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How to Deal with Anxiety – A Parent’s Guide

How to Deal with Anxiety - A Parent's Guide

Anxiety is currently the most common health condition in Australia. Anxiety disorder affects:

•    1 in 4 people
•    1 in 3 women
    1 in 8 men
•    14 % of the population

40% of all people will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives.

At the age of six to seven, 14% of Australian children display noticeably high levels of emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, headaches and withdrawn behaviour. At the age of 10-11, this rate has increased.

At King’s parenting seminar: “How to Deal with Anxiety – A Parent’s Guide”, held on 15 August 2018, counsellor and educator, Liz Giovas, presented the latest psychological research and recommendations in a digestible form to 200+ parents. Liz set out some practical principles for parents to use in the home to help stop their child’s anxiety in its tracks.

For parents who were unable to attend the presentation, here is a summary of Liz’s main points.

Liz Giovas

About Liz Giovas

Liz has over 20 years’ experience helping people as a teacher, counsellor and parent. She has taught in private and government schools and has counselled children, couples and families in educational and clinical settings.From a deep desire to see all people living their best life, Liz brings wise guidance and practical tips and strategies for navigating the challenges of everyday life.

Bachelor of Education ♦ Advanced Diploma of Counselling and Family Therapy  M.A.C.A (Level 1 ) Careforce Lifekeys Facilitator ♦

Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety = worry/nervousness/unease about something with an uncertain outcome.

Some anxiety is good for us – it makes us conscientious, organised and responsible. And there will be periods in everyone’s life where they feel anxious and unsettled about something that worries them. This is a normal.

Anxiety Disorder = a medical condition presenting as persistent, excessive worry.

This is a mental illness that requires professional help from a GP, counsellor or psychologist. If you think your child has anxiety disorder, do not delay in making an appointment with your GP.

Some children are more disposed to anxiety than others but, with the right techniques, enough sleep and good parenting, they can learn how to manage anxiety and could be less likely to develop a mental disorder later down the line.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Parents who don’t feel anxious (or who feel anxious about different things to their children) often deal with their child’s nervousness by saying things like:

“What’s the problem?

“Just do it!”

“Stop worrying”

“It’s not that big a deal”

“Be brave”

But being brave isn’t that easy to do.

Liz played a Dr Brené Brown video  to illustrate the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Empathy is about getting down to the other person’s level, not judging, recognising their feelings and perspective and connecting with them.

Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow and pity and expresses itself in:

  • “At leasts…”
    (“At least you didn’t come last”, “At least you get another chance tomorrow”, “At least you didn’t get hurt”)
  • Silver Linings
    (“It will make you a stronger person”, “You’ll be glad about that one day”)
  • Dismissing
    (“What are you so worried about?”, “That’s not important!”)

Some parents have so much sympathy for their kids that they protect them from ever letting them struggle at all. 

However, to help and support their children, parents need to be empathetic, rather than sympathetic.


Liz introduced the parents to a SOAR, a simple acronym she uses to help anxious children stop, be calm and choose rationality:

SOAR: Stop, look at your Options, pick an Action, Repeat the process


How can I help my child stop their busy brain?

Do I need to stop my busy brain?

Some people believe their emotions are responsible for their thoughts – that they can’t help how they feel – but this is not accurate.

Feelings and emotions come AFTER thoughts:

Thoughts > Feelings > Actions

By changing our thoughts, we can alter the way we feel about things.

Fight, flight or freeze?

It is often the ‘accidental’ thoughts that come into our minds that cause strong emotions – the thoughts we have when something seems dangerous to us or when we are suprised. People react to this in different ways:

Fight – teenagers will often argue and fight you verbally when they are anxious.

Flight – anxious toddlers will literally run off.

Freeze – anxiety can make some children silent and unresponsive, which can look like disobedient behaviour.

Anxiety is like a false alarm going off permanently. Things look like bigger dangers than they actually are.

Triune Brain Model

Liz displayed a simplified illustration of the three parts of the human brain and talked about ‘Upstairs’ and ‘Downstairs’ thinking.

Triune Brain Model

Upstairs thinking (upper part of brain) is when the brain is functioning well, logically and emotionally.
Downstairs thinking (lower part of brain) is when a person is ‘flipping their lid’ and losing all control. 

“If there is ONE THING you take home tonight,” said Liz, “I want it to be this:”

There are times when people choose to be an emotional reactor but others when they have LOST CONTROL of their emotions. In this case you have to get them to calm down first.

No-one ever calmed down by being told to calm down!

If a child (or indeed an adult) is in a state of intense distress, don’t try to ‘help’ them with reason and advice. The first step is to calm them down.

How to help your child calm down
This very much depends on your child, their triggers and what works for them. (Liz recommends the book ‘The Five Love Languages’, by Gary Chapman, to help you identify what is most important to your child.)

Calm your child down in their way but don’t use iPads or Netflix! Screen time does not help an anxious child.

Here of some activities that may help calm your child down, depending on their personality:

  • Colouring-in
  • Coming up with list – eg top 10 favourite ice-cream flavours
  • Counting
  • Slow deep breaths
  • Listening to or playing music
  • Dancing
  • Distraction
  • Talking to a friend
  • Reading
  • Exercise
  • Physical contact, eg hugging (on child’s terms)
  • Going outside
  • Nature watching / listening
  • Organising/rearranging something (eg bedroom) – unless child has OCD 
How to avoid anxiety ‘triggers’
  1. Give as much warning as possible before you expect them to do something, eg “We are going to leave in 10 minutes”. Boys, especially, like to finish tasks before they do anything new so if they are in the middle of a Lego project and you need to leave for school, give them plenty of notice in advance.
  1. Be reasonable – don’t expect children to do something or behave in a certain way that they are too immature or inexperienced to succeed at.
  1. Remember that your children aren’t always like you. What makes you anxious may be different to what makes your child nervous. We all have different personalities and triggers. 
  1. Don’t try to remove all the ‘stress’ from your children’s lives. It is important to help them learn how to deal with it rather than never let them have the opportunity to conquer it (eg don’t write notes to school to get your child out of dreaded tests or sports, don’t drive back home to collect the hat they’ve forgotten).
What do I know is true?

For every worrying thought, there is a true and helpful thought. Help children research facts and statistics, at an age-appropriate developmental level, to reassure them and show them the difference between perceived threat and fact.

Look at your OPTIONS

Help your child brainstorm options for dealing with their problem or fear.

Have fun with your ideas – you can include silly and unsuitable ones. Get your child to join in too. In the example below, a child is anxious because they are alone at play time and feel that they have no-one to play with. So what are their options?

Options to problem of having no-one to play with

Obviously, some of these ideas are crazy (Move to China), some could have unpleasant consequences (Steal ball and run away) and others are just inappropriate (Get Mum to ask other kids if you can play). Collaborate with your child in identifying as many options as possible and investigate the pros and cons of each one.

Pick an ACTION

Once you child has identified their most effective option or options, it’s time to help them act on it. Of course, for the anxious child, knowing which option to choose is a million miles away from following through with it.

In the example above, the child may decide on the option of taking a handball to school and inviting people to play but the thought of approaching people or talking to them might be utterly overwhelming.


Liz introduced the concept of exposure therapy or ‘laddering’ to help kids act on their chosen option.


The end result of a chosen option (eg taking handball to school and inviting people to play) is placed at the top of the ladder. The ways of getting there are then broken down into smaller steps.

For example,

Step 1 – Buy a handball

Step 2 – Take a handball to school but keep it in bag. Just know that you’ve got it.

Step 3 – Just walk across the playground holding the handball so that the other kids can see it but you don’t have to speak to anyone.

Step 4 – Bounce the handball in the playground


Each stage may take days or weeks to complete but it is important that the child keeps moving in the direction of completing the action at the top of the ladder, even if it’s just baby steps over a long period of time.

Rather than shielding children from things that make them nervous, we need to empathise with them and reinforce the idea that things might be unpleasant and that they won’t feel like doing it but that they CAN do it – just keep them moving in the direction of the top of the ‘ladder’. This will teach them persistence, resilience and life skills.

Reward each completed stage – if they’ve worked hard and conquered something that scared them, a small reward can really speak into the child. This may be something like a Coles Little Shop packet, a McDonald’s Happy Meal, some stationery or watching a TV show with the family.

When your child reaches the top of they ‘ladder’, they will look back and be proud of what they have achieved. This will build their confidence and self-esteem and help them next time they need to repeat the process.

REPEAT the process

Is it going well?

Do I need to change something?

Some kids get distressed when things don’t go to plan. Others are perfectionists who get anxious when they make a mistake. 

Mistakes will happen and mistakes are OK – this is how we learn. If your child has picked a wrong option and made a mistake, encourage them to try again another way.

As a parent, model how you deal with your own mistakes – don’t be a perfectionist yourself. Use humour, apologise if necessary, show your children how you bounce back and try again.

(Liz recommended the book ‘The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes’, by Mark Pett, for your child’s bibliotherapy!)

The Psychology of Change

Am I being too hard on my child?

Am I making life too easy when (age-appropriate) changes arise?

Liz recommended that parents build a community of people around them to help normalise situations. When you realise that other people’s children are going through the same ‘phase’ as yours at the same age, it helps give you some perspective. It also helps you guage what is ‘normal’ for children in your kids’ age groups.

Sleep, exercise and eating properly

These are staples for everyone’s mental health. Many children are not getting enough sleep, spend too long sat in front of screens and eat junk food.

Role modelling

Parents should model how they behave when they feel nervous. It’s not good for children to think you’re never afraid – let them know you get anxious and show them how you deal with it.

Support / Challenge Balance

Liz outlined the four parenting models, based on the support/challenge balance:

  • Neglectful parenting – low on both support and challenge
  • Permissive parenting – high on support, low on challenge. Parents typically set low boundaries and give unrealistic encouragement .
  • Authoritarian parenting – high on challenge, low on support and emotional connection.
  • Authoritative parenting – high on support and challenge.

Good parenting – the kind that raises secure, confident, resilient children – needs to be authoritative: High on supporting the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of their children while challenging them to push past their fears and limitations.

“How to Deal with Anxiety – A Parent’s Guide” was hosted by King’s Student Wellbeing team.

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Helping Teenagers Achieve Sustained School Success

Helping Teenagers Achieve Sustained School Success

The secondary school year is well and truly underway and thousands of teenagers (and their parents) across the country are settling in for a full year ahead. For some, this marks the beginning of an entirely new stage in their schooling, while others are buckling in for another year of academic rigor. The following are a few tips to help you and your young person navigate the year ahead.

Communicate with school

Communication with the school is important in aiding a successful school year for your teenager. Familiarise yourself with the names of your child’s subject teachers, year level coordinator and pastoral care/homeroom teacher. If your child has any specific learning or behavioral issues it is important to share these with their teachers at the outset. Don’t assume that information will be passed on from previous teachers.

Be sure to communicate early any concerns your have regarding your teen’s experience at school. As a secondary teacher myself, I can’t stress enough the importance of parents letting us know of issues before they become big problems. We can only deal with information you share with us.

It can be annoying wading through the mountain of communication that arrives home via your teen’s schoolbag or your inbox, however it is important that you read such communication. Have a dedicated place for keeping incoming and outgoing forms. Note important term dates, sports days, excursions and camps in your diary and on a family calendar visible to all.

Organisation tools to support success

We like to believe our teenager will naturally develop strong organisational skills and be a self-motivated young person. However this is not often the case. As parents we often need to model organisation tools and strategies.

Ensure your child uses his or her school diary on a daily basis to record homework, assessment tasks and tests. Take a look at it regularly and ask questions if there are weeks of blank pages.

Create and support a homework plan

Many teenagers find homework an inconvenience. However, if homework is set for your teenager it is better to set them up for success rather than ignore the issue. Ensure your child has a well-lit space where they can complete homework each night, ensuring they also have the tools they need. Ensure their social media devices are somewhere else and keep healthy snacks at the ready. Encourage your teenager to get into the habit of creating a ‘to do’ list to keep them focused on two or three tasks in a session.

Encourage your teen to find their spark

The school year is long and can be exhausting at times, and it is not the be-all and end-all. Encourage your teenager to find their spark by being involved in non-academic activities that bring them joy. Examples are sports, music, dance, art or anything else they have a passion for. Having an interest outside of school that encourages socialising and developing friendships is also great for resilience.

Prepare for a successful day ahead

Preparing for a successful day starts with getting plenty of sleep. This is becoming increasing difficult as an unprecedented number of teenagers are reporting sleep issues as a concern. Most teenagers require eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, but many report getting less than five.

Young people often lack the self-control to avoid engaging online when they should be sleeping. One strategy for improving this situation, which may require you to develop your ‘digital spine’, is removing internet-enabled devices from the bedroom. Insist devices are placed in a central charging area in the home, away from bedrooms, at a nominated time each evening. Many teenagers also benefit from developing a pre-sleep routine such as reading a (paper) book or magazine half an hour before bed, having a warm bath or shower and/or a warm milk drink. If sleep continues to be an issue, it would be worth a visit to your local GP for a consultation to rule out any underlying issues.

The best way to set the scene for a successful day ahead is to ensure your teenager eats a healthy breakfast and takes a nutritious and balanced lunch with plenty of healthy snacks to keep their brain focused throughout the day.

Make time to chat about school

Finally, keep the lines of communication open with your teenager about their school experiences. While you may be met with an awkward grunt when you ask about their day at school, don’t give up on asking. Often a teenager will chat more in the car or in a café. Keep reminding your child that you are always available to listen – listening being the crucial point here. Many adolescents don’t want you to fix their concerns but they may need you to just listen.

Talk about the positive experiences you had during your own high school years and reassure your teen that it will go by quicker than they can imagine.

This blog was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.



Essential Life Skills to Teach Your Child Before They Leave Home

Essential Life Skills to Teach Your Child Before They Leave Home

We invest in our children’s academic success, encourage their interests and support their emotional wellbeing … but are we preparing them for the adult world by passing on basic life skills? Here’s our list of vital skills all kids should master before leaving home:

Time management skills

Oversleeping and always late? Disorganised and forgetful? Unrealistic ideas about how long tasks will take to complete? Teens who are unable to diarise, meet deadlines and manage their time will come a cropper when they get to university or the workplace. Start with homework planning and mini-projects (eg organising a party, planning a trip, decorating a room, scheduling appointments). It’s difficult to learn how to prioritise until you’ve messed up a few times. Let your child fail and take responsibility for their actions; don’t rush in to bail them out every time their school project is late or the alarm clock doesn’t go off.

How to do the laundry

I know grown men in their twenties (sorry, they are usually men) who still take their laundry to their mums every weekend. Yet separating whites from coloureds, operating a washing machine, matching up socks and ironing are all skills that can be taught when your child is still in Primary School. 

Repairing clothes

Sewing on buttons, patching tears, stitching hems. Give your child their own ‘emergency repair kit’ of needles, thread, pins etc while they are living at home and let them take responsibility for their own repairs.

Navigation skills – without a GPS

Can your child find their way around a building, a campus, an airport, a town, a country using maps, information and good old-fashioned communication? Do they know East from West? Can they read a map? Understand a timetable? Are they confident asking for directions and interpreting them? Start your kids young – let them find the train platform or airport gate, plot a route on a map, find their way around a shopping centre from a plan, check bus times and work out how long it will take to get from A to B .

Basic car maintenance and management skills

At a bare minimum, this might include: washing car, checking tyres, filling the tank with petrol, understanding what all the flashing lights on the dashboard mean and ensuring rego, servicing and insurance are up to date.

Sticking to a budget / understanding money

How to  open a bank account, apply for a credit card, read a bank statement, manage cash flow, save for something special, give to charity, have an understanding of interest and debt. From the age of 12 your child can have an EFTPOS card for their own bank account. Consider paying their allowance directly into their bank account each month and give them practical experience of budgeting and financial planning.

Cooking skills

Can they make a meal from scratch? Can they make five meals from scratch? They don’t need to know how to make fancy sauces or soufflés but should master some basics like boiling an egg, roasting a chicken and whipping up a passable spaghetti Bolognese before they leave home. 

First aid

Does your child know what medication to take for headaches, colds and indigestion or the number to call in an emergency? Do they know what to do about animal bites, cuts and bruises or burns? Do they know their Medicare number and how to register with a doctor? 

Home maintenance and basic DIY

How to clean an oven, operate a vacuum cleaner, defrost a freezer, plunge a sink, use a screwdriver, build flat pack furniture, drill or fill a hole in a wall. Get them involved in all of this long before they reach Year 12. 

Make their own appointments

Most children rely on their parents to schedule appointments with doctors, dentists, delivery companies, tradies etc. In the ‘real world’, they will need to do this for themselves. Give them the opportunity to start doing this while they are living at home – eg order a pizza, book an event, arrange an interview with a potential employer.

Be employable

Can your child market themselves well, both on paper (resumé, covering letter) and in person? Are they punctual, reliable and hard working? Do they communicate well and maintain eye contact when talking to someone? Voluntary work, Saturday jobs and work experience are great opportunities for teens to learn and prepare themselves for the workplace. Just make sure you’re not one of those parents who write the CV, ferry their child to and from work or call the employer when their child is too sick to show up. These are skills kids need to learn for themselves.

Tips for parents

Start young

Parents can start teaching their children many of these skills when they are still in Primary School. Include your child in family decisions, planning and daily chores.


Show your child how to clean a toilet or iron a shirt. Explain what all the data on your bank statement means. Plan a journey with them, looking at times, maps and routes together. Show them your car service log book.


Don’t expect your child to get things right first time. Break things down into smaller tasks/goals where necessary. For example, they may learn to sew on a button before they’ve mastered the fiddly needle threading bit, iron pillowcases before they can tackle shirts or prepare salads and cold desserts before using hot stoves and ovens.

Provide information

Some kids love to read and research things for themselves. Give them access to recipe books, instruction manuals, diagrams, fact sheets, maps, notes … or suggest they google or YouTube for demos.

Do less

If you do everything for your children, they have little need or inclination to learn practical skills for themselves. As they get older, expect more of your children. Give them greater responsibility and more opportunities to practice those life skills.

Let them fail…

Mistakes are good (providing they’re not life threatening!). This is how we learn. Take a deep breath and let your child incinerate the Sunday roast, miss their school assignment deadline or cope without an allowance for the rest of the month because they’ve blown their budget. They will learn from the consequences.

… but be there for them

The wonderful thing about teaching life skills to your children is that they get to learn in a safe environment – rather than alone, in desperate confusion. You can offer reassurance and encouragement, stand by them as they try something new and intervene before they flood the house or worse.

What did we miss?

What important life skills do you think young adults need to master before they leave home? Let us know in your comments below.

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7 Tips for Fathering Success

7 Tips for Fathering Success

Fatherhood is life-changing. It’s a very personal journey that a man experiences when he takes on the responsibility of parenting his kids. It’s also a vital role, and it’s all too easy to neglect the positive impact a father can have on his children’s lives.

Every father’s parenting journey will be different, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to its challenges. But Father’s Day is just around the corner, so this is a great time for some tried and trusted parenting tips to help you be the best dad you can be.

1. Play to your strengths

Fathers often parent in a more active or action-oriented way than mums, so games, play time and physical activity become important parts of a man’s parenting repertoire. Your partner may not always appreciate your more active approach, particularly if you play with kids just before bedtime and then leave it to her to calm them down.

How to make it happen: Be yourself, but be smart about it!

2. Lighten up – don’t take yourself too seriously

It’s easy to get caught up in your own importance, taking yourself and your work too seriously. For many men a bad day at work translates into poor or, at best, distracted experiences when they’re with their families. Consider putting a strategy in place, such as exercise, to help you leave work, and the bad moods it may engender, behind.

How to make it happen: Be present in mind as well as in body when you’re with your kids.

3. Find something in common with your child

It would be wonderful to say that you can always connect with your kids, but family life is never that straightforward. There’ll always be a child who we struggle to connect with, or a developmental stage during which the child feels alien to you. In these times it helps if you share a common interest (such as a love of sport or music) with them, so that you always have something that will bring you together, even though you may not always see eye to eye.

How to make it happen: Take an active interest in what interests your child.

4. Go easy on your son sometimes

Many dads are tough on their boys and have expectations that go way beyond their son’s interest and abilities. Remember, it takes boys a little longer to mature. Resist the temptation to turn every game and every father-son activity into a lesson and avoid giving advice when your all your son wants is to be understood.

How to make it happen: See the boy as he is now, not the man you want him to grow up to be.

5. Enjoy the outdoors with your daughter

The biological nature of fatherhood causes most men to be very protective of their daughters. But that doesn’t mean you should put your daughter on a pedestal and treat her like a little princess. Expect a lot from her. Play with her, and get her outdoors as it will do wonders for her confidence and independence.

How to make it happen: Enjoy spending time outside with your daughters on a regular basis.

Enjoy the outdoors with your daughter

6. Be ready for kids to knock you off your pedestal

Most children in the preschool and middle-to-late-primary school years look up to their dads. “My dad is bigger and better than your dad!” is a type of mantra that’s familiar to many men. Make the most of this admiration as the Superman Syndrome won’t last. Young children soon turn into adolescents, who generally go to great lengths to prove that you’re just Clarke Kent after all. Expect them to stop laughing at your jokes, roll their eyes at your well-intentioned advice and even give you the cold shoulder in public. Ouch! It can be hurtful to a man who just wants to be the best dad he can be.

How to to make it happen: Don’t take yourself too seriously, and give them room to be grumpy sometimes.

7. Give your kids a compass and a map

One day your children will become truly independent individuals. Don’t worry! You won’t be irrelevant, you’ll just be taking the backseat in a more practical and managerial sense. There are two things you can do to help your kids safely navigate the world when you’re not around. First, help them develop a set of positive values including integrity, honesty and respect that will act as their moral compass when they have difficult decisions to make. 
Second, reveal your personal story over time, as this narrative will become ingrained like personal map that will guide them when life gets tough. It’s good to know that they won’t be in uncharted territory when they finally strike out on their own.

How to make it happen: Take the time to tell kids your story and own it – don’t make them guess it or learn it from someone else.

Father and son

Father’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how men shape the lives of their children. It’s a very personal reflection as each man’s experience of fatherhood is as unique as the children they are raising. Take the time to reflect on your own fathering style as well as the contribution that a father (either your own dad or someone else’s dad) has made to your own life.

This blog was reproduced with kind permission from



How to Give Your Child Effective Feedback

How to Give Your Child Effective Feedback

Giving constructive criticism to our children – both positive and negative – is an important part of parenting. Empty, generic praise (“What a lovely picture, darling”), well-meant encouragement that does the opposite (“At least you didn’t come last”) and angry disappointment (“I expected you to do better than that!”) do not give a child much indication of what they are doing wrong or right.

Meaningful feedback, on the other hand, helps children know if they are on track (or how far from the track they have deviated). It helps them analyse their performance and learn from their mistakes.

Why is feedback important?

  • It helps your child focus and reflect on their work.
  • It gives your child motivation and direction for future improvement.
  • It may give them inspiration, hope or a ‘Eureka’ moment.
  • It can build confidence and resilience and remove self-doubt.

Here are some tips for crafting  useful and helpful feedback:


If you were giving feedback in a professional situation, you would spend time reviewing, analysing and clarifying your thoughts in advance. While such a formality may be overkill for critiquing a four-year-old’s finger painting , make sure you put some thought into your child’s work and what you want to say before launching in.

Things to consider:

  • Do you have all the facts/information? What was expected of them? What do the marks mean/how were they graded?
  • Have you looked at their work/heard them play/seen them perform/watched them in action?
  • Have you compared current work to previous work? Is there an improvement?
  • Can you ascertain which parts worked and which didn’t and explain why to your child?
  • What was your child going through while they were going through the process? Were they ill, struggling to catch up, going through a low patch, overwhelmed with extracurricular activities, etc? Did they enjoy the process  or struggle with it?

Try to keep your emotions out of the frame

It’s natural, as parents, to feel disappointment when our kids don’t make the grade or to have a certain amount of elation when they do well. We may even feel angry when our child has messed up through lack of effort or application.

However, when giving feedback, avoid the tears, threats and ecstatic superlatives. Keep it neutral. This is not about how their work and results affect you, it’s about helping them analyse and reflect on their performance.

Be honest and realistic

Kids can smell a rat. There’s no point telling them, “If you just work a bit harder next term, you could be top of the grade” if you know that’s not true, or describing their jazz solo as “absolutely amazing’ when half of it was off-key. 

It’s always difficult to give negative feedback when your child has messed up but they’re not going to trust your judgement if you constantly tell them they were wonderful and gloss over all the glaring booboos.

Be realistic about what your child is capable of and what is normal to expect of a child of their age. Don’t criticise them for something they are not yet mature enough to achieve.

It’s also important to let your child take responsibility for their mistakes. If they received poor results because they wasted time or put in little effort, don’t praise their (non-existent) hard work or lay the blame with their teachers or fellow students.

However …

Be gentle and compassionate

Don’t undermine their confidence or trample on their self-esteem with hurtful, negative comments, even if you know they didn’t try very hard. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t draw weaker areas to their attention, just do it with kindness.

Try the ‘positive-negative-sandwich’ where you place a negative comment (or problem to be tackled) between positive, encouraging ones. For example:

“I love how you’ve laid out all your working-out so that it’s really easy to see your approach and how you came to your answer.” (Positive).

‘You might want to review your nine times table because you can see here is where you came unstuck … “ (Negative)

“… but I can see you’re really getting the hang of long division now.” (Positive)

If their poor performance was entirely their own fault – perhaps because they were lazy or didn’t apply themselves – try to avoid lecturing them. There may be some cause behind it, such as anxiety, fear of taking risks or low self-esteem (“What’s the point in trying? I’m rubbish at art!”). Or they might need some help and support with planning or time-management. Resist the “I told you so!”s and help them get to the bottom of their lack of motivation.

Avoid praising ability

Of course your child will love hearing how talented and intelligent they are! Sadly, this can have a negative impact on their future effort and motivation. How will they tackle really difficult challenges if they think they have to rely on natural ability?

Instead, commend the areas of their achievements that were under their control, eg planning, practice, approach, attitude, trouble-shooting, perseverance, creativity.

Don’t praise effort when things go wrong

There’s nothing worse than being told “At least you did your best” when you’ve done something badly. It makes you feel that no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to improve. Better to be specific and highlight the parts of the process that were successful due to effort and application.

Be specific

Avoid generalisations: “Great marks. Well done!”, “What an amazing performance, I really enjoyed that”, “Oh what a shame. You came so close”, “This essay is rubbish!” 

Better to discuss:

  • What worked/what didn’t and why
  • What can be improved on and how?
  • What could your child do differently next time?

Ask questions

Help your child critique their own work and reflect on the process by prompting them with questions.

  • Ask open-ended questions (not ones that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no).
  • Ask them about their inspiration, ideas and thought process.
  • How did they manage their work and organise their time?
  • What did they think they did well/badly and why?
  • What did they learn on the way?
  • How could they have done things differently?
  • What areas might they need help/support with?

Hear them out

It may be glaringly obvious to you where your child has succeeded or failed but take time to listen to their answers. 

Listening to your child shows them that their opinions are important. Vocalising their view-point helps them focus and analyse where they went wrong (or right). Their take on things may give you greater insight into where problems or solutions lie.

Give feedback on the process not just the result

Your child’s performance in a school play may have been a disaster despite being amazing in rehearsals. Their low maths grades may mask the huge strides they have made in trigonometry this term. Their school project may have been hurried and incomplete while some of the individual components showed great thought and design.

It can take time – years sometimes – to get things right. Confidence, technical skills, time management, comprehension – your child is not going to master everything straight away. Improvement and progression are worth praising.

Offer help, support and guidance

Ask your child:

  • What is under their control that they can change?
  • How could they do this?
  • Is there anything you can do to help them? 
  • Do they think they would benefit from specialist help, eg practice on an app/website, extra-curricular sports lessons, private tuition?

Receiving and applying feedback is an important skill your child will need in their adult lives; relationship management, job appraisals, customer service, trouble shooting, project management, conflict resolution – all require the ability to take criticism and apply it. By giving our children kind, effective criticism from an early age, they learn to view feedback as an opportunity for growth and not a threat.


‘b’ and ‘d’ – Stop the confusion! (Lower Primary)


When children learn to read and write, they often muddle up similar-looking letters (and numbers). The most common offenders are:

•  v and u;
•  u and n;
•  p and q;
•  1 and 7;
•  2 and 5.

However, the two letters that seem to cause young readers the most confusion are b and d. This is very normal for children up to the age of seven and not a key indicator of dyslexia at this age. Nevertheless, getting your child out of the habit of reversing their bs and ds may need a little practice …

A quick search on YouTube will bring up dozens of irritating songs aimed at helping your child differentiate between these letters. Should you find them too cloying, try some of these popular strategies to help your child get their bs and ds the right way round:

Write it

They may mix up their bs and ds but children don’t generally confuse the upper case versions of these letters (B and D).

As your child learns to write their letters, show them how a b fits inside a capital B. It’s like a B with the tummy but without the head.

b fits into B and an a into d

d on the other hand starts as a lower-case a but continues going up. A b starts high with the stem, whereas a d starts low with an a. As your child learns correct letter formation in their writing, this should help them differentiate between the two letters.

Say it

b and d lip shapes

Every child learns and remembers things differently. Some children may find it helpful to make an association between how they say a letter and how it looks.

When saying the letter b, the mouth starts with its lips tight together in a line, like the stem of a b (albeit orientated horizontally rather than vertically). 

When saying the letter d, the mouth starts open, with the lips slightly rounded – like the rounded first part of a d

Let your child watch themselves say b and d in a mirror. If they can make the association between the ‘lip-shut’ line of the b and the open-mouth rounded-ness of the d, it may help them remember how the letters are formed.


Luckily, both b and d come at the beginning of the alphabet – the part that most young children can remember! b comes before d


  • Visualise a bed with the stalks of the b and the d making the bedhead and the foot of the bed.
    b comes before d so b has its stalk to the left, d to the right.
  • Make a ‘thumbs up’ sign in front of you with both hands.
    The left hand forms a b and the right hand forms a d
     b comes before d. Put an e in the middle and it spells b-e-d.

bat before ball, doorstop before door

Here’s a handy aide-memoire:

bat before ball, doorstop before door


Here are three simple activities you can do with your child to help them practice their bs and ds:

Flip book

Flip book

Make a simple flip-book for reading practice with the options of a b and a d on the left-hand side and some word endings that work with both b and d on the right, eg:

  • ad
  • in
  • ig
  • ug
  • ark
  • og
  • oom
  • one
  • ay
  • eep

Letter hunt

Cut out a piece of text from a newspaper or magazine (or print from the internet) and give your child a highlighter pen. Give them two minutes to find and highlight as many instances of the letter b (or d) as they can:

letter hunt


Letter throw

letter throw

Make some balls from scrunched-up paper and label each with either a b or a d. Label a couple of boxes/containers with a b or d as well. Get your child to throw the letter balls into the correct boxes.

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Help Your Child Develop Impulse Control

Help Your Child Develop Impulse Control

How many of you have been in a situation where, after being on a diet for a few days, a colleague comes to work selling chocolates for a fundraiser? Do you give in and buy a chocolate? It’s for a good cause after all. Or do you resist?

Austrian psychologist, Walter Mischel, conducted an experiment in 1965 involving four-year-olds and marshmallows. Mischel invited individual children into a room where a marshmallow was on the table. The man who brought the child into the room explained that he had to step out for a couple of minutes and if the child wanted to, he or she could eat the marshmallow. However, if the child could wait until the man returned before eating the marshmallow, they would be given an extra marshmallow – so two instead of one. Sure enough, some children couldn’t wait and ate the marshmallow before the man returned, while others were able to resist the temptation in order to earn the reward.

Mischel followed the subjects of his experiment into adult life. He discovered that those who had displayed the ability to delay gratification as young children grew to be more socially competent, self-assertive and dependable. And they performed better at school.

Other studies have shown similar results: individuals who had self-control when young later do better on a whole range of variables.

Mischel initially believed that the ability to delay gratification was a result of a certain personality type. However, in a subsequent study with Albert Bandura, Mischel placed children who had not shown the ability to delay gratification in contact with adult role models who demonstrated some delaying tactics. The adults engaged in some kind of self-distracting activity or put their heads down for a nap. The children who observed these adults later showed the ability to delay gratification themselves. That is, they had learnt the ability to resist temptation from their experience with the adult role models.

Impulse control is a skill

The implications for parents are clear. If our children display characteristics such as impulsivity, we can help them learn more beneficial ways to deal with the world. Parents can role model the appropriate behaviours and talk to their children about the strategies they used.

Two main factors seem to influence the ability of both children and adults to delay gratification. Both are more likely to delay gratification if they trust they will eventually get the better reward. That is, they will be more inclined to hold out if they believe the person or organisation that is offering the reward is likely to follow through.

Second, people will generally only display delaying behaviours if they have the skills to turn what might be tedious waiting time into a more enjoyable (or at least tolerable) time. In the original experiment, children who delayed eating the marshmallow showed a range of behaviours including turning their chairs away from the table, singing, inventing games with their hands and feet and talking to themselves to help them pass the time.

Source: Igniter Media

Emotional intelligence is the key to impulse control

Parents can help younger children delay gratification by distracting them. Many parents find themselves doing this instinctively. When four-year-old Holly nags for snacks just before dinner, they give her a job to do. However, be aware that children younger than about four generally haven’t yet developed the parts of the brain that allow them to delay gratification of their own accord.

Older children need to learn how to distract themselves by redirecting their emotions. This is more likely to happen if children understand that emotions don’t always need to be acted upon. Older children who are able to focus on the bigger picture will be able make choices that allow them to achieve their goals.

In the book Influencer*, the authors contend that many social skills, including the ability to delay gratification, can be learnt. This is good news for most of us! They maintain that while we accept that practice improves performance in sport, music and technical areas, few people would think to practice the skills needed to delay gratification, be a better team member or to negotiate with a boss. However the authors say we should. They claim that with the right kind of practice, we can all learn to be more socially competent.

* Influencer (McGraw-Hill Education, 2013) by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.


Teaching Kids to Ask for What They Want

Teaching Kids to Ask for What They Want

Much behaviour that annoys parents stems from children’s inability to ask for what they want.

Most parents have experienced a young child yelling, “Mum, he took my toy. It’s not fair!” Perhaps you’ve experienced a child who whines like a dripping tap because they want something from you.

Maybe you have a teenager who’d love to ask a friend out to the school formal but hasn’t the courage or the words to use. (This may not annoy you, but it frustrates the hell out the young person who becomes wracked with self-doubt simply because they can’t ask for what they want.)

An important task for parents is to give kids the skills they need for independence, so they are not reliant on you to resolve their problems.

An important independence skill for kids to learn is the ability to articulate their needs and wishes clearly, respectfully and appropriately. Here’s how you can help:

Start young

Recently I saw a mother tell her three year-old to ask his 12-month-old brother if he could play with a new car his little brother had been given for his first birthday.

Clearly, the twelve month old couldn’t answer, but his mother did so for him. Mr. Three said, “Ben, can I play with your car?” His mother answered, “I’m sure Ben would be happy to let you play with it.” And so Mr. Three played with the car, without taking it away. This mother had established that asking, rather than taking is the way to do things in her family.

Use your words

When kids whine, whinge, mumble or point at what they want remind them to use their words. Rather than respond to their mumbled, garbled, ill-formed requests teach them to stand still, make eye contact, stand tall and ask for what they want. If it’s not asked for, then it’s not given.

Give them words and phrases that work

A number of years ago my son wanted me to persuade his sports teacher to allow him to try out for the school swimming team. This particular teacher was often dismissive of such requests, but I thought my son had a right to ask, as he was sick when the swim trials were held. Rather than make a phone call, we sat and talked about the best way to approach this teacher and the words he could use to get his attention and also to make his case. My mentoring must have worked as the teacher made time for a new trial, which was good news for my son. When kids don’t have the words the best thing we can do is give them the social scripts they need to get what they want.

Coach them about time and place

Effective communication is as much about time and place as it is about the choice of words. It doesn’t matter what words are chosen, but a teenage request to go to a party, just as you are dashing out the door in the morning is the wrong time to ask a question. It deserves to be met with, “Would you like to ask that question at a more appropriate time?”

Help them not to take no personally

Kids, like adults, with low confidence levels take rejection personally, while those with high confidence levels don’t take rejection to heart. Discuss with kids that others, including siblings have a right to say no to a request and that a no may occur for many reasons, none of which need reflect poorly on them.

No means No

Children have a right to ask others for what they want but that doesn’t mean they keep asking if they meet a refusal. A child’s request for an ice cream just before mealtime that’s met with a refusal should be taken at face value. If a child keeps asking or asks another person, then it’s appropriate to let your child know strongly of your disapproval. Your parenting mantra could be: No means No.


This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.



Christmas No-Nos

Christmas No-Nos

Ho, ho, ho!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” (apparently). And, once again, King’s has trawled the web for the very worst of Christmas cheer. We hope you won’t get any inspiration from these festive photos.

Let’s kick off with a letter to Santa that went viral on social media:

sophisticated santa letter

So helpful to point Santa in the right direction! Let’s hope this thoroughly modern missive wasn’t received by any of these disturbing looking chaps:

More scary Santas

This year, the cult of Santa has even extended to our bathrooms  …

Santa interior decor

… but sadly his chocolate reindeers have been replaced by left-over Easter bunnies:

Christmas bunnies

Christmas decorations

Now, what festive decorations would really make our homes look ‘Christmassy’ this year?


Mmmmm … maybe we should look to the department stores and town planners for inspiration …

Scary bears

Scary giant santa

…or maybe not.

Are you entering the Gold Coast Christmas Lights Competition this year? Why not swamp your house with festive inflatables?


Or go for something classy and paired-down, like Stockton Council’s Christmas display (UK):

Stockton Christmas tree

Christmas cakes

Don’t waste time baking your own. Buy one from the professionals!

Bad Christmas cakes

Or why bother at all, when you can just blow one up?

Inflatable fruit cake

Christmas cracker jokes

We expect the jokes in our Christmas bonbons to be corny but we hope we might understand them …



Why not dress-up your pet?

(Because it’s cruel?)



To wrap up all this Christmas cheese, we’ll end with a cynical shop display for all the humbugs out there:

Cynical shop dressing

Happy Christmas, everyone!

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How to Help Your Child Transition to High School

How to help your child transition to high school

Whether your child is moving up from primary to secondary in the same school or starting a new school altogether, entering Year 7 can be both a fun and daunting experience: New teachers, subjects and friends; more independence and responsibility; a heavier workload – not to mention changing bodies and fluctuating hormones!

Here are some tips to help you support your child through this exciting period of change.

Common fears and worries:

The three principal concerns of students entering Year 7 are:

  • Friendships – shyness, new friends, not fitting in, bullying
  • Organisation – homework, finding their way around the school, managing time
  • Stress – being overwhelmed, unable to cope, fear of unknown

What changes can you expect?

  • Structure of the school day: Your child will no longer have one main teacher but a different teacher for each subject. They will have to find their way around the school for different lessons and manage their timetable.
  • Increase in homework  – expect approximately 30-40 minutes a night. 
  • Bodily changes: This is the age many children are starting or going through puberty. Changing hormones can contribute to mood swings and strong emotions.
  • Friendship changes: Even if your child is continuing in their current school, there will be new students joining. There will be new friendships, cliques and peer groups to navigate.
  • Stress levels may increase: Your child may feel overwhelmed as they deal with change and move out of their comfort zone. This is normal for the first few weeks.

What can you do to help?

Be positive and reassuring

Now is not the time to rattle off anecdotes about your worst high school experiences. Focus on the positive aspects. Reassure your child that both you and the teachers are there to support them. Teachers do not just abandon Year 7s in the first week and expect them to navigate the school and manage their timetables immediately. They will help them transition and break them in gently.

Get organised

  • Stay on top of school communications

    Your child’s school will send you information about orientation days, uniform shop opening hours, stationery requirements, class information, term dates and so much more. Keep and read everything sent to you by the school. It’s a good idea to keep a special folder (physical and/or electronic) where everything is in one place. This will save you hunting through drawers and emails to locate an important piece of information.

    • Mark up school uniform shop opening hours, text book collection dates etc on your calendar.
    • Put school contact numbers and email addresses into your phone.
    • If your child’s school has a parent’s portal be sure to bookmark it and check in regularly.
    • Make a note of your child’s pastoral care teacher and year level coordinator.
    • Find out about the school canteen, buses, after-school library hours etc, where applicable.
  • Attend High School Orientation Day

    Most schools have an orientation day for students before the start of Term 1. Make sure you and your child attend it. This is an opportunity to meet the teachers, get a feel for the school and be reassured. The more your child can find out about their school and what to expect, the better. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • Be prepared

    This may sound obvious but do ensure your child has everything they will need for the start of term, including:

    • Text books (check book list)
    • Devices – laptop, mobile phone etc, where applicable
    • Stationery
    • Uniform (check it still fits after Christmas growth spurt!) – don’t forget sports uniform
    • School bag, lunch box, drinks bottle etc
    • Make sure school medical forms are completed and the school is aware of any medical conditions or allergies your child may have.
    • Access details to school student portal, if applicable
  • Plan/practice the school journey

    Will your child be walking or cycling to school or taking public transport? If so, make sure they have a few practice runs. Ideally, find a friend who will be attending the same school to do this with them, so they have a ‘buddy’ when they do it for real. If your child will be cycling, find out where they can leave and secure their bike at school.

  • Find a friend

    Identify other children you know who will be starting the same High School as your child and try to arrange a few play dates in the school holidays beforehand. Develop relationships with parents of your child’s peers, where possible – this will be invaluable for support and information in the future.

  • Be there after school – first week

    If at all possible, arrange to be at home for your child after school during their first High School week, while they settle in. If work commitments prevent this, try to have a family member (eg grandparent, auntie) or trusted family friend there for them.


Homework is an unavoidable and non-negotiable part of High School – and one of the biggest areas of concern for many children entering Year 7. If your child has struggled with homework in the past, or simply managed to avoid doing it, this is where they may become unstuck.

What to expect

In Primary School your child’s class teacher would usually assign homework to be completed by a specific day each week. In High School, each of your child’s subject teachers may set homework tasks, all with different submission dates. 

A Year 7 child should expect to spend 30 to 40 minutes a night doing homework – no more than an hour.

How you can help

Organisation is key here:

  • Make sure you have a copy of your child’s homework timetable. This may be a printed sheet, physical diary or computer diary. Ask to see your child’s homework when completed and sign it. 
  • Provide a calm, quiet place for your child to work. This may be their bedroom, on the family dining table or in your home office – just not in front of the TV … on their lap.
  • Ensure your child has all the correct stationery and tools they require, eg calculators, highlighters, dictionary etc.
  • Try and set a regular time for homework each night and stick to it. This will help get your child into good habits from the outset. 
  • Be available and present, without hovering and looking over their shoulder. Children often feel comforted knowing someone is close. You might prepare dinner while they are doing homework at the breakfast bar or spend 30 minutes at the table with them doing your own paperwork while they do theirs.
  • Do not do their homework for them. If they get stuck or need help, by all means give them a clue or prompt or talk things through with them but don’t take over and complete their tasks. If they are just ‘not getting it’ or are unable to finish, email their subject teacher and let them know what’s going on.
  • Avoid having devices in the bedroom. Your child may need to use their laptop to write an essay in the quiet of their own room but, where possible, keep internet-connected devices in a place where you can see them and out of the bedroom.

Stress and anxiety

Mission Australia’s 2020 Youth Survey revealed that 34% of young people aged 15-19 were worried about their mental health.  ‘Coping with stress’ came top of the list of all teenage concerns in this study.

Dealing with stress

It’s normal for children to feel overwhelmed or weepy during the first few weeks of school but if their anxiety continues, your first point of call should be your GP for a quick check over.

How you can help your child manage stress
  • Restrict use of electronic devices

    Yes, this comes up time after time in King’s blogs but overuse of social media, online gaming etc is possibly the biggest contributor to the sharp rise in teenage mental health issues over the last 10 years. Your child does not need to be in touch with their friends constantly every evening on SnapChat. Nor do they benefit from immersing themselves in Fortnite or TikTok on a school night.

  • Ensure your child gets some exercise

    Physical exercise is proven to improve mental health. It releases endorphins and serotonin that help regulate mood, increase mental energy and relieve stress. Sport activities help your child feel connected and improve their social skills. But even if it’s just a walk around the block, getting some fresh air and moving after school each evening will have a positive effect on your child’s stress levels and wellbeing. It’s also a great opportunity to hang out with them and be available should they need to talk. Shoot some hoops, take a walk by the beach or kick a ball together.

  • Help your child get a decent night’s sleep

    Adolescents need a minimum of nine hours’ sleep a night. Many struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. In the first couple of weeks of High School, it is normal for kids’ sleeping patterns to go out of whack but sustained sleep deprivation will severely impact your child’s focus, memory and concentration.

    • Keep internet-connected devices out of the bedroom.

      Your child needs a decent night’s sleep without their phone beeping notifications at them. They need to wind down and mentally switch off. (See our blog, Are Smartphones To Blame for iGen’s Unhappiness?)

      • Give your child a regular alarm clock rather than let them use their phone alarm.
      • Use an MP3 player to listen to downloaded music in the bedroom rather than live-streaming Spotify.
      • Stop all screen use at least an hour before bed time.
    • Stick to a regular sleep routine.
    • Make sure your child gets fresh air and exercise after school each day.
    • Avoid food and caffeine at least two hours before bed time.
    • Listen to calming music (not thrash metal!) before bed.
    • Try a warm bath and/or hot milky drink.
    • Spend some time reading before bed.
    • Dim the lights an hour before bed time.
  • Diet

    What we put into our bodies impacts our mind as well as our body. Food is fuel and if your child is running on empty or on rubbish, they are not going to feel or perform well.

    • Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast before school. Aim for good carbs with some protein so they feel fuller for longer, eg egg and wholegrain toast, granola with yoghurt, fruit toast with peanut butter. Avoid sugary cereals and white bread/jam which will give them an early sugar spike but leave them falling flat mid-morning
    • Don’t let them skip meals – offer smoothies or soup if they really can’t face food.
    • Avoid junk food and fizzy, sugary drinks.
    • Ensure your child has lots of fruit and water during the day.
    • Fill the fridge with healthy snacks. Good options are combinations of protein and carbohydrates, eg cheese and fruit, hummus and vegetable sticks.
    • Provide a healthy afternoon tea after school (most teenagers are starving when they get home).
    • Insist your child joins the family for dinner, even if they just sit with you and don’t eat much. Try and keep them to regular meal times.
  • Relaxation

    In our busy, over-scheduled world, it’s easy to forget how to relax. Downtime is important for your child’s wellbeing. It’s important to daydream, get bored or just lie on the bed staring at the ceiling for 10 minutes! Encourage your child to take regular time out to doodle, play with Lego, do a jigsaw, weave loom bands, rock back and forth on a swing, read, sit outside and watch the world go by etc. Model this behaviour yourself – if they see you constantly rushing about they will think this is normal! Apps and websites that may help your child learn to relax:

    • Headspace – guided meditation app
    • Smiling Mind – mindfulness app
    • Mood Gym – interactive online program to help manage stress and anxiety
    • Calm App – helps with sleep and relaxation
    • Breathe App for Apple watch – helps with breathing and relaxation.


Prepare for the ‘what ifs’

Assure your child that no matter how bad things might be, they can always talk to you, that you will support them and that you can work out problems together.

Parenting and education expert, Sharon Witt, suggests working on a ‘script’ with your child to help them prepare for eventualities, e.g.

  • What do you do if you forget to do your homework?
  • What do you do if you forget your lunch money?
  • What do you do if someone is saying mean things about you online?
  • What do you do if you don’t understand what you have been taught?

Stay involved

Be engaged in your child’s High School journey.

  • Attend parent information evenings and parent teacher interviews
    Find out what’s going on at school and get a teacher’s perspective on your child.
  • Keep lines of communication open with your child
    Teenagers may not always be the most communicative of creatures but be available for your child and ready to listen. Even if they don’t talk, kids like to know you’re present. It can be comforting to just ‘hang out’ with you as you peel potatoes together or potter round the shops. Boys, especially, tend to open up while engaged in another activity (eg doing the washing up, shooting hoops), according to psychologist and parent educator, Steve Biddulph. 
  • Stay involved with the school
    Keep teachers informed and communicate any concerns with them. Teachers can only work with what they know about your child.
  • Work in partnership with your child’s teachers
    Don’t bad mouth them. They want the best outcomes for your child as well.
  • Speak to other parents
    If your school has year level Facebook groups for parents, make sure you join them to keep in the loop.
  • Use the school’s parent portal (if applicable) and/or website to stay on top of information and notices.

Useful Resources:

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