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Pamela Harding

Pamela Harding

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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Helping Children to Develop Gratitude

You have probably heard the saying ‘children are like sponges’ …. well indeed they are! 

 

 

As parents we quickly learn that our reactions, words and attitudes are mirrored by our children.  In fact, children form views of their internal and external world which are largely based on experiences they are given in the early years.  Psychologists often refer to these as core beliefs and values.

Attitudes are similarly developed through the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have been modelled.  In the long term, attitudes will influence children’s choices as they go out into the world.

As such, being grateful is not only an attitude that can be assimilated from a young age but with sufficient repetitive experiences, can become entrenched in the child’s belief system and values.

But why is it important for children to develop gratitude?

Research shows that individuals whom have a well developed sense of gratitude, experience more life satisfaction, greater levels of optimism, higher self-esteem, have more empathy and increased psychological resilience.  This means that in the face of adversity and challenges, they are more likely to bounce back quicker.

Providing opportunities for children to experience gratitude is therefore an investment in their long term psychological wellbeing!  Developing a true sense of gratitude however, is more than just learning to say thank you ..but is instead cultivated through direct involvement that allows children to truly experience what gratitude is about. 

Ideas that may help to prepare children to develop gratitude

  1. Role model it.  Your actions, words and behaviours will be the most powerful roadmap a child will have as they go out into the world.  So choose to behave in ways that demonstrate what gratitude is about.
  2. Take a moment each day to be grateful for 5 things (people, objects, friendships, kindness, health, love) that you have in your life and share them with your child. For younger children, help them to draw a picture of something that happened in their day which they are grateful for.
  3. Play games that increase awareness of gratitude: write secret notes to each other expressing something you are grateful for and place them under the pillow, or inside the lunchbox. Encourage them to do the same to you and to others (eg. friends, grandparents, siblings). For younger kids, draw pictures to each other.
  4. Create a gratitude jar: once a day, write down on a piece of paper something that you are grateful for and place it in the jar.  Do this each day of the year and on Dec 31, open the jar and read them out.
  5. Limit how much you give them: with today’s throwaway society, it is easy for our children to be given too much. Help them to save for something special instead.
  6. Expose children to opportunities to feel firsthand the joy of being grateful:  help them volunteer to help others, engage in random acts of kindness (do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return (smile, hugs, make a card, draw a picture, pick a small flower)
  7. Involve them in tasks that include some preparation, such as meals or tidying up so they understand the effort that is involved.  Make time to reflect on this effort at the end.
  8. When receiving a gift, reflect with them on the effort the person giving it must have gone through to find it, make it or buy it, wrap it and give it. 
  9. Observe mindfully.  Sit with your child in the garden and watch the ants!  Talk about their actions in seeking and finding food, comment on how they work together to help each other. Do this with other things in the environment to create a sense of gratitude for nature.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Gratitute-2.jpg

Below is the attachment link for the 30 Day of Gratitute Calander. You can print one off for you and your child or children to complete together!

30-Days-of-Gratitude.pdf

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Posted by on in adults
How Can I Manage Stress

Christmas has great significance for many people and it also provides an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been. There are opportunities to catch up with friends and spend time with the people in our lives who are closest to us. This can be a positive experience, however many people can feel overwhelmed by time demands, commitments and financial pressures that arise during this season.

It is also a time of year where we find ourselves (willing or unwilling) to partake in the superficial aspects of buying expensive gifts, hosting parties and attending social functions.

It can mean, overindulging, staying up later, breaking routines as well as the good habits we may have worked hard to put in place throughout the year.

At a time when everyone celebrates, we can also be reminded of what hasn’t been working well in our lives, such as relationships or goals that we have set out to achieve uneventfully.

There can be a sense of obligation to see people with whom we no longer have much in common and a tendency to overcommit.

For many, this is also a time of year when people grieve the loss of loved ones and can be overwhelmed with feelings of isolation, disconnection, sadness and depression.

The Stress Response

When we are under stress there are different areas in our brain that become activated, acting as our ‘smoke detector’. When this happens, our brains automatically send a signal to our bodies to get ready to defend itself or hide. This is called the fight-flight-freeze response.

In the short term the stress response helps us to stay alive in dangerous situations; however when stress is chronic, it can play havoc with our physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Common physiological symptoms of stress can include tension in muscles, aches and pains, clenching jaws, gastrointestinal problems, difficulties sleeping, chest pain, dizziness, excessive sweating, tiredness and fatigue.

Cognitive effects can include difficulties concentrating, poor memory, overthinking or excessive worrying, and negative thoughts.

Emotional aspects can include irritability, hyper-vigilance, feelings of doom, helplessness, loneliness and a general sense of being overwhelmed.

People can sometimes avoid social contact and lose interest in things that were previously enjoyable, change their eating patterns, or engage in risk taking behaviours or self harm.

How Can I Manage Stress?

Learn to recognise your warning signs of stress. Take notice of the common physiological changes that occur in your body when you are stressed. Learn to recognise that these are the symptoms of stress, the signs that warn you that stress could be taking over.

Identify your triggers. Triggers are external events or situations such as for example loud noise or being ignored. It can include places such as crowded places or a person who reminds you of someone you dislike. A trigger results in an unpleasant and usually unexpected emotional response.

Taking the time to notice and then making a list of your known triggers can be helpful in preparing you to manage situations that may increase your response to stress.

Observe your thoughts. When we are stressed there is a tendency to engage in unhelpful thinking such as blowing things out of proportion, becoming rigid, believing that everything is bad or that nothing positive ever happens. There is a direct correlation between our thoughts and the types of emotions we experience as a result.

Engage in mindfulness. Taking the time to pay attention to the present moment can be an extremely effective way of managing overwhelm. When stressed our minds tend to focus on the past (often what hasn't gone well) or focus on the future (predicting or imagining), so essentially we are story telling. When this happens, we lose our opportunity to experience our current reality.

Practice self-compassion. Understand that no one gets it right one hundred per cent of the time. As explained by Dr Kristin Neff, this means recognising and acknowledging that you are having a hard time dealing with your feelings of overwhelm and asking yourself a question such as..what can I do in this moment to take care of myself?

Increase physical activity. Physical activity is an essential in the management of stress. It releases endorphins which are often referred to as the ‘feel good hormones’, relaxes muscles, and helps with concentration, focus and tolerance. Choose something that you will enjoy and preferably gets you outdoors. Try a brisk walk, jogging, yoga, dancing or anything that makes you move.

Practice breathing. Take the time to stop and breathe. Breathe in to the count of five seconds, hold it for five seconds, breathe-out for five seconds, then hold again. Repeat this for one to two minutes.

Stick to a routine. This is especially important if you have children. As much as there will be many outings and staying up later than usual at this time of year, routines (such as bedtimes, or particular activities you do together as a family) and clear boundaries (what is ok and not ok) will help children to feel secure and understand expectations.

Build in some down time. Regain some balance by spending time involved in enjoyable activities.

Develop a Plan. Once you have a good understanding of your body’s stress signals, triggers and thoughts, put together a list of strategies to help you cope when you are overwhelmed.

Practice prevention first but if all else fails and you are feeling far too overwhelmed, then have some quick strategies up your sleeve. Leave the room, take time out, do something quirky or completely the opposite of what you would normally do when feeling overwhelmed. Instead of yelling…sing!

Ask for help. Talk to family, friends, neighbours or agencies if you need support. There are 24 hour helplines that can provide support and point you in the right direction.

However if you find that winding down is becoming increasingly difficult and that stress seems to have a bigger part to play in how you feel or react to situations then it might be helpful to talk with a Psychologist.

 

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Grief and loss in children with intellectual disabilities

 

Grief and loss in children with intellectual disabilities

Pamela L. Harding,

Psychologist (B Psych; P Grad Dip Psych)

Children grieve the loss of someone special in many different ways. For children with developmental delay, concepts such as death can be difficult to understand and the implications of that loss (permanence) can vary accordingly. It is important for parents and carers to take the time to explain loss in ways that are developmentally appropriate, taking into account the child’s emotional maturity as well as the child’s language and intellectual development.

Reactions to grief vary in every child however typically these can be physical, psychological, behavioural, and spiritual in nature. In young children as well as in children who have developmental delay, these reactions are often difficult to identify as the ability to express complex emotions is still largely under developed.

It is therefore important to pay close attention to children’s behaviours following a loss, being aware that reactions can vary in intensity, frequency and duration depending on the type of support the child receives.

Typical grief reactions observed can include:

Behavioural 

  • Regression and temporary loss of skills previously mastered such as toileting, or getting dressed independently.
  • Becoming more clingy
  • Lacking a reaction due to difficulties understanding the permanent nature of loss
  • Withdrawing from activities or others
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Difficulty sleeping or not wanting to sleep alone
  • Disruptive behaviours such as tantrums
  • Becoming more sensitive to others’ emotions and repeating those emotional behaviours seen in other people who are grieving around them.

Emotional

  • Appearing sad or crying often.
  • Separation anxiety
  • Needing constant reassurance that things are ok.
  • Trying to make sense of what has happened by showing curiosity and interest in details / facts (lots of questions about death)
  • Confusion about what has happened: asking repetitively after the person who has passed away, or wanting to see the person.
  • Fear (of the dark, of being left on their own, of noises)

Somatic

  • Physical pains stomach aches or other complaints
 
What can help?

Strategies that can be helpful in supporting children during times of loss:

1. Ensure that basic needs are met (food, drink, sleep, affection)

2. Routine: keeping things as normal as possible is important in that it provides the child with a sense of safety and predictability which allows him/her to regain some control over their environment.

3. Provide reassurance: regardless of whether or not the child’s reaction is as you would expect, provide reassurance that their feelings are normal and that the sadness will eventually decrease.

4. Help understanding: explain what has happened as honestly as possible, using simple factual language. “Poppy has died and won’t be coming back”

5. Explain death: be concrete, use age appropriate visual resources such as books, social stories and play to help understanding.

6. Allow opportunities for the child to express their grief: this can include reading and telling stories, playing, drawing, making a memory box.

7. Be consistent in your answers: children may want to ask questions over and over again. It is important for you to provide answers that are consistent, simple and factual as this allows the child to make sense of what has happened.

8. Make use of rituals and symbols at home: prepare a farewell ceremony. Have photographs of the person and take turns talking to him/her to say farewell.

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