TARA program helping parents

Kate Cordukes, GoodChildhood 2013_430a Family Therapist and Arts Therapist, and Meisha Clark, a Social Worker and Family Therapist, led a session on the TARA program and the ways they work with parents experiencing violence from their child.

TARA stands for Teenage Aggression Responding Assertively and is an 8 week program for parents with the recent addition of a 1 day workshop. TARA aims to reduce violence, teach anger management strategies and enhance the relationship between parents and their adolescent.

70% of violent adolescents tend to be young men whom target their mothers. And so, anger management and other strategies are discussed in sessions. However, young people in attendance often feel blamed and don’t want to talk.

An aspect of the TARA session geared at parents is ‘family origin’. That is, parents think about the way they were parented and how it has impacted upon their parenting style. Some families are not ready to talk through the issues stemming from family origin issues.

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The notion of self-care is vital to the ability of parents and caretakers to look after their family. Parents need the strength and energy to do things differently at home, and in addition to this, adolescents are telling parents that they need boundaries.

Early intervention and an openness to working on family dynamics are a starting point in tackling violence from an adolescent.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

2013 CREATE Report Card: Experiencing Out-of-Home Care in Australia

Presented 110814 456_1by Claudia Whitton, Policy and Research Manager and Audra McHugh, Policy Officer at CREATE.

This session provided an overall summary of the CREATE Report Card which collects the experiences of young people living in out-of-home care. The full report is available to download online.

The CREATE Report Card is a survey that is completed online and is open to all young people living in care between the ages of 8 and 17. The survey intends to hear as many young people as possible and present their experiences to those working the sector. Alongside gaining key statistics on care in Australia, the report also gives an understanding of what makes a good care placement.

83% of children overall say that they are “quite” or “very” happy in their current placement. 75% feel as though they are treated exactly the same as other young people.

A big part of having a good placement is concentrating on relationship building. Key to relationship building is in the difference between a child in care being able to speak freely, and feeling as though someone will listen when he or she speaks. Giving the kids a voice, allowing them to take part in and gain a deeper understanding of their care planning leads to those plans being executed more effectively.

What CREATE hopes for in the future is an increase in the engagement of young people in the plans made about their lives, particularly the transitioning from care plans. With stronger involvement in their life decisions, young people in care are able to transition out of care and live more independently.

Child protection is everybody’s business…we all have an opportunity to improve the lives of young people in care

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Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

The importance of oral language competency

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Associate Professor Pamela Snow of Monash University presented a keynote speech on the link and implications of oral language competency and vulnerable young people.

Oral language competency is the ability to process and comprehend language. One’s language competency is formed during infancy and childhood, and refers to the degree of language enrichment in the home.

Dependent on socio-economic status, the consistency and frequency of language and words spoken to children by parents can differ greatly. Parents who do not work outside the home can manage 616 words an hour, working parents can manage 1,252 words an hour and higher income earning parents can manage 2,153 words an hour.

The importance of language competency helps to form the basis of communication skills, and in turn, determines the success of maintaining relationships.

The complexities and nuances of language pose challenges for those with low levels of oral language competency, such as understanding what are jokes, metaphors, sarcasm and innuendo, to name a few. Children need a lot of emotional and linguistic exposure from their parents as they navigate through the complex world of interpersonal relationships.

By formal measured standards, 50-60% of young offenders have a language impairment. As such, it is highly likely that boys with behavioural difficulties have underlying language difficulties.

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By recognizing oral language competency as a key area of childhood development, policy makers, teachers and youth justice systems can be better equipped to assist vulnerable young people.

In what ways did your parents communicate with you as a child? How often do you spend time talking with your children?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Wellbeing Workout Part 2

 

Part 2 of ‘Wellbeing Workout’GoodChildhood 2013_427

When you consider the definition of wellbeing, it becomes clear that it is more than simply the absence of illness.

There are varying levels of wellbeing – languishing to flourishing.

[Wellbeing] is the subjective experience of life satisfaction, positive emotions and high levels of functioning in life.

There are many social and work benefits to a greater wellbeing.

So, what determines wellbeing?

Jo divides it into three sections:
50% set range – your genetics; although this is a huge chunk, it’s not everything!
10% circumstance – something that our culture perhaps over emphasises (your age, gender, education, income, class, having children, ethnicity, intelligence, physical attractiveness)
General findings state that once you have the basic needs to live well, cars, clothes, holidays, cosmetic surgery, and education don’t necessarily increase happiness. There may always be a feeling of wanting “more”
40% intentional range – this is exciting because this is the most controllable, where an individual has the most influence. It is the ways we think, feel, and do.

Jo quotes, “Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action”. She speaks of micro-moments in our everyday lives that create significant change over time. Small thoughts, words, deeds that make a large difference in our live and the lives of others. Positive emotions, for a brief moment, broaden and “open up the world” to an individual. It broadens their thinking and behaviour. These positive moments, when frequent, broaden and transform people into an “upward spiral”.

Basically, over time, positive emotions increase work productivity, physical health, and better wellbeing.

The next activity involved getting audience members to pair up. One of each pair would be A, the other would be B. Both were told to stare at one another, stoically. Then A was told to smile. Somewhat amazingly, B smiled as a response. And vice versa, when told to do it again. (Fun fact: Adults tend to smile 40 times a day, while children over 400.)
So, try your best to smile as much as possible.

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Overall, Jo’s workshop was an informative, inspiring and productive session that really did foreground some of the important issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. There were some great tips on how to maintain mental fitness, and help maintain a strong sense of wellbeing.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Wellbeing Workout Part 1

Jo Mitchell, The Mind Room & AFL Players Association
Jo Mitchell, The Mind Room & AFL Players Association

 

There are micro-moments of joy that can really create significant change over time.

 

This double workshop was jam-packed with interactive activities, great tips for maintaining wellbeing, and plenty of information on mental and physical health. It was so full of great ideas that the blog post will be in two parts.

It began by getting the audience members into pairs and having them complete a five-step workout:
1. Stand up and have a stretch
2. Notice what’s going on – thoughts, physical feelings, emotional feelings, etc.
3. Introduce yourself to your partner, and share something you’re looking forward to
4. Draw a portrait of the other person you see in 30 seconds – except that once the pen hits the paper you can’t look at the paper again, and must keep your eyes on the other person
5. Give your portrait to the other person

Jo explained that this was conducive with the Five Ways to Wellbeing, a workout incorporating over 500 studies. It is based on the human experience of maintaining wellbeing:
1. Being able to move
2. Tuning in (to notice thing, acknowledging the importance of mindfulness)
3. To connect with others (one of the strongest predictors of wellbeing)
4. To learn
5. To give

Jo explained that we tend to,as people, pay attention to the negatives in our life much more easily than to the positives. What we payattention impacts our performance in every day life, and therefore, our wellbeing.GoodChildhood 2013_401

Jo then spoke about positive psychology – this is changing the perception of people, by seeking what is right in their lives rather than what is wrong. This not a complete therapy, nor a traditional approach to mental health, or a ‘Pollyanna’ (always happy) approach – instead it just aims to re-focus the subject on a more positive aspect of their lives.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Kinship Care: the mainstream out of home care

In 2010 kinshipshutterstock_71181379 care overtook foster care as the predominant form of out-of-home care in Victoria. Children are usually happier in kinship care, but is it always the best choice? That’s the question Meredith Kiraly asked.

Kinship carers are usually poorer, older and in a poorer state of health than other foster carers. The majority of kinship carers are the grandparents of the children they care for, and often they take on children because they can’t turn down their own family.

But is love enough?

Meredith says that while love is obviously important, there also needs to be safety and wellbeing in care scenarios.

Kinship care assessment is far less rigorous than foster care assessment, often involving little more than a police check. It’s based on the assumption that carers and children already share a close relationship, but this is not always the case. Given that less than 1% of people who engage in acts of child molestation have a criminal record, there are questions over whether this assessment is adequate.

Meredith told the story of an infant girl who was in stable foster care. She was moved to live with her grandparents prior to initial assessment. Further assessment was delayed for months after she was placed with her grandparents, and warning signs – minor cuts and bruises, were ignored. A year later she was admitted to hospital unconscious with a head injury, it was not until this point that she was returned to foster care. In this child’s situation, there was no urgency, she was in stable foster care to begin with, so why was she moved before proper assessment was made?shutterstock_108866654

Meredith indicated that more extensive assessment of kinship carers is needed to ensure that kinship care provides a safe, stable and nurturing environment for children. Do you agree?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Thought-Full Classrooms: creating opportunities for thinking, presented by Dr. Bern Nicholls

GoodChildhood 2013_027In this workshop, Dr. Bern Nicholls PhD gives advice for educators on how to build a classroom environment that values thinking.

Classrooms need to be ‘thought-full’ in two ways: respectful of ideas and others, and by facilitating thinking.

Over the conference, presenters have talked a lot about culture and about the stories that come through our experiences and shape us as people. When communicating with young people in a classroom, we need to think about how their personal stories might shape how they think. We need to think about thinking.

Learning is a direct outcome of thinking, but sometimes we forget about the thinking part and only focus on the teaching.

Thinking isn’t communicated, it’s invisible! When you can’t read how a student is thinking, you’re making assumptions and that’s dangerous, so why not try to make that thinking visible and easier to comprehend?

You can try to make your students’ thinking visible by turning this thinking into a wider understanding. This might take some experimentation and trying different exercises, but always remember to dig deeper. Asking students questions like ‘what makes you say that?’ peels back the layers of their learning and helps you understand how they connect their personal story to the course content.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs an educator, you can think ‘what sort of thinking do I want my students to take with them for the rest of their lives?’ Making thinking visible is about engaging your students, challenging them to think in different ways and reminding them that thinking is always valued in the classroom space.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.