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Five Simple Tips To Manage Change

Feeling anxious about change?

Check out these 5 simple tips

Finishing school, starting university, starting your first job, having a baby.. all of these are positive changes. They are changes people seek out. It can be quite a surprise when these changes cause anxiety. We usually associate anxiety with negative experiences and it can be a rude shock when a positive change brings about an anxious response in you. So why does this happen?

Anxiety is the body’s defense mechanism. It is the body’s response to our brains believing that we are in danger. When faced with something new, no matter how badly we wanted it, our brains can start to feel in danger. The fear of things not turning out as hoped, the fear of the unknown and doubts about our ability to meet the new demands are just some of the reasons that positive change can trigger anxiety in humans. How can you manage these transitions well?

  1. Write it out – when starting something new you can feel overwhelmed with thoughts about the change. “What if it doesn’t work out?” “What if my new teacher (boss etc) doesn’t like me?” “What if I make mistakes?” and “what if I don’t cope?” for example. Having these thoughts swirling in your mind can trigger an anxiety response in your body. Writing these thoughts down can be helpful. Writing is so simple and yet so powerful. Putting your thoughts on paper can operate as a form of download and also allows you to see your thoughts and decide which ones are real problems to work on, and which are simply fearful predictions with no real basis to them. Spend a few minutes dumping your thoughts on paper each day. The next day review what you have written and determine whether you need to take action on these thoughts or not.
  2. Maintain a balanced perspective – Often when starting something new your brain, in an effort to protect you, starts thinking about everything that could go wrong. In doing so it generally ignores all the ways in which things could go well. Remember to think about what could go right too. For example, you may think “what if my new boss (or teacher) hates me?” Acknowledge that this could happen, but is it not equally likely that your new boss or teacher may like you? No-one is asking you to predict the future but since your brain may naturally do that in an effort to protect you, it is helpful to balance the picture out by recognising that, yes, things could go wrong, but they are equally likely to go well, unless you have clear evidence that things are likely to go wrong.
  3. Get informed – if you don’t know what to expect your brain may take some poetic license and imagine all sorts of catastrophic outcomes. Gather as much useful information as possible so that you feel prepared for the change ahead. For example, if you are starting university check out the university’s website, visit campus a few times, work out how you will get there and learn where all your lectures will be held etc.
  4. Accept that there is no such thing as the “right” decision – often people agonise over decisions; “Is this the right job for me?” “Is this the right course for me…?” The fact is that none of our decisions come with guarantees and that’s what we are really looking for when we try to make the ”right” choice. Do your research, make your decision and then decide that it will be the right choice for you. Research has found that the more committed we are to our decisions the more comfortable we are with them, not the other way around. Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it and determine to make the most of it, being indecisive leads to less satisfaction regardless of the decision.
  5. Take care of yourself – self-care is important if we are to navigate change well. So as much as it is within your control get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and stay social.
    The next time you embark on something new, no matter how much you wanted it, don’t be surprised if you feel a little anxious. If the anxiety feels overwhelming, try out some of the strategies above and see which ones work best for you.

Workplace Anxiety

Workplace Anxiety: Is Common

We spend a great part of our lives in some sort of work setting.  Other than sleeping, this is probably a part of our day where we are engaged in a form of employment.  For some the pressure to perform and stay on top of things is equaled to the fear of losing it all and not having income.  Catastrophising takes over and soon we picture ourselves unable to pay the mortgage, disappointing our families and being ridiculed by our employer.

Workplace Anxiety: The Sources

Anxiety in the workplace can come from performance anxiety where we are afraid that we will make mistakes or somehow be responsible for significant breaches or negligence in our work.  It can come from distressing situations with colleagues, supervisors or customers that keep replaying in our mind perpetuating our distress.  It can come from harassment and bullying.  Restructuring, redundancies and changes in our workplace can cause significant stress and anxiety.  It can also come from the weight of our own expectations of ourselves.

Workplace Anxiety: The Consequences

Disrupted sleep, tense muscles, compromised immunity, impacted concentration - can lead to a vicious cycle of feeling under resourced and impotent at work.  Yet, work can provide us with a sense of purpose and achievement when we feel well.  We can start to avoid situations that impact our career progression.  We can pull back from networking with colleagues and key stakeholders.  Avoid the more complicated tasks, or simply the tasks that could highlight potential mistakes (emails, phone calls to customers).  We procrastinate on key deadlines.

Workplace Anxiety: The Solution

  1. Recognise that anxiety is transient, and can be reduce by practicing some relaxation and mindfulness strategies.
  2. Practice self compassion.  You are going to feel this way in your work every now and again, this does not make you a failure
  3. Identify the problem and engage in problem solving to manage the overwhelming helplessness.

Psychologists support individuals who go through all kinds or workplace anxiety, consider talking to someone who can help you with those 3 steps.

Parenting An Anxious Child

How to tell if they are anxious or just disobedient

Do you have an anxious child and struggle to know when to discipline their behaviour? Are they misbehaving or are they anxious? It can be very difficult to tell the difference, but it’s an important difference to make. Anxious behaviours don’t deserve punishment and this can make it really tricky for parents when it comes to telling the difference. Getting into trouble can be what anxious children want, because it can mean they avoid an anxiety-producing situation.

Here are some principles to help you tell the difference

Physical and Verbal Aggression are Not Acceptable: Regardless of how they are feeling, physical and verbal aggression are not acceptable. These behaviours are not acceptable for anyone, even if they are experiencing big emotions whether that be fear, anger or sadness. Permitting your child to behave this way will be unhelpful for them in the long-run. They need to learn to manage their emotions appropriately.

Check for Avoidance A key feature of anxiety is avoidance, and if a child is afraid they may be behaving a certain way to avoid a task. On the outside this might look like misbehaviour. For example, you might ask your child to get changed into their pyjamas and they refuse. Stepping back from the situation and taking some time to consider what is going on can help you discern if this is anxiety or misbehaviour. In this case, you may know that your child is afraid of the dark and at the moment, their bedroom light is off. This would be anxiety talking, rather than naughtiness. However, if your child is instead glued to the iPad playing a game and there are no signs of things that would cause your child to be afraid, it’s likely that this is a case of disobedience.

Knowing how to parent a child that is anxious can be really difficult. These are just a few principles that can guide you in parenting an anxious child. Childhood anxiety can be very limiting not just for a child, but their family as well. Fortunately, anxiety is well-researched and there are effective evidence-based interventions available. If you would like more support and guidance, seeking professional help from a Psychologist can be greatly beneficial.

Internet Gaming

This year the World Health Organisation (WHO) Gaming Disorder, of which problematic internet gaming comes under.  Gaming Disorder is defined as having patterns of problematic gaming behaviour for at least 12 months, where there has been an increased priority given to gaming at the cost of other interests and daily activities.  The behaviour also needs to cause significant impairment to daily functioning, such as interfering significantly with one's work, relationships and school.  Such disruption could lead to jobs lost, or significant warnings for performance.  This may seem like drastic definitions, however in a recent study from Finland, where they reviewed 50 studies on internet gaming, correlations between problematic gaming behaviour and depression, anxiety, OCD and somatisation were found.  With increasing advances in technology and new games invented and being downloaded everyday, gaming disorder, whether accepted as a clinical diagnosis or as part of the landscape we live in, is here.

One significant impact internet gaming can have is on the quality of sleep.  Unlike a tennis match with a limited pool of players, within your time zones, who have a limited physical capacity to keep going, internet gaming is boundary-less.  It is difficult to identify clear finish times, and to manage gaming relationships.  Sleep is impacted when it is difficult to wind down and "finish".  Particularly if time zones mean that you could be disadvantaged if you stop while other players keep going.  The temptation to load up on caffeine, push through natural sleep and tired cues impacts sleep.  Conflict in gaming relationships can be toxic.  What gets said in chat forms behind a screen can lack the civilities and appropriate courtesies than what is considered sporting behaviour.  This too can keep you awake.  We also know that flickering lights and blue light from screens impact sleep negatively.

If you are wondering where to go for help, speaking to a trained professional to help with problematic internet gaming behaviour, and therefore improve quality of sleep would be a helpful first step.

Depression In Men: Stealth Mode

Symptoms of Depression in men can go undetected.

It is commonly thought that men are socialised to hold their emotions in check so as not to look weak and "unmanly".  Yet emotions and the ability to feel makes us human.  It brings the best of us to others as we express not only what we think, and in what we do, but also in what we feel.  Emotions are a way for us to have a sort of thermometer to indicate to us what is going on deep within us.  When our emotional life is in a state of constant turmoil and aggravation, the clinical signs of depression can surface.  Depression in men can be difficult to detect.

As men may find it difficult to express just how despondent and despairing they are feeling (as in when they are in the grip of depression), they may not signal or seek for help at the early stages of depression.  They may not themselves recognise the start of the downward spiral of mood.  Added to this, is the uncommonly known symptoms that characterise depression in men.  In addition to the typical symptoms of depression, low mood more days than not, change in appetite, impacted sleeping, gripping thoughts of low self worth, guilt, shame, loss of pleasure, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, there are some additional symptoms to look for in men.

Depressive symptoms in men include:

  • Increased irritability, anger and interpersonal sensitivity
  • Physical symptoms - headaches, body pains, impacted sexual functioning and libido, digestive difficulties
  • Increased risky or self-harm behaviour: Substance use, reckless driving, aggressive sport playing inducing injuries, risky sexual behaviour

Men are far more unlikely to seek help for their mental health.  Being aware of the risk factors for men, knowing the complete picture of depression in men can help with early detection, and awareness that could make the difference.

What you can do:

  1. Affirm their experience without trying to solve or fix things. Listening is a powerful affirmation of someone's experience and offers the hope that they will not be judged as being weak.
  2. Read some material together, exploring the commonalities of other men's experiences and recognising the experience of your friend or loved one as being common to many.
  3. Offer to be there for the next step - making an appointment with your family doctor.
  4. Make sure you have support for yourself as well.

Be sure to read some of our blogs on Men's mental health.

Gentlemen! Your health matters!

Men's Health - did you know?

We look at men's health in this post.  Did you know that statistically men live 4.4 years less than women?

Did you know that 70% of overall health is controllable through factors such as regular exercise, balanced diet, sufficient sleep and having strong friendships?

Did you know that men who are physically inactive are 60% more likely to suffer from depression than those who are active?

Did you know that 54% of Australian men are insufficiently active?
(According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

Although exercise has been shown to play a huge role in men’s health, it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, there’s a whole field of psychology research dedicated to figuring this out. Phew!

What we do know

So what does this research tell us? Men need to be doing a minimum of 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderately intense exercise (i.e. brisk walk) each week OR 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous exercise each week (e.g. hiking, running, carrying heavy loads, and sports such as basketball and soccer). In addition to the options above, you also need to include at least 2 muscle strengthening workouts per week (e.g. weights, resistance training or body weight exercises).

Starting somewhere is better than nowhere, so start somewhere – Is it too ambitious to begin running 3 times a week? Start running once a week. Intimidated by the equipment at the gym? Learn how to use one new piece of equipment each week. Just aim to get your body moving. Increase exercise gradually rather than attempting to reach the recommended goals all of a sudden. Smartphone apps can help you gradually increase and track your exercise, like Couch to 5k (C25K), Runkeeper or Zombies Run.

Call a mate or find an exercise buddy – Research suggests you are more likely to make changes if others are changing with you. Get a family member, friend or colleague to join you. Start a culture of friendly badgering about when you will next exercise together. Perhaps join a sports team or your local Park Run (http://www.parkrun.com.au/) so that the exercise is goal-directed and social.

Celebrate your changes – Regularly look back at what you have achieved over time with your exercise buddy and make a big deal about it. Put up a victorious Instagram post. Take photos of yourself periodically and track the changes – they will happen with time and persistence!

Don’t just celebrate your physical changes – exercise makes your brain happier too, reducing symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Research suggests that even within 5 minutes of moderate exercise a noticeable increase in mood can be felt. Furthermore, the effect of exercise on depression has been found to be comparable to the effect of antidepressants in adults with major depression (Blumenthal et al., 2007)! So take note of your mental improvements and celebrate them, because exercising improves your mind as well as your body.

For more information on Men’s Health Week, watch the Centre for Effective Living Facebook page.

Introducing Teens To Mindfulness

Mindfulness in teens has many benefits. It can help their focus and concentration, which can help with academic performance, it can improve empathy and social skills and even help manage stress and control impulses. Yet teens may resist efforts to introduce them to mindfulness. They may think that it is yet another adult attempt to tell them what to do and let’s face it, that’s the last thing any teen wants. So how can you introduce teens to this highly beneficial practice? Here’s a few tips from my experience teaching mindfulness to teens in our clinic:

Teach them the neuroscience behind it - you may think that the last thing a teen wants is more education but this is not so. I’m always amazed by the response I get from teens when I go into my mini neuroscience lesson. Teens who seem quite skeptical at first are quite intrigued by how their brains work. I think they appreciate the respect that they are shown when one explains principles to them rather than simply giving them instructions. Explain to the teen that our emotions are triggered by the Amgydala while rational thinking takes place in our prefrontal cortex. When the Amygdala mistakenly thinks we are at risk it hijacks the prefrontal cortex, which we need if we are to think effectively and rationally. Mindfulness helps kick the prefrontal cortex back into action, which helps us think rationally and effectively.

Invite them to try it out - tell them the science behind it and then invite them to test it out for themselves and see if it works for them. Encourage them to try it out each day for a week and reflect on their experience. Encourage them to be their own scientist, experiment with the practice and then decide for themselves if it is something they want to continue or not.

Make it simple and practical - Teenagers probably don't want to spend half an hour sitting on a mat and meditating, teaching them to do everyday tasks mindfully is likely to be a more practical option for them ,as it is for us. My favourite is the 5 senses exercise as you can apply it to any everyday activity and it doesn't require you to take time out of your life to do it. This exercise simply involves using all 5 of your senses to focus on whatever you are doing. For example, while walking to or from the bus you can notice 5 things you can see, then 5 things you can hear, 5 things you can feel in contact with your body and anything you can smell or taste.

The teenage years have their challenges but teens also have great capacity to learn and this is a time of significant brain development. Teaching teens practical life skills such as mindfulness gives them simple strategies they can use to help navigate the ups and downs of adolescence and adulthood.

For more articles on adolescent mental health look here.

Embracing Emotions Mindfully

Unpleasant emotions and Mindfulness

Do you ever think this way in regards to how you feel? Do you dislike feeling unpleasant emotions? Do you try to avoid unpleasant emotions in any way you can? Mindfulness can help with this.

"I hate feeling this way"
"I can't stand this feeling"
"It’s stupid and unacceptable to feel this way"

It is common for my clients to report disliking unpleasant emotions and to view them as unacceptable. It is common for them try to escape the uncomfortable emotion. However attempting to avoid and escape uncomfortable and unpleasant emotions can create significant distress and lead to a range of problems.

The problem is, we all experience emotions and they are an important part of being a human. Some emotions are pleasant, where as others are uncomfortable and we would prefer if we did not feel that way. We can't always avoid feeling unpleasant! There is a difference though between disliking unpleasant emotions, but nevertheless accepting that they are part of human experience and riding them out, versus experiencing an unpleasant emotions and perceiving it as unbearable and something to get rid of.

Although it makes sense to avoid any unpleasant emotion or distress, what generally happens though, is the more we fear or struggle with, or attempt to avoid the distress, generally the worst the distress gets. By attempting to avoid the distress, it actually makes it worst.

For my clients who find their emotions distressing, I help them to understand that their feelings can't hurt them and to see them differently. A skill I teach them is mindfulness. Being mindful can help them to observe their feelings and begin to accept them; to let them be there and ride them out versus pushing them away.

If you find your emotions distressing here a few tips to start being mindful:
- Stop and observe how you feel
- Do not judge how you feel as 'good' or 'bad'
- Label what you are feeling as just a feeling ("It's just my anxiety again")
- Imagine your emotion to be like a wave that will pass
- Engage in mindfulness meditation. Start with a mindfulness of breath recording then try recordings on being mindful of thoughts and emotions

How To Support Friends and Family Who Care For Children With Autism

Supporting friends and family who care for children with autism

“It must be upsetting to see such small successes.”
“I don’t know how I could do it”
“My friend had a child that was a late talker, but now the parents can’t stop him from talking!”

These are just a few of many unhelpful comments I’ve heard people say in an effort to empathise with parents who have children with Autism.

Prior to my career as a psychologist, I worked as a behavioural therapist with children on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) and their families, and I myself have friends and family members who care for ASD children. I have often observed families feeling isolated and misunderstood by their friends and family, even though they were trying to be supportive. In light of autism awareness month, I asked my friends and family who care for children with Autism what they have found helpful and unhelpful. From their reflections and my own, here are a few pointers on how to support your friends and family who care for a child with Autism.

Keep Up Social Interactions – Taking the time to call or meet with your friend to hear about their experience as a parent. If your friend/family member is bringing their child, ask them what would work best for them. For example, often children with ASD can get distressed by certain environments, be understanding if your friend wants to avoid these places. If the child does get upset while you’re meeting, realise that parents can feel concerned that those around them may become judgemental. In those situations, reassure parents that it’s fine, you understand that their child can become stressed or anxious, and that you aren’t concerned about their child’s behaviour.

Join with them - Join with them in the difficulties but also celebrate the successes, these can be things as simple as their child being able to walk through a supermarket without becoming distressed. Don’t think that these changes are insignificant, if a parent is sharing it with you, it’s likely that it’s taken them a long time to get to that point. Don’t always assume that parents of children with autism are struggling, despite the challenges, parents can often be coping well and delighting in their child. Delight alongside them!

Learn – Seek out information about autism and ask your friend what has been helpful for their family and how you can best support them. Be willing to get to know their child and delight in their strengths and personalities. Teach your friends and family to do the same. Try to avoid telling your friend or family member facts you’ve discovered about ASD. Even though it may be unintentional, this can give your friend the impression that you think they don’t know enough to help their child. More often than not, they have committed a large portion of their life to seeing specialists and learning how to care for their child.

Watch your language – Before we know it, we can slip into language that implies someone with Autism is defective. This can be hurtful to parents and their children even if it is unintentional. A helpful way to watch how we speak is to focus on the positives and spend time investing in these unique children.

Don’t compare their child with other children – I have observed people trying to give carers hope by telling them about success stories they have heard about other children with Autism. For example, “I know another child who was a late talker but now the parents can’t get them to stop talking!”. This can bring parents to feel misunderstood and unheard. Every child with Autism is unique and different, the development of one child does not necessarily reflect the development of another. Rather than compare children, share in the joys of your friends child and celebrate their strengths.

Self Esteem and Teenagers on The Autism Spectrum

"Why don't I fit in?"
"What's wrong with me?"
"Why won't people be friends with me?"

These are all common questions I hear from teenage clients on the Autism Disorder Spectrum. Self-esteem issues and difficulties establishing friendships are all common issues for those who are on the spectrum.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to see the world differently and act differently, often leading them to be a target for bullying or criticism. An unwillingness of other teenagers to make allowances for their social mistakes can lead them to be socially isolated.

All of this can really bring down the confidence of someone on the spectrum. They may begin to tell themselves that their way of seeing the world and doing things is wrong. They may begin to believe that there IS something wrong with them.

To parents or loved ones of those on the spectrum, here are a few tips for improving their confidence:

  • Reinforce their positive qualities and encourage them to foster their strengths.
  • Encourage them to be involved in activities they are interested and talented at.
  • Be kind and patient with them- they are probably not being kind or patient with themselves.
  • Show them unconditional love and acceptance. It is important for them to know they are loved and valued by you

If you are on the spectrum, here are some tips for improving confidence:

  • Focus on appreciating your positive qualities. Think of qualities of yourself that you are proud of, you have received compliments for or are valued by others
  • Don't give up on making friends; don't retreat or isolate yourself. Doing so can make you feel more depressed or unappreciated. Consider joining an ASD support group with people who understand.
  • Consider taking small steps into a hobby or interest that can provide a way to connect with others in a safe environment where your interests are shared with others, and can be appreciated.

If you or your loved ones with ASD are struggling with self-esteem, the psychologists at the Centre for Effective Living understand the unique challenges of those on the spectrum. Speaking with a trained professional can help with improving self-esteem, along other difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

Workplace Bullying

She talked to me about the confusion she felt. Was she justified for calling her a stupid ****? Sure she was learning the job still. However, she wondered if it was necessary to be put down constantly. She wasn't sure, but it seemed like she was getting rostered on to work at hours that were unreasonable, especially as her boss knew she was a single mother and had limited childcare. Then there were the last minute requests for things to be done a certain way and in a time frame not even superman could deliver. Then the closed door meetings. Often when nobody was around. They were frightening, her boss was intimidating. She yelled, she swore she demanded, she put down. Dare she say she felt she was being bullied? Would anyone believe her? Who would she tell?

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace bullying is very real. It is not a single incident, it is a series of targeted acts that leave you feeling threatened. You dread going to work because you have a very real feeling that you are not safe, and you are not sure what is going to come at you next.

Employers have a responsibility to create a safe workplace. Which means you have the right to a safe and bully free work place. Refer to your work place bullying policy and procedures. Take the steps to speak confidentially to someone about your next steps. Seek advice and believe that you do not have to put up with this. Know your rights by referring to this link http://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/health-and-safety/safety-topics-a-z/bullying/workplace-bullying.

If Your Child Is The Bully

Most children at one point or other will tease other children, but bullying is more than teasing. Bullying is defined as repeated verbal, physical or social behaviour towards another person that causes physical and/or psychological harm. With the advent of social media and portable devices, bullying has become more pervasive, rather than only occurring in person or at school, cyberbullying can occur in the home, anywhere and 24 hours a day.

We often spend time thinking about how to help children who are victims of bullying, but what if your child is the bully? Discovering that your child is a bully can be distressing and heartbreaking. It’s so easy to see this as an attack on our parenting and we can be quick to jump to defend our child. However, it’s important to take this information seriously and step in early to help your child change their behaviour. Here are some ways you can help your child if they are bullying others:

1. Talk to Your Child

Once you’ve been notified of your child’s bullying behaviour, the first step is to talk with them about it. It’s often tempting to try to make your child feel ashamed, but this will cause them to close up and not want to share with you. The best approach is to try to show understanding and reflect back to them what you hear them saying. Allowing your child to speak openly without shaming them can help you understand the reasons for their behaviour.

After you’ve heard your child’s side of the story, it’s important to talk with them about the consequences of their bullying behaviour on others and make it clear to them that this behaviour is unacceptable. There are a number of ways you can help your child identify the consequences of their behaviour. One way is to ask questions that require your child to imagine themselves in the other child’s shoes i.e. “How would you feel if someone excluded you?” or “Imagine if someone stole your lunch, how would you would feel?”. Another useful way to discuss the consequences of their behaviour is to ask your child to recall how the other child reacted to their behaviour i.e. “How did Tim react when you hit him? What did his face look like? What did he say?”. You need to firmly communicate that their bullying behaviour is not acceptable.

2. Support the School’s Bullying Policy.
The next step is to contact the school, become aware of their policy on bullying and what the consequences are to be for your child. You can ask the school if there are things you can be doing at home that support their disciplinary measures. By supporting the school’s response to your child’s behaviour, you are clearly indicating to your child that bullying is not ok.

3. Understand the Heart of Your Childs Behaviour
Talk with your child and their teacher to try and identify what is at the heart of their bullying behaviour. It may be that your child has difficulty controlling their emotions, they may struggle with beliefs of inadequacy or they may be bullied themselves. In some cases, bullying behaviour is a misinterpretation of messages to “stand up for yourself” or it can be a reflection of conflict they’ve seen at home or on TV. It may be appropriate to seek help from one of our Psychologists who are skilled in identifying and addressing these difficulties. We can also provide you with assistance and support when addressing your child’s behaviour. There are numerous reasons why a child may bully others and identifying these reasons is key to intervening and helping your child develop more healthy and positive relationships.

What to do if your child is being bullied

Bullying is a behaviour that is rarely tolerated in most workplaces.  What about in the school yard? Have you ever heard parents say that children should be left to “sort it out” or “toughen up”? I disagree! If we do not tolerate bullying of adults, how much less should we tolerate bullying of children! In fact, research shows that being bullied as a child can result in several difficulties throughout one’s life including psychiatric diagnoses, difficulties with trust and low self-esteem, to name a few. Children who are bullied can experience depression, anxiety, poor sleep and impaired academic performance.

So what can you do about it? Firstly, create a safe space for your child to talk about such things. It can be difficult listening to a child’s stories in the midst of everything else you have to do but talking with them regularly means that they are more likely to tell you when something is awry. When your child does open up don’t dismiss their feelings, rather, validate their feelings whilst teaching them what to do about it. Praise them for telling you about it and be encouraging as you advise your child.

Teach your child a statement that he / she can say in response to any bullying and have them practice at home. For example, “Stop it, I don’t like it”. Teach them to speak confidently in a loud and clear voice. Tell your child to notice the colour of the other child’s eyes when talking to them. This is a little trick that will help your child to hold their head up, which in turn makes them appear more assertive and less intimidated by the bullying. Encourage them to then walk away and play with someone else.  Role play the scenarios at home with you playing your child to model the behaviour to your child, and then you playing the bully so your child can practice.

Encourage your child not to be alone but to stick with their friends. In fact, encouraging your child to be friendly and make lots of friends is a very useful way to reduce their risks of future bullying. Discuss friendships and how to make friends and the importance of having a wide social network.

Importantly, speak to your child’s teacher. It’s important for your child to know that you have their back and whilst you will teach them how to handle bullying, they need to know that you will also do something about it and that they are not in this alone.

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