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Home » Education Advice » A parent’s guide to starting Primary School in Australia

A parent’s guide to starting Primary School in Australia


Starting primary school in Australia is a big milestone for children and families. It can be an exciting or a challenging time.

When does Primary School start in Australia?

Primary school is usually from Kindergarten (or ‘Kindy’) till year 6.

Whilst the correct age to start primary school varies by state, children usually begin at the age of 5 or 6.

To attend primary school, the child needs to be 5 years old before the cut-off to attend school.

Current cut-off dates in Australia

New South Wales (NSW) – 31 July

Victoria (VIC) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – 30 April

Queensland (QLD), Western Australia (WA) and Northern Territory (NT) – 30 June

South Australia (SA) – 1 May

Tasmania (TAS) – 1 January

When should I send my child to Primary School?

If your child is born before the cut-off date of a state, they have the option to be one of the older kids in the grade or one of the younger ones.

For example, if Jayden is born on the 24th of April, he can start school in NSW at the age of 4 years and 9 months. Jayden may also attend school the following year at the age of 5 years and 9 months where he will be one of the older students.

So which one is a better fit?

Selecting the right year of entry into primary school is a difficult decision for parents. There is no correct answer.

You may wish to consider the following when deciding whether your child is ready for big school:

1. Notice your child’s development

Most of the decision should depend on your child and how they are going.

Knowledge and cognitive ability

Think about your child’s cognitive skills.

When starting primary school in Australia your child should have a basic understanding of numbers and counting.

Have a conversation with your child and gauge whether they can understand stories and demonstrate thinking and reasoning skills. You may consider their ability to complete puzzles, sort and match objects or identify colours and shapes.

starting primary school in australia. puzzle pieces.

Another recommendation to look at is their ability to wait their turn and share toys and equipment.

Maturity level

Your child should be at the level to manage their emotions at school. This includes focusing on tasks, following instructions and being in the new primary school environment.

Your child should be able to understand the rules and interact with teachers correctly.

Language

It is important your child is able to talk and listen to adults and other children when beginning school.

Make sure they are able to speak clearly to communicate their needs.

A good rule of thumb is to review whether your child can understand and retell simple stories.

Independence

Your child is going to be away from you for new and long periods of time.

If they are looking to start school, they should be able to manage their belongings, eat and drink and go to the bathroom without your supervision.

2. Speak to your child’s preschool teachers

Your child’s preschool or early learning centre teachers will have an understanding on where your child sits for the above skills.

Speak with them about your child’s development and whether they may benefit from waiting another year.

Checklist for starting Primary School in Australia

First day of Primary School bag essentials

  • Packed recess and lunch that is easy to eat and open

  • Pack water bottle

  • Stationery (ask the school to provide a list of required equipment)

  • Spare underwear, socks and clothing

Tip: Give your child a tour of their bag and explain where everything is. Otherwise, try and get them to help pack their school bag.

Attending the first day of Primary School

  • Give your child confidence and allow them to dress themselves if they can

  • Tie your child’s hair out of their face securely

  • Apply sunscreen

  • Make sure you have an area to park/wait so you are not late to pick them up

  • Let your child and their teacher know who will be picking them up

After their day in Primary School

  • Communicate with care and kindness

  • Ask them how their day was

  • Ask them to recall school events throughout the day

  • Validate their feelings and experiences

  • Ask them about any friends they made

  • Ask their teacher about their behaviour and development

How can I ensure a smooth transition for starting Primary School in Australia?

‘Preschool’ is a great way to prepare your child for ‘big school’.

A great way to ensure a smooth and easy transition into primary school is to send your child to early learning at their ‘big school’.

Alphington Grammar School, Victoria, has an Early Learning Centre (‘ELC’), for children aged 3-5 to develop and grow.

At Alphington Grammar School, our youngest students develop the building blocks of learning in our dedicated ELC. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, our ELC teachers use spontaneous learning experiences and intentional teaching to scaffold and extend learning.

Throughout the week the children participate in school events and specialist programs including physical education, music, dance, library, Greek language immersive learning and bush adventuring. Active participation built on children’s curiosities ensures a solid foundation for a lifelong love of learning and a smooth transition into their Primary schooling journey.

Ms Danielle Munro, Early Learning Centre Leader

Preparing for Primary School at home

There are lots of activities for parents to try out with their child before starting primary school in Australia.

The NSW Government’s E-book recommends practicing the following 3 skills:

1. Speaking and listening

This is important so your child can socialise, make friends and participate at school.

  • Have conversations with them

  • Ask your child to recall events that happen throughout the day

2. Reading

Children mostly learn to read at school. However it is good for parents to show their child how books work:

  • Read to your child

  • Choose books they will find fun with ‘silly’ or rhyming sentences

  • Ask them to engage with the book (For example, “The cat is hiding behind the chair”. You may like to ask your child, “where is the cat hiding?”). This will help engage their comprehension skills.

3. Drawing and writing

  • Ask your child to draw or write about things they like

  • Help them draw or write something for a friend or family member

starting primary school in australia. fathers day card.

Remember to take care of your own wellbeing!

Being a parent is hard work. Remember to take time to practice self-care during this transition period for the family.

Need help finding or enrolling in a school?

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » The importance of sports in education

The importance of sports in education


Many parents and children overlook school sports from a certain age. However, physical activity and sports is a fundamental element of education.

Your child’s sports participation in school can provide many benefits outside of physical health.

At Barker, we are committed to providing appropriate, diverse and challenging sporting programs to all students at the School. The reason for this is simple. Involvement in sport not only assists students physically and mentally; it creates opportunities for students to develop character, values and lifelong skills such as time management, teamwork and communication.

Mr Cam Anderson, Head of Sport at Barker College

Why do we need sports in education?

Sports in education can effectively contribute to your child’s weekly physical activity. Participating in sports at school has many other associated benefits.

Wellbeing

Participating in physical activity is central to your child’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

Playing sports between 1 and 3 times a week is reported to reduce psychological distress by 34%, whilst participating in sports 4 or more times a week reduces psychological distress by 47%.

Physical activity increases self-esteem and reduces stress and anxiety.

Sports in education will also help your child:

  • Sleep better

  • Improve their concentration at school and throughout the day

  • Boost their energy levels

Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines provide physical activity recommendations for different age groups.

Children and young people are recommended to participate in at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. At least 3 days a week, children and young -people are encouraged to participate in muscle-strengthening activities.

Many are offered in sports at school including football, basketball, swimming, netball or running.

Providing balance at school

Students at school have different interests and strengths.

Sports in education may benefit children who do better in sports than the classroom.

“We believe by providing an extensive sports program we are actively promoting a healthy lifestyle and a nice balance between schoolwork and physical activity. This is imperative for the wellbeing of some of our students who thrive on the sports field a little more than they do in the classroom.”

Aaron Ayre, Director of Sports at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

Sports in education provides your child with skills to become more well rounded.

“Overall, we believe that the opportunities we provide in our sports program aid students in becoming well rounded people who are able to juggle school commitments as well as sports passions.”

Children can develop and grow without sitting in a classroom all day. Research shows that schools which offer more sports have higher test scores and graduation rates amongst students.

Team Building and unity

Teamwork amongst children allows them to strengthen their cooperation and social skills.

For these students looking to socialise outside the classroom, team sports provides a network.

Teamwork is a very important life skill for children to carry outside of the sports field. A 2009 study revealed 57% of business leaders attributed their career success to participation in youth sports.

Similarly, sports in education allow for unity amongst students. Students from different backgrounds and social groups have the opportunity to work towards a common goal.

“We aim to provide a way for every student in the school to participate in sport across the year to not only promote a healthy lifestyle but also help build our school spirit.”

Aaron Ayre, Director of Sports at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

Cognitive Development

Childhood and youth is an important and sensitive period for cognitive development.

Research demonstrates a correlation between sports participation and cognitive function in children.

sports in education. sports field. fencing at barker college.

According to Brain Boost from the Government of Western Australia, different studies show:

  • On average, academic achievement of children with extra physical education is higher

  • Participation in sports resulted in improved reading comprehension

  • Physical activity led to improved children’s maths scores

  • The cognitive benefits of physical activity were maintained over time.

In fact, children ‘can spend less time on academic learning, and more time being physically active during the school day without affecting their academic success or progress.’

Discipline

Sports in education also help enforce discipline amongst children by:

  • Providing a physical outlet

  • Self-discipline to achieve goals and physical challenges

  • Requiring a dedicated time to train and play

Research reveals children who played structured sports were better at ‘following instructions’ and ‘remaining focused in the classroom.’

Sports in the curriculum

Mandatory sports in education are incorporated in the NSW and VIC teaching and learning curriculums.

Many schools offer an option of competitive/representative school sports and sports at school.

“We compete in the SACCSS sports competition against other Catholic Colleges in the area which forms our school representative teams. While these teams are based on a selection process, we also provide House sport opportunities for all students to further facilitate increasing participation.

Volleyball, Soccer and Basketball are the most popular sports however there is also a growing appetite for Badminton, AFL and Table Tennis.”

Aaron Ayre, Director of Sports at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

Does my child need to play sports outside of school?

In Victoria, only 6 out of 10 children between 5-14 participated in sport outside of school.

Sports in education is a great way to achieve physical activity, however there is no harm in carving out time for extra activity during the week.

Whilst some sports schools provide specialised training, many private schools encourage independent sporting as well.

“Our training sessions and games are played within school hours or shortly after school, enabling students to travel to other sporting clubs for training. This allows for students to actively pursue their own individual sporting goals and opportunities outside of their College life.”

Aaron Ayre, Director of Sports at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

Many schools also run or host sport workshops in the school holidays.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » 6 Practical Tips for Moving Schools

6 Practical Tips for Moving Schools


Whilst moving schools is quite common, it can be a big change for families. Parents, children and families all need to settle in when it comes to moving schools.

6 Practical tips for moving schools

1. Put together a collection of your child’s relevant documents

The NSW Department of Education suggests putting together a ‘student portfolio’ for teachers at the new school.

This may include recent reports, recent transcripts (such as the most recent NAPLAN data), samples of their work and other relevant information and other relevant information.

Having this all put together allows the new teacher(s) to gauge your child’s abilities and understand the work they have been doing to ensure a smooth transition.

2. Take a tour of the school

A great way to understand the culture at your child’s new school is to take a tour or have a trial day before your child officially begins.

Visiting the school beforehand allows families to get a feel for the students, teachers and campus.

Your child will also have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new campus.

Things you may ask the school during a school visit:

  • If you are unable to take a tour of the school beforehand, ask the school for a map.

  • Depending on your child, you may ask if there is any way for your child to meet some classmates before the school. Alternatively, you may ask to arrange a ‘buddy’ on the first day of school.

  • Ask if there are any online parent platforms or in-person groups you can join.

  • Ask if the school offers any extracurricular activities for before and after school.

  • Ask for a school calendar with a list of the events.

  • Ask the school if your child will be receiving their timetable before or on their first day.

  • Ask about homework expectations and homework clubs or study sessions the school provides if your child needs help.

3. Arrange your child’s before and after school routine

Discover school facilities or programs available

If you are working during the weekday, do some research about after school facilities near the school or after-school programs or extracurriculars the school may offer.

Speak to your child about whether any of these interests them and what the new routine might look like.

Organise transport arrangements

Alternatively, you may seek transport arrangements for your child.

Build a new routine together by looking at buses, trains, potential drop-off points or the school’s private transport service.

Tip: Ask the school if they have their own pick-up and drop-off points for parents.

4. Make sure your child has the support they need

Make sure you ask the school about any specific support your child requires so they can make appropriate arrangements.

It is a good idea to let the school know if your child:

  •  Has learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health issues or is an ESL student.
  • Has had past difficulties settling in and making friends.
  • Any dietary requirements or allergies if you have not been given the opportunity to disclose this.

5. Make sure you have purchased all the new school supplies

Ask the new school about textbooks or workbooks your child may need for class(es) and make sure you have them ready by the first day.

school supplies. 6 practical tips for moving schools.

Remember to order the new school uniform in advance.

Tip: It may be helpful to ask the school for a list of supplies your child will need to have for their first day.

6. Helping your child cope with moving schools

Prepare them before moving schools

  • Discuss the move as early as possible

It is important to begin discussing moving schools as soon as you can. This allows your child to have more opportunity to process the event.

This is particularly important as many children are reluctant to change.

  • Understand their concerns

Since children spend the majority of their week at school, moving schools can change their whole life.

It is normal for your child to have concerns. They may be worried about making new friends, leaving teachers they like, or navigating the campus.

Take some time to hear and acknowledge their worries and concerns.

  • Get the family excited about moving schools 

Get excited and enthusiastic for moving schools and try to avoid dwelling on your concerns.

Discuss with your child what they can look forward to at their new school.

Ask them to consider what they are excited about. They may be excited about having a fresh start, having a different school uniform or new extracurricular opportunities.

  • Get them involved 

If you are still in the process of choosing a school, let them join in!

You may wish to compare different schools and see which one best suits your child and the family.

Private schools offer many niche electives, programs and facilities in NSW and Victoria.

  • Don’t isolate them with the community they’ve created 

Make a list of your child’s school friends and their contact details. Try to make an effort to arrange visits with their old friends after they move schools.

Ensuring they will have the opportunity to see or contact their friends will make it easier to move schools.

Check to see if they are settling in after moving schools

  • Get in touch with the school 

Contact your child’s teacher or year coordinator a few weeks after to see how they are fitting in.

If they are not adjusting to the change as expected, ask the school to provide tips to help.

  • Have another discussion with your child

Have another discussion with your child and see how they are going after the move.

Take time to acknowledge worries and concerns they may still have.

How much say does my child have in moving schools?

Parents may be concerned if their child may be severely upset about moving schools.

“I certainly think it’s important to get their input, not necessarily have the burden of the decision put on them.”

Dr Andrew Greenfield, Child and Educational Psychologist, believes some younger children may not be able to come up with any real advantage to moving schools.

“From year 3 onward I think it’s important to have their input because they’re the ones who have to live in that environment. The problem is they don’t know what it really is gonna be like a lot of the time in a new school and environment.”

When is the best time to move schools?

Families often have a major need or good reasons for moving schools. However, if you do have the luxury of deciding when your child should move schools, Dr Greenfield suggests the middle years when other kids are moving schools.

“More often than not it’s done in year 5 or year 7 because there are kids moving schools around that time. Obviously year 7 because lots of kids change schools then anyway, so it’s a new experience.”

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » What to do after your child receives disappointing exam results

What to do after your child receives disappointing exam results


 

Receiving lower than expected exam results can feel shocking or devastating for your child. It is important for parents to approach disappointing exam results positively to help their child improve.

Why did my child receive disappointing exam results?

Kids can fail exams for a variety of reasons.

Common reasons may include:

  • Lack of interest in the material

  • Distraction when studying

  • ‘Text Anxiety’

  • Poor time management and procrastination

  • Lack of confidence or overconfidence

There could also be underlying reasons a student is not motivated at school over a prolonged period. This may include underlying learning disabilities such as autism or dyslexia or mental health conditions including ADHD, anxiety, depression or OCD.

What to do after your child receives disappointing exam results

Eden Foster, College Psychologist at St Aloysius College, Victoria discusses the best approach is to ‘develop a growth mindset’.

A child who has a fixed mindset will have the belief that a poor grade on an exam or assessment suggests that they cannot do well in the respective subject and is more likely to give up and see failure as something irreversible and inevitable for them.

Parents can take the following steps to boost confidence and approach disappointing exam results positively:

1. Praise your child for their efforts

Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck’s research demonstrated praising ‘process not outcome’ is a key to developing a growth mindset.

Praising your child for their academic efforts is just as important as praising them for their results.Recognising your child’s effort will motivate and encourage them for future exams, assessments or homework.

Your child will learn the connection between the amount of effort they put in and the results they achieve.

Praising your child’s effort can look like praising their concentration, self-correction or study techniques.

Eden believes focusing on your child’s results may lead to a fear of failure and task avoidance.

2. Creating the best study conditions at home

Creating good study conditions at home may help your child with distractions and battling exam stress.

Create a dedicated study space that is quiet, organised and away from distractions.

You may wish to set boundaries with your child about the use of technology or phones in their study space.

3. Seeking help from teachers and wellbeing staff

Encourage your child to seek help from teachers or wellbeing staff following their exam results.

Praising your child for seeking feedback from staff will help them improve their grades.

It also helps your child build a good relationship with their teacher and feel more comfortable to ask for help before the next assessment.

4. Help with organisation

If your child is struggling with their organisation you may wish to set up a calendar or study plan.

  • Make sure to write in assessment or homework due-dates

  • Encourage them to make a to-do list where they can mark off each task

  • Help them create a study timetable which also schedules in wellbeing activities

5. Encourage them to use their feedback to improve

A popular study technique is to note the mistakes from the last exam and re-do those questions everyday until they are completely mastered.

For example, if your child gets a complex maths question wrong, have them write down the question in a separate note book and re-attempt it until they have learnt the correct working out.

Make sure your child asks teachers for further feedback until the next assessment so they are prepared. ’

What not to do after your child receives disappointing exam results

Don’t blow things out of proportion

It’s not the end of the world if your child has one disappointing result.

It’s important to help your child (and yourself) put these results into perspective. Does this one exam result mean my child will not succeed in life? Of course not, in fact failure is more likely to help your child succeed so long as they focus on what they have learnt in the process- what they did well and what they can improve on.

Eden Foster, College Psychologist, St Aloysius College, Melbourne

Help build their self-esteem and reward them for any efforts leading up to the next exam.

Don’t get angry or show disappointment

Your child is likely already disappointed in themselves. Try to show support and encourage a growth mindset.

child receives disappointing exam results. boy on computer.

Remind your child although they can’t change what happened, they can work towards learning from their mistakes.

Do not compare them or their marks to others

Child Psychologist from Sydney Child Psychology Services, Nidhi Dev advises that comparison puts excess pressure on kids.

Your child’s learning is unique and should be approached as such.

Comparing your child and putting them higher than other students can also be destructive. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research has shown that students are more likely to see their ability as ‘fixed’ when they see themselves as the top achiever.

In a fixed mindset, a minor setback may be perceived as a complete failure.

Summary: Tips to help them stay on track after disappointing exam results

  • Reward their efforts

  • Encourage them to learn from their feedback

  • Remind them it is possible to achieve a different outcome in the future

  • Help them have an organised study space free from distractions

  • Make sure you are focusing on them, and not comparing them to others.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » 6 Practical Tips to help your child succeed in High School

6 Practical Tips to help your child succeed in High School


All parents want their child to succeed in high school. High school years can be a stressful time for young people feeling pressure to perform. Student’s just entering high school may be experiencing anxiety.

Parents should focus on learning and growth to help their child succeed in high school.

What does student success look like in High School?

Student success in high school could mean many things to a parent. Your child could be seeking academic excellence, worldly experiences, increased effort or growth.

Student success is not about the number or the result but the development of a love for learning and genuine curiosity. It’s about building 21st century skills such as collaboration and resilience for the post-secondary school real world.

Laura Ruddick, Deputy Principal – Learning & Teaching, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

caroline chisholm sleep out. succeed in high school.

Image: Caroline Chisholm Catholic College.

6 tips to help your child succeed in High School

Parents can support their child succeed in high school following these tips:

1. Help your child stay organised

Helping your child stay organised for high school is a priority.

This will not only keep them on top of their schoolwork and assist them with their grades, but also alleviates any unnecessary anxiety.

Some ways you can help get your child organised includes:

  • Organise a home space that displays a planner or calendar and keeps your child’s resources in one place
  • Ensure they have what they need for school including stationary, books or textbooks, devices or uniforms
  • Note down all their assessment dates at the beginning of the school Term
  • Help them build a study timetable which sets aside time to complete their weekly homework or assignments
  • Encourage them to make to-do lists and reward them for their achievements

2. Encourage your child to do what they love

Have a discussion with your child about their interests in school and for their future career. Especially when it comes to choosing HSC subjects, parents should let their child exercise their strengths.

A more productive approach to success would be to focus on organisational skills, taking time out to do the things you love and the biggest one, to choose subjects you enjoy regardless of the scaling because this is where you will be most successful.

Laura Ruddick, Deputy Principal – Learning & Teaching, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College

Encouraging your child to take too many challenging subjects can backfire on their grades and mental health.

If your child is interested in extra curricula’s like sports, make sure they take the time to do this. Allowing your child to have a well-rounded high school experience will help them achieve success.

3. Ensure your child’s health and wellbeing

A vital component to succeed in high school is good mental health.

Make sure you are taking care of your child’s wellbeing, particularly during stressful exam periods.

Tips to nurture your child’s wellbeing:

  • Make sure they eat healthy

Prepare healthy meals and snacks using ‘high nutrition brain foods’ including leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts or berries.

  • Make sure they are getting physical exercise

Studies show regular exercise improves mental health and emotional wellbeing. Your child does not have to do strenuous physical activity every day.

The Australian Department of Health recommends children and young people do several hours of light physical activities daily.

This may include walking to school, walking the dog, going to the park with friends, playing handball, or helping around the house.

  • Encourage them to do mindful wellbeing practices

Encourage your child to do ‘mindful’ wellbeing practices from an early age.

This may include meditation, yoga, adult colouring, journaling and more.

  • Make sure they take lots of breaks
  • Make sure they get enough sleep

4. Speak to your child’s teachers or encourage them to

If your child is having social or learning difficulties at school speak to their teacher about their behaviour at school and strategies they can implement in the classroom and at home to improve.

succeed in high school. teacher helping student out.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Either way, encourage your child to have a relationship with their teacher and seek feedback actively. This way they can ask relevant questions or seek further help if required.

5. Help them build a routine

Having a solid weekly or daily routine is beneficial to many kids. Children with extra-curricular activities to balance with their school and studies may feel overwhelmed without a routine.

Your child’s weekly/daily schedule could include elements of:
• Studying
• Homework
• Sports
• Extra-curricular activities
• Instrument time
• Exercise
• Time with friends

6. Encourage your child to take advantage of the opportunities at school

Taking advantage of student leadership programs is a great way to equip your child with skills for their future.

Other extra-curricular activities at school may include homework club, science club, band or after school sports. When choosing a school for your child, ensure there are programs available to support their interests.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information about schools please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied


 

In today’s digital age Australian’s are on the internet more than ever. Children aged 15 to 17 are the highest users of devices with approximately 99% being online.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue among young people as 44% of young Australian’s reporting a negative online experience within the last 6 months. Bullying can make it difficult for your child to concentrate at school.

There are steps parents can take if their child is being cyberbullied, the main one being prevention.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when someone targets your child online using threatening, intimidating or mean-spirited conduct. Cyberbullies may be using devices such as computers, phones, gaming consoles or tablets.

Cyberbullying can look like:
  • Sending messages of an intimidating, or harassing nature
  • Sending, posting or sharing harmful negative content that may be false
  • Sending, posting or sharing content aimed to embarrass the person

Cyberbullying may include sharing personal or private information.

Signs your child is being cyberbullied

Dr Karen Cohen, Principal Psychologist at Kids & Co, outlines some physical indications your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Your child suddenly stops using their device where they would usually comfortably use it

For example, they may stop using their laptop on the kitchen table where mum could see it.

  • Secretive behaviour such as shutting off a screen as you walk past
  • Jumpy and nervous when they receive a text or notification
  • Changed sleeping pattern

Your child may have trouble sleeping or be sleeping more.

Dr Cohen suggests your child may verbally allude to bullying without telling.

“Comments like, ‘there’s been lots of drama lately. I have no friends. No one likes me.’”

How to prevent your child from being cyberbullied

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness explains the key difference between bullying and cyberbullying is that there are more things parents can implement to avoid cyberbullying.

Help manage your child privacy and safety settings

Around 68% of young people actively manage their privacy online.

The top three actions being taken are:

  • Blocking or unfriending people
  • Increasing privacy settings
  • Disabling automatic locations on posts

child is being cyberbullied. cyberbullying. social media. social media ap

This step-by-step parents’ guide to social media gives an insight on how to manage your child on each social media app. You can also read further information about advice schools have regarding social media.

Educate your child about cyberbullying

Educate your child about what cyberbullying is, how to prevent it, and steps to take if it happens to them or a friend.

You want to get them to a position where they’ve got such an understanding, that they hopefully don’t get bullied.

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach, Wings Wellness

Teach your child about appropriate conduct online so they don’t become a cyberbully. This is not only harmful to others, but themselves, leaving a negative digital footprint.

Set up boundaries and guidelines for device use

Educate your child and set up rules for being on social media.

Some online boundaries to discuss with your child include:
  • Only accepting friends and family;
  • Not conversing with strangers;
  • Types of photos they can and can’t post;
  • Language they should be using online; or
  • Private information they should not upload or discuss online.

Dr Cohen suggests setting up expectations around the use of devices as home.

“General stuff may be limiting the hours of use. Decide when we are going to unplug and be present at home. When is ok to use it, maybe not around meal time, homework or before bed…. it’s a very personal decision.”

What to do if your child if is being cyberbullied

If your child reaches the point where they are being cyberbullied, it can affect their wellbeing.

Katerina outlines the first step is to determine the severity of the cyberbullying.

“It could lead to anxiety, depression, and avoidance of any interaction and in some cases suicide. If it is something very extreme I would jump on it and go see a family doctor and then get the appropriate help.”

As a mental health coach, she focuses on building the child’s self-esteem and confidence when bullying has occurred.

“For myself it’s about them understanding what they can and can’t control in the situation and building up their self-esteem to understand that it’s not really about them.”

Tips if your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Don’t ban social media

Kids use social media to connect. Banning the use of social media entirely could leave them on the outskirts of their peer group.

  • Set up boundaries or expectations about the use of devices and online conduct
  • Educate them about what cyberbullying is
  • Teach your child about what to do if themselves or a friend experiences cyberbullying
  • Manage their safety and privacy settings on social media
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Home » Education Advice » Mindful school holiday activities for your child

Mindful school holiday activities for your child


The school holidays can be a busy time for parents entertaining children. Try out these mindful school holiday activities for your child to unwind, relax and bond.

“I think it’s really important for kids to learn to start to be mindful because I see that a lot of children these days that don’t know how to be in the moment.”

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness Centre

Painting or colouring

Mindful colouring allows our children focus on colours and choices. This allows them to express themselves whilst reducing stress, anger and anxiety.

Studies show that colouring not only has benefits on mood but also increases mindfulness, creativity and visual attention.

Colouring in between lines may also help build your child’s focus and concentration during the school holiday period.

Nothing beats art making for nourishing a child. It literally changes brainwaves, making space for discoveries and expansion of who they are and how they perceive the world. It engages fine and sometimes gross motor skills. It is an expressive communication from inside that can be shared socially in the outside world – something to talk about. If you’re worried about mess get a water colour palette or textas. You can set limits to suit yourself and the child can feel so free making art.

Andrea Bloom, Bloom Art Therapy

This activity may be great for parents to join into as well. Studies show that adult colouring relaxes the fear centre of the brain. Colouring generates mindfulness and quietness which may have the same effect as meditating.

Day out in the park

Studies show being outdoors has major improvements on mental health. Time outdoors can lower blood pressure, reduce stress-related hormones and assist in decreasing anxiety and depression in teens.

Time in a park allows children and teens to engage in physical activity and boosts mental health. It is a great wait to gather the family to play sports go on a walk or ride a bike. The little ones can also use the playground and tire themselves out.

school holiday activities for your child. playground. school.

Some popular parks in Sydney include Fairfield Adventure Park (designed for older kids) or Darling Harbour Children’s Playground which includes balance ropes, giant slides and tunnels, water features and more.

Popular parks in Melbourne include NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park which has a range of facilities for kids of all ages including:

  • Games room
  • A free kids’ club
  • Wildlife on the property
  • Heated swimming pool
  • Tennis courts
  • Pedal carts
  • Playground
  • Jumping Pillow
  • Communal fire pit
  • Family-rated movies on a big screen

Planting a veggie or herb garden

Planting a veggie or herb garden is a great way to get kids out in the garden. The fresh air, sunlight and feel of the activity are beneficial to their physical and mental growth.

Planting veggies or herbs will also introduce a sense of responsibility to kids over the holidays. They can check on the produce and do the watering when required. Your child may even feel an increase in their self-confidence as they are watching their plants grow from scratch.

school holiday activities for your child. children gardening. gardening pot.

Research has revealed the ‘stress hormone’ cortisone is significantly reduced in people accessing the garden.

Head over to your local nursery or Bunnings to grab seeds. If you don’t have a garden, you can plant in pots on the balcony or patio!

Bonus Benefit:This will get them eating healthy! They can taste the outcome of their effort.

Baking

Baking is a creative way to reduce stress, relax and unwind. It also has a yummy outcome!

Baking is a fun way to boost mental health as it is creative and engages all the senses, allowing children to touch, taste, feel, smell and see what they are doing.

Baking is also a subtle way to engage kids thinking skills over the holidays as it encourages them to follow instructions.

Children will also use practical maths skills when assisting with measuring cups, teaspoons and tablespoons.

Once they have used their focus and attention on the baking, they can get creative on the decorating!

Tip: If you want to make it more it more engaging, try starting a cooking or decorating competition!

Playdates

Social interactions are a really important aspect of school holiday activities for your child. Playdates are a great way to help children develop social problem-solving skills by dealing with conflicts.

Playdates also play a role in how children connect with others. Hosting playdates or having your child attend playdates may enhance their friendships when they return to school.

school holiday activities for your child. playdate. children playing lego at home

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness Centre, says she’s a “big advocate” for limiting time on devices during playdates.

“So many parents have friends come over and instead of having them playing and doing things, they’re on their devices, they’re not even interacting with each other. Even just being mindful and having a chat in the moment, just talking to a friend, that’s pretty much being present.”

but I work full time…

Katerina advises parents not to worry if you have to work during the school holidays.

“For parents it’s a great opportunity to spend time with their kids if they can, but it’s about quality over quantity.

So even if you can spend a little bit of time with them, but really be there for them that’s perfect.”

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Home » Education Advice » A Modern Classroom: Using technology in the classroom

A Modern Classroom: Using technology in the classroom


It is often suggested that using technology in the classroom may cause distraction. However, the instant access to a wide range of information and opportunity for collaboration has made technology a vital element in the classroom.

Approximately 43% of Australian teachers and principals believe that digital technology in the classroom has enhanced their teaching and learning activities rather than detracting.

COVID-19 has boosted the prevalence of technology in learning. Many schools now have programs or technologies in place to assist with students and families affected by COVID-19.

At Xavier College we are trialling new streaming and recording technologies to enable students to connect to our classes while COVID absent and to create high quality multimodal teaching resources as part of our blended learning approach. The SWIVL robots are loanable through our library, the devices are simple to use and produce high quality videos that are shared on our learning platforms.
This is one means to which we are exploring how technologies can advance our instructional practices.

Director of Learning and Growth, Xavier College, Victoria.

Teachers have also continued the use of technology after the pandemic.

Benefits of technology in the classroom

Preparing students with digital life skills

The use of technology in the classroom equips students of all ages with digital skills to carry into the future.

Oneli Ranasinghe, a Primary Education Graduate at UTS says she is taught to incorporate technology into classroom lesson plans.

“There are a lot of things that technology could help with in the future. Students need to learn how to use devices and technology for learning… it is helpful for their future in our society which is digital.”

technology in classroom. ipads in classroom.

Keeping students engaged

Studies are beginning to show positive correlations between technology and student engagement in secondary school.

A 2007 ACER report noted “evidence suggests that the use of ICT (information communications technology) enables richer, more engaging learning environments to be developed”.

However, engagement levels do vary amongst students leading to inconclusive results.

Opportunity for hands-on STEM learning

Many independent schools provide a variety of technology in the classroom for students to experiment and learn with. The schools facilities and technology are used for streams such as robotics, coding or other STEM subjects.

use of technology in the classroom. STEM.

Is the use of technology a cause for concern?

With the rise of smartphones, laptops and tablets digital technologies are omnipresent in our everyday lives. Studies show children spend up to 30% of their time in front of a screen.

There is minimal research to inform educators and parents about the impact of digital technologies on children’s development.

Overuse of digital media may minimise your child’s opportunity for experiences that help with development. This may include socialisation, learning and face-to-face interaction.

A UNSW study revealed that 92% of Australians believe smartphones and social media have reduced outdoor time.

Many schools have programs available to limit the use of technology outside the classroom.

Oneli has completed practical placements in a school that incorporates technology more, and a school that incorporates it less.

“In the newer school where all the students had access to iPad’s they did get distracted more. Because there are more apps on it, they get distracted instead of just focusing on the class. In the traditional school because there is nothing around them except pen and paper, they get the task done quicker.”

Whilst there are benefits and drawbacks of using technology in the classroom, digital technology is the current norm for young people. Parents can assist with the impact of technology on wellbeing and health at home.

How are schools incorporating technology?

  • Some schools have a ‘Bring Your  Own Device (BYOD)’ policy
  • Some schools supply devices for students to access
  • Many schools use ‘Smartboard’ technology
  • Some schools are providing technology to loan to students learning from home
  • Schools allow students to access programs such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Office 365 and more
  • Students have access to technology with a STEM focus

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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Home » Education Advice » What to do if your child is being bullied

What to do if your child is being bullied


Bullying is a serious matter and is not a ‘rite of passage’. Bullying can take place during school, at home or online.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, it is important to take steps to help them.

What is bullying?

Australian schools have a national agreed definition of bullying.

According to this definition, the 3 main features of bullying are:

  1. The misuse of power in a relationship
  2. It is an ongoing and repeated behaviour
  3. The behaviour is intended to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness believes it is important to define what bullying is.

“I think sometimes people use the word bullying quite heavily… it could be things like name-calling and that’s something I don’t consider bullying.”

Children not getting along or displaying a mutual conflict towards each other does not indicate bullying.

She believes the key is persistence, “everyday these kids are going purposely to target them”.

Signs your child is being bullied

Common signs your child is being bullied may include:

  • Social anxiety and avoiding going to school
  • Experiencing a loss in appetite
  • Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
  • Poor performance in school
  • Has trouble sleeping or is sleeping too much
  • Change in behaviour

Katerina has seen forms of mild anxiety and mild depression in children arising from bullying.

My child is being bullied, what should I do next?

Katerina suggests three main steps for parents if their child is being bullied.

1. Define whether it is bullying

Using the definition of ‘bullying’ above, distinguish whether your child is being bullied or just experiencing nasty behaviour.

2. Speak to the school

“Most schools these days have procedures in place to handle this.”

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach

Some tips for speaking to the school may include documenting the events and communicating in writing.

Children understandably may be anxious that any action may worsen the situation.

The Department of Education, Victoria suggests “you do not need to ask your child’s permission to talk to the school.”

Your child’s safety at school is most important.

3. Seek professional help

If your child is continuously affected by the bullying, you may consider seeking professional help.

“Seeing someone like myself or another professional would just really work on their self-esteem, getting them to the point where they’re so confident and happy with themselves that they would brush off what people are saying.”

What can I do to help my child being bullied?

Katerina outlines some tools parents can use at home.

She suggests parents begin by teaching their child not to compare themselves.

“One of the key things for a bully is the whole comparison thing. Saying they’re different and unique so they start to bully them over that. Just getting (your child) to understand we’re all different, we’re all unique and how wonderful that is.”

Katerina believes the key focus for parents is to build resilience and self-esteem. Some activities she suggests are:

  • Getting your child to write down their strengths
  • Asking your child to identify what makes them unique
  • Asking them to write down any weaknesses and discuss whether they want to improve on these
  • Teach them about what is in their control and what is not e.g. they are not in control of another person actions but they are in control of how they perceive a situation
  • Have them do daily affirmations and positive statements
“This is to build up their self-esteem so they really understand who they are as a person and they are able to wash off what’s going on with them”.
child is being bullied. bullying. bullied at school. boy reading in sunset.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Katerina urges parents to keep lines of communication open with their child.

“If your child is not comfortable speaking with parents maybe there’s someone else they can confide in. Maybe another adult, a school teacher or counsellor or just someone they can confide in.”

You should avoid blaming your child or using language to suggest they deserve the behaviour.

“Use empathetic language to understand what’s going on, putting yourself on their level and just allowing them to open up and talk.”

Summary:

  • Determine if your child is being bullied or experiencing negative behaviour
  • Contact the school and discuss solutions and procedures in place to help keep your child safe
  • Seek professional help if required
  • Try building up your child’s self-esteem and resilience at home
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Home » Education Advice » How social media can affect your child’s wellbeing

How social media can affect your child’s wellbeing


 

With the rapid growth of social media, being online has become part of a teenager’s daily life. Social media is a ‘double-edged sword’ for parents. It poses benefits, but also exposes youth to risks.

Whether it is posting a dance to TikTok, sharing images to Facebook or posting a ‘story’ to Instagram different platforms are used widely.

Australians aged 14 and over spend an average of almost six hours per week on social media.

What is social media?

Social media is a set of web applications that enable teens to produce and share content.

Webpages with opportunity for social interaction may also be considered a social media site. This may include gaming sites and virtual worlds, or video streaming sites like Youtube or blogs.

social media. wellbeing. how social media can affect my child's wellbeing.

Social media can affect your child’s wellbeing if you are not setting expectations for healthy use. 

Dr Anna Cohen, Clinical Director at Kids and Co believes the key is creating “a really good balance for young people for social media.”

Risks of social media for teens

Most risk occurs where youth are accessing internet under the minimal age without parents’ permission.

A 2012 study reported that 92% of Australians aged 10 to 11 had used social media networking sites. Despite the minimum age requirements, 61% of 8-12 year olds had used YouTube and 32% had used Facebook.

Many social media platforms have in-app features and minimal age requirements to assist parents.

Online bullying and harassment

Social media can affect your child’s wellbeing and lead to negative mental health consequences in children and young people.

“Cyberbullying has become a thing now because it pops into their heads and homes and every facet of the kids life.”

Dr Cohen, Clinical Director, Kids and Co

Online harassment is performed through social media through any individual that communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to cause discomfort or harm.

Dr Cohen notes some signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:
  • They suddenly stop using their device when they used to enjoy it before;
  • They suddenly stop using their device where they used to use it comfortably e.g. they no longer use their device on the kitchen table where mum would see it;
  • They are exhibiting secretive behaviour e.g. turning their screen as you walk past;
  • They are visibly jumpy and nervous when they receive a text or email;
  • They may allude to bullying without telling you. For example comments like “there’s been a lot of drama lately”; or
  • They may have trouble sleeping or are sleeping more.

Social media replacing in-person interactions

A survey by Common Sense in 2018 revealed most teen’s favourite form of communication is now ‘texting’. Less than one third said they prefer chatting face-to-face.

Many teens and children were utilising social media during the pandemic to connect with others. However, research shows that teens who spend more time on social media feel more isolated.

Dr Cohen believes it is up to parents to set up expectations for healthy media use.

“Remember that young people connect through their online life. Parents have to be really careful with setting up guidelines.”

She suggests parents to review whether they want to limit the hours of use and decide when it is acceptable for children to be on their device at home. For example, your child may not be allowed to use their phone during “homework time” or in a specific area of the home.

“At my house my girls know there is no phone at the dinner table. Family time is happening and in-person communication is happening. Parents have to find an approach that fits them.”

Problematic or harmful content

Social Media can affect your child’s wellbeing if they are exposed to negative and potentially harmful practices.

One in four children between 14 to 17 have “seen or experienced something on the internet in the last year that bothered them”.

Australian Communications and Media Authority

Examples of potentially harmful content can include pro-eating disorder sites, promotion of self-harm, radicalisation, aggressive, violent or sexual imagery.

How using social media can affect your child’s wellbeing

Depression and anxiety

Cyberbullying and exposure to other offensive or harmful online content may cause anxiety, or intensify symptoms of depression for teens.

Social media can also take over the time children spend on healthy activities. Dr Cohen believes issues could arise when children begin experiencing sleep problems, issues with school performance and become less active.

Disrupted sleep

Approximately 60% of psychological distress can be attributed to disrupted sleep.

Checking electronics right before sleep can disrupt a good night’s sleep. Light from digital screens have a stimulating effect on our internal rhythms and melatonin levels that control the sleep cycle.

Your child may also excessively use social media before bed if they believe they are missing social interactions.

You may consider setting boundaries or rules around your child’s use of technology before bed.

When is social media good?

Studies show that social media can have positive effects on youth and adolescents, including:

  • Increasing communication abilities;
  • Obtaining information and knowledge;
  • Accessing advice and support;
  • Increased knowledge of technology;
  • Collaborative learning (e.g. school platforms such as google classroom).
  • Building social relationships and interacting.

These benefits have also improved the social and emotional life of teens during a crucial age in their development.

Should I limit my child’s use of social media?

“I want parents to figure that out themselves.”

Dr Cohen believes it is a very personal decision and there is no generic answer.

However she is not a believer in banning social media.

“They’ll be on the outskirts of their peer group. Social media is how they connect with others. It’s often how they make friendships… and develop relationships”.

Is there anything else I can do?

A key strategy to keep your child safe online is to choose safe settings and set parental controls.

This could block your child from unwanted contact and privacy issues.

Dr Cohen believes it is up to caregiving adults to set good example and really talk with kids and young people about ‘how to be a good human online, and be safe online’.

“Communication is key… but remember this is how they connect.”

Summary:

  • Risks of young people online include cyberbullying, exposure to harmful or problematic content and isolation from in-person interactions.
  • This may lead to intensified depression or anxiety symptoms and disrupted sleep.
  • Parents are responsible for setting up boundaries and expectations around social media use at home.
  • Consider utilising parental controls on social media.
  • Communicate with your child about how to conduct themselves online and be safe.
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