Mental Health and Wellbeing webinars

In response to sector feedback calling for additional support for recognising and improving mental health and wellbeing in children, the NSW Department of Education engaged Be You Early Childhood, Safer Communities, and Smiling Mind to run a series of free mental health and wellbeing webinars. View recordings of the webinars below. You'll also find downloadable resources to help promote positive social and emotional wellbeing and safe environments for children, educators and families.

How these webinars and resources can help you

The webinars and resources on this page are designed to help educators:

  • Identify common mental health issues in children and educators and understand risk and protective factors for mental health.
  • Understand the importance of early intervention improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes for children and how to implement tools for early identification of mental health and wellbeing concerns.
  • Appreciate the role of mentally healthy communities in fostering overall mental wellness in children and educators.
  • Explore mindfulness and its role in improving overall wellbeing in educators and children.
  • Demonstrate best practice in meeting the requirements of Quality Area 2 (children’s health and safety), Quality Area 5 (relationships with children) and Quality Area 6 (collaborative partnerships with families and communities).

Growing a Mentally Healthy Community

BeYou is a national initiative led by Beyond Blue with delivery partners Early Childhood Australia and Headspace. BeYou empowers educators through offering evidence-based online learning, tools and resources to create learning communities where every child, educator and family can achieve their best possible mental health.

This webinar will cover:

  • What does a mentally healthy community look like
  • Risk and protective factors for mental health
  • Social emotional learning and resilience
  • Self-care and wellbeing at work
  • Practical tools for mental health in the early years
Growing a Mentally Healthy Community

 

DEBBIE YATES:
Hello, and welcome to the 'Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference Webinars', organised by the New South Wales Department of Education Early Childhood Directorate. This series of webinars were developed as a result of sector consultation, identifying the need for professional learning related to the skills and practices associated with positive mental health for children, as well as additional resources for educator self care and wellbeing.

We're really keen to hear your feedback. So after each session, an email will be sent with a list of resources that were relevant to the sessions. And also a link to a survey to provide further feedback. We really encourage you to complete that, so we can understand what you've taken away from the sessions and any further feedback you have. Also attendees will receive a certificate to show their attendance at the session. If you have any follow up questions for the department, there's contact information on your screen today, an enquiries line, and also an email address, if you'd like to get in contact.

Today, we'll be discussing mental health in the early years, the basics of mentally healthy communities, and what this looks like in practice utilising the Be You framework to support us. Be You is a single, integrated national initiative to promote mental health from the early years right through to 18 years. It's for every Australian educator, from early learning services to primary and secondary schools, and includes future educators - so those who are studying and training, right now. Be You is led by Beyond Blue in partnership with Early Childhood Australia and headspace.

As we start today, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm meeting on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and I'd like to pay my respects to Elders past and present and those who are emerging. I'd like to also share some direct language with you which is the language spoken in this Sydney basin area. I'd like to say "warami" which means "hello". So today, we have people joining us, from all over New South Wales. And I really encourage you to do your own acknowledgement of the country you're living and working on in the chat. So you can just have an opportunity to write in the chat where you're sitting and working today. And if you're not sure of that land that you're sitting on and working today, then this is a good opportunity to perhaps research that a bit more so you'd know for next time.

On the screen, you can see our 'Make Safe' symbol. This is from our Always Be You resources. This is a suite of resources to assist learning communities to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. And we'd like to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the development of this resource. With the Always Be You symbols, we endeavour to embed and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and ways of being, knowing, and doing, in all of our work. Throughout this session, you'll see some of the symbols on the slides, and within ECA, we use these to support our planning and learning in action. And we really encourage early learning services to do the same, really acknowledge and celebrate being guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives.

Today, we will aim to provide a safe space to discuss topics around mentally-healthy communities. We're in a virtual space, but it's still important to consider our own mental health and wellbeing as we communicate and learn with each other. And we encourage you to consider confidentiality, privacy, and self care, throughout the sessions. There is a break time, halfway through our session today. And we really encourage you to use it in whatever way will support your self care, as we're having these conversations about mental health. And if any concerns come up for you, please consider what support services you have around you, whether it be a colleague you can get in touch with or other support services, if you feel you need to. We really will continue to share the importance of self care, throughout the whole session.

Introduction

So there's two key parts to our session today: the beginning will look at the basics of mental health in the early years and really explore what this looks... and then second half will really explore what this looks like in practice, within early learning services. As we said, our aim is for this to be an interactive space. So feel free to use the chat function, ask questions, share your thoughts, so we can learn from each other. We have a couple of our team as chat moderators in there today. So we have Chris and Catherine, who are also Be You consultants in that space, and also Kevin and Natalie, from the department, are also in the chat moderation space as well.

And our presenters today is myself, Debbie Yates. I'm one of the state managers with Be You, and also we have Paola Mercado with us as well who's one of our Be You consultants. Being in a virtual space can also mean we sometimes have technical issues. So at the bottom of the screen, there is a contact number for Redback to support with any technical issues that you may have - if you're having any issues with audio or visuals.

So Be You. To begin today, we'll briefly talk through what Be You is and how it can support you in your early learning service. Be You is a national initiative for educators, aimed at promoting and protecting positive mental health in children and young people. Our vision is that every learning community is positive, inclusive and resilient. A place where every child, young person, educator, and family can achieve their best possible mental health.

At the heart of Be You is a content framework that provides a structure for both professional learning, and the actions schools and early learning services can take to implement a whole, learning community approach to mental health and wellbeing. Be You is led by Beyond Blue, in collaboration with delivery partners Early Childhood Australia and headspace. Be You is federally funded, and so it's available at no cost to every educator, early learning service, primary and secondary school.

Be You has five key aims. It strives to promote the development of mentally healthy learning communities, to foster partnerships with families and community, to build educators capacity to teach skills for wellbeing and resilience, to guide educators, to support children and young people experiencing mental health issues. And to support communities back to mental health following a critical incident. And we recognise that this support aim is one that's been really strong at the moment - lots of communities really needing a lot of support.

A lot of early learning services have really been connecting with Be You and our resources, with regards to supporting their communities from the bushfire effects, earlier this year, and obviously the impact of COVID-19 at the moment as well. And there are some specific resources on our website around those two key areas. And Paola, will be exploring them and chatting about them a little bit later in the session. In our chat box, there will be links as well coming through as we go. So feel free to click on those links and actually start exploring some of that, during the session, if you would find it helpful.

The Be You Framework

So, the Be You Framework. It's actually got an image there on the screen for you, which shows the five different areas of our framework. It offers a range of online, evidence-based tools, resources and professional learning aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of educators to support mental health and wellbeing in children and young people.

The Be You Framework and whole, learning community approach is really flexible. It's designed to complement existing continuous improvement plans, actions, and cycles, and support educators as well to meet their professional obligations. A really important part of Be You, is that it fits within your local context and your existing priorities. Its flexibility means it can... You can work from where you're currently at and consider what your goals are and utilise the framework to support those. The professional learning is a key aspect but engaging with Be You is much more than just completing their professional learning.

The Be You approach is about bringing a mental health focus to every aspect of your community - relationships, experiences, policies - and we have consultants able to support you with this as well. We know that just doing a professional learning module, as an individual, can provide some benefits. But it's really when the whole learning community is considering professional learning and considering a particular aspect such as mental health and wellbeing that it can really lead to change. So, Paola, as a consultant, who works with early learning services, with Be You, what are some of the things that you see around how it's flexible and able to support services?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Well, the whole fact that it is a framework and it does sit around everything that you already currently do, in your core daily practice, is so worthwhile. The fact that you can contextualise it to suit your particular early learning setting, your community, your local community, is really, really important too because it reflects your personal needs within that community.

And making those connections to the already existing regulations that we need to cover, like the National Quality Standards, the Early Years Learning Framework, we also have 'My Time, Our Place'. So those documents are already sitting on our website to support educators doing those things. So it provides you the opportunity to understand that Be You isn't more work, it actually merges with what you currently do already. And your core work does reflect really well in the mental health perspectives. So it's really important to understand that little bit about it.

DEBBIE YATES:
And we often hear of early learning services that are actually linking Be You within their quality improvement plans, which is actually really valuable and provides them with that ongoing connection point with other work that they're doing.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And it's also the relevance of having the ongoing conversation. So, it's always part of your conversation, always part of your quality improvement. It's always part of your action plan. So that's really, really nice to hear as well.

What does mental health mean to you?

DEBBIE YATES:
Great, thank you. So, we're now going to get you to consider some things from your perspective. And we're going to pop a poll up, on the screen. And the question it's asking you is, “what comes to mind when you think about mental health?"

So some early learning services actually find posing this question to their team can be a really good starting point when beginning to consider mental health in their learning community. It can really open up a conversation about mental health and help to clarify any particular challenges that people may have around discussing mental health, highlight any stigma, which may exist within your community, and provide that opportunity to really explore what that means and looks like for each individual in your space.

So, on the poll, it has a couple of options there for you, asking, "what does mental health mean to you?" So Paola, when you think about mental health, what comes to mind for yourself?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Well, it's interesting because before I started this particular role, I often thought that mental health was about the conditions that sit with mental health. I've obviously understood and learnt a whole lot about mental health and how it exist in everybody, every individual has mental health, and how it relates to our physical health as well. So, having that knowledge behind me now really increases my understanding that it's a holistic perspective, when we think about mental health. So that for me is a big thing: having a look at it from the holistic perspective.

DEBBIE YATES:
Excellent. And I think that's really important, when we're looking at it, that we really unpack what it means for us as individuals ’cause we sometimes make assumptions when we use the terminology of mental health that everybody has the same perception or meaning behind that language. But not everyone always does. So openly discussing it can really help that. I think it's also important, when we're having that conversation, that sometimes we can understand that using the term 'mental health' might not be the right language for your community.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And that's probably one of the experiences I had with supporting a service who, right from the onset when they began their Be You learning journey, they really focused on what they wanted to use, what terminology they want to use as a service. And they really understood that using the term 'mental health' did not sit well with them, at that particular time. But it was part of their action plan to build their own learning communities' knowledge about that particular term and the differences that you can find within mental health. So they began using the term 'wellbeing' and then moved on to utilise the mental health terminology.

DEBBIE YATES:
That's great. I think it's really good they acknowledged that and then had some intentional steps to move towards it.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Yeah, absolutely. And that's where this question really comes in handy because when you're taking this back to your team of educators, you can really understand and get a sense of that fundamental knowledge, that everybody shares, and make those decisions as a team, and make that decision as a learning community as to where... how you want to approach mental health and wellbeing within your setting. And the contextualisation of Be You really supports that.

DEBBIE YATES:
So how are we going with the poll?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Well, the poll looks great. So we have 20.6% saying that they relate it back to your state of mind, and higher numbers, so 69.8%, saying it's your state of wellbeing. So that that's reflecting well, and we have some obviously psychological issues and a smaller percentage around mental health conditional illness.

DEBBIE YATES:
Excellent. OK. So quite a variety there. But obviously for some people, well, the majority of people, they're really looking at that broader state of wellbeing, when they think about mental health, which I think is a positive.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, yeah.

DEBBIE YATES:
If you have any other thoughts, please feel free to pop them in the chat as well. Yeah.

The mental health continuum

So when we explore mental health, we're beginning to understand the terminology and explore that a little bit more. The next step in doing that can be around looking at mental health as existing on a continuum. So this really helps for some people to really have a bit of a visual around what mental health might look like. And you can see the continuum, on your screen, at the moment. It has positive mental health at one end, mild and moderate symptoms in the middle, and then more severe symptoms at the other end.

It's important to remember though, when we're thinking of the continuum, that where you can sit, it can fluctuate and be influenced both positively and negatively by our context and our environment. And it sits on the image as a straight line, but, in reality, it can look backwards, forwards, up and down, circles, spirals, exactly. So, although it shows as a line, we understand that in reality, it actually can look very different to that. And for some people...and they have a mental health condition, even with that existing, they can still experience good mental health. So I think that's important to highlight.

Be You has a resource to look at the mental health continuum and really unpack it in more detail. And it actually outlines developmentally-specific signs and symptoms that can be indicators of mental health across the different ages. There's a link in the chat box, if you'd like to learn more, but I'd really encourage you to use that as a tool to support conversation and to grow understanding around mental health within your early learning community.

Two of the things we'll highlight just now though is the difference between two of the terms that are often used when talking about mental health. So we have mental health issues. These encompass various cognitive, emotional and behavioural issues that may cause concern or distress. They affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, and this can include issues which children and young people experience in relation to normal life stressors. It covers the area of the continuum from the yellow zone right through into the red zone.

We also have mental health conditions. This is when an individual has seen a health professional, for their mental health issue, and they might be diagnosed with a specific mental health condition. This is a clinical diagnosis, such as depression or anxiety, relating to a condition that significantly interferes with a person's cognitive, emotional or social abilities. Mental health conditions can cause distress or impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships. They can occur at any age or stage, and many do commence during childhood and adolescence, which is why it's so important that we're considering mental health even in these early years.

Mental health in the early years

So, as we move now to looking specifically at the mental health in the early years and considering what it means for our context with younger children. Mental health and wellbeing is related to healthy, physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. It's essential for optimal development, learning and growth. Early Childhood development and life experiences contribute strongly to a person's mental health and wellbeing, during childhood and later in life. To focus specifically on early childhood mental health and wellbeing, it's seen in the capacity of a young child within the context of their development, family, environment, and culture, to be able to participate in their physical and social environment, to form healthy and secure relationships, to experience, regulate, understand and express emotions, to understand and regulate their behaviour, to interact appropriately with others, including their peers, and to develop a secure sense of self.

So we're talking about it in the early years, but we obviously also acknowledge that this developmental process continues right throughout adolescence. So from birth, children are experiencing relationships and learning skills that support their mental health for life. When working in collaboration with parents, carers and families, and the broader community, early childhood settings are really well-placed to support children's development throughout early childhood. All of these elements are also really good early childhood practice, as well as being protective factors for mental health. And this is something that we often recognise that we're doing quite a lot of these things on a daily basis in early learning settings, aren't we, Paola?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolute... And this is one of the parts, what I really love talking to services, when the little lightbulb moment goes off, and they think but we do this. It's like, yeah, this is your core work. This is what you're doing every day.

You're considering you know how the children participate in the physical and social environments of your setting. You're obviously forming healthy, and secure relationships not just with the children but with the families and with each other as a team. You're experiencing and supporting regulation of behaviours and helping children to understand those expressions of behaviours and emotions. So you're already doing this core work. Be You is about providing you the framework to have those experiences a little more intentional, and what more can you be doing, with that mental health lens and that perspective that you can bring in, because all these experiences are positive inclusions to be creating those protective factors, as we know, to support lifelong, positive mental health.

DEBBIE YATES:
Thank you. So, when we're looking at ourselves as a mentally healthy community, which is one of the Be You's key goals is to try and develop mentally healthy communities, I think it's really important to consider what that might look like for your community because it will look different, depending on where you are.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And so it should, it definitely needs to be looking different because your local context is going to be very, very different to others. Even one experience, I had two particular services who were only 800 metres apart yet the diversity in each of those settings was very different. So contextualising that is very important for your particular setting and your service structure, I guess, as well. So you may be coming from a family day-care perspective, you may be coming from a long day perspective, as opposed to perhaps out of school hours care.

DEBBIE YATES:
That's really important to think about. And when we're thinking about it, we ask you to consider it from all senses, from multiple perspectives. So when you think about your community, when you're walking into that space, what does it feel like? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What can you touch and feel? So considering it from all senses, and considering it from multiple perspectives.

So, if you're a child in your learning community, what would a mentally healthy community feel like? For a family member visiting, for the staff - ’cause they're obviously really important as well. All of these pieces influence, make up part of the puzzle.

PAOLA MERCADO:
That's right. And those conversations are so important. So is there space to have these conversations, to be talking about what this space looks like for us as a community? All those perspectives are really interesting because you are looking at from different set of eyes?

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Each time, and having those deeper conversations as to what it's going to feel like from each perspective.

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah, absolutely. So we encourage you to ask that question around, what does mental health mean for me? But I think it's also a really great question to pose to your community, what does a mentally healthy community feel like and look like, for our particular context? It can really help broaden that discussion as well.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Yeah, definitely.

The Bronfenbrenner model

DEBBIE YATES:
So underpinning the Be You Framework are two specific models. The first one being the Bronfenbrenner's model, well, ecological model. When looking at early childhood mental health, we need to understand that every child lives within a greater context. Most closely within that context is their family, their community and the early learning service. And then as you move out, you actually look further at culture, politics, economics, social norms, and even workplace settings. So all of these things are impacting on the child, so we can't see them in isolation, we need to see them as part of this broader framework and this broader ecological model.

Within that inner, social circle, the people and settings most closely involved with the child, we see the family, the community and the early learning setting are shown. Through daily contact, children learn about their social world, and the rules and practices and values that support it. By actively participating in these relationships, children also influence the way adults and peers relate to them. So it's not a one-way relationship. It is back and forth.

Social support is where we move into the next sphere. So that's where children's development is also influenced by wider networks. This is represented in the diagram central circles including extended family, friends, cultural, religious groups the child may be a part of. And these networks provide opportunities for children to develop social awareness and skills, as they relate to different people and experience a range of roles and expectations across the broader community. In the outer circle in the diagram, we can see children are also shaped by broader social circumstances that impact on their families and communities, such as access to social and health services, family members, employment and income may impact.

Family members work-life balance may also be an issue and may impact on the children. Children's sense of social connection is often influenced by community attitudes and cultural values including those that they may encounter in the media. So there's several examples of how these influences... how these different contexts influence outcomes for children. Can you think of a few that come to mind at all, Paola?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Yeah, definitely, especially in the current circumstances we find ourselves in. One of them being the summer of the bushfires that we had. There's a huge impact that's happened for many communities around not only New South Wales but the country as well. And the bigger, most recent one is the pandemic that we're currently in. So we have parental working conditions that may have changed.

DEBBIE YATES:
Yes.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Some home environments that are looking very differently. And are they always stable? Are they always harmonious home environments? Thinking about those things. Are you living at risk? You know, there are things that we need to consider. So those wider context that influence these outcomes for children when we're thinking of early learning settings and we're able to see all these things and how we can support that is quite beneficial.

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah, and, especially, when you see that we sit within that inner circle. Absolutely. There is a fifth area of Bronfenbrenner's model, which isn't actually on the screen at the moment, but it's known as the chronosystem. And this includes transitions and shifts in one's lifespan. So it's really looking at big, broad social impacts, either across a whole community or perhaps a big, broad impact for the child. So, in an individual situation, it might be something like a major life transition such as if a family is going through a separation and a divorce.

From a broader cultural and community context, it's something similar to what you're saying around a bushfire affected community or across the whole of the nation at the moment, where we're being impacted by the pandemic. So these things can also really impact on relationships, on children's behaviour. And according to the research, children can really be affected quite significantly by these in the long term, even though they might, for their little life, have only been say three or six or 12 months. But they can have a long term impacts that need to be considered.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And I think we also have to consider our younger group, at the moment, because this has been their norm.

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah.

PAOLA MERCADO:
So, their little life has contained major events that have perhaps - what they don't realise - destabilised to some extent their family system or their social supports around them. So yeah, that's definitely very different for a good group of our children.

The ‘Risk and Protective Factors’ model

DEBBIE YATES:
Yes. The second model which underpins the Be You Framework is the 'risk and protective factors model'. So throughout anybody's life, there are a range of influences and events, both positive and negative, that impact on an individual's mental health. These influences and events are known as risk and protective factors. Risk factors for children's mental health and wellbeing increase the likelihood of mental health issues developing during childhood and beyond. These include internal, biological, and psychological factors, family or environmental characteristics, and experiences and events that challenge social and emotional wellbeing.

Protective factors decrease the likelihood of mental health issues, and build and maintain resilience, even when risk factors are present. Enhancing individual, family, and environmental protective factors mean children are less likely to be vulnerable because they receive the acceptance, warmth and support required for learning, social-emotional development, and building resilience. These risk and protective factors are important all the time. Sometimes people might look at them or refer to them, after there's been a critical incident for a particular learning community or for a particular family. But actually looking at them and considering them all the time is really important 'cause then they're there and existing - especially the protective factors - when a critical incident might happen.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Definitely.

DEBBIE YATES:
We really encourage you to consider, when you're looking at the screen and seeing what those risk and protective factors are, what ones you might have noticed already or recognising already exist within your community.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And it's also important to note that this, perhaps, isn't an exhaustive list.

DEBBIE YATES:
Absolutely.

PAOLA MERCADO:
These are really solid examples. But there may be other ones that you will be able to identify for your local community, for your children, for your educators even, and perhaps that's a really good conversation to have as well, identifying what is available within your capacity to provide those protective factors.

DEBBIE YATES:
And I think that's... we were talking earlier about how a lot of early learning services are always doing some really great work around building and maintaining a mentally healthy community. And I think this is one of those things where we can really acknowledge that some of these factors are already happening, but there might also be some risk factors that exist in your early learning service that you might not quite be aware of. Some of these might be perhaps not all families having a sense of belonging to your community - that can actually be a risk factor within your early learning community.

Educator stress levels, and that's something that's real importance and being really acknowledged at the moment about increased stress levels for educators in different settings - whether it would be around the impact of considering workplace health and safety measures in the setting or financial impacts of the current changes. And that's different in each setting. So for family day-care educators that might feel and look really different compared to what might be happening in a kindergarten, preschool, or perhaps long day-care setting. So those stress levels can really be a risk factor. But there's some also really good protective factors, aren't there, Paola?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And as I was pointing out, one of the risk factors that I always find really interesting, and it isn't listed there, is the connection to land, and connection to nature, and being outside in the physical environment, and being able to provide those spaces for the children and your families and the educators, because sometimes it's really lovely to have the freshness of the outside air - you're not always inside - and you're able to incorporate time to be able to spend outside connecting to nature.

DEBBIE YATES:
It's a great protective factor. I think, we talked about, you know, having secure and attached and responsive relationships is a really important protective factor, really spending time explicitly teaching social and emotional skills. So really acknowledging that that is actually a really important protective factor.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And again, this points out: This is the core work that our early learning services do on a daily basis. Every day, our educators are considering their role that they play within those, and now you're seeing it from the mental health perspective and how it's influencing those protective factors. So it's a great way to consider the model, the use of the model, how to consider to be a little bit more intentional about implementing those protective factors into your daily curriculum, your daily frameworks.

DEBBIE YATES:
And you were also mentioning a little bit before too about like things like cultural safety is also really important. So for families and children to be able to see themselves and get a sense of belonging within their early learning service is obviously really important protective factor as well.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. It really relates back to that, as you said, that sense of belonging, that connectedness though, too, because one of the things that we have found most recently, especially, is our educators and our early learning services have had to change their connection to the children and their families, due to the pandemic regulations. So even maintaining those connectedness with the families, despite the changes, has proven to be a really valuable protective factor, during these times.

DEBBIE YATES:
You also have an example from a particular early learning service, you were connecting with, they were using an online platform as a way of actually...using for their programming and their documentation. And they were finding a way to consider risk and protective factors as part of that.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Yeah. And it was one of their foundations of... as they started again on their Be You journey. They had a bigger conversation around risk and protective factors. And they were able to really identify many of those things that you're seeing, on the slide, that they were already doing. So one of their big things was validating that they're doing fabulous work already. So, and they didn't want to obviously change very much, but they were also wondering how they could communicate this to the families and how they could, I guess, get a more equal perspective from all educators to have some input into providing those protective behaviours.

So this particular service, and again, the beauty of Be You you can be as creative as you need to be and make it fit to your particular service, but this one was using a digital platform to provide documentation and daily observations, and they were able to add tags to their documentation. So they were able to create the tags for those particular protective factors. And any educator who was documenting for a particular child, they were able to add those tags. And it was documented. So it was information that was being provided to the families, as well as documentation that sits with your service as records that you're providing these for the children and the families.

So it was a wonderful way of everybody having input into how those protective factors are being catered to, how they're being addressed on a daily basis, and how they're being covered for everybody, not just people who have come back from a critical incident or it was part of their daily practices. So it was really a quite a simplistic but very, very important way of how they were able to embed that into their practice.

Social and emotional learning and resilience

DEBBIE YATES:
That's great. Thank you for sharing that. So, some of the other areas, the language that we're using and talking about in this space, around mental health and wellbeing, is around social and emotional learning and resilience. So we're going to unpack those terms a little bit now and explain how we use those terms when we're looking at our Be You resources and our Be You professional learning, and these will also come up in your session later, after the break, but we thought it was really important to explore the concepts a little bit further.

So for social emotional learning, we all recognise that early childhood is a unique period when the structure of the rapidly growing brain is organised through a child's early care experiences. This development includes the social and emotional learning skills essential for mental health and wellbeing. Social emotional learning involves learning the facts, skills and values that enable children to regulate their emotions, relate to others effectively, and contribute in positive ways to their family and education. Children who have developed social emotional skills find it easier to relate to others, make decisions, resolve conflict, and feel positive about themselves and the world around them. For young children, mental health is about social and emotional wellbeing.

Resilience, from Be You's perspective, we define resilience as doing well during or after an adverse event or a period of adversity. Here, resilience refers to the ability of an individual, a family, or even a community to manage those everyday stresses and challenges. Resilience shares a close relationship with mental health because being able to bounce back from challenges or adversity is a significant protective factor that supports mental health. Resilience develops through a dynamic process involving individual factors, so even an individual person's temperament, environmental factors, for example, family relationships, and the interaction between those factors.

Just like we say mental health exists on a continuum, resilience really also exists on a spectrum and it can change over time. It is also something that can be learnt through experience and intentional teaching. It also may look different, in different settings. And this is one thing we keep coming back to. And that includes different families, different cultural settings, and different border community environments. We can recognise within our communities that some children are more easily upset or distressed than others, when they're confronted with a difficulty. Likewise, some children learn social emotional skills quite easily, and others require more support.

So we know children are more likely to learn resilience, and be resilient, when they are supported by family, educators in the children. If children are also surrounded by adults who model resilience, through their own behaviours, this is one of those ways of explicitly teaching and practising social emotional skills, then they'll be more likely to develop resilience themselves. So, hopefully understanding those terms a little bit better, we'll be better able to understand some of the concepts you're going to be going through. We're really going to be looking at practical examples of how to support these elements within each early learning setting.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. I think it's also important to note that both of these are really, I guess, grounded in that connectedness and that relationship work. So that's probably something that I always hear, that's coming through, those two different sort of terms and identifying those two that that's the common basis, I guess, is the connectedness and relationships.

DEBBIE YATES:
And, we keep repeating it but it is the things that we do all the time, but applying the mental health lens to the conversation, really, like you said, provides a more intentional nature to those activities and can really support us to consider the long term impacts of those simple things we might be doing on a daily basis and how they really can change the long term outcomes for children in the long run.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely.

DEBBIE YATES:
Are there any other comments or anything coming through from our chat about that's being shared by people?

PAOLA MERCADO:
We have lots of lots of comments coming through, and some good ones are all of the above for me. So, that's wonderful. That's all looking great. So nothing, yeah, no questions at the moment that we need to answer.

DEBBIE YATES:
So we're actually going to move through then and do a bit of a break at this point then. So like we say, we try to walk the talk here. So talk...walk the talk, walk the talk here. (PAOLA LAUGHS)
So we talk about educator self care and taking care of ourselves. And we want to really model that as well, in this session today. So we're providing an opportunity for ourselves to get up away from the screen, to have a bit of a break and a stretch.

And we've got a poll up on the screen where you can choose which self care activity you might choose during a bit of a break here at the moment, a couple of different options. And this is really us modelling the sorts of things we would hope to see educators are able to do in their daily work as well. We often understand that breaks can be short and quick sometimes, so we do have that, you know, a couple of options.

In an ideal world, we get to do all of them. That isn't always the case, we understand that. But we also encourage you, if you've got any other self care breaks that you regularly use and find really valuable, to share them in the chat as well. So we can learn from each other.

PAOLA MERCADO:
That'd be great if you share any ideas that you may have in the chat. We have some results coming through already. So a lot of people would like to do 'all of the above'. So if you are able to achieve that, good luck to you, that's great! I know that I'm a bit slower, and I like to take my time. But there are other things that you can choose to do, during this break time. So please feel free to enjoy your break.

DEBBIE YATES:
Great. So we'll have a 10 minute break, and there'll be a message on the screen as well. So that'll count down for when we're coming back on and then Paola will come back with us as well. And we'll talk through some more practical examples and activities that you can take onboard in your early learning services and really help building a mentally healthy community. So we'll see you back soon.

BREAK

PAOLA MERCADO:
Welcome back, everybody. Thank you for re-joining us. Hopefully, that time, that we allowed you to have a break, allowed you the space to have some wonderful, little mindful breaks. It was great. We had some wonderful examples of what you were going to get up to during the break. One of them was laughing with a friend and I think I really liked that one. So the other one was an early morning walk, is that the one that you noticed?

DEBBIE YATES:
Early morning walk. Although some people were commenting it's still a bit frosty at the moment. So gotta be pretty keen to get up for an early morning walk at the moment.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. Absolutely. So we're going to move into our second session now. So this session will actually be providing you with a little bit of content at the very beginning. So please feel free to either just listen or take notes. Again, we will have the chat open so feel free to share what you're comfortable with. And we will have moments where we will reflect and focus our learning. And we will provide discussion opportunities to talk about the content that we're going through.

Mental health and trauma

So we're going to move into looking at mental health in the early years from a trauma perspective. So looking from the impact of natural disasters, such as the bushfires and our current COVID-19 pandemic that's been happening around us, and thinking about what it is, and what does it look like in the early years. It's important to understand that effects can be short term and long term. So we will unpack that a little bit, as we move along.

So in the short term, experiencing trauma actually causes individuals to have a stress response. Sometimes stress responses are OK, but the difference with the trauma is that we're actually sitting in that stress response for a longer period of time and we are unable to regulate from those stress responses - that's when it becomes a trauma. So during that time, it's usually a child or a young person's... We know that a child and young person's brain and nervous system work together to help them make sense of all the incoming information from their senses. So all the lights, our sight, our sound, what we're smelling, all those experiences have an impact on the information that we're able to process.

So when the experience of trauma is happening, chemicals like adrenaline are rushing through a child or young person's body, and that affects the signals between the brain and the nervous system. So having a stress response after trauma might make it harder for individuals to process the information that they're receiving. Even remembering things, they're unable to concentrate and manage their feelings. And it may also take children and young people who have experienced trauma a longer time to calm down after having a stress response. So that's probably where we see the difference is the inability to regulate and calm and sit in a better space when they're sharing that trauma response, the longer term stress response.

Long term trauma can affect the children in lots of different ways. And they're not always obvious. So sometimes we have things called triggers, so things like sights and sounds, smells and movements, that actually remind children and young people of trauma, and that triggers the response yet again. So, even if the actual event happened a long time ago, that repeated trauma and reactions can already be embedded within the brain architecture. So, that means that the trauma in the children and the young people are more likely to experience that frequent stress response, even if there's no threat or danger, in that particular time. So those can be, as we said, wired into the brain and that can have repetitive responses to those triggers.

It's often difficult for others, such as educators, to understand what's happening to a child or young person when they don't know what the trigger is. And often, a child doesn't understand what made them react in such a way. So it's often an instinctual or an involuntary response. So we're seeing that flight or flight or freeze responses to, perhaps, from a third person perspective, that we're not understanding what the trigger was. So we're not realising that their behavioural response, or what we're seeing, is actually a trauma response. So, and it's often the case that it's not within the child's conscious, and they're unable to control it, and it's the same for adults.

So, in this space, adults can help children and young people to understand and manage their feelings if they work with them, over time, to try and understand what situations, what interactions, what stimulus seems to set these responses off. So, perhaps, thinking about what might be triggering these particular children or this particular individual. So, for example, a child might often get very distressed when alarms go off, and they start to feel a little bit cornered, and a little bit concerned, because they're not knowing where these alarms go off.

A good example of what's been happening with the bushfires is they... Children in early learning services may hear a passing fire truck and automatically have that trigger response that there's a bigger emergency happening. We don't know that these local firefighters perhaps could be responding to just a local event that's been happening. But automatically these children have that triggered response, if they've been part of the bushfire-affected communities. Also, with a pandemic that's been happening, being isolated within their homes, or having restrictions put into place, and hearing, I guess, sometimes in shopping centres they're having announcements, and not being able to understand what's happening in their bigger world, perhaps is could be a trigger to somebody.

So, understanding the possible impact trauma may have on children helps them to make sense of their behaviours and emotions. And it enables to make the links between previous events in their particular lives as well as promote positive mental health and wellbeing. So understanding that... what effects they could be and what behaviours they may display.

So some examples could be that that regression, difficulty in concentrating, sudden mood swings, outbursts of anger, some nightmares, perhaps, sleep problems, flashbacks, hyper vigilance, anxiety or panic, some depression and dissociative experiences, and, of course, problems communicating. So these are all things that could potentially alert us to the fact that there has been some trauma. In infants and toddlers, it also is really important to recognise that they can also be affected by trauma experiences.

Often, we think that they're too young to understand what's happening around them, but because they have... relating back to Bronfenbrenner's model, how they have the bigger...sorry, the bigger spheres around them of those supports, we often find that the adults, around those children, are providing the nonverbal cues that the infants and toddlers are actually engaging with. And, so it's often really important to understand that babies and toddlers do actually feel the effects of trauma. And often, it can be long term and we'll start to see some behaviours that may indicate signs of trauma, so things like avoidance of eye contact, loss of physical skills, so again, regression in development.

So, if you know that the baby is able to roll, or crawl, yet they stopped doing that, then that could be an indication of some trauma having been experienced. There could be a fear of going to sleep, especially if they're alone. So, a lot of community... Again, I go back to the example of the bushfire communities, if they've had to evacuate, a lot of families have been spending time sleeping together because of the need to perhaps evacuate in unreasonable times of the night. And therefore, having everyone together in the one space has become the norm, for a particular family. For a baby, going to sleep on their own creates that sense of fear and creates that sense of trauma. One of the signs is often we think about loss of appetite and that could be in general as well.

There's also a gaining in appetite that perhaps could be a response to trauma. So thinking about those things. I guess, having a think about the short term and long term effects is thinking about with an individual, knowing those individuals. So, the children that are coming into your community, into your learning setting, understanding those relationships that you have with them, it's when you are able to see a difference within that particular individual that these behaviours may become concerning.

So, again, those examples of: If you're going about your day and a fire truck happens to go past and the siren sounds, you may see some reactions from children who have been affected by some sort of critical incident that involves the firefighting department. The other thing to think about, at the moment, is there is actually another type of trauma that where is probably more relevant to what we're currently going through with a pandemic. And it's known as the collective trauma.

So this trauma occurs when there's an unexpected event which damages the ties that bind community members together. So, it's in the bigger sphere of the Bronfenbrenner model. So, it's easy to see how the bushfires and the pandemic might have had an effect on this as well. So not only are communities physically destroyed, but the social ties that bind them together are also damaged. And that's where our norms, our values, our rituals, they provide a basis for our connectedness within our social structure and our social cohesion.

So our pillars of community resilience have been knocked about, and they've been rocked. So that's where I go back to relationship being the key, and connection, because that provides a really good foundation to begin on the road of recovery when it becomes that collective trauma and whether you're thinking about short term or long term trauma effects for individuals. Now, when we're thinking about trauma, we've also got to think about the educators in these spaces who have also been experiencing these. So we will go through, a little bit later, to think about those.

So, even though that was a little bit heavy, and there's lots of information there, we now have an opportunity to reflect and focus on our learning, and, of course, to hopefully extend that by thinking about how we embed social and emotional learning strategies to support fostering agency and resilience on a daily basis. And I think this is where we go... we will reflect back to what Deb was saying about the importance of having those in our daily practices, to support every day rather than just when there's a critical incident.

Please feel free to share what you think about these reflective questions, in the chat box. And also consider taking these back to have wider, sorry, have bigger conversations with your wider team of educators. And it's also important to think about how we can contextualise these for your particular settings. So individualise them for your set of children, for your set of educators and for your local community. So thinking about, how is social and emotional learning embedded into our framework? Deb, have you got any examples that you might want to share?

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah, and I think it's... I'm trying to put together the information, you've just shared, with the earlier information. For me, really simple strategies that we often see happening in early learning services around supporting children to name their feelings. I think that's such an important step that we take and is one of the things that you don't just do it once - we're doing it on a daily basis - but really supporting young children to be able to recognise feelings and support them with naming them. That's such a strong protective factor.

Because if we're then moving into a situation where there might have been some trauma, that having those skills already is actually really going to then support them, if they're having some sort of response and they're not quite sure why, especially if it's a longer term impact. So like you said, it might be that they're hearing a siren in the background. There's no immediate risk to them but that siren is actually triggering a reaction for them. If they've already got some language that they can use to explain and identify their feelings that they've been, you know, that's been modelled and being shared on a regular basis, within the early learning service, then when that happens, even though they might not make the connection between the siren and the reaction they're having, they hopefully will have a language and a strong connection to an educator, in that space, to be able to express their feelings and get some support and some to assist them with regulation.

So, I think, that's a really simple strategy that we often seeing used in early learning services. That's a protective factor and also can support if there's actually been some short or long term trauma for our children, a family or a broader community.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And I think, again, just adding to those where we have a nonverbal community, so our children who...our babies, and our toddlers who can't always express and articulate exactly how they're feeling. But because we have those key relationships, we're understanding that perhaps those behaviours, that's what we're seeing, these are the responses that we're seeing, and often if we're being made aware, and we're documenting, and, I guess, we're thinking about when we're seeing these behaviours, we are starting to form a bigger picture of that particular child, and their characteristics, and what they're bringing to us. And that way, we will be able to implement some strategies to support them through that.

So having a look at, how can educators respond to and use everyday events and experiences to particularly intentionally teach social and emotional learning?

DEBBIE YATES:
Yeah, I guess this is... I'm trying to sort of think of... so there's the example that we just did around using language to help support understanding feelings. I think, from an everyday event, if we're looking at how children are connecting with each other, and connecting with their educators, that those experiences are also really important. So it's about looking at those different events on a daily basis. I think, transitions is also another one which can be really important in these early years. And looking at transition times throughout the day or transitions in and out of spaces, where we can really be considering what's happening for a child, and using those as moments to intentionally teach social emotional learning.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And how fantastic! That's a really great example because during these challenging times where we've had to, in early learning settings, change the routine of that transition between home and educational setting, that's where it's become a little bit disconnected, and it's had to change, and it looks different for many of the children and the families at drop off and pickup times. However, early learning services have been able to really think about that intentionally and still provide some form of key relationship point and intersection right there at those important times of the day and still maintain that connectedness which really supports all of those social and emotional learning, particularly for the child, but also that ripple effect onto the family and how the families feel supported as well.

DEBBIE YATES:
Just one of the things that's come up, in the chat box, too, is someone has mentioned that they actually have what's known what they call a 'trigger chart'. So they're spotting some triggers happening for a child and they record them at the time and the educators are filling in when, where and why.

So I think that's a really great example and if you can spot those triggers and recognise them, then that's when you're looking at responding to an everyday event and perhaps providing then opportunities to intentionally build in some supports for that child, whether it's around supporting them to actually acknowledge their feelings and some strategies to support them or it might be actually looking around the environment and removing the trigger, if possible, or considering how, as educators, we can support so that we're prepared if a trigger is about to happen and we can step in more quickly to support the child.

PAOLA MERCADO:
What a fabulous example. And, also, I think that provides a really solid step as well to discuss that with the families, a really good opportunity to support the families because families may not understand that that's what's actually happening. So, any outbursts of behaviours, they might not be understanding that there could be a trigger. So, is this perhaps happening in other settings, in their home setting? And it provides a really great segue into our next section! So, that's wonderful.

Signs and indicators: BETLS Tool

So thinking about our indicators, so these are what we're going to be looking at, in this next section, is thinking about what our indicators and signs are. So that's great, practical example of how you can start to chart these things and start to document things. But we'll also be looking at the BETLS Tool, which will help you document it as well and gather some information to support you to move further along with those. And we'll be able to think about how we're going to seek, and, I guess, access supports for particular individuals, and to know when that is a necessity because a lot of the time we are able to do that within our own learning community, and with the support of our team of educators, but there may become a point where it becomes a need to seek external support.

So, some of the things that are termed as indicators are particularly what you notice and what makes you feel that there is particularly something not quite right with that individual or that family. So you can start to have a look at those behaviours that are happening. So, what is it that they're changing in their behaviours? Is there a regression? So it could be something like toileting. If you know that before the pandemic occurred, that you had a child who was completely toilet trained, and they've regressed in that ability, perhaps thinking that that's probably an indicator.

Again, changes in appetite, and any other indicators that you can think of? I know, I mentioned them a little bit earlier, but...oh, sleep! Sleep is a big one. A change to sleep patterns. And there's one that always surprises me but it does... when I remember and I think about it, it often concerns me because it's often... One of the indicators could be that the children or the individual is perhaps showing that everything is OK, and that they're always smiling, and it's all good, let's just say. And that's often a concern because then they're not actually displaying what's been happening.

So, having to dig deep a little bit will be, I guess, a tricky time, and we don't wanna provide those triggers but understanding that that also can be an indicator of a trauma response - like a greater stress response. So it's really important to have a look at everything that's been happening, for that particular child in their environment. And I think that's where the risk and protective factors come into play really well because it's supporting all the children rather than just individual children that are experiencing trauma.

DEBBIE YATES:
And I think it's also about identifying, what's different for that child? So, if the child was always one of those children who was fairly happy and outgoing and smiley, then that continuing might not necessarily be an indicator. But if there was a child who perhaps was... had some previous issues around regulation, and all of a sudden started showing an unusual amount of happiness, or...that would then be something that you might go, “Oh, something maybe isn't quite right." So it's about...not all of those indicators are relevant for every child, yeah.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And they're not always a cause for concern. They can actually be part of their temperaments. So, again, that's where I reflect back on the risk and protective factors is understanding your individual children. And I will also mention educators, in this space as well, because as individuals, there may be trauma responses that you're unaware of and perhaps triggers that are happening for you. And thinking about those as an individual as to how you can support yourself or how you can gain support from your wider team to help you through that.

So, we'll move back to documenting and gathering this information. And one of the ways that we are able to observe and gather this information is by using the Be You BETLS Tool. So this is a template and it's a document to support you in documenting these concerns. And you can find it on the Be You website. It is a free resource that sits on our website, and obviously, we use it as an acronym. So, the acronym stands for 'Behaviours', 'Emotions', Thoughts', 'Learning' and 'Social relationships'. And the BETLS Tool provides you a mental health lens to actually observe children's behaviour and the types of risk and protective factors that may be present.

So, it also provides you the opportunity to gather information over a period of time. So, as we're saying, you may find things that may occur as a one-off, but if it's a continual concern, then this may provide you the opportunity to maintain all those occurrences documented and have a bigger picture. And again, many people on your team can actually provide... can fill out one of these, for a particular concern, or perhaps what one educator sees as a concern, another educator may have a different perspective. So providing you with the opportunity to have bigger conversations, using the documentation and using the tool. So we'll break down what each particular section is about.

So, behaviour, we're looking at, what is the child doing? So, what are the behaviours that you are actually observing? It's often that this is what we first see and this is what draws our attention to be concerned about a child and about the behaviours that we're seeing. So, writing those down. We're also thinking about emotions. So, a lot of the time this will be educator-led. So, what could the child be feeling? So, as children begin to develop their feelings, those feelings become a little bit more complex. Perhaps, we can think about understanding the types of feelings that the children may be experiencing at particular ages, and that can be helpful for some educators.

So, for example, some pre-school children may be feeling more complex emotions like shyness, some surprise, some guilt, some empathy. So, all of those are a little bit more complex emotions, rather than if they're younger perhaps they're just feeling happy or sad at a particular time. It's also important to understand that, at this point, if your child is able to articulate exactly what their feelings are - and that's the importance of really being able to implement social emotional learning, and one of the simple things of naming emotions - if the particular individual child is able to articulate what they're feeling, it's quite important to be able to document that.

So, asking the child for feedback as to what they could be feeling may not be the right time, in that particular moment, but there might be an opportunity to get the child's perspective included into this documentation. And that goes again with the next one. So, thoughts, so what could the child be thinking? So again, that's educator-led, when we're filling this out, but if you have the opportunity to include the child and have the child's voice heard, then that would be quite beneficial. Thinking about learning, so what learning areas are being affected?

So when you're seeing these behaviours, there's always an impact on the child's learning - whether that's a disengagement from their physical environment and the physical activity that they were involved in or perhaps they are no longer involved with their peers and so their social learning has had an impact - which leads us to the social relationships. What social areas are being affected? So, how are their interactions with others being affected?

So, whether that's a social interaction with their peers or whether it's a social interaction with the educators. And perhaps, at that particular time, they are no longer able to seek support and help for regulating their behaviours in that particular moment. So again, by using the BETLS Tool in our early learning services, we can use this to talk with parents, and again, build a picture over time of the factors that we need to perhaps think about and consider, and implementing some strategies to support these individuals... the children through this. So, this will provide you a little bit of a foundation to build resilience and coping skills, and also make the children aware of how they are able to implement their own personal strategies to manage any fear or any anxiety or any response that they may be having. And they will be able to recognise those, I guess, indicators that they can then seek support if they need to or perhaps they can implement those strategies themselves.

Again, the BETLS Tool provides the mental health lens to better understand the children's behaviour and the types of risk and protective factors that could be influencing the particular child's behaviour. And from an educator’s perspective, it also provides you the ability to see how that relates, supporting the team conversation, and it also provides you the opportunity to perhaps seek support from your wider team because there is a little section, in the BETLS Tool, which I really think is a fabulous little part. It comes from the educator's perspective. So, what are you, as the educator, feeling at that particular moment? Are there any strategies that you need to be aware of, that are triggering you, that you may need to implement those strategies at that particular time?

So, being able to talk to your leadership team around that or seek further support to perhaps allow you to better support the child, at that moment.

DEBBIE YATES:
And I think, like you said, it's such an important step to really consider ourselves. Cause, like we said, earlier on, children don't exist as an independent, it's all part of relationships in these spaces. So, considering how do we feel, when these incidences might be happening, can really support us to go, “Oh, OK, I'm having a reaction here as well, and how can I support mine?" But also considering having that conversation with a colleague cause they might not have a reaction in the same... in the exact same example. So, what's different? How can we support each other?

I guess, we also recognise that not everybody works in a space where they might have a colleague where they can have that conversation. So, for instance, if you're a family day-care educator, you're working independently in a space so you don't have a colleague where you can bounce those ideas off in real-time. So, sometimes the BETLS Tool can actually be used as a way to reflect for yourself.

So, you might actually complete the information, write everything down, put in your own reflections about what responses you might be having, and then come back to it, a week later. So, you can use yourself almost as a way of reflecting, and looking at it a week later kind of go, “Ah, maybe that was how I was feeling on that day that actually might have been impacting on some of those thoughts and observations I made. Looking at it from this week, I can see a different response from my end."

Or you might use it as a tool to actually have a conversation with a service coordinator or perhaps someone else within your broader organisation who can be a support for you and a sounding board, someone to connect with. But having it written down, and having it recorded, like we said, that's such an important strategy for the self, for your educator, but also if you're trying to have those conversations, or it's a decision to have a conversation with a family, at some point, having that as a reference point and using it as a way to say, “Are you seeing or experiencing any of things in your home setting?" It can be a really supportive tool to aid those conversations.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And I think that's the... the really important factor to think about considering gathering this information over a period of time.

I really like how you said reflecting back on it because often, as educators, we tend to forget ourselves. So thinking about what was influencing, what factors were influencing our behaviours and our coping mechanisms, on that particular day? Was it a particular stressful day? Was it a particular busy day? What other influencing factors are happening for us, at that particular moment? And what strategies we then need to move on, to implement for our own self care? So that's really great.

And again, as you were saying, we're moving onto how the BETLS Tool can actually provide you with the supporting documentation to have further conversations, if needed, either with your leadership team, either with yourself when you're reflecting, or perhaps when you gather the information and you think, "OK, this is getting a little bit more serious than what I thought, and the strategies that we've been able to implement have not had much effect. So perhaps it's a time to seek further external support."

So, when you are thinking about that, we need to look at how the BETLS Tool actually looks at it from four different perspectives. So, these four different perspectives uses... is what professionals use to actually consider that this is probably more of a serious concern and something that needs to be looked at. So, we're thinking about pervasiveness. That's one of the perspectives. So this refers to the number of settings in which a child is displaying these particular behaviours, emotions and thoughts.

So, if it's happening in your early learning community, and it's also happening at home, in different settings, it's also happening if - not right now, they're not probably visiting friends and family - but if that were the case, it's happening in different environments. So that's what they term as 'pervasiveness'. The persistence refers to how long the behaviours, thoughts and emotions have been present for. So, how long have you observed them? So, and this is where the BETLS Tool... you're able to document and gather this information over days, over weeks, over months, or is it something that's just started, and perhaps it's returned after a period of absence. So, all of these things become really important little pieces of information.

Also, they look at the frequency. So, how often are these behaviours, emotions and thoughts being observed? Are they happening rarely? Are they happening all the time? Are they happening at certain times of the year? So, perhaps after the Christmas break or after the holiday period. Are they only happening at the start of the year? So thinking of the frequency of how often these behaviours are observable. The severity, I guess, is another one. So, that's the fourth perspective and that refers to how severe or how intense these behaviours, emotions, thoughts are, and how much they are influencing the child's day to day experiences. So, this can also be understood in terms of, how a child is behaving in relation to other children of the same age? And when we say the same age, we're also talking about developmental stages because we know often that chronological age doesn't necessarily match to developmental ages and stages. So, thinking about those.

And that's where I always go back to relationships are key, and understanding the individuals that are in your setting cause you will start to notice things a little bit from a different perspective. And having that mental health lens put on everything that you do and using this tool provides you with that mental health lens to the behaviours that are actually being displayed, and what you're seeing, what you're experiencing. So, in essence, the more pervasive, frequent, persistent and severe a particular group of behaviours, emotions, and thoughts are, the greater impact on learning and social relationships are and the higher the level of concern. So this is where this will provide you the support to actually seek external and professional help, if needed. So again, another chunk of information.

So, we'll have the opportunity now to reflect and focus and hopefully extend our learning. If you'd like to share within the chat, please feel free. And we're gonna have a look at recognising the potential impact of critical incidents.

Applying this to current events

Now, when we're thinking of critical incidents, in this perspective we're thinking about perhaps what's been current for us at the moment. So, the bushfires and the pandemic but there may also be any critical incidents that you may have experienced within your learning community that you may want to apply these particular reflective questions to.

Again, these reflective questions you can take away and have a discussion with your wider team of educators, and I think it allows for that bigger conversation. So, for our first one, how can we use the risk and protective factors model to support building resilience among children, staff and families? And I think we've sort of had the underlying conversation, throughout the whole presentation, about how risk and protective factors is able to support the building of resilience.

DEBBIE YATES:
Absolutely. And I think, as we've been sort of unpacking some of those things, I guess, one thing that I would like to highlight a little bit further is that when we're looking at those risk and protective factors, really acknowledging that there's some that we obviously cannot influence. So, there are some situations that an individual child or family might be in that we're actually not able to influence at all. So, it's really about considering and recognising as an early learning setting, what things can we influence and what steps do we take then to be really intentional about them?

So, I guess, that's one thing to really highlight, and for some of those elements too, when we look at some of those protective factors are things like good physical health, things like that. So, what that looks like again is really different for each child and each family. For a child, who may have a disability, good physical health might mean really different things for them. So, supporting the risk and protective factors for that individual might look really different to another one, but it's still really important to consider it as we've shown that by being really intentional about it, it will build up resilience over time and provide them with those skills and strategies, when they have adverse situations which is part of life. We can't remove the adverse situations. What we're trying to do is support children to be able to meet them and recover from them as best they can.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, that's a really good point to highlight. And I think that's where we go back to the importance of always having the protective factors as being part of your intentional part of the day and having that mental health lens, because the more we increase the protective factors, we are able to then really bounce back from having that resilience when we are faced with that adversity.

And, of course, that goes for the children, the families and the educators, ourselves. So, what protective factors we're increasing for ourselves to be able to support us through in these times of adversity? So, thinking about that, what steps are being undertaken to understand how we could work in a trauma-informed way in our learning community?

So, the 'trauma-informed' is a terminology that we have basically been sort of covering. You don't need to particularly use that terminology within your learning community but it's just a way of understanding that this will support everybody within your learning community, not just individuals who may be identified as having been affected by short term trauma or long term trauma - especially now that collective trauma that we're all experiencing together.

DEBBIE YATES:
And I think, we sort of say, what steps are being undertaken? And again, it's recognising steps that you're already doing but perhaps considering how you can broaden and strengthen those within your early learning community. So, really simple things like when we're talking about what stresses or what triggers may be happening in your community, really using something like the BETLS Tool to unpack them can be a really valuable way to consider what's happening for a particular child and then considering if there has been a trauma incident for that child, or for that community, how that information might relate to that. So, I think, putting those different elements together, that we've talked about today, that really can support that trauma-informed practice within your early learning community.

Be You resources and future planning

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. So, moving on. Allowing you to have a look at some resources that have actually been developed by Be You. These do sit on our Be You website, and they are, again, downloadable for free. We have two different resource packs for educators. So we have the COVID-19 resource pack, as well as the bushfire response resource packs. And these have been specifically developed for educators and they're also checked for updates regularly and obviously the latest version will be dated as well. So they’re always checked that the links are relevant and still live. So please feel free to access these resources that sit on our website.

One thing to remember is that some of the resources that are listed within the resource packs may be relevant to other sections. So just knowing about the long term...sorry, the short term immediate responses, short term responses and long term responses, you may find some resources that sit in the immediate response page that will actually be relevant to either short term or long term planning, when you're thinking about recovery. So, at different stages, you might want to have a look at those. You also may need to consider what is around your local community.

So, thinking about again contextualising to your particular learning community. What links do you have? What support services do you have, within your neighbourhood, within your local context? They may be useful links for you to access some external support as well. One thing to think about is the effects of trauma. The immediate responses is probably what we were talking about. Some indicators earlier on around trauma, they could be the short term effects as well.

Perhaps, I'll use the example of a fire truck going by, but I'm thinking in the long term. So, our next bushfire season, which we think will probably come sooner, and we're thinking that perhaps there will be backburning done by the rural fire services, and seeing the plumes of smoke happening again will perhaps trigger...

DEBBIE YATES:
Even smells.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Even the smells, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

DEBBIE YATES:
So even if you can't see it but you can often smell it in the air.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, so even thinking long term effects, how are we going to plan for those? Have we thought of that? And perhaps we're going a little bit too soon at the moment for planning for those, but this is where these resource packs will absolutely support you in being able to consider things that you may need to plan for in the immediate, the short term, and the long term in recovery. So, feel free to have a look at those and, of course, the links are provided to you within the chat.

DEBBIE YATES:
And just one other thing to consider too is that sometimes we're doing this work straight after a critical incident. But if you haven't been affected by these incidents, that's wonderful, but we really encourage you to still look at the resources because it can help future planning. So, being able to, you know, get a list of local support services and consider who you might reach out to, if you were impacted, can be such a valuable thing to do while you're not stressed and not responding to an incident. And so looking through those resource packs can be really valuable to do at a time now so as a way of preparing in case you are impacted in a future incident.

PAOLA MERCADO:
That's a really great point, Deb, because you can also start building those relationships with your local community. So, if you haven't had those relationships before, those relationships can start to form now, as you said, when you're not in it, and then it will support you if or when the time comes that perhaps you will be needing their support at that particular time. So, let's have a look at how we are able to respond collaboratively. So, even if you've made the decision to seek out external support, it is obviously still very, very important to support the child in the meantime. And that's how the BETLS Tool, again, can assist your educators in developing those strategies, and, of course, implementing the risk and protective factors model can support you on a daily basis in your practice.

So, when we need to think about referring, we have to think about who we're going to refer to. So, is it going to be a GP? Is it going to be a service-based psychologist or counsellor? Is it going to be your leadership team? Perhaps, an early childhood advisor? Maybe it is a mental health professional that you need to seek support from. So, thinking about what resources are available in your area, how are you going to do this too? So, who is going to be part of that process in searching what those services are? Do you have someone who is able to do that or is it more about a conversation within your team to understand what's happening within your local community? So, having a directory will be able to support you. Things like inclusion support, if you're able to access that, that provides you with some services around you.

Again, I will highlight that it is very important to contextualise it to your own particular learning community, your own setting, your own service provision. And obviously, I go back to the Bronfenbrenner's model which is that bigger chronosystem that has an impact on what's happening for those individuals, what's happening for your learning community. And again, thinking about any cultural aspects that may need to be considered. So, is it culturally safe to be referring a particular individual, family, or child to a service that you're thinking, “OK, we think this is culturally safe to be able to refer them here"? Are there any language barriers for particular families? And what do we need to consider for our particular community, our particular individuals? - is really important as well.

DEBBIE YATES:
And obviously, the family is a part of those discussions all the way through.

PAOLA MERCADO:
All the way through and that's where the documentation of the BETLS Tool can support those conversations as well. You can have the joint conversation of "who we are going to refer to, or what our next steps are?" And that's really important when you're seeking to develop strategies to implement on your daily practices. So, during that meantime, what will be done? And whose responsibility it is to actually find a particular service, and who will action that as well, and how much time you will be giving to that?

So, another opportunity to think about responding and how we'll respond collaboratively, and this time we'll focus on doing that in a joint perspective. So, are educators able to adjust accordingly for children who may have been impacted by a critical incident? And that's the part that I sort of think the BETLS Tool is really important when we are considering the educator's perspective and how they are coping at that particular moment, what their support needs will be during this time as well. Is there anything else that jumps out for you?

DEBBIE YATES:
I think probably one of the things to recognise there is that sometimes, especially at the moment, that educators have also been through the critical incident. So, it might be about considering which educator, across a team, might be best to support a particular child. So, sometimes that can be a conversation that's had rather than assuming it might be the, you know, a particular educator who works in that room with that child. For whatever reason, there might be a good time to actually introduce a different educator or that child might already have some really strong connections with a different educator. So, considering which educator is best able to support children who might have been impacted, and also to consider have the educators also been impacted? And what are we doing as a service to support them, so they can best support the children?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, and that's a really good point, because one service, their story was about how they had a tag team system. So, because they were seeing a particular child who had such big behaviours, at certain times of the day, that it often became draining for everybody and for all the educators, within that team, to keep everybody safe. However, there was a tag team system and they worked on that for a little while and then realised that perhaps there was something else that they could implement. So, having all these discussions and documenting all of these allowed them to have those ongoing conversations, to implement strategies that were going to support, not only the child but the educators themselves who were experiencing these on a frequent basis.

So again, thinking about what mental health and wellbeing considerations might we need to consider for our learning community and again, this goes back to the six months, the 12 months, and into the future? So, thinking about there are immediate responses which a lot of the early learning services are perhaps currently in. For the bushfire-affected communities, perhaps you're now a few months down the track, but you have an added layer of COVID-19 that's happened and you haven't been able to access all the supports that you're requiring. And thinking about what will happen in future, so six months, 12 months, and further on?

So, those things like, again, the example that I used about the bushfires and any backburning that happens, that could perhaps trigger a response. Hearing the sirens perhaps would trigger a response. Little things like that.

DEBBIE YATES:
And I think this is where the flexibility of the Be You framework is really valuable because at this point in time, you might be looking at particular tools and resources or professional learning in the framework which is about responding, so about that element, but you might not actually have the time or the capacity as a team or a community to really explore some of those earlier elements we talked about around what does mental health mean to us?

You might be so busy responding that that's actually not something that is actually able to... you don't have the capacity to do that. So, that might be something you wanna factor in though in six months or 12 months. I think, one of the other things we often find around critical incidents is that anniversaries could be quite challenging for communities and for individuals. Again, different responses for different people. So, considering if there is an anniversary of a particular critical incident, coming up, how can we support and plan in advance to support the community around that?

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, great points. And often, as you say, as adults, and as educators, we are in that moment, we're responding, we often forget to think of what's going to happen for ourselves? And we still have that adrenalin that keeps us going every day because if we don't turn up to care for our children, who is going to? And that's exactly what we've seen especially with the pandemic that's been happening: A lot of services have not been able to close their doors to families and to children because care is needed. And therefore, what's been happening for those individual educators, and what their influencing factors are, what their own risk factors are happening for them, within their own context? So, a lot of educators, as we know, have families themselves.

So, thinking about what's happening for those educators too. Alright. So how do we communicate with and enable educators and families to access supports within and beyond their service to support their own mental health and wellbeing? This is one of my favourite ones, because again, that little bit in the BETLS Tool provides you the basis of beginning those conversations and allowing the space and the... I guess, the safe space, to have that conversation, to seek that support, and knowing that you can share that with your team members is a great sense of knowing that that support system exists for you.

Obviously, you're responsible for your own but then you also have other people who are able to support you through that. And some organisations have access to EAP services. So, knowing what those... how you can access those, and what is around for you, and knowing the support services that are in your local community, that's where that's gonna be really important as well.

DEBBIE YATES:
And those strong connections that we build with families and local communities are so important. And like we said, if we can do those as our ongoing efforts and intentions, then if we do need to respond to a critical incident, those connections are already there. We already know what services are in our community. So doing those as an ongoing basis is really important as a protective factor, if a critical incident happens within a community.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Definitely. Definitely. Well, that's great, because that takes us to our next section. But I'll just double check that we haven't had any additions to our chat box.

DEBBIE YATES:
There's been a lot going on in chat actually. One particular thing though, which takes us back a little bit, but I'd really like to just mention it in case other people didn't spot it in the chat, is one of the comments, in chat, was around when we're talking about our feelings, to use the language around... well, they use the language around, “I feel happy or sad” rather than "I am happy or sad". So it actually takes it away of being... it takes that step away, I guess, of saying, you know, “I'm an angry person”. It's like, I am feeling angry at this moment, but it doesn't identify that with you as being your nature. And I think that's actually really valuable.

It's only a small change in language but really valuable for children, but also really valuable for us as educators to utilise that language for ourselves rather than, you know, “I am frustrated”, it's, "I'm feeling frustrated" or modelling that language and recognising that for ourselves is actually a really valuable skill and a really great strategy that was shared...so.

PAOLA MERCADO:
I really, really like that. And I think, for me, what that reflects so well is that how that links back to the mental health continuum and how we can see that it fluctuates. And as we mentioned earlier, it could be on a spiral. It could be a curvy wave. It could potentially be that straight line, but we know that all those factors are influencing and it's moments in time that you will be sitting at different points of that continuum. So it's not just in big chunks and that's where you're going to be sitting. It does fluctuate. So that's great one. Thank you for sharing that! OK.

Stress and self-care

So now we're gonna move into stress and self care. So, obviously, we all know the sources of stress because we have been recently living it as well, through the pandemic. But what I would like to concentrate on is thinking about how stress is a reaction, and what triggers that reaction is going to be different for each individual. And again, I think it goes back to those influencing factors because sometimes I personally will find something quite stressful but at that moment, I don't see that it's particularly anything different that is increasing my amount of stress. It's simply because I have other influencing factors that are happening for me that really heightens my sense of stress, at that particular time. However, at other moments, I could be perfectly well-adjusted to be able to, I guess, manage that level of stress. So thinking about those is really important. And again, stress is an individual reaction to everybody.

When we were thinking about the BETLS Tool and dealing with some certain behaviours, what one educator may find stressful, another educator may not find so stressful. So, thinking about those as well. So, looking at how we can manage stress, self-care is obviously a really, really good way of managing that for ourselves. Some other strategies that you might find helping, that you might find to be able to manage those, is monitoring your stress. One of those things... The first step would be to recognising what your stress indicators really are. And that again will be individual to each particular person.

So, perhaps for me, again, I'll use myself as an example, lack of sleep increases my tendency to experience stress, during difficult times. I've recently noticed, due to the isolation that we've had to experience, I've also noticed that my lack of outdoor time becomes... it increases my level of stress which I didn't realise was an indicator before this period. And I think previously because I was coming to work, and I was able to have some outside time before starting work, and then some walking time either during the day or even on the travel home, I would see the outdoors. I would be in the outdoors. But now having to be at home for longer periods of time and not being intentional about having outdoor time has really made an impact on, I guess, how I manage my stress levels.

So I've had to be a little bit more intentional about how I practise my own self care. So that's really important. So thinking about being mindful and being self aware allows you to focus on how you're feeling at that particular time, how you act, and how you react to things. And of course, how that impact may have on your colleagues, and anybody around you, and anyone who's supporting you. So, having that supportive culture, I think, allows for that, perhaps, a conversation with your leadership team, and those strategies that may be implemented, perhaps a tag team, or perhaps needing an extra, extra tea break on a particular day, and you are able to seek that additional support and ask for support, when needed. So, it is quite important to be able to address your own self care and manage that and reach out for support, if and when needed.

DEBBIE YATES:
I think... And as we talked again, previously about how different settings have different requirements.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Yes.

DEBBIE YATES:
For family day-care educators, there sometimes isn't someone else they can tag team with or... you know, so having, spending time being really cognisant of your particular stresses or how you're feeling on a day and having some really clear strategies in place around self care is really important even more so, because you might not have that extra person who can support you in the moment. So, being really forward-thinking about that's really important.

PAOLA MERCADO:
I like that term, 'forward-thinking', because I think we understand that stress is a part of our life. It is a response. We will be experiencing stress at different times. So, having that forward-thinking and understanding what our triggers are and planning for perhaps a self-care management plan that can allow us to really manage our own feelings with stress. And it's great to manage your own stress, and... so it's really important to have those conversations as well and understand within yourself what you can be doing.

So of course, during the break some wonderful examples. If you're up early and you're ready to face the frost (LAUGHTER), go out for an early morning walk and watch the sun rise. Perhaps it is something a little bit more simple that you can do at home. Having a bath an uninterrupted bath, if there's no children interrupting and trying to get into the bathroom with you.

DEBBIE YATES:
You sound like you're speaking from experience there, Paola.

PAOLA MERCADO:
And that's why I don't have baths (LAUGHS) until they’re much older. OK. So, thinking about self care, we're looking at our professional resilience. So, moving on to that, we'll find that it's our individual capacity to thrive in situations of high demand and ongoing pressure. And we know that early learning services provide that high demand and pressure environment. So this allows you to be able to recover from significant challenges and obviously, difficulties, and setbacks, and then use these for learning, for personal growth in your own workplace. And often the choices that we make in responding to difficult situations, such as our own attitude and our willingness to take action, demonstrates this particular resilience.

So again, with the assistance of our workplaces, we can all play a role in supporting professional resilience of ourselves and our colleagues. So, this is how we can see where self-care fits in the, I guess, the bigger picture of professional resilience. And we can see there, on the screen, that there are four dimensions to professional resilience. We have the profession-related dimension, and that's the capacity to solve problems - the flexibility, adaptiveness, your organisation and your reflective practices as well. So again, being reflective and forward-thinking about your self-care management.

The next one is the emotional dimension. So that cares for your own well-being, managing your own emotions, coping with stress, whether it's positive and optimistic, and that this is where self-care really fits in. And our social dimension, which builds our support networks, and seeking help, and taking advice, and building those relationships.

And of course, our motivational dimension. So persisting, being improvement-focused, motivated, and confident. Thinking about your wellbeing at work, it is a balance. And it's about having your own sense of responsibility towards yourself and thinking about, perhaps, you may need to set some boundaries to cater for your self-care. And to understand that one of the professional boundaries is to know that it's not your job to fix others. You can support others, but it's not your job to fix others. And you are allowed to experience your own emotions and you have a sense of responsibility over your own well-being. But again, you also have a responsibility of others around you, but not the responsibility to fix them, to support them, yes, but not to fix them. Anything else you'd wanna add to that one, before we quickly move on?

DEBBIE YATES:
I guess, just again, reflecting back on using language to express our emotions can be a really good thing. But also, that element of self-care and community care. So, I think that's the other element too, that often we're talking about self care, it is about ourselves and it's important that we take ownership of that, but an element of community care and thinking about how we can look at the well-being of our larger community, because if we can build that capacity amongst all of us, then that helps the individual in the end as well.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely. And that brings me to a little activity where you can take a moment for your mental health and... and perhaps thinking about putting a plan into place. And this is probably something that you could do either on your own, or as an activity with your bigger team, is identifying what your triggers are and perhaps thinking about what you could be putting into place, and understanding that creating that good habit will allow you to manage your self-care and manage your stress levels a little bit easier. And perhaps even thinking about how it can be included into your policies and practices, within your early learning setting and your environments, and how it can be, I guess, prioritised perhaps as a conversation to start with, during these times.

And one of those methods you could use is probably using one of these action charts that sits on the Be You website, and having it... We call it our mental health and well-being map. And you can use this as an individual and start to map things that you can put into each of these little areas but also you can use this as a team. So, thinking about, what connections you have to the physical spaces that promote your sense of emotional well-being and your sense of self care? And this is the one, that I really liked, that includes the connection to land and to nature which for me recently has been highlighted as one of the things that becomes important. So, perhaps thinking about, how that's going to impact everyone around you, and perhaps the children and how they are able to have the opportunity to connect to nature and land as well.

Conclusion

So this brings us to finalising our presentation today. And as you can see, there's a list of social media platforms there that you can follow us, on the screen. Deb and I will be back with the same presentation on the 1 and 3 July. So, please be sure to share this information with your peers and your colleagues, and remind them to register themselves and attend. And a reminder that, sorry?

DEBBIE YATES:
I was just gonna say there were a couple of comments, during the chat, just asking about the slides being available. And my understanding is that the Department of Education will put the slides up on their website but at the end, once all four presentations are completed, so that will be early July. But they will also be sending out, as we said, the survey, after each session, which will include a list of all the resources from the sessions.

And really encourage you to complete that survey, so that we get the feedback from... you know, what you think about our session? So, we can improve and share, over time. And obviously there will also be a certificate of attendance for participating and joining with us today. They do take a little bit of time to come out and get done. So, if you can just be a bit patient about that, but that will be coming your way as well.

PAOLA MERCADO:
Absolutely, and all the links that were shared, during the chat, they will be available for download as well. So, at this point, we'd like to thank you for joining us. And we look forward to seeing you perhaps at another opportunity.

DEBBIE YATES:
Thanks so much for today.

Educator Wellbeing, Understanding Mental Health in Early Childhood and Effective Communication

Safer Communities offers practical and evidence-based training on mental health first aid and mental health education, with the goal of improving mental health literacy.

This webinar is separated into three sessions and will cover:

  • The importance of educator wellbeing, and practical tools for embedding positive staff wellbeing practices in early childhood education settings
  • A theoretical background of mental health in an early childhood setting, and tools for identifying mental health concerns
  • Identifying and managing anxiety in children, as well as evidence-based interventions
  • The importance of early intervention in improving a child’s quality of life
  • Tools for communicating with others effectively in order to support families and build respectful relationships

Educator Wellbeing

Educator Wellbeing

 

MARK SMITH:
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to our sessions on mental health and wellbeing, I'd like to start by acknowledging that we are broadcasting today from Gadigal land, Eora nation. I want to pay my respects to Elders in the past, present. I want to acknowledge the Elders of the future who are in out in your services and being, you know, educated and brought up through our early childhood centres and thank you for your work you're doing for those communities and all of our communities.

So, welcome to our sessions. I want to start by encouraging you to pick up that keyboard, grab that keyboard that's there, it's got a really good function, and we want to make these presentations as interactive as possible. And so I'll start by asking you inviting you to just let us know on that chat room where you're dialling in from today, where are you located, and that can give us a bit of a sense of where everyone's listening in from. We're here to do some webinars on mental health and wellbeing. And these webinars were developed as a result of sector consultation, identifying the need for professional learning related to the skills and practises associated with positive mental health for children, as well as additional resources for educator self-care and wellbeing.

You've put the call out for these programs and the department's done a great job of getting a few of us together to do some presentations. Don't forget to give us some feedback at the end of each of these sessions. There'll be an opportunity for you to do that, and that really helps us a lot. If you have any follow-up questions for the department, please contact them at the information inquiry line in 1-800-619-113 and you can send them an email as well.

Welcome, welcome to our sessions. I'm going to start by introducing us, my name's Mark Smith and I am from Safer Communities, I am Safer Communities. And so safe communities is a mental health education organisation, we primarily do mental health first aid but we also work in lots of schools and youth focused organisations, developing different types of resources and learning around mental health and wellbeing. And I am joined today by Alena Farrugia from Beyond Limits Learning Clinic.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yes. Hi. So, I'm the director of Beyond Limits Learning Clinic, and we're an education and training based service in New South Wales and scattered all over this gorgeous country, not at the moment, though, just in New South Wales. And I work with Safer Communities in a number of aspects but through this presentation I'm so, so, excited.

MARK SMITH:
That's great. Great to be working together on this. Alena and I often run workshops for new mental health first aid instructors and that's where we work work together primarily, but it's good to be here with the department of ed and developing and delivering these programs for you. So, we've done a little bit of work around three topics to bring to you today. And we're going to start with educator wellbeing. So, I'm going to start in the staff room and have a look at some considerations for yourself and your team around educated wellbeing, then we'll move into out onto the floor and take a look at the mental health in childhood and we're going to focus primarily on zero to eight but we'll go up to about the age of 12.

Alena has developed a really fantastic presentation on mental health in childhood for us. And then we'll finish off today with a session on communication, and that's really focused on interpersonal communication between staff and other community members in adults in the community, mainly our parents that would be. So, that's a little road map of where we're going today. We'll get to get into this now. It's important while we are delivering programs on mental health, we're going to, you know, some topics that can be distressing, they're gonna come up in our session, there'll be you know, some mention of some suicide data at different times, other topics around mental health and wellbeing.

It's just important when we're thinking about these sorts of presentations that we remind you to take care, take great care out there as we're bringing up these topics, it's hard for us sitting here in a studio, we can't see your reactions and responses. So, we need you to monitor that and if you're feeling a little distressed or any of the material brings up difficult emotions for you, please take some time out, make sure that you look after yourself in this session. You can always hit pause and come back and check it out later. Remember, these presentations will be available for a whole year ahead to go back and review as well. Check in with a colleague, a family member, consider those mental health professionals in your world and there's a few phone numbers for the helplines that you might consider as well.

So, look after yourself out there while we're going through this. These presentations have been developed, not only with the material that we're going to bring you in the next hour and the next few hours, but the presentations are actually a resource for you to take away, and you'll find that you can download those pdf copy of those presentations from your resource folder. And within those presentations are a lot of underlined links and those links are going to take you to video content, activities, resources that you can use later to perhaps share some of this knowledge with other colleagues in your workplace and take this learning a bit further, either as an individual for your own, your own sort of professional learning, or perhaps to develop some professional learning within your centre that hit some of these topics here. So, make great use of those presentations.

And as I said, you'll be able to re-watch them for up to the next 12 months and download some some pdf versions from the document folder and other resources we've put there for you. Alright. So, I want to just start by saying how amazing you all are to turn up to work in an education workplace is a big deal. It's not a gentle and easy career, and it's really good for us to start today on educator wellbeing and think about some of those stresses that might affect you, you are amazing. It's really important that you recognise some of the, we're going to talk about some of the typical stresses that might come up, and recognise like all workers in the world, we need to think about our wellbeing in the workplace, but I think in particular an education workplace important. How wonderful are our early childhood education?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
They're fantastic and it's there's not many professions or vocations rather that, that allow you to make every single moment matter so much, all those little things that you do, that so often are just kind of lost to the day can make such a tremendous impact on the life of an individual. I couldn't think of a more rewarding place to be.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely, you have a great impact across the community, families all and those individual young people that are coming into your service, and going home just a little bit further ahead each day.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Every single day.

MARK SMITH:
That's right. It's those little steps that we've got to celebrate and recognise sometimes to help to recharge our battery, batteries and help us connect in with what we're doing. A great quote I found in my research about today's sessions was around the kind of the generational impact that your work has. And so the quote was a very interesting one, it was a rhetorical question, when do you plan for the wellbeing of a newborn baby? And the answer to that question was 100 years before she's born. That's a bit of planning ahead, isn't it?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
You may need some supplies (INAUDIBLE) supplies for that one.

MARK SMITH:
But I love this quote because it really talks about, the really big impact that our development in early childhood has. And so if you can instil that great positive experience in a young person's development, it's between the ages, particularly those early years, you are having such a big impact right across their life, it's going to, life, it's going to impact the way that they parent.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yes.

MARK SMITH:
It's going to impact the way that their children have an experience. And so we can see that, sometimes we get caught up in some of that generational disadvantage that we know about. We want to remember that on the flip side we can have generational advantage. And so the work that you're doing is really helping that with our community. So, thank you so much. The work you're doing can sometimes, despite its critical nature, be a little underappreciated in the community, you know, I think certainly if we're watching media stories and things like that sometimes we can step away and think, you know, that maybe the work of an educator isn't as valued as it could be

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And the ground is shifting on that. We're seeing so much change. And if, that change can be hard to manage but that change is coming through, and the recognition is developing at a much faster rate than it previously did.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely. Yeah. I think that, you know, if we sort of think about the last couple of decades in early childhood education, there's been a real shift from the early childhood educator as the babysitter as the kind of the, you know, the nanny almost. You know, we think about those types of roles. And what we've seen shift there and really pushed by you, the people who work in the industry to really professionalise things and take on that learning and really get the whole community on board in terms of the value of a high quality learning experience.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It's now seen as an education setting.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely, yeah. And we're so glad to see that happen. But with that comes lots of change, as Alena mentioned, and change definitely can bring stress to the workplace and, you know, regardless of how positive that change is it's the journey getting there that can often bring up issues around our wellbeing we need to be mindful of. And of course some, you know, one one big context is COVID-19, obviously it's hard to kind of embark on this program without kind of giving it a mention I suppose.

And when we were first designing these programs, COVID-19 had not really, you know, it was not considered a global pandemic and we didn't realise that we'd be even in studio delivering to you, we had an expectation we'd be working with you in live conferences. So, wow, hasn't the world changed so much in just these few months? We're not going to focus too much, it'll get a little mentioned here and there, we're not doing a session on COVID-19 specifically, there are a plethora of fantastic resources out there that you can take a look at around that specific issue that help us out.

And I know that, you know, there's particular issues in the early childhood sector around COVID-19 and its impact, it's been a lot of, a lot of changes and a lot of uncertainty I suppose, is a good way of kind of thinking about it. So, while we're not going to specifically be giving you strategies on COVID-19, really these staff wellbeing communication and other considerations that we're going to talk about in these sessions are highly relevant.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Can be worked right in to your concerns about COVID.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely. Really important that you're following government and local authority guidelines around things going on with COVID, and that's just to look after all of us. Alright. So, there's three key messages in our first session, and that is the job of an educator is never finished, I want you to recognise this you know, and many of you will have recognised this in your careers and your workplaces that we work as learning environments, really don't have a start and a finish.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
No.

MARK SMITH:
Particularly in the early childhood sector where, you know, my background's been working in secondary schools where at least we've got a school term that starts and finishes, you're sort of moving through the whole school year, or sorry, through the whole year, in fact you can get busier during those school holiday times. There's never going to be a time where an educator can say yeah finished it, walk off the job and they've completely finished their tasks, and they can go, yeah, but there's nothing more I could have done. We're always going to see extra things that we can do and improve in our work and things like this.

So, this is a big factor in terms of educator wellbeing, we need to be much more disciplined in the way that we turn ourselves on and off from work. If I was a house builder, I would build my house and I'm finished and I can step away and sort of look at that final product and then move on to the next project. It's, children and education and these sorts of work that we do in an education setting are quite different to that to that experience. There's ways to manage the negative aspects of the role and really this is the meat in the sandwich of our conversation here, and we want to, you know, certainly leave you with a few ideas about what you might be able to do for yourself and what you might be able to do within your workplace.

And then we want to focus on, get you to try and focus on the things that you can change and influence. And then get good at identifying those things which you can't change or influence and which we need to just accept, there's definitely going to be some things. And when we focus our energy on things that are worrying us in our lives, that are out of our control or out of our influence, we can spend a lot of time kind of, you know, worrying about those things when at the end of the day sometimes we've just got to accept that stuff and then we can hopefully move forward. So, let's have a look. We're going to start with an activity.

It's really important that we get you kind of doing a few things, we know, we don't want to just have you passively sitting there watching us, we're going to get you to do a few activities. Now, what I want you to do is, have a bit of scrap paper, I should have mentioned that a little bit earlier but hopefully you've got a bit of paper at your desk or you can run off now and grab a pen and a paper, and all you need for this is a scrap of paper with two sides on it, and I'd like you to draw a mask on the front, and the mask is the way that you like to be perceived at work, we all wear this mask when we go into our workplaces, very healthy thing for us to do for our own wellbeing, we are a different character in our home life and in our community life, and then we have our working kind of personality and persona, nothing particularly wrong with that. But often the mask we wear at work is how we want other people to perceive us.

And sometimes sitting behind that mask can be some different feelings, some different emotions, some different thoughts that we might be having about ourselves. And so, this activity is going to help us to kind of explore this little, this little sort of dichotomy of how we are in the workplace. So, on the front of your sheet of paper, I'd like you to draw a picture, write a poem, do anything you like write some words, maybe just a brainstorm of the different things that are your mask at work, how do you like to be perceived? And then on the back side of that paper. I'd like you to then have a think about how do you really feel at work? What is it? What is sitting behind that mask? Notice some things that you're not feeling not so quite confident about or the like.

So, that's a little activity for you to do. And take, we'll give you about three or four minutes to do that. There's also a link and that link is going to come up to you in the chat room now and it'd be really, really lovely if you would click on that link at some point in the next few minutes and describe your mask for everybody. Now, this is a very anonymous activity. No one's going to know who entered the data into that information there. And in a couple of slides time, after we've watched a little video, we'll give you a link to that spreadsheet and you can go and have a look at it yourself at all of the different responses of people around what their mask looked like and what sits behind it.

And while you're doing that little activity, I'd like to introduce you to I Mom So Hard. Now, some of you might have heard of this little comedy duo...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
They're so good.

MARK SMITH:
Out of the United States. So, I must apologise for the Americanisms in this little video. But the theme is how parents appreciate early childhood educators and educators generally. So, we'll throw that video on and we'll see you in a few minutes and have a chat about those masks.

(MUSIC PLAYS)

WOMAN:
We're going to talk about the angels, our saviours, our heroes. We want to be friends with them and they don't want to be friends with us. We are talking about teachers.

WOMAN:

Oh my gosh. You don't appreciate teachers until you're a parent and you're like wait, somebody volunteers to do this.

WOMAN:

No, they go pay for four years of education to do that and then most of them go get their master's.

They're literally the most selfless people you can imagine because you know they're not doing it for the cash. Our teacher, she's the sweetest woman and she never raises her voice. She never raises her voice. And all that tells me is that...

WOMAN:

You can do it.

WOMAN:

My kids don't like me. But we all do the same thing. You know we all do the same thing. We get up every school day and we're like all I gotta do is make it to 8am and you're somebody else's problem.

WOMAN:

I feel like I drop him off in the hands of the teacher and I'm like I'm doing this because I know you're a better person than me.

WOMAN:

Because they're going to do a better job than me. They're more educated about parenting than us.

WOMAN:

You've got this?

(CROSS TALK)

Thank you.

WOMAN:

That's why I say have a tip jar, put 20 bucks in. I know how hard he is.

WOMAN:

They should get paid a lot more. They should get like a wine of the month club just issued to them.

WOMAN:

Yeah, free happy hour. I think teachers should get free housing. I think they should get a free week at the Riviera Maya, free haircuts, free massages, free ice cream, free therapy, and a free IUD. There should be a tip jar on their table or on their desk.

WOMAN:

I do know that you did tip a preschool teacher.

WOMAN:

I just tried to slide them a 20 spot rather than having to go to Target and buy a gift card.

WOMAN:

Are you trying to like just...

WOMAN:

I tried to pop.

WOMAN:

She's like even if this is totally legit, it feels filthy.

WOMAN:

I had a 20 and I sort of just handed it to her and I was like hey, you take this and spend it wherever you want. And she goes you have to get a gift card. If I have to tip the guy that makes my Frappuccino, why can't I tip the lady that encourages my son to wash his hands after he scratches his butt? God love his teacher because they've got 20 boys that are nobody's hands are should be trusted.

WOMAN:

Your kid's schoolteacher could so blackmail you.

WOMAN:

Yeah.

WOMAN:

They can be like have you ever heard of a Q-tip before?

(WOMAN LAUGHS)

WOMAN:

Think about our kindergarten teachers right now. There are like average 20 to 30 sometimes kids per class. Do you know how many cases of lice, hand foot mouth, flu, cold, disease, whatever, that just one of our kids brings in? She's probably got pinkeye 100% of the time.

WOMAN:

I would just wear like safety goggles. I'd have an eyewash station in my office whether I was a science teacher or not.

WOMAN:

You'd have to walk through one of those zoosh before, like a HAZMAT suit.

WOMAN:

CDC clearance level just to get into the classroom.

MARK SMITH:
Alright, and welcome back from that little video. I hope you had a little chuckle there and you know, if you weren't familiar with I Mom So Hard, you can go back and check out some more of their content on Facebook. They quite like wine o'clock those girls. And we'll talk about wine and self-care a little bit later. So, I think it's great that they, you know, they thought this idea of having a summer home in you know, in the Riviera Maya, that's in Mexico, and a great, great summer holiday place for Americans.

You know, I went to Scandinavia about ten years ago to learn more about education in Scandinavian countries. I went to Iceland, had a very wonderful time getting to know the education systems in that great country. And something that they do is the education department of Iceland have invested in summer homes for their teachers, talk about nirvana, you know, for education. So, the government has bought these summer houses in the countryside in Iceland and teachers are given these houses to spend retreat with their family for a summer.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Remember the feedback form, everyone.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah, yeah, that's right.

(CROSS TALK)

We can have a bit of that. And the tip jar, I reckon what a great idea. Maybe a few services might pop one in and see how you go. Alright, so, there's a link now to the Google form, the collected responses from the Mask at Work Activity. And we've actually run this activity now, at least we're doing our fourth rerun of this program. And so there's quite a bit of data on that spreadsheet there and thank you so much for people who entered some information there.

And if you go to that link and take a look, we can see some things that are very, very common. If you look around what the front of or what the mask looks like, people saying things like strong, happy, energised and motivated, a strong leader, confident and competent is the mask. What's sitting behind the mask? Is tired, overwhelmed, struggling, and insecure. Not always but these are the things coming up. Composed, calm and in control. What's behind? The impostor syndrome. That, that...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Every time.

MARK SMITH:
Something that can happen to us that you know, especially in leadership positions, this is a great, you know, a great risk where we might, you know, we work very hard, we're doing a great job. The people around us are noticing and recognising that yet, we focus in on the things that we've noticed go wrong. And we start to feel as though we are somehow not deserving those roles. And I just want to remind you that if you are feeling insecure at work, take a look at that document, at that link, and you will see that you are not alone. That the overwhelming majority of people are wearing a mask of confidence in the workplace.

And what sits behind it is these feelings of insecurity. So, we are in that together. We're all having that human experience together. A lovely activity, one that you might repeat in a staff meeting or the like. Alright, so it's important to remember that there's an elephant in the room here. And what it it's, this referring to is really about what got you into this game. Why did you become an educator? Why did you choose a career in a learning field? And you know, it's not an easy career. You know, a lot of my high school friends lament people talking about the school holidays and you know, so it's somehow, that's the enticement that...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
I'm yet to have one of those.

MARK SMITH:
No, that's right. I don't know many teachers who aren't spending that time away working really hard preparing for the next term and the like. We get into this game because we like to work with people and you know, like we said earlier, you know, all of you are recognising that great value in the work that you do. If you've lost that passion a little bit, if you've lost your way in terms of remembering what it is that you got into this game for, it's really important that you from time to time try and revisit that place. Because when we, the stress will happen. There is no way of having a stress-free early childhood education and care environment. That would be...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Oh, near impossible.

MARK SMITH:
Very, very impossible. So, the stress will happen. When we can reframe stress into an idea of challenge, where we feel passionate about the work, often, stress turns into this challenge. And I'll show you a little video. I'm not going to put the video on but I'm going to give you a link to a little YouTube video that really unpacks that idea later. And you can take a look at that in your own time. And so my question to you is if you're sort of feeling very stressed in the workplace, maybe it's a good idea to sort of go back and think about why you got into the game in the first place.

And remember that you are allowed to change careers. That you know, if you really got into a place where it's hard to kind of pick that and get that challenge back, stepping out for a moment and thinking about maybe a change of career or even just a change of workplace can really help with those sorts of reinvigorations.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, sometimes, just looking back or sitting back rather, and looking at all the avenues that are actually in front of you is all that you need to re-centre.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah, absolutely. It's a modern phenomenon, all the fluidity in our workplaces now. Alright, so what brings stress to the educator role? Well, I've listed some things on the slide that's in front of you there. Jump on those keyboards. Tell us some things that are bringing stress to your workplace. What do you feel are some of those ideas or some of those events or happenings that maybe you know, get a bit on top of us at times when we're, or for you, in your workplace. Just share a little bit of that out. Some common themes that might come up around vicarious trauma, this trauma that we experience when we notice distress in other people. You know, if we're good at empathy, and we've talked about empathy a couple of times in these sessions.

And so that can, vicarious trauma can come about when I sort of am good at empathy and when I'm good at connecting with the feelings of other people. And just generally, the early childhood environment, is sort of packed with lots of opportunities for us to experience vicarious trauma. Maybe watching the distress in a child or a baby, when a baby cries, we are hard wired to respond and have a stressed response to that. Now, you're working in an environment where you're quite exposed to that. That's a sort of daily thing. And you might think ah, yeah, I'm used to that. And I'm, it's the chipping away and frequency of those sorts of observations of other people in distress can really get on top of people and have an impact. What are we hearing from people?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
We've got quite a few coming through now. So, the first few that came up were about staff relationship, staff communication, and staff conflict. So, managing the adults in our world, not just the little ones.

MARK SMITH:
Yes, I've heard that theme come up with educators I've known over and over the years.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Assessment and rating visits. So, the evaluations that are beyond our control in a lot of settings. Lack of time, maintenance of skill, balancing of roles and requirements, managing adults.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, so it's coming up quite a lot.

MARK SMITH:
Alright, well, hang in there for the third session on communication. Hopefully, we'll give you a few tips that'll go there. Look, expectations are enormous. The community, the family, the expectations that we put on ourselves. It's quite...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Sometimes they're the heaviest.

MARK SMITH:
That's right, absolutely. So, those sorts of things are a stress. There's diversity in your staff room and there's diversity in your community. It doesn't matter where you're working, you know. There's going to be cultural diversity, different religious language groups, lots of people from different backgrounds coming together in learning environments. It's that place, school, and you know, we're getting to a place in Australia where early childhood education is much more universal.

So, you're seeing an increased diversity coming through those centres. Time, things that you will have mentioned. Now, you'll notice one of those is a different colour. And I want you to think alright, this is where I can focus my attention on educator wellbeing. How can I self-regulate? Because a lot of those other things are going to be tough to control. Some of them we can influence and some of them we can control. Very good, alright. So, moving on now. There's that video I mentioned just a moment ago. Kelly McGonigal discusses the benefits of stress.

And so it's a really quite an entertaining little 15-minute YouTube. This is a good one to, you know, if you're running a staff meeting or you'd like to explore this idea of how stress can be a positive thing when we view it as a challenge. And it's really about sort of reframing the way that we understand stress. And look, Kelly says it a hell of a lot better than I do. So, I'd encourage you to take a look at that at a later time. She does a great exploration and gives you some really good insights about some of the hormonal things that can happen around stress and challenge and particularly the hormone, oxytocin which plays a role there.

Alright, so I'm going to move forward through that. It's really important, I like this photo. When I saw this photo, it made me think about my career. It made me think about lots of moments, you know, working as an educator. And instead of taking the cautious approach, instead of slowing down when there's a hazard ahead, sometimes we're so busy and we think yup, I can do this.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
I can clear that.

MARK SMITH:
I can jump that cliff, yeah. Do you ever have a moment where you might just rush out something and really you know, instead of taking that advice that you'd probably give to other people to say no, slow down when there's a gap in the road, sometimes we just head straight for it. And really, you know, it's a great little metaphor for the way that educators can work at times. So, there's some little bubbles around that picture that talk about you know some of the stresses. And we're going to explore each of those bubbles as we go through the next sort of few slides here.

Mantras like continuous improvement, you know, come about through kind of, you know, a well-intended idea that we should be setting up the young people for life-long learning. Therefore, we model that as an educator. And that's all well and good. But these mantras, when we don't sort of acknowledge that we need to self-regulate, they can sometimes be a real blocker to us putting boundaries around our workplace.

And so we want to absolutely, you know, understand that our work is important and it gives us a lot of meaning in our lives. And, obviously, there's you know, the money and those sort of rewards as well. We also want to have a really healthy social life and a really healthy family life. And that brings really good outcomes for our wellbeing when we have those, all those things going together. So, let's have a look at this idea of sharing at work. That word collegiality is a terrific word to sort of unpack in the college of teachers, the college of educators are a group of people. We don't do education on our own. It really is not the sort of work that is easily done in a silo.

We're working with other people. It would be a very rare service out there where it's just a one educator show. And so, we want to work with other people. We need to share together. We need to find opportunities to assist each other in the work that we do in an education workplace. We want to always ask what is the benefit of a new task? When we do get, and we heard before people indicating that sometimes these administrative tasks that might come down from the system or within the workplace can sometimes bog us down and really get us caught up in tasks that maybe we step away from and think, Hmm, did that really help with the learning? Is that going to make a big difference to the education of the young people that are in the service?"

We've got to ask that question very carefully. It's really important that when we have a new task on the table, we think about what it is we're going to take off the table. Quite often, we'll be bringing in new programs, new processes responding to some of those system requirements, but we neglect to take something off the table and make it realistic. So, we end up just there at work another extra 10 minutes this week to manage that particular task, and then another one and another. Before we know it, we're there at 9:00 at night, and that's no good. That's no good at all in a regular working day type schedule. Really important to mentor each other.

And so, we want to have a mentor ourselves. We want to have someone who is giving us that help and support, who maybe has been in the game a bit longer, has got that breadth of experience. But we also want to have a mentee. We want to make sure that we're supporting someone who's coming in sort of new into the industry. And I know that there's an enormous amount of people go and become teachers or educators and step in, and then we have a big attrition early in career so mentoring can really help with this. We want to play to each other's strengths when we're sharing at work.

We really want to look for, what are the tasks that are my preference that might be different for a co-worker? And that way, we can divide those tasks around our strengths and all of a sudden, you know, I can feel a little a bit more positive about the day.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah. Things get done a lot more smoothly.

MARK SMITH:
Yep. Yep. There's going to be some tasks that no one enjoys and we're all going to have to do our little bit to kind of clean up the toys and do, especially in a COVID environment, maybe we got to just spend a lot more time and care in those jobs. We all have to share those around, but some of us might be enjoying particular tasks and we can share those with other people.

We all think about what's negotiable and what's not, and this is a really key aspect of what I talked about earlier with control influence and accept when we negotiate, we can work out what can be flexible and what's not. And some things are non-negotiable, those programming documents that sometimes quite frustrating.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
There's always that intake, isn't there?

MARK SMITH:
Yeah. I mean, no one races to work and looks forward to that admin tasks that you've got to do at work, but it is non-negotiable. We do need those records there, so we want to accept those and find efficient ways to do them. In many workplaces, find value from understanding team dynamics and you could look at ... There's a bunch of different schemas out there that help us understand, that Honey and Mumford learning styles is a link at the end of this presentation for you to sort of better understand how different individuals might have preferences within a team.

And that can be a good activity to do as a staff group. When you support another person unconditionally, Kelly McGonigal will tell you that there's a little bit of oxytocin gets released, and that is a feel good hormone. They call that the cuddle hormone. And so, it's really a hormone that is, we've evolved as social creatures. We are fundamentally monkeys and we live in these social groups. And so to make that happen, we have this lovely hormone that when we help another person out, it's got to be unconditional. You've got to not get anything back to get this positive hit, which is really a very interesting one. So, Kelly can tell you more about that. Taking care of your relationships is so critical to your wellbeing.

Again, it sort of keys into that idea of our kind of basic biology that we value relationships very much. They are very important in our lives and good for our wellbeing. You've got a family there that and for the majority of us, these are going to be the key relationships in our lives. It's so important that we look after those. A wise person once told me, if you're not taking roses home, someone else just might. And so I think that that idea is a really good one to kind of reflect on sometimes when we're very busy in the workplace.

We need to remember that those family relationships need our time and energy as well and finding, you know cooking someone's favourite meal or just a date night, these are really important, that time we spend with our children on the weekend at the soccer match and things like that are really important. Our friends, really, really important in our lives and COVID-19 certainly had an impact here where it's been harder to connect with friends. I've been to a few Zoom birthday parties lately.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
They're always interesting, aren't they?

MARK SMITH:
Oh, they are. They're quite different to a regular.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, just a lot of noise, or the connection lost.

MARK SMITH:
Sort of like the Brady Bunch, all those different people on the screen.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It is, except you can mute.

MARK SMITH:
Yes.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's a feature I'd like to take back when we move away from the digital world. That mute button would be great.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely, absolutely. Look our friendships are really important, so even during physical isolation, we want to remember that's not about social isolation, that we want to find ways to connect with our friends. And after all of this is over and as different parts of the country, we're seeing things loosen up and finding more opportunities to connect with people in our friendship groups. Our workmates are really important, those relationships. We've had that indicated earlier, that that can be a bit of a stressor in the workplace. We're going to talk about that in communication and that's all about building positive working relationships.

Alright. And then what a great little cartoon on this slide. I'm all caught up, said no teacher ever.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
So true.

MARK SMITH:
And this is really making that point. Now, there's a little poll going to come out for you and I want to know how often do you work at home? How many nights a week, or how many times after your work shift is over and you're back in your comfort of your home do you pick up a work task and kind of answer an email or put the finishing touches on a program or do something like that? Very interesting.

We'll have a look at that data in a moment. For me, I think it's just so important to actively transition out of work, and into the home life. And so, some of us might get that from a car drive. We move and transition from work to home, and a lot of people report that that commute between home and work can provide that opportunity for a transition. I often found early in my career, that I would find myself up at 9, 10:00 at night, still in my work clothes, psychologically, still in the workplace, all those hours after being at home.

So, something that I started to do a few years ago was just being very mindful about transitioning, when I got home, picking an activity. And for me, gardening is a really lovely self-care activity that I like to do, that can transition me from work to home. And, when I take that, sort of, stodgy tie off, and shirt, that I wear in a high school working learning environment, put my sweatshirt on, put a pair of track suit pants on, get out into the garden, and pull a few weeds, maybe grab the... I live in a rural environment, we've got chickens, and pick up the eggs. That, for me, is a really lovely transition. What do you do to transition from home to work? Maybe share some of those ideas on the chat, to share with other people. Did we get a response on that poll?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It's actually just frozen.

MARK SMITH:
There you go. The poll, we will get back to that for you in a moment.

(CROSS TALK)

Oh, that last point I want to make there. Turning off work-related notifications on your phone. Do you know, there is a setting on your phone, that you can go into, and you can turn notifications off? So, that little annoying red dot that is hard to ignore, that comes up, or alert that comes up on your phone, you can turn those off. And I think, this way of kind of managing technology, came to me a few years ago, and I just took those work emails off an alert on my phone so that I was not responding to them at different times. How'd we go?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
OK, we're back on.

MARK SMITH:
Alright.. Let's have a look at that poll.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
The majority of people are saying, "A few times a week."

MARK SMITH:
A few times a week.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yep.

MARK SMITH:
That's our biggest group?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And very closely every day.

MARK SMITH:
Every day?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Very closely.

MARK SMITH:
Those of you who are in that place, where it's every day, I'm going to be really hopeful that you're talking about weekdays, maybe on your days off, they aren't there, but I know there are some of you out there, it is actually every day. I want to set you this challenge. I want you to see whether you can just put that down for one day a week, try and have a week where - I've heard the phrase, wellness Wednesdays come up in when I asked lots of... we asked you what you do in your work places for self care and educator care. And so, maybe part of your wellness Wednesday could be to not do some homework in that midweek and see if you can just have one night where you're off it.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Start small.

MARK SMITH:
Yep. And then we could maybe move to two. Alright, self care needs to be deliberate. It's not going to just rain down on you, and happen automatically, unfortunately. Just like all of the routines that we put into our lives, we need to spend some time planning for this. It needs to be a deliberate act of self care. So, tell me and share with people in the chat room, what you do for self care? What do you do that helps you unwind from the day, and share some of those ideas. I'm going to share with you in a moment some things that I do. But, just like physical health needs to be a routine for us, we're not going to just get physically healthy by sitting on the couch and waiting for it to happen.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Wouldn't that be nice?

MARK SMITH:
That'd be lovely. A much better strategy. But, it's not going to work that way. We're gonna have to do it deliberately. So, planned wellbeing is so important. Remember psychologists tell us that if we... Behavioural psychologists say that if you repeat something around 45, 44 times, that can come a habit. And once something becomes a habit, it's much easier to get on and do those things. So, if you're struggling with putting into self care, into practise right at the moment, remember, just do it for about a month or so, and see whether after that time that habit starts to take, and that effort goes away from it. Any ideas coming there? What do people do for their wellbeing?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Music.

MARK SMITH:
Music is such a great one.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yoga. .

MARK SMITH:
Yoga. Yoga really features heavily

(CROSS TALK)

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Watching Catfish in the bath.

MARK SMITH:
Gorgeous. Oh, yes, I know that one! Where the cat comes to the side of the bath, and... Is that what... (LAUGHTER) Watching catfish, OK.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Watching Catfish in the bath. It's very sweet that you thought she meant a cat fish in the bath, though.

MARK SMITH:
I thought you meant the...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Oh, bless.

MARK SMITH:
You know when the cat puts their paw in the... anyway, I digress.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It'd be an odd bath experience. But, you know whatever floats your boat, that's fine.

MARK SMITH:
Very good.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That is meditation, walking, gardening, I know that's something that you love to do.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah, I know. I'm a gardener. I'm such a hack at it, but it's just so great.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It's alright.

MARK SMITH:
Yep.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Digging around the dirt, it's good to get back into nature. Look, walking the dog, eating a little bit of chocolate.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah, absolutely.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Have a little splurge every now and then.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely. A little bit of hot chocolate will not do you any harm.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
No. And, nor does moving to the country. Thank you very much, I thought that was just my guilty pleasure.

MARK SMITH:
I did that one a few years ago, got out of the city, and yes, it's a good thing. So, here's my little slide about Mark's theory of self care.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Do tell.

MARK SMITH:
And so, Mark's theory of self care is about really breaking down this idea of self care into two types. I want to think about self-care that I do every day. And for me, gardening, I've talked about that. And you'll see there a beautiful picture of something I'm particularly proud of, my thinking man who sits in the backyard. And he is a mosaic piece that took me probably a year of Sundays.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
What's it called?

MARK SMITH:
Thinker on The Stinker.' He's sitting on a toilet. (LAUGHTER)

ALENA FARRUGIA:
I love it.

MARK SMITH:
And so, a little bit of mosaic every day is something that I quite enjoy. My garden's actually littered with these mosaics, and they give me an enormous sense of wellbeing. And when I'm doing a mosaic, I forget about time. I lose track of time. I recently missed an appointment with my accountant while I was there, doing my mosaic, I just went right over that appointment, got the email, Where are you, Mark?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
You know you're late, when you get...

MARK SMITH:
And so, this idea is that I experienced a flow state while I was doing my mosaic project that day. And I just lost track of time. I was so engrossed and engaged in the task. So, when we're doing self care that we enjoy, that time flies. So, this is another way of thinking about it. When the time flies, I'm in that flow state, and that is such a good place for my emotional, and mental health, and wellbeing. Those experiences are really good. It's mindfulness because I'm focused on the task, I'm not thinking about the future, I'm not thinking about that account appointment that I have to...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Clearly.

MARK SMITH:
...go to. (LAUGHTER) I'm not thinking about the past, I'm just focused on that task there. I want to get a sense of achievement from the self care that I do, and so I definitely, looking at that photo that you're looking at there get an enormous sense of achievement when I see that. When I think about the terrible grades I got... in art class in high school myself. I look at thinking man, and think, yeah, you know, I can do this.

Now there's a third point I want to bring up here. And that is that our self care really shouldn't cause us harm. And so red wine, which I enjoy, time flies when I'm engaging in drinking red wine. Sometimes I get a sense of accomplishment when I've finished a bottle of red wine, but I can never ever say that that does not do me any harm. And so I'm a big advocate for drinking red wine, but I'm also, really want to take that activity out of my basket of self care activities. And I want to really understand that that social activity that we do together, that, you know, for all of the reasons that we might enjoy something like alcohol, it can't be our self care because it does do us a little bit of harm.

And so I want you to think about those three ideas that you enjoy it, you get a sense of accomplishment. It doesn't do you any harm. Well, then we've got so many different things that we can choose from, and you've shared some things together that you can perhaps pick up on there. Alright, I was gonna, we'll do this quick activity. I'm gonna give you just 30 seconds to do this. The first thing that I want you to do is I want you to grab a scrap of paper, and I want you to do a brainstorm for 30 seconds. And for those 30 seconds, I want you to answer this first question. What are the challenges in my workplace? And off you go 30 seconds, just writing down on your scrap of paper, as many different things that come into your mind.

It'd be tricky sitting here with the camera and being quiet, but we want to...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Want to give you some time.

MARK SMITH:
Yeah. We want to give you that time and write down as many different things as you can think of. Just another 10 seconds on that question.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
You're feeling a little stuck? Perhaps take a scroll through the chat.

MARK SMITH:
Yep, absolutely. Alright. So you've spent 30 seconds and you've got a list in front of you now of some things that are challenges in your workplace. I want you to draw a line under that list. And now I want you to spend 30 seconds brainstorming this one out. What's working well in your workplace? Let's just give you 30 seconds to go through that one.

Hopefully all of you are able to identify a few things that are going well in your workplace.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
So often we focus on the negatives when there are so many positives, we need someone just to make us, you know, shift our attention.

MARK SMITH:
Absolutely. Just 10 more seconds on that one. Very good. Alright. So now you should have two lists. Now, one of those lists is gonna be probably longer than the other, and this is just, I suppose, a little poll going out there, was it easier to respond to question one, or did you respond more easily to question two? For those of you who maybe really found question one very easy and question two a little more difficult, remember, as Alena has just sort of mentioned here, there is always gonna be positive and negative in our workplace.

And if we can get into the habit of looking for those positive things and not focusing quite so much on the negative stuff, we can get this feeling of enormous wellbeing from things like gratitude training and the like. I'm not a religious person, but whenever I visit my friends who do the practise of grace at dinner, I find that to be such a beautiful activity of gratitude, and looking for those things that are going well in your world. It's a bit of cognitive reframing there to just sort of think what, if you are focusing a lot on that negative stuff. Just take a look at what you wrote for question two and see where maybe you can expand that out a bit.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
We're seeing consistently as the both polls move up, that it's more than half are saying that the first point was easier.

MARK SMITH:
Yep. And look, I don't want you to be unrealistically naively positive about negative stuff going on, but just be, remember that we want to balance that negativity and positivity out. And look, if you'd like to share a few of those positive things, a few of your responses to question two, that might be a nice thing to share in the public chat there. With your responses to question one, I want you to think that there are going to be negative aspects to the job.

There are gonna be things that are difficult and things that are really, you know, joyous and fantastic. I don't need to go over some of those things that we talked about before, but finding a positive way forward when things don't go our way is a really healthy way to build resilience and reduce frustration in our world. And I want to just make, remind you that whenever you feel that frustration, because someone shoulda done something, ever get that sort of that person shoulda done that? They didn't pick up the toys and they shoulda, when we get this, when we say that in our mind, that shoulda sort of frustration that comes up.

Remember, it's really good to maybe pull yourself back and remember that you can control yourself, but you can't control other people. And when we get frustrated by those shouldas, often that can be really troubling and can eat up our time. It can damage our relationships with other people. Much better, rather than focusing on what someone shoulda done, maybe I want to connect with that person and have a conversation with them and then move forward and understand that I'm never gonna control. I might influence if I have a good relationship and communication, our session on communication, the last one today, I'll talk about this idea of how we can influence other people through good communication.

Alright, so I want you to take a look now at your list of things in your question one list, those things that aren't going so well in your workplace. And I want you to do a little activity here where you decide for each of those things, is it a control? Do you have control over this aspect of your working life? Can you change it all on your own? Now, if you can do that, think about what is it you're gonna change? What are you gonna, you know, make a difference there? Now there's very few things that are gonna sit in that control, 100% control. Even when you're the manager, the owner of the service, even then you start, I think, you know, in those leadership positions, you recognise even more that you can't control everything.

Most things hopefully sit in this influence basket where we can have an influence on it. So if something's sitting there or in the control area, what is your action? What can you do to control or influence this to maybe make it better? Some things that are gonna be on your list of the frustrations in the workplace are accepts. They are things that you cannot control and you cannot influence. And when you identify and label something as an accept, just this idea of being able to acknowledge the acceptance of that and not dwell on the frustration that comes about because of it is a really, really healthy way forward. I've put a little scaffold there for you to take a look at. You know, I put down a couple of typical ones, programming documents and cleaning and tidying, and just had a little go at, thinking about if a, you know, if I'm working in an early childhood environment, how could I perhaps reframe some of those ideas?

And there's gonna be a link to that document there somewhere in your resources. Alright, we're getting down to the last five minutes. And so I'm not gonna have time to do this activity with you, but I would like to remind you that it's here in the resource and something you can go back to, this is one called the healthy mind platter, and it really breaks down the different types of activities, the topics we could think about when we're doing self care and looking after, doing activities that might help us with a healthy mind. And there's an opportunity to share your ideas on some of the links there. And again, people can go back and take a look.

There's quite a nice little library of different things that people do in those seven different focus areas for the healthy mind platter. That comes from Dan Siegel and David Rock, and you'll find a link to their article there. There's another one that's very similar and that's about the different areas of wellbeing. And then, so I won't dwell there. I'll just leave you to study that on your own later. And there's a little wellbeing plan that I've put up there as a scaffold for you that you can go and download and look these could be very helpful for yourself as an individual or across your workplace.

Take a look at this. This is a really great little presentation on visualisation and how that works. And there's some links to some research there. And again, we're just looking at that idea of how you might perceive some different things. So I wanted to get to this slide and I sort of want to finish up on this one. This is when we, when you registered in the program today, you answered, many of you answered a question about what you do in your workplaces to assist with staff well more educator wellbeing in those workplaces. And quite a diversity of different ideas comes from the, from all the different participants that have registered.

And it's very interesting, and probably not a surprise that in the middle there, we've got the staff morning tea. The staff morning tea was definitely the one that most people were sort of responding. That's where we do our staff wellbeing and closely followed by lunches or dinners. And so very interesting that these things are coming up. I think when food is the focus, it connects us all together. Some of the smaller words though, are important to study on this word. All this, this is a word I've created from your responses. And so, you know, I want you to think about things like shared workload, which didn't get a big mention, but I've talked about that earlier. And I think it's definitely a focus we want to put in there.

Time in lieu, it's in teeny tiny letters. I think it's the smallest one on the list, which won't surprise any educator out there. So important that we think about, you know, all those extra hours we're putting in and as a service, can we find some ways to pay people back for some of those hours? And we're never gonna equalise that. We're never gonna, you know, if I do five hours of work in the evening, you know, I'm never gonna find a way of getting five hours off during the day.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Could you imagine?

MARK SMITH:
But maybe half an hour, maybe there's small amounts of time that we could find in the week to give people a little bit of time in lieu would be really lovely. When I studied all of your different responses and kind of put them out all together, I came up with this slide, which has five categories of the types of educator wellbeing, the responses that were, things that came from your workplaces. So social occasions were big. You know, connecting together and we're building those relationships at work and we're overcoming some of those diversity issues that come up in getting to know each other, but in those social occasions.

Good to find ways to not make them part of work to kind of almost, I know a school I worked in once we had, and again, I know you don't work to school terms in a lot of your services the way we do in high schools, our last week of every school term was called a meeting free week. All of the meetings that we did through the term, really important meetings, that week, they were banned. And the principal of that high school just said term, last week of term, meeting free week. You're not allowed to call any meetings. What a lovely way!

So everyone was setting their meetings down at the, you know, down at the cafe or somewhere like that. Then there's the mental wellbeing activities and physical wellbeing activities. Yoga featured really highly on this list. And we can see that sits sort of in both of those mental and physical wellbeings. But remember not everyone's into yoga. And so some of the nice ones were like rock climbing and bootcamp and lots of different sorts of ideas coming out there. Professional learning is a really important element of what people view as a great thing for their wellbeing and learning and wellbeing in an education workplace.

And then management practices really featured. And so we want to sort of think about in your services, if you were to look at those five, if you're sort of planning for what we could do for educator wellbeing in the service, maybe think about those five categories. Are you touching those five bases? Do you have something in those five areas that is going good for educator wellbeing? Now, what I've done, there's some more feedback from, I love that sunshine trolley. There's a photo that will come up there for your slide. And that's some, that came back from a participant in a previous course that I did showing, you know, this is a high achiever in the wellbeing space. You'd need to keep that one out of reach...

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That is for the adults. For the adults only.

MARK SMITH:
And I liked it. Behind there, there's a TV set to show YouTube videos for people during their breaks. So I took that idea and into the presentation I've put in, and I'm just gonna slowly, there's a nice breathing activity, you might take a look at that one later. There's a bunch of apps for wellbeing, and there's some research there about those. And then a bunch of video presentations on the topic of wellbeing. Now, again, you could do, you could sit and watch these on your own and, you know, while you're enjoying a long bath or another relaxing activity, or you could put these on at the start of a staff meeting.

They're all TED talks, very accessible, nice sort of 10 to 15 minute TED talks that talk about wellbeing in a workplace context, but also for us as individuals. And so they're really lovely little presentations there, and I'll just very slowly kind of scroll through some of those. And there's a link to each of those in the presentation that you can download from the resource folder. And that's sort of bringing me to an end. There's a little Facebook group that you can join. And that's one I've set up for Safer Communities, participants in training that I've run.

And then just a place to share ideas between each other about, so about mental health and wellbeing issues for teachers and youth workers. And there's some resources. And there we are. That brings me to the end of education wellbeing. We're only one minute over time, that's pretty good for me.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's very good.

MARK SMITH:
I need to be watched, otherwise I'll just keep talking all day.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It's the only reason I'm here guys. (LAUGHTER)

MARK SMITH:
You're gonna hear a lot more from Alena in about 15 minutes and we'll join you back then.



Understanding Mental Health in Early Childhood

Understanding Mental Health in Early Childhood

 

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Welcome back from your break. Hopefully you've had a nice cup of tea or a cup of coffee, had a chance to go to the washing on, whatever it is that you're doing.

MARK:
A bit of downtime for your wellbeing.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's right. And now you're back. Let's hope that's what's happened. You haven't just been running around crazy trying to get everything done.

MARK:
I get three reports done in that 15 minutes.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, exactly. But now that you are back with us that you can be centred, and really present for this presentation. So, Mark introduced me at the beginning. So my name is Alena Farrugia, and I will be taking you through this presentation. So understanding mental health in early childhood. Now, before I jump into it, I really just want to say, thank you.

Like, I'm a mum of three. I did a crazy drop off this morning, including preschool. And I'm always in awe of how organised and on top of everything everybody is and the positivity in the morning when we know that it's just an overwhelming time. So before I get into my presentation, thank you so much for what you do every single day. OK. And now because you are looking after my children, I can help you look after yours.

(LAUGHTER)

So let's get stuck in. Now within this presentation, we will be looking at children up to the age of 12, but in general, we're really going to focus on the age of zero to eight years. We'll be looking at three particular topics. So we'll be looking at social and emotional health. We'll be looking at managing anxiety for this age group. And also towards the end, we'll be looking at the importance of early intervention. And in that section, we'll also touch on why early intervention is key for further development.

Now, towards the end of the presentation also, I will walk you through some activities or exercises that you can take back to your team and use to further cement your learning. Now, Mark and I have balanced out our presentations quite nicely. I think where you are quite interactive with Matt in terms of the... I know. I clearly didn't have my coffee in the break.

MARK:
Who is Matt? That's what I want to know.

(LAUGHTER)

ALENA FARRUGIA:
There's interaction with poles and so on. With mine, mine is going to be quite content focus. There's quite a lot that I want to show you. It does not mean that you can stick the washing on, it actually just means that if you dismiss yourself from the presentation where it's not necessary, you will miss quite a chunk of content. So if you need a break, by all means take a break. But just know that the chat room is there, but I will not be referring to it extensively. OK? So you can really just settle in, get comfy on the lounge, wherever you are, and start to take the content on.

So, let's jump in. OK. So we need to create an understanding of social and emotional health in children aged between the zero to eight years. Now, we'll be looking at brain development and what that means in terms of cognitive abilities, behaviour and key skills and so on. So we'll be really talking about how to spot any gaps in social and emotional development. Being able to spot gaps in, or delays rather in children's development is quite important particularly in the roles that we have, merely because it is an opportunity for us to implement or refer on to some early intervention strategies.

We're never talking in this section about you going ahead and diagnosing a child with anything in particular. This is about saying, well, I understand that the vast majority of children should be at this point by this age, I'm noticing these things aren't happening for this particular child, how can I help them from within my role? So this is not about adding something onto your role, is about giving you extra support in the role you already have.

MARK:
We're all curious, Alena, how you got your daughter to sit so still in that photo.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
If I could get my daughter to sit still, I wouldn't have dropped her off so quickly with her carers this morning.

(LAUGHTER)

But she's so cute. Given the chance, I will take a photo of her dressed that way. I'm sure we'll eat the cucumber. OK. So look, scientists used to think that babies learned emotion through interacting with their parents or caregivers. But new research actually shows that babies do feel a few different emotions at birth and namely they would be disgust, distress, anger, or sorry, happiness and interest. And these are expressed through their body of movements, their facial expression, as well as some vocalisations.

Now the two major milestones in a baby's development are the first social smile and the first laugh, which are both unbelievably adorable and very exciting for an adult that's watching on. They're really, really cute. A social smile will tend to happen between the age of two to three months while the laughter is a little later, that's about four months. So we don't, a lot of parents feel like they have to happen together or carers who feel like they have to happen together, but there can actually be, you know, a good two month gap between those two milestones. And that's, you know, completely fine.

MARK:
Often, sometimes it might be a bit of wind to start with.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Mark's not speaking from personal experience. But sometimes, you know, that does happen.

(LAUGHTER)

From the age of about two months to six months, babies also go through a period where they're able to express new emotions and that would include then the anger, fear, sadness and surprise. So, that's a little later on. Stranger and separation anxiety are additional major milestones in that first year of a child's life. Now, stranger anxiety begins around that six to eight month period. And it will peak typically between 12 and 15 months.

And it really just happens because that baby is beginning to recognise that their relationship with their carer is special and it's different to all the other relationships that they have with other people. And because of that unique relationship, it makes them fearful or distressed if they're faced with an unfamiliar person to them. So they're really starting to hone in on the uniqueness of each relationship that they're building. Now, the separation anxiety happens around the same period of six to eight months.

This is really due to the development of that child's understanding of object permanence. Which means that objects and people, we exist even when we're out of sight. So that new understanding makes that baby anxious because they're now not sure for how long we will be away. So the entire spectrum of behaviour and emotion that comes after that realisation is coming from that pure fact that we understand that the object is now in existence, even out of sight.

The period between nine to 12 months is amazing because we have this explosion of social and emotional development. Now, between the ages of nine to 12 months, babies will hit the following social and emotional milestones. So they're going to be able to begin to gauge their parents' feelings about particular behaviours. They want to make their parents or their caregivers laugh and smile. And so they'll repeat the sounds and movements that then leads to that laughter. And it's that gorgeous to and fro of baby laughs, we laugh and get out the camera. The like that we're laughing, so they repeat the laughter, we laugh even more because they're, oh, they're laughing.

And you sometimes you're sitting back going, I'm not sure who's more entertained here, you know? The 30-year-old or the, you know, six months old. So, a nine month old rather. So we're really able to enjoy that particular milestone. We'll also see them seek comfort when they're distressed. They'll show distress when being corrected, they'll display affection with hugging and kissing and smiling. Although it might be a bit of a slobber and a hair pulling and grasping at that person, they're all wonderful signs of affection. They'll begin to show empathy when others are upset. And I think it's wonderful that it starts at such an early age. And they will begin to gain new fears and insecurities. Now, before I flick over to the next slide, we're gonna to take a very quick poll.

So hopefully you're in front of your laptop. I just want to know, can babies recognise the emotions of others? We know that they start to recognise them in themselves, but in others. And if they do, when do you think that that begins to take place? So Mark, when they start coming through, just shout them out. Now, in terms of being corrected while we're just waiting, I'll let you know, well, obviously not, we're not needing to discipline a, you know, nine to 12 month old, but when we're redirecting that child, that's where we might start to see a little bit of distress happening. And that distress just might be the reluctance to leave a room. It may be that that child throws something or lets go of it, you know, off the top of the feeding table and those little things there, that would be the sign of distress. Is there anything coming through?

MARK:
There certainly is. And we haven't managed to fool anyone with your clever question there. No, all of our, thankfully, all of our early childhood educators are aware that babies can recognise the emotions of others. It's that time frame that's, you know, we're not quite sure about and really quite even responses across the three options there, four, six or eight? Is it four, six or eight?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Well, I'm glad I waited to click over because it's around the four month bracket. So, yes they can, but it's really early on. They'll begin to recognise emotions through our facial expressions in particular. Now, as early as 1986, researchers found that four month old babies were very distressed by what researchers termed a maternal still face, which is really just a blank, emotionless expression, particularly on their mother's face. So having no expression for them to read, it's quite unsettling.

Now, a more recent study in 2018 at the University of Geneva found that babies can make that connection between the voice expressing happiness or anger and the emotion on the face. So right from that very early age, we are starting to build a understanding of congruence between the tone and the way I speak, the words I'm actually saying and the behaviours behind that. So that's really important. Look, further to that, babies as young as six months can be really adversely affected by hearing or observing anger during parental conflict.

So it will increase the heart rate. It will send their stress hormone shooting up and it really can disrupt early brain development. There is really no need to think, I'll rephrase that. It's never too early to be mindful of the way that we're speaking in front of a baby, a young, young child, even though they may not understand the words that we're using, we do know that that child is able to recognise the emotions and we need to be mindful of that.

Babies who are actually treated in a directive parenting style where there's that higher frequency of anger based interaction from the parent to the baby, they do show limited and restricted behaviours in activity, in expression and play. And that can happen as early as six months. So we do see the fallout of those constant interactions. If we were to jump across to our toddlers, and so we're looking at that 12 to 18 month bracket, they become so much more self aware. They want to do things independently without our help. And that's delightful when you're in a rush and you just need them in or out of the car...

MARK:
I'm going to dress myself today.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
In the end you're just like fine, tutu, gumboots. You look fantastic. Let's go. How many times in your life could you pop out to Woolies dressed like that? You might as well embrace it. Yeah. So becoming more self aware means that we'll see toddlers become embarrassed if people are watching them. So they might be having a little boogie in the mirror, as soon as they notice that you've got the camera out, it stops. And although it's irritating to you because you want to, you might want to grab that photo of your child or you want to take a photo so you can upload for mum and dad on your shared platform, you seem to keep missing it.

But that's actually what they're meant to be doing. Their willpower is increasing. And that can lead to the tantrums and the frustration that we see if they don't get their way. They will also begin to experience jealousy and envy more strongly. And it really can be as simple as, oh, you've got that toy, I've decided I now want that toy. And that's where we see most of our jealousy and envy in terms of their social interaction take place. They will also then begin to develop the capacity for guilt. So if I have taken that toy, I am now aware on some level that I should not have taken that toy. So when my friend maybe starts to cry, I will notice that toy very quickly we sort of let go of, or throwing back across at that child that I've taken it from. What we're saying there is the interaction of those two final points.

MARK:
Very interesting when that toy loses interest when the other party loses interest.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's right, an interesting fact.

MARK:
Very interesting.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Now, from 18 to 24 months, so we're stepping up a little bit there. We'll see those continued mood swings and tantrums take place. And the size and the volume of those tantrums will increase because their size has. And in that we might also start to see those aggressive behaviours taking place and things like biting and hitting. These are not things that are uncommon. Yep. So what we're seeing is quite a significant build-up of emotion in a tiny little body that doesn't have the capacity yet to regulate that.

Saying no a lot is actually more about them asserting their independence, rather than them not wanting what you've offered. They prefer not to share, but they sometimes will. They'll continue to develop new fears. And as a follow on, they might now take to a security blanket or toy that they carry around. So you might have that special blanket or that really floppy, cute, once soft and clean, bunny rabbit, you know, that looks like it's been through the ringer a few times. It's always good to buy two of those just in case one, you know, disappears somewhere. But those two final points often will play hand in hand. So, you were gonna say something?

MARK:
Well, I was gonna ask, you know, we're talking about these developmental kind of markers and milestones. Are all of our, all of the children and toddlers, babies and toddlers, are gonna be going through this at the same time?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Oh, no, not necessarily. So we know that the guidelines that I'm giving you, these are the typical brackets of development. Sometimes we might be a little ahead or a little behind in those brackets, but we're often maybe looking at one of those aspects. If we were looking at multiple aspects and there's a chance that we need some extra support, but generally speaking, that's where, remember that range, there's always a range to allow for that wiggle room to happen. OK? However, there are times where we definitely know that some intervention must take place, extra support must be given, and those would be the points that are on your screen on this slide.

So if we're not seeing any smiling at six months, then we do need to offer some extra support. If we're not seeing mirroring by nine months, so meaning just copying the caregiver or the parent and just making basic noises and facial expressions, no babbling, pointing, or reaching, even waving at 12 months. If there are no words at all by 16 months, we really do need to encourage that parent to seek extra support if we're not already giving that support in our facility and we're not seeing meaningful, and that's key, meaningful two word phrases by the age of two years. So that's our absolute definite point where we must offer some intervention.

Now, look, young children can suffer from a mental illness, but it is rarely diagnosed. It's usually diagnosed later on. And it means that that period for very early intervention, which is when it would be best, it's often missed. And that can mean that it harms development because there's this common misconception that children are inherently resilient and they will just grow out of things. But that misconception really does work against us.

Now, Tronick and Beeghly at Wayne State University say that mental health problems in infancy and early childhood are created by reacting to the meaning making of others, the other's intentions and emotions. And, yes, that can happen due to say a traumatic event, but it's actually more likely to be seen in the impact of continual interactions between an infant and their caregivers. So they go on to explain that infants make meaning about themselves and their relationship to the world of people and things. And so when that meaning making goes wrong, it can lead to the development of a mental illness because we're obviously not creating the healthy, strong foundation that should be in place at the beginning.

MARK:
Yep. So this meaning making, is an interesting kind of term a psychologist might talk about, or we might read in research. And I suppose, you know, we could break it down really to the process of learning. We're learning. And we're learning in ways that that learning is so reliant on the responses and reactions of other, you know, other people, caregivers in particular. Babies and toddlers will develop habits or behaviours that will emerge from their thoughts and their emotions. And this can go badly sometimes. And so it's, you know, when we get the wrong messages imprinted into the ways of thinking, feeling and behaving early on, the child's growing, they're going through these stages of development and neural connections are occurring at very, very high rates.

And we're gonna talk about, Alena is gonna give us some really interesting information about brain development coming up. If as a toddler that the individual is experiencing high levels of stress and danger in the environment, the brain is gonna notice that, and it's gonna, through this process of rapid connectivity going on in the brain, wire up to expect more of that stress in the environment. That individual is at great risk of having a way of thinking and perceiving the world that is very focused on stress and danger. And that's so important for their survival, but we can see hypervigilant anxiety traits maybe emerging in this particular individual. And this meaning making is, it can really lay the foundation for some problems ahead.

So we could think of a toddler who's ignored a lot, you know. And this idea of neglect is very, very powerful in this space. We talked about the maternal still face. And so that is an example of sort of where a young person might feel a little neglected, or whatever. So that emotion, the emotion that might come about there, and the negative thoughts about self that can emerge in this situation can precipitate then some behaviours like acting in. The child might, or toddler may be, you know, really quite hypervigilant and yet quite quiet and hard to engage, or we might see the opposite of this acting out behaviours.

And we might see that, you know, response to the parent or caregiver who is maybe not giving a lot of responses to that child. Any animated response could start to reinforce that behaviour. So we could have this sort of situation where the only kind of, or the attention that the caregivers are giving in an anger moment, you know, a correction, is the only interactions that the child is getting.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
We'll talk about the impact of that very shortly, actually.

MARK:
This little baby and toddler's mind is looking for ways to interact and connect with others, and so any animated response starts to reinforce that negative behaviour. And we can actually start to see some of the traditional ways of maybe responding to behaviour, building schemas, ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, which can be quite maladaptive.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's exactly right. Now, some infants may come to make meaning, that learning that we're talking about of themselves as helpless and hopeless. So they become more apathetic and depressed or withdrawn while others seem to feel more threatened by their world, so there's that hypervigilance that we were just speaking about and they can feel more anxious. The apparent saddener, sadness rather, anger, withdrawal, they can all be as a result of their difficulty in creating meaning in the context of those relationships.

Now, a crucial factor to consider really in infant social and emotional development is attachment. And Mark's just created a lovely segue right across to this point. The purpose of attachment is to ensure that the infant feels safe and protected. The quality of the attachment is important for current and for future emotional and social development for that infant. Essentially, there are four kinds of attachment. There are three organised, and one disorganised. Now the ideal form of attachment is called secure attachment, and this is created with a sensitive, loving, and consistent, and that is key, consistent caregiving delivery.

And thankfully it accounts for about 65% of infants. So signs that a child's experiencing this kind of attachment would be frequent smiling and laughing. They've got the confidence to explore their environment, even if that means falling off the back of the lounge for the fifth time, you know. The fact that they have the confidence to explore and the desire to explore their environment is actually a wonderful thing, if not a little problematic for us in the workplace. The other two organised forms of attachment would be insecure avoidant, which happens when a caregiver is insensitive and rejects the child quite frequently when they are in distress by ignoring, ridiculing, or getting annoyed. And you might think, who would ridicule that child? I don't understand how that works. It can come across through sarcasm.

And look, that accounts for about 20% of our infants. And the signs that that might be taking place is that that child is quite emotionally flat. And then they're not wanting to explore their environment at the level that we would typically like to see. The other is insecure resistant, which means when a caregiver is insensitive and inconsistent in how they respond to that child, the child, and this is where Mark was going previously, the child will then aggravate that distress, hoping that the caregiver will respond and notice and behave appropriately. It accounts for about 10 to 15% of infants. And the signs that that might be taking place would be excessive anger and anxiety in the child.

The final form of attachment is called disorganised. And this often happens when a caregiver has had a history of unresolved trauma themselves, and they might act in unusual ways, whether the child is in distress or not. And this accounts, again, for about 10 to 15% of infants, and the signs that this might be happening is a child is experiencing quite a depressed state. They might be very passive and nonresponsive and sometimes be quite angry. Assessing attachment types is really not something that we would be doing. That's not our role.

Our role is full enough, yeah. We would be engaging with an appropriate professional to conduct something called the strange situation test. And it's not a very creative name, but it's an important test, so I suppose it doesn't need a creative name. But it's essentially where we take that child and we separate them from their main caregiver and they're either left on their own or with a stranger and then those reactions from that child are then recorded and classified appropriately. And that can be done more, on more than one occasion. In fact, it usually is.

Now, if we were looking at the two to three year bracket, we want to be seeing these things. So we want to see that our child is becoming aware of gender identity. So boy, girl, any diversity in that will come later on. Being more assertive in saying no to demands and instructions, which is often referred to simply as the terrible twos. Evaluating their behaviour as either good or bad. They will be able to express their emotions with words.

My little one at the moment is really great at saying, I so angry. I so angry. And you can feel the anger emanating off her because, you know, she, the wrong socks, 'cause we've all been there. So, "I so angry," but we can clearly see and feel what that child is trying to express, which is what this point is expressing there. They will enjoy group activities. like dancing and singing, particularly where there's a real community and sensory nature to that activity. They'll start to mimic social situations with play and dress up and allow their imagination to expand. And then because their imagination is developing in such a wonderful way, it also means that they will develop new fears and we'll start to see things like fear of the dark, fear of monsters and ghosts and things that are not tangible.

OK, now, the mental health and emotional health concerns in toddlers are usually raised through a combination of our parental circumstance and the child's behaviour. But parental causes for concern are often a combination of the following. And just as a note, and this goes for all the other ones that I'll show you after this, any one of these points does not indicate that there is necessarily a mental illness developing. These are simply points of concern, because we need to be aware of them so that they can be front of mind if were presented with them. That's all it is. And like we've said in previous presentations, could just look at them as risk factors.

MARK:
Risk factors is a great way to think about these.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's all they are. So if we were looking at our parents, if they were abused as children they might actually be experiencing mental health problem. They have a drug or alcohol problem, they might be experiencing domestic abuse. If parents are violent or abusive in conflict. If they themselves are quite young, so if they are teenagers, if they lack support, and if there was a traumatic birth experience that has taken place, it doesn't have to be with that one particular child, it could be with any of the siblings of the children that you are looking after as well.

Now, if we flip over and look at our points of concern for our child, we will be looking at things like problems sleeping, problems feeding. Overreacting to the environment. So they could be either hyper aroused or highly emotional or very passive. And those reactions don't match the situation. So they're out of place for what the rest of the cohort, the rest of the group is experiencing. Now we're looking at the same cause of concern slide, but we're looking at the four to seven bracket here, so a little older. If they're not able to play or share with other children, and you can see how problematic that's going to be as we move up into the primary school phase of life. They're completely dependent on caregivers and they have a lot of difficulty separating from them, and they are fearful to the point where it starts to interfere with daily functioning.

Staying on that higher age bracket at seven to eight, we can see the continued problems that would run into primary school as well, because the first point that I want you to be aware of is they're unable, not unwilling, they are unable to grasp rules, like concrete rules. And as a result of that frustration and confusion, they might have uncontrollable outbursts. So we might see very high and immediate levels of anger, anxiety. fear and worry. We will see that excessive worry, and it sometimes it can actually present like as a phobic kind of behaviour. So, there's something very particular about a very particular situation that affects my functioning greatly. And we also see crying and clinging to caregivers, even at that later stage.

So that's brings me to the end of that developmental milestone sort of overview and now I want to talk to you about managing anxiety in this age group. So infants between the age of birth to 12 months are not diagnosed with anxiety or other mental illnesses or disorders. However, as we've discussed, it doesn't mean that managing their mental health and emotional health is unimportant. We know it's important. That's why we're here.

For optimal emotional development in our infants, they really should be receiving responsive caregiving, which means that the caregiver recognises and responds to the infant's individual cues that indicates their needs, and I would be very surprised if that's not what you are doing at work every single day. It actually only needs to happen 50% of the time for that secure attachment to be formed. Thankfully, nature has taken into consideration that we are not perfect.

MARK:
Yes.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And anyone who thinks they're perfect, definitely is not perfect.

MARK:
You know, if you see some of your colleagues running around the floor like an octopus trying to create this, you know, situation that we are 100% engaging every toddler at every moment, we can relax a little bit.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
I'd like to see the video of that.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK:
We know that, you know, we can let them be, for a little bit.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, nature has allowed for this so that when we go back to that mask activity that we did in the first session, it's OK not to feel on top of everything all the time and know that your children are still receiving really responsive caregiving.

MARK:
In fact, I've read somewhere that it's actually really important that children and toddlers have moments of this, that an absence of this time to kind of manage their own emotions is around how they develop soothing skills that might pay dividends later.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's exactly right. It falls also into the bracket of, it's OK for our kids to be bored. So it all flows into that. And with that, we might even just sing them a song. Like, 'The Wheels on the Bus'. It's actually really extremely powerful for your particular age bracket, those repetitive songs that get stuck in your head that you wish you hadn't heard at the beginning of the day. So they're quite good to settle our little ones.

MARK:
And don't they love it. The repetition of that, you know, I grew up with, you know, younger siblings, and, you know, that sort of annoyance of watching that same cartoon again and again and again. I'm watching my nieces and nephews go through this. What about a classic lullaby? Would that work well?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Actually, it's not as powerful as one of our repetitive play songs. So, there have been studies that show that for 10 month olds, a caregiver singing those repetitive play based songs actually calms them down a lot faster and far more effectively than a lullaby. A lullaby is lovely to calm a child before rest time, but that's more built into the routine of bedtime.

MARK:
Sure.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
So it's that repetitive nature. It's the consistency that is actually really quite helpful for that child to recentre. And we know that even just having those songs as part of our day to day routine, helps our children, specifically between six to nine month olds, maintain a really neutral and contented state. So they're not just on to, because the centre is so quiet, you just need background noise.

(LAUGHTER)

It's not why they're on, they're actually on for that particular reason to allow our kids to continue in that nice, neutral, and happy state.

MARK:
So, it seems that a distraction might be more effective than soothing at this stage of development. And, you know, this idea of a distraction takes me away from the thing that's causing me distress over there.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
A lot of educators will say to me, but I was taught not to distract. And that's completely right. We don't distract unless it's absolutely necessary. When we're talking about distraction, we're talking about, essentially, selection modification, sorry, selections, situational, I always get tongue tied, situation selection, modification, and then distraction.

MARK:
Right.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
So it's essentially, I'm going to try and avoid a situation where I know that my child, my students, whatever situation you're in, is likely to get upset or scared. So I'm going to try and minimise my contact with that situation. Modification just means taking away as many of those scary elements as you possibly can. And then distraction is employed if there's no other way of leaving that situation. So, you know, you have to be in that room or you must be at the doctor's, or you must do X, Y, and Z. So now I'm going to maybe distract that child, not from the entire situation, but from that particular element that's causing them distress with a toy or with a song. So there is nothing unhealthy about situation selection, modification, and then distractions.

MARK:
So incredibly important.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yep. Yep. And within that, we're allowing that child to have the freedom to also start to self regulate and build coping strategies within that, too.

MARK:
Yeah, right. So would we label those emotions for the child?

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, it doesn't hurt to label the emotion at all. It would be very helpful for a little one to say, you know, that man is very sad. Or, that lady is very cross.

MARK:
Right. So would I, you know, we know that we want to be quite animated within the way that we talk with our children, should I perhaps animate that emotion? (ANIMATED) The man is very sad.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
(LAUGHS) As wonderfully entertaining as it is for me, with our kids, we actually don't really need to do that. Labelling the emotion is enough, because we don't want to, well, regardless of our intention, we don't want to indicate to that child whether the emotion is good or bad. We need that child in that state to start to make meaning. So, the man is sad. OK, the man is sad, that's not necessarily a bad thing. So I'm allowing more freedom, if you like, for them to feel sad.

MARK:
Yep.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And to openly begin to talk about when they feel sad. So, just labelling emotion is really quite effective. And it's clearly worked wonders on my little one, who's so angry.

(LAUGHTER)

All the time. So that's all we actually need to do. So we don't need to animate that. In fact, it's better if we don't. A nice, content, neutral tone makes it more of an observation than a judgement. OK, now this is the only graph that I'm going to show you and I promise you that. If you're sitting there thinking, and now they begin. This is the only one.

MARK:
Here comes the data.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Here comes the data. This is the only one that I'm going to show you. So the latest stats for children's mental health in Australia show that 6.9% of children in Australia were diagnosed with a anxiety disorder. And it also shows that the most common mental health disorder among girls, which Mark and I speak at length about, is 1%, sorry, 6.1% of girls are diagnosed with a anxiety disorder. Although 7% of the childhood population doesn't sound huge, it is a hugely significant portion of our of our kids in this country. And it's important to note that there are likely to be many, many more who are not yet diagnosed.

Now, the data that I'm presenting to you is, there is not going to be less than that. So we're very good when we collect data generally here in Australia, very thorough. The stats that you see, definitely when they come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is the bare minimum. So we know there will always be a little more. So look upon that, and just understand that it is likely to be higher.

Now, before going into the education based interventions that can be used to treat anxiety, let's just have a really quick look at the signs of anxiety that can be picked up in an educational setting. Signs of anxiety that professionals can actively see in your setting would include the following. So, consistently seeking reassurance. Avoiding certain situations that a child feels particularly worried about. They might be avoiding new things, and I've touched on that before. Trying to get other people to do things for them. And that could be a peer, but it could also be an adult. Complaining of aches and pains, it's usually a headache or a tummy ache. Getting quite upset or having angry outburst when we can't see how that would be appropriate for that situation that we find ourselves in.

And then, of course, as a follow on to worrying about things that most others of that age group would not worry about or find quite minor, and the clingy behaviour, clinging to adults or older children rather than being around their peers of the same age group. Now, there are a number of really heavily evidence based interventions for working with anxious children in an educational setting. And Beyond Blue has a wonderful program called Be You, which I know many of you will be super familiar with. So I'm just going to walk you through four evidence based programs that you may not be familiar with or maybe you just need a little bit of clarity on. So they're interception training, CBT, the friends program, and the nurtured heart approach, which is a particular favourite of mine. Now, if we focus first on interception training, the Government of South Australia defines interception as the following. So, it's not the movie.

MARK:
No.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
No. It's a little different to that. You might be disappointed, it is a little bit different. Interception is the prerequisite skill for self management, and self-regulation. It provides the tools to know when we are developing emotional reactions, and the skills to be able to be in control of those actions. So, interception is an internal sensory system in which the internal, physical, and emotional states of the body are noticed, they're recognised, identified, and then responded to. The benefits of this training would be that we are able to better use both logic and emotion to respond to our environment. So that's not just something that's great for our kids.

That's great for us as well, reduces overload, reduces the number of meltdowns we might be seeing, the high levels of anxiety you might see, the shutting down, the depressive thoughts, the overuse of logic to navigate social situations. We have to have a balance of logic and emotion to move through our social situations in a really healthy manner. It helps children understand their own bodies and emotions, and this is key, it gives social skills meaning.

So, they're not just a set of rules that we have to follow. We understand why they are there. And that's, I think, from that entire list, one of the most poignant points that we can take away. It is a proven method. So, we know that it is proven to reduce really challenging behaviours, not just in an individual, but when it's conducted group-wide or class-wide, that we see benefits group-wide or class-wide.

Now, when it comes to the models of delivery, inception training can be done, as I said, class-wide or site-wide. You could also run it in really intensive groups for particular children, if that's something that you're able to do. You could even set up an interception room in your workplace if you have the space, that would be fantastic. You could do it in the open learning area, that's fine too. But essentially you're going to do maybe two or three short sessions. They would not last any longer than 10 to 15 minutes. And in each of those short sessions, you focus on one to four. I would really recommend just one or two, four is definitely stretching it. One or two aspects in each session.

So, maybe the first session focuses on the muscular system and temperature, and then the following two might be breathing and pulse and so on. So, we're really honing in on very important, yet subtle aspects of our functioning and drawing our children's attention to that functioning. Now CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, has been shown to help children as young as preschool age really deal with high levels of anxiety. And CBT is a psychosocial intervention. It challenges and changes the underlining beliefs that cause the anxiety.

Now the Brave program, and there's a link for you on the screen, and there's links as there has been the whole way through this program to extra information, is an interactive online therapy program for worried children, teenagers, and their parents. This is a great one. And I've chosen to show it to you for this reason that it covers the entire family, if you like. It's run by a team of researchers in the University of Queensland, Griffith University, and I also believe now the University of Southern Queensland. So, it's a nice homegrown, developed program. It's got a lot of scientific study behind it to verify its methods and its efficiency.

And one of the best studies that I've ever read about it was in 2009. It showed that by six months following the completion of this particular therapy, 75% of the children that were receiving the Brave online assistance were completely free of their primary anxiety diagnosis, and they showed significant improvements, significant, in managing their anxiety symptoms, the severity, and just the general overall functioning. 75% in six months is huge. And you can imagine the benefit, not only to that individual child, but to the family, and then the community that stems from that child. When we look after our kids, we look after our community.

MARK:
Absolutely, and drawing that link between what's going on for the young person and the parent's role there is a lovely way this program brings everything together.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Yeah, it's a very holistic approach. It's fantastic. The program content includes teaching children how to identify the anxiety and stress, how to develop their relaxation skills, which are different, mind you, to the way that adults would develop relaxation skills. So, it's not as simple as just saying, Well, this is what I do. And our kids do the same." We know that's not really going to be appropriate. We learn how to replace that negative thinking with positive, useful thinking and problem solving skills.

So, it's very much focused on moving forward. Now you can run CBT in a number of ways. Yes, you can do learning through manuals and workbooks and all that. But the face to face delivery is most often the absolute best way to do that. There is a link to the Brave program and the website on this particular slide for you. Now, the Friends program, we'll go through that quickly for you, it's been found to be unbelievably successful again in schools in Australia, and it can be delivered by education staff.

So, it's an in-person CBT-based program endorsed by the World Health Organisation. And until recent months, I think most people just refer to them as WHO, but I think we all know who the World Health Organisation now is, and it's been found to reduce anxiety symptoms and increase resilience, self-esteem, self-confidence, and social emotional skills. And again, the link to learn more about that program is attached.

Now the Fun Friends is their program for ages four to seven, which is why I bring it to your attention. And it focuses on play based, evidence based activities that teach various skills and help to reduce the anxiety. And so here are a few of the things that it will focus on. So, like I'm talking about really practical things like making eye contact and smiling when communicating, which is not easy for a lot of people. It's not easy for a lot of adults and we have the life experience behind us. So, it really hones in on these skills that our kids need in order to feel more confident and self-assured. Yes, it again focuses on relaxation techniques and techniques in understanding body cues. But again, a really practical point is that it focuses on how to approach groups of peers and actually make friends. So, this isn't just a by-product of being a wonderful person. It really addresses like, When someone says this, these are your options that you could say back." And for a lot of children, it removes a lot of the fear.

MARK:
This is the explicit teaching of these types of skills that are so important for that 35% who maybe have had that attachment, those variants of the normal attachment and healthy attachment. We can't undo that attachment. There's a lot of research that says that that really does happen at home with the parents, but we can explicitly teach some of these skills. And you know what? It's not going to harm those 65%.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Absolutely not.

MARK:
Who are picking it up anyway.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
No, no. And going back to your presentation, we may not be able to create the type of attachment that happens, but we can influence it.

MARK:
Yep.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And it happens through all of these tiny things that you do day in, day out. If you want to teach the Friends program, you actually have to be a licenced trainer. But don't despair, once again, what do you know? I have a link. So, I'm all over the links for you guys. The link is there if you want to go and have a look. And really they do aim this teaching towards yourself. So, family day-care, out of school hours care. This is not something that's aimed at the general public. It has been written very much for you to throw in your little toolkit there.

Finally, the Nurtured Heart Approach. And this is one of my favourite ones, because I know how time poor that we can be as educators when we have all the intention in the world and a very small amount of time to do it in. But a quote that I try my best to live by is Beyonce has 24 hours in a day, so do you.

MARK:
The wisdom of Beyonce.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Why not? Why not? Yeah. We've all got the same amount of time and it's what we do with that time. So, this is...

MARK:
I'm feeling a bit inadequate.

(LAUGHTER)

ALENA FARRUGIA:
It's alright. You're my Jay-Z. OK. And another effective based intervention, as I said, is the Nurtured Heart Approach. I'll just bring us back on topic before we take off. Its main use was actually working with children that had a diagnosis of ADHD, but we know it's extremely successful in assisting children with no diagnosis or a different diagnosis. It is an educator focused intervention, which means in our time poor day, we don't have to remove any time out for a different program. This is something that we do. So, it's about practicing our language skills and where we subconsciously and unconsciously direct our intention.

So, it doesn't necessarily mean further formal training. Although there are a number of books written on this particular approach that can get you started. The official training, which I do highly recommend that you take part in, it can be done both online and in person. And it's offered by the Children's Success Foundation. There's the links there for you. We know that this program helps children really attack in a very direct manner the symptoms of their anxiety. And we know that it drops statistically, the severity of their anxiety.

So, the Nurtured Heart Approach is a relationship focused method, and it's founded on three basic stands. So, three basic principles of thought and they are on your screen now. So, the three basic stands are this. Absolutely no. This is where I get into the mind frame of, I refuse to give my time, energy, and relationships to negative behaviour. I will not accidentally foster failure, nor will I reward the problems by responding to them in animated ways. I will save my time and energy to searching for success. The second stand is absolutely yes.

So, my mind frame is that I will relentlessly and strategically pull the child into new patterns of success. And I will constantly recognise the success and the achievements that children are making and displaying, no matter how small they might be. And then I will present them with clear, undeniable evidence of their value and how great they are. So, I'm not just thinking it, I'm saying, Look, you cannot deny this wonderful value that you have." And the third is absolutely clear. And this is just as important as the other two. I will have clear, consistent consequences when children break a rule or a rule has been broken in general. And so I will set out my rules as such. This is the rule, and this is what happens when you break that rule.

So, it's about being consistent and very, very clear for everybody. Alright. So, we've looked at some various ways that we can help our kids with anxiety and provide them with some great interventions with wonderful homegrown programs. But let's take a quick moment to look at the importance of intervention. So, why are we doing all of this? Why are we going to all this effort to learn all these other things? We know that we have to be advocates for our children's social and emotional mental health.

And Osofsky and Lieberman were very strong advocates for this. They explained to us that children from the age of birth to five years old, actually suffer quite a disproportionately high rate of maltreatment. They explained that this maltreatment has long-term consequences for their mental and physical health. And that that first year of their life is actually the most dangerous with the risk being quite high up to the age of about four. We also know, walking away with that information, that one in five children in poverty actually has a diagnosable mental illness, but only one in three are receiving treatment. And in fact, getting any treatment under the age of three is very difficult to access in the first place.

So, there's this massive disjunction there. It makes all the points that we've spoken about previously really important. And we need to see the necessity in drawing our focus to our kids' mental health, because the earlier we get in and provide support and adjustment, not only are we improving the quality of life for that child, but we also actually have a higher probability of saving a child's life. And that might seem like a really big statement to make, when we're talking about kids as young as, you know, those that we deal with, but you do actually have to be aware that in 2018, we lost 22 children between the ages of 0 to 14 to suicide. So, those small changes that we make now and those lessons that we teach now and the effort we put in now may not just save a life within that 0 to 14 age bracket, but in any stage through that person's life.

MARK:
Absolutely. We could think about, you know, it's such a... I mean, it gives me pause to just look at that data there, 0-14, that there are actually suicides in that age group. It's an appalling state of affairs for us to kind of consider.

But also, as Alena said, this idea that suicides that occur later in life will sometimes be attributed to the types of problems that might come up in an early... and we're talking here about early intervention, and when we're thinking about brain development and the rapid rate of neural connection occurring, it's much better to build the right network from the start than to come in, maybe, at adolescence into our adult life to start to try and remodel that. Much better if we can get in early and just, lovely approaches like the ones Alena's brought to our attention in those last few slides and helping to build a really positive structure from the get-go.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
100%. So, if you're interested in learning more about that you can look through the information on the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That's all laid out there for you in a lot more detail, if that's something you'd like to learn a bit more about. Now, Mark has mentioned a few times about the neural connections and this is where I want to touch on it right here after we've had that information. You need to know that when we're talking about early intervention, guys 80% of our brain is developed by the age of three.

MARK:
Wow.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Three. That's so tiny, and so much work had been done. And 90% of our brain has actually been formed by the age of five. The role that you play is hugely significant and that's why you should never undervalue yourself, because we definitely don't undervalue your work. If you were to talk to an organisation like Think Small, they explain that the cerebral cortex is a part of the brain responsible for feeling, memory, thoughts and voluntary actions.

So, when a baby is born, we have all those necessary neural and cerebral cortex functions, but it's the connections between those neurons that lead to the production of something called a synapse and throughout our life, we are continuously producing and pruning synapses. So, those balls of connection that happen in our brain between the ages of zero to three is one of the... We have one of the biggest bursts of grey matter in our brain that we'll ever have, that's getting us ready for all the learning that has to take place. We are developing 700 new neural connections every second.

MARK:
It's mind boggling.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
You can't fathom how much is going on in that tiny little brain.

MARK:
What sits behind the way the eyes are darting around and all the little mimicking and all the things that we talked about in the beginning here is just incredible, amazing machine that's growing and developing so quickly.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And literally right in front of our eyes. So, all those little things that you do, they make a difference, because if it took you three seconds to explain something to a child, how many neural connections have happened just in that three seconds?

MARK:
When you're talking to an adult, you might just need to explain it a few more times.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
And show a picture. (LAUGHS) Depending if it's a Friday afternoon. OK. So, before I finish up, I just wanna walk you through a couple of exercises that you can take back to your workplace and use to cement your learning. So, the first exercise is just about recognising anxiety. Remember, this is not about diagnosing. Your job is full enough, this is not about adding something to your job. This is about boostering up that toolbox that you have, we want to be able to better recognise possible symptoms or signs of anxiety.

So, let's just look back and cast our eyes over that list that I showed you previously. What I would like you to do is I would like you to create your own checklist with some behaviours that you've noticed in your setting and you're gonna use this list as a guide. So, start by looking down on the list and thinking about the behaviours that you've seen in the children that you care for and match them with the descriptions against each point. Then, I want you to think about really specific and concrete ways in which those behaviours have manifested into something else.

So, for the first point, consistently seeking reassurance, can you think of any time where you've seen that play out in your setting? An example could be that you've said to the kids, OK. It's pack away time. The pack away songs come on. We all know the pack away songs. Don't know why it doesn't work at home, don't let me go down that road. That child has gone to pack away. And instead of packing away and letting you know that they've done it or asked you to check, they're bringing you each individual toy and double checking which bucket it goes in. OK.

So, they're constantly seeking clarification and guidance, rather than at the beginning or just at the end. Or when you're out to play, they're repeatedly coming back to you or a staff member to complain about the behaviour of another child and need comfort and reassurance. So, align each of those points with something that you've seen. OK. And then, it could also be that from a child constantly needing reassurance, that the other... It's manifesting because the other children in their group are becoming quite frustrated that that particular child is constantly getting up and walking over their work, maybe as they draw, to talk to you.

So, they're getting frustrated because, you know, little Johnny is stepping on my drawing and he's ruining my drawing and now, when I'm out to play, I'm still quite cross. So, I'm less likely to engage with that child because I'm still cross with them that they ruined my picture and if that's a constant thing, we can see how they start to manifest in what seems like a very simple way but quite quickly. Now, I would love you to do this exercise once every six months, that would be fantastic, but there's no need for you to reinvent the wheel. I have created a downloadable file for you.

So, it's a scaffold where each of these points are already laid out and then, you can go in and put in the example that you've noticed and then how it's actually manifested or how it could manifest and then, go back and redo that. You will probably notice that as you do this with your colleagues, one or two children present in this activity more than others. And that really just means that maybe these couple of children might need a little bit more support if they're not already getting that. That's the entire point of this exercise.

So, don't worry that the child keeps featuring in some of these examples. This is the activity doing its job. It's bringing to light where we might need to put some extra support in for that child. OK. Now, the second one is, and the final one is really just practice. And I'm going to read through now the four more basic and easily implemented techniques that you can use with the Nurtured Heart approach and I'll give you an example on how one of them might work and we'll do that at the end and I'm gonna... (LAUGHS) I'm going to enlist my Jay Z over here to give me a hand.

So, we've got the four ways of responding to children. So, we have proactive recognition. And proactive recognition really allows us to celebrate rules that haven't been broken. So, we don't have to wait for a rule to be broken to reward our group. We can reward our kids by saying, Look how well you've been doing by X, Y and Z, and here is the reward for that." So, it might be extra two minutes' play time, it might be that you get an extra carrot stick or whatever it is, but we're looking for rules that haven't been broken.

The second is creative recognition. And this variant is fantastic, because what we're going to do is we're going to praise any request that's been honoured by that child. And it's one of my favourites because with this variant, you're able to work with quite difficult children. So, let's imagine that you have a child that has, you know, for whatever reason, purposely damaged the centre's property, now, they're expecting you to be quite cross with them and although you're gonna implement, you know, the consequence for that behaviour, it's not gonna look the way that they expect. So, what we need to do is find an action that has been honoured and praise that, and then we action the promised consequences of that behaviour.

MARK:
So this iPad could be like a little red truck that I'm playing with in the sandpit here, and I smash, there it goes. Miss Alena. Look what happened.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
OK. Oh. Marky.

MARK:
It's broken.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Did you smash that? Did you bang that?

MARK:
I smashed the red truck.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
OK. Well, thank you for telling me straight away, because now I can fix it. Don't worry, darling. Now, I can fix it before another boy or girl gets hurt. So, that's really good that you were honest. Thank you so much for being honest, but do we smash technology on the ground?

MARK:
No.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
No. OK. So, why don't you come with me and I'm gonna put you in the bean bag chair.

MARK:
Oh, not the bean bag chair.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Not the bean bag, not the red bean bag.

MARK:
I've spent most of the last week in that bean bag.

(LAUGHTER)

ALENA FARRUGIA:
OK. So, we have to do our absolute best to try not to be frustrated. Chances are, Marky has done this frequently. Yep? So, I'm actually creatively hijacking a child into compliance. That's what we're doing. Even if they've done all of this stuff clearly on purpose, yeah, remember, they're aggravating their distress, they're looking for that response, that consequence, there is a consequence, but I will find something positive in what they've done and it might just be the fact that they told you about it. And it's about genuinely seeing that as a value. You have to genuinely see that as a positive.

Now, the other two that I will walk you through very quickly is active recognition, that's where I'm going. So, this is just about seeing a child in their physical presence. It's about acknowledging that I see you in front of me and I value your presence. So, say there's an example of, there's a group of girls that have created a little dance for you and they come running up to you while they're having their free play time and they've commandeered, if you like, one of your very shy students to come along and participate and you watch this dance and it's as good as you imagined it was gonna be, yeah, it was fantastic. Any excuse to have a dance party. (LAUGHS)

So, you've watched this dance. Now, instead of just saying, That was really good. That was fantastic. Thank you for showing me that." What we might say is, I love that you moved your arms in really big circles to the music. That was fantastic the way you moved your arms." So, I'm saying something about the physical nature of that child. So, they actually know that I'm present with them. And then, I'm going to integrate the last point, which is experimental recognition.

So, what I need to is, in response to the active recognition, I'm going to give an example of a quality or a value that that child possesses. So, that really shy child that maybe did two steps, dropped their hat, picked it up and wandered off, I need to find the value in that. So, I might say, I love that you moved your hands in really big circles." So, there's my physical acknowledgement. That was so wonderful, and Mark, I love that when you dropped your hat, you picked it up and you put it straight back to your head, because remember, if we're outside we need a...?"

MARK:
Hat.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
"We need a hat."

MARK:
No hat, no play.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
That's right. That's wonderful. Thank you for involving me in your dance." (LAUGHS) It doesn't have to take up any more time that you would already invest, but I'm very conscious of where I'm directing my energy and my focus for my students. OK. So, you can learn more about that through the Nurtured Heart approach. And that is actually me done. That is this presentation. It's absolutely flown. I'm in my flow state. That's fantastic. So, we're gonna take a quick 15-minute break, and then we will meet you right back here and Mark is gonna take us through our final presentation.

MARK:
We'll be back on close to 3:30.

ALENA FARRUGIA:
Thank you. Thanks, everyone.

Effective Communication

Effective Communication

 

MARK:
Alright, and welcome back for our third session today. It's a big block of information and I just wanna, you know, honour your stamina for keeping up with us and coming through to the end, well done. We are going to spend an hour now talking about effective communication and as I indicated before, we kind of, I suppose, if we thought about this, we are sort of applying what we have learned so far around you know, wellbeing and mental health and thinking about a really practical application of our wellbeing in terms of being more effective in communication. And this can increase our own wellbeing and the...and what - I suppose, where it has its greatest influence is building really positive relationships in the workplace and in the community and when we see that happen. It just greases the wheels of so many other things that are occurring around the place. So, we gonna think about how we can, you know, maybe... pay attention to our classroom and in the broader community with other adults. Once again, there's a bunch of links in here to additional resources.

The last 20 or so, 25-30 slides in this presentation that you can download from the download folder contain a whole bunch of different communication activities and some of them of you were ever a scout or a guide. You might you know, recognise some of these communication games from back in the day. Some of them were really accessible to children that you work with but they're really, really appro - and I particularly picked one sort of appropriate for adults and to work in that sort of environment. However we could use them with younger people as well. Lots of links there and I'll skip over those a little later and we'll take a little tour of some of those activities. Just remember this is a great resource. I think they want me to mention also certificates. I know this is....sometimes a bit of a question that participants are coming up with to us about the presentations. You'll absolutely be receiving a certificate of participation from the end of this. So, you'll be able to get one of those that will come through your email at the end, alright, where are we?

So, in summary, this session we look at the concept and importance of effective communication so what is sort of foundational to that. What are some of the key ingredients of great interpersonal communication? How can we break down you know, what is good communication too and its components parts. We'll have a little bit of an explore of what might get in the way and we gonna observe some practise and kind of unpack a few of those skills in some practical observations. We'll look through some games that I talked about before. So, we gonna start with an activity and look... When say for communities, was sort of approached to deliver some training for the sector. I was super excited because you know, I have this expectation that in a pre-COVID world we would all be a sitting together in a room in a big conference. And I would have set this activity as something for you to do at a live event. And I've run this activity at a number of live events very successfully. What we are going to do today to sort of adjust this presentation for an online webinar type of situation. Alena and I have pre-recorded some modelling of this particular activity and this is a helpful and unhelpful communication round activity.

And so, if you would go and replicate this activity really works well in a group of four people and we sort of set some different roles for those four people. And encoder, a person who is gonna give a message who has something to communicate. And then we'd have two decoder roles, so, people who are gonna be the receivers of that information, the communication partner if you like in two different roles. One being unhelpful and one being helpful and then we'd have an observer in that group of four. And so, what we are getting the encoder to do is to talk about a topic that is familiar to them for a few minutes. So, it's really good to pick, if you're wanting to do this with a group of staff. I strongly recommend taking the easier version first and getting people to just talk about a topic they're familiar with. It might be, you know, I might talk about Mosaics and have a lot to say about that. And then of the person I'm gonna talk with for a few minutes is gonna play the role of an unhelpful communicator.

They're gonna block, they' re gonna really get in the way of me trying to do that communication. Then we'll have me talking about Mosaics for two minutes with a helpful communicator. Someone who has been given some prompts to really assist and maybe do some active listening and really do some helpful communication there. We'll have an observer who can sort of, record what's going on. How is that for the encoder, how is it for those different decoders? If you wanna step it up and this is the one that we're going to demonstrate with you today. Is to take a situation that might be quite common to your workplace that might be a difficult communication. So, we have selected the parent complaint.

ALENA:
That never happens.

MARK:
None of you will have ever had a parent come in and complain about it...

ALENA:
Just on the off chance it happens.

MARK:
That's right, Alena, very generously has put in some video content we have created for you. Has played that role of the difficult parent. The parent who is coming in to make a complaint and has quite a few things to kind of tell us and give us some feedback. I'm playing the role of a director and first, I'm gonna be an unhelpful communicator and then I'm gonna be a helpful communicator. We gonna throw this video on in just a moment. I want you to grab those scraps of paper, or actually no, not scraps of paper. This time I want the keyboards and back on to the chat room again. While you are watching this video, I want you to write down for us in that chat room as many unhelpful things that you see me do in this first communication round. So, we'll just throw that video on now for you now and get busy in that chat room.

ALENA:
Hi, Mark, Mark?

MARK:
Oh, hi, hey (UNKNOWN) so great to see you. Look, just hold on a moment while I just take a call. I've really got to grab this, hold on sorry, yes. Yes, we'll be there, yep, we'll be there, great.

ALENA:
Mark.

MARK:
I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

ALENA:
I have to be quick, so sorry. Look, I'm really glad I grabbed you because there's a couple of things that I really have to talk to you about and frankly, I spoke to the other girls yesterday morning and they've not gotten back to me with anything. So, I really just need two seconds of your time.

MARK:
Yeah, yeah, sure of course.

ALENA:
OK. Look, Billy has come home a number of times with her organic gluten-free watermelons still in her bag. Now, I'm aware that you have the food here but remember she has the allergy.

MARK:
Did you know that the watermelon that we've got here, it's very gluten-free and quite organic, Billy really likes our watermelon.

ALENA:
OK, that... I really need her to trial the one that I'm giving her because it's part of her trial for her life, so. If you can just let me know if she doesn't wanna eat it, that's fine but can you just make sure that you, like pop a note there so I know she didn't eat anything else? Otherwise, it just makes up the trial (CROSSTALK).

MARK:
Yeah, look, we're quite busy but we'll do our best, we really will.

ALENA:
OK, and also while I'm thinking of pink things. She had a jacket from her grandmother that hasn't come...

MARK:
I love that jacket, it's so beautiful.

ALENA:
Me too.

MARK:
Do you know where your mum got that?

ALENA:
I...probably Target if I'm honest with you.

MARK:
Oh, OK.

ALENA:
But she gave to her and it's an important gift and it didn't come home with her, so, is there somewhere...

MARK:
OK, look, that happens you know, it's pretty normal, look, you know -

ALENA:
I labelled that though but it has not come back.

MARK:
OK, look, maybe later you can just take a look in that lost property basket at the back.

ALENA:
Where is it?

MARK:
Look, you know, just talk to Mary out the back, will you? Look, I've got a few things going on.

ALENA:
OK, I...OK but I know you are busy but that's why I actually wanted to help. If you have been on your email the last, I don't know, six hours. You would have seen that I sent another email about the parent committee. I've so many ideas that would really just strengthen the centre in the wider community because I have so many connections that would really be able to help the centre grow a bit.

MARK:
Yeah, we can see you'd be great on the committee, really. Look, unfortunately, you know the website, it's a little bit funny and sometimes it just loses those applications. Let me just give you another one, can I get you to fill that out and maybe drop that off at the office? That will be great, look, we'll sort it out, you know, what can we do about the internet? It's... Alright now, aren't you an observant bunch? I can see that there's lots and lots of responses coming back, tell us about that.

ALENA:
So, we've got quite a few people think you're rude, Mark.

MARK:
Really? (LAUGHS).

ALENA:
See what I have to work with, everyone? So, there was a lot of disinterest, the rolling of eyes, cutting off the parent, being dismissive, sarcastic language. Being quite passive in your concern for the child. A lot of interrupting, a lack of knowledge, just very dismissive.

MARK:
Yes, lots...

ALENA:
So many...

MARK:
Lots of great observations that you've made there and I worked really hard to kind of you know, pack in as much as I possibly could into that. And my favourite bit is that I got Alena to say gluten-free... what was it? Watermelon (LAUGHS). That was a bit of gold there, but anyway (LAUGHS). So, we can see that in that communication there, there we plenty of things that we did wrong. How did it feel for you as the encoder in that sort of... in that communication?

ALENA:
I felt like I wasn't being heard which was aggravating and felt like I needed to go over my points again and again because I wasn't just heard the first time.

MARK:
Yeah, so, we are adding extra time, I'm actually creating it by not using helpful communication. I'm actually adding to my pain. I'm increasing the amount of time that I'm gonna spend in this engagement. I'm pretty sure that this parent probably has the email address of my boss. And I can imagine that the next you know, kind of the action that this parent might likely to take is maybe jump on Google reviews and you know, add a little review for the child centre. Wouldn't we love to see that one pop up you know, next to our Google searches? Maybe talking to my boss and definitely, you know, this one it's gonna probably end up taking me a little bit more time than I needed to spend managing these issues. So now, we gonna throw on another video and we gonna just replay that scene one more time. This time looking at some helpful communication. So, we'll throw that on and once again, please, jump on your keyboards and tell us what you see. Hi, Alena, great to see you, come on in and grab a seat.

ALENA:
Do you have time? Because I just have a few things to go through.

MARK:
Yeah, look I've got a few busy things but you know what? I've absolutely got five minutes so, let's have a bit of a chat.

ALENA:
Thanks, the first thing is I just want to quickly mention that Billy's organic gluten-free watermelon has come home a couple of times so, I'm not sure whether she is eating something here or just she is not eating anything, because remember she has the hives. So, I was trying to break down what's causing it.

MARK:
Look, we really respect parent choice around the food that you bring in. And look, I know we are sometimes busy and we might overlook that but I'm certainly happy to have a chat with whoever was running lunch yesterday. Maybe you and I can go out there and have a bit of a chat together and we'll get to the bottom of this one for sure. I know we do put watermelon out but if you are sending that food, we really do wanna...

ALENA:
OK, so, it could be that she is eating the other watermelon?

MARK:
Perhaps, perhaps.

ALENA:
OK, alright well, that's an easy fix. So, we just need to make sure she has her one, OK, that's fine. And whilst I'm thinking of pink things, her pink jacket. It's clearly labelled, it was a gift from her grandmother and I'm just wondering if it's here in the centre because she hasn't come home with it. Is it somewhere that sits in the afternoon or is there somewhere I should look?

MARK:
Alright, we definitely have got a process around these things. I would think, did you pop a label on that one?

ALENA:
Yeah, it's clearly labelled in the inside.

MARK:
No worries, look, we've got a lost property at the back. I'm gonna take you out there before we leave today and we'll just take a little look there.

ALENA:
OK, brilliant. And sorry, one more thing. I sent you through an email quite a while ago about the parent committee. I wanted to apply, I have so many ideas for the centre and I know quite a few people in the community that could really kinda help sort of push the centre along and I would like to help. Did you get my email or just haven't had a response?

MARK:
Absolutely, look... the website, it just plays up sometimes. What I'm gonna do, I'll just take a look, I'll look... Yeah, we've got it there I'll print it out and I'll make sure tomorrow, the president of the committee is coming in for morning tea. I'm gonna pop it straight in her hands.

ALENA:
OK, so, you don't need me to resubmit?

MARK:
There's nothing more you need to do, we really value you on the committee. Look I'm gonna have to get going now.

ALENA:
OK.

MARK:
It's great to see you, my door is open anytime.

ALENA:
Thank you and I just...

MARK:
Alright, I wanna thank you so much for sharing those sharing those observations and putting all of that great information into the chat room. Well, give us a bit of a summary, what did we see this time?

ALENA:
So, a lot of people are really responding to the fact that that you were cooperative. So, you didn't have to have the solution straight away but you were working with the parent and there was a genuine interest in solving the problem.

MARK:
Sure.

ALENA:
In fact, you were quite solution-focused You were able to still end the interaction but have everything covered. There was teamwork in there, there was good eye contact. It was quite professional and the respect was reciprocal.

MARK:
Yeah, how does it feel, as the parent, coming in and having that conversation? How is that different?

ALENA:
I felt much more heard and even if the jacket wasn't found. I was definitely not as affronted but the situation.

MARK:
Sure, sure and so, and what I've loved about reading your observations is that you have actually picked up that it's more than just the content of what a person says. It's more than just the words, it's the actions, the body language, the willingness and the attitude. The mindset that sits behind the communication is so incredibly important. So, a lovely activity and I'd strongly encourage that one as a good little sort of staff development activity around communication and just heightening the awareness. We've shown you two kind of black, some black and white examples here and of course the reality is that more a lot more often than not we're going to have a little bit of Mark A and a little bit of Mark B in a conversation that is difficult like that and we just want to find as many helpful things that we can do to move a communication like that along. And yeah, while I didn't solve all the problems I moved the complaining parent to the solutions which is so important in one of these conversations.

ALENA:
There's actually a conversation happening right now that they would have loved to see you walk me on screen.

MARK:
Yeah.

ALENA:
But it did happen.

MARK:
That's right.

ALENA:
I've got the jacket everyone.

MARK:
We did, yeah. The jacket's fine. Alright. So, why is communication important? Well, communication brings meaning to our thoughts and behaviours. This is the expression of what is going on in our mind. And so incredible, I talked earlier about us being monkeys, well, monkeys that like to live together and operate together, they need this communication to and really strong sense of that. It saves time, it reduces anxiety, trust is built, and relationships develop from that trust. When we trust somebody and, you know, that relationship works a lot better. Conflict can be resolved rather than created as we saw, you know, really, really clearly in that first example there that we looked at. The reputation of your workplace is critical to the good communication that you do. And so we know that I talked before about that kind of Google review that might go up when we have a negative reaction, you can almost guarantee that, you know, we're going to get some of that negative feedback. When things go well, maybe we don't get that feedback as often but we, it can be a shield, yeah, we're using that really good communication to develop good relationships.

So when something does go wrong as it inevitably will in a learning and care environment with young children, again, we've put in the foundations and the trust and we're building that relationship with our community so that we'll be forgiven that sort of you know, broken arm in the sandpit event that could go very badly as well if we're, you know, if we don't have a great reputation in the community. So, important to think about that. So, I've done a little visual for you. And look, if you were to go away and study communication at university you're probably in your first lecture in communication 101, and they would show you a little schema a bit like this, and it's just a way of us to think about what are the component parts of any communication? And so, first, in every communication that we make there is a context, and that is the blue space on that visual there. What's, what are some of the contexts of an early childhood education and care service?

ALENA:
Well, it's a very high stakes environment, both from a learning and safety perspective, you know, we're essentially looking after people's most precious thing, we're looking after their child.

LECTURER:
Yeah, highly emotionally charged. We need to develop relationships with those different personalities in our community, all those different people who come into the workplace to work and to bring their children. And we're such a diverse group of adults, we've got to find ways to communicate together and that context, that context of diversity brings in a challenge to communication in your workplace.

ALENA:
Yeah, as does time. We are busy as educators, as we said before, we very rarely sit back and think, well, I don't really have much to do.

MARK:
That's right.

ALENA:
So, we're busy, our carers are busy, our parents are busy, particularly that morning and afternoon drop-off period. So, that can definitely be, you know, a major play in the context of what we're doing.

MARK:
Absolutely. And look that adult communication is critical to the learning programs for the children and we want to be able to quickly and efficiently communicate with the parents and caregivers who are doing those quick rush drop-offs and busy days, we want to communicate well with them to bridge that gap between what's going on at home and maybe what's happening in the learning environment.

ALENA:
You don't want the five-year-old or the three-year-old to be that bridge between. Things may go wrong.

MARK:
Absolutely. That's right. That communication may not be so clear. There's some really interesting research in this area around communication and familiarity with another person. And this is a strong context here is that the closer I am to the person, the more likely I am to assume I know what's going on and not use good and effective communication. We actually communicate a lot better with people who are strangers. So, just be mindful that perhaps in the staff room and with those people you might have worked together for 10 years and that relationship's lovely and familiar, but sometimes we might not use our best communication to iron out conflict that might come up there, and just assume a little bit of what's going on. Now, in this visual we've got the two characters in our video that we looked at before the encoder and the decoder.

And so, the lines, the green and the yellow line moving between these two is the communication, the message. And then the message gets analysed by the decoder, and there is a response that comes back. So, those lines are there to kind of think about, you know, how the communication is moving. And then in the light blue kind of spark symbol there, we've got this idea of noise. Tell us, what do you put into the chat room? What are some examples of noise that might affect communication in your workplace? How does, what sort of noise might come up there for you? Just see if we get a few responses there back onto your keyboards, it's good to interact with us, we feel a little bit lonely here in this studio all by ourselves, you know, we know you're there when we when we see little chats come up there. There you go. Good on you. Good work.

ALENA:
Well, noise is actual noise. So, children's voices, children's voices is coming up again.

MARK:
We're hearing, you know, a lot of sounds in that workplace. So, actual noise is a really good example of this.

ALENA:
And then the flip side to actual noise is just a different personal philosophy, rushing to make meetings, unsettled children, language barriers.

MARK:
Sure. Sure. Lots and lots of things that just mess with that communication a little.

ALENA:
That's it. Children hammering things. Again, back to actual noise. Different views, the actual business of the centre itself, the tone of voice can sometimes become noise.

LECTURER:
I think we're trying to do a lot of different things sometimes, those disruptions and those distractions that can occur through an interaction. And I might, you know, we saw that, you know, apart from my terrible attitude, I was focusing on a telephone call at the beginning of the, you know, the first video there and introducing noise that is not going to be helpful to that communication. Look, if you're doing a Facebook post, if you're developing your newsletter, not only in your interpersonal communication that we're sort of focusing on here, this model can help you to sort of analyse the different component parts of any communication. And you might just pick up something about that Facebook post in terms of unpacking it into those component parts, and it might just make that message a little bit more clear for the people that you're sending it out for. Alright. So, moving along, here's another frame.

It's good to sort of understand some frameworks that might sit behind communication. And this one is really about the different components of a good quality communicator, someone who, you know, gets their message across really well will probably have some skill and ability in these four areas. And we can all improve our communication by just looking at these different areas. So, we've got the physical element there, how the speaker uses their body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, these types of things. And then how that person reads those cues in the encoder and responds to that. If I see the person I'm talking to start to show those signs of boredom, a rare event when I'm talking to people,

ALENA:
Very rare.

MARK:
I might pick up that I need to change the topic or rush through that or that there's not so much interest there. And so, we can give those physical signs but we need to read them as well, it's a complex thing going on there with our physicality. The linguistic features of the language, we might use sarcasm or humour, and we might rely on background knowledge to the language that we're using, a really good example would be like Australian slang, if we're talking to someone who maybe English is a second language, they were not educated in Australia, didn't grow up in Australia, they might really struggle to understand some of the words that as a native speaker of English growing up in Australia might have a good grasp of. We need to be careful about those sort of linguistic features we use. We need to be thinking about our message and understand the message really clearly in our own mind.

When the encoder has a strong cognitive connection to the message that they are giving, that's going to increase clarity there. And so that'll be really, really helpful, it might be, you know, just really being clear on the message that we're giving. And then on the flip side of that sort of cognitive knowledge, we need a good strong sense of social and emotional connection in a conversation, we want to hear the person really well and we want to respond to them in ways that are sensitive to their emotional responses and how they're understanding the message. It is the subtle interplay between these four areas that will combine together to make a really good communication. We might describe that person as a really strong communicator, a people person. Some but not all of our politicians will often be good at these four areas. We might, you know, study a politician who's quite popular and sort of see how they gain that popularity through being able to tie these four elements together.

However, it is much more than just the mechanical skills. So, we really need to understand the message has to come from somewhere that is genuine, from in us, that we truly believe what it is that we're trying to communicate. And this quote here on your screen now comes from Stephen Covey, and he has developed some fantastic particular leadership and communication learnings that we can follow. And the Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People is one of Stephen Covey's programs that you can learn more about. And so, this idea here is that there's. As Alena talked about before, that this congruence between what I'm saying and my non-verbal kind of communication going on there. When there's an incongruence between what I'm saying and what I'm really thinking and feeling, the communication partner, the decoder in this situation is going to pick up on that and it's going to be unsettling, just like it's unsettling for those little toddlers and infants that start to, might see an incongruence, is particularly disturbing for us as an adult. And so it's important that we recognise we need to do more than just learn the skills, we've got to really kind of believe our message and find a way to frame it from that place.

Now, that does not mean that we just say the first thing that comes from our, you know, out of our mouth. And we, there was far too much of that going on in that first example that we showed you earlier. Alright. Another good one here, and I'm going to spend a little bit of time sort of describing this. However, it is not my idea, I need to reference Louise Evans who has developed the Five Chairs, Five Choices model. And this I would strongly encourage jumping on and having a look at this YouTube video, and kind of using this, this is a really terrific one to, again, to bring to a staff meeting to kind of think, alright, we're gonna have a bit of a chat about where we are seated in our conversations with other people in the way that we communicate. Louise Evans you know, you need a lot of money in your professional learning budget to book Louise Evans to come out and run a program, unlikely, many of our services are going to have that time professional learning budget, but that is the beauty of YouTube, you can jump on YouTube and take a look at this program. And there's a lovely 15-minute YouTube on this one that's linked here.

Louise Evans describes that when we are entering a communication, we can sit in some different places, we can have some different motivations for where we're at in the communication that can make that communication go well or not so well. And we start with the red chair, the red chair is an attack chair, and this is where a person might be judging quite harshly the motivations of the person that they're talking to. The next chair is the yellow chair, and this is where I might look inwards a little bit and start to judge myself quite harshly in that communication and I might have some feelings of not really being really confident or feeling all that great about myself. And sometimes we might see people in that red and yellow chair kind of conversation, they're handy little partners that sit together, the red and the yellow chair.

And sometimes we, you know, you might find yourself in one of those chairs in particular relationships that you have in, you know, sometimes with our family, maybe with a work colleague or someone like that. Look, the red and the yellow chair are not great places for us to be in a communication. If you do find yourself in the red or the yellow chair, it's Louise has this. Louise Evans has this lovely green chair in the middle, and it's the default place when you're not quite sure where you should be in a communication, it's the wait chair. And like I said, if you start out or find yourself instinctively going into the red or the yellow chair, you catch yourself doing that, jump in the green chair for a minute and just wait, just suspend things, and be, you know, very neutral in that communication. And then shifting along to the blue chair, is a place of detection. I want in the blue chair to, and we want, we we're encouraging this skill of detecting what might be up with the conversation partner that we're talking to. And we start to perhaps positively frame our judgement of that person and try and look for reasons why the communication maybe isn't going so well. However, the blue chair is not as powerful as the purple chair. And the purple chair, Louise Evans has developed in this model is the connect chair, and this is where we connect with the other person. So, to give an example, Alena might arrive late to a planning meeting...

ALENA:
Never happens.

MARK:
Never?

ALENA:
Ignore him. Never happened.

MARK:
I don't know. I don't know where I came up with this example. No idea. We might be at that planning meeting, Alena has arrived 10 minutes late, and I am now in a position where I'm gonna communicate with Alena in our meeting from one of these five chairs. Now, I get to choose which chair I'm gonna sit in. If I'm gonna sit in the red chair, that's an attack chair, and I'm gonna judge Alena as lazy, disorganised, and careless. These are the reasons that Alena has arrived late at the meeting. She's always late like this, and she's just a bit careless, and a little bit terrible, yeah?

ALENA:
(LAUGHS) A little bit terrible.

MARK:
Not really focused on the job at hand. And Louise Evans describes this as the chair of bad behaviour.

ALENA:
The naughty chair.

MARK:
(LAUGHS) The naughty chair for adults. We might attack the person we're communicating with. What are some responses you could have if I'm sitting in the red chair and you arrive late?

ALENA:
I think my first response would also be to get in the red chair.

MARK:
This is very, very common too. We might sit both in the red chair, and then we get fireworks, and we're trying to get a lot of work done, but there's a lot of negative judgement going there, and a bit of one-upmanship, I suppose, can start to happen.

ALENA:
Can start to happen, yeah.

MARK:
Absolutely. Now, I could also get in the yellow chair of self-doubt. I could start to think, no wonder Alena's always late to my meetings. I'm terrible, I'm not very good at my job, and I'm probably terrible to work with, and this is why Alena's come late. And so, I'm in that self-doubt sort of place. How could, maybe, you respond to that?

ALENA:
I think you could either be very frustrated by that attitude, and find that really draining, or I could completely relinquish responsibility, and say, oh well, I guess it's not my fault then.

MARK:
So, we can see that red and yellow chair interaction probably not going all that well. The green chair gets us to wait, and I've talked about that one, and so, I'm just gonna be recognising that I've gotten in the wrong chair here, and I'm gonna jump in that green chair. I could then start to detect. I could look for positive signs. I might notice that, actually, a moment ago, I heard Alena's car come into the driveway quite quickly, and maybe there was something that happened on the way to work that, sort of, disrupted her. I'm starting to give, I'm detecting, and looking for a reason that is not so judgmental of my conversation partner, but much, much, better. If I jump into the purple chair and I ask, Alena, it's so good that you got here. I can see you're running a bit late. Is everything OK?"

ALENA:
Yeah, I think just being asked takes you far away from that red chair stuff because I don't feel attacked and I can explain that, maybe, I was getting something printed specifically for this meeting, and I had been up quite late to make sure that I was prepared, and the printer, lo and behold...

MARK:
Oh, that printer again.

ALENA:
..has jammed again. Yes, but I do have it all now, and I'm ready to go.

MARK:
There you go. And so, when I connect, when I get in the purple chair, there's a very good chance that I'm gonna hear, from the person, something that makes me understand better what's going on. And, really, what's happening is Alena is being very prepared. She's overprepared for the meeting, and she's just being caught up with the photocopier there. So, look, I can't do it quite as neat and tidily as Louise Evans. I'd encourage you to jump on that link and have a look, and think about, maybe, running a staff meeting on that one would be very, very neat and tidy in one hour, to spend time watching the YouTube, having a think about the model, and then just unpacking some of the communications that might happen. And a little visual, laminated five chairs on the wall.

ALENA:
In the staff room could be great, yeah.

MARK:
Could do one on the pinboard to remind us in meetings to get out of that red and yellow chair when we find ourselves there. Alright, moving along. It's important to, sort of, think about our time and our place, and the willingness of the person that we're talking to around a communication. Is it a good time and place to be having this conversation? I think if I was studying that first example of me in the video, it was not a good time or place for me, as the centre leader. I was clearly distracted and (INAUDIBLE). So, probably, the best strategy if you were so distracted in this is to say, now is not the time for me to communicate and just, very politely, send Alena down to speak to someone else or, yeah, make a time and a place to look at it later.

ALENA:
Bring somebody in.

MARK:
If a person's feeling distressed in a communication, and we might see that, sort of, go on. If there's high levels of distress in a communication, probably best to not really think about communication, but think about de-escalation of that sort of conflict, and moving away, for the moment, and thinking, when can we come back on a much more even sort of field. One of the reasons Alena and I are here with you today to talk about all these topics, is we are very married to this idea of Mental Health First Aid Training. We can't deliver a Mental Health First Aid course for you in this context, but Mental Health First Aid training will help to give you the knowledge and skills to have those conversations that might be quite difficult with someone who you are worried about increased distress, poor functioning that might be around a mental health problem. And I encourage you to take a look at Mental Health First Aid. It's a really fantastic problem to develop lots and lots of great knowledge and skill in that area. Dumbo the Elephant, what a great metaphor for communication. We should be much more often big, big, wide open ears. There's some things that we can, sort of, think about here. You've got two ears and one mouth.

ALENA:
If that's not the best cue for effective communication, I don't know what is.

MARK:
It's so lovely. And we should be using those communication facilities sort of in that ratio, maybe speaking a little less and listening a little more is the idea of this slide. And thinking about this idea, when a person feels heard, it builds trust. We can see those relationships really benefit from this sort of situation. Tell us in the chat room, what do you notice when a person is listening to you? What do you observe in that person? What are some things that might be going on there? You can share those ideas with the other people who are watching on today. When they feel trusted, we're gonna, maybe, see a situation where issues don't arise so much, or that issues get brought to our attention before they become a big problem.

ALENA:
Because we feel that we can talk about these things.

MARK:
Yeah, and we can iron out those things and save time and conflict, which is what we're all about here, absolutely, in our effective communication. We might consider some of this stuff. Active listening and effective questioning are really important concepts, and we'll take a little look at some more of those things, because being an effective and respectful listener doesn't usually come natural to us. We might need to identify and practise some skills. If you want to study a master class in the idea of listening, there's a terrific little video here by a William Ury, and he, William Ury, is an amazing man who goes into very, very tense political situations. He's a, sort of, assistant...

ALENA:
Like a mediator?

MARK:
A mediator. But in really, highly charged central American kind of political situations. He's assisted people in high levels of conflict to try and avoid the loss of life that comes about in wars and conflict in these situations. Quite a different context to what's going on in your workplace, however, what I love about this particular video is that he talks about this idea of the power of listening, opening up the mind of the speaker through active listening. So, when we do active listening, not only are we showing the person we're hearing, but we're actually giving them an opportunity to re-frame the message that they're giving us, and William Ury in this little video will tell you about how that has worked for him in those negotiations.

Some good listener tips here. We want to pay attention. We want to give that person good attention, we want to use minimal encouragers, we want to not take over the conversation, but just those little noises that we make, the head nods, the things that show that we're hearing the other person is very, very helpful. This idea of a paraphrase, where I re-frame, or restate to the person, what I've heard them say, and this can give my conversation partner a little break from talking for a moment, and it, gee, there's nothing that proves that I've been listening better than if I can summarise those ideas that the person has just been talking with. I might check in with their feelings, invite them to elaborate through some really open questions. Questions like, what, when, who, and how are really lovely open-ended questions that are going to encourage that person to think carefully. Is there any question we should avoid?

ALENA:
Why.

MARK:
Why. What an interesting question that we often use in amongst those what, when, who, and how's, and when we go to the why, sometimes, that can be really challenging.

ALENA:
And yet, it's often the first one that we go to, isn't it?

MARK:
We do. We do. So, just be a little cautious about the 'why' question. You might find it puts a person on the defensive a little bit. Sometimes, we want to listen and hear that a person might be caught on a track. They might be caught on a sort of...

ALENA:
Cycle.

MARK:
Cycle of that. I think that in our...again, going back to those videos we showed at the beginning of this particular session, my unhelpful communication encourages a repeated and circular track of encouraging more problem discussion. When we're hearing a person caught on problem describing, we want to move them to problem solving. So, we want to notice when a person's stuck in that zone a little bit, and have some good ways to, maybe, shift and move that person through to problem solving. And I do try to move in that way in our second video, and really head towards those solutions rather than skidding. No point getting stuck on the problem forever. Alright. So, there's some listener tips for you. Here's another good tip, and this is a little segue into this idea of empathy, that we're gonna take a look at a little video, in just moment, about empathy, that's a lovely one, that unpacks this idea.

When we're communicating with someone, we probably wanna shift away from this idea of giving them advice, and focus on supporting that person. And so, advice is probably not gonna go down all that well with someone that we're trying to communicate with, especially if we're in conflict, or we're trying to resolve a problem. If I take that sort of top-down advice giving standpoint, this is not a very good way of communicating in a difficult situation. So, we wanna find ways that we can support that person, and then, this can really lead us towards this idea of empathy. Now, there's a lot of different ways of describing empathy, and its poorer cousin, sympathy.


(ALENA LAUGHS)


But I can't do it anywhere near as well as a really fantastic and knowledgeable person in this space, Brene Brown. And so, Brene Brown has created some really terrific little animations. She's a psychologist, a professor in fact, academic in a number of universities, I believe in the United States. So, we're gonna throw this little video on, and it's gonna unpack this idea of, what is empathy? So, we'll throw that on, and we'll have a chat about that at the end.


(WOMAN GASPS)
(DRAMATIC MUSIC)

BRENE:
So, what is empathy, and why is it very different than sympathy? Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy, it's very interesting, Theresa Wiseman is a nursing scholar who studied professions, very diverse professions, where empathy is relevant and came up with four qualities of empathy. Perspective taking, the ability to take the perspective of another person, or recognise their perspective as their truth. Staying out of judgement, not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do. (CROWD LAUGHS)


Recognising emotion in other people, and then communicating that. Empathy is feeling with people. And to me, I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space, when someone's kind of in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom, and they say, I'm stuck, it's dark, I'm overwhelmed," and then we look and we say, hey, and climb down, I know what it's like down here, and you're not alone. Sympathy is, "Ooh! It's bad, huh?" (CROWD LAUGHS)


Uh...no. You want a sandwich? Empathy is a choice, and it's a vulnerable choice, because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with 'at least'.
(CROWD LAUGHS)


Yeah. And we do it all the time. Because, you know what, someone just shared something with us that's incredibly painful, and we're trying to 'silver-lining' it. I don't think that's a verb, but I'm using it as one. We're trying to put the silver lining around it. So, "I had a miscarriage." At least you know you can get pregnant." I think my marriage is falling apart." At least you have a marriage." (CROWD LAUGHS)


John's getting kicked out of school." At least Sara is an A student. But one of the things we do sometimes, in the face of very difficult conversations, is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that's very difficult, I'd rather you say, "I don't even know what to say right now. I'm just so glad you told me. Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.
(PLAYFUL MUSIC)

MARK:
Alright. Now, how was that, hey? Look. A masterclass in this idea of empathy, I could not have put it any better than Brene Brown, no way. This idea of listening versus fixing, yeah? People who, you know, often come for a conversation - they're not looking for fixing necessarily but being heard I think is far more important. And we're gonna get a lot further with that communication than that sort of quick chat sort of fixing things. At least, trap - what a terrible way to sort of respond to a person who's, sort of you know, got a genuine concern that they've brought to us. Well, at least, you know, your mother could buy another red jacket, couldn't she? You know.
(LAUGHS)

ALENA:
Like the intention is there, but it's not at all going to do what we hope is going to do.

MARK:
Yeah. Absolutely not. Again, another example of something we can learn some of these ideas from... in a situation. So, I've put together a little slide of the summary here of different types of Communication Blockers that are very common in communication that we see. And really, you identify a lot of those blockers that came up in the first video at the beginning - the idea of, sort of... You know, there was a lot of judging going on there - a lot of split attention, you know, that that little kind of making the red jacket about me and I wanted to buy one, isn't it great? You know. Really lovely complex example of a bunch of little or different types of blockers combined together to really ruin a good communication going on there.

And then things like minimising, belittling, agreeing or disagreeing and jumping to the conclusion of the conversation - using closed questions sometimes have some value, but they will block communica... They are likely and so, if you've got a person caught on a track, you might use that as a strategy to shift the move. Yeah. But be careful, because it's not gonna keep the conversation going if you don't follow it up with another question there. Changing the subject - lots of things that we notice in those early videos. Look. This is a nice kind of list that you can give your participants in an activity like the one we set at the start to help prop them on how to maybe do play that role of the negative communication. There's a link back to a sheet that describes all of that for you in the beginning there. So, we wanna all avoid those communication blockers. They're not gonna be helpful of us at all. I love this picture.

ALENA:
It's my favourite.
(CROSSTALK)

MARK:
A great photo. Sort of a bit of an expiration of, I suppose, this idea of body language, because we can't hear any of the words that are being said in this interaction of world leaders. But, gee, I'm getting a strong sense that I'm working out what they're talking about and you know, it is... The demeanour and you know, I really... When I was thinking about my role play at the beginning in that first video, I really sort of channelled this Donald Trump figure here with the arm fold. Those things. Lots of different facial expressions in this photo that just speaks so much about communication. That's not what is said necessarily that is most important in terms of the way that we hear.

ALENA:
But people who are so trained and well-versed in body language is this snapshot of honesty that we don't often see. It's so telling.

MARK:
Yeah. When a politician doesn't have congruence in their message, we see it contorted in their face. Sometimes we might see that politician trying to give us that message that they know is not gonna go down well after I've released this type of information on a Friday afternoon. You know, when they're gonna make a really terrible decision, you'll see the politician's face all go funny when they're trying to give this message. There is a like of congruence there and we see that in the way that body language sort of can work. Lots and lots of research into this area of body language and how we are so... and what we talked about how we would start to develop these skills as babies and toddlers to peak up incongruence in communication from other people. We could study some types of body language features that tells a lot about what's going on. If a person has their arms crossed or legs, it's a signal of resistance to the idea that is coming forth. We can see that Donald Trump is not really comfortable or happy about a powerful woman who is standing and giving ideas of her way, you know.


Angela Merkel, I think her name is? The chancellor of Germany, incredibly powerful woman. We just see...

ALENA:
It's just emanating.

MARK:
How well Donald Trump, you know, is really understanding and a little bit resistant to those ideas. Real smiles crinkle the eyes, you know. And a proper smile could happen all over your face and so, we might notice the difference between a smile that doesn't kind of have that old face expression. Eyes that lie a lot are things we can know. A raised eyebrow is a very subtle thing that can come out in our communication and we've tried really hard by giving all the right words, but we have dismissed that person, really, you know, we're not comfortable in that communication when we raise an eyebrow - a clenched jaw, you know, I'm holding it in but you can see the muscles tensing on the side of my face.

ALENA:
Cognitively, we're constructed from a very young age. When there is that dis-junction between presentation and message to automatically believe the feeling that we have rather than the words and it goes back to four months... It's amazing.

MARK:
There you go. Amazing. Incredible.
(COUGHS)
Absolutely, we need that body language to sort of match what's going on for us - we're gonna give away the game for sure. So, paying attention to that is very, very important. The bottom line is that you can't read a person's exact thoughts, but you can learn a lot from their body language and that's especially true when words and body language don't match. So... Some ideas here. It's a bit of a summary of some questioning tips that you might think about. Be mindful of open and closed questions. Think about, you know, they've both got benefits and they've both got risks. Ask yourself what is the best type to use in this situation. Questions for checking and understanding are really helpful too to kind of, you know, unpack what the person's sort of wanting to talk about, we wanna have solution focused questioning in our communication with each other. We don't have a lot of time. We know that that is part of the context of the communication we're gonna have in an early childhood workplace, learning any education workplace. And so, we wanna move there. Those ideas on that slide for you. A few more positive tips there. You wanna be clearing your mind about what you're talking about. Smiling is really important - tone of voice, all of those things.

ALENA:
Do I have to sound like Dr. Phil, though?

MARK:
A little bit of Dr. Phil tone is probably really helpful you know, in giving an empathy response there. And so, we don't wanna, you know, ham it up too much.

ALENA:
But it's gotta be genuine.

MARK:
But it's gotta be genuine. Absolutely. Putting it into Practise - so, this is... I referred at the beginning of the presentation that there is lots and lots and lots of practical examples here of different types of helpful and unhelpful communication that you might do. And practise the skills through some really fun and engaging activities that you can use in the workplace or you can use in the playground with young people. Definitely those older students and children that are in your centres - maybe after school care and times like that. Putting some of these games in with them can be absolutely really good.

Memory test is a really interesting little... One to sort of talk about the way that your memory, your short-term memory is so incredibly important in communication and we can play some little games with that. I've talked before about Mental Health First Aid. Let's just unpack that on this slide. So, many people find it difficult to communicate with a person who may be experiencing a mental illness or having a... We can see them experiencing, perhaps, a mental problem. The skills to have these conversations much more successfully can be learned in a Mental Health First Aid course. And you've got some... Mental Health First Aid Australia have a range of great online resources to aiding communication, as well. The Mental Health First Aid course takes about 14 hours - 12 to 14 hours to do which is a lot of time, but you can go to their website and certainly see some really fantastic resources to assist in communication in these types of situations and we've left some contact details there for... Alena and myself to, if you want to explore the idea of a Mental Health First Aid course.


So, that was a little memory activity that I haven't had time to run with you today. More video content here that I've put into the presentation. Again, links that we can go away and take a look at by ourselves or in a group situation to run and professional learning there. 10 Ways to have a Better Conversation.


Mind Tools Website - I really wanna pay a little bit of attention to this particular resource which is just terrific. It's got a lot of really, really helpful information about communication. And the link that's on your screen now will take you to a Communication Quiz. And that's gonna ask you about 20 to 30 questions about how you communicate. And it's gonna print it out a report at the end that talks about how you communicate. And maybe identifies one or two areas where you could spend a bit more time focusing.

And those four areas - it's gonna focus on in the feedback you get from doing this quiz is the source - how you're planning your message, encoding - how you're creating a clear and well-crafted message, how you receive and interpret a message in decoding and responding and feedback. So, all of those areas. You get a little bit of insight, perhaps, into how you're going as a communicator. And look the Mind Tools Website is absolutely jam-packed with so many great resources for you. If you know some other good resources that could helpful for people, throw them on that chatroom and let people know about them. And then, we're starting a whole bunch of different... Oh. Here. I've got a whole bunch of communication activities for adults. And there's some links back to where I've sourced this information from. I haven't made up any of these games on my own. There's a whole bunch of different types of communication games that you could focus on in a staff meeting. Guess That Emotion. Trying to work out what the emotions are of a person through maybe tone of voice or body language and just setting up little kind of manufactured conversations where we create an opportunity for someone to get better at knowing what's sitting behind the message. There's another one for...


For emotion, clapping and following. Follow a verbal cue and a physical cue. And the fun thing with this game is that you sort of trying to get them to repeat a set of physical actions like clapping, you change the verbal cue along the way. And it's very confusing to people when that sort of... Another kind of example of incongruence.

ALENA:
So simple but it becomes very confusing.

MARK:
And just helps us to remember that it's not about the words. It's so much more the way we communicate. So, lots of lots of different activities there for you to go and explore in your own time. Like I said links to all the places where you can go and learn a little bit more there and lots of lots of ammunition there for staff members.

ALENA:
There's so many wonderful things there.

MARK:
Some of them just... Only take 30 seconds to 2 minutes to play the games. It's really nice little segues. In another activity, in a regular staff meeting, some of them you could definitely, you know, spend a half an hour to an hour unpacking and doing some of those communication games. So, lots and lots of good things for you to follow-up there. Don't you like coming to a presentation where you get more work afterwards?

ALENA:
These are things of tremendous value.

MARK:
Of course, of course. We're very deliberately... We knew we couldn't get all the key information that we wanted done in a, in a single hour. So, this is a great resource for you to download and keep later. So, this brings us to the end of our three hours. There's some references there on the second last slide And you'll see links to some of the things that I've mentioned along the way. So, that just leaves this last thank you slide. I wanna go around and thank a few people. Let me start with thanking the Department of Education for listening to you and putting together an... and putting a significant resource for the sector to bring not just safer communities, but the other organisations Smiling Mind and Beyond Blue who are delivering us part of this package.

We are very sorry we couldn't see you live and in person, but we're very grateful that we're able to communicate and get this message out to you. So, big thank you to the Department of Education. And I wanna particularly mention Kevin and Natalie who are... have done a lot of the leg work here and they are Department of Education employees in the early childhood area and they've done such a wonderful job of drawing... bringing different mental health educators together can be a little bit like herding cats at times and they've done a fantastic job.

ALENA:
You would know them as the moderators.

MARK:
They would be known as the moderators in this chatroom, but they are much, much more than that and so many great... Such great support and lots of energy and time to build a great program for you. I wanna thank Redback Studios for making us look so professional when really you know...


If you just saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't...
(LAUGHS)
It's amazing how we scrub up in this lovely studio environment and all of those things. And I wanna thank Alena for being here with me and sharing the journey. We've had a lot of fun working with you today and we look forward to an opportunity to connect with you again. Thanks so much.

ALENA:
Thank you everyone.

Mindfulness in Education and Care

Smiling Mind are a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve mental health, wellbeing, and resilience through the regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Developed by educators and psychologists, Smiling Mind is now one of the world leaders in the pre-emptive mental space and Australia’s number one experts in youth-based mindfulness programs.

This webinar will cover:

  • What is mindfulness and why it is important
  • The research benefits of mindfulness
  • The importance of educators establishing and maintaining their own personal mindfulness practices
  • Mindfulness for social and emotional learning
  • Smiling Mind’s Early Learning Program – due to be released late 2020
  • Bringing mindfulness into an early learning environment
  • How parents and children can build mindfulness skills as a family
Mindfulness in Education and Care

 

RACHEL:
Good morning and welcome to the mental health and wellbeing conference webinars. These webinars were developed as a result of sector consultation identifying the need for professional learning, related to the skills and practices associated with positive mental health for children, as well as additional resources for educators self care and wellbeing. So please don't forget to give feedback at the very end of this session. And if you have any follow up questions for the department, you can use the contact information and inquiries line that you can see on your screen now. So welcome, everybody. My name is Rachel, and I'm a mindfulness trainer. I've been teaching people in mindfulness based practices for over 15 years in lots of different settings. And now since the beginning of 2020, I've been part of the Smiling Mind team. And I'm absolutely delighted to be helping them roll out their programs to the education sector because I know that mindfulness has a lot to offer you as an educator, and just as a human being in 2020. And it also has a lot to offer children as well, which I hope you'll have a really good understanding of by the time we get to the end of this session. So you'll notice that you won't have access to the mic in this particular webinar, but you do have access to the chat box. And we'll also be running a couple of polls during the session. And it'll be really good if you can engage with those activities or make it more interesting for you. So do set yourself up so that you can easily access your keyboard so that you can participate in the chat and either talk to your colleagues who are also online or you know, feel free to ask questions. And every now and again we will be running a poll where you can take part in that activity as well. And what I'd like to do now before we move into the content is just to do a really short settling practice. So can I invite you now just to sit comfortably in your chair, and perhaps to sit with your back a little more upright and straight so that your brain and your mind feel awake and alert. And then place your hands comfortably in your lap. And then I'm going to invite you to take a full deep breath in. Breathe in as fully as you can. Hold the breath in and then exhale and let go.

And let's do that one more time. another deep breath in. Hold in for a few seconds and then exhaling. And letting go. And now I'm going to invite you to open up to your senses. So checking out what you can see in the room that you're sitting in. So even if you've been in this room lots of times before, just noticing what you can see, taking note of colours, the space. And now activating your sense of hearing and really tuning in to the act of listening and noticing the different sounds that are happening in the environment around you. And being aware that silence is also a type of sound. And now turning inward and just noticing what's on your mind this morning. And noticing how you're feeling about being here and participating in this webinar for the next hour and a half. And feeling your whole body now, whole body sitting in the chair and feeling ready and present for the session ahead. OK, so today I'm going to provide you with a brief introduction to Smiling Mind. We'll talk about what mindfulness is and why we need it. We'll also discuss how we can cultivate mindfulness and there will be an opportunity to do some practice in the session, which is a really important part because while there is some compelling theory to mindfulness, it really only works if we do the practice. Mindfulness is really a verb it's about doing. We'll discuss some of the research and the science behind mindfulness and also reiterate the importance of educators having their own practice if you are going to be using it with the children that you work with. We'll talk about mindfulness for emotional and social learning, and how we can bring mindfulness into early learning centres using the Smiling Minds early minds program.

And I'll also give you some ideas of how you can bring mindfulness into your own home and with your own family, or how you can support your parent community if they're interested in bringing mindfulness into their home and if they're interested in reinforcing what you're doing in your centre, with their family at home as well. So Smiling Mind is a not for profit organisation. We started in 2012. And it was actually started by a couple of friends who were entrepreneurs. And they were also meditation practitioners. And they were parents. And at that time, they were noticing in their own children, rising anxiety levels. And having experienced firsthand the psychological benefits of a meditation practice, they wondered if there was something that they could do to help their own children navigate these potential mental health concerns. So they got together with some app developers and some researchers and they came up with what we now know is the Smiling Mind app. And of course, it's been through a number of refinements since 2012. And today, it's had over 5 million downloads. It's one of Australia's most popular meditation apps. And I think one of the best things about it is that it's completely free because I know there's lots of meditation apps out there but eventually, they do tend to ask you for a subscription, but the Smiling Mind one is completely free. And you'll see that there's lots of different programs available on the Smiling Mind app. So while originally, we were very focused on providing children with preventative tools to for positive mental health, we've actually expanded our repertoire.

So we've now got programs available for adults, for families, and also we do a lot of work in the workplace, and the work that we do in workplaces in corporate fund the work that we do in schools and in disadvantaged communities as well. So our vision is to help every mind thrive, and our mission is to provide accessible lifelong tools to support healthy minds. And when we say tools, we're mostly talking about the Smiling Mind app. However, we do also have ancillary programs that we offer to schools and also to workplaces. So it's both of those things. It's the app, and it's the ancillary programs to complement the app. And what I'd like to do now, before we go any further, I'm really interested to know whether you've already got some experience in mindfulness. So we're going to launch a poll now, that will ask you about your prior experience or whether you're totally new to it. I'd love to hear where you're at with it. And while you're answering that poll, I'll just speak to this slide. So Smiling Minds, overarching goal is to create mindful generations. So we wanna see children growing up with the skills they need to navigate the challenges of our complex world and live life to their potential. And for us, that includes teaching children emotional regulation skills, helping them to develop emotional awareness, helping them increase their focus and attention, to develop critical thinking skills to boost their creativity, and also to develop adaptive social skills. So I'm just gonna check out the poll now and see how that's going.

OK, wow, that's a big number. I can see 76% of you are already familiar with mindfulness. And for 21% of you, it's new. OK, so that's quite a large percentage of you who are already familiar with mindfulness. So for some of you, for a lot of you this may be revision this morning. So if it is thank you for your patience, and I hope do pick up a few tidbits and maybe some new information that's more applicable to your situation of teaching in early learning centres. And for those who are new, I also encourage you to keep an open mind and see how it lands for you. See if there's also something useful that you can take away. That's good to know that many of you have already got lots of experience with mindfulness. So I'm gonna clarify now what mindfulness actually is, because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about mindfulness. So it's really helpful, I think, to clarify this. And we often start with what mindfulness isn't. So we're going to go to the opposite.

So I'd like to ask you now can you reflect upon how often you find yourself eating at your desk, eating in front of the computer, or perhaps snacking in front of the TV, and then at the end of your meal or your snack, you look down, see the empty plate and realise that you actually didn't taste a single bite? And what about this one? How often do you get into your car and drive from one point to another, get to your destination, and then realise that you actually had very little awareness over the journey and are quite surprised that you got to your destination safely. Or there's this one, being in conversation with a friend or perhaps being in an important meeting, and suddenly realising that you actually haven't heard the last 30 to 60 seconds of what the speakers said. And now you're meant to respond in a meaningful way. Yeah, so all of these states, whoops, are suggesting a state of autopilot. So this is our ability for our body to be in one place but our mind to be somewhere else completely. And in a way, it's actually a cognitive achievement that we can do this. It's amazing that we can get into a car, and we can drive safely and get to where we need to go. without really thinking about it. It's quite convenient, because I'm sure if you remember when you first learned to drive, the effort, and the energy that you had to put into the act of driving was a lot. And if you had to do that now, every time you got into a car, it would be quite exhausting. So on the one hand, it is a cognitive achievement that we can go about certain daily tasks without really thinking about them, that we can actually do them on these autopilot states. However, there is also a bit of an emotional cost to it, which I'll talk about a bit later. So if these states of being on autopilot with our body in one place, our mind somewhere else, if that's what mindfulness isn't, can I ask you from your experience so far, what do you think mindfulness is? So feel free to jump onto the chat box now and just type in there, what you think or what you've experienced mindfulness to be. I'm just gonna check out your responses. So Vicki said being fully present, yes, as best as we can.

And Katrina is said mindfulness, the here and now. Melinda Scott, I think mindfulness is being present in the moment and giving your all in the moment. Yeah, so being fully present with all of our being mind and body. Being alert, present, aware your surroundings. OK, now there's lots of answers coming in. I won't be able to get to all of your answers. But there's I can see a lot of people are saying similar things around, you know, being in the moment. And being present, being fully aware.
(UNKNOWN) wrote, utilising all of our five senses in the present moment. And we've got mindfulness is being present and taking in what is in front of you mind and body included. Yeah, I think that's a really important point about the mind and body being present. OK, so I'm going to show you now a definition that we really like at Smiling Mind. So this definition says that mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, with openness, curiosity and without judgement. So you'll see these two parts to this definition. The first part is the paying attention part. So, and there's something intentional about that, if attention is like a spotlight. It's like we're choosing to shine the spotlight of our attention on a particular object for a particular period of time. So it's this deliberate choosing to pay attention to a particular object. And then the second part is very much attitudinal. And I reckon this second part is just as important as the paying attention part. Because the attitude that we pay attention with is what makes the practice sustainable, and achievable. So for example, just say you were doing a guided meditation practice, and you noticed that you had a really tight neck and shoulder and when the instruction was to direct your attention to your tight neck, you felt discomfort or pain. The invitation in mindfulness is to bring some openness and curiosity to that sensation, and to see if we can not go into judging the sensation because sometimes when we encounter something difficult, we automatically judge it, label it, then go into a story about it, which can just add a whole other layer to the experience.

So in mindfulness, the invitation is to see if we can be aware of that sensation without judging it. And this is quite tricky to do, because the human mind is sort of wired to judge. So often what we're really doing is just noticing how much the mind tends to judge. So yeah, do keep that in mind that the attitude in which we practice mindfulness is just as important as the paying attention part. And as best as we can, we wanna bring an open mind, some curiosity, and to be aware of just how judgmental the mind can be. OK, so I'd like to do a little experiment now. So we're going to launch another poll. So watch out for that popping up on your screen any moment. And I'd like you just to reflect upon where has your mind been in the last, say ten or 15 seconds. So feel free to be completely honest. I will not be offended if you would like to admit that you weren't solely focused on what I was saying. But it's I think it's interesting to discover, and to take note of just how often our minds can easily oscillate in between, you know, the present, the past and the future. OK, so far, we've got 20% of people saying their mind was thinking about something that is already happened. So past thinking, and 17% of people saying that their mind was thinking about something that hasn't happened yet, some future thinking. And 61% of people were saying they're doing a bit of both. Yeah. So this is completely natural for our bodies to be in one place, yet our minds to be meandering between past, present and future. And there was actually, there was a study done at Harvard University in 2010. And they were able to quantify just how much the human mind tends to wander. So what do you think, as a percentage, what do you think they came up with? There'll be another poll that will come up on your screen now. So feel free to have a crack at that.

How often do you think the human mind wanders? So it was an interesting study that had a really big sample. You can Google the study, if you're interested. It was Matt Killingsworth. And the name of the paper is called ‘A Wandering Mind is An Unhappy Mind’. Really good study, though, I think that they had thousands of people in this sample from all sorts of demographics. And everybody in this study had an app on their phone. And the app would ping a number of times a day. And it would ask them three questions. It would ask, what are you doing now? What are you thinking about? And How you feeling? And let's see, I'll just see if we got this percentage, right on the poll. OK. So actually, so most people have voted for 75% of the time our minds are wandering. The second highest vote was for 59% of the time, and the third highest is 47% of the time. Well, this study that was done in 2010 found that 47% of the time, people's minds were wandering. But I think that if they did this study again in 2020, you know, 'cause consider the fact you know how much we've been using smartphones in the last 10 years and their capacity to exaggerate mind distraction. I think that if they redid this study in 2020, that percentage would actually be much higher, and possibly, you guys would be right that it would be up there at 75%. But anyway, in 2010, they found that 47% of the time, people's minds were wandering. And interestingly, when people reported that, yep, I'm doing one thing so I'm having dinner with my family, but I'm thinking about work or It's the weekend and I'm thinking about work. Whenever they said that, yep, they're not on task, they also reported feeling less happy. So this is how we know that there's actually a bit of an emotional cost to this mind wandering. And the reason for that is that when we are mind wandering, we tend to be drifting off into the past and perhaps ruminating about past events or moving into future thinking. And we know if we do that in an excessive way that can lead to anxiety related concerns as well. So, yeah, we do want to find a balance with how much we're doing this mind wandering. And we're certainly not advocating that, you know, we should be present 100% of the time. That's unachievable.

And there's also really good things that happen on autopilot and when we are mind wandering, you know, we know that when we are on autopilot, that that's where we often do our creative problem solving. It's also the place where we sort of organise our thinking. It's where creativity is born. And of course, we have to plan we have to organise our lives. So we do need the capacity to do some future thinking. So yeah, we're definitely not saying that the goal is to be mindful and present 100% of the time, what we do want to do is to notice, I'm thinking about that thing, again, that happened in the past, or here I am worrying about the future, we wanna develop the ability to notice that our mind is doing that and then add our choosing, bring our focus and attention back to the present moment, rather than just sort of being pushed around by this autopilot function of the mind. So Scientists call autopilot or mind wandering. They call this function the default mode network. So using brain scan imaging technology, scientists have been able to see that there's particular areas of the brain that light up when we go into mind wandering or autopilot functions. And they've found that this typically happens whenever we don't need to be externally focused and engaged on a task. So you've probably noticed, like things that we can do easily, like if you're a good cook, and you don't really need to think about it, you'll probably find that that's where you can easily go onto autopilot. Because we don't actually need to be fully engaged in the external task or you know those routine things like getting ready in the morning or having a shower driving. Whenever we don't have to really think about what we're doing, that's when the default mode network comes into activation and when we tend to go on autopilot. And I guess the downside of this is that it is the place where we ruminate about the past and worry about the future. And you know, in a quite a generalised way, we know that if... we know that people who do too much ruminating on the past tend to experience low mood and depression. And people who do too much future thinking too much worrying tend to experience more anxiety related concerns. So with mindfulness, we're really teaching people to develop the ability to first of all notice their own mind and to then at their choosing to step off this autopilot function and come back to the present moment.

And the other thing that we're sort of up against is the feature of the brain that is known as the negativity bias. So the negativity bias is hardwired into our brains. There's a saying in neuro psychology, that the brain is like Velcro, the negative experiences, and Teflon for positive experiences. And you can probably relate to this yourself. Like just say you've had a day at work. And most things went pretty well that day. And maybe there was just one interaction that you wish that you handled differently. And you know, at the end of the day, in the evening at home, what's the thing that's on your mind about work? It's that one little interaction that didn't go so well. So in this way, our brains are sort of hardwired to really get sticky with the negative, and it's not our fault. Our brains are... they're designed this way. It's an evolutionary feature. And it comes from the fact that our brains are ancient and that once upon a time, we were caveman and cavewoman, and we were literally surrounded by predators. And so our brain developed this mechanism where it was scanning the threats in order to keep us safe. So it comes from a good place. But the thing is, is that now it's 2020. And while our threats are not likely to be animal predators anymore, we've still got this mechanism in our brain that is always scanning for what's a threat to me, what could hurt me? What do I need to protect myself from? And this is where this negativity bias comes from. It comes from a need to look after ourselves. But it can run riot in some people. It's why it's so easy to criticise. It's so easy to be negative, and we do need to make a little little effort to be positive and to see what's good, and to see what's already working in our lives. And the good news is that mindfulness can help us with this.

Mindfulness can help us to notice what's happening in our mind, and to turn towards the good, and to broaden our perspective as needed. So I've talked about a few things so far, leading to this idea of why mindfulness is important. So we've talked about the fact that we tend to have brains that go on to autopilot, and to have this default mode network activation. And we've also got this hardwired negativity bias. So there's a couple of reasons why mindfulness is important. But I think it's also helpful to make it personally relevant. So can I ask you now just to think about the challenges that you face as an educator, and perhaps the the challenges and the stress that your staff face as well in your particular Early Learning Centre. And then when you're ready, if you could type those into the chat box, it would be great to see people's responses about what particular challenges you face. Yeah, I'm just noticing in the chat box, someone said that it's interesting to note our brains are wired for negative thoughts. Yes, it is very good information. So and it's good to know also that it's not our fault. But we can change it. We've got good information about neuroplasticity now. We know that the brain is plastic and that our habits and our daily interactions and our routines and how we live our life is shaping our future brain. OK, so back to those challenges. So we've got someone said staff relations, paperwork required, work life balance, time factor. (UNKNOWN) said not taking the time out to implement self care. I saw someone that had stress, time management. Yeah, I can see lots of comments around not having enough time, time constraints, wearing so many hats, being too busy to stop and listen, worrying about something going wrong, lack of control.

And someone has said he time other staff members ideas and attitudes, stress. And we've got Lynn said the noise level in the centre at times and the children can make mindfulness challenging. When children are interrupting, yes, yeah, we've got to work with the reality of our situation, don't we? OK, so definitely some common threads there. It seems like interpersonal relationships and the interactions with other staff, time. And another person who said a noisy environment, all seem to be the most common challenges. So, have you got an idea at this stage of how mindfulness could possibly help with any of those challenges? And if you do have an idea, could you also type those into the chat box. So Lisa has said, to balance so many tasks at once? I think that's a challenge maybe not how mindfulness can help. Helen is said to slow us down. Yeah, we've got helping to prioritise tasks. And Lynn has suggested maybe calling the children for a mindfulness activity when the level of noise gets too much. And we've also got allow us to be present. Someone said to get in touch with ourselves and find the positives. Enjoy the moments when we can, yeah. We've got behind it to myself and acknowledge all the great things that have happened at the end of the day. Yes, I think that's a wonderful practice to do because we can so easily just get caught up in what didn't work, even though lots of things went well in a day.

And Monique said acceptance that things can go wrong and to be self aware. And Mika said, check in with ourselves and refresh point of view. Practising gratitude. Yeah, lots of great answers there. So I think, you know, mindfulness can help, particularly with this attitude that we bring. So if we can bring that attitude of openness and curiosity and non judgement, to the way we interact with people that can really open up possibilities because often when we come in with a preconceived idea of how things are going to be, we're a little bit blind to the actual possibilities and we're a little bit blind also to the person who is standing in front of us because we've already got this judgement of how things should be. So the attitude can really help with our interactions.

And I think the other way mindfulness can help is allowing us to be in the present moment because when we do experience stress, there can be this tendency to get caught in way of thinking where we think we've got so much to do and we're just walking around with a big to do list in our head. And that can really sort of rev up the stress reactivity. And we can fall into the trap of thinking that we have to multitask. Where the neuroscience actually shows that multitasking is a complete myth. It's impossible for the brain to do two things at once. All it really does, it flits really quickly between tasks. And it makes us less efficient at both of those tasks. So we're better off doing one thing at a time. And with mindfulness because we're training our brain to be present and to be focused on one thing, what we find is that if you practice mindfulness regularly, you also go about your daily tasks and your interactions in that way as well. Just doing one thing at a time, which can lessen that stress reactivity that sometimes comes with feeling like we've got a big to do list and we've got a lot of things that we're up against. And yes, and mindfulness can definitely also help with gratitude, and taking in the good as well, because mindfulness helps us to broaden our perspective and to open up to other ideas. You might have noticed that when we do get stressed, our perception becomes quite narrow. And we can get really fixated on details, where if we can practice some mindfulness, it does help us to broaden our perspective and taking a wider view. So thank you for your responses there, they were excellent. So the other thing that we're up against is pressure. You know, a lot of working professionals today are under a lot of pressure.

And it's not just in their working life, but they've also got financial pressure and family pressure as well. We've got the pace of life, life seems to be moving faster and faster as each year goes by. And there's also this element of progress, which I think has largely come from technology. And you know, I love technology. I'm a big fan of my devices. But you know, I also have to admit that ten or 15 years ago, I did not sleep with a smartphone next to my bed, where I could easily access my work emails, you know, immediately upon waking and right before sleeping, if I chose or I didn't have access to all of the news and the information just with the click of a button. So I think it's, you know, the progress of technology has led to this culture, where we're always switched on. We don't have these clearly delineated periods of work when we're at work or at work and we're at home and with our families where there, it's all become a bit blurred, we take our work home with us, and we don't have these clear boundaries anymore, which I think I've added to this, you know, stressed out state a lot of us find ourselves in. And in addition to those things, we've also got the curveballs that life throws us. Like, the pandemic that we're living through this year. This has been a really stressful situation. It's, you know, we've heard the word unprecedented use many times before, and it's for good reason. None of us have lived through this. We're living in very uncertain times. We don't know what life is going to look like, really, in the next few weeks, let alone the next few months, given what we've just seen happen in Victoria, that very much could be us. So we're living in a very uncertain, stressful time. And pandemics aside, I'm sure that you've all been through something very stressful, something very difficult in your own life, whether that's been a relationship breakup, whether that's been a death, a serious illness. You know, we all face difficulties and we all experience suffering. So I think there's a lot of reasons why mindfulness is needed. So, yes, and here's a definition of stress. Stress is the response we may experience when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to our knowledge, abilities or resources, and which challenge our ability to cope. It's an emotional experience associated with nervousness, tension and strain. So, you know, basically stress occurs when we've got a lot of demands a lot coming at us. And we feel like we don't have the resources, which is often time.

We feel like we don't have the resources to meet those demands. And I would like to point out with this idea of stress, you know, we often over estimate the demands, we often overestimate our to do list and underestimate our ability to cope. And on that I think mindfulness can be something that we can resource ourselves with, that we can put in our coping toolbox to help us deal with all the various pressures and challenges that we're all facing in life. So here are some recent mental health statistics for Australia. So we know that one in five Australians will suffer from a mental illness in any given year. One in seven primary age, children will experience mental health problems. And unfortunately, this statistic gets worse as people move into high school where it becomes one in four secondary students will experience mental health problems. And this is why one of the reasons why a Smiling Mind does so much work in schools because of these numbers here. And we also know that 75% of mental illness has its onset in adolescence. So at Smiling Mind, that's why we do so much work with preventative and pre-emptive mental health strategies because we know if we can reach people before that onset period, that can make a big difference. So mindfulness can positively impact mental health in two ways. Firstly, as a proactive, preventative approach to staying in good mental health, and then it can also form part of a treatment strategy for people suffering from a mental health or mental illness. But with that second part that is, you know, in conjunction with seeing a psychologist. So mindfulness is not a therapy or treatment on its own but it does work really well with other evidence based approaches or with treatment from a psychologist.

So as Smiling Mind, we often use the analogy that mindfulness is like exercise for the mind. And, you know, I think we can all agree that it's fairly well regarded now that there are three pillars of health. There's diet, exercise, and sleep. And at Smiling Mind, we really hope that the fourth pillar will become mindfulness to look after our mental and emotional health. And the way we often describe that to children is that mindfulness and meditation can be like exercise or gym for the mind. So I think that we can all agree that we are all up against a lot of challenges and stresses and there is a great need for something like mindfulness. But does it actually work? What does the science say? So that's where we're going to turn our attention to now. So one of the reasons that mindfulness has become so popular in the last decade or so, is because there has been so much research done on the construct. So nearly every university, every major university in the world right now is doing some sort of research on mindfulness, not just those four universities that you can see on the screen now. There have been thousands of published papers just in the last few years done on mindfulness. So one of the most common findings has been that mindfulness has the ability to strengthen areas of the brain related to executive function.

So using brain scan imaging technology scientists have been able to see that people who practice mindfulness meditation have more grey matter in their prefrontal cortex. And they've also found a thickening in the hippocampus. So that's the part of the brain that relates to learning and memory. And they've also found in meditators, brains, larger areas in the areas of the brain that are related to empathy, self awareness, and emotional processing. And we're quite interested in this idea of increased capacity in executive functions, because we know that attention is the building block for learning. And so if mindfulness can increase the capacity around being able to pay attention to organise, plan and initiate task, that's really helpful in a learning and education setting. And you might actually like to think about it now, about how often perhaps you've asked children to pay attention. Or perhaps if someone's asked you to pay attention. And if we think about it, you know, when we went to school, we weren't really taught how to pay attention.

And this is what mindfulness does. Mindfulness teaches children, the how of paying attention. It teaches children how to gather their awareness, and to as best as they can focus on one thing. And so science has also found that mindfulness has the capacity to reduce emotional reactivity. I know when I was teaching adults mindfulness meditation, I would often hear them say after they've been doing the practice for a while, that they were finding they were more able to find a little space or a poles in a stressful situation where are able just to stop, take a breath, and then choose their next response rather than, you know, flying off the handle and getting caught up in that stress reactivity that can often just make the situation worse. So scientists also found this that mindfulness meditation can reduce emotional reactivity, which is also helpful for learning. Because I'm sure you've seen that when children are upset when something's happened when they've had perhaps a social interaction that's impacted them negatively. It's very hard for them to engage their little thinking brains on the next task, they just get hijacked by their emotions. So this also is really important for learning. So science has found that in meditators brain there's slight reduction in the amygdala. So the amygdala is the part of the brain that's very much associated with the emotion of fear and it's like the alarm bell of our stress response. They've also found that there's reduced activity in the default mode network. So those areas of the brain that come in to activation whenever we don't have to be externally focused on a task, and I would suggest that's because people who meditate regularly are more practiced at noticing, there I am on autopilot and bringing themselves back to the present moment. And then these two areas of the brain actually work together. So that, you know, when we do have a big emotion, we're able to not be on autopilot to notice that and use our prefrontal cortex to bring out you know, emotional brain back online. So science has also found that this is increased connectivity between you know, what, in very simplistic terms, what you could call the emotional brain and the thinking brain.

So, the top line benefits that science has found with mindfulness meditation is that there's increased calm, so reduced stress and less anxiety, more clarity. So improved concentration, attention and focus. And there's better connection. So we find that meditators brains are better at pro social and collaborative behaviour, and have an increased sense of empathy and compassion, and are also able to be self compassionate and kind towards themselves. So, if there is some interest in this idea of improving our brains with mindfulness, the next thing to look at is well, how do we cultivate mindfulness? How do we bring it into our lives? And a good place to start is making this distinction between meditation and mindfulness, because I know these words get used interchangeably, but there are some differences. So mindfulness basically is awareness. Mindfulness is something that you can invoke anytime you like, you can be doing anything and say to yourself, OK, I'm going to be mindful, I'm going to be aware of what's happening right now. Where meditation is the process or the activity that we do to build our awareness. Meditation is the process that we engage to build our mindfulness. So one way of describing it is that mindfulness is like the muscle. And meditation is the weight that you lift at the gym to build that muscle. So I hope that makes sense. Meditation is the process or the activity, and mindfulness is the awareness. And then we have formal mindfulness. So formal mindfulness is what we know as meditation. It's the activity to build awareness. And generally you'll find that in formal mindfulness, there'll be a particular anchor or object of focus. So that could be the breath. Or there's another well known practice called a body scan, where you focus on sensations in the body, and move your awareness and attention all through the different body parts. Another object of focus could be sounds.

So typically, in formal mindfulness, you have one particular object of focus and the practice is to as best as you can direct your attention there. And then at times, your mind will wander, and then to bring attention back again and again to that particular object. There are some myths with meditation. A lot of people think that when you sit down to meditate, you look like this. When the reality is, you tend to look like this. And this is totally normal. It really is an absolute misconception to think that when we sit down to meditate, we're not going to have any thoughts. Or that the ideal state is one have a clear, empty mind, that, it just doesn't happen. Because it's the nature of the mind to think. In the same way that the heart is always beating, the mind is always bubbling up thoughts. And just because we suddenly sit down to do a meditation practice doesn't mean that suddenly our mind is going to change and not have any thoughts. So really, all we're doing in a meditation practice or informal mindfulness, all we're doing is noticing the thoughts. We're not trying to change them. We're not trying to get rid of them because that would just be suppression. And that's not very healthy. We're just noticing them, we're just holding them in awareness. So what you might find is that the meditation practice looks like this. We still have the thoughts, but in between the thoughts, maybe there's some space, there's some clarity, and there's some awareness. And it really is... the whole practice really is noticing the thoughts, getting distracted, coming back again and again and again. That is the practice it's completely normal. So speaking of practice, I would love for us to check it out now, and to see what it's like to see what it's like to pay attention on purpose in the present moment. And as best as you can, see if you can bring in this attitude of openness, curiosity And non judgement to your experience. So, we're gonna do a practice now that's on the Smiling Mind app. So I invite you to get comfortable in your chair. If possible, close the door, turn off your phone so that you won't be disturbed. The practice will go for about seven minutes. So get as comfortable as you need to be. And we'll check out what this practice is like.
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SPEAKER:
Five Minute daily mindfulness guide. Get ready to do a few minutes of meditation by sitting on a chair or cross legged on a cushion on the floor. Make sure your back is straight. This will be easier to breathe properly. If you're sitting on a chair, make sure that you feet are uncrossed and resting on the floor. Now, close or half close your eyes and take a minute to settle into your posture. You might want to rock backward and forward or side to side slightly to make sure that you're comfortable. You're going to be sitting like this for a few minutes. Put your hands on your belly and start to breathe deeply, deeper than you usually breathe. Feel the hands on your belly. Rise up as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Take three or four of these big breaths. And then let your breath return to its natural rhythm. Now as you breathe normally, feel your breath moving into your belly. Feel your hands rise and fall within normal breath. You might notice that while you try to pay attention to your breath, your mind gets lost in thoughts, memories, plans or worries. This is completely normal. In fact, it's what the mind does. Every time your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breathing. You're now going to try counting ten breaths, counting one as you breathe in and two as you breathe out, three as you breathe in, four as you breathe out, and so on, all the way up to ten before starting again at one. Now bring your hands to rest in your lap and try to feel your breath moving in and out of your body, without your hands there to help you. You might feel your belly rising, your chest expanding, or your breath coming into your nose. Pick one spot to focus on. Keep your attention on this spot and try to feel every breath that comes into your body and every breath that moves out. Try to keep your concentration on this spot.

Remember, it's normal if your mind wanders or gets distracted. If this happens, just bring your attention back to counting your breaths. Try to explore the different qualities of the breath. Are they long or short? Deep or shallow? Are they the same or do they change? It won't take long before your mind wanders again. This time without getting lost in thought, try observing where your mind has gone. What thoughts you having? Are they memories of the past or plans or worries about the future? Try looking at them as if there were clouds in the sky passing by. Now, bring your attention back to your breathing. Feel your breath move in and out of your body. You can use your breath as an anchor into the present moment whenever you need to. Now, bring your attention to the room that you're in. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel yourself sitting in the chair or on the cushion. Feel your legs resting against the cushion or the chair. Feel your hands resting on your lap, the clothing touching your skin. A bell will signal the end of the exercise. When you're ready, you can open your eyes and go on your way with a smile on your mind.
(VIDEO STOPS)

RACHEL:
OK, so when you're ready, just making a transition from that practice. So if you were lying down or you changed your position, just returning again. And I would be really interested to hear what that was like for you. So I'd love to hear what you noticed, what was easy, what was challenging and perhaps how you went with bringing that attitude in of openness and curiosity and non judgement. So feel free to jump on the chat box and to share whatever you're comfortable to share. But it would be really good to hear from you. So Lynn has said that she found it very calming. What else have we got? Became easier to clear my mind by the end. Vicki said, relaxing was hard to open my eyes again. And Helen said my mind tended to wander frequently. Yes, and as we know that is normal. That's what our minds do nearly 50% of the time, According to the research. OK, so lots of responses coming in now. So, a lot, a few people saying that they found it relaxing or calming. And Melinda said, I had children in the background, a dog barking and in the quiet moment, I could hear my oil diffuser, oops where's it gone, which was really calming, OK. And I think it's so good, if we can make all of that part of the practice. You know, so when we do have noises like a dog barking or a lawn mower or something, just to notice what our response is to those sounds and then, to see if we can make them part of the practice rather than wishing that things were different.

Yeah, and Margaret said, relaxing but hard to stop my mind wandering. And Nikki said, really helped me to refocus when my mind wandered, also really picked up on the sounds going on around. And we've got, I felt safe and nice knowing that my mind could wander and that it was OK if it did, and it was normal to do so. I practiced mindfulness without judgement, which helped me bring my focus back much more easily. Yes, that's a great point. And that's what the attitude does, it makes the practice more achievable and sustainable, because just say, we were doing a guided meditation practice, and our mind wandered to whatever, and then, we berated ourselves, then, we said, oh, I'm not good at this, I'm so hopeless, look how busy my mind is, that just adds another sort of layer that we have to deal with and it actually makes it far more difficult just to come back to the object of focus, whether it be the breath or the body. So, these attitudes are really really important, and they are what make the practice achievable. Yeah, and Kylie said, I felt relaxed and enjoyed the experience, but hard to ignore what was happening around me. Yeah, absolutely, and definitely, I understand that some of you might be in your workplaces and maybe there was a lot of sound and distraction.

But, I really want to reiterate that, whatever is happening in the present moment, in our environment or in our mind, is all part of the mindfulness curriculum. You can just put out the welcome mat for it all, and just practice being present, ah, children screaming, dog barking, lawn mower, and just notice all of that rather than going into, perhaps, an idea of I wish all of that wasn't happening, because that can create more rigidity and a bit of tension. So, we really do want to allow all experience and just be present to whatever's happening. And as some people said, to know that it's OK for the mind to wander and we actually should expect it. So, I encourage you when you do a guided meditation practice to expect mind wandering and to know that that's all part of the practice. And every time you notice that your mind has wandered, you are back in awareness as soon as you notice, ah, I'm thinking about that person or I'm thinking about work or I'm thinking about that, you're in awareness, you're doing the practice. And every time you bring attention back again, you are strengthening your attention muscle. So, it's a good thing. OK, thank you so much for sharing how that was for you. I really enjoyed reading your comments. So, in addition to formal mindfulness, which we now know is meditation, there's also informal mindfulness. So, informal mindfulness is basically any ordinary everyday activity that you can turn into a mindfulness practice just by your state of mind. And it works really well, if it's an activity where you can engage your senses, because we know that as soon as we're fully engaged with our senses, whether that be taste, hearing, touch, we tend to be in the present moment.

It's really hard to be fully engaged with our senses and to be in a lot of thinking at the same time. It's probably nearly impossible. So, any activity that really engages your senses, you can turn into an informal mindfulness activity. And the beauty of these is that you don't need to carve out extra time in your day to do something like a formal mindfulness practice, you're doing it already. For instance, some people really like to make their morning cup of tea or coffee, their informal mindfulness practice, where rather than, you know, swinging as they're getting ready for work or whatever, actually sit down, take a moment, feel the warmth of the cup, notice the aroma, really taste it and just be as present as I can for the first, you know, format, first few mouthfuls. Walking, works really well as an informal mindfulness practice. So, that involves being aware of your body, noticing how you're walking, feet in contact with the ground, and also opening up to your senses, so noticing what you can, see what you can hear, what you can smell, perhaps, the air against your skin, and being as awake as you can be for that experience of walking. And some people really like to use something like listening to music as an informal mindfulness practice, where as best as you can, you fully engage your sense of hearing, and keep returning to the music, as you're listening to it, rather than, you know, also going off onto autopilot, and then, suddenly, realising that you've missed the last part of the song.

So, anything at all, really, can be turned into an informal mindfulness practice, if it uses your senses. And I think it works quite well for people who are developing a personal mindfulness or meditation practice to do a combination of formal mindfulness, so the guided meditations or the seated practice, and then to choose one ordinary everyday activity and just make that your informal mindfulness activity. And if you keep it the same, it's more likely to become a habit. And that can help reinforce the formal practice that you do. OK, so, we're going to look now at how Smiling Mind fits into education and care settings. So, we regard mindfulness as having two wings. One is as a readiness to learn program.

So, we know that, you know, children have brains like little sponges, they're always ready to learn, however, we do know due to the science around mindfulness increasing capacity for executive functions, particularly around attention, concentration, focus and working memory, that all of these things increase. A child's ability to absorb information and to be ready to take on new ideas and concepts. And mindfulness also works really well as part of a social and emotional learning framework, which, for you, maps really well to outcome three, in the early years learning framework around children have a strong sense of well-being. So, over the past 18 months, we've been developing an early learning program. And so, this builds upon the work that we've already been doing in primary schools and secondary schools. And it's been designed to support early learning educators to bring mindfulness into everyday activities that you're already doing. So, the program includes meditations, formal mindfulness, mindful activities and also mindful movement activities. And these have been created by psychologists, mindfulness teachers and educators together, and they reflect the developmental stage of children between the ages of three and six. So, so far, we've been test piloting these programs in a number of early learning centres in Victoria, and now we are compiling feedback from the educators in those centres to make a few refinements to the educator manuals and we hope to have it all finalised by the end of this year and then we can make it available to all educators across all early learning centres in Australia. So, the early minds program is guided by the early years learning framework for Australia around the ideas of belonging, being and becoming.

And we really like this quote, being recognises the significance of the here and now in children's lives. It is about the present and them knowing themselves, building and maintaining relationships with others, engaging with life's joys and complexities and meeting challenges in everyday life. The early childhood years are not solely preparation for the future, but also about the present. So, we feel that speaks to mindfulness quite precisely and, and, that they complement each other really well. So, we have developed these educator resources. So, there's two manuals, one is for ages three to four. and the other one is for ages five to six. And the other resource is also The Smiling Mind app. So, if you haven't downloaded The Smiling Mind app and you are interested, do download that because the meditations that form part of the early minds program are already on the app. So, if you go to the app and you might need to write this down, you need to go to all programs and then go to kids and youth, and under kids and youth, you'll see two sections, one for three to four year olds and another for five to six year olds. And, the meditations there are the same ones that we refer to in these educator manuals. So, the early minds approach is that there are five topics and the five topics, in the early minds program, are mapped to the EYLF outcomes. So, for instance, the outcome one, I'm just going to read it from my paper here, the outcome one of children have a strong sense of identity. We have created a topic around that called, who am I. And then, our next topic is, me and my world. And that maps to the outcome of children are connected with and contribute to their world. And the next Smiling Mind topic is, at my best, and that maps to children have a strong sense of well-being. Topic four is, I love to learn, which maps to the outcome of children are confident and involved learners. And the fifth topic is, finding my voice, which maps to the outcome of children are effective communicators. And then, within each topic, there are three elements. So, there's the meditation, which is themed obviously to the topic, and then, there's a mindfulness activity, and then, there's two mindful movement activities. So, the meditation is the formal mindfulness, the mindfulness activity is the informal mindfulness, and the mindful movement activities, they're really a combination of formal and informal mindfulness.

And they work really well, because, as you know, children love to move and we really shouldn't expect them to do a formal mindfulness practice in the same way that an adult would. So, on that actually do know that the meditation practices are short, they're three minutes. But, the mindful movement activities are great, because they are a combination and they allow, you know, movement and they allow that free expression of children's physicality, so they work really well. And they're things like, you know, being an animal or there's another one of going on a nature walk and engaging all your senses and you ask the children to name what they can see and what they can hear and what they can smell, things like that. So, if you're going to try this out, we recommend doing the meditation at the same time. every day, so that it can just become part of the routine. So, some educators like to start their day with a Smiling Mind meditation, other educators find that after one of the meal breaks works really well, and other people do it as a transition in between activities. So, it doesn't really matter so much when you do it, it's more what works for your centre, but the key, we think, is just to keep it consistent at the same time.

With the mindfulness activities, these can be included into your program in a number of ways. So, as an immediate follow-up to the meditation practice or maybe as a settling tool before you do the mindful movement activities or part of your group time experiences, and, perhaps, as a transition between activities, some people do it as a transition from rest time, moving back to play experiences. So, again, really, any time that works for you and your program is going to work. The mindful movement activities can be included also in a number of ways. And I'm sure this, you know, this will be common sense stuff for you, you're used to organising and scheduling, I'm sure, but, yeah, we've suggested as group time experiences to incorporate into existing group times or maybe as a rest time experience. And do check out, we have put in the chat box a link to the resources, so you can check out what the mindful movement activities and what the mindfulness activities are like. So, if you haven't downloaded that already do have a look at that. So, here's an example of how one of the topics would work. So, this is the first topic, who am I, which is mapped to your outcome of children, have a strong sense of identity. So, the meditation for this topic is smiling staff fish. And as I said before, it only goes for three minutes. It's a very sweet meditation where children are invited to hold up their hand and imagine that their hand is a starfish.

And then they trace with their other finger going up and down the fingers of their right hand. And then in the second part of the practice, they match the tracing to their breath. And then that's the practice that goes for five minutes. And I've heard some educators say that once they start using the smiling staff fish meditation, they find that then they can remind children at other times in the day, like when they're noticing the children are becoming, perhaps slightly disregulated, they say, OK, smiling starfish time. And the children just stop and stand, hold up their hand and breathe and trace their fingers. And it brings them back to... So, we've also got the mindful activity which has animal poses in this one. And then there's the mindful movement activity. And this one's called here I am, this is me. So, that's an outdoor activity where they utilise the nature, like looking at the clouds and looking at objects around them and bringing it back to their body. And the mindful movement activity, the second one is called my heart. So this way, all the five topics are structured like this that you can see on the screen here. So, a really important element of using the Smiling Mind program is this aspect that we refer to as debriefing. So, debriefing is really just having a chat to the children after the mindfulness practice, whether that be the formal mindfulness practice, the meditation like smiling starfish or whether it be a mindful movement activity.

And it's your opportunity just to check in with children and to see maybe if anyone's having any adverse experience, this is really unlikely, but it's possible if any children do come from a trauma background. So, by having a conversation about the practice afterwards, you're able to just check in on that level. And it's also part of teaching children, emotional awareness, because the debriefing invite children to share their inner experience and, you know, to name and articulate what they noticed. So, we feel that the debriefing is an important part of integrating mindfulness and or, and meditation into your centre. So, there's a few examples there of the questions that you can ask to get a conversation started. You know, what was your experience? How did you find that? What did you notice? What did you learn and how do you feel now? So, the debriefing questions are documented in the educator manuals as well. So, we've got some ideas of how families can continue with the mindfulness in the home. So, on the Smiling Mind app, if you've downloaded that you'll see that there is actually a families program. And within that section, there's some guidance around mindful eating, but this is, you know, this is really simple. You don't even need the guidance or the app to do this, but we encourage families to do mindful eating at dinner time by everybody coming to the dinner table, leaving devices aside, and actually being present for the meal and engaging with one another, rather than being spread out all over the house and maybe eating in front of the TV or eating while you're scrolling. So, that's a simple one. Mindful awareness just is really about, you know, broadening your perspective. And rather than walking around on this sort of tunnel vision, just opening up and noticing what's happening around you, noticing things that you can see, things that you can hear, maybe things that you can smell, maybe noticing other people in your community. And of course you can do this yet in the house or on your commute anywhere any time, works for opening up to that mindful awareness. And also in our family's program, there is a little guided practice around mindful speaking and listening, which can work well anywhere. But I think I've heard parents using that practice in the car or also at the dinner table. Just to practice being aware of what the other person is saying and being aware of what you're saying.

So, if you are interested in exploring mindfulness meditation further, I definitely recommend downloading the Smiling Mind app. And if you are new to this, I think it's good to set yourself a goal of maybe practising three times a week and it can work quite well to you know, name your time. Don't think that you'll just do it on a whim because you won't, I think you need to say, you know what, I think mornings are gonna work for me and I'm going to set my ten minutes earlier so that I can fit in a little five to ten minute meditation practice. Or some people really like doing their meditation practice before bed. But I think either way you need to mentally commit to yourself, maybe even write it down because it probably won't happen just on the spur of the moment you'll need to make a commitment. And I would also support you to be really, kind and patient with yourself because meditation is not easy. It's a little bit counterintuitive, you know, where I think we're very used to just being on autopilot. And we're used to a lot of external stimulation, particularly, you know, if the way we use our phones now. So, it can be really challenging to turn our attention inward and to focus on something quite subtle, like the breath or body sensations. So, if you are interested in exploring this, do know that this is a training and just in the same way, if you know. If you have an exercise for a while and you start going to the gym again, you don't immediately expect to see an increase in muscle strength and tone. You know, that it's going to happen over the long term. Training in mindfulness is the same, it's a long-term project. So, do keep that in mind.

Yeah. So, I've already mentioned that it's a downloading our app and if you are going to be starting on a meditation practice for the first time, we reckon three times a week is a good starting place. Yeah. And there's some general tips around mindfulness. Yeah. Developing a habit, putting your phone on silent, maybe piggybacking it onto another habit that you've already got going on. So, some people find that their mornings are very routined and it can work quite well to put the mindfulness before something that you're already doing every single morning to sort of latch it on there. But we have come to the end of the session now. And I think we've got about five, yes, we've got five minutes remaining. So, we've got time for questions if you have any. So, feel free now to use this time, to type a question into the chat box and I'll do my best to answer that. Alright. I can also see in the chat box, Kevin has put up the link to the Smiling Mind website where you can access the app. So, the app is available via the website as well. So yes, it's also an app that you can download onto your phone, but if you're using a smart board in your early learning centre what most educators do is bring the website up onto the smart board. And then you'll see on the top right hand corner of the website, you'll be able to log in and it will bring up all the programs that are available on the app. So, I can see there is a question there about the educator manual. So, that is being finalised at the moment and we're aiming for it to be available to all early learning educators by the end of this year. But at the moment, the meditation practices that form part of the early minds program, they are on the app. So, you just need to go to the kids and youth section and under kids and youth, you'll see meditation's for three to four year olds and meditation's for five to six year olds. They're the exact meditations that are in the early minds program.

OK. And Vicky said, we have some parents at work who don't want their children to participate in meditation, mindfulness, yoga for cultural reasons. Do you have any suggestions of what we can do as an alternative? Yeah, this comes up sometimes. And of course we need to respect the parents' wishes. When we suggest that educators just provide another activity, like colouring in or... And I think if you look through the mindful movement activities, you'll find they're probably not that different to activities that you already do. It's just this state of mind that we're bringing to the practice around being present. So I think that, I mean, you could ask those parents, are you OK with your children doing this and talking them through it? And also maybe it's worthwhile having a conversation with those parents and really explaining what mindfulness is, because I think there's a lot of misconception. And on the Smiling Mind website, actually, if you type into the search bar, parent and carer guide, you'll be able to find this PDF, that is written especially for parents. So, you might want to distribute that to your parent community, and that might help answer their questions, or you might want to pull pieces out of it. And if you use a newsletter and put that in your newsletter to help communicate what you're doing with the Smiling Mind program. So, that's one approach to actually, have a conversation and communicate. And otherwise we just suggest, you know, giving an alternate activity for those children who are not allowed to participate in the mindfulness or meditation activity. Unfortunately we're not making the slides available, but you will get access to the educator manuals if you are interested in them at the end of the year. And also there are other resources that are available as a download now. I think, I don't think there are other questions. Oh, hang on, there is, you mentioned mindfulness won't work on its own for anxiety without psychological help. Is it still OK to use on children that may be showing signs of this? Yes, absolutely. And, you know, anxiety exists on a spectrum. So there is clinical anxiety when people are actually diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, and there's just feeling a bit anxious, which is a very normal human experience. We all feel a bit anxious sometimes.

So, absolutely mindfulness on its own can help with those rather mild to moderate feelings of anxiety. I was more talking about when it's a clinical mental health concern, like generalised anxiety, but it can definitely help when it's mild. OK. I think, Oh, hang on. How would you advice we start teaching mindfulness to a child, who can have really strong emotions and aggression at times. Yes. Yeah. That's an interesting question. I'm thinking, I'm wondering if that child has been through something very stressful and might have a trauma background. And we do have a webinar specifically on trauma, informed approaches to mindfulness. So, if you're interested, I would recommend getting in touch with Smiling Mind and finding out when that workshop is, because I think that is good practice to know about trauma informed approaches. But maybe, you know, maybe that child does not come from a trauma background. I would just experiment and start small with that particular child and always give lots of choice. You know, we really want mindfulness to be optional and just see how they respond to it. Some children who do have difficulty regulating their emotions, love the mindfulness practices, because it gives them an opportunity to access that, you know, rest and digest mode, of their nervous system that they often, you know, they might not get a lot of opportunity to access. You know, if the family life is a bit dysregulated and dysfunctional, they might be in a stress state. So, some children respond really well at just being able to access that rest and digest mode of their nervous system that mindfulness can provide a doorway to. So, I would experiment in really small doses with that child and just see how they respond and take it from there. OK. I think that's all the questions. I apologise if I have missed a question, but I think I've covered them and we have gone a few minutes over at 11:00. So, I'll finish the session now. Thank you so much for attending and thank you for engaging and participating in the polls and the chat box. It was really good to hear from you, and I wish you all the best. If you are interested in this stay in touch with the department, stay in touch with Smiling Mind, so that you can know when those educator manuals are being released and are being made available. OK. So, thank you very much.

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