Kate Cordukes, a 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.
Themes/Factors of adolescent violence: 1) Family origin 2) Trauma history 3) Parenting style & attachment #GCConf#adolescentviolence
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.
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.
Presented by 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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2010 kinship 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?
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?
In 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.
As 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.
Society and the government are facing a variety of social problems, such as obesity, and service systems that are intended to help families and children are struggling to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged.
Dr Tim Moore, a Senior Research Fellow of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, highlights that not understanding why the problem exists makes addressing the problem more difficult. Due to the complex nature of social problems, Dr Moore argues that evidence-based programs are not capable of making sustained changes.
A person’s health and well-being is influenced by the local social environment and the built environment. Hence, it is argued that consequential strangers matter; that is, connections with people in the broader social hierarchy other than family or close friends. To not have contact with consequential strangers can be considered corrosive to a person’s health and well-being.
And so, in poorer communities, building social capital can be a more effective way of promoting children’s welfare due to what flows across from people in connection networks.
Problems which are multi-factored need to be worked on in an organic way. Thus, a place-based approach which includes community engagement and regular monitoring and feedback stands a better chance of being successful.
The keynote speeches early on Friday morning alluded to some of the evils of social media, so it was refreshing to hear SYN’s Education and Training Manager, Jonathan Brown, highlighting the benefits and showing that if you don’t quite get the hang of social media at first, then perhaps you should have another crack at it.
The session began with a breakdown of the major social media platforms and some of the ways in which they are used, as well as what benefits you can get from using them.
Facebook: The largest of the social networks with a jack-of-all-trades focus. You can share videos, photos and links to other creative efforts. Listing the people you connect with as friends, however, is slightly misleading, because the connection isn’t quite at that same level.
Twitter: The focus on shorter messages and links is what sets this platform apart. There isn’t the same pressure to add your “friends”, simply follow people who post thought-provoking comments and share your interests.
Instagram: The home of the “selfie”. Usually connected with Twitter or Facebook, Instagram is all about sharing a moment in time with followers across all networks.
Tumblr and other blogging platforms: These work similar to your own website. You can add as much of your own creative content and layout and share creative content that you’ve created.
After listing the various options to make your presence on the internet known, Jonathan provided his five fail-safe tips to ensure that you are on the right platform and doing the right things to get noticed:
Be authentic: act on social media as you would in real life.
Post consistently and diversely: stick to a schedule and mix up your posts. If you tend to post a lot of image content, try a video or text post.
Make it conversational: Unlike mediums such as television, you have the ability to talk to and engage with your audience to make it a more rewarding experience for them as well as for yourself.
Play to your strengths: Ensure you’re focusing on what you are good at. If your strength is writing, try blogging platforms. If you’re more artistic, try a tumblr.
Consume, research and share: If you find something that catches your eye, feel free to share it with others. Be transparent with your sources and start a dialogue.
The session concluded with a feel-good image of cats, encouraging you to feel positive about posting what you enjoy and to have fun with social media.
“While we are the lucky country, it’s not lucky for everyone,” David James, General manager of Children’s Ground.
After 20 years working with communities facing the reality of sustained socio-economic disadvantage in remote areas, it was found that things had not improved; rather they had worsened…and probably wouldn’t improve.
This called for a complete rethinking of how to end entrenched disadvantage. This approach started with thinking about the needs of the community and ended with the building of the Children’s Ground platform.
Children’s Ground is a set of ideas and steps that can be implemented from within the community as opposed to being imposed upon it. It aims for families and communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage to realise their aspirations for the next generation of children – to be free from trauma and suffering. If this feels like a big commitment, that’s because it is!
This is a preventative program and a huge part of its success is starting early, even before the birth of the child. This commitment gives the child the best possible start at life and then this child is supported by the Children’s Ground platform for twenty-five years.
Within this time, the platform places focus on the child first, then the family and the community as a whole, whilst still being implemented from within the community. This bottom-up model for community led action is perhaps the biggest achievement of Children’s Ground.
It allows for deeper engagement and builds a relationship with a generation who can pass information and knowledge on to future generations.
The Children’s Ground platform is currently being used in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and West Arnhem Land. Here the platform was offered to the community with no strings attached and no further communication with Children’s Ground if the community didn’t seek it.
This giving up of ownership is was makes for the community led success of this project.
Technology can provide young people with the support they need outside of business hours.
After Baroness Susan Greenfield discussed some of the issues with social media, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) Associate Professor Jane Burns, led an interesting workshop on the impact technology has on the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Australia.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Jane’s own 7-year-old son Angus, lives with autism and down syndrome, and relies on an iPad in order to communicate on a day-to-day basis.
A champion for the digital movement, Jane believes that Australia should utilise the technologies available to us today in order to provide youth with more accessible, online mental health services.
She contends that while Australia is one of the leading nations in service provision, we are living in an opportune time to decrease the still apparent disparity in health care in rural societies through mental health professional providing services online, building connections with and between young people.
Working with Movember, Beyond Blue, University of Sydney, and The Black Dog Institute, the YAWCRC conducted a national survey in 2012 to produce a research report on the impact of technologies on young men’s mental health and wellbeing.
Implementing the gold standard of survey-taking, they interviewed 1,400 young men aged 16-25 from all states and territories around Australia, of which 30% were from regional, rural or remote areas, and 2% identified as Indigenous.
Interesting stats from the research:
99% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use the internet,
95% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use it everyday or almost everyday.
Most are online for 2-4 hours a day,
20% are online for 5+ hours a day.
The top three ways young people use the Internet:
94% email in 2012 (up from 13% in 2008),
93% facebook in 2012 (up from 32% in 2008),
86% YouTube in 2012 (up from 7% in 2008).
How young people use the Internet:
74.8% access the Internet by phone,
69.9% access the Internet by laptop,
34.3% access the Internet by tablet,
30.8% access the Internet by desktop computer.
Where young people use the Internet:
75.9% access it in their bedroom,
56.2% access it in a social setting.
The main issues that concern young men aged 16-25:
47.6% said coping with stress,
26.6% said depression,
26.3% said body image issues,
19.3% said bullying or emotional abuse.
Finally, 42% of young men experience ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. Young men aged 22 to 25 years consistently reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts.
Almost 1 million young men are experiencing moderate to very high levels of psychological distress. Regardless of psychological distress, use of the internet is almost universal (98%) and in similar frequency. Even with advances in mental health services, young men do not seek help and many young men are not using services until they reach crisis point.
It appears that many men who are experiencing psychological distress tend to go online and use digital tools to express, share, distribute, and discuss their issues with others in a private, confidential setting. This acts as a cathartic tool and mental wellbeing exercise that can translate into their everyday lives.
Jane concluded the workshop by stating that further research needs to be conducted, and more data needs to be collected in order to understand the effects of technology on mental health and wellbeing. She is interested in knowing how we can tap into and use gaming and social media to use and create content for mental health services.
“Do we really want to live in a world where people have no self esteem, are narcissistic and have no empathy when you talk to them?”
This was one of the key questions Baroness Susan Greenfield asked in her keynote presentation on the second day of the Good Childhood Conference.
Thanks to technology, we have more leisure time than ever before. This means we have the greatest ever opportunity for developing the human mind. Susan expressed fear that we are not taking the opportunity to do so.
She argues that, as social media use has increased, face-to-face interaction has decreased. When you meet someone face-to-face, your words make up only 10% of meaning communicated. Social media narrows communication, as it doesn’t include things like body language, tone of voice and physical contact.
Susan argued that if we use social media too much, we lose these face-to-face communication skills. As a result, we feel uncomfortable in social situations, and so continue to avoid them in favour of social media.
Social media encourages us to disclose personal information with people we don’t know well, and Susan said their responses to this information cause low self esteem. But it’s not only self-confidence that she was concerned about.
Susan indicated use of technology was prompting a range of health problems:
“There is a link between autism-like behaviour and screen time”
Susan said there was a link between the typical brain wave response present in problematic face recognition, a characteristic of autism, and heavy internet users.
Gaming & gambling
Susan said children who are addicted to video games have similar brains to problem gamblers. She cited this article in UK newspaper ‘The Telegraph’.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Susan said she would “like to flag that there are certain elements of gaming that can be good for you.” These elements included using video games to help people with disabilities to rehearse situations which may be difficult in real life. She also acknowledged that technology is good for input-output mental processing, and may be responsible for increasing IQ’s, but stressed that humans are designed for a deeper level of thinking than simple input-output processes.
“Could the people who Tweet a lot be in some kind of existential crisis?”
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
There has been a great rise in diagnosis of ADHD in the developed world. Susan suggested the intense stimulation provided by video games and the instantaneous flow of information on the internet leads children’s minds to adapt to this pace of thinking. When these children are placed in slower paced situations, their minds race and they are unable to slow them.
What do you think? Are social media users undergoing existential crisis? Are people becoming more narcissistic and less empathetic as a result of technology?
You can find out more about Susan Greenfield and her research here.