Author: Dr Rosina MacAlpine

The Dangers of Challenges and Dares for Teenagers

If I had a dollar for every parent who has said in frustration to their teen “just because your friend dared you to do it – doesn’t mean you should have done it. I didn’t raise you to be a sheep!” then I’d be a VERY rich woman.

And with teens now having connections, not just with friends in their immediate circle, but access to the millions of teenagers on social media around the globe, the “dare culture” and the “world social media challenges” are even more worrisome for parents.

Challenges and Dares

It may not make any sense to an adult, but teens have been engaging in a variety of modern-day dares and challenges. Some are much more dangerous than others. Worrying challenges include the laundry pod challenge, the outlet challenge and the cinnamon challenge. Here’s a brief overview:

As parents, we need to be particularly careful to keep poisonous substances out of young children’s reach. A study in Paediatrics noted that 92% of children ingesting laundry detergent packets between 2012-2017 were under six years of age. More recently, it’s not just young children ingesting laundry liquid that parents need to be worried about. In fact, an increased number of older children are swallowing laundry pods in response to the Tide pod challenge – making teens very unwell!

The outlet challenge is where the plug of the phone charger is inserted into an electric socket. A coin is then inserted between the plug and the socket. This can not only result in a fire but it can also electrocute the person completing the challenge.

The cinnamon challenge is a seemingly harmless challenge. It involves teens filming themselves eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. However, an article in the American Academy of Paediatrics noted that short-term harms included choking, breathing cinnamon into the lungs and lung damage. Longer term there can be lasting lesions, scarring and inflammation of the airway.

Given the potential for harm, why do teenagers take on these challenges?

Surviving the Teenage Years

Parents often talk about “surviving the teen years” when their sweet young child becomes unrecognisable as an unruly, disrespectful and unmanageable teenager. I’ve heard parents say their children went to the “dark side” during the teens years. Thankfully, most also said that their teenagers eventually came back. However, parents need to take measures to help their children stay safe and survive the teen years unharmed.

The Dangerous Teen Years

Did you know that the teenage years are the most dangerous period of life for human beings? Risk taking is at its most extreme in the adolescent years. Teenagers not only respond to dares and challenges but also engage in other dangerous behaviours including:

  • Experimentation with drugs
  • Binge drinking
  • Attempted suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Reckless driving
  • Unsafe sex

And that’s just to name a few.

Why are Teens so Reckless?

While teens might look like young adults, and even be able to reason like young adults – they are far from being responsible adults. In fact, teen brains are “wired for risk taking” during the adolescent years.

Now, instead of confusing you with a whole lot of brain science, below are the simplified key parts so that you can get a general sense of what is going on inside your teenager’s head.

Teenage Brain – Really Simplified

In teenagers, the part of the brain that experiences emotions, motivation and pleasure is heightened – everything feels so good. This drives teens to seek pleasure and want to experience the euphoric “high” of risk-taking.

However, the “thinking” part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex), the part that manages impulse control, reasoning, planning and considering consequences, is not fully developed until the early- to mid-twenties for girls and the mid- to late- twenties for boys.

The adolescent brain drives teens to follow their impulses without the ability to curb those impulses and think things through – especially when they are with their friends. Teens feel an intense need to be accepted by their peers, which is often why they engage in risky behaviours like dares and challenges.

Laurence Steinberg PhD, an expert on adolescents, likens teenagers to a “super-charged car with no breaks!” Steinberg has authored numerous articles and books about teenagers including ‘Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence‘, a great resource for parents wanting to navigate the teens years successfully.

What Can Parents do to Keep Teens Safe?

There’s no “one” easy solution for parents and children to safety navigate the teen years. However, while there is no magic solution, we know from experience and the research of Steinberg and others that parents can make a significant positive difference in the lives of their teenagers by:

Focusing on maintaining a strong and open relationship with their teen. Making time to ask about their day and how life is going. Listening to understand, rather than judge, criticise and reprimand.

Understanding teenage brain development and that they aren’t fully able to manage their emotions, make responsible adult decisions. They also can’t fully foresee negative consequences.

Being empathetic, trying to feel what teens are feeling and experiencing – not from an adult perspective but a teenager’s view of the world. Repeat back what they say, to show you were listening and understand. Making it safe to talk to you about anything without being shamed or punished means they are less likely to hide things from you.

Being a good sounding board for teens to test their ideas. Offering options rather than telling them what to do and offering your solutions. We all know that teens don’t take being told what to do well and will probably do the opposite!

Being involved in your teen’s life but NOT micro-managing. Knowing where your teen is and who they’re with. While children are in your care, they will always need some guidance on expectations, limits and boundaries.

Finally, when it comes to dares and challenges, be clear that it’s about keeping your teen safe. Focus on HOW challenges are dangerous and WHY you have limits and expectations. Teens are more likely to comply when they don’t feel like you’re exerting control and want to stop their fun.

Most of all, give your teen lots of LOVE and endless amounts of PATIENCE (a sense of humour helps too). Rest assured, one day, your teen’s brain will mature and they will return from the “dark side”!


Visit Dr Rosina’s website here

Read more PakMag Tweens and Teens blogs here and Parenting blogs here. 




Talking to Children About Racism, Discrimination and Equality

The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US, the public support in Australia and from around the globe, has brought the issues of racism and inequality to the fore. After the loss of another human life with the tragic death of George Floyd, an African American man – individuals have taken to the streets to protest police violence against black people. Here, in Australia, our First Peoples also experience discrimination and inequality. There are disproportionate statistics for Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody. So, this isn’t an issue that’s far from home.  

Inevitably, our children will witness these events in the media. As parents, teachers and carers we can take the opportunity to teach our children about race, racism and equality. This helps our children be part of the movement for positive change in the world as they come to understand what’s behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Now as a parent you might be thinking “yes, I want my children to understand that Black Lives Matter. Additionally I also want them to understand that ALL lives matter, so I’ll have a conversation about that instead.” Here’s why it’s important to consider having a conversation about BOTH as fundamentally, they’re not the same issue. Plus YES, Black Lives Matter is relevant in Australia. 

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement is dedicated to raising awareness and stopping police brutality against African American people. It began back in 2013, following the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement highlights the differential treatment of People of Colour when compared with White people. This treatment is in terms of police discrimination, brutality and death.

I spoke with Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Munya Andrews about the topic. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the issue and how it relates to Indigenous Australians. Here is what Aunty Munya had to say:

Some people have taken the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to include the phrase ‘All lives matter’ and while that is true, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about the systemic brutalisation and discrimination of black people. When this systemic brutalisation impacts all people in society equally, then we can talk about “All lives matter.”

There are some people who claim that the “Black Lives Matter” movement is not relevant to Australia but that’s not the case at all. Aboriginal people face the same sort of treatment that African Americans do and our social indicators such as the high disproportionate figures of Indigenous incarceration are virtually the same. So, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is totally relevant and applicable to the situation here in Australia.

We all need to stand together as Allies to end this appalling, intolerable treatment of people based purely on the colour of their skin.

“Black Lives Matter”.

As parents, carers and teachers, once we’ve opened up the conversation on Black Lives Matter with our children, we can then talk about the importance of respect and equality for all people.

Respect and equality for all of humanity

To create a world where all people are treated equally, we need to help our children develop:

  • knowledge and understanding about what privilege, discrimination and racism are;
  • beliefs that all people deserve to be treated equally;
  • skills that enable children to interact and communicate with others in a caring and respectful way; and
  • an understanding of the importance of standing up for equality and inclusivity. Understanding the importance of not supporting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity – with thoughts, words or actions.

Children learn how to be in the world by watching those around them. Therefore, how adults behave when it comes to equality and inclusivity, matters. Children also learn by what parents, teachers, family and friends teach them. We can start our children’s education on race, inclusivity and equality at a very early age. It’s the same way we teach our children numbers, reading and writing skills – we start very simply and add the complexity when it’s developmentally appropriate.

Making time to talk

I understand that talking about race and racism isn’t an easy topic. Parents and teachers we need to have conversations about many difficult topics like drugs, pornography, domestic violence and death. But, just because they are challenging topics doesn’t mean we can avoid having them.

To give you some ideas on how to start a conversation, here’s a simple 15-minute activity you can complete with children on privilege, racial discrimination and equality. This short activity is from one of my Life Skills e-books to help children develop their Social and Environmental Understanding – just one of the many topics we explore in my series of seven life skills e-books. These resources were developed to give parents and teachers short activities they can complete with children to help them develop key life skills to navigate life successfully. You can find out more about the Life skills e-book series here.

Helping your child understand more about racial discrimination

Social awareness is about being conscious of the issues that different people, communities, or societies face on a day-to-day basis. Children with an awakened social consciousness are more likely to act in a positive way. These children will be more empathic towards others regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity.

This activity looks at privilege, racism and equality and serves two purposes:

  1. Increases your children’s awareness of how they and others live in society.
  2. Helps your children become more empathetic towards others and consider how they can make a positive difference either now or in the future.

Step 1 – fact finding

Invite your children to share if they have friends from other countries or other cultures. Ask your children to explain if they know what the terms “race” and “racism” mean. Invite your children to think about whether they have noticed children being mean to others based on their country of origin or culture or if your children have experienced racism?

Ask your children if they have seen anything in the media about the recent protests in the US and Australia to stop police brutality against black people Black Lives Matter.

Invite your child to discuss what they have learned about Australia’s First Peoples and the gap between Indigenous Australians’ and non-Indigenous Australians in areas such as education, health and life expectancy.

Explore the concept of privilege from your child’s perspective.

Step 2 – doing the activity

Building on your children’s understanding as indicated by their responses in step one, discuss with your children what privilege, equality, race and racism are by sharing your knowledge, understanding and views. Here are some points that may help you. 

Racism can include verbal abuse or ridicule, social exclusion and even violence. Racism can be based on many things including: appearance of people from different races, differences in religious beliefs or practices, differences in cultural or religious dress.

Privilege is an advantage or entitlement that a person or group of people may have. Privilege can include things like food, money, education, possessions or status. Privileged groups can be advantaged based on social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion. People with privilege can use it to the benefit or detriment of others. Most importantly, privilege isn’t a bad thing and can be used to do good in the world.

Science proves that humanity – although diverse – is one family and one people. All people feel pain if they are hurt; bleed if they are cut; are born of a mother and father; are able to love and are capable of hateful actions.

Children may either respect, support and care for each other – regardless of ethnicity – or they can be cruel and hurtful. Ask your children how they wish to treat others. Ask your children to talk about how they wish to be treated. 

Explore what your child might do if they saw someone being racist or mean to others because of their social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.

Ask questions like: how would you react? Would you join in? Would you stand up for the person – if it is safe to do so? If it isn’t safe – would you get an adult to help? Giving children options can help them know how to behave if they encounter racism or discrimination.

Finishing up the activity

Ask your children to share if this activity has it increased their awareness of discrimination, the Black Lives Matter movement, our First Peoples and the importance of treating people equally. Has it started them thinking about racism in their own lives or in society? Ask your children to talk about how they could be more inclusive of people from different races at school. Invite your children to think about how they could make a positive difference either now or in the future to children from different ethnic backgrounds. Discuss ways your children can manage racist remarks they may experience. Or, what to do if they see others being racist. Ensure your children know how to seek assistance from an adult if needed. 

Tip’s for young children

Even young children can be taught the value of equality and diversity in society. Furthermore all children can be encouraged to be socially inclusive with their friendships. Cultural diversity allows us to experience different foods and ways of being in the world. Just keep the language simple. Explain that people from different counties may dress differently, eat differently and speak different languages. These differences are what make society interesting and rich. Discuss why it is hurtful to tease or exclude other children based on their skin colour, cultural or religious beliefs.

You may also like to talk about what you’d like your children to do if someone teases or hurts them based on their ethnicity. For example, you may encourage your children to say to the offending child “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that. Please stop it now.” Or you may prefer to instruct them to simply walk away. You may recommend to your children that they talk to an adult (parent or teacher) if it happens repeatedly to them or to other children. Providing young children with possible courses of action helps them to navigate the world effectively. 

Tips for older children and teens

After an initial conversation, you could encourage your children to learn more about the topic so they can understand how to make a positive difference in their community. Reading the book, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History by Bruce Pascoe or for older teens. Dark Emu is a great way for our children to learn more about the historical treatment of Aboriginal people at the time of colonisation and  how our First Peoples’ knowledge of the environment and environmental practices has sustained the land across Australia. Families can continue the conversation by discussing Australia’s historical treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Discuss the negative impact it has had on their lives and what we can do to close the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The book ‘Young Dark Emu’ by Bruce Pascoe is a great resource for younger and older children (aged 7 – 12) that uses the accounts of early Europeans explorers, colonists and farmers to argue for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. 

Ongoing conversations

One conversation isn’t enough. In the same way that we continue to support our children to learn to read and write over many years of schooling – developing life skills that support children to be inclusive and promote respect and equality takes time and effort. As children mature, parents and teachers can have ongoing conversations about race and racism. Adults need to provide consistent positive messages about kindness, respect and equality for all people.

It’s important to continue to reinforce positive behaviour and consistently remind our children how to be respectful when we see negative behaviour. By the same token, parents need to model good behaviour consistently as well. How diverse is your friendship base? If you encounter racism – what do you do?

Being a proactive and vigilant parent will take a little more time in the short-term. However, there are many benefits for your family and for society that make it worthwhile in the long-term. Teaching your child to be respectful means they’ll be less likely to engage in aggressive or disrespectful behaviour that you’ll need to address with friends, or at school. No-one wants to get called up to the school or have a difficult conversation with another child’s parent! Right?

Are your children experiencing racism?

If your children are experiencing racial discrimination, you can seek assistance at school and from government organisations in your area. If your children are inflicting racial discrimination, you can provide them with the information and resources to understand a more respectful way to be with others from diverse backgrounds as explained above.

Learning social skills that help children to nurture relationships will support them to make friends. They will be loving members of their family and caring members of their community.

Changing the world starts at home

Every adult can play a key role in stopping violence, discrimination and inequality. This can be done by raising our children to expect respect and to be respectful to others. Yes, that’s regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity. Parents and carers can teach their children these skills by being good role models. Additionally we need to guide them to change their behaviour whenever they behave in a way that harms others or themselves. This way, we not only improve and enrich our own family life, but also the lives of others in our community, our nation and over time – the world.



13 Things to Unteach Your Kids – Dr Rosina McAlpine

Any parent who has accidentally sworn in front of their child and then heard it come back at them wishes they could “unteach” their child the expletive. When you reflect upon some of the many things you’ve taught your kids consciously or unknowingly – how many do you wish you could unteach?

It is important to recognise that sometimes we might inadvertently teach our children things we don’t really want them to learn, and then we need to “unteach” them. Here are 13 things you may wish to consider unteaching your children:

1. Swear Words 

It’s hard to unteach a swear word after your child has learned it, so the best way to move forward is to explain that it is not a nice word to use and mum or dad made a mistake when they said it. By trying not to use it again and offering a substitute word to use if the swear word comes, you might succeed in helping your child to “unlearn” it (but there are no guarantees it won’t come out when grandma comes over!)

2. Beliefs About Money

Were you told emphatically that there was “no money” and that “money doesn’t grow on trees”? Have you passed those limiting beliefs on to your children? Unteaching negative beliefs about money and instilling positive beliefs can make a positive difference in the way your children approach life and money.

3. Chores Aren’t Fun

Have you created a belief that “chores are no fun and simply have to be done?” Sure, that is one way to approach chores, but if you wanted to, you could unteach this by explaining to the kids that there’s a new rule in the house –that chores ARE fun. You can put on music and be together to get each job done in a creative, fun and cooperative way.

4. Negative Attitude

Do you and/or the kids start the day with a negative attitude? If you say things like “I feel so tired”, “I’ve got so much on”, just remember that kids are always listening. If you want to unteach a negative attitude, start the day with a “good morning ritual”, like setting positive goals for the day.

5. Technology Obsession

From toddler to teenager, taking the screen away can result in a total meltdown. It’s hard to unteach an obsession with technology … as adults we know that ourselves! Unteach technology cravings by finding activities to do together that are screen free.

6. Kitchens are Not for Kids

Often we send kids out of the kitchen as it is easier, quicker and safer because parents can be time poor. However, once we’ve taught our kids not to help – it’s hard to get them back when we’d love the help. So unteach your children that kitchens are not for kids and get them involved with all aspects from menu planning to preparing and cleaning up. You’ll get the help you need and they’ll have skills for life – Win-Win!

7. Just Do as Your Told

“Respect your elders” “I’m the adult and you simply need to listen and do as you’re told” are words children often hear. Teaching kids to simply do as they are told may seem like a great thing, however sometimes a more beneficial approach is teaching your kids to consider why they’re being asked to do something. By getting children to follow their inner compass, it can help children make good choices and be safe.

8. Gender Stereotypes

The world is filled with ways that children can learn unhelpful gender stereotypes. When parents become aware of their child’s unrealistic stereotypes like “mums should stay home while dads should work”, “football isn’t for girls, it’s a boy’s sport”, they can unteach these stereotypes by challenging them and offering a different point of view to support equality for all.

9. Being a Praise-Junky

It is not uncommon to hear parents praise their children TOO much. Kids can become reliant on praise from others for their self-worth. You can help your child unlearn the need for external recognition and praise to feel worthy and lovable by helping them to be more internally referenced, rather than needing external praise. For example, instead of offering praise, ask your children to reflect on whether they did their best, if they are happy with their work.

10. Junk Food is a Treat

When we call junk food a “treat” we create conflict. For example, when we eat something we call “junk food”, it’s going in our body and our mind thinks “this junk food is bad for me!” Then if parents deny their children a sugary, fatty, processed food they call a “treat” – children feel like they’re missing out when parents just want them to stay healthy. Unteach equating junk food with a treat.

11. Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ and we know that it’s virtually unattainable. It’s too stressful to strive for perfection all of the time and can result in challenging perfectionist tendencies, so try unteaching this phrase. Replace it with “practice makes personal bests”. The more we practice the better our personal bests get.

12. Saying No

Does your toddler or teenager say a resounding “NO!” to everything? Many parents find this really frustrating. So perhaps you could start by considering how many times a day you say “no” to your child. When your child hears lots and lots of no’s you can bet you’ll get lots of no’s back. Instead, start saying more yes’s and you might find you’ll get more yes’s back. Here’s a short video on how you can do that without giving in to every request! Check it out in the online version of this edition at

13. Always Getting What They Want

Often, it’s easier to let your child get what they want after they whine incessantly, as it will give you a break from listening to it. However, this can teach them that whining works, so there needs to be a balance between “No” and giving in. Otherwise, your child will likely realise that this works, and then continue to do it. There are many things that parents do out of the goodness of their hearts or to reduce their stress when dealing with their children. These don’t always have the best effects on a child’s development however, and it is better to nip the bad habits in the bud while they’re still young. Remember to seek help and support when you feel overwhelmed with juggling the struggles of parenting.

About the Author

Dr Rosina McAlpine is the CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting program. Win Win Parenting practical and fun programs are delivered across a variety of organisations including early learning, school, corporate and government organisations in Australia, New Zealand and The United States. Dr Rosina is an internationally recognised awardwinning researcher and educator. Read more of her work on our website here

Strategies for Successful Transitions Between Activities

Do you find it challenging to get the kids to stop what they’re doing to start on a new activity, like leaving for pre-school so you’re not late for work, coming to the dinner table so it doesn’t get cold, or starting their bedtime routine so they get a good night’s sleep? Do you have to ask multiple times and end up raising your voice, especially if it’s to stop your child’s screen time? If you answered yes to some or all of those questions, you’re not alone. Your child may just be struggling with the transitions between activities. 

Finding Empathy and Understanding

Transitions are not easy for any of us – child or adult alike. When you’re writing an email or report and you’re suddenly interrupted and required to do something less fun like attend a meeting, manage a work problem or take out the garbage at home, you probably wouldn’t like that transition. When we put it like that and stand in our children’s shoes, it helps parents and carers to be a little more compassionate and mindful when asking children to take their full attention off what they’re happily doing and transition to something they may not enjoy as much. Having said all of this, there are still ways to make those transitions more successful.

Simple Steps for Successful Transitions

Before your child starts an activity:

Explain the schedule and get them to “agree” to the schedule. For example, you can say something such as “you can watch 30 minutes of your favourite show before dinner, but then we need to turn it off to sit at the table and have dinner together, OK?”

Have a visual timer nearby. 

For instance, an hourglass where sand flows with the passage of time or a countdown time so the child can start to be aware of time passing.

Observe them quietly.

Eight to ten minutes before your child needs to transition from one activity to the next, go to where your child is and stand beside or behind and observe them quietly for a minute or so. This will give you the opportunity to gather “intel” and see what they’re up to. Eventually they may notice you – this is great as you have already moved them from being completely immersed in their own world to coming back to the world where you are!

Start a discussion

Encourage your child(ren) to tell you what they’re doing. They’re usually happy to share and engage with you. If not, it might require more direct questions to begin with to start the conversation.

Let your child(ren) know how long they have left to do the activity.

For instance, offer them five minutes and outline the next activity as “enticingly” as you can. For example, you might say “It’s nearly dinner time and I’ve cooked your favourite tonight”, or “Let’s go and have a bath so you can choose a book to read before bed”.

Sing or dance in the transition.

Make it a fun song in a funny voice. If your child seems excited, simply explain you’ll stay and wait here with them until time’s up and you’ll go to the next activity together. It’s best not to leave them and then have to shout multiple times from afar – this doesn’t tend to work and may even make things worse.

Ask them how you can help.

If your children don’t agree to willingly stop what they’re doing to go to the next activity – which is often the case, ask how you can help them to end this activity so they can move to the next smoothly. For example, with a Minecraft or LEGO build, write down the next steps so they don’t forget. Reassure them when they can come back to it later or tomorrow or on the weekend – whatever the case may be.

Remind them of the agreement.

If they still disagree and there’s shouting, complaining or the tears start to flow, come back at a later time when things are calm and remind them of their “agreement” about smooth transitions, the importance of self-regulation, respecting time limits and being responsible.

Be patient.

It may not happen quickly, but over time your child(ren) will learn the skills they need to self-regulate and be able to peacefully transition from one activity to the next. Self-regulation is one of the key life skills for a happy, healthy and successful life for your child.

About the Author

Dr Rosina McAlpine is the CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting program. Win Win Parenting practical and fun programs are delivered across a variety of organisations including early learning, school, corporate and government organisations in Australia, New Zealand and The United States. Dr Rosina is an internationally recognised awardwinning researcher and educator.


Supporting Children Through COVID-19

It’s scary! We’re experiencing a pandemic.

Supermarket shelves are empty. Families are fighting over toilet paper. Events are being cancelled. Days off work and school. Rising fear due to loss of income and increased financial stress. Potential self-isolation and going a little stir-crazy. Endless cycles of bad news with reports highlighting the exponential rate the virus is spreading and the increasing number of deaths world-wide. The whole situation is inciting more and more fear as the days go by.

Right now, there’s no end in sight. Adults and children are confused, anxious and worried about the future. As a parent, you might be “just coping” yourself – but what about the children?

Are your children acting out? Seeming a little more anxious or stressed? As a parent you want to do everything you can to help your children be safe and feel safe – but perhaps you’re unsure how to help. Here are seven practical strategies to alleviate your children’s fear and stress levels and to help them develop the resilience they need to get through these challenging times.

1. Are You OK?

Children look to their parents for how to respond to
a situation. If you’re not coping with the current situation, if you seem anxious and fearful this will increase their concerns. Being aware of your emotions and finding ways to calm yourself will help you to “be there” for your children. The calmer and more in control you are, the easier it will be to help them through their anxieties, fears and tears. If you can’t quite manage on your own – talk to a member of the family, a trusted friend or seek help from a professional. Remember the flight safety instructions on an aeroplane; put on your oxygen mask first before you help your children. The same applies here.

2. Make Time to Talk

The unknown is very scary. Your children will feel safer if they understand what is going on rather than fear the worst by being kept in the dark. Make time to explain the situation using age-appropriate language. Sharing is not to scare your children but to reassure them and to help them understand what they’re hearing in the media and seeing all around them. Take opportunities to listen to your children so they can ask questions and express their concerns. Explain that many steps are being taken to keep people safe to allay their fears and reassure them.

3. Be Practical

Help your child feel more in control by explaining that we can all take steps to help the situation. Children will feel more confident if they can do something practical to make a difference. Teach the benefits of regular hand washing, the importance of not sharing drinks or food with anyone and why you’re not going out into public spaces unnecessarily – just until things settle down. Explain that things will go back to normal in time –
this too shall pass!

4. Teach Soothing and Calming Techniques

If your child is showing signs of anxiety or stress; support your children to cope by teaching them self-calming techniques. Help your children learn to focus on their breathing, to follow their breath on the inhale and the exhale, and if they can, to take slow deep breaths into their belly. Explain that if they feel worried that slowing and deepening their breathing will help them to feel better. Teach children to say reassuring words to themselves like “I’m fine, everything will be fine.” And encourage children to ask for help from an adult if they’re not managing on their own.

5. Limit Media Access

Widespread media coverage can insight fear in young children to teenagers. For children less than 8 years old, where possible, limit their exposure to the media by turning off the radio or television news reports as these can be particularly upsetting. Also watch the conversations you have in person or on the phone on the topic in front of your children. For older children who are more aware of what is going on and can’t avoid the media – explain that news reports focus on the most “sensational” aspects and use repetitive emotive words, stirring images and videos to shock and capture audiences’ attention. Discuss how there are many positive things happening that are just not making the news.

6. Focus on the Positive

Even when times are tough, make time to relax together as a family and have fun! Isolation can provide time
to reconnect with the children by playing games together, talking or watching a movie with some popcorn. Make an extra effort to talk about all the good things in your life – maybe even write them in a gratitude journal. Laughter and positive emotions are healing, so tell funny stories or watch amusing YouTube videos to lighten the mood and for a laugh. Sharing the many good things in your life and in the world can help tip the balance from negative to positive.

7. Build Resilience

When we go through life’s challenges successfully, it builds resilience. Everyone experiences hardship from time to time and using these challenges as an opportunity to teach and nurture your child’s resilience can provide them with skills for life success.
As a parent there are many things you can do to help your children to get through these confusing times. Being a good role model, teaching calming techniques and focussing on the positive aspects of life, all support your child’s resilience. However, the single most common factor for children to develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult. So, to support your child’s wellbeing, take care of yourself emotionally and physically and get the help you need so you can take care of them. Staying calm, being practical and remaining hopeful as a family will help us all get through these tough times together.

Dr Rosina McAlpine is the CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting program. Win Win Parenting practical and fun programs are delivered across a variety of organisations including early learning, school, corporate and government organisations in Australia, New Zealand and The United States. Dr Rosina is an internationally recognised award-winning researcher and educator.