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Choosing the right DANCE studio on the Central Coast?

Posted by Melanie Campbell

These days there is a dance school on every corner, seemingly offering the best dance tuition for your child. But do they?
Dance is the one children’s activity that isn’t yet governed by a National body and this means that anyone with minimal or no dance experience/qualification can open up a dance school and the Central Coast is no exception to this. How do you know what to look for when your child asks the question – ‘Can I do dancing?
You may see photos all over social media of super flexible children who pose with their leg above their head in midriff tops or videos of them dancing to their favourite pop music. This is where it can be hard not to follow what the perceived trend of dance is – But is this all that dance can teach your child?
Dance is more then this! It can be a life long career for the talented and dedicated but it can also be a way to develop attributes that will serve your child well throughout their lives. What are these attributes you may ask?
The true art of dance is to inspire, educate and allow children to become artists. If you spend time looking for a studio that values this along with providing your child with correct technique, then your child will not only thank you for it but they will develop into a confident young person who has learned more then just the physical side of dance.
So how do you chose the right studio for your child?

  • Is the Director or Principal Teacher qualified and registered with a National/International Dance Syllabus or Vocational Training Facility?
  • Are all the teachers experience and or qualified to teach young children safely? Do they all have their Working With Children Check?
  • How long has the studio been running for? What achievements have previous students attained?
  • Does the studio have age appropriate teaching methods? Do they teach young bodies more advanced levels for the sake of trend as opposed to what is the safest way for each body to develop.
  • What is the quality of their end of year show?

There are many good studios out there and it only takes a few questions to determine whether they are right for your child or not – ask around and make sure that you place importance on your child’s development whether it is for a once a week activity or a week full of dance.

Melanie Campbell

Head start for little people facing big school

Posted by Alison Worrad

Hands up, who’s feeling a little sweaty-palmed about their children starting at school?

Beginning big school can be an anxious time for children and their grown-ups.

As parents and carers we wring our hands over whether or not our little ones can write their name, know their alphabet, are able to count once they run out of fingers and toes.

But studies show that what children really need to get off to a good start at school are the right emotional skills.

School Start, by clinical psychologist Lynn Jenkins, is a new eBook which helps families make sure their children are emotionally ready to face the challenges of the classroom and develop the resilience they will need to deal with social setbacks.

Issues that are addressed include;

· helping children to deal with anxiety,
· initiating new friendships
· coping when things don’t always go to plan
· accepting people have different strengths and weaknesses and that they won’t always be ‘the best’ (or ‘the worst’) at things
· dealing with teasing and bullying, and developing resilience.

Parents are also guided on the need to be self-aware and in touch with their parenting values, while bringing a helpful attitude with them when they come to handle issues their children might encounter, as opposed to drawing on possible ‘baggage’ from their own school years.

In an era when technology has given bullies a 24 platform to torment their victims, and NAPLAN league tables put pressure on kids as young as seven to perform in exam settings, this accessible electronic resource will help families guide their children to the top of the emotional class.

Key Facts: School Start by Lynn Jenkins is available January 2014 from and wherever good eBooks are sold. RRP $4.99.


Lynn Jenkins is a clinical psychologist, author and mother to three young children. She is very passionate about providing education about the social and emotional needs of infants and children.

In her private psychology practice, Life Matters Psychologists, she specializes in perinatal mental health and is particularly interested in the parent-child relationship.

Lynn is trained to facilitate several parenting programs that focus on nurturing the relationship between parents and children, which she runs through her practice.

She contributes regularly to various online parenting sites, and her first book, Best Start: Understanding your baby’s emotional needs to create the best beginnings was released in 2012. Consistent with Lynn’s ‘early intervention’ approach, her first ‘resource tool’ picture book, Lessons of a Lac will be published soon. She wrote it to give children with anxiety a way to think of their anxiety and worries.

If you would like to see digital pages of School Start with a view to reviewing, extracting or interviewing the author please get in touch. Lynn is based in Newcastle, NSW.

The Dark Side of Christmas by Scott Carroll

Posted by Scott Carroll

The Dark Side of Christmas by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor
If the thought of Christmas is bringing up deep anxiety and fear for you, I assure you that you are not alone. Statistics show that the incidence of depression is higher this time of year, but there are steps you can take to have an emotionally safe and anxiety free Christmas.
The Christmas season is constantly referred to by the media as a time for families to reconnect, and to demonstrate their close connections and love by exchanging gifts. For many people this time induces an almost primal deep fear and anxiety. For some, family of origin is often the source for many dysfunctional, obsessive and addictive behaviours. Or for many others, they have purposely distanced themselves from their family ties in order to avoid being drawn back into a highly toxic environment. People in each of these situations often feel guilt and shame as they compare their own family relationships to the romantic notion of a close knit and loving family.
My belief is that, like at any other time of the year, it is important to do what is necessary to look after yourself and your own emotional health. After this you can then be available to participate in family celebrations to the extent that you wish to. Looking after your own emotional health might include mediation or just doing something kind for yourself. I would suggest another way to do this is to find someone safe (close friend, counsellor, 12 Step Group etc) where you can express your true feelings about your family members. In this safe environment it is important to just be listened to and have those feelings validated.
Denying these emotions do not make them go away, they just get suppressed and often are acted out in destructive ways. Acts of self care not only benefit you, but make you a healthier and emotionally safer family member to be around.
It is very easy for dysfunctional families to effectively go back in time during celebrations such as Christmas, and for adult children and parents to revert back to toxic behaviour and roles that existed when the children were physically children. Emotionally healthy family members will be less available to participate in their original roles and hence the family game can be broken.
For those individuals willing and able to do the work necessary to break down their own toxic family of origin behaviours, I applaud you. I believe this is the work of warriors with a heart, as research has shown that toxic family behaviours is usually multi-generational. Breaking these down can not only free yourself, but the next generations.
If you are in interested in reading more on dysfunctional and toxic family systems, and more importantly how to reclaim yourself and your own inner child, an excellent author on this subject is John Bradshaw.
Practical Suggestion for an emotional safe and anxiety free Christmas
• Give yourself a personal gift of kindness – parent yourself the way you wish you had been
• Express yourself – safely !! (ideally not to other family members still caught up in this web)
• Do what feels right for you – Engage with your family to the extent you feel safe to do so
• Seek professional help – Emotions relating to toxic families can feel primal. Seeking help is sign that you are worth looking after.
Further Reading
John Bradshaw – Healing the Shame that Binds You.
Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focusing on working with men and on male related issues. He is also available for telephone consults and appointments on week nights and Saturday mornings. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.

Boundaries: Learning where You end and Others start by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor

Posted by Scott Carroll

Boundaries: Learning where You end and Others start by Scott Carroll Men’s Counsellor
• Is your happiness often distracted by how the significant others in your life are feeling ?
• Do you find sometimes you are easily triggered into anger by other people’s action ?
If you are looking for other people to be different towards you and / or to say something to you in order for you to be happy, then maybe looking at your boundaries might help. If you think you are too sensitive and react too easily to other people’s words or behaviour then having stronger boundaries might make life more manageable. As a parent how you respond and react to others becomes even more important as children are vulnerable to our behaviour and equally they model their behaviour from our own.
In my own journey, and from what others have told me of theirs, knowing where I start and end, and where others start and end, enables me to healthily participate in many deep, nurturing and safe relationships, the most important of which is with myself.
So what exactly are boundaries ?
The concept of boundaries is built around the three key ideas.
1) I am responsible for how I think, feel and act
2) Equally, those I interact with have the same freedom and responsibility for how they think feel and act
3) It is worthwhile to look at how others respond to my words and action as this is invaluable feedback for how others perceive me
I appreciate this is a big concept so let’s look at an example below of a sequence of events .
A) You are a friend of mine and you don’t return my phone call within what I consider a reasonable period of time.
B) I imagine you are doing this on purpose to annoy me
C) I get annoyed
D) I start ignoring you when I see you in social situations
So what if the reality is you didn’t ring me because a family member was sick. In this case I have crossed my boundaries and decided that YOUR THOUGHTS are you don’t like me, YOUR FEELINGS are you are annoyed by me and YOUR ACTIONS are to ignore me intentionally.
If instead I am looking after my boundaries, I would notice you hadn’t called me and make a follow up call.
Then you would tell me about the family member who is sick which would more than likely change steps B-D above.
Another common example is if I have a family member who decides they just want to criticise me all the time. Without boundaries, I would just take that criticism on. I would possibly almost automatically start thinking about the things I don’t like about myself to validate this criticism, and start feeling bad about myself. My actions might me to withdraw or isolate.
With boundaries I can decide how I will process their criticism, and then how I will feel and act. I could decide that some of what they say is useful as feedback on how I can improve, but overall it is inaccurate and / or they have misinterpreted my actions (they may have NO boundaries) . In truth I am ok and there is a lot of good things about me. I can choose not to feel bad about myself and hence not withdraw or isolate.
Applying this concept allows others to think, feel and act as they wish because how I interpret this is up to me. This allows me to look inwards, listen to myself, nurture myself and/or gain assistance from others when needed. Once I have done this I am then available to listen to and take in others around me, but to do so in a way that allows them to be them. I can then offer support unconditionally without looking to them to fill my tank. I can also better manage my feelings of fear and anger and only use them when it appropriate to do so.
As a father boundaries have been even more critical. I can be, and am, impacted by my children emotionally. Without boundaries they are responsible for making me feel better. With boundaries I can manage this impact, and then as an adult, consider their behaviour and set appropriate consequences. I know my own inner child is easily impacted by others and that this child is mine to look after. The gift of boundaries to them is they are free to express their emotions and this is something they will carry into adulthood. The gift to me is that I experience them fully and am present for them. This equally applies to an intimate relationship with a partner as boundaries allow a safe place for the relationship to develop, without either party feeling resentful about having unrealistic and/or unspoken expectations of the other.
Some tips to practicing boundaries:
• Check in with yourself – are you feeling sad or angry about old stuff and is this colouring your worldview ?
• Develop self-awareness – what is going on in your internal world, are you tired, hungry etc etc.
• Challenge your thinking – do you really know the intent of the other person. Could there be another reason for their behaviour.
• Put in speed bumps – exercising the previous three tips are some ways you can slow down your internal processes, which trigger your anger for example, and develop better responses.
For most people, myself included, developing healthy boundaries is a life-long process, so be kind to yourself and do not expect overnight change.
Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focussing on working with men and on male related issues. He is practicing in the Central Coast . He is available for telephone consults and appointments on week nights and Saturday mornings. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.

What about me dad ? – Fathering your inner boy

Posted by Scott Carroll

What about me dad ? – Fathering your inner boy.

I believe one of the keys to being a good father is to know and look after the inner boy inside the man. This isn’t a licence to regress to a childhood state at the expense of family, partners and your real children. Rather it is an awareness that there is a child inside each of us, and failure to parent and look after that child can often result in behaviours that adversely Impact the important people in our life.

The most common example of this I have observed occurs when I feel hurt by something my sons have done. In these situations my inner boy becomes sad and this quickly turns to anger. Rather than dealing with this initial hurt, sometimes I decide I will get even by punishing my sons in a way that is beyond what the reasonable consequences of their actions are. They feel hurt, unsafe and abandoned, and I will often feel stupid and upset with myself later when I reflect on my behaviour.

In looking at my inner boy he is young and his resources are limited in how to respond. If I don’t look after him he feels abandoned and lonely. Often he trys to get my attention through tantrums as he can’t see any other way to get through to me. When, as an adult, I act on these tantrums my behaviour is unlikely to be appropriate. Again, I can pretend and rationalise my behaviour, but somewhere inside I know this isn’t the truth.

If instead I choose to parent him, I can notice when he is angry and sad. Just like for my boys, I can comfort and assure him that his feelings are ok and be there for him. Equally important, I find when I do this I can then be available to respond to the situation as an adult. When I do this my sons feel safe and secure, and they get to see modelled how an adult can respond. This increases their options in dealing with their own hurt and anger.

For those who aren’t yet fathers, this works equally well, when responding to those close to you such as your partner. Responding in this way means you are owning your own space and allowing them to own their space. This is another very important topic that I will cover in another blog.

I don’t want to minimse how difficult it can be to parent ourselves. Many of us finished childhood with a lot of unresolved business and possibly don’t feel we have emotionally transitioned into adulthood. We may find our inner child is very sensitive and is often sad, lonely, scared etc. We may not have connected with this for many years. If this space is too traumatic I urge you to approach this child with the assistance of a trusted profession such as a psychologist or a counsellor. Doing this without help for some can be very dangerous. Seeking help further validates and honours your desire to help your inner child.

In conclusion, on behalf of your inner boy, I ask you to find and connect with him. He has always been there, always will and wants you. He may be difficult, stubborn , angry but he needs you. I assure your investment in building this connection will be returned manyfold in your own self esteem and sense of calmness, as well as the quality of relaitonships your build with your own children, partner and family.

Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focussing on working with men and on male related issues. He is practicing in the Central Coast . He is available for telephone consults and appointments on week nights and Saturday mornings. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.

Lets Celebrate August for it’s World Breastfeeding Month!

Posted by Maree Trent

The month of August is World Breastfeeding month & what a fantastic way to celebrate one of the most wonderful things created. Right now while I sit here writing this blog, my 11month old DS is breastfeeding and it just feels amazing! Breastfeeding is the only time my DS sits still for longer than a minute and the best part is, that it’s just the two of us and I enjoy every moment of it.

Yes breastfeeding does come with a few challenges especially in the early days, as we had a rough start like many others I’m sure, but I wouldn’t change at thing. We had all sorts of first timer breastfeeding problems, like wrong attachment, milk supply and basically the sheer task of learning how to breastfeed for the first time, that was a challenge in itself. But I had such a great support unit, my husband, my sister and my close friends who helped get me through all those times I thought about throwing in the towel. For me the benefits of breastfeeding out weighed the struggle I experienced in the early days. But when you’re a new mum and sleep deprived, and it’s hard going for awhile, it’s hard to believe that this will past, that breastfeeding is only for such a short time and it’s gone in a nanosecond.

I never really appreciated breastfeeding until I became a mother. In fact I didn’t even really think about breastfeeding or the impact it would have on my life prior to having children. But having gone through it and learning about all the benefits it offers to both child and mother, breastfeeding is such a high priority to me now and I plan to breastfeed longer than the recommended 2 years the world health organization suggests. I do find it very surprising and sad that now at 11 months, I’m a statistic of 30% of breastfeeding mothers left and that’s just within our mothers group.

I personally place a high value of importance on good nutrition and we are very lucky in this country to have an artificial option available that’s really good quality and safe to the best of our knowledge. But to me, to be able to make something that’s natural, cost effective and 100% perfect nutrition for my baby and where he’s at right now that also changes as he grows, my priority lies here and being successful at breastfeeding means the world to me.

Whilst I do understand that some women can’t breastfeed, In most cases there is no medical reason why they can’t breastfeed, it’s a social reason or as a last resort or maybe they didn’t want to breastfeed in the first place. At the end of the day it is a personal decision for what fits best with their family values.
But what if we were educated about breastfeeding at a young age, would our breastfeeding stastics increase and would there be more mothers breastfeeding well past their babies 1st birthday?

I think the reason a lot of mothers give up, is mainly because of the lack of education and support. Those who’ve had doubt put in their minds, often tend to then doubt themselves and their ability to provide for their baby. Doubt for a new mother in all aspects, is he getting enough, do I have enough milk, is he thriving etc….is so powerful and influential on a breastfeeding outcome.

Why is it that a lot of times mothers get guilty when they haven’t established breastfeeding and they’re decided move onto formula, they get very defensive of their decision to let it go. I question why they get so defensive about it, if they truly believe that it was the right thing to do for them and their baby.
I believe breastfeeding should be supported in our society in a guilt free way, as a really important thing to do for your child. I think if you really want to be successful at breastfeeding, surround yourself with people before your baby comes who understand breastfeeding and how it really works. The Australian Breastfeeding Association was a fantastic resource to me, and there were many times I spoke with a breastfeeding counsellor about questions I had.

Are there other ways to support these women, so they don’t feel like they’re being pushed into a corner where they have no way out other than a bottle of formula? And even if that’s what they’re done the first time round, we need to support them so that next time, with their second child, maybe they could pursue breastfeeding again. It is truly one of the most amazing accomplishments in my life and I’m so thankful for the support I received, for without it, maybe my personal outcome may have been different.

Play and Learn: How Regular Playtime Aids a Child’s Learning

Posted by Ruth Dunn

Play and Learn: How Regular Playtime Aids a Child’s Learning
Though playtime may only seem to be a fun break from real learning, recent studies show that some of the most valuable life skills are learned while children are enjoying fun activities. Incorporating regular social and solitary play into daily routines is key to a child’s well rounded development.

One of the most positive elements gained through social play is emotional development. Positive play experiences help children interact with other people, build relationships and gain confidence. Learning to master new games and getting along with others encourage children to stretch themselves and gain personal awareness. Negative play experiences create avenues for children to learn how to problem solve and interact with different personalities to their own. Language is also developed through play, as children are often forced to interact and stretch their vocabulary skills.

Solitary play is also essential in a child’s growth. Time spent playing alone helps children learn self sufficiency and fosters independent interests and creativity. As a child works through building toys by themselves, creating imaginary scenarios or taking care of baby dolls, he or she learns to stand on their own two feet, an important characteristic in personal development. Children cannot completely rely on others for fulfilment, but must begin to foster an ability to be self reliant and to go against the flow, if needs be.

Additionally, play enhances physical development. Activities such as tag, swinging on the swing set and playing in the swimming pool, are fun ways for children to maintain good health and develop coordination. The additional energy and vigour gained through such activities aids in furthering children’s attention spans and makes those hours of less interesting learning less monotonous.

Investing in toys, books and other play items for your child is more than just a way to keep them happy and occupied. Children can use these toys to learn about themselves and enhance their personal development. Incorporating both outdoor and indoor play centres into learning institutions could also be a beneficial way to reinforce the learning taking place in the classroom and further encourage development in more fun and interesting environments. Through these avenues, children can enhance their language skills, learn self sufficiency and build confidence, all while having fun. What more motivating way is there for a child to learn?

This article was provided courtesy of

Seeking Participants for a University Research Study

Posted by Coast Kids

Here’s looking at you, kid:
Dr Linda Campbell, Associate Professor Carmel Loughland, PhD Candidate Christy Jones.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute are seeking participants for a study investigating how parents interpret the facial expressions displayed by their infants.

Some parents who experience psychological distress after the birth of a new child have problems bonding with their baby. The study will investigate how healthy parents, and parents experiencing psychological distress, interpret the facial expressions of their babies, and how this may be affecting their interactions with their young child. It is hoped that better understanding of these processes will lead to better therapeutic interventions that help parents experiencing child-rearing difficulties to bond more effectively with their babies.

Mums with NO KNOWN mental health conditions and Mums who may be experiencing psychological distress or mental illness (you do not have to have a partner to participate in the study), aged over 18 years of age, and their infants, aged less than 14 months of age, are invited to participate in the study.

Contact us via:


Phone: 4348 4367 or 4348 4652



The flu season is here

Posted by Maree Trent

So it’s getting colder, winter has truly hit and those nasty cold and flu germs seem to circle around the community and the big questions is, will you be the next one to catch it?

My little boy is only 8months old and I worry a lot about what would happen if he gets sick, but in saying that, he’s constantly on the floor, picking up everything and putting it straight in the mouth. If he was going to get something, he would’ve well and truly had it by now. The amount of germs that must pass through his mouth…. I don’t even want to begin to think about that.
I think it’s really important for children to build their immunity to their world around them, so I try and not cover him in cotton wool, in the hope that I’m doing him a favour in the long run.
It is true that some kids are just sick kids or is it completely environmental? Is it something they are consuming or not consuming, and by rectifying it, could it help prevent them from getting sick?

We have not been sick in our household for years, and we don’t get the flu shot, we just eat extremely healthy, take our vitamins, drink plenty of water and exercise, does this mean we are just lucky, or have we created a healthy environment for our little boy to grow up in?
DS doesn’t yet take any vitamins as he’s still being breastfeed so he gets everything he needs from me. You know everyday I learn something new about our bodies, Every aspect of Breastfeeding is just amazing. When my little boy feeds and has any sign of sick symptoms, my body produces antibodies in my milk to help him get through whatever his body needs to fight.

Almost every second week a child from our mothers group is sick, I hate seeing sick children, and I wish there was a quick fix for them. But unfortunately we can’t always stop our children from getting sick but we can do everything in our power to help prevent it and that maybe different for everyone. Who knows whether that’s the solution for having a healthy child, I certainly don’t. You can only do what you feel is right!

Mens Health Week – Scott Carroll

Posted by Scott Carroll

Men – Time for a software upgrade!
I don’t think many of us men are still using Windows 98, or if you’re an Apple user the earliest version of Mac OS, but in the amazing device we call our mind, we can and do run software much older than this. There might be programs downloaded from our parents, who may have just copied them from the minds of their parents. Equally, there is software sitting there that we don’t use, that could be making a big difference in our lives now.
I suggest that during Men’s Health Week we take a look our software library with a curious mindset and take steps to upgrade where we feel comfortable and safe to do so.
Do we have applications that we have filed in our minds and sit unused, that offer us new skills and / or attitudes if we were to run them ? Did we have an idea once, or read something, and we felt a spark of passion, but then put it away as it seemed incompatible with other beliefs in our head at the time ?
Do we have software that we are blindly running that includes viruses? These viruses cause us to act and feel in ways that have no validity in our current lives. They seek to sabotage our lives to the point where no other software, which is nurturing, can run successfully. Are we taking on board beliefs we made up when we were growing up, that don’t support, for example, healthy relationships?
Are there other applications running, which in part, serve us well but could do with an update? Have we decided not to take these updates, as change can be painful? Are we a good father in general , but there are some areas where we think it would be nice to do things a little differently; but different seems awkward? Would we like to just express some warmth to a good friend and maybe tell them what their friendship really means to us?
Is we think there are too many viruses in our software and it all seems too hard, maybe we need to call technical support. The viruses will not disappear by themselves and we deserve to have access to the latest software. Ring a men’s help line, see a counsellor or talk to a trusted and safe friend.
The great thing is we are all capable of running software in our mind that supports and nurtures us, and allows us to have the best life possible. Make a choice this week to upgrade.
Scott Carroll is a qualified and accredited Counsellor focusing on working with men and on male related issues. He is practicing in Kincumber. Please call 0433 119 103 or e-mail to make a time for an initial consultation to see if there are aspects of your life on which you would like his support to work on.