most teachers are unaware of the benefits educational neuroscience can have on their students' academic and social outcomes and their own fulfilment.

Cyber Bullying: Building resilience in children in the face of online Trolls

Cyber Bullying: Building resilience in children in the face of online Trolls

Australian families are more connected to technology and the internet than ever before. According to the 2016 Census, 97% of Australian households with children under 15 have access to the internet. The startling statistic though is the average number of devices per household, seven. While the increase in connectivity and access to information on the internet has been beneficial for aspects of education and social development, it can be nearly impossible for children to escape its negative effects. One of the more prevalent issues children face online is cyber bullying. An estimated one in five Australian children between the ages of eight and thirteen has been the target of cyber bullying.

Organisational Theory of Change improves community organisations and projects

Organisational Theory of Change improves community organisations and projects

Any organisation, particularly a community based organisation with projects designed to improve outcomes for children, teenagers, parents and educators needs a solid foundation in order to succeed in its goals. Unlike a house, community based organisations can't rely on building that foundation and simply setting and forgetting and getting on with business. Sustained success in any societal focused organisation requires a culture of continuous improvement. Human beings aren't a static commodity, scientific boundaries in the understanding of neurological functions are being constantly pushed and it is the organisations that stay ahead of the curve that provide the best outcomes for their clients.

Back to school tips for parents
Back to school

Back to school tips for parents

Adjusting to the back to school routine can take just as much time, if not more, for parents as it does children and teachers. It is perfectly normal for parents to find themselves stressed about the new schedule, organising school supplies, separation from their children, preparing their child emotionally and all of this on top of possible work stressors and everyday life. It's okay to feel overwhelmed with the juggling act, and you're certainly not alone. Just know that with a little bit of planning and a few resilience building techniques you are capable of managing the stress and the transition into a new year for you and your child.

5 back to work tips for educators
Back to work

5 back to work tips for educators

The thought of going back to work can be just as stressful for new and returning educators as it is for the children they will be teaching. The holidays are an important time for educators to de-stress, reflect and begin to plan for the upcoming year ahead. For many educators it is a period of time to learn and develop ways to improve in the upcoming year. For new educators it can be a time to be excited to utilise recently learned skills and put their theoretical plans into practice. Many have completed social and emotional learning evidence based programs designed to enhance their skills to improve overall outcomes for their children. These programs build upon educators capacity and strategies by developing a greater understanding of ways to build relationships that support children's resilience and wellbeing.

How to make your child's transition to Primary School easier
Two children dipping hands in pond

How to make your child's transition to Primary School easier

It's almost that time of year again. As per usual, the holidays have flown by and it's only 2 weeks until Primary Schools around the country are bustling with children, teachers and parents. For many it is an exciting time, but while the unknowns of starting school can be fun for some children, for others it can be a daunting experience. It can be easy to forget that for a child, starting school means being thrown into the deep end of a new and foreign environment. Schooling is about much more than academic grades (although that in itself is stressful enough). A large portion of Primary School learning involves children learning to establish meaningful connections and relationships with their peers and where they begin to form views of their own about the world and how it works.

4 tips to prepare for your toddler's first day in Daycare
A child's hand in a person's hand

4 tips to prepare for your toddler's first day in Daycare

Your toddler's first morning of Daycare marks a significant transitionary period for your family. The first day of daycare is going to be a mix of emotions for everyone involved. For mum and dad there may be the anxiousness of wondering about every possibility of their child's day. Will they be ok? Did I pack the right lunch? I better not be late. Separation anxiety and extreme emotions can be experienced by children on their first days without their parents too. It's not uncommon to see multiple crying children (and parents) at the front doors of daycares and pre-schools across the world. For the educators the first day can stir up butterflies and anxious thoughts as well. They may be starting in a new role or new location and it is perfectly natural to feel nervous on the first day going back to anything.

5 tips for remaining resilient these holidays
Happy family sitting together

5 tips for remaining resilient these holidays

For the fortunate, the Christmas and New Year holidays are a time of celebration, festivity and quality time with family.

But for many, the holidays are a time of loneliness, anxiety and stress. Traditionally a time of companionship, the Christmas holidays can bring up painful memories and add social pressure to already struggling families. Stress reduces our ability to connect with others empathically; consequently, we may be around our family and friends, without forming any meaningful connections. You may be with your entire extended family yet still feel isolated and lonely.

Enter 2019 with a Growth Mindset
Lady meditating

Enter 2019 with a Growth Mindset

As we say goodbye to 2018 and move into a new year, many people are casting an eye to what 2019 will bring and setting goals (or New Year resolutions) for what they want to achieve. Most people know that making goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) is instrumental in giving yourself the best chance to achieve them, but what if a change to your own mindset could boost your chances even further? Have you ever wondered why some people give up when challenged while others thrive under the same circumstances? Why some regard effort as essential for success while others regard it as a weakness? Renowned psychologist and Stanford Professor, Carol Dweck studied these questions, the main contributor? Mindset.

4 ways neuroscience is Empowering Youth to Thrive
Empowering Youth to Thrive

4 ways neuroscience is Empowering Youth to Thrive

Almost half of today's youth experience a lack of confidence in themselves every or most days. Despite a desire to, nearly the same percentage (44%) does not know how to develop more confidence. For Aboriginal, Torres Straight Island and Indigenous Pacific peoples, self-confidence is intricately linked to self-esteem which in turn greatly influences motivation to improve one's performance. This affects how "many Aboriginal children think, talk and behave" in mainstream educational settings and can lead to a cycle of disengagement, often only because they are hesitant to showcase their abilities in public for fear of making a mistake.

4 tips to help Educators improve their time management skills
1 2 3 4 written in a register

4 tips to help Educators improve their time management skills

Effective time management is an essential skill for any successful educator. On a daily basis early childhood educators face a multitude of time pressures. Time management is about taking control of your available time before it takes control of you.
Educators must remain focused on meeting children's educational needs in between dealing with non-teaching administrative tasks, maintaining the philosophy of the centre and mediating issues arising with parents.

4 Resilience building strategies for Directors and Educators in Childcare
Child looking innocent

4 Resilience building strategies for Directors and Educators in Childcare

Early Childhood Educators have the responsibility of ensuring both the academic and social & emotional needs of a diverse range of learners are met. Due to the psychologically demanding nature of the profession, Educators report experiencing daily levels of high stress. This level of demand, often without sufficient supportive resources, plays an active part in the nearly 40% attrition rate for educators within the first 5 years of teaching. The high level of stress and burnout is exactly why Educators require access to and training in employing resilience programs in diverse and challenging environments.

How to be a "charismatic adult" for a child in need.
Radio interview with Debbie

Who was the adult in your childhood who stepped up, who inspired you?

When a child's parents aren't there or aren't able to give you that support - how can other adults help? Listen to this interview with Debbie Miller, Madelaine Winstanley and Dr Jennifer Cartmel to find out more.

ABC radio interview with Debbie Miller
Listen music player

When life falls apart again and again, what will get you through?

Something will go wrong. How will you find solace? What will you tell yourself about the situation? Your answers may reveal your level of resilience. So how do you build it, how do you retain it, and how do you help your children get it?

To find out, listen to the ABC radio interview with Debbie Miller.

3 Steps to choosing Social and Emotional Learning programs
Happy teacher with children

Before engaging in any SEL program, early childhood educators should not only consider the outcomes of the program, but just as importantly, consider the foundations of the program.

If the outcome is to build resilience and wellbeing in children, you should check to see if the foundations include these 3 steps:

  1. Does the SEL program establish as sense of identity for the children?
    Will the SEL program teach; I have strengths; I am safe and secure; I am valued
    Will it teach that we all have similarities and differences and will it provide a sense of agency about children's ability to contribute?

Strategies To Help Children Build Resilience
Child with painted hands

Educators and parents understand the importance of building resilience in children but often lack the skills to know how to develop it.

Based on a 12 month-research program led by the Parenting Research Centre (PRC) and Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), a number of strategies were generated on the resilience concepts. Complemented with consultations from parents, children and practitioners from around the country, the methodology of how to apply them in schools, homes and early childhood settings is mentioned.

Tips for teaching mindfulness to children
Stones on a beach

Being able to pay complete attention to your senses, emotions, environment and stimuli in the current moment is mindfulness. The current moment means paying attention to now, removing thoughts about both the past and the future. Being mindful is a natural process that leads to the betterment of emotional and physical wellbeing and can be used as a tool to help manage stress, anxiety and depression.

By definition, mindfulness is the ability to focus and to remain in the current moment, without fear, judgement or the desire to shift your thinking away.

6 Tips for Helping Children Build Resilience
an innocent looking child

There has been a strong focus over the last few years by both educators and parents on building "resilience" in children. We all are aware of the importance of building emotional strength in our children but often lack the knowledge of how to teach these critical skills. Seeing a rise in "Helicopter Parenting" and "Click of the Button" convenience makes it all the more important to develop a strong foundation of social-emotional resilience and help children to recognise the life lessons in tough situations.

Here are a few strategies that you can use to help children build and strengthen their resilience:

3 Effective Ways to Help Children Overcome Social Anxiety
depressed black and white child photo

In this rapidly moving world, one of the greatest problems in developing young minds is social anxiety. Social anxiety can often prevent children from engaging in conversations, from taking appropriate risks and learning through making mistakes. A child with social anxiety can become so self-conscious that the fear of being embarrassed or letting others down can overtake their natural learning progression.

Here are 3 ideas on how to reduce anxiety in children:

Six Ways to Help your Child Be More Resilient
happy children together

Every child has a gift. There is no success gene, no high-spirits gene, and no ‘doer of phenomenal things' gene. The ability of happiness and wellbeing lies within them and can mean different things to different children. We can't hide them from situations or avoid the problems that they are going to face along the way. However, we can give them the skills to be brave and persevere while facing challenges that arise. We can help them to build resilience. Building Resilience in Children helps them bounce back from trauma, tragedy, stress or adversity. Resilient children are generally braver, more adaptable, curious and able to spread their influence into the world.

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