“By offering their children the best start in life, parents enable their children to be well-adjusted members of the community.”
I recently caught up with Valerie Judge, Founder of Melbourne Edge Consultants, a mental health and wellbeing support team that specializes in child, adolescent, and adult mental health.
We compared notes about our experiences working with parents and children and discussed what we’re seeing amongst the parents we’ve worked with – what the most common challenges are and what the most successful parent-child relationships look like – and explored how we could best be of service in our partnership.
Valerie and I know that being a parent can be hard; balancing it with your career creates that added layer of complexity. That’s why we make it our goal to help working parents work through and even thrive in their challenges – not least of which can be the behaviours exhibited by our children.
Don’t forget: challenging behaviours amongst children and adolescents are normal.
“[Melbourne Edge] are focused on supporting anything a parent deems as a challenging behaviour – which looks different for everyone. So anything from sleep issues and school refusal to issues with self-harm,” Valerie tells us. But despite them being common, one in four parents admits to finding challenging behaviours stressful and overwhelming. In our discussion, Valerie and I identified three simple ways in which how parents can feel better equipped to handle these situations when they do arise.
- Catch Them “Getting It Right”. Parents can often be overly sensitive to challenging behaviours when they arise, whilst missing the opportunity to praise their children when they display the more positive ones. Try to incorporate meaningful phrases into your vocabulary that will encourage kids to continue the behaviour you like to see. For instance, compliment them for their good deeds by saying, “I’m happy to see you taking your plates to the dishwasher without me asking, good job!” or “That was a nice thing to say to your sister, thank you!”
- Provide Emotional Outlets and Play. Kids become frustrated at times, so be sure to give them a safe place to “hangout.” Play is an essential emotional regulator for kids, along with creative activities like music and art. Hand over the controls by playing with your child, or encouraging them to express themselves creatively. This will help to prevent those emotions from bubbling over.
- Teach and Support Communication. Let your children express how they feel about you, about their surroundings, or about other people. For example, if your child is facing the prospect of home schooling for the foreseeable, it’s likely that they are experiencing a range of emotions. Valerie told me: “Some kids have thrived being at home for learning whilst others haven’t. The things I’d say to parents is that it’s all about preparation and routine. Those things are really important. Have those conversations with children.” Ask your children how they are feeling about the situation. Talk to them about why it’s important to maintain a routine. Help them build their emotional language and feel confident in using it.
Melbourne Edge uses a range of evidence based psychological approaches in order to achieve positive mental health outcomes for families. Valerie told me: “What’s unique about what we do is that we don’t have geographic boundaries and no referral thresholds. Once you work with us, you will stay with the same clinician.” Despite Valerie’s surname, she assures me, Melbourne Edge won’t judge. “I encourage parents to reach out. Just call: there’s no need to jump through hoops, just get some help now.”
I asked Valerie why some parents might resist getting help in addressing challenging behaviours with children, and she explained that she has seen parents being concerned about their children’s data, such as mental health care plans stored on My Health Record, potentially affecting their child’s choices in later life. This, however, is not the case when reaching out for help.
The Intime Collective and Melbourne Edge Consultants partner together to maximise our impact to the wellbeing of those who need our help. Whether you are a team manager who cares for your people or a working parent that struggles, we can help you.
Thanks for lunch, Valerie. See you soon.