In this edition of SchoolTV - Internet Addiction
In today’s digital environment, the internet can be a valuable tool for education and research, but it is also a key mode of entertainment too. Young people today tend to go from one screen to another, so how much is too much? Of course, each family will have different rules and expectations about this, but it is important to discuss what feels right for you. Time spent in the "screen world" has parents concerned that their kids may be missing out on real life experiences and we know that especially for girls their connections on social media can, if not monitored, become all-consuming. Therefore, it is vitally important to a child’s wellbeing for parents to regulate a child’s internet use.
Internet addiction can cause significant psychological and social problems for children in years to come. The true effects on future generations is not yet known, but there are strategies that parents can implement now. In this edition, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg discusses what causes internet addiction, who is most at risk and what parents can do to regulate the amount of time their kids spend online each day.
Here is the link to the Internet Addiction edition of SchoolTV : https://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/internet-addiction
We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this edition of SchoolTV and we always welcome your feedback. If you have any concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to contact the School for further information.
Director of Pastoral Care
“I’m so stressed!!”
This is a comment I hear many students make, particularly when coming into an exam or an assessment period. Something I find helpful in my sessions with students is to remind them that stress is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, stress is a normal reaction that we all feel as human beings towards situations that are challenging. Not enough stress in life can result in boredom, apathy, low mood and ultimately a lack of working to one’s potential. However, too much stress also costs our performance by creating distress, and can result in fatigue, physical ill-health and anxiety. Our aim at SCEGGS is to facilitate students to experience an optimal amount of stress. This is when students are pushed out of their comfort zone and rise to that challenge. Optimal stress can have a range of benefits including an increase in energy and focus, a sense of pride and can lead people to accomplish things they never thought they could. This idea is backed by research that suggests short term moderate stress for a few hours, like an exam or speech, primes the brain for alertness resulting in better learning and memory (Jaret, 2015).
So how can you as parents make stress more beneficial for your daughters?
Stay calm and connected
It's normal to feel stress coming up to exams, big assessment periods or waiting for results. But, stress as an emotion can be catching. You may have noticed this in your own household. If one person is stressed this feeling may go through the entire household and before you know it everyone’s heart is racing!
Regular communication during a shared activity like going for a walk or driving in the car or doing something they like to do can be helpful. Get a good understanding of your daughter’s study routines and plans so that you can help them balance out schoolwork with time for fun, family and friends in an age appropriate way. Communicate regularly with your daughter in a calm, non-judgmental, non-blaming way, as this will encourage them to speak honestly with you about how they are feeling. And if you do notice yourself, or your daughter, beginning to become distressed, one of the most effective things to do is to take a few deep breaths and stay calm. This breaks the cycle and helps contain and regulate emotions.
Encourage helpful thinking
It’s important for us all to help your daughters keep things in perspective. To remind them that you and their teachers are here to support them. Tell them that while there their exams or assignments are important, their value as human beings and the value of their education is not reflected simply in a mark. Thinking inflexibly about situations or jumping to the worst possible scenario is not going to be helpful in keeping them at the optimal level of stress, which is where they learn and perform best. We need to help them to think in a balanced way, recognising that they will need to prioritise tasks and develop the resilience to deal with minor setbacks and disappointments.
In order to do this, you can ask things like:
- Is that a helpful way of thinking about that situation?
- What is a more helpful way of thinking about it?
- Is that the only possible explanation?
- What are some other ways of thinking about this situation?
It is so important that you try to ask these questions rather than react to your child’s worry in the moment and try to fix things for them.
Nurture a healthy lifestyle
Often when I first meet students, I ask about their sleep, diet and level of exercise. I talk about this being the foundation of our emotional house. If our foundations are rocky, our emotions too will be more susceptible to extremes and more likely to be unstable.
Encourage your daughter to not forget the simple things like sleeping. According to the Student Wellbeing survey we conducted last year over half of our High school students (60%) report waking up feeling quite exhausted or exhausted. According to experts’ school aged children 6-13 years old require 9-11 hours of sleep per night and young people aged 14-17 need 8-10 hours of sleep (Sleep Connection, 2019).
Remind your daughter to go to sleep at a regular time and remove phones before bed. Good sleepers usually take 30 minutes to fall asleep at night and may wake a few times throughout the night. It is unrealistic for your daughter to expect that she will fall asleep straight away. Encourage your daughter to engage in a non-screen activity in bed 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleep time to help your daughter unwind and prepare for sleep. As a household you may consider turning off main lights and using just lamps 1-2 hours before bedtime. Low lighting helps the release of melatonin which encourages human bodies to sleep.
Keep a watchful eye
The most commons signs of too much stress is when you see changes in your daughter's emotions (for example agitation, anxiousness or sadness), behaviour (this may include withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy or too much socialising and not enough studying), physicality (such as headaches, or a gain or reduction in appetite or weight) and cognitions (difficulties with memory, inability to focus and negative perspective). It’s important to point out that most young people leading up to an exam period or an assignment period are going to show signs of stress and this is perfectly normal. But if changes are intense, frequent, persist for more than two weeks and are not easily explained or alleviated by an external stressor such as an exam period there may be something more going on.
If you do notice changes in your daughter that you find concerning, telling your daughter what changes you have noticed in their behaviour, without nagging or blaming, and asking them whether they have noticed changes too, can be helpful. You can also contact their Year Co-ordinator, Form Teacher, Director of Pastoral Care, one of the School Counsellors or speak to your GP. I have also included a few apps that you, and your daughter, might find helpful in managing stress at the end of this article.
Jaret, P. 2015, The Surprising Benefits of Stress Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley, viewed 4 Sept 2019, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_surprising_benefits_of_stress
The Sleep Connection, Sleep for Children and Teenagers: Amount of Sleep Required, viewed 4 Sept 2019, https://thesleepconnection.com.au/sleep-for-children-teenagers/#2amount
Apps to help manage stress
- Reachout Breathe
- Reachout worry time
- Smiling Mind
- Raising Children’s Network
- Reach Out
Dr Melissa Saxton
Helping Students in the Early Years of School
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed an increasing number of articles and reports about what we as parents and educators can do to help our children grow into confident, resilient and productive adults. It’s given me cause to reflect on the changes I have observed in how children are parented and in how we provide for their learning at school. There is no doubt that our girls are part of a more challenging and complex world than their parents experienced as children. What then can we, as parents and teachers, do to support them on their journey to adulthood?
At SCEGGS we aim to provide the girls with an education that builds their confidence and the skills to be part of this rapidly changing world. The girls now in their first years of school are still ten or more years away from leaving SCEGGS and we can only imagine what the world will be like for them as adults. Nevertheless, the staff here are committed to doing all they can to support their academic, emotional and social development.
One of the most dramatic changes that takes place in the first few years of school is the huge shift in independence demonstrated by the girls. Many arrive at school having had to make very few decisions for themselves. They are quickly encouraged to take responsibility for their belongings, their learning and make decisions about a whole range of things, from who to play with, what to eat at recess or lunch and how to look after their belongings. We encourage this independence and support the girls to take responsibility for their actions and their choices.
We understand that effort is key to success, and that making mistakes encourages a commitment to keep trying, building grit and resilience. Both effort and mistakes are applauded at school, because we understand that risk taking is an integral part of learning. Only by taking risks, making mistakes and continuing to struggle will the girls develop the mindset that things may not always come easily, and that reward may not be immediate. When faced with challenges in class, we encourage the girls to say, “I can’t do it...yet!” This supports students to believe that, with practice, they will master a concept or skill.
There is much talk in the media about the increasing prevalence of anxiety and depression in young people. At SCEGGS we are quite aware that we have a role to play in supporting the wellbeing of our students. The Head of Wellbeing in the Primary School provides leadership to teachers and support for students with emotional concerns, friendship or family issues. As well, many teachers include mindfulness in their form programs. In the early years we provide sessions on topics such as understanding emotions, staying calm and remaining attentive. The intention is that these skills become part of the natural behaviour of the students.
At home, too, there are things you as parents can do to support your daughter in her learning and more generally, as well. Over the last few years I’ve observed the changes our girls face and have some ideas about the ways in which I believe girls in their early years of school can best be supported by their parents. I’ve included a few of them here.
Allow time for free play, or even boredom! Nothing encourages creativity more than allowing the time and space to explore. By not overscheduling children they are able to engage in play, both alone and with others. It is considered to be one of the most important things we can do to promote health and wellbeing, as well as school success.
Alongside time for free play is limiting the amount of screen time – sometimes easier said than done, I know! I see families out at dinner where the young children are entertained by a phone or iPad. Encourage the kids to be part of the conversation. At home or in a restaurant, instead of a screen I suggest providing your daughter with a colouring book and pencils, or a pile of books to read.
Allow your daughter to take risks and make mistakes. Children who avoid all fearful situations don't have the opportunity to face their fears and don't learn that many of them are manageable. Anxious kids worry about things not working out as they should, things not being quite perfect. At school we see students who need to do everything perfectly and who have difficulty giving things a go because they might make a mistake. Perfectionism is the antithesis of a growth mindset, so celebrate mistakes and praise struggling to do difficult things.
Get into nature. Earlier this year I took my Year 1 class on an excursion to Vaucluse House. One of the things the girls loved most was playing in the long grass. They hid, they ran, they made things with the grass. It was so rewarding for me to see them in this lovely natural setting, but I was also aware that for a few of them it was an uncommon experience.
Have meaningful discussions. Ask questions. I love to hear a child’s perspective and am often amazed at what they know and how they perceive the world. They don’t learn these things in a vacuum and we at school are just a part of the whole learning process. Teach your daughter to confidently articulate her feelings and share her ideas. Girls who have the opportunity to experience the world – a train ride, art gallery, or farm for example, or who have a rich view of the world through discussions and books bring that to their learning at school.
Encourage routines, doing chores and taking responsibility. If possible, stick to regular bedtimes during the week, including Sunday night! So often I see girls on Monday morning who look like they need a weekend! Lack of sleep really does impact on learning and I feel sorry for students who are so tired at school their brain doesn’t work properly. In addition, gradually increase the amount of responsibility your daughter has for getting herself ready for school. I often suggest a class timetable on display at home so that together you can see what she needs for the next day.
A final word - be less worried about comparison with peers and more concerned with progress. If there’s anything I’ve learnt over the years about how children grow and learn it’s that they really do all learn at different rates. I’ve seen students who’ve required academic support for reading or Maths in the first year or two of school achieve at a high level in later years. It’s much more important that a love of learning is instilled in the girls and that we do all we can to develop this love both at home and school. We really are in this together!
Year 1 Teacher
Tonight, SBS will release The Hunting, a new four-part series which explores the impact of a nude teen photo scandal. As stated on the SBS website, “Tackling themes of misogyny, privacy, sexuality and sexualisation, online exploitation, toxic masculinity and gender, the series uses this singular event as a way of exploring some of the most pressing issues of our time.”
Whilst you may not yet have given your daughter a mobile phone or let her access a computer in an unsupervised environment, we thought it was a timely reminder that discussions around appropriate use of technology, healthy relationships and consent should begin from a young age, both at home and at school.
We know that the series will be uncomfortable viewing for some. You may choose to watch this with your daughter, but this might be something which you choose not to do due to the sexually explicit content. However, regardless of whether you decide to watch it as a family or not, it is important to take care how you respond to the issues the show raises, as judgement or interrogation will quickly shut down any opportunity to have a discussion in an open and healthy way.
And we hope that you do have conversations with your daughter about the different topics raised (of course in an age appropriate manner). Should your daughter watch The Hunting, please also observe her response and take seriously any behaviours you notice, as the series may leave her worried about an incident in her past, a current relationship, or a friend’s behaviour. No matter what, remaining calm and listening without judgement will show your daughter that she can talk to you about the difficult things which she experiences, now and in the future.
If you watch the show, you might have more questions, concerns or simply want to understand why young people might choose to engage in ‘sexting’ and other risky online behaviours. The SBS website offers a viewing guide to parents, as well as some interesting interviews and articles related to the series which will help you to reflect on the content. You will also find the following websites will give you some more information:
• Office of the eSafety Commissioner https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents
• Think U Know https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/
• Reach Out Parents https://parents.au.reachout.com?/
• Youth Law Australia https://yla.org.au/
You might also like to access the SchoolTV edition on "Sexting" which can be found here https://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/sexting
There is no doubt that technology has changed the way that relationships are conducted, but it doesn’t have to impact how we teach young people about trust, communication, consent or any other aspect of a healthy and loving relationship.
Director of Pastoral Care
As Semester 1 draws to a close and the girls look forward to a well-deserved break, I thought it timely to offer some advice about engaging with the feedback offered by teachers in the end of semester report.
There is a great deal of information contained in both the Primary and Secondary reports. However, too often the achievement grade or mark becomes the sole focus of both girls and parents. Yes, this data is very important, but the report contains so much more information that is designed to offer feedback and to guide the student in the best way forward to see improvement in their learning. How can you as a parent assist your daughter to unpack the content of her report and help in the development of learning goals for the second half of the year?
Parents of girls in Kindergarten to Year 10 will be receiving an email next week to let you know that your daughter’s report is available to be accessed on the portal. Once you receive this message, I think it is important to sit down with your daughter and read through the report together. By taking the time to do this, it gives you the opportunity to assist your daughter to ask a number of questions that will help her to analyse the information from the report. This could begin with an initial reading of the report with a focus upon questions such as:
• What are three things of which you are most proud in this report?
• What are three areas that you think need further development?
By commencing with these types of questions it will allow your daughter to not only consider what some of the positive things that come out of the report feedback but also encourages her to start to consider the areas that require some attention to see an improvement.
A more detailed reading of the report comments could follow to fully unpack the feedback provided in each subject comment. May I suggest a very useful strategy to do this, one that I use in my teaching of essay writing, that I think can be applied to the reading of report comments to enable the identification of the key messages of the comment. Take three different coloured highlighters and a printout of the report. Who does not enjoy an exercise that involves multicoloured highlighters! Read through each comment again. As you read, highlight in a different colour each of the following:
• Suggestions about what has gone well
• Suggestions about what has not gone so well or needs improvement
• Advice or strategies in order to see improvement
By identifying these things in the comments, you can then have a discussion with your daughter about what the report suggests are the main areas for development in the coming semester. This is a strategy that we use regularly but by starting this conversation at home it will give you the opportunity to discuss with your daughter some possible goals that she can set for herself as a learner in Term III. In the Secondary School, activities such as this will happen early in the new term but if your daughter has gone through the process at home first it will give her a chance to really consider the main pieces of advice and what she wants her focus to be in the coming semester.
These are just some suggestions to help you and your daughter to get the most out of the feedback in their semester report. Of course, as always, if you want to discuss any of the feedback in the report do not hesitate in contacting the relevant class teachers or other appropriate staff member.
Director of Curriculum
Firstly, I wanted to share two great resources – not individual articles or podcasts, but whole websites with a mine of information to help you through a range of topics!
1. You might have noticed some advertising in a variety of media outlets from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner about keeping kids safe online. There are a variety of resources for parents and carers which you might find helpful:
2. The Parents Website, published by Independent Schools Victoria, has a range of articles and other resources for parents of children of all ages. There will be something for you there for sure!
Secondly, we are interested in knowing what you might want from this section of our Newsletter. What ideas would you like us to talk more about (or less about!). Are there topics you are interested in, or resources to help you more than we could locate and share? Please let us know! Send me an email at email@example.com
Have a good week, everyone!
Head of School
The Power of Play
Is child play and “free-time” frivolous and something no longer needed or valued in our world? In our fast-paced lives, do our children even have time to play?
I recently attended a forum led by Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Educational Policy and Deputy Director at the Gonski Institute for Education School of Education. The discussion centred on the differences between the philosophy and culture behind educational practices in Finland and here in Australia. Professor Sahlberg highlighted a few key differences but one struck a chord with me; the power of play. Educational policy in Finland stipulates that children have the right to 15 minutes of play in each hour of learning, additional to Recess and Lunchtime. Play in Finland is generally outdoor play, despite freezing temperatures, and is always child led. It seems to me that children often aspire or are encouraged to grow up quickly and to therefore dismiss play as something superfluous and not conducive to real learning. Professor Sahlberg’s concept of children having a “right” to play inspired and challenged me to reconsider the function of play for children.
As someone who grew up in the 1970s, unstructured play both indoors and outdoors was very much part of my everyday life. As an educator and a parent, I have often queried how much time this current generation of children dedicate to simply playing, and whether the decreased focus on play is something that negatively impacts their development and wellbeing. Play was something I took for granted as a child and yet I wonder if children today have the same experience or feel the same sense of entitlement. According to research by the American Psychological Association, children today spend more time on competitive sports, additional academic pursuits and screen-based entertainment than any previous generation. Whilst these are meritorious experiences for children, I also wonder if we are risking the elimination of a child’s natural predisposition to exercise their curiosity and creativity by limiting their chances of unstructured play? Having listened to Professor Sahlberg and having read the latest research from around the world, I think the answer is a resounding yes!
Current research shows that play is a powerful tool in the social, emotional and even educational development of a child. It therefore concerns me to read statistics arising from a study of 1,000 students conducted by University College London’s Institute of Education which show that just 1% of Secondary School students now have down-time in the afternoon compared to 41% of students 30 years ago. A child growing up in Finland experiences a shorter school day than their Australian counterparts and the Finnish Primary School child has a guaranteed 15 minutes of play in each hour. By the time a child within the Australian education system is 15 years old they have had the equivalent of 5 extra years of face to face teaching than their peers in Finland. As a teacher, I know how much thought, time and effort teachers invest in planning and delivering learning opportunities for students. Yet despite the additional years of teacher instruction, Finland has, according to data from the OECD’s international PISA tests, outperformed Australia in terms of results in literacy, Maths, Science and problem-solving as well as subjective measures like student happiness and positive wellbeing for the past two decades. The emphasis on wellbeing through play in Finland is deeply embedded in their education system and has been for several decades. Whilst it is no simple thing to change government policy, the correlation between a focus on play and improved results academically and emotionally is something I believe is worthy of discussion in our schools and homes.
There are many different types of play; imaginative, physical, sociodramatic, symbolic to name just a few. What these all have in common is that they have a positive impact on a child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. Children develop and practise social skills as they learn to respect one another through the rules they make and break through their collaborative games. I find it hard to keep up with the ever-changing versions of traditional chasing games in the playground, but the girls are quick to adapt to these rule changes and the joy each girl feels as she charges around the playground connecting with others is palpable. Play enables children to build social connections and it also fosters confidence and resilience as the girls learn to negotiate the rules and inevitable challenges to those rules!
At the end of Term I, I worked with a group of Year 6 leaders to review our Primary School House Families and to seek their ideas for activities in Term II. The girls enthusiastically shared their ideas and I admit I was surprised by the number of girls who requested the inclusion of traditional games such as Cat’s Cradle and Elastics. They also wanted time to “invent” games and dramas within their Family groups. The fact that they felt the need to ask permission to devise their own games made me stop and think. Are we guilty of trying so hard to engage our children in learning activities that we are in danger of overlooking the power of spontaneous, unstructured play? The games the girls requested had a distinct lack of “rules” and so, by their very nature, offered endless opportunities for imaginative thinking. This is the power of play. Unstructured play allows children the chance to explore, invent and think creatively and critically; all skills which are critical for the world they will enter once they complete their education.
Research suggests that play promotes self-initiated learning and offers a child agency over their learning. I only need to spend a few moments on the playground to see how true that is. At any given playtime there are girls involved in active collaborative play whilst others are building worlds with wooden blocks, some are quietly tracking native stingless bees in the flowers and others are testing their superpowers in fantastical worlds. This led me to reflect on the wise words of Sir David Attenborough who is, amongst other things, the Learning through Landscapes Patron. Sir David suggests that “outdoor environments can offer a very special kind of learning experience: the opportunity for discovery and learning through touching and feeling, the chance to explore and take risks, the stimulations of the fresh air and limitless skies. And yet, we are steadily depriving our children of these wonders.”
It seems to me that play enables children the chance to step outside the world we structure for them. Play offers children the chance to think boldly, to see and explore limitless worlds at their own pace. The power of play is simple; it helps children to show us and themselves what they are capable of. As we all aim to empower our girls and equip them with skills to take out into their world, perhaps play is something we should focus on as a superpower in their learning toolkit. Play can be a way of liberating thoughts, of embracing change, building resilience and forging social connections, all of which encourage a positive sense of self. Therefore, it seems to me that play and learning are inextricably linked and in the busyness of our world more important for children than ever before. Perhaps through their play, children can teach us all lessons on how to see the world and ourselves.
Head of Student Wellbeing K-6
SPECIAL REPORT: Parenting Styles - What type of parent are you?
There are so many different opinions offered on how best to parent. Raising children can bring parents and caregivers great joy- even when learning ‘on the job’- but it can also raise many questions about how best to support your children as they grow and change. However, children will always flourish in a warm and loving environment, supported by clear guidance.
In this Special Report, parents and caregivers can gain a greater understanding of the four defined parenting styles. It can guide parents towards deciding which style they wish to adopt and the effects it may have on their children. You can also take a quiz to give you information on your own parenting style too.
Here is the link to the latest SchoolTV: https://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-parenting-styles
We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this Special Report, and as always, we welcome your feedback. If you do have any concerns about the wellbeing of your child, please contact the school for further information or seek medical or professional help.
We also know that Junior Exams are fast approaching and it may be worth looking back at the past SchoolTV issue on ‘Exam Jitters’. In this edition, a range of psychologists and educators answer some common questions parents have about how best to support your child before, during and after an assessment period.
The issue can be found here: https://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/exam-jitters
Director of Pastoral Care
I recently read an interesting article published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley titled “How to live a more courageous life”. The article outlined a number of areas which were key to this, and creating community was paramount. Research shows that feeling connected to a community is one of the most important protective factors against mental illness and important in building resilience. It is also a key factor in improving academic performance too! This is one of the reasons why schools encourage students to participate in everything from camp to extra-curricular activities. House events, such as the Swimming Carnival or House Drama are also such fabulous opportunities for a sense of belonging to be formed and solidified. So, when I sat down to think about what I would contribute to "In this together", I kept coming back to the Prefects’ theme for 2019, "connection".
I remember sitting with the new group of Prefects last year and listening to what they wanted for the students of SCEGGS. They expressed a desire to see stronger relationships within and across year groups, to hear the buzz of chatter across the playground at lunch times rather than girls looking at their phones, and increased participation in House and Co-curricular activities; in other words they wanted everyone to feel like they were part of a community. It was so heartening to hear these young women express how much they wanted to encourage these connections, and how important SCEGGS was in their lives.
It got me considering the importance of having strong connections between families and the School. I believe that a strength of SCEGGS is the sense of community that exists, not just in the student body, but the community as a whole - students, staff, parents, and Alumni. I have seen moments where families are in real crisis and have marvelled at the way that staff and students at SCEGGS offer support with such care and openness. In the coming weeks we have a musical soiree where a number of Old Girls will be performing, and at the end of last term SPAN hosted another fabulous event that was attended by parents and students, past and present. How wonderful to be part of a community that is enriched by the strong, supportive connections that have been fostered.
Therefore, it saddens me to see stories in the media about "bully parents" or "concierge parenting", because it suggests that the relationship between home and school is one that, in today’s society, may not be valued as highly as it was. What a shame it would be to see this relationship disintegrate or become one of tension, when both school and home want the young people for whom they care to be flourishing emotionally, succeeding academically, and feeling supported socially. This is not to say that each and every day will be a positive one, or that there will not be moments where your daughter feels disappointed by a grade or let down by a friend. However, how we work together to assist your daughter to navigate these moments greatly impacts on their ability to develop the necessary skills to become a resilient young woman.
I particularly liked the idea raised in the Greater Good article that, “As humans, we make meaning out of our experiences by telling stories to ourselves about how the world operates. But here’s the important part: Those stories might not be objectively true. They are more like your personal lens on life, colouring your experiences just as if you were wearing sunglasses.” Not only is this a good reminder for us as adults, but it is also important to teach to young people. There is no doubt that it is difficult to face a school day when your friendships are changing, or you have received a disappointing mark, but it also isn’t the end of the world. Instead, we want to help young people learn the skills to reframe negative narratives that they might tell themselves when they feel overwhelmed, lonely or anxious. Another important factor to consider is the correlation between strong social support, optimistic thinking and a significant reduction in stress. This in turn reduces stress in the home too - something I am sure that many parents would heartily welcome as your daughter faces the different challenges that growing up brings.
This is where having a strong connection between the School and families can be so helpful, as if the message young people are hearing is consistent and empowering, what a difference this can make. Fear, feeling rejected or like a failure are natural and normal feelings, and a very important part of learning, but they do not have to control the way that young people respond to the events in their lives. Instead, as the title of this section of Behind the Green Gate suggests, we are in this together, and together can continue to engender a culture of courageous thoughts and actions here at SCEGGS.
Swoboda, K., “How to live a more courageous life”, Greater Good Magazine: Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, UC Berkley, October 10, 2018.
Director of Pastoral Care
Some holiday reading and listening for you all over the school holidays...
I thought you might like to see a few different articles we have come across over the past few months.
Perhaps one or two of them might be interesting for you over the school holidays?
1. On perfectionism.
2. A fun, but serious article from The New York Times that we can ALL learn from!
3. Some good practical tips to parents for managing screen time.
4. Interested in the digital detox trend in restaurants?
5. Helping teenage girls reframe anxiety and strengthen resilience.
6. And lastly, a podcast from The Harvard EdCast – “Overparented, Underprepared”.
Wishing all our parents a lovely school holiday time from all of us at SCEGGS, when we get there!
Head of School
The power of parent modelling....
Children look up to their parents. As a young child, I can remember thinking that my mum and dad knew absolutely everything, they had all the answers! Parents play a vitally important role in their children’s development, and most do a great job organising a variety of things for their children to be involved in to aid their learning as well as their social development. But often it is the day to day things parents are naturally doing, or involving their children in, that will have a greater impact. Here are just some of the areas in which positive adult role modelling will aid your child’s development:
• Read, read, read! If your child sees that you enjoy reading, that you are doing it as a leisure activity, they are likely to follow suit. And it doesn’t matter what you are reading! Novels, newspapers, cookbooks ... anything! Even 15 minutes a day of reading will help a child’s literacy skill development; vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar and importantly, her general knowledge. Again, it doesn’t matter what she reads!
• You are good at Maths! Please never tell your daughter you are no good at Maths. Maths is part of our everyday lives – when we shop, drive, cook... the list goes on. Maybe you weren’t great at Maths when you were at school – but the way we now teach Maths has changed! Be positive about the subject, point out to your daughter how you use it every day. We really do need to change so many of the girls’ views that, ‘I’m no good at Maths, and neither was my mum/dad!’
• Limit your screen time: Technology is part of all our lives and can be so very useful! But dependence on technology isn’t, and it’s important children are spending time outdoors, are interacting with their friends face to face, that they’re playing games (remember cards and board games?!) and reading (real!) books. Statistics show an alarming number of screen time hours spent by the average child; and adults too! If children see their parents spending all their time on their phone, using their computer, watching Netflix, they will do likewise. So please, put the phone away, and turn the computer and TV off!
• Lead a healthy lifestyle: Of course treats are allowed! But modelling healthy eating and including exercise as part of family activities will help your kids flourish in both their physical and emotional wellbeing. Of course, if you are a marathon runner you are setting the goal high! It can be as simple as going on a walk together, or playing a family game of cricket (or other!) outdoors. And talk about food with your child, cook together, so they learn to appreciate food. But remember it’s all about balance - food doesn’t all have to be green!
• Get outdoors! And one of the best ways to get away from screens and to lead a healthy lifestyle is to get outdoors! Sydney’s natural environment is amazing – take your kids for a ferry ride, do a coastal walk together, have a family picnic in one of our city or National Parks ... embrace the great outdoors and all that it offers, at the same time developing in your children a love and appreciation of the natural world in which they live.
• Do you really need that drink? I enjoy a glass of wine (or two!) as much as the next person, but we do need to think of the messages we are giving children when they regularly see adults with a glass in hand. Is alcohol the only way to celebrate an occasion? Is alcohol really the only antidote to a bad day? Is alcohol really necessary at a young child’s birthday party? On the evening of June 17 this year, Paul Dillon, a national expert in alcohol and other drug education, is coming to SCEGGS to address parents of girls in Kindergarten to Year 4. Paul will be talking to parents about the things they can be doing now to help their girls during their later years; including the responsible use of alcohol. Please save the date!
• Get enough sleep: so much has been written in the media lately about the importance of sleep; why do so many of us get too little? We should all be bouncing out of bed in the morning, ready to start a new day! A number of girls arrive at school tired, due to lack of sleep. Make getting enough sleep a priority in your family - stick to children’s scheduled bed times, and you make sure you get enough sleep too!
• Do nothing! Yes, it’s ok not to be busy! We live in a society where being busy is worn like a badge of honour. But why? Down time is so important – time to unwind, to reflect, to ponder, to let our imaginations run wild. Adults need this as much as children! So take time out, just be – and let your kids just be too. Resist the temptation to organise numerous activities for your children to keep them busy. And if they say they are ‘bored’ doing nothing: ignore it! They will soon find things to do, something they have thought up themselves, using their own creativeness.
• Model positive emotions: It’s natural to worry about your children, and it hurts parents when they can see their child struggle when something goes wrong for them, or when a child makes a mistake. But try not to catastrophise! Be a good listener, talk about the issue together, model problem solving skills – and above all, be positive about ways forward. This will really help your daughter develop her resilience and her capacity to’ bounce back’.
• Be careful whose listening: Children have big ears! Unfortunately, I have quite often heard parents talk about their child while the child is standing next to them. Children believe what you are saying, and quickly label themselves. So even if her brother is doing better than her academically, or you think she’ll never be a great artist/runner/public speaker, or you are worried about her socially or emotionally, talk about it with someone when you are certain the child (or her siblings/friends) can’t hear you.
• And finally, The Golden Rule. Do for others what you want them to do for you - from the Bible, Matthew 7, verse 12: The more we as adults can model kindness and respect for all human beings, the better the world we all live in will be. Show your children how much you care for others, through what you say and through your actions. Speak well of others, and always show courtesy and manners. While sometimes you may need to hold yourself back and count to 10 (we all have bad days!) your modelling will have such a positive impact on your children.
I have spoken to so many parents over the years, and I know it’s not always easy - no one is expecting you to be 100 % perfect! But setting good examples for your children to follow will help them enormously as they navigate their way through childhood, and will lay solid foundations for them in later years as well.
Head of Primary School
It was with immense sadness that I saw the news last week about the tragedy in Christchurch.
The loss experienced in such an horrific event is so profound and something which has far-reaching impact. It is impossible to understand why such events occur, and your daughters may have many questions, but sometimes events such as these can trigger other worries. This can include concerns for a family member or friend who may be unwell, or remembering somebody they know who has passed away. I think, too, of the individuals and families in our community who may be coming to terms with their own loss. Grief and loss, in whatever form, can be a distressing experience.
Grief is a natural response to loss. It might be the loss of a loved one, relationship or even a pet, or it may be that grief is experienced through empathising with the loss of others such as the recent events in Christchurch. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Children and adults grieve differently due to their developmental stage, and sometimes this can prove difficult for parents to understand and navigate. Young children fluctuate in and out of the stages of grief rapidly, as they may not comprehend the permanency death; they express their grief more physically. Teens on the other hand may not know how to express their grief and will need some space and time to process their loss. Some may choose to grieve alone, not wanting to stand out or be seen as not coping, whilst others may be much more comfortable expressing their feelings and worries.
In this edition of SchoolTV, parents can learn how to acknowledge their child’s feelings and the best way to support them through experiences of grief. Click here for this month's edition.
We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month’s edition and we always welcome your feedback. If you have any concerns about your child, please contact the School.
Director of Pastoral Care
What is your favourite tip or guideline to help your daughter have a good night’s sleep?
Thank you to all the parents who submitted a sleep tip last week – we had a fantastic response and have many great words of wisdom from lots of different families across the school. So a big thank you to you all!
The tips covered all sorts of different strategies and included ideas about the importance of exercise and natural light during the day, having consistent routines, managing technology well, using different relaxation strategies, thinking about the quality of the sleep as well as quantity, making sure games and activities get quieter as the evening goes on ... and much, much more!
As I heard a teacher say to a group of students last year, “Do you want to do better at school, be a better learner and feel better in yourself by doing absolutely nothing at all? Then go to sleep!” So how do we help kids do this? Here are your top tips for 5-18 year olds:
1. Consistent routines really help
- Consistent routines help us make sleep a priority
- Have a consistent routine prior to a consistent bed time – even on the weekends when you can!
- Make sure the girls are organised and not procrastinating about homework, so that they can go to bed at a consistent time
- We’ve made our mornings calmer for everyone by getting things organised the night before – and we try not to have any late nights as a family during the school week.
2. Winding down on device time
- At least an hour of "screen free time" before bedtime on week nights. We are doing this too and it makes such a difference!
- No phones at the dinner table – ever!
- No devices at least an hour before bedtime – this really makes a difference to the quality of sleep we are all getting.
3. "Tech free" bedrooms – no matter what!
- No technology in bedrooms after a set time (eg 8pm) – and don’t fall for the excuses like "I need my phone to listen to music or to use as an alarm clock" because they don’t! This works much better for us than any software that limits access to Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or anything else.
- No screens or phones in rooms overnight – no matter what!
- Have one place in the living area to charge phones and request that phones are in the charging area from a certain time (eg 7pm or 9pm). This ensures phones are out of the bedroom for study and sleep times. If they need to use the phone they must come to the charging area (eg in the living room).
- All devices (phones, school tablets etc - including the parents' devices) must be charged in a central spot downstairs overnight. We aim to have the phones there from dinner time onwards.
4. Food and drink – the right amount at the right time
- Ensure dinner is quiet, calm and healthy – being too full or hungry makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
- No caffeine for my older daughter after lunch – and I’m using this rule too to try and be a good role model!
5. Calm your brain by doing something relaxing before bed
- 20-30 minutes of reading in bed each night before lights out.
- A calm bath at the end of the day does wonders!
- Read a familiar bedtime story, one they have read many times before, keep the conversation quiet and calm.
Thank you again to all the families who submitted a sleep tip last week! And if you missed the opportunity to participate this time, perhaps it is a question you could ask the parents of your daughter’s friends sometime ... what sleep time tips do they have that might work well for you too?
Deputy Head of School
A Good Night’s Sleep
“In partnership with the School, it is essential that our parents are empowered with the knowledge and skills to help them navigate their daughters’ educational and social growth.”
Our Path Ahead (SCEGGS Strategic Plan)
For our parents, that knowledge can come from many different places – articles, family members, SCEGGS staff, news, blogs, friends ... the list goes on! There is a lot of wisdom amongst the parents within the SCEGGS community too! And from time to time, we use "In This Together" to share tips and advice submitted by your fellow SCEGGS parents that might help you navigate each of your daughter’s growth in the years ahead.
We all know how important a good night's sleep is for adults and children alike! Sleep enhances our wellbeing overall and when we get enough sleep, we tend to:
- stay healthier
- be more creative, think of new ideas and solve problems more easily
- be able to pay attention, concentrate and remember things more easily
- be in a better mood
- get along better with friends and family
... and many other things too!
At several Parent Information Evenings recently, we have heard parents sharing their tips with each other about how to help their daughter have a good night's sleep - limiting screen time before bed, keeping regular routines, exercise during the day and many more.
So what is your favourite parenting tip to help your daughter have a good night's sleep? We’d love you to hear from everyone who has a favourite tip or guideline to share using this quick survey link.
This short survey will close on Monday 25 February at midday ... and we will share a sample of your feedback in Behind the Green Gate next week.
Deputy Head of School
“There is a reason we were given two ears and one mouth..."
Whatever the age of your daughter, keeping the lines of communication open is so important. Whether you have a quiet and shy child, an outgoing pre-teen or a moody teenager who is monosyllabic at best, here are some ideas to help.
Firstly, three tips:
|Be curious... about her life, her opinions, her ideas.|
|Tip #2:||Don’t push it. If the time isn’t right and she doesn’t want to chat or tell you what’s worrying her, let it be...
|Tip #3:||Let her know you are always there to listen. That you care about her, that you are easy going and accepting, that you won’t be judgemental...|
Keep trying to find the right sort of questions which will encourage your daughter to talk. It might be music or sport, or something else she is particularly passionate about. And do persevere... but gently. She will see that you are open to talk, that you care, that you are interested, even if it doesn’t prompt a deep conversation at the time. You will get there!
Don’t ask closed questions – where the answer is can be given in one or two words. Don’t ask probing questions – it shouldn’t feel like an inquisition. Ask curious questions – about what she thinks, what she feels, what she is worried about. The aim is to get to know your daughter better – and to show you are interested in her, her life, and her views on the world.
You might try to schedule specific times you could start a conversation – over the dinner table, Sunday morning breakfast, or Friday night movies and pizzas. Regular, predictable and comfortable family routines encourage good conversations. But it doesn’t really matter how you start a conversation – what topic you choose. Be alive to what is happening around you, and what your daughter is interested in, thinking, or doing.
Now sometimes it is really tempting to tell her all about what you think! The moment she tells you about a problem or issue she is worried about, you know what she should do. (And of course, you are probably right – you are so much more experienced than her). Trying to resist the urge to solve her problems, to be bombastic or opinionated, but gently encouraging her to find the solution to problems herself, to work out for herself what she thinks ir right or important – it is a far better process in the long-run.
Learn to be quiet! I started by noting that we have two ears and one mouth. Listen more than you talk. Be comfortable with silence. It might take her time to process what she is feeling or wants to say. It might be taking her time to build courage to say something. Or she might be just thinking... Give her the time and space to think, and, just maybe, she might talk.
If you try to start a conversation, and she isn’t responsive, don’t push it. Just shrug and walk away, or drop the subject, or go back to something else you were doing. The time has to be right for her. Don’t push it – if she isn’t ready, let it go. End with something like “I am always ready to listen, when you are ready to talk something over...? Remember – I am always on your side... I always have your back.
The most important thing you can do is to tell her, with genuine love, softness and deep caring in your tone, that you love her. Every child needs to know that they are loved – even when their behaviour is not at all lovable. She needs to know that you love her, even when her behaviour is bad, even when she knows herself that she is being unreasonable and difficult. Smile at her and tell her you love her, write her a card or send a text, find lots of different ways to tell her you love her. Let her know that you are always there to talk or help if she needs it – that you will always be there for her, that you “have her back”.
Find every opportunity to notice good behaviour – and praise her explicitly for it so that she knows you know! Be as specific as possible. “I noticed the way you particularly got ready tonight for school tomorrow – with your bag packed up and ready to go. That is so good! I really admire your commitment to start the day well by being prepared the night before. I am so proud of you for doing that without being asked!”
If you ask a question to which the answer is either yes or no, you will probably just get that – and not a lot else. Practise asking questions like: “What do you think about...?” Or “Why do you think she did that...?” Or “How does that make you feel?” Or “What would you do differently next time?”
None of the advice above (or any other strategy you try) is going to make your communication with your daughter always constructive and friendly. But it might help, in some small ways. And remember – it will get easier, over time. I know this will be the case, without a doubt, even if it doesn’t feel like this is possible, right now. So hang in there!
Head of School
This month on SchoolTV - school transitions
Whether it is starting school for the first time, moving up to a higher grade or embarking on the journey to secondary school, there is no doubt that any school transition for children and parents can be a time of mixed emotions. However, as parents the way that you respond during this period can make a world of difference to how your daughter experiences the different challenges that she may face.
This edition of SchoolTV provides a range of helpful resources, articles and tips to help you and your daughter to manage the transition. You will find information on topics such as starting high school, helping your daughter manage homework, and beginning at a new school. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered here and we always welcome your feedback. If you do have any concerns about your child, please contact the School.
To access the School Transitions edition of SchoolTV click here.
Director of Pastoral Care
This month on SchoolTV - Mindfulness
Over the last decade, mindfulness has been slowly rising in popularity with many individuals practising it on a regular basis. Evidence based research has found that there are many benefits to mindfulness. This year, a team of interested teachers from the Primary School have been working together to implement a mindfulness program across K-6. Through this program they aim to empower the girls through mindfulness to gain self-awareness, confidence, skills for self-regulation and resilience. In the Secondary School, students learn about mindfulness through the Form program and our School Psychologist, Dr Melissa Saxton, has also run mindfulness mediation with students.
Mindfulness can be described as attention training for your brain, enabling you to focus on something without judgement and to stimulate curiosity. Mindfulness can be practised in a number of ways and is something that can be done by everyone - no matter what your age! It has been practised by many cultures around the world, but it is not exclusively affiliated to any particular philosophy or religion. Mindfulness helps improve memory, engagement and performance. Its positive effect on the brain can improve immunity, mental wellbeing, learning ability, emotional health and even time management. It is especially important in this era of information overload as our attention is constantly being pulled in many directions making us more distracted.
In this edition of SchoolTV, parents can learn the best way to introduce mindfulness to their children, implementing it into their daily lives to have an overall positive impact on family relationships. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month’s edition and we always welcome your feedback.
Here is the link to this month’s edition.
Director of Pastoral Care
This week, I wanted to share a few interesting articles which you might find worthwhile. Just some valuable reading when you have a spare moment!
How to help teenagers embrace stress. An article from the New York Times.
How to help kids manage sleep, schoolwork and screens.
And an interesting article from The West Australian about helping young people with resilience.
Please do let me know if you see good articles anywhere which you think might be good to share with others. We are all In This Together!
Head of School
Helping your daughter make the most of feedback
This week, the Secondary School is filled with the distinctive sounds of the Semester 2 exam week for Year 7-10 and Year 12 sitting more HSC exams. While this is an important week in the school calendar, in some ways the week after this is an even more important one for our girls in Year 7-10. Why you might ask? Next week is when they will start to get their exams back – and with that process comes a whole range of comments, activities and discussions which are all designed to help the girls identify those areas that have gone well and those that they haven’t quite mastered yet. This feedback step is a pivotal part in all learning – the step that can make all the difference in the future - but making the most of feedback isn’t always easy! So how can parents help?
What does good feedback look like?
Imagine the Tennis coach who says: “You won 12 of the 18 games today”. This sort of comment doesn’t do anything to help a young tennis player grow and learn. Similarly, if you only ask your daughter about a mark or grade, then you miss the opportunity for a much more helpful conversation at home.
What might a more helpful coach say? “Your first serves were spot on today – accurate and powerful. I think it’s your backhand shots that seemed to let you down – only half of them landed in. What might we do about it at practice next week?” I think this is a great example of useful feedback. Why? It identifies strengths, it highlights one area to work on (not listing every mistake), it is timely and it offers the opportunity for the learner to think about how to improve. As our girls mature as learners, we want every student to be able to look at an assessment and the feedback they have been given to be able to articulate similar insights about their academic work.
How can parents help their daughters make the most of feedback?
|1.||Help her notice what she might need to work on
Don’t just ask her about a mark or an average, but help her to observe and take notice of other important information too. For example, you might consider:
|2.||Help her think about how she might improve in the future
There are lots of possible cunning plans your daughter can devise here! Sometimes she might need to do more practice; other times, she might need to practise under different circumstances (eg start a little earlier, or work more quickly, or organise things in a different way); sometimes she might just need to keep going the way she is and let increased experience work its magic. Sometimes your daughter might need some help to think through these options.
Naturally, there will also be times when it isn’t clear to your daughter what the best strategy might be – in which case your advice to her is always “why don’t you ask your teacher about how you might be able to work on that for next time?”
|3.||Help her be realistic about effort
"I put in sooo much effort this time and I still didn't do as well as I wanted!" We have all heard statements like this reflecting the disappointment that comes from trying, perhaps really hard, but still not achieving what we hoped for. For some children, the claim of putting in "so much effort" sometimes means "so much more than I did before", with an implied hopefulness that this new burst of energy will achieve remarkable and instantaneous results. As our kids grow up, it is important to help them learn that some things take time. None of us learned to walk overnight; it took time and perseverance and yes, a few bruises along the way. Similarly, the effects of increased effort happen over time, not overnight!
Equally important is the idea that effort is only powerful and effective when it is focused and targeted on the right things. A student who is practising the piano for five hours a week, but only playing the parts they can already play is not going to improve those tough four bars at the end! Sometimes parents can help by sitting quietly with their children to help them see that it might take a few more attempts with different amounts of effort focused on the right things before a goal is achieved.
|4.||Keep your results in perspective (& keep extrapolation and dramatisation to a minimum)
A mark or grade on any assessment may say something about your learning in that one specific subject ... but it tells us very little about the individual who achieved that grade! It does NOT measure the character, wit, ideas, passions, intelligence, sense of justice or compassion and everything else that makes each of us the unique individual we are. We all have a role in not over-extrapolating and not giving assessment results any broader meaning than what they actually have. Getting 40% in a History test just means you haven’t quite mastered that part of History ... yet!
Equally, a disappointing result in an English exam does not mean an individual is worthless or destined for disasters of epic proportions in the future. So parents, please help your daughter not to overdramatise. History is filled with examples of people who didn’t get things quite right the first time, but with perseverance and determination, these same individuals went on to achieve many great things. Learning to manage your own emotional response is a really important life skill for us all ... and let’s face it: getting 70% when you were really, really hoping for 80% is not the end of human civilisation as we know it!
So as your daughter talks to you next week about how her exams have gone, take the opportunity to dig a little deeper than just asking about a mark or a grade. Help her to identify her strengths in each subjects and a specific area to work on, help her think about how to improve – and help her keep it all in perspective too!
SchoolTV: Exam Stress - Special Report
Keeping things in perspective for students and parents alike can help prevent everyone getting overwhelmed during examination periods. Whether this be during the HSC, or in Year 7, having some simple strategies to support your daughter can be extremely helpful. Parents can provide support, not only emotionally, but also practically by keeping their child well-nourished and encouraging physical activity. There are also many strategies that students can implement to help themselves.
Whilst this special report of SchoolTV is specifically focused on the HSC, parents will find useful tips to support their child which can be applied to any examination period. This can often be a stressful time for students and parents, and it is vitally important that a student's mental health is looked after as well as their physical health. Therefore, knowing and implementing these helpful tools as early as possible in your child’s school journey will help everyone keep assessments in perspective and better equip them to deal with the pressures of the HSC when that time comes.
We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered here and we always welcome your feedback. If you do have any concerns about your child, please contact the School for further information.
Here is the link to your special report http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/year-12-exam-stress-special-report.
Director of Pastoral Care
How to deal with perfectionism in your daughter
The suggestions in this article are only applicable if your daughter really is a perfectionist, so it is important at the start to outline what perfectionism is and what behaviours indicate perfectionism.
If your daughter:
- wants to do well,
- works hard and strives to improve,
- worries about up-coming examinations and doing well,
- is hard on herself when she doesn’t do well, and is miserable or frustrated when she doesn’t perform at her best,
these are great attributes and you have nothing to worry about! High standards are important, and those behaviours are signs that she cares about doing well, and understands that important achievements come from hard work. This is all great!
None of those attributes above signal perfectionism.
A perfectionist person might be seen to do the following, regularly and repeatedly:
- Spend many hours on a task designed to be done in 20 minutes or so.
- Agonise over every tiny detail of a task until everything is perfect; excessive checking and the like.
- Start again if a little mistake is made – unable to accept the slightest flaw. Even the look of the document is important, whilst that will not be particularly important to the teacher.
- Be unable to hand an assignment or piece of work in to the teacher unless they think it is perfect – she might prefer to get zero for a task than to hand in something less than perfect and get, say, 8 out of 10.
- Be overly and unrealistically down on any mark less than perfect, or any constructive criticism from the teacher. Take the slightest less-good mark as a sign that they are a complete failure.
- Be overly anxious and worried about examinations, reports, tests and assignments that they are incapable of a normal, healthy life.
- Often procrastinating – unwilling to start something unless they know exactly how to do it perfectly.
- Sometimes they actually give up easily – the goal of a perfect mark in a piece of work seems so daunting and impossible, they just give up very quickly – often before they start.
The above behaviours of perfectionists are actually symptoms of anxiety. A perfectionist is an anxious person – a person consumed by their own inadequacies, worried about what other people will think of them.
So, here are some thing you can do:
|1.||Show that you are accepting of mistakes which your daughter makes. If she brings home a piece of work to show you, upset by a mark which was less than what she wanted, or with a critical comment from the teacher, or whatever, look for the positive things in the work. Praise those behaviours you want to reward – like the effort to get it done; about how you value the good things in the work; that you think she has done a good job; and you are proud of her even if the mark isn’t perfect. You love her for who she is, not for her marks.|
|2.||Normalise mistakes. You will help your daughter be accepting of her own mistakes if you help her to see that others (including you yourself) make mistakes, that it is part of being human, and that people are OK with making mistakes from time to time. It is good to quietly observe when others make mistakes. It’s good to reinforce that you see mistakes as opportunities to learn.|
|3.||Make sure your rules reinforce good, non-perfectionist behaviour. For example, don’t let her stay up all night getting everything perfect on an assignment or project. Have a “homework time is over” rule, and stick to it. When enforcing that rule, make it clear that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Of course she could do a better job on an assignment if there were 28 hours in the day! But there aren’t. And so she can only do as much as she can in the available time. Balance in life is important, good sleep is important too, as is a good social life and positive family time. So say quietly: “Homework time is over now. I know you haven’t finished, but your teacher will be happy with what you have done so far. It’s time for bed now”.|
|4.||If your daughter is panicking over work and her inability to do it, talk quietly to her, giving calm coping statements like: “You are doing fine, darling”, “Let’s just stop for a minute and collect our thoughts”; “We love you whether you do well in your maths test or not”. “Let’s take a break while you are panicking. You can’t think straight in that state of mind. We will come back to it after a little break”. Help her to breathe regularly and deeply. It would be a good idea to do something else – have a shower, go for a walk, and then come back to the work later.|
|5.||Reinforce good behaviour. “It was great to see you persist, even when it got really hard”. “I noticed you kept calm and asked for help in a quiet voice. Well done”. Or “I noticed that you made a mistake but kept on going, rather than starting again. I am really proud of you for that”.|
|6.||Praise effort, not grades. If your daughter thinks that getting really high marks is important to you, then she will focus on that. If she thinks that the effort she puts into something (within reason) is important to you, then she will focus on that. Effort is more important than the final mark.|
|7.||Be patient. It takes a long while to help a teenager overcome unhelpful perfectionism. Being calm and accepting yourself is such an important first step, but it will take a long time until you start to see some improvement. So be patient!|
If some of the symptoms of perfectionism are extreme, or if they persist for a long time, you could consult a specialist – talk to your daughter’s classroom teacher or Year Co-ordinator, one of our School Counsellors, or your GP. She may need more professional help.
Good luck and best wishes for the new term!
Head of School
What tips or advice would you give our girls for all the adventures that await them beyond school?
Thank you to all the parents, staff and Old Girls who submitted a tip last week – we had a fantastic response and have many great words of wisdom from lots of different families across the SCEGGS community. So a big thank you to you all!
The tips included lots of very practical tips like get a Medicare card, clean your room, finally get your driver’s licence, learn how to load the dishwasher ... and thank your parents for all that they have done for you! Many replies also included more philosophical words to help our Year 12s as they tackle the diversity of possibilities in the years ahead – university, TAFE, apprenticeships, travel, first jobs, promotions, leadership roles, relationships, family and so much more! We also know that each and every girl will have a different journey, take different opportunities, celebrate different successes and also face diverse challenges and obstacles along the way.
So what were some of our favourites?
- Know yourself, listen to your inner voice, have the courage to follow your heart and pursue your passions.
- The best opportunities sometimes come from the most unexpected places – keep your eyes and minds open to the possibilities around you.
- Be open to meeting new people in whatever you do next year and make an effort to keep in touch with old friends.
- Eat well, sleep well and look after your health – and drive safely.
- Know that you are well supported and support others.
- As you enter the workforce, whether part-time or full time, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to tolerate bad behaviours like sexism. Try to change the adult world where you find it unsatisfactory!
- Whatever job you are doing, do it well.
- Treasure your sense of adventure and don’t be afraid to try something new – even when you’re 95!
- Keep things in perspective – the celebrations and the times when things go wrong - and keep your sense of humour. A laugh and a smile go a long way in life.
- Give it a go – surely a hundred passionate SCEGGS girls from the Class of 2018 could certainly give any glass ceiling a nudge?
- Don’t live your life in a silo – actively engage with lots of different people in life, old and young, near and far, and be enriched by what you learn from them all.
- You are you, you are unique: be yourself, enjoy yourself and make the most of you. Whatever you do, don’t waste time living someone else’s life.
- Sometimes, just stop for a moment to be thankful for all the best things in life – your family, your friends, love, health and everything else that we are so lucky to have.
Thank you again to all members of the SCEGGS community who contributed their ideas last week. We also enjoyed the reminders to listen again to the words of advice that originally came from an essay published in the Chicago Tribune more than 20 years ago, called Wear Sunscreen, and which were also released as a song by Baz Luhrmann. Take a moment to listen again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI.
We wish all the girls in the Class of 2018 the best of luck for the HSC and all their adventures beyond the Green Gate ... and remember, once a SCEGGS girl, always a SCEGGS girl!
Deputy Head of School
As we come to the end of Term III, we also approach the time when we say farewell to the Class of 2018. Although it can be a little scary for the girls to think about life beyond classrooms, bells and school uniforms, it is also a really exciting time for them as they consider the world of diverse possibilities ahead – university, TAFE, apprenticeships, travel, first jobs, promotions, leadership roles, relationships, family and so much more! We also know that each and every girl will have a different journey, take different opportunities, celebrate different successes and also face diverse challenges and obstacles along the way.
So as our girls embark on their own adventure, we’d love to hear from lots of different members of the SCEGGS community: what tips or advice would you give to our girls in Year 12 as they walk out the Green Gate? You might like to give them some:
- practical advice about university or starting your first job
- a reminder about the most important things in life
- an inspirational quote or saying that has served you well
... or any other general words of wisdom!
We’d love to hear from everyone who has a tip to share. Please just email your contributions to Holly Gyton (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Monday 17 September... and we will share our collective advice for the Class of 2018 with the whole school community in Behind the Green Gate next week.
Deputy Head of School
This month on SchoolTV - Sleep
Students today have extremely busy schedules, with ever increasing responsibilities at school and at home. Many kids, especially adolescents, are going to bed later and later and are at risk of sleep deprivation. This affects three areas of a child’s development: psychological, physiological and psychosocial. All three are essential to a child's growth, learning ability and overall wellbeing. Sleep is vital to a child’s overall health and is as important as diet and exercise.
Sleep also strengthens a child’s immune system and supports their ability to function properly on a daily basis. Children who do not get enough sleep show increased levels of aggressive behaviour, are less attentive and are much less active. Trying to catch up on sleep on weekends is not the answer and can still lead to severe sleep deprivation.
In this edition of SchoolTV, parents will learn about the importance of sleep and how sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on a child’s health and wellbeing. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month’s edition and we always welcome your feedback.
Here is the link to this month’s edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/sleep
Past editions on the following topics are still available for you to revisit at any stage:
- Body image
- Eating disorders
- Physical activity and exercise
- Diet and nutrition
- School transitions
We hope that you have been finding the SchoolTV resources helpful. If you do feel at all concerned about your child, please do not hesitate to contact the School.
Director of Pastoral Care
Here are a few interesting resources which you might find helpful:
|1.||A 6-minute Ted talk on grit – the power of passion and perseverance:
|2.||A podcast on parenting, featuring Carol Dweck, Stanford Professor of Psychology, which examines mindset, motivation, and parenting tips in the context of her recently receiving the Yidan Prize. (if you are time poor, the “tips” begin at around the 10-minute mark...)
|3.||Despite the title of the article below, it’s less about technology and more about how caring for each other is an antidote to the rapid increase in anxiety among our kids and in our culture in general. It’s a nice reminder to calm down, slow down and keep mindfully moderating and restraining ours and our kid’s use of screens.
|4.||A short, interesting article on Why Stepping Back Can Empower Kids in an anxious world
Head of School
Helping your Daughter with Friends
Some of the hardest lessons children learn at school are about friendships. As adults, we know that just about all friendships have their ups and downs, and through our life experiences we have learnt how to deal with the disappointment we have all felt at some time in our relationships. But for children it can be really tough, and we know it can be heartbreaking for parents to hear their little girl talk about friendship problems she is experiencing. Instinctively, parents want to jump in and save their daughter by fixing things for her. But this could be doing more harm than good, because you can’t always be there! Parents need to be guiding their daughter through their friendships, empowering them with the confidence and skills they need to deal with things on their own.
The teachers and I regularly work with parents, helping them navigate their daughters through friendship issues. I’ll share some of our tips with you:
How to help your daughter make new friends
Not all children make friends easily, and even for those who do there will be times when her friendship circle will need broadening. Encourage your daughter to have a wide circle of friends, rather than one ‘best friend’. Few best friends last forever, and it can be gut wrenching for children when a best friend moves on.
- Encourage your daughter to be pro-active in making friends, not wait for others to come to her. Encourage her to approach others and ask them to play or join an activity. Give her tips on what to do when meeting new people: to smile, maintain eye contact, introduce herself, ask questions. Practice with your daughter opening lines of conversations she could have when making a new friend; an opening line can be as simple as ‘What did you do on the weekend?’
- Read stories to your daughter about making new friends. There are many available online, or speak to one of our librarians who’ll be able to help you.
- Encourage her to be herself. Children will often adopt personas or certain characteristics hoping these will make her more attractive to new friends. It rarely works! What will attract new friends are honesty, respect, loyalty and kindness – encourage your daughter to embody these characteristics and when you see her displaying these, recognise it.
- Encourage her to join co-curricular activities, after school or at lunch times. These activities provide children with a focus, at the same time as opportunities for social interaction, enabling children to make friends with others with similar interests. Team sports are a wonderful option, but there are also Music groups, and Art, Science and French clubs the girls can join at school.
- Organise play dates after school, on weekends and during the holidays. While friendships can be made at school, many are fostered outside of the school day. But try and organise a mix of ‘free play’ and activity based play dates – a lot of pressure can be put on the ‘host’ child if activities aren’t organised, especially if she is struggling with friendships. And avoid having group play dates if the aim is to foster a new friendship; group play dates can backfire if sub groups form and the host can even end up feeling left out.
How to help your daughter when she’s struggling with friendships
There are all sorts of reasons why children struggle with friendships: a friend might say something mean, a child may feel left out of a group or a game, and friends move on and no longer want to be a child’s friend.
- Help your daughter understand that no relationship is perfect, and that friendships change and that’s ok! These are messages the girls have heard through the UR Strong Friendship programme at school too.
- Sometimes children’s struggles come from a place of jealousy – when a friend plays with someone else, when a friend achieves something your daughter hasn’t. Help her understand how she is feeling and why.
- Listen to your daughter’s problem, and ask her questions to clarify exactly how she is feeling and why. Resist giving advice straight away! Ask her what options she has, problem solve together.
- There are always two sides to every story; if appropriate to the situation encourage her to see things from both sides.
- Help her learn how to recognise the difference between intentional and unintentional mean behaviour. Sometimes the girls can be over-sensitive! Help her understand that sometimes friends don’t realise their actions could be interpreted as being unkind. Teach her how to verbalise how she is feeling to her friends, in a calm way, so that they know how she is feeling and hopefully it won’t happen again. Role playing this conversation with your daughter can help.
- Don’t make the decision for her (because she probably won’t take your advice if you do!) but help her recognise when a friendship may be negative and it’s time to move on and make new friends. Ask her if she feels comfortable with the friendship, if it makes her happy, if she can just be herself.
- Please don’t contact the other child’s parents if there has been an incident or something has gone wrong with a friendship – this can make things worse! Always talk to us at school.
- Encourage your daughter to talk to her teacher – they will be able to help her too!
Having positive friendships is so important for the wellbeing of children and we want all our girls to have the skills, confidence and independence to ride out the stormy aspects of friendship and enjoy everything good friendships bring. Please, do come in and talk to me, or any of your daughter’s teachers, if your daughter is ever struggling with her friends. We are here to help you, as well as your daughters!
Head of Primary School
Resilience vs Rescue
I am sure that you, like us, want your daughter to leave SCEGGS as a resilient person - someone able to face challenges, solve problems and accept and learn from their mistakes. However, girls live in a world where opportunities to develop these skills can often be hard. There is no ambiguity in the lives of adolescence instead there are answers at the click of a button. If something goes wrong, they can be in contact by phone in an instant. If they are unsure of an answer, Google will help. Therefore, opportunities where problems arise and a simple Google search won’t provide the answer offer such value. Sometimes, though, it can be very difficult to ignore our desire to rescue and allow these opportunities to rise to the surface - to allow an opportunity for your daughter to develop greater resilience.
There is no doubt that in order to become more resilient we need to actually face disappointment, anger, rejection, worry and fear. However, when we rescue someone from experiencing these emotions-emotions which are a normal part of the human experience- we take away something much more valuable than the short-term emotion they feel. It is extremely empowering to solve a problem, to have moments of reflection on our successes and failures, our challenges and triumphs. These learning opportunities provide growth, build our sense of self-efficacy and ultimately help us to become more resilient in the future.
When your daughter is feeling anxious or worried, a ‘rescue’ response can often override other possible solutions. However, whilst allowing your daughter to have a day at home or giving them a chance to avoid feelings of discomfort may ease the anxiety momentarily, it can often do more harm in the long run. Anxiety is a natural (and important) emotion and failure, whether real or perceived, is unavoidable. I would also ask, what safer, more supportive place could you find to experience disappointment or failure? Of course, if your daughter’s level of anxiety is prolonged or feels disproportionate to the event, we would always encourage you to speak to us here at school.
Sometimes our desire to rescue is a response to our own distress or concern. Remembering that we have a choice how to respond and when to respond is actually very powerful. Having a series of questions you can ask which prompt your daughter (and sometimes yourself!) to develop their resilience and try to solve problems themselves first can be so helpful. For example:
- What are three other possible outcomes?
- How could you approach that conversation? We can role play this together if you’d like?
- If your friend was experiencing this, what advice might you give them?
When our immediate response is to rescue someone, unconsciously we are also saying that we don’t have faith in their ability to solve the problem themselves. You do not have to respond immediately when you receive a message or phone call from your daughter. It can be hard to ignore, but remember that if there was a serious issue, the school would be in contact immediately.
Even as teachers, sometimes our initial response is to try to solve the problem a student brings to us! And whilst this is sometimes the right thing to do, we do a disservice to the young people we care for when we don’t give them the opportunity to try solve an issue themselves.
So, whilst we understand how hard it can be not to respond to that initial urge to rescue, remind yourself that resilience is something that grows with every challenging experience. By encouraging your daughter to practise resiliency it allows them to be courageous, independent and strong, and what amazing qualities to possess.
Director of Pastoral Care
Subject Selection – an opportunity to help your daughter with her ability to make decisions
The ability to make wise and informed decisions is something that does not come naturally to most young people. It is a skill that is developed through a range of experiences, both good and bad. In order to assist our girls in the development of their ability to make well informed decisions, we need to look for opportunities to have conversations with them about what a good decision making process might look like. We need to help them identify the type of questions one should ask when trying to weigh up the pros and cons of a situation or when trying to decide which option one might take when presented with a particular problem or issue.
Next week, in the Secondary school, it is Orientation Week. Students currently in Year 7 through to Year 10 will be asked to decide upon what elective subjects they would like to study in 2019. For students entering Year 8 it will be the first time that they are given an opportunity to have some say in what they are going to study, whilst students going into Year 11 will for the first time be asked to decide upon their entire pattern of study. Some girls will be very confident and definite in the choices that they wish to make. Whilst others will struggle with the decision because they are very unsure about what to do or they will worry about the consequence of making the wrong decision.
It is my opinion, that this process of subject selection presents an opportunity to have conversations with your daughter about how to reach a decision that feels right for her. It provides the perfect platform upon which to model for your daughter the need to ask questions in order to assist in the making of a good decision. What subjects do I enjoy? What am I good at? What might I like to learn more about? are some questions she should consider in trying to reach a decision about what electives to select. Additionally, other advice you could give your daughter might be for her to consider what other information she needs to gather or who she might talk to in order to find out more about particular subjects.
Making decisions about a future pattern of study may also provide you with the chance to have discussions with your daughter about making choices that are right for her, rather than for others. That is, ensuring that she is selecting a subject because it is something that she wishes to study rather than making a choice because her two best friends are selecting that subject. Discussing with your daughter, what options are right for her may provide you the chance to remind her that in some instances as young a person she will feel pressure from others to do something that she might not be comfortable about and that she should always remember that she should stick to what she feels is right for her rather than give into the pressure she might feel from those around her.
Therefore, when chatting with your daughter about what subjects she might like to study in 2019 or having this discussion at some point in the future, remember to think about using it as an opportunity to provide her with the tools to make decisions for herself. In this instance it is a safe and structured situation where there is a great deal of support for her to reach a decision with which she is comfortable. However, it might just also help develop within her the skills to make wiser decisions when she may be faced with more challenging and significant choices at some point in time.
Director of Curriculum
Another very good edition of SchoolTV for parents to view centres around body image in teenagers. A recent study highlighted that body image is one of the top three concerns for Australian youth. Over half of girls in high schools have tried to lose weight. One-third of teenage boys wanted to be thinner and another third wanted to be larger. Children need to understand that their body shape and size is not a reflection of their health or success. Parents and schools need to work together to help kids understand that everyone is born with their own ‘body-suit’.
In this edition of SchoolTV, parents will learn how to encourage their child to have a positive body image and why it is so important to their mental health. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month’s edition and we always welcome your feedback.
If you have any concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to contact the School.
Here is the link to this month’s edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/body-image.
Director of Pastoral Care
Importance of Going to School Every Day
Making sure that young people attend school every day is so vital – both to their social development and their academic progress. Remember that is the law of every Australian State and Territory that children go to school every day, and for good reason!
Regular attendance at school is one of the best predictors of academic success. The better the attendance, the better the school achievement! If you allow your daughter to miss around just one day a fortnight, over the course of their school career that amounts to more than a year’s schooling! Of course she is going to do less well than her regularly attending counterparts with that sort of attendance record. But every single lesson is important; vital work is missed - an explanation, a reference, a fact or idea... every single lesson!!!
Regular attendance at school helps your daughter to make and keep good friends. If your daughter is away from school, her friends will find others with whom to associate. And things happen at school - things which her friends will be talking about, laughing about, sharing stories and memories. If your daughter is not there to share these experiences, she might feel “left out” and excluded from that time, from that conversation, from that experience shared. She missed out...
Regular attendance at school raises feelings of confidence and self-esteem. You gain a sense of belonging to a community by feeling comfortable and at home there. That sense of belonging also impact a young person’s feelings of self-worth – through inclusion in a community, support from others, approval from those around her. And this sense of inclusion and support doesn’t come as easily if you are only there in a part-time capacity.
Regular attendance at school helps young people to understand how to be a good citizen, how to fulfil obligations, how to take responsibility for their own actions. Not every day is going to be a good day. When you go to school, even if there is something you are not looking forward to, or if you are feeling slightly “below par”, you learn about your own inner strength, and you develop a little more resilience. As a parent, you want your daughter to be adaptive, resilient, community minded. You want her to know that, even if she is a bit uncomfortable or unhappy, she is strong enough to get through it, maybe even with a smile....
Here are some thing you can do to help your daughter to attend school each day:
|1.||Talk positively about school. Talk about the importance of it, and your expectation that she will go to school every day. Do this as a matter of routine from the earliest times that she starts to think about school. Do this in an encouraging way – generating excitement and anticipation about the great things about school – opportunities to learn, to have good friends, to experience new things, of belonging to a social and caring community.|
|2.||Help your daughter around school routines when she needs it – particularly in the Primary and younger Secondary years. Help her to be organised the night before, to get up early, to be ready to leave when she needs to.|
|3.||As your daughter gets older, talk to her about her dreams and aspirations – a career, a university course, an ultimate goal. Even if she has no idea about what she will finally end up doing after school, making sure that she understands the importance of a good end-of-school qualification, a good school reference and a good set of report cards. This may help her to see the relevance of going to school each day.|
|4.||Everyone needs medical appointments, dentist and orthodontist appointments, and other such arrangements from time to time. Demonstrate your commitment to school attendance by trying all you can to schedule these outside of school hours – early morning or after school, or in the school holidays. Of course this is not always possible, but you communicate a great deal about your values and your commitment to schooling by trying to do this where you can. Similarly with family activities, travel and the like. Do all you can to reinforce the importance of going to school every day by not taking your daughter out of school unless it is absolutely imperative.|
|5.||Make sure you do all you can to keep your daughter healthy – you know the importance of a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, getting sufficient sleep and so on. Allow your child to stay home only in the case of a contagious or severe illness.|
If your daughter doesn’t want to go to school, you need to make a judgement:
- Is she actually really sick and should stay home?
- Is she just being a little lazy and would prefer a day at home? This is perfectly understandable – we all feel like that from time to time! It is just that adults push through this and get up and go to work anyway. Do you need to help her find that inner strength to overcome those feelings of lethargy and indifference to school?
- Or is there something more worryingly wrong at school – is she being bullied, finding schoolwork overly difficult, or is she having trouble making friends? If your daughter frequently says that she doesn’t want to go to school, find a quiet time to talk through the issues which may be confronting her, or things she is feeling uncomfortable about. If she isn’t forthcoming, talking to someone at school – her class teacher or someone on the pastoral team might help to shed some light on what the school is seeing and help you to devise some strategy to help her feel more comfortable at school.
We always welcome conversations with parents about this sort of matter – if you are worried or not sure how your daughter is experiencing school. We want her to be happy and flourishing too! Do give us a ring if would like to chat about how to help your daughter get the most out of school and attend, every single day.
Head of School
Wellbeing apps for young people (and maybe grownups too!)
While there is more and more compelling research to indicate that there is a direct and causal relationship between excessive screen time and compromised wellbeing in young people, it is equally important that we find ways to use technology to its full advantage. It is a delicate balance! There are a number of wellbeing apps designed for regular use to help young people establish and monitor healthy habits, as well as apps to support young people with good strategies in tricky times. You might like to check them out too!
|ReachOut Breathe: This app helps with controlling your breathing and heart rate and increasing your sense of calm and ease, particularly if experiencing panic attacks.|
|ReachOut Worry Time: This app helps to manage your stress levels, feel more in control of your anxiety or stress, develop a regular and effective method of dealing with day-to-day worries, and feel less overwhelmed.|
|Recharge: This app helps you establish a good sleep/wake routine that includes regular exercise and early daylight exposure to help improve your mood, energy and general health and wellbeing.|
|Smiling Mind: Smiling Mind guides you through simple meditation exercises to get you started on your mindfulness journey. Just as we eat well and stay fit to keep our body healthy, meditation is about mental health and looking after the mind.|
|Headspace: This app offers guided meditation and mindfulness.|
|MindShift: This app is designed to help you cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.|
|The Check-In app: This app is for anyone who wants to check in with a friend who they might be worried about but is concerned about saying the wrong thing or making the situation worse.|
|MyMoodTracker: A tracker to help you understand what causes your emotions to change and to become aware of your emotional state over the course of a day.|
Director of Pastoral Care
Here are three articles from a great website – that of the Raising Children Network. We think these three might be helpful for different issues in bringing up your daughters and communicating well with them.
Active Listening: A Skill to Promote Communication with your child:
Staying connected: you and your teenage child:
Privacy, monitoring and trust in the teenage years:
Head of School
Last year we sent an email to all Years K-12 parents relating to the Netflix series “13 reasons why”. It is not a programme recommended for younger viewers but we did learn instances of Primary students accessing the series via siblings, friends and even their own mobile devices. The series addresses the serious and difficult themes of suicide, sexual assault and bullying. There was an extra-ordinary amount of commentary about the series in the media ranging from experts in mental health to opinion pieces, some more helpful than others. The second season of “13 reasons why” was released on Netflix last Friday afternoon and we thought it would be helpful to revisit some resource material for parents (some newly written for this season) and encourage an informed and aware conversation with your daughters rather than an alarmed or reactive one. Netflix has made greater efforts to give warnings of graphic content and themes at the beginning of certain episodes, as well as directing viewers to resources for seeking help at the end of each episode. We hope that you find this next communication about the second season helpful.
I have just finished watching the second season and understand its appeal as a fictional piece of viewing on relevant topics that affect young people. The acting is excellent, the story moves at a cracking pace, the soundtrack is great, and the script is easy and fluid. The second season adds substance abuse and an undercurrent of (potential) gun violence to the themes of suicide, sexual assault and bullying. And yet despite the colour and the contemporary appeal, my reservations from the first season still loom large. Again, I felt a discomfort with the omnipresence of the protagonist who takes her own life in the first season: I felt it crudely under-represented the finality of suicide. My other primary concern was the lack of help seeking on the part of young people in the programme and the absence of trusted adults.
As an educator, I think the saddest part of the show is that it grossly underestimates young people. It repeatedly paints them as weak, lacking any good judgement, and at times morally bankrupt. For younger viewers, it paints a bleak and scary picture of being a teen. Pulling out mobile phones and recording people’s most humiliating moment with no empathy appears to be the norm. Every girl (every woman, in fact) suffers at the hands of boys (or men). There is monumental suffering built through ongoing secrets and lies. With little exception, the characters are largely bystanders to either abhorrent or criminal behaviour, hardly any of which is reported to trusted adults. There is limited display of fortitude or leadership. The magnification and concentration of all the hard parts of life is not unique to this show. Some might even say it is the key ingredient of a good drama, however unrealistic it might be.
School is pitched as the enemy. There is an inescapable and destructive school culture of labelling that minimises the human spirit and dooms every individual to failure; everyone is ‘tagged’ and sentenced to fulfil their role, as determined by others. There is no personal agency and very little encouragement thereof. The impenetrable barrier between generations could have some young people convinced that adults either don't care or have no idea. There is no nurturing, no care, no attention to or celebration of who people are, either as individuals or as a community. Almost all relationships are devoid of trust.
We want to advise parents that some young people might be potentially impacted or triggered by this show. It is not a programme about destigmatising mental health. There is in fact very limited treatment of mental health which comes a distant second to the serious and heartbreaking themes of suicide, sexual assault, bullying, substance abuse and gun violence.
In my time at SCEGGS I have had endless conversations with young people who have displayed strength through expressing their own vulnerability, strength through facing their own fears, strength when seeking the help of experts and adults who care, strength amid a trying adversity, strength in sharing their worries about a friend, and strength in being true to themselves. I hope we never underestimate young people.
Several resources have been sent to schools to help educators and parents have conversations about the themes, even if not the show itself.
Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you are worried about anything at all, or if you would like to discuss the programme. We will be sure to be in conversation with girls about their impressions and thoughts of the programme as the need arises, and more importantly continue to keep conversations about mental health transparent and supportive at all times.
It might be helpful to keep these numbers on your fridge at home and discuss the support networks available to young people:
- Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or kidshelpline.com.au
- eHeadspace (1800 650 890) or eheadspace.org.au
- Lifeline (13 11 14) of lifeline.org.au
Director of Pastoral Care
Understanding eating disorders can be difficult for families – they present multifaceted challenges. An eating disorder is a serious mental health illness. It can have significant physical and emotional effects. The beginning of adolescence and late teens are peak periods for young people to experience their first symptoms. Young people with eating disorders can have reductions in cognitive function that directly affects decision making, as well as significant emotional changes, and otherwise routine activities can become disrupted.
We hope that there are some helpful resources and information for you to think about in this month’s edition of SchoolTV, and we always welcome your feedback. If any of this material causes you worry or if you have any concerns about your daughter, please be in touch.
Here is the link to this month's edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/eating-disorders.
Director of Pastoral Care
I have met plenty of teenagers (and younger girls too) who appear to have a really well developed sense of empathy. They are very sensitive to the way others are feeling and instinctively seem to be able to respond in exactly the right manner. They are astute when it comes to noticing when something isn’t right with someone and have a genuine deep compassion and understanding for the complexities of life. They can see things from others’ points of view and really put themselves in others’ shoes.
But for most adolescents, this is a skill which develops later. It often takes time, maturity and a great deal of explicit teaching of the skills necessary for real empathy. Those parts of the brain which help with empathic understanding typically develop in girls from around 13 onwards. And for many girls, explicit coaching to help them see things from another point of view is required. Some teenagers need help to see important things in life beside themselves, and need training and assistance to help them have the skills to say the right thing at the right time – it does not always come naturally.
So firstly, do not despair if your daughter is not at all empathic! It could feel that she doesn’t care about anyone but herself - she might not seem to care about others nor understand their feelings and needs; she might not want to engage in anything that doesn’t directly benefit herself; and she may seem to say the wrong thing (or nothing at all) at times when compassion, sympathy and understanding are generally called for. Or it might just be that she needs some help to know how to interpret feelings, and how to express hers sensitively and with confidence. What an important life skill it is for parents to help their daughter develop....
I would like to encourage all parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other significant adults in children’s lives), to really understand and practise the art of conversation. Conversation is a two-way process. Without conversation, you have a hard time building strong relationships and understanding others. Now, you, as an adult, know so much more than your daughter about every aspect of life! But resist the temptation to always give her the benefit of your wisdom and knowledge! Empathy, understanding, caring for the other are fundamental parts of quality conversations. Deep listening, taking the time to be really present when you are talking to your daughter, and wanting to understand what she thinks, what she likes, what she is feeling, is critical. There is a reason that God gave you two ears and only one mouth! Give your daughter the time to talk and express her thoughts and ideas, even if it takes a long time for her to articulate her opinions and concerns.
Here are some tips to help you help your daughter develop greater understanding of relationships and people. Nothing you can do can develop the medial prefrontal cortex or the limbic region of the brain more quickly than it would otherwise develop! But there are some things which you can do to help your daughter develop a greater sense of empathy in the long-term:
|1.||Model empathy! The best teaching is by example. So, show empathy yourself. In particular, show empathy to your daughter. Discuss what emotions you notice she is experiencing, and demonstrate that you really care about how she might be feeling. Ask her questions about her feelings and emotions, and talk about how you are feeling too. Listen to her when she talks about how she is feeling. And don’t interrupt and interject with what you think she is trying to say. Let her struggle a little with the words. Be comfortable with the silences. Show you really care about what she is trying to say and let her take her own time to do it.|
|2.||Genuinely encourage her to share and delight in the success and joy of others. There is some research to suggest that how we respond the successes of our friends and loved ones is actually a greater indicator of our capacity for productive, empathic relationships than how we respond in tough times. So start with celebrating other’s successes by always acknowledging, congratulating and duly complimenting them... Show how important and natural it is for you to be excited, pleased or impressed by the success of others.|
|3.||Ask questions to help her to think about the feelings of others, and help her with possible answers if she is stuck! There are so many different situations where this can be used. You can ask questions about how a character in a book or a movie or video might feel. “I wonder how Voldemort might have felt when he tried to kill Harry Potter as a baby?” Try to choose questions which your daughter might relate to, and also choose a range of questions which will elicit a range of emotions. There are also many real-life situations where you can ask similar questions. “I wonder how Grandpa felt when you gave him that special present you made him?” “I wonder how your friend might have felt when she read those nasty comments online?” You can discuss how various people might feel as she comes in contact with them – a new student at school, a person who has been bullied, a person who has gained a special award for some achievement, a person who hasn’t yet established some good friends at school. Demonstrate whenever you can that you can celebrate and feel joy in someone else’s success, and also “feel their pain” when they might be hurting.|
|4.||If your daughter needs it, help her to think about what she might say in some difficult conversations which require sensitivity and finesse. For example, your daughter might need to apologise to someone for something she said or posted online. Alternatively, she might need to tell her teacher something she did wrong. Or school might have organised a mediation session with someone she has had a fight with. Or she might need to talk to someone who has lost a grandparent, or who has a serious illness... She might want to join a new friendship group and needs some skills in forming new friendships. All these situations require a level of sensitivity and empathy if they are to go as smoothly as possible.|
So persevere! Your daughter might not yet have a well-developed empathy and finessed people skills. Helping your daughter grow to be a really empathic, understanding and compassionate adult is a long journey. But through every interaction, every communication, you provide her with additional opportunities to help her grow and develop.
Head of School
In the last decade, children's participation in physical activity and exercise has been in decline. Research shows that regular physical activity and exercise leads to changes in the brain. It improves cognitive function, elevates mood, enhances learning and improves academic outcomes. Playing sport helps children develop fundamental movement skills and positively impacts on their confidence, self-esteem and ability to develop social skills. Parents play an important role in helping children establish habits that will benefit them in the long-term. In this digital age, children are using computers and mobile devices, for learning, as well as for relaxation and recreation purposes. Many argue that this sedentary behaviour is having a detrimental effect on today's youth. The key is finding the balance.
In this edition of SchoolTV, parents will discover practical advice about the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise, as well as tips on how to get their children motivated and moving more. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month's edition and we always welcome your feedback. If any of this material causes you worry or if you have any concerns about your daughter, please be in touch.
Here is the link to this month's edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/physical-activity-and-exercise.
Director of Pastoral Care
Sport teaches us a lot about life – it is no accident that there are so many sporting analogies in our culture, so many sayings, quotations and truisms used to help understand how to get on in life.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do” - Pelé
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” - Muhammad Ali
“Champions keep playing until they get it right” - Billie Jean King.
So many men and women of sport say the same thing – it is the effort you put in to something which is most important.
I think this applies just as much to academic work at school too.
Of course the quotes above come from amazingly successful people. We are not all going to be as successful as Pelé, Muhammad Ali or Billie Jean King! We can’t all get over 90% in tests, or gain entry into the top universities or colleges. But we can try to do as well as we can at school work, to give ourselves the best possible opportunities for a post-school life, and to be well-educated, thoughtful and contributing adults. Therefore, it is really important that parents praise effort, to recognise that success rarely comes without effort. It is better to say: “I noticed that you put a lot of work into that assignment – well done!” or, “I am really proud of the fact that you started that work early, so it wasn’t a last minute rush”. Or, if they do get a good mark or comment on some work from school: “You see what you can do if you really apply yourself with commitment?”
I want to recommend a book to you – a book called Bounce. It is written by Matthew Syed who was a one-time British Table Tennis champion. His thesis is that the only way you rise to the top is through intense and prolonged practice. For example, he notes that Mozart had likely racked up over 3,500 hours of practice at the piano by the age of 6! Of course Mozart was incredibly talented, but he wasn’t a musician with special God-given powers that enabled him to circumvent practice and effort; rather he was somebody who embodied the rigours of practice. Mozart had talent, but that was not enough. Einstein said: Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. That’s not to say that Einstein and Mozart were not geniuses. Just that they also worked incredibly hard!
No one thinks that academic work, the extending of skills and knowledge should be easy. If it were easy, if you could already do it, what would be the point of doing it? You go to school to learn hard things, to learn things you have to work hard to master. And it is good to enjoy that intellectual challenge - to strive and fail, and fail, and fail again, and then experience the real joy of getting it, of finally being able to do it!
A young friend of mine used to proudly say "I can easily do that....", when she had finally learnt how to use a key in the door, or how to tie her shoelaces, or remember her phone number for the first time after a long struggle. Of course she didn't mean it was easy - she meant that she knew that it was actually really hard, but that she was proud of the fact that she now felt confident in that ability - that she could do it each time.
I want to put that feeling in the context of academic work. We need, as a society, to encourage high levels of intellectual rigour. We should value academic pursuits - to tell students that it is OK to attempt hard work. We need to encourage all students to understand that academic work at school is challenging, and that is good. There are things (a great many things, indeed) which Google can answer, but you don't really learn anything that way. You learn by puzzling over, by grappling with things deeply. The joy of mastering something which has taken real time and effort is unsurpassed.
If a young person says quickly "I can't do that....", then they will definitely be right. You will not be able to do it if you start with that attitude. We want our young people to say "I'll have a go....!" And to strive and work hard, again and again.... You never know, in the end, they too might be able to say: "I can easily do that...."! All of us need to encourage academic resilience in our young people, so that they are NOT put off by a hard HSC Paper, or the difficulty of learning French verbs, or the complexity of sophisticated scientific ideas.
I worry that there has been an increase, over the 30 years that I have been a teacher, in girls' fear of getting things wrong in tests and assignments, an aversion to taking risks in their learning, in wanting a formula instead of grappling themselves, in worrying more about the answer than the process of getting there. I want our young people of today to understand that you often learn more by getting things wrong. It's about the doing, not the answer at the end. It's about the intellect, not someone else's generic recipe.
I spoke earlier of the importance of the struggle of academic work. As a teacher, I certainly know that there are times when it's good to help your child with his or her school work. Giving them some encouragement, a hint about which way to proceed, to show them something they can’t yet do is good!
But it is important to be judicious about this. If you do so much that you take away that struggle, you deprive your child of the journey of discovery, of learning, of growing. What safer place in life is there to fail than at school? There’s a marvellous book called I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall. He contracted polio when he was a child and then there was no treatment available to help him. As a result his doctor operated to correct tensions developing in the tendons of his legs which were leading to curvature of his spine and as a result he was confined to crutches and wheelchairs for the rest of his life.
He lived in Noorat in Victoria and would go on “hunting expeditions” with his best friend Joe; Joe, able-bodied and he on crutches, looking for rabbits and hares. One thing he particularly appreciated about Joe, was that he always waited for him, never trying to assist or carry him. Joe would not rush ahead to search for the prey when they saw some tell-tale sign, but would walk beside him so that they could see what was there together. He wrote that Joe ‘never robbed me of the pleasure of discovery”. You should try to allow your daughters that joy in as many endeavours as possible. The struggle is an essential and profound element of learning. Don’t tell them everything. Let them find out for themselves!
If you help too much, the following happens:
- Their teacher doesn’t know what your daughter doesn’t know, and so can’t help them. They are working on inaccurate information.
- Your daughter doesn’t learn much about the academic work. If it isn’t their own work, if they didn’t have to struggle, then won’t really learn. (You might learn something, but they won’t).
- Your daughter doesn’t learn the importance about honesty and integrity. If she turns in a paper that isn’t all her own work, then that is plagiarism.
- Your daughter gets the message that you think she can’t do it. That you have to do it for her. It is better to communicate to her that you want it to be her own work – even if it is less good, but the journey of learning is a long one and that the effort and actually attempting it for oneself is the most important, not the final product.
So, by all means encourage, suggest some ways forward, listen to what she is finding difficult and help a little. But don’t take away that struggle, that independence of learning. Through the journey of failure, through the act of perseverance and determination, of “try, try, try again...” may well come understanding and mastery.
Head of School
What is your favourite tip or guideline about screen time in your family?
Thank you to all the parents who submitted a screen time tip last week – we had a fantastic response and have many great words of wisdom from lots of different families across the school. So a big thank you to you all!
The tips covered all sorts of different areas about managing screen time and included ideas about weeknight TV, phones in bedrooms, family dinners, managing Snapchat streaks, Netflix in the bathroom... and much, much more! In the main, these tips are being used with children from Year 3-10.
So here are your Top 7 tips for managing screen time with 8-16 year olds:
1. Designate ‘tech free’ time in your family:
Many families designate specific ‘tech free’ time within their family – in different ways, and at different times, but all suggest that it changes the nature of the conversation in the house and calms things down.
- No screen Sunday - for parents too! House much calmer as a result.
- No phones at the dinner table – ever!
- The past year I have “looked after” the children’s phones whilst on holidays and whilst they groan and moan initially, they acknowledge that it has been liberating and relaxing not being tethered to them and they have read books, played cards and all of those other things.
- Lid down day - Wednesday and/or Sunday.
2. Be a good role model yourself:
Our kids learn so much from the example we set for them by our own behaviour.
- Make sure you model good screen time behaviours: no phones at the table, whilst driving or a passenger in a car or when spending time with friends. I was surprised how guilty I was of this. The kids call me on this also.
- We have to lead by example!
- A shared family charging station that we ALL have to use at the end of each evening.
3. Make sure the rules are clear and consistent:
As children get older, a number of parents commented on the importance of talking with the whole family about what the rules are and then making sure you stick to them!
- Important to pre-agree screen time rules well in advance.
- Discuss what “screen time” is with your children and negotiate it with them rather than dictating.
- Particularly when students are involved in a computer game, they can lose track of time. Give them a warning 10 minutes before screen time is ending.
- Set up and agree all the rules for usage, monitoring of accounts, where and when screen time is allowed.
- We switch off our WiFi modem at a certain time in the evening - always advertised in advance and the actual time would often change depending on what is happening on the day.
4. Sleep is absolutely pivotal
We are hearing more and more about the importance of sleep in maintaining our health and wellbeing in the long term. As I heard a teacher say last week, “Do you want to do better at school, be a better learner and feel better in yourself by doing absolutely nothing at all? Then go to sleep!” So how do we help kids do this?
- At least an hour of ‘screen free time’ before bedtime on week nights. We are doing this too and it makes such a difference!
- No screens/phones in rooms overnight.
- Have one place in the living area to charge phones and request that phones are in the charging area from a certain time (eg 7.00pm or 9.00pm). This ensures phones are out of the bedroom for study and sleep times. If they need to use the phone they must come to the charging area (eg in the living room).
- All devices (phones, school tablets etc - including the parents' devices) must be charged in a central spot downstairs overnight. We aim to have the phones there from dinner time onwards.
5. Could you replace screen time with other activities?
There were a number of suggestions about the importance of other family activities, especially with younger children.
- Making Family time more interesting than Screen Time and ensuring during this time there are no screens available to anyone, including parents.
- Friday night board games and pizza is a great way to get the family together and screens off. It might be old fashioned ... but it works.
- Engaging young children in exercise and other hobbies on the weekend really helps take their mind off playing computer games and watching TV!
6. Can technology help you?
Some families use different third party parental controls, different WiFi connections and different phone plans to assist in managing access to the internet at home.
- Have a separate, ‘kids only’ Wifi on a timer for which only you know the password.
- We make sure our children are on prepaid phone plans so data is limited each month. Once they have used it, there is no more allowed.
- We use third party parental controls to help maintain the rules – there are lots of great products out there. If the girls want extra wifi time they have to ask/text us at work etc and we can add from our phones.
- Telco's can give you an itemised bill. I don’t think spying and excess checking up is always a good first step, but knowing I can do this helps our girls self-regulate when they know that any SMS they might sneak and send after "phones down" time will show up when the next bill arrives.
7. Don’t be afraid to set limits ... and then follow through!
Every family is different, so it is important to find the ways that work best for you to set the limits ... but then you have to follow through.
- The girls do lose their phones completely after school or for a day or two if they break the rules. The most common infraction is having the phone in their room at night or spending even longer than usual in the bathroom (and that is really saying something!!) ... as they are on Netflix!!
- Non-negotiable clearly defined and agreed rules for when screen time is allowed are a must! And you must agree on the consequences upfront when these are broken too.
- A few months ago Snapchat was becoming a real problem in our house (particularly the "streaking"). To encourage the children in our house to reduce their time on Snapchat we instigated a rule that if there are more than 30 "snaps/streaks" sent or received in a 24 hour period otherwise, they lost use of their phone for the next 24 hour period. When first implemented there were numerous days on which the phones were confiscated. We now rarely have issues.
Thank you again to all the families who submitted a screen time tip last week! And if you missed the opportunity to participate this time, perhaps it is a question you could ask the parents of your daughter’s friends sometime... what screen time tips do they have that might work well for you too?
You will also see in this edition of Behind the Green Gate a very informative article from our Director of ICT, Ken Emeleus, on how to monitor your child's Internet usage.
Deputy Head of School
“In partnership with the school, it is essential that our parents are empowered with the knowledge and skills to help them navigate their daughters’ educational and social growth.”
Our Path Ahead (SCEGGS Strategic Plan)
For our parents, that knowledge can come from many different places – articles, family members, SCEGGS staff, news, blogs, friends... the list goes on! There is a lot of wisdom amongst the parents within the SCEGGS community too! And from time to time, we’d like to use In This Together to share tips and advice submitted by your fellow SCEGGS parents that might help you navigate each of your daughter’s growth in the years ahead.
So to start us off, our first question is about the screen time guidelines you use at home with your children. We’d love you to submit your favourite tip or guideline about screen time in your family using this quick survey link:
What sort of tip could you share? Perhaps thinking about questions like these might get you started:
- How much TV do you allow on a weeknight?
- Which screens do you allow in bedrooms?
- Do you collect or turn off all screens an hour before bedtime?
- Which screens do you allow in your children's bedrooms and when?
... or some other aspect of screen time all together! We’d love to hear from everyone who has a tip to share. This short survey will close on Monday 26 February at midday... and we will share a sample of your feedback in Behind the Green Gate next week.
Deputy Head of School
If we want our young people to grow up to be strong, capable, self-assured, resilient young women, we have to help them take responsibility for themselves, to learn to sort out difficulties for themselves, to cope with set-backs themselves. Because of course life is fraught with setbacks, thwarted dreams, times when things don’t go your way, when you have to stand on your own two feet and be strong in the face of adversity. (Of course life is full of joys and happiness too).
Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity. And you can’t develop the ability to cope with adversity if you don’t ever experience adversity! We want our young people to be resilient – resilient learners, resilient team players, resilient people who can take life’s knocks in whatever form they are dealt them; to deal with life’s “curve balls” and rebound and adapt in the face of adversity.
I have this image in my mind from the sport of Curling. I don’t know much about it! But I have seen some manoeuvre where one or two players go ahead of the puck, rubbing the ice with their sticks to improve the ice ahead and smooth the progress of the puck so that it will go further. Some parents are like this! They want to make everything right for their daughters. They want to continually be there to smooth the path ahead, hovering around to make sure everything is good and happy.
If your daughter is upset – because she didn’t get the lead in the school play, or get selected in the sporting team they wanted to, or gain a school leadership position, or didn’t do as well as they wanted in a test or assignment, what are you going to do about it? Each one of these sorts of setbacks and disappointments are learning experiences, where you can help your daughter to cope with life’s complexities and develop the skills and resilience they need to cope with life’s pains and problems.
Helping your daughter to cope with life’s difficulties necessitates an optimistic approach, demonstrating confidence that your daughter can deal with these issues, an understanding that life is not always easy, that failure is a great way to learn life’s lessons. A calm, steady approach, with an ability to regulate emotions rather than ride the roller coaster of feelings is important. When coping with life’s complexities, resilient people are the ones who believe that they are able to cope, and know that they can “soldier on” and find a solution, a “work-around”, or deal with failure or disappointment. When we help young people cultivate an approach to life that views obstacles as a critical part of success, we help them develop resilience.
When I speak to parents who are upset by or concerned about a decision the school has taken, often they say: “but she really wanted this one”. That isn’t a reason to be given it! Life is filled with disappointments, many of them seriously harder to bear than not getting selected as Class Captain, even if you really wanted that opportunity!
I remember one parent who was concerned that her daughter had missed out on a lead part in the play – there were only a handful places available and her daughter was not selected, and she was so upset. There were other more suitable girls who had been chosen through the audition process. The parent went on to describe the other opportunities that her daughter had missed out on that year. It was as though the parent felt that her daughter should be “given her turn”. I think we fall into the “everyone gets a prize” mentality from infant birthday parties. In pass-the-parcel, we make sure that every person at the party gets a prize. Why? Life isn’t like that!
I think, too, of conversations with parents of girls who have missed out on being elected Prefect. Sometimes the girl is absolutely devastated and the parents want to talk about it and sometimes express their anger and discontent. One parent said to me: “I don’t know what more she could have done for the school – she has always tried her hardest, she has contributed to this long list of school activities, she is always a good friend, her teachers say what a delight she is to teach....”. And of course that is all true.
Parents have all sorts of complaints about what happens in schools! The same people always get the prizes at the Speech Night. The Sports coaches selected wrongly when their daughter was not chosen for the top team. There should be enough places in each and every activity so that everyone who wants something can get it, so that their daughter is not upset. But, in my experience, such decisions are never based on personal likes or dislikes; on malicious intent or deliberate vindictive behaviour towards a girl; nor based on casual, uncaring or sloppy decisions.
Now in these examples above, I am not overly concerned about the fact that the girl was upset. It is reasonable for someone to be upset when they have really wanted something, particularly if they have really worked hard at it and done all they could! But I do worry about the parents of the girl, who wish to complain, to take away that hurt by “fixing things” and getting (by hook or by crook) whatever it was for their daughter.
In the best examples I see, a parent firstly just acknowledges the hurt and pain the girl is suffering. Over time, the parent might encourage the girl to approach the relevant teacher and ask about the decision – to make sure she understands any reasons behind decisions taken or processes applied. But the questions the parents encourage their daughter to ask are things like: “What can I do differently next time?”, or “What other options do I have to pursue my interest in this area?”, or “What can I learn from this experience?”.
The bottom line is that you usually don’t get all you want in life. You don’t get the job you wanted, or the promotion you applied for. But your ability to negotiate the workplace in a mature, thoughtful and developmental way will help you in the long-run, and those sorts of skills can be best practised from an early age at school.
Head of School
We have been putting great efforts into strengthening our support of parenting in this modern world and have been very happy with the positive responses from this In This Together section of the newsletter over the last year. This year, we are really pleased to launch SchoolTV via this week’s edition of Behind the Green Gate. SchoolTV is an online resource designed specifically for parents to inform and assist you in dealing with matters relating to young people today. This digital wellbeing platform offers a comprehensive starting place to answer many of the questions that you might face regarding the challenges of parenting and the challenges of growing up in today’s society.
Featuring one of Australia’s leading adolescent psychologists, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg as a main contributor, the resource also draws on the expertise of other leaders in youth wellbeing including Professor Ian Hickie (Brain & Mind Centre), Professor Pat McGorry (Orygen), Dr Elizabeth Scott (Headspace), Ms Susan McLean (Cyber Safety Solutions) and Ms Lesley Podesta (Alannah & Madeline Foundation), among others.
Over the year, we will roll out editions of SchoolTV featuring in depth exploration on a topic in question, such as Managing Year 12, Coping with Anxiety, Cybersafety and Healthy Body Image, to name just a few. SchoolTV aggregates relevant, fact-based content from leading specialists and organisations into a single, easy to understand stream. With each edition, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg introduces the topic in video format. Following this, there is a video quiz on the topic, video Q&A from leading specialists, fact-sheets, articles and a series of resources including suggested apps, books, websites, additional videos plus many other topic based resources.
Today we proudly launch the resource, including the first edition for 2018, School Transitions. We hope that this resource is widely accessed and a helpful go-to for many parents, as it will be for teachers. We would be very keen to know if you have any questions or concerns and would welcome any feedback about this resource. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with a staff member at SCEGGS directly – Form or Class teacher; Stage or Year Co-ordinator; school counsellor, or indeed any of us at SCEGGS! And please do contact me at any time if I can help – I am always happy to chat! There is also an email link accessible on the SchoolTV website to send feedback directly to us.
Please click here to make the most of, and enjoy, this excellent resource: http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me.
Director of Pastoral Care, and The Pastoral Team
If you have a spare 20 minutes in the car or train, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, Ms Holly Gyton recommends this one, by a Stanford University Dean who is also a parent!
Head of School
I have seen many changes in society in the 22 years I have been Head of SCEGGS. One of the biggest, most pervasive, has been the invention of the Smartphone. In the following article, Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Einstein, explores some of the consequences of our increasing dependence on a smartphone, and describes how this can lead to increased anxiety in adults and children. It gives some interesting context and background which I think will be helpful for all parents. You might learn something for yourself or your partner too!
Head of School
SCEGGS is a member of the Alliance of Girls Schools, a national organisation of girls’ schools. They do some great research themselves, and also promote interesting articles, ideas and references for parents.
The article below is from one of their recent magazines:
I thought it was a great synopsis of an excellent book.
I hope you find it interesting and informative!
Head of School
The Importance of Building Independence in Children
We all want children to experience safe, happy and carefree childhoods. But life isn’t always easy, and by helping children develop some independence they will be better prepared to cope with all the ups and downs they each will experience. While it is natural for parents to want to protect their children and do things for them, to make sure that all their experiences are positive, you can’t always be there! It is important that children learn that they can be responsible and that they can do things for themselves.
‘But she’s so young, and it’s better/easier/faster if I do it!’, I hear you say. While sometimes it can be trying for parents, if children never have to do anything for themselves they will always expect others to do it for them. Parents may think they are helping their child, but this can encourage children to develop a learned helplessness – particularly if it goes on after a child is capable of doing things for themselves.
Learning to be independent begins at home. Even the youngest child, a pre-schooler, can be given some responsibilities – putting their toys away or setting the table, for example. Progressively, as a child gets older, they can be given tasks with greater responsibility – tidying their rooms or caring for a pet are just some ideas.
Involving children in family decision making discussions is also an important step in developing independence, teaching them that they do have a voice, that their ideas are listened to. This can be as simple as discussions about what to buy grandma for her birthday, or planning weekend family activities. Through conversation and the sharing of ideas, in the security of a family environment, children learn that their ideas and opinions are valued.
From a young age children can also begin to learn that they can work out some things for themselves. When your child comes home with a problem, don’t try and solve it for them straight away; have a conversation, talk about options, ask them what they think they could do. Of course give them advice, but include their ideas too. Through these discussions they will gradually develop strategies to problem solve on their own.
Children are so precious, and childhood is so short. We know and understand the great heartache parents feel when they know their child is struggling, even in the slightest way. But giving children some responsibilities, teaching them to think for themselves and to try to solve their own problems, will hold them in very good stead now and in the years ahead. And you will always be there to guide and support them along the way.
Head of Primary School
Sometimes you just have to laugh...
A humorous look at parenting...
Head of School
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
“Even when a seismic event - a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud - plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives - and making them seriously unhappy.”
I follow many educators on Twitter and there was a flurry of activity on the weekend with this particular article in the Atlantic doing the rounds. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic. It is written by Dr Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me and iGen, and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. It obviously had great resonance for many people, and I think it has great merit, both as a well-written piece and as a conversation starter in schools and homes.
Perhaps the particular appeal for teachers is that we have a wide perspective of societal and generational trends in behaviour and their effects, if any, over time. This article makes a challenging and mildly perturbing commentary on the impact that smartphones have had on young people. The data from our 2016 Wellbeing survey supports the claims that Dr Twenge makes about smartphones contributing directly to sleep disturbance. Already a topical area, we will undoubtedly learn more in coming years about the direct relationship between sleep and mental health. We hope this piece is a good stimulus for conversation – it has certainly given us more to think about and discuss at school.
Director of Pastoral Care
I have had lots of great feedback about this new section of our Newsletter. In particular, I am getting lots of suggestions from parents of possible resources, articles and ideas which could be included. (This is something I am so appreciative of and very grateful for!)
So I pass on three good books others have recommended to me.
The first is Being 14 by Madonna King.
The blurb says:
Is your daughter 14? Are you struggling to know what's going on inside her head? Are you worried? This is the book that can help you understand how she's feeling, what she's thinking and what you need to do to help her navigate her tricky teens to become a fabulous woman...
The second is A Good Enough Parent, by Bruno Bettleheim.
The blurb says:
In this book, the pre-eminent child psychologist of our time gives us the results of his lifelong effort to determine what is most crucial in successful child-rearing. His purpose is not to give parents preset rules for raising their children, but rather to show them how to develop their own insights so that they will understand their own and their children's behavior in different situations and how to cope with it. Above all, he warns, parents must not indulge their impulse to try to create the child they would like to have, but should instead help each child fully develop into the person he or she would like to be.
The third is Untangled by Lisa Damour.
The person recommending this said: “What I liked most about this book was that it was so very practical, down-to-earth and really helped me (and my daughter!). It’s also one of what seems like a minority of books on teenagers that is really positive.”
I would welcome other ideas of books, articles or topics you would like one of us to write about!
Head of School
Wrestling with our (children’s) limitations
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I was particularly struck by her brief chapter on defending our weaknesses, and that in doing so we get to keep them. It made me think of the conversations we have at school with students whose worries impose limitations on their own capacity, day in and day out, which can result in the girls underestimating their source of creativity, originality, and uniqueness. In these cases, the fear voice within takes the driver’s seat and becomes a dominant energy. We try to help young people recognise their deeper and more supportive source of wisdom, the more internal quieter voice that knows better and actually desires to burst forth and reveal itself fully.
And I hold that in contrast to the conversations we have with students or their parents who seem motivated by another fear – that of being imperfect. It can be quite painful watching young people become crippled by this destructive force, made worse if not all the sensible adults in the child’s life keep it in check and refuse to feed it. The ultimate irony of the excessive perfectionistic experience is that it is in itself a chink, a limitation.
One regular example of destructive perfectionistic thinking can be seen when it comes to perceptions of ‘being in trouble’. In the secondary school, our discipline system includes Penalty Points for minor misdemeanours and then Detentions either for an accrual of these Penalty Points or for something more significant. Most students readily accept a Penalty Point when they have breached a school expectation and recognise when it is justified. Sometimes a student reacts in a manner entirely disproportionate to the minor offence and penalty, fearing that it might impact her future and her potential results, awards or leadership possibilities. And sometimes this overreaction and misconception are supported by a parent.
A bit like the ultimate irony of the perfectionistic experience being unhelpful, so too is the overbearing defence of our children’s limitations, minor mistakes, and flaws. In these overly reactive circumstances, more is revealed of the child’s or parent’s fears and as educators we come to regret the lack of acceptance that sometimes we get things wrong. Coping with even the smallest failures and being able to put their consequences into perspective is the mark of a resilient child.
There are times when we need to draw on the courage to fight our self-imposed limitations, indeed. And there are times when we should accept them. I guess wisdom is knowing the difference.
Director of Pastoral Care
As parents and teachers, we all want the best for our kids. Have a look at this great website from the Australian Government about Respect - to help stop violence against women. The website has some videos for parents and educators as well as some great resources. In particular, there is a good document to help parents have meaningful conversations with their children (girls and boys) about good relationships, based on mutual respect.
I really recommend this website. I encourage all of you, whatever age your daughter is, to look at the resources and think about how you are going to help your daughter in this particular aspect of their life. You want her to have rich experiences, healthy relationships and opportunities to shine. You want her to respect others and respect herself. You want her to be able to keep herself safe...
It is an excellent website.
Head of School
The 10 Parenting Principles
When Paul Dillon (national expert on alcohol and other drug education) addressed the Year 9 parents at SCEGGS in February this year, he referenced Dr Laurence Steinberg (http://www.laurencesteinberg.com/) who is a Professor of Psychology at Temple University and expert on adolescence. He has written several books on adolescent development and a book for parents called The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. In this book Dr Laurence Steinberg writes: “Most parents do a pretty good job of raising kids, but truly effective parenting means not just relying on natural instincts but also on knowing what works and why.” Retweeted by Dr Laurence Steinberg himself on 19/02/2017 (via We Are Play Lab), here is a summary of the principles!
|1.||What You Do Matters: regardless of our kids genetic heritage, what we do as parents or educators matters tremendously, because it is our influence that affects how those genes are expressed. Being a mindful parent, admitting and learning from our mistakes is extremely important as our kids learn best by watching us.|
|2.||You Cannot Be Too Loving: let’s bust that myth right away, we cannot spoil a kid with too much love or expressing affection. One of the most important things we can do as parents is to respond to our kids’ emotional needs and provide a safe haven for them to explore and learn.|
|3.||Be Involved in Your Child’s Life: sounds like the obvious thing to do but we all know how challenging it may be. Quality time is not about the what, it is about the how. Our kids will value what they believe we value so involving ourselves in their education and schooling is key. Our job is to help them establish good working habits and develop a sense of mastery and self-sufficiency.|
|4.||Adapt Your Parenting to Fit Your Child: treating siblings differently totally makes sense as every child is truly different! The trick to best support our kids is to recognise when they are going through major developmental transitions (patience!) and accepting our changing role as parents as they grow up.|
|5.||Establish Rules and Set Limits: structure makes our kids feel safe. Avoid turning disputes into a winner-loser scenario, instead figure out a way where both parties feel satisfied (be firm but fair). As parents, we basically have four options when settling a dispute: assert parental authority, give in, compromise or (our preferred option) solve the problem jointly. “Joint problem solving avoids having winners and losers, helps your child to feel more grown up, teaches something about the benefits of co-operation, and makes it less likely that the issue will come up again in the future, because when it works, it leads to a more lasting solution.”|
|6.||Help Foster Your Child’s Independence: which does not equal disobedience but creating a sane psychological space. The fact that our kids are challenging us is a good sign. So if what they are trying to do is not dangerous, unhealthy, illegal or immoral, permit them to be autonomous.|
|7.||Be Consistent: “The easiest way to help a child learn how to behave appropriately is to make her good behaviour a habit that she doesn’t even have to think about. You do this by being consistent from day to day in your parenting.”|
|8.||Avoid Harsh Discipline: There is a “right” way to punish if necessary and it has to do with very clear steps: an identification of the specific act that was wrong, a statement describing the impact of the misbehaviour, a suggestion for one or more alternatives to the undesirable behaviour, a clear statement of what the punishment is going to be and a statement of your expectation that your child will do better the next time. And yes, physical punishment or being verbally abusive is a no-go at any given time and age.|
|9.||Explain Your Rules and Decisions: hearing our kid’s point of view is as important as being clear about our expectations and admitting our mistakes. A good approach to reasoning with our kids, by age: kids under 6, the explanation needs to be reasonable; kids between 6 and 11, our explanation needs to be reasonable and logical, kids older than 11, our explanation needs to be reasonable, logical, and consistent with other things we have said and done.|
|10.||Treat Your Child With Respect: there is nothing more important for the development of our kids than parents who love, guide and respect them. “Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others. If you treat your child with compassion, kindness, and respect, she will grow up to be a concerned, caring, and considerate person.”|
Head of School
Following up last week’s section about sleep and the course we recommended for parents about teenagers and sleep, I thought you might be interested in this TED talk about sleep – entitled Why do we sleep? The link is here:
I also thought that you might be interested in this sleep factsheet from Orygen Youth Help:
Head of School
Have you got a teenager who is not sleeping well....? You might be interested in this course....
Treating Sleep Deprived Adolescents – run by Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.
Presented by Adolescent Sleep Physician, Dr Chris Seton and Adolescent Sleep Psychologist, Dr Amanda Gamble from the Woolcock Institute. This seminar will teach you all you need to know about adolescent sleep, as well as showing you how to detect problems and implement practical assistance.
When: 5.30pm-9.00pm on Thursday 8 June 2017
Where: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037
For who: Parents, teachers, counsellors, psychologists and others involved in high school education
For more information, and to enrol: https://sleepyteens2017.eventbrite.com.au
Head of School
I thought you might be interested to know of a new book by Steve Biddulph – a psychologist, parent advisor, and educator. He has written a number of interesting books and articles, and speaks regularly on radio and in conferences etc. His new book is called: “10 Things Girls Need Most”.
I thought a really interesting, informative and challenging podcast was an interview he gave on ABC Radio. The link to the podcast is here:
You might even like to buy the book! It is hard-hitting and challenging, and you probably won’t agree with all of it. But it is a great conversation starter!
As a tempter (or a spoiler!), the summary version is
THE 10 THINGS GIRLS NEED MOST, ACCORDING TO STEVE BIDDULPH
|1.||To be loved and secure|
|2.||To have time to be a child and a chance to be wild|
|3.||To know how to make good friends|
|4.||To find her spark in life|
|5.||To have the love and respect of a dad (or a dad substitute)|
|6.||To have a backbone|
|7.||To be part of the women’s movement|
|8.||To have a happy sexuality|
|9.||To enjoy the support of aunties, wise women and experience a rite of passage to womanhood|
Let me know what you liked, and what you disagreed with!
Head of School
I know that many parents will have read the article in the Good Weekend, a few weekends ago, about teenage girls and sleep. I was particularly interested in this article because of our own research, conducted last year, which noted that half of all of our students from Years 4-12 say that they don’t feel refreshed when they wake in the morning. Around 40% of secondary school girls say that their sleep is disrupted by devices at least some of the time during the night.
Here is a link to the article in case you missed it:
Sleep is so important for growing bodies and minds. It is important to help every young person know that they will do better at school work if they have a good night’s sleep. They will also more likely flourish as people – strong, resilient and emotionally healthy!
Head of School
Welcome to a new section of Behind the Green Gate. Each week, we will try to bring you some information which will be helpful to parents – research about girls and their development, parenting tips, information about families, society, technology, well-being, health..... We would love to hear about things you would like more of too! So please do drop me a line (JennyAllum@sceggs.nsw.edu.au).
I thought this was a great first read for all parents. The bottom line is “Hang in there!”
Best wishes to you all.
Head of School