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Successful Close Quarter Living


The current physical distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for some time. This cocooned existence is a test of parental patience, children’s willingness to cooperate and a family’s ability to pull together.

So, if you’re about to enter the family cocoon, or even if you’ve been living in close family quarters for some time, the following tips will help ensure your children not only survive each other, but emerge from the cocoon with a strong sense of camaraderie, a greater appreciation for their siblings and knowledge that they belong to a rock solid family who can pull together in a crisis.

Get kids on board

Start your period inside the family cocoon by getting everyone on board. Give kids a voice in how they’d like their social isolation time to flow. Listen to their fears and worries. Empathise with any concerns about missing regular activities and contact with friends but point to the positives of having more free time than normal. Consider providing kids with family organisation roles – the music girl, games guy, food planner and so on – and swapping these regularly to maintain interest.

Establish structure

Many kids struggle with anxiety when routines break down, so ensure that you have a regular structure that brings predictability to each day. Parents and kids need their own routines starting with get up times, work times and in the event of at home learning, times for schoolwork. Break the day into different time zones that mirror their school days. A regular structure will make the days more workable, feel shorter and be more manageable. It’s important to keep daily foundation behaviours in place such as waking up at the same time, dressing for school and preparing for class as they trigger your child’s readiness for learning. Similarly, relaxing your routine on the weekend gives everyone a break from the structure of the school and working week. A regular family meeting provides an ideal way to give kids some input into their own routines and also a say in how family-life looks in the cocoon. If formal meeting are not for you, then ask for opinions and gain feedback in more conversational ways.

Set up activity zones

The Nordic countries with their long, dark winters lead the way in successful close quarter living. One of their major strategies for success is the establishment of living zones within homes and apartments. These zones differ from the usual sleeping, cooking and communal living areas that you may be used to. They incorporate areas for individual activities including learning, playing, chilling out and exercise. With consistent use, children soon associate a specific activity with a particular zone making concentration and focus a great deal easier. Avoid having multiple activities in one space as this may lead to conflict, while diluting the impact of this whole zoning strategy.

Get moving, grooving and having fun

Maintaining children’s healthy exercise levels when organised sports and informal group play are prohibited is a major challenge for parents. Some organisation and creativity will help. Establish mini movement breaks during each day involving dancing, shooting hoops and exercise to movement. Remember that any activity that gets kids arms and legs moving is beneficial to their physical and mental health. Amp up the fun factor by incorporating music, dancing to online videos and playing simple indoor games.

Instil good mental health habits

As the old saying goes ‘prevention is better than a cure’, which is pertinent if your child is prone to anxiety and depression. With routine preventative measures such as playing and talking face to face with friends on hold, consider introducing regular mindfulness and breathing into your daily routine. At Parenting Ideas we recommend the resources at as they cater for mindfulness for all groups and at any level. Schedule times for kids to digitally connect with friends so that they don’t experience the effects of isolation.

Know when to steer clear

It’s hard for family members who are used to doing things on their own to suddenly be thrust together in each other’s company for extended periods of time. Many family holidays end in sibling squabbles because family members aren’t used to spending so much time together in the same space. Encourage kids to spend some time alone each day so they can relax, reflect and draw on their own emotional resources. Time alone is an under-rated contributor to a child’s resilience and mental health.

And know when to come together

While time alone is important it’s also essential for your family to come together to connect, to have fun and to enjoy each other’s company. Work out your regular family rituals and make these non-negotiable. Evening meals, family discussions and at least one weekly movie or entertainment activity give children and parents the opportunity to come together on a regular basis.

This time spent with your family inside the cocoon at first may be difficult, as it requires changes of habit and behaviour from everyone. There are many positives to close quarter living brought about by COVID-19. Families now get a chance to connect with each in real time and bond with each other in deep, meaningful ways.

Parents also get the chance to establish the positive behavioural and mental health habits in their children that has so often been made difficult by the insanely busy lifestyle that we’ve all been living for some time now.

The roller coaster has stopped. It’s now time adjust to a slower pace and have the types of conversations and pleasurable times with kids that have meaning, have impact and leave lasting memories.

This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas



Starting School and Separation Anxiety – a Parent’s Guide

Starting School and Separation Anxiety - a Parent's Guide

Saying goodbye is never easy. Particularly on the first day of school. Excitement, apprehension, tears and clinginess are perfectly normal responses for the child beginning Prep. But no-one wants to leave their child sobbing and distressed with their new teacher.

Your child’s separation anxiety will usually have its roots in one or a combination of the following:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of change
  • Lack of control / choice
  • Shyness / lack of confidence
  • Little concept of time

Here are some tips to help smooth the transition:

Preparation is key

Your child needs to feel ready for school (e.g. able to dress themselves and go to the toilet on their own) and have an idea of what to expect.

  • Most schools run Prep Orientation and/or ‘Meet the Teacher’ days in advance of the new intake. These are usually voluntary but make sure that you and your child attend to help familiarise your child with the school environment and culture.

Try not to miss Prep orientation day

  • Some schools have playgroups that meet on the school campus. These provide an excellent opportunity for your child to become familiar with the school surroundings.
  • Organise play dates with other children starting school the same time as your child.
  • Get your child used to spending time without you – e.g. with grandparents or attending a sports class.
  • Have fun playing ‘school’ together (this can be a fascinating insight into what your child is anticipating!). Read books to them about starting school and discuss the storylines.
  • Give your child a practise run of getting dressed in their school uniform and check that they can cope with all the fiddly zips, buttons and laces. Make sure that they can go to the toilet independently in their new clothes.
  • Take the journey to school together a few times and show your child where they will enter and where you will pick them up.
  • Go over the school routine with your child so that they know what to expect. Little children have no real concept of time so saying “I’ll be there to pick you up at three o’clock” is meaningless. Outline a distinct beginning, middle and end, with checkpoints that punctuate the day (such as morning tea and lunchtime).

Go over the school routine with your child

Be confident…

An anxious parent makes for an anxious child. Children pick up on their parents’ stress and fears. Be positive and reassuring about your child’s new school adventure. Show that you trust their teachers. Be excited to find out about their school day.

…but acknowledge their emotions

Children need to feel that their emotions are valued. Saying things like “Don’t be silly” or “There’s nothing to worry about” may make them think you don’t understand. Show empathy: “You’re finding this a bit scary, right?”, “I can see you’re worried about leaving me”. Explain that it’s okay to feel that way and that you will miss them too.

Problem-solve together

Learning how to deal with anxiety is an important part of growing up and building resilience. Identifying the cause of your child’s concerns and helping them develop strategies to deal with them is more valuable than soft-soaping them with promises that everything will be fine. Try leading questions such as:

“I can see you’re a bit nervous. Why do you think you feel like that?”

“Can you think of anything that would make this easier?”

“What could you do if that happened?”

They may surprise you with solutions of their own. 

Teach them how to ask questions

One of the scariest things for small children is not knowing what to do or who to turn to if they have a problem. Role-play or talk through some scenarios with your child to prepare.

Fuel them well

An early bedtime, a good breakfast and plenty of time to get ready on the big day will reduce unnecessary stress caused by over-tiredness, hunger and rushing.

Take a small comfort toy

Some children find it comforting to take a familiar toy or object from home with them. Not all schools allow children to bring in their plushies but a small toy or trinket that can fit in their pocket – or a piece of velvet or ribbon – may have a calming effect.

Plan a small treat for after the first day of school

Give your child something to look forward to, e.g. a trip to a playground, an ice-cream or a favourite meal at home.

Prepare for farewells

Your child’s school will have given you an indication of what happens on the first day – where to take your child, at what time, how long you can stay etc. Make sure you have gone over this with your child before you set out for school so that they can mentally prepare for the final farewell. You may be allowed into the classroom with your child to see where they will sit, meet the teacher again and say hello to other parents and children. Take advantage of all these opportunities and, whatever your own emotions, stay positive, calm and interested in your child’s new environment. E.g. “Can you find the desk with your name on it?”, “Wow, what a lot of blocks. What could you build with those?”, “Let’s say hello to that little boy and find out his name”.

Establish a goodbye routine

When it is time to leave, a hug, a kiss and an “I love you. Have an amazing day. I can’t wait to hear all about it” should suffice. A lingering parent can escalate a child’s anxiety.

And if they cry …

Try not to get upset or emotional. The vast majority of children will stop crying soon after their parents have left. Starting school is a major milestone in your child’s life but an important step in growing up and developing resilience. The tears will pass. Your child’s teacher will be prepared for emotional children on their first day of Prep and have strategies in place to distract and reassure them.

Debrief gently

Your child may be exhausted at the end of their big day. Try not to overload them with questions but give them time and attention and show interest in all that they share. You may find them are more willing to divulge details after they have had time to wind down – possibly after a bedtime bath and book.


Starting school is an important milestone in your child's development

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Why Your Child Should Play Chess

Why Your Child Should Play Chess

Chess is often considered a game suited only to intellectually gifted people.  People assume that to play chess you must already have a rather high level of intelligence or at least be ‘a little bit smart’. While chess may be more instantly appealing to those whose minds already think in a strategic ‘chess-like’ manner, research is showing that this increasingly popular game has significant benefits for everyone.

Research into the benefits of learning the game of chess has been going on for many decades. More recently, a greater understanding of how our brain works and develops has highlighted significant benefits of playing chess.

  • Chess can improve your intelligence

    The Venezuelan ‘Learning to Think Project’, which ran from 1979 to 1984, tested whether the intelligence quotient (IQ) of 4,266 primary age children could be improved by playing chess, as measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. The children improved their IQ significantly in less than four and a half months of regular chess lessons. So impressed was the Venezuelan government with the results, that formal chess lessons were introduced to all Venezuelan schools in 1988. 

  • Chess engages the whole brain 

    A study undertaken in Germany showed that chess uses both sides of the brain.  While using the left side of the brain (logic, analysis etc.) may come as no surprise, what was surprising was the equal use of the right side (creativity, imagination, etc.).

  • Chess promotes brain development

    Going even further than using both sides of the brain, it has been found that chess promotes the growth of dendrites: tree-like branches within the brain that conduct brain signals. The more dendrites, the faster a person’s ability to think and process information.  Chess has also been shown to aid the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for planning, judgment and self-control.


  • Chess helps improve your memory

    Anecdotally, chess has been known to improve memory, and this has now been backed up by results from a two-year study: Students were given the opportunity to play chess regularly and their teachers noted that they demonstrated better memory, organisational and verbal skills. Chess has also been shown to help ward off dementia in the latter years of life.

  • Chess increases the ability to concentrate

    If you take just one look at two people engaged in a game of chess, it is probably not surprising that chess has been shown to improve concentration. This skill translates readily to other areas of learning and to life in general.

  • Chess improves problem-solving skills

    In a game of chess the goal is constantly moving as your opponent changes the field. This requires constant assessment, evaluation and planning in order to solve the problem before you and to win the game. These skills are directly related to mathematic achievement; a 1992 Canadian study found that young children who received chess lessons scored considerably higher in maths problem-solving tests than students who did not.

  • Chess develops personal skills

    It is not only intellectual traits that benefit from playing chess. Chess encourages safe risk-taking and helps to build confidence and resilience. It also presents opportunities for children to interact with others of different ages and backgrounds, particularly when participating in competitions with other schools. These interactions are constantly extending a child’s social skills, as well as developing a team spirit and sportsmanship.

Chess @ King’s

At King’s, the benefits of chess are well recognised and chess forms part of the primary school curriculum.  Children from Prep to Year 6 participate in a chess lesson each week, as part of specialist subject rotations. These classes are conducted by our school chess coordinator Mr Steven Cooke. Chess is also an option through King’s primary and secondary co-curricular programs.

Outside the classroom, Mr Cooke also offers chess coaching after school, with further coaching and competition opportunities during school holidays. Chess is also an option through the primary Ignite program and secondary Fusion program. 

King’s has over 400 rated chess players – more than any other school in Australia.

Parenting Ideas,

Teaching Your Child About Consent

Teaching Your Child About Consent

The concept of respectful relationships, including consent, has been discussed at a school level for some time, but it hasn’t yet gained universal traction with families. Lacking confidence and unsure where to start, many parents have struggled to make headway in this area. If this sounds familiar, these ideas will help you make a start.

Establish home as a safe place to talk

Is your home a place where children can talk about any topic? Sexuality and relationship education are subjects that many parents place in the ‘let’s talk about this when you are older’ basket.

Professor Kerry Robinson, who is in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology and the Sexualities and Genders Research Network at Western Sydney University, advises parents to be factual when answering children’s questions, emphasising the importance of staying informed about the subject kids are interested in.

In a recent article in The Guardian, she said, “…. set it up early with your child that when they talk about certain things you give open, simple, honest answers, then you set a precedent that you can build on.”

Professor Robinson also advises parents not to fob off children’s questions: “Straight away you’re setting a pattern of not answering and putting it off. Kids learn really quickly that this is a taboo subject. They will talk to their friends about it; they won’t talk to their parents and other adults about it because it’s taboo.”

Teach no means no

Children learn about mutual consent through their play and sharing. A child who doesn’t want to share their toys has a right to be left alone, rather than being scolded to change their mind. A parent who withdraws a privilege in response to a teenager’s poor behaviour shouldn’t be subjected to repeated attempts to negotiate a different outcome. Reinforce with children and young people that a no is not an invitation to ask again.

Emphasise choices

Framing behaviour as a choice is a central consent strategy for children or all ages. A young child who shares a toy with a friend can be told, “Good choice Harry. Now you can have fun together.” A primary school child who completes their homework assignment early can be reminded, “Now you’ve got plenty of time to relax. Smart choice.” The teenager who quietly helps you prepare a meal can be told, “You could have done anything after school, but you chose to help me. I appreciate that.”

Teach kids to seek consent

Another important component of consent is that children and young people should also develop the habit of seeking consent from others.


“Ask your sister if it’s okay for you to play that game next to her.”

“Ask Grandma if she feels like a cuddle right now.”

Permission-seeking is another piece in the respectful relationships puzzle that you can reinforce with kids.

* * *

The best age to start teaching your children about consent is when they are young. The second-best age is whatever age they are right now. Consent education is too big an issue to ignore or leave to schools to manage. It’s something we all have to commit to if we want real change to occur.

This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas

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