Dad’s mental health matters too. Dad’s have a unique and great impact on their child’s social and emotional development. Listed below are five starting places for Dad’s to explore their role as a parent and caring for their own mental health.
Dad’s are an important member of the parenting team. The Centre for Perinatal Excellence (COPE) have developed a number of resources with valuable and down to earth advice for fathers and partners on adjusting to life with a baby. COPE explores topics such as what to expect during pregnancy, birth, and life with a baby. Information is included on the signs of anxiety and depression to look out for in men. There are also tips for maintaining positive wellbeing during this transitional time.
Dad’s can understand what skills and difficulties are age-appropriate. The Raising Children Network and KidsMatter websites provide information on what to expect from children at different ages and when to seek advice regarding a child’s development. Through learning about typical development, dad’s can feel more confident about understanding the many changes that happen as children grow up and how to support their relationship with their child.
Dad’s have strengths that make them great parents. Take a moment to reflect on what qualities are important to you as a parent. Consider how day to day interactions with your child may or may not display these qualities. It can be easy to miss the remarkable moments of strength, kindness and wisdom that all parents share with their family.
Dad’s can seek support for parenting skills. Participating in a group program can be a great opportunity to connect with other people who may be experiencing similar challenges to your family. It can also offer a chance to hear different strategies and ideas that might work in your family. Evidence based programs include Tuning into Kids, Triple P, and Health Dads Healthy Kids. Sometime attending a program isn’t feasible. Luckily, there are online options such as ParentWorks that can be done at home and at your own pace.
Reach out to employers for organisational support. Balancing multiple priorities such as family, friends, work, and leisure activities can be a stretch. If you are feeling stressed or down you may be able to access an employer assistance program (EAP) giving you access to short-term counselling. Alternatively, it may be possible to have a conversation with an employer around family friendly work arrangements.
Emily Vujicic, Psychologist
A life without worry is a dangerous thing. It would mean a lack of concern for consequences of our actions, a reduction in reflective thinking and a reduced drive to get things done by a deadline. It would mean we would step out in front of the busy road, or test if the iron is hot by using our finger.
Worry has been a safety mechanism for us throughout the evolutionary process, and has help ensure our survival. The point being, that a little bit of worry is a good thing.
The other end of the scale is a debilitating experience when we cannot think of anything but mistakes we have made or have a fear of the future that is enough to make us physically sick and interrupt our lives.
So how do we know when to worry about worry? How much is enough? And how to help foster a sense of safety without taking away our children’s ability to experience worry and instead learn to cope with it?
High anxiety can occur in approximately 1 in 10 young people, and the chances of being anxious increase significantly if they are already dealing with an ASD or ADHD diagnosis, or a learning disorder.
If compared to other children you see that your child gets worried more often, and more intensely than others, and things have persisted for some time, then it might be time to get some professional support.
Other signs to look out for include irritability, avoidance of things they might have previously enjoyed, physical complaints like a sore tummy, or comments like things being ‘boring’ or ‘stupid’, when they may in fact be difficult and your child is feeling afraid. Not wanting to go to school or see friends can be a red flag for a child experiencing anxiety.
As a parent, there are some things you can do at home to help foster a sense of resilience to things that may be worrying and help your child cope with those feelings.
Some possible ways include:
The relationship building that you do with your child will ultimately underpin these strategies. Being able to give them the confidence to believe what you say, to confide in you, and to give them the feeling of independence and competence to take on the world.
Don’t minimise the positive interactions that you have together in the big jigsaw puzzle of your child’s world. Plant the seeds of the relationship when they are 5, so they know when they are 15, that you are cheering them on.
Emily Vujicic, Psychologist
Last week I wrote about the 6 specific areas of life/work that have been identified as contributing to stress and burnout. This week, I'm exploring how to help bring your focus back to the positive aspects of your life. One way is to take regular time each day to appreciate the positive things that are happening. Write them down and reflect on them when you need the reminder.
When we think of self-care, too often we think of bubble baths and date nights. While both of those things are enjoyable and relaxing, it does not have to be your visual when it comes to self-care.
Saying “no” to additional demands is self-care, as is going for a walk around the block for a quiet walk.
Eating a healthy meal, or an act of kindness towards another person can also be a form of self-care.
Trying something new or engaging in a hobby can also be self-care.
Often, we find ourselves saying that we do not have enough time to do some of these things, and our self-care can be one of the first things to drop when we experience stress. However, it is important to remember that taking care of yourself is not a selfish act, it is helping you be the best version of yourself in order to best care for your children.
Having a consistent time in the day scheduled for self-care can increase the chance that it happens and can be for just 3 minutes per day to start with. Being energised and refreshed helps us parents with patience and compassion and helps us model to our children that it is ok to take time for ourselves, ask for help and deal with our stresses in healthy ways.
So, when you feel the stress and negativity creeping in, remember that it is ok to stop and ask for help. Giving 100% of yourself does not have to mean working until you fall apart. Having someone to talk things through can help give you some perspective, and often just getting things out of your head can be helpful. It may be helpful for you to consider services like Parentline (1300 30 1300), lifeline (13 11 14), your GP or even the ear of a friend.
Megan Mellington, Psychologist
As a parent, we will undoubtedly encounter moments of frustration towards our children. It could be awoken by the simplest of circumstances, such as needing to repeat ourselves like a broken record, intervening with siblings squabbling over a toy, or because we are stressed by other things and our tolerance for managing challenging behaviours is limited.
However, as many of you might already have experienced, when we respond with anger this often only escalates the situation with our child, and they too may then respond in a similar manner. While many of us have regrettably resorted to shouting, questioning or punishments out of anger, what is important to remember, first of all, is that you are human.
Anger is a normal part of the spectrum of human emotions. Anger isn’t bad, it reminds us that we are passionate about something like perhaps wishing to raise respectful, emotionally regulated and empathic little humans. So when less than desirable behaviours are observed in our children, we want to help them develop ways to self-manage, through teaching and implementing boundaries.
Sometimes though, when we have been teaching and redirecting our children all day, our waning tolerance for their tantrums or perceived “defiance” can move us to anger. This article aims to outline some tips about how to tame our own “angries” so that you can engage with your children in a mindful and empathic way.
I've previously shared Dr Dan Siegal's video explanation of what happens in the brain when we get angry and how the thinking part gets shut down. So how do we get our “thinking brain” back online so that we can respond in a more helpful way for our children? The following are several brief tips I often use in parent consultations to support this process:
We can’t always be an emotionally regulated parent, and we shouldn’t expect this of ourselves. Even if we do take our anger out on our children, there are many things we can do to minimise the likelihood of this happening in future. If we can tame our “angries” by recognising our emotional state, taking a pause before responding, and regulating ourselves before attempting to regulate our child, we are modelling adaptive and healthy ways of managing anger.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Dan Siegal talks about the parts of the brain involved in emotion regulation. He also coined the term, “flipping your lid” as a metaphor for our experience of being in the throes of anger, and what happens in our brain when anger takes hold. This Hand Model of the Brain clip demonstrates this idea beautifully.
As Dan Siegal outlines, there are two main parts of the brain involved in anger; the pre frontal cortex or “thinking brain”, and the amygdala or “alarm system”. In my next post, read how we get our “thinking brain” back online so that we can respond in a more helpful way for our children.
Infant mental health refers to how well an infant (newborns to the age of three) develops socially and emotionally. Specifically, this refers to: developing the ability to form close and secure adult and peer relationships experiencing, managing and expressing a full range of emotions exploring the environment and learning
How to promote Infant Mental Health
Infant mental health can be nurtured through a secure and stable relationship with their caregiver. This is done by what caregivers do, the things they say, as well as through the environment created at home.
It includes even small things that caregivers may do without even noticing it, such as talking to your infant and spending time with them. In particular, noticing and responding to your infant’s cues can help to nurture your relationship with your infant as well as support their mental health.
Learning to understand your infant’s unique cues
Cues refers to the sounds and movements infants make. These can include facial expressions, vocalisations, body movements and reactions. Cues can be as subtle as an opening hand or widening their eyes.
Cues let us know something about the infant’s needs, their emotional state and physical
state. In other words, cues are an infant’s way of communicating with us. Caregivers can
learn to understand what an infant is trying to communicate by:
understand your infants cues every time! However, become a curious observer of your
infant and their cues. Continue trying to understand what your infant is trying to
Responding to you infant’s cues
As cues are a way for your infant to converse, it is important for caregivers to respond to these cues. This involves responding sensitively and promptly. By responding to your infant’s cues, it helps the infant make sense of the world. It lets them know that their caregiver will respond to them when they are feeling insecure, it makes them feel safe, creates a predictable routine and creates trust.
Understanding and responding to your infant’s cues is just one way that you can promote your infant’s mental health. It is also very important that caregivers take care of themselves and their own mental health, in order to continue to build a secure and stable relationship with their infant.
If you would like support regarding your infant’s mental health or your own mental health, please contact Hopscotch and Harmony to discuss further.
Jessica Cleary, Psychologist
You wouldn't be alone if the mere thought of getting your kids to brush their teeth each morning and night fills you with dread. BUT we have come across something amazing in our household that has the little ones excited to brush their teeth. There are quite a few different tooth brushing apps but this initiative tops them all.
Chompers is a 2-minute, twice daily podcast that perfectly entertains kids while they brush. It even reminds them when it's time to start brushing the next quadrant of their mouths.
Following the "3,2,1 BRUSH!" to get started, kids will hear jokes, riddles, stories, fun facts and silly songs before the concluding "3, 2, 1 SPIT!".
Chompers can help teeth brushing time become a bonding, enjoyable time as parents and kids can have a giggle together.
We play it via Apple Podcasts but there are other options as well. Enjoy, and I hope it makes a difference for your family!
Jesse Diggins, Psychologist
As school and work begins for another year, so does the daily ritual of inquiring about our loved one’s day. Children and adults alike give the customary, ‘good’ and the conversation halts before it ever gained any momentum. We can do better! Here are 7 new questions to ask to avoid that dreaded loop.
1. What went well today?
This question is used as a part of a core exercise by Positive Psychologists because it promotes reflection on our strengths and generates gratitude. To take this further and get closer to the original exercise titled ‘Three Blessings’, ask the question three times over and follow it with the question, ‘Why did it go well?’.
2. Who helped you today?
3. Who did you help today?
These questions are used ritually at one of my workplaces. They create a sense of community and connection with peers. For parents, these questions may be helpful in identifying the positive relationships in your child’s life that you can encourage to grow.
4. What are you learning at the moment?
5. What are you working on at the moment?
6. What did you find challenging today?
All of the above are open-ended questions. Unlike closed questions - such as ‘How was your day?’, or, ‘Did you have a good day?’ - these open-ended questions are difficult to answer with just one word. Counsellors use these questions all the time as they generate conversation flow and elicit useful information.
7. What would your teacher/boss say about you?
Another way of disrupting the default reaction to label our day with basic adjectives is by changing the perspective. Stepping outside ourselves provides this circuit breaker and prompts a deeper level of insight that can get us thinking and communicating.
Dr Annabel Chan, Clinical Psychologist
The new year has begun, and already an incident of bad behaviour has gone viral, inspiring public fury and a trial-by-media for the YouTube star Logan Paul. In a video posted on New Year's Eve, Logan Paul and his friends go camping in Aokigahara, unfortunately known as the "Japanese suicide forest", and film themselves discussing and laughing at a deceased person they find.
Condemnation was swift and widespread, and Logan Paul had since taken the video down and issued an apology. In doing so, he joins a long list of popular online celebrities that are watched by millions of young people, but only break through to adults when their behaviour generates criticism and outrage.
Less than a year before Logan Paul's Japanese outing, Swedish video game vlogger PewDiePie arranged to have "two semi-naked Indian men dancing while holding a banner reading ‘Death to all Jews’” appear on his YouTube channel, which has 59 million individual subscribers and over 4 billion views. Public response was similar, and PewDiePie has returned to vlogging without further problems.
Logan Paul himself is following the footsteps of his older brother Jake, who has attracted criticism for posting sexually explicit content and activities including breaching security at the White House in Washington.
Meanwhile, machine-generated cartoons depicting popular children's characters in violent and sexual predicaments are spreading rapidly, causing regular outbreaks of parental alarm and media attention.
So, let's take a look at what can we do to help children and young people use video media safely, socially, and critically.
As always, the first thing is:
When a controversial video goes viral, it's easy to get swept up in the reactions of others and simply join the shouting, giving the loudest voices the biggest say for fear of missing out, being left behind, or judged for not reacting. In the case of Logan Paul, some parents are broadcasting their disapproval of the video on social media and, more deliberately, announcing what they're doing to protect their children.
While discussions of these issues is important, some of this is virtue signalling - defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group". The Cambridge Dictionary further explains it as “the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings”.
Social media platforms allow for fast and easy virtue signalling. By publicly denouncing Logan Paul, banning children from YouTube, or declaring they will monitor their child’s every mouse click, these parents signal superiority over other parents and create competition and pressure to follow suit. It can be tempting and simply easier to just go with the majority voice and follow whatever other parents are doing.
What works for one family or child or parent may not work for another. Children’s' attitudes may change with age, environment, or peers. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting response, because each child is a unique individual, so…
DON’T PRESUME YOUR CHILD’S REACTIONS
If your child has watched Logan Paul’s videos or subscribed to his channel, it doesn't automatically mean they agree with everything Logan Paul posts, or that they are even a fan. Anyone who has watched The Bachelor and enjoyed it knows that we can be entertained by content that goes against our values and morals. Psychoanalysts call these “ego-dystonic behaviours”.
"Ego-dystonic" refers to thoughts and behaviours that conflict with a person’s ideal self-image. These are impulses or acts that we carry through even though we dislike them and don't want to be associated with them. Some children may find Logan Paul’s videos distressing, offensive, or discomforting, but watch them anyway due to peer pressure, fear of missing out, or morbid curiosity.
"Ego-syntonic" is the opposite. These are behaviours and feelings that are in harmony with our identity and ideals. These children may enthusiastically watch Logan Paul’s more outrageous videos in support of their idol (Logan's fans call themselves the "Logang"), may find them genuinely entertaining, revel in schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from another person’s misfortune), watch to see what the fuss is about, or simply can't see anything wrong with the content.
Even if that seems unsettling or unfair….
DON’T TELL YOUR CHILD HOW TO FEEL
Children are not clones or extensions of their parents. They have their own thoughts, feelings, values and motivations. No matter what you think of Logan Paul, it is important to remember that this isn't about the parents.
Every adult has been a child, and we all know a sure-fire way to ensure rebellion is by telling a young person what to do “because I say so”. If a child doesn't understand the reason for a rule or value, they are much less likely to stick with it. What really matters is finding out and understanding how your child feels about Logan Paul, and definitely…
DON’T PUNISH YOUR CHILD
Logan Paul made a mistake and is being judged in public, not your child. Banning children from an entire social media platform because someone else misused it is counterproductive and punitive. Additionally, children who are banned from something popular online are likely to simply access it through schools and friends instead, with no parental guidance or support.
It's very easy to get wrapped up in fears of harmful media leading children astray, but…
DON’T ASSUME ALL YOUTUBERS ARE BAD FOR YOUR CHILD
Graphic from Juvenoia: Kids These Days
For people born last century, it can seem ludicrous that a young person with a camera can become a famous millionaire just by making silly or mundane videos of themselves and posting them online. It can also be confronting to feel disconnected from a younger generation that enjoys these performers and their content, on a new medium that transcends television or radio.
Consciously or not, most parents expect, or at least hope, that their children will share their worldview, opinions, and values. For that reason, it can seem like a natural, knee-jerk reaction to ignore, dismiss, or remove something that a child values but a parent doesn’t. So, if your child expresses an interest in something that you dislike or find pointless, fight that urge.
Popular YouTubers are peer leaders and role models in the world of social media. Research has consistently shown that children from the age of 8 derive more pleasure from peer relationships than family relationships, and are more easily influenced by friends than by authority figures. This is an important stage of a child's development, as the capacity to develop social bonds outside their family predicts higher rates of overall general functioning and social successes.
However, this may mean your child is more likely to admire and listen to the advice of YouTubers than anything offered by their parents or other adults. That can be confronting, but isn't always a bad thing. YouTubers are often creative, productive, and pro-social leaders of change and awareness campaigns. Many are relatable and worthy role-models who are candid with their fans and offer valuable advice on their experience with difficult topics such as mental health and chronic illness.
For example, the Draw My Life trend has been cathartic for many people, giving young people an accessible way to understand the lives, struggles, and strength of many others around the world. Other trends are just plain fun!
Creating online media content is also a real job, a passion and a legitimate career in a booming industry that could and should be an option for any child today.
But there's still bad content on YouTube that my children are exposed to! What now?
5 Things To Do
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Grief And Loss
Infant Mental Health