A Path to Follow

parenting

Emotional Language Development

Teaching our kids emotional language is essential. Supporting them in the acceptance and exploration of ALL emotions, inclusive of those feelings that don’t feel great is extremely important to their development; it will provide them with crucial life long mental wellbeing tools. While as parents we are somewhat primed to mend that tantrum or flood of tears with a temporary fix, doing only this enhances the risk that they will not be able to identify, explore and express how they are feeling independently, without us to navigate that world for them. Why? 8 people a day die by suicide in Australia. 6 of those are men; men who are still told it is not manly to talk, it is not masculine to share or seek support for their mental distress. I wonder, out of those 6, how many were taught that it is ok to feel, explore and express their emotions… For those who want a nicer rationale, this image below from Kids Help Line is a great one. Our babies are born with a unique toolkit to communicate their emotions. They cry, they smile, they giggle, they frown. Somehow, as they grow, we (as a community) often fail to help them replace those basic communication methods with a language to match. Our children then become teenagers grappling to manage their emotions, let alone describe them. Our teens don’t become adults and suddenly evolve into a human with a customised boxed set of emotional intelligence skills. We need to teach it. Of course it is easiest to learn and teach as a baby grows, but you are never actually too old to learn this skill. I like to refer to this communication set as Emotional Language, but you could hear it referred to as Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Agility.  I can hear you saying, ok, if this is a learned skill and I don’t have it, how am I supposed to teach my kids?  Great point.  That is why the rest of this post is about sharing some tips and resources I have found useful in guiding our boys to develop their own Emotional Languages and for us, as their parents, to continue to develop ours. What? Start early. When that toddler cries, ask how that feels inside them. Physically, you might help them point to the part of the body where they can identify the upset? You might assist them to identify the source of their emotion and then talk about how it makes them feel.  Help them find the right words, if they cannot. “Oh, so you feel mad that the dog ate the cat’s food and that is why you are frowning? Point to your forehead. “You feel sad now that your brother has gone to school and that is why you are crying?” Point to the tears. Ok. Language part. Tick.  What now?  Well, certainly comfort them or reinforce boundaries with them, but try to make the focus talking with them.  Don’t rush or hush their emotions away. Teach them acceptance of their all their emotions; especially the anger, the fear, the loneliness. Teach them emotions are transient and not to be feared. If there emotions are triggering negative behaviours, apply this learning to the behaviour, not the emotion.  Eg:  “I can see that you are frowning. I can see that you are crying. I can see that your fists are clenched. I can see that you must feel very angry. It is perfectly normal to feel angry. Everyone feels angry sometimes. It is not ok to hurt people when we are angry though. Let’s talk about other ways you might feel better when you feel this again.” Help to brainstorm strategies for emotions that are distressing.  Could a run on the spot help?  What about screaming or punching into a pillow?  What about loud music and our favourite dance? Deep breathing or meditation might bring some calm?  Encourage them to try the strategies. Perhaps even practice with them. So, there you are; Teaching Emotional Language. Simple isn’t it?  Oh, hang on. Then… Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And as you repeat over the years, adapt your emotional language to your child’s age and developmental level. You want this Emotional Language Toolkit to form the basis of all your communications. It doesn’t need to shine bright like a diamond, but it does need to be practiced and nurtured along the years. A child, a teen, an adult who then experiences mental distress and potentially a full and chaotic brain, will be able to reach this language with more ease, communicate it to seek the support they need and require. May it prove to be as positive in your family life, as it has in ours. Resources Other great resources for developing Emotional Language. Kids Help Line Beyond Blue Tuning Into Kids  -my favourite emotion research and practical strategies go to.  Great parent groups that are run by Tuning Into Kids, but also many other organisations now. Tuning in to Kids and the value of emotionally connecting with children

Alternative education with a well-being focus- A chat with Stella

Differences between mainstream and alternative education; a well-being focus. This is an edited transcript of an interview our Social Media Volunteer, Kyle, completed with his school Well-Being Leader, Stella. Kyle attends Hestor Hornbrook, an education setting that achieves a positive balance between a student’s educational and mental well-being needs. Stella and Kyle chat about the differences between mainstream and alternative education settings and Stella’s role as Mental Well-being Team Leader. Big thanks to both Stella and Kyle for sharing this with us. Who are you and what is your role at Hester Hornbook? Rebecca Stella is the Well-Being Team Leader at Hester Hornbrook Academy. The Hester Hornbrook classroom is that of 1 Educator and 1 Youth Worker to approximately 12 students. Stella’s role is to coordinate the Classroom Youth Workers and oversee that student well-being needs are being supported. Stella provides supervisory support to the Youth Workers about well-being issues and certain crisis intervention strategies. In addition, Stella ensures she forms personalised relationships with students and is available to talk and provide support directly. Why did you choose to move into the Mental Health field of work? Stella started her career at the City of Port Phillip however she quickly saw this line of work wasn’t for her. She has experience working with young people with disabilities through the Joint Councils Access for All Abilities (JCAAA) program. There Stella found her passion for working with young people. Stella grew up with 8 siblings so working with young people seemed to come naturally to her. Soon after her work with JCAAA Stella completed her Youth Work Degree and decided this was the field she wanted to continue in. With her degree under her belt she linked in with St.Kilda Youth Services; an organisation who offers education for high risk young people. Through her work at St.Kilda Youth Services Stella’s passion for working with young people further increased. She saw first hand how young peoples’ experiences of mental health problems was impacting their educational options. Supporting students to manage mental health challenges first, helped them with school engagement, continuing their education and achieving their education goals. Stella found, and continues to find, great satisfaction in working with kids. She enjoys helping them realise their potential and watching them develop in their journey. Stella especially loves seeing the students with mental health obstacles find themselves.   Rebecca Stella-Well-being Coordinator at Hestor Hornbrook Academy What is alternative education in comparison to ‘mainstream education’ and what are the benefits? The main difference between Hester Hornbrook and mainstream education is the unique balance and prioritisation of supporting both student well-being and education. When getting to know young people who want to be a part of Hestor Hornbrook it is not simply about academic achievements and goals, it is about all aspects of a young person’s life. Hester Hornbrook looks to push young people to strive for their greatest educational potential, whilst also acknowledging a lot of young people have massive barriers to actually accessing that education. These barriers often lie within mental health, disability and/or other external challenges in a young person’s life, such as drug and alcohol challenges and trauma. Stella also reports Hester Hornbrook works really hard to build relationships with students on a more personal level; understanding problems that occur outside of academia. In the future do you see alternative education becoming the normality? Yes, more and more so. Because of recent events with COVID-19 community are beginning to understand that education can’t be delivered simply as a one dimensional program. Delivering only the academic side of the curriculum, as remote learning has done, has proved to have some negative effects on young people’s mental health. It has truly shown that well-being is an integral part of education and the development of young people. Alternative education often allows young people to open up more about their obstacles because of the personal relationship students share with educators. By making alternative education more accessible and known, it will allow more young people who may be suffering with mental health challenges to speak out and open up to their educators. What do you say to those people who say that alternative education doesn’t provide as thorough a curriculum as mainstream schools? Hester Hornbrook truly does attempt to provide the best possible education, starting with the great and professional educators who often have worked in a mainstream setting before and who have a great deal of experience.  Combining that experience with the well-being focus of Hestor helps young people who had not been engaging in mainstream education to still gain a high quality education. Hestor Hornbrook is able to provide education specific to a student’s needs, based on the level they are at. This structure is accompanied by a flexible mode of study that allows them to move at a pace they are comfortable with; something mainstream education struggles to provide in keeping a steady pace for the general population. What resources do alternative education providers provide that mainstream education providers don’t give? Post care is probably the greatest asset Hester Hornbrook provides in terms of additional resources. Hester Hornbrook has a 12 month period after a young person graduates where an Alumni worker supports that young person in all their well-being needs.  During that time there is also a Careers worker who consistently supports the young people to find a path beyond Hester Hornbrook. Generally students who are preparing to leave are identified about 6 months ahead of time. In that period the school works extremely hard in supporting the young person to achieve the goals they have set. This can include other pathways in the Hestor program and opportunities for scholarships that can help in overcoming barriers. What is the most challenging part of your role at the school? The dynamics of classrooms can be quite challenging. Having a group of people, who outside the classroom would have potentially never met, all together in one place and ensuring everyone’s safety and comfort, takes good

All about Perspective

Lived Experience in Mental Health

Professional/Lived Experience. Who decides? Who sets the arbitrary line to determine if or when I share my lived experience with my clients? Who decides if I use my lived experience in a way that is safe, for the benefit of our community and in line with best practice? Great question. The answer?  You. And you know what? A person’s rapport with a service greatly influences the effectiveness of it.  Of course it should always be you. APTF provides a customised balance of professional and lived experience in mental health to support clients walking their mental well-being journeys. We recognise the need for consumers to feel supported by a team who can connect and journey beside you; personally and professionally. My Experiences. Don’t box me in. There is a growing body of evidence and overwhelming community and professional support for incorporating lived experience in our professional mental health services. That is how we already practice at APTF. I am more than one experience and one perspective. Don’t box me in. I am a Consumer. I am Carer and I am Professional. During physical isolation I participated in Tandem and Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)’s Royal Commission into Mental Health feedback sessions. Tandem represents carers of those living with mental health challenges. VMIAC represents consumers of mental health services.  I was also invited to bring “my perspective” to an Insta Live this week with the Discovery College. As a result of my participation and my Discovery Convo gig I got thinking more about my lived and professional experiences. How they serve my life long passion of supporting others in their mental well-being journeys. Consumer. Carer. Professional.  Three aspects of my life not looking to alter in the short term. Three aspects of my life I am proud to identify with. Three aspects of my life I know assists other people in their journeys as consumers, carers and professionals. Professional Limits A set of often arbitrary and ambiguous codes, discouraging the sharing of lived experience, were pervasive in my time working within the family and health services field. With time, I shared a limited version of my lived experience. The professional scene demanded a somewhat sanitised version, however. A stark difference to how these experiences played out in actuality. I felt disappointed and alarmed at not being able to share experiences that could help those who shared their vulnerabilities with me. Thanks to VMIAC, Tandem, Discovery College, other like organisations and passionate individuals, we are now looking at a new world. A new future where lived experience may take its rightful place in the mental health service system. A Path To Follow is already here; in the future. Our entire service is based on a customised balance of professional and lived experience in life’s challenges. We recognise there is a need and a place for all experiences to best support our community in their mental well-being journeys. The Right Balance But surely not everyone with lived experience is a good fit to provide such support I hear you ask? I agree and disagree. Fence sitter, I hear you say.  Yep, I agree with that. With appropriate desire, training, guidance and ongoing support, those with lived experience can support others in their journeys. Without those criteria fulfilled however, there are risks abound, for all parties. That is why at APTF, we provide the right balance of experience and customise a service that best suits the needs of our clients. Our Youth Mentors are not professionals, but they sure as heck have lived experience. They certainly tick off on the passion and desire. They are trained, guided and supported at all times, from both my professional and lived experiences. I understand risk. I am fully trained and experienced in assessing, working with and intervening in it. We practise with the best interests of clients at front of mind. We use a “do no harm” approach and constantly assess and monitor risk. Where our lived experience can be shared within the do no harm approach and in the best interests of our clients, then we will share. The Future I hope we are about to enter a new world where ALL professionals in the field are able share their multi faceted experiences. Where our clinicians can take the lead of Georgie Harman, Beyond Blue CEO, who speaks with honesty of her lived experience with alcohol and depression. Hearing the perspectives of fellow consumers and carers in recent times has only consolidated our approach at APTF as the right one for us. The feedback paints a service system where consumers and carers often feel disconnected from the clinicians caring for them. Very much a scene of “them” and “us”. We need to develop a “we” team.  All members on the same page, managing the same challenges, for a common purpose. A person’s recovery needs to take place with their chosen professionals, inclusive of that person’s family and community supports. A service that pays respect to and mindfully utilises lived and professional experience can attain all of that and more. I am very excited about that! I am also very excited we are already working within a model, providing services that our community is very loudly saying is needed. Professional and Lived experience; walking beside you. If you want more information about our services or are in a position to financially support our service, please contact Kirstie.

Resources To Assist with COVID-19: South East Melbourne Area

Thriving, not surviving, through the Chaos… Below is a list of services and resources for parents to support their young people through this time of impending self-isolation. Please be aware that some of the below services may close while others will move to providing online support.  If you are outside of this local area or experience troubles in accessing the below, please contact Kirstie directly. Get the right information It is critically important you responding to information that is as current and reputable as possible. At the moment this appears to be via our government sources. Please be mindful of what comes up on your and your child’s social media stream Federal Government Updates Victoria Government Updates Better Health Myth Buster Referrals to Services Local Council Services There may be some changes to the normal way these services operate, however, they are still operating and are best to be called if seeking specific support.  Generally their eligibility works according to resident’s proximity of where they live, work or play to the service. Glen Eira Youth Services Provision of one to one support. Glen Eira Youth Support Information Ph:  9524 3676 Kingston Youth Services Provision of one to one support (call to see if taking new clients) Kingston Youth Services Ph: 1300 369 436 Bayside Youth Services Provision of one to one support Bayside Youth Services Website Ph:  9599 4622 Blokes Psychology Psychology for Males of All Ages. Highett and Scoresby https://blokespsychology.com.au/ Local Community Health Centres Connect Health & Community Connect Health has counselling for all ages; pre-school to Older Adult. Connect Youth Services One to one practical supports and counselling. Connect Counselling Services One to one therapy; including Psychology, Social Work and Counselling. Ph: 9575 5333 Other Mental Health Services Headspace Bentleigh and Elsternwick One to one support for young people 12-25 years. Bentleigh Bentleigh Website Ph: 9076 9400 Elsternwick Elsternwick Website Ph:  9076 7500 Online Resources Reach Out Parents Self-Help Forums, Fact Sheets, Online Group Forums and one to one support options Help For Parents Young People Self-Help Forums, Fact Sheets & Online Group Discussions Help For Young People Go Zen For parents American site that has resources around managing stress and building resilience in your children (and yourself).  Below link is to a video series. I recommend the first one. Go Zen Anxiety and Covid-19 videos Eheadspace For parents and young people eheadspace provides free online and telephone support and counselling to young people 12 – 25 and their families and friends. If you’re based in Australia and going through a tough time, eheadspace can help https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/ Emerging Minds For parents Has reputable resources and options for online training around supporting young people’s mental wellbeing. Toolkit For Preparing and Supporting Kids Through Community Trauma Below video is a short video on supporting children through community disasters by Emerging Minds. https://vimeo.com/394049129 Article on how to talk to your children about COVID-19 The Conversation Article Sane Australia For parents General mental health resources, referral services and fact sheets for all ages. https://www.sane.org/ Beyond Blue Beyond Blue General Site Referrals and resources for adults. Beyond Blue Young People’s Site Referrals and resources for adults. Below is a link to Beyond Blue’s advice for mental wellbeing during covid. Looking after your mental health during Covid-19 Parent Line Telephone and online counselling service for parents with children 0-18 years. Parentline Website Ph:  13 22 89 Kids Line Telephone and online counselling service for young people to 25 years.  Also have great FB and Insta Accounts. https://kidshelpline.com.au/ Ph:  1800 55 1800 Life Line For cases of mental health emergency and suicide prevention.  Telephone, online chat and text service. All ages. https://www.lifeline.org.au/ Ph:  13 11 14 Need Financial Assistance? Emergency Relief Help Community Information & Support Victoria https://www.cisvic.org.au/ Glen Eira Glen Eira Emergency Relief Bayside Emergency Relief BAYCISS Other Useful Information Learning at home Scholastic Scholastic Learn From Home Modules Twinkl Online School Modules FREE-for short time-up to Year 10. The trusted home of teacher-created planning and assessment materials and teaching resources aligned to the Australian Curriculum. Online Modules Rebecca Sparrow I feel like my purpose is to help teenage girls traverse that tricky path from childhood to adulthood. My great passion is helping teen girls (and their parents) navigate high school friendships, have a more positive experience online and understand that despite what society tells them they are enough just as they are. Below is a resource compiling loads of home ideas shared by her followers. Rebecca Sparrow Learn From Home Modules Project Rockit PROJECT ROCKIT is Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice. https://www.projectrockit.com.au/ Young People Wellbeing Webinars Self Care A collection of podcasts and poetry for however you’re processing or experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Self Care Podcasts Steps to Self Care Center for Adolescence Studies on steps to self care at this uncertain times. Self Care Article A Path To Follow remains open via online video calls and telephone during this period for young people, parents and small business. See our service pages for more information and remember, our pricing can be subsidised for those experiencing financial hardship. © A Path To Follow. Not to be reproduced without consent of author.

COVID-19 Craziness – “We’ve got this!”

Let’s stay calm, control what we can and lead our kids with confidence. I don’t know about you, but when the COVID-19 first hit the news, I was “Oh, ok. That is sad for them.” Then, before I knew it, it had entered Australia; people began panic buying, there were laws against mass gatherings but even those smaller organisations, services and clubs starting to postpone their season starts, services & meetings.  Schools were shutting down and then they weren’t… I wouldn’t say I became panic stricken, but I have been feeling a little uneasy about the uncertainty of it all. Enough for me to empathise with those adults and children whose anxiety might be reignited or even unexpectedly manifest because of the situation.  So, I did what I have learned to do at times of uncertainty; research. It has helped me and I hope that it supports you. Choose your source of information carefully- for both you and your children.  I am not saying that all the crap on social media or mainstream news is not valid, but I am saying that it all has a tilt toward sensationalism.  I recommend, if you are going to follow anything, be it sources like ABC/SBS and https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus  .Even https://kidshelpline.com.au/ has some great information for our smaller people. Be aware of and work on your emotional “stuff” related to the virus first- where we might feel worried about the virus, frustrated at the government’s actions or inaction, uncertain to the point of distraction, we may not be aware that we are allowing these negative emotions to “visit pain on our children.” It certainly ok to feel all of these emotions and express them in a calm manner with our children, but we need to do the actual processing (panicking) of these offline, away from our children. (wherever possible). Let your brain know you are grateful for it alerting you to these feelings and that you “have this; for you and for your children!” “Energy Flows Where Attention Goes”- here we want our energy to remain calm, hopeful and focused on controlling what we can control. You will have the most up to date information from looking at reputable sources, which you will have processed your own reactions and emotions about, so that you can then calmly relate the situation to your children. Repeat the cycle- It’s not easy, but at times like this, when things are altering so quickly you will need to be willing to do this again and again until things settle. So, what is it we know at the moment? Risks are very low for healthy children in relation to this virus and higher for the elderly and those people with existing health conditions. That transmission is via droplets from nose or mouth to another’s nose, mouth or eyes. Children tend to be awesome germ machines, with often questionable hygiene practices… Also, other facts you can get from Australian Gov websites. What can we control? Our hygiene practices (again see the reputable sources for update to information and discuss this) Where we go and who we see. If you have those most vulnerable to this virus in your life, think about them in terms of seeing and supporting them. Our thoughts; we can continue to participate in activities that motivate positive energy. It might be playing cards with your children, practising mindfulness or even getting out in to the garden or backyard/a local oval and sharing in positive time. We all have the power to control our thoughts at any point in time. The below two resources are good videos on how to support yourself and your children in these uncertain times. The first contains 3 interviews of which I recommend watching the first one. It is 25 minutes long but has some great tips and strategies. The second is Australian and although based more in the context of the bush fires has some tips which fit this craziness we find ourselves in. It is somewhat shorter also at 4 minutes. https://gozen.com/coronavirus-anxiety/ https://vimeo.com/394049129 If you are still feeling uncertain, worried or anxious about your situation, please reach out for support. You are never alone. Kirstie

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