Couples

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Parent Self-Care: The Important Flow On Effect

by Dr Alison Bocquee

There is a lot written in social media and print about being a good parent, good enough parent, ‘the best you can be parent’.  We hear of the importance of looking after ourselves as parents before or so we can best look after our little people. Anyone who has travelled by aeroplane will have heard the air hostesses instructing parents to put on their own oxygen masks first before attending to their child.  It seems counterintuitive, but let’s look at the detail as to why this matters.

Self-care – who takes care of the parent? When the parent is constantly giving to others, do they ever think about how much they are giving of themselves? It’s probably not something that parents ask themselves or even consider often, until they are overwhelmed, feeling exhausted and irritable with their children.  Then comes the guilt because they are not being the parent that they ideally want to be.

Let’s put it simply.  We cannot give what we haven’t got. So if you, as a parent, are not looking after yourself, not showing yourself the love you show your loved ones, not treat yourself the way you want others to treat you (i.e., with respect), this not only affects you but potentially every member of your family.

Children can be viewed as the barometers of the parent’s functioning.  Their behavioural outbursts or emotionality or sensitivity may reflect their parents’ imbalance of ‘all work and looking after the family’ but not themselves.  When the parents are balanced (i.e., calm, consistent, non-reactive) there is a much better chance the children will be too. Hence the very important flow on effect of parent self-care.

Self-care includes aspects such as sufficient sleep, regular physical movement, nutrition, rest and relaxation, social connection, and engagement in pleasurable activities.  Self-care is giving yourself a break, to recharge, taking time off. Self-care shows you matter. It models to your family the importance of your needs, that each member of the family is important.  It reduces stress. Self-care is good for your well-being and that of your family.

Further engagement in each of these aspects of self-care demonstrates and models to your little people important life, coping and self-regulation skills.  This is much more powerful than anything you could say or ‘lecture’ your child about. Demonstrating to your child that when you’re frustrated you engage in deep breathing, or when you’re anxious you run a bath, or at the end of the day if you’re tired you go to bed a bit earlier, and so on, are invaluable life lessons.

Self-care doesn’t have to be time intensive.  Even engaging in breathing exercises for 2 minutes or watching the clouds, or listening to your preferred music is likely to shift your energy and provide you with a little joy.  Getting up a little earlier than your little people to plan or consider your intentions for the day, perhaps whilst you sip a cup of tea, is also important self-care. You’ll likely be more calm, and therefore more intentional in your interactions with your loved ones and less reactive overall.  

Our team of highly skilled and professional clinical psychologists are able to compassionately support your journey to being the parent you want to be, that makes your heart sing, a parent who prioritises their own self-care because they acknowledge their own importance and their own needs; and that ultimately flows on to a more contented family.  Opening yourself to growth by learning and incorporating skills such as relaxation and mindfulness of thoughts and emotions techniques, means you are prioritising your own wellbeing and that of each member of your family.

Parent Self-Care: The Important Flow On Effect2019-06-11T12:48:43+10:00

When Baby Makes 3 – tips for making the adjustment to Parenthood

By Dr Kylee Forrest

It is no secret that bringing home a baby is time if immense love and joy. Yet it also signifies a time of enormous change for each new parent as an individual, as well as for the couple relationship. Thanks to excellent initiatives from Beyond Blue and public health groups, there is now much greater understanding and acknowledgement of postnatal depression and the benefit of seeking help. While this is fantastic, there are other dimensions to becoming a parent that also deserve to be spoken about.

 

1. I’m just not “me”

Not every new mum experiences PND, in fact most don’t. But what every new mum does undergo a significant transformation of herself.  All of a sudden she is not doing the things that she often took for granted, the sorts of things that allowed her to be her. Formal work may suddenly stop, leisure activities and sports cannot be engaged in, the ways she socializes need to be adjusted, even going to the loo in privacy needs to be reconsidered! Beyond that, the woman’s post-birth body continues to experience vast physical and hormonal changes. Some of these changes are temporary, while others may not be regained for months, or years, if ever at all. In his book The Birth of a Mother, psychiatrist Dr Daniel Stern calls attention to the fact that all of these changes often mean that new mums must create a new identity. While some of this is easy to do, other parts tend to take new mums completely by surprise. The more I come across this phenomenon in new mums, the more I wonder why there isn’t more discussion or preparation for what seems to be a very normal event.

What you can do: The more we can raise awareness that the transition to motherhood includes changes to a mum’s identity (in positive and challenging ways), the better-placed new mums will be. If you, or someone you know are on the path to motherhood, try talking with them about how they think they will manage the good and not-so-easy parts of this change

 

2. Don’t forget Dad!

Even though the hormones and physiological changes aren’t an issue for new dads, the adjustment that men go through on a practical and psychological level is still worthy of some attention. Unfortunately, there is often so much focus on babies, and to a lesser degree on mums at this time that dads are often forgotten about. Up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression and many others report heightened anxiety about their new role as protector/provider. There are fewer social supports in place to support new dads and, knowing what their partner has going through during pregnancy and labour, many men feel uncomfortable talking about their own struggles.

What you can do: Partners, friends and family can help to change this by remember to ask a new dad “how are you going amongst all of this change?”

Take the time to listen, to acknowledge the struggles of fatherhood as well as the good times. This will go a long way to changing the pressures felt by new dads.

If you are concerned about a new dad, encourage him to speak with his GP about a referral to a psychologist. More information about postnatal distress in Dads can be found here: https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/how-is-dad-going And don’t forget that June 18 is International Father’s Mental Health Day

 

3. Three is a crowd

When a new baby steals its parents’ hearts and relies on them for basically everything, it is easy to slip into a pattern where the needs of the couple relationship are entirely neglected. Approximately 70% of couples experience a sharp decline in relationship closeness and happiness when a baby comes along.

What you can do: While some of this is a normal adjustment of sharing attention between 2 to 3, there are simple things that new parents can do to nurture their couple relationship alongside nurturing their baby.

  • Don’t forget that you are not just parents! Ensure that you talk about parts of the day that didn’t involve baby.
  • Get out of the house. Going for a walk as a family gives benefits to everyone. While the sensory stimulation will be good for your bub, some fresh air and exercise in great for parents too, releasing endorphins that promote positive feelings.
  • Simple touch. Don’t forget that hugs, holding hands, or snuggling up on the couch are an effortless way to maintain intimacy even when you are exhausted. Like exercise, physical contact with a loved one releases chemicals in our brains that also promote positive feelings.
  • Connect, on and off devices. While mobile phones can be great for new parents to keep in touch during the day, try to make sure that you have some device-free time when you at home together too.

Bringing baby home means big changes for every part of a family, in good and challenging ways. Being aware of these changes in advance will help to make adjusting to these changes as smooth as possible.

When Baby Makes 3 – tips for making the adjustment to Parenthood2019-03-27T14:26:32+10:00

When Cracks Appear – Referring Couples for Relationship Therapy

By Dr Jennifer Wilson

Positive, supportive relationships can help us withstand many of the expected or unexpected challenges life might throw at us. At times of stress, knowing there is at least one special other to turn to, who we can trust to hear and respond to us, strengthens our capacity to cope. Conversely, when that need for support at a critical time is not met, we can feel profoundly hurt by those we rely on for care
and comfort. At these times, instead of pulling together to face life’s difficulties, partners can become disconnected and even hostile with each other.

 

This is where a trained couples therapist can help. As health professionals, you are likely to be caring for patients who are going through just the kinds of difficult life events that can place strain on relationships. Here are a few tips on how you can encourage your patients to seek help for their relationship.

 

At Benchmark Psychology, we have psychologists trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples. According to recent studies, 90% of couples who see a well-trained Emotionally Focused Therapist experience improvement, and 70% report full repair of their relationship. Unfortunately, many couples are reluctant to seek therapy because of a range of fears and misconceptions, and
couples therapy is often seen as a last resort before breaking up.

Here are some common concerns couples have about therapy -

 

1. The therapist will take sides.
We are trained to recognise and understand how both partners contribute to their pattern of disconnection and distress, and to assist partners to understand the painful emotions that underlie their partners’
attempts to reach them.

 

2. The therapist will tell us we should break up.
The decision about whether to continue in a relationship always belongs to the couple. The role of an EFT therapist is to help couples understand how their relationship has gone wrong, and to guide them, for as long as they are willing to try, in how to repair it.

 

3. We are too far gone; the situation is hopeless.
Even longstanding problems can be resolved or improved with EFT. The intensity of distress does not indicate the relationship cannot be improved.

 

4. Talking about our problems will make things worse.
Many couples have experienced that their own attempts to talk about their problems have made things worse, so this concern is understandable! However, an EFT Therapist is trained to create a safe space where problems can be discussed productively. In many cases, the therapist will be able to help partners see each other’s struggles in new ways that open the door to healing and reconciliation.

 

5. Couples therapy is a waste of time and does not work.
EFT has years of research demonstrating its effectiveness in helping couples improve their relationships, and follow-up studies show these improvements are long lasting. EFT is one of a handful of couple therapies designated as empirically supported by the American Psychological Association (APA).

 

6. We (or he or she) need individual therapy first.
A growing body of evidence suggests that successful couple therapy can reduce an individual’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress and other psychological disorders. At the very least, a stronger, more supportive relationship will reduce the suffering both partners experience when one is struggling with a psychological disorder. Couple therapy may not be the only treatment needed when a partner has significant psychological symptoms can help partners to join hands in working together on the challenges they are facing individually.

 

Adapted from Ruth Jampol, PhD, Licensed Psychologist Certified EFT Therapist, 
Supervisor-in-Training Board of Directors, Philadelphia Center for EFT

When Cracks Appear – Referring Couples for Relationship Therapy2019-03-27T16:02:00+10:00

3 Ways To Tell If Your Child Might Have Social Anxiety

Written by By Dr Cate Hearn

Shy or Self-Conscious

Compared to other children their own age, socially anxious children appear shyer and more self-conscious. They may:

  • Find it hard to talk to other children
  • Find it hard to make new friends
  • Feel left out or awkward, or worry they’ll embarrass themselves
  • Have less well developed social skills than children their own age
  • Dislike being the centre of attention
  • Worry a lot about their appearance
  • Worry that their friends don’t really like them
  • Be quiet in large social situations
  • Speak softly to those they don’t know well

 

Avoidance

Socially anxious children fear and avoid a range of social situations. They may:

  • Avoid new social situations
  • Make excuses not to go, by saying, “I’m just a homebody”, “I don’t feel like going”, “I don’t like parties”
  • Dread sports days or swimming carnivals
  • Dislike giving orals or talks in class
  • Be too anxious to raise their hand/answer questions in class
  • Play alone often

 

Tummy pains, headaches

Anxiety and worry can manifest in physical symptoms, and socially anxious children may:

  • Report pains in the stomach, headaches, nausea or sore/aching arms/legs especially before school or social events
  • Become withdrawn or irritable before social events or before school

 

Won't they just grow out of it?

Research shows that a great many children with social anxiety do not just ‘grow out’ of it.

Left untreated, social anxiety can persist and cause significant interference in children’s lives. Child friendly cognitive behaviour therapy for social anxiety can help children overcome social anxiety.

At Benchmark Psychology, we have a number of therapists who can provide child friendly therapy to socially anxious children. Ask for Dr Cate Hearn (who’s PhD thesis was in child and adolescent social anxiety), Dr Alison Bocquee, Dr Kylee Forrest, Dr Jasmine Pang or Dr Leona Chun

3 Ways To Tell If Your Child Might Have Social Anxiety2019-03-27T16:11:02+10:00

Five keys to a satisfying sex life for parents

Between careers, children and the pressures of being a grown up, maintaining a healthy sex life can end up pretty low on the "to do" list of many couples.  Sexual desire is at an all time low for many couples in the years when their children are youngest.  But a good sex life is not only pleasurable, it also adds valuable emotional connection to relationships.  Unfortunately, many couples already know this, but view it as just more pressure and that they are somehow not up to scratch. So instead of telling you to go and buy some toys, some lingerie and scented candles in order to "spice up" your love life, this article gives some more honest if slightly less glamorous suggestions.  Here are some 'hot tips' for a lifelong and satisfying sexual relationship in the real world.

 

1. Be realistic

Know that every other couple is not having more or better sex than you. The average couple (and that includes those without kids) are having sex six times per month. With the added stress and busyness of parenting, be kind to yourselves and don’t add any extra pressure to your lives by worrying about how much sex you’re having. Regardless of what many magazines or the guys at the pub say, most people are having very irregular, vanilla sex with their partners. Why worry about everyone else anyway? All that matters is that you and your partner are happy.

 

2. Communicate

This is the big one. Nothing can ever change if you don’t talk to each other about your needs. My PhD research has found that the couples who are doing well between the sheets talk regularly and honestly about the sexual aspects of their relationships. They talk about what isn’t going well and how they can improve things. Most of all, it is less painful to experience rejection when you know that your partner cares about you and has genuine reasons for not feeling desire.

3. Find alternatives

If you are not feeling like having sex and you know that your partner misses this, try to meet some of their needs in other ways. I will let you in on a big secret – sex is often not about sex. Most of the time it is about closeness, connection and feeling desired. Often you can meet these needs for each other through hugs, kisses and just giving them your time and love. When it is actually about the sex, maybe you can meet these needs through foreplay without the actual intercourse?

4. Prioritise

Make your relationship a priority. Healthy and happy couples make better parents. You are modeling how to have strong relationships for your kids, so taking time for yourselves is not selfish. It is good for everyone. Find time for date nights, do things that you enjoy together (with or without the kids) and don’t forget to sometimes make sex a priority. Go to bed early rather than doing one more load of laundry. It doesn’t matter whether you end up having sex or not, the point is that you are making the time for each other. Generally, if you work on being a happy and connected couple, the sex will follow.

5. Be responsive

As already said, the expectation that you will have regular, spontaneous sexual desire at all times in your life is probably unrealistic. Why not see if the responsive desire is there? Tell your partner that you are not feeling like it but you’re happy to get started and see how you feel. Most likely your desire will arrive. If not, make sure that the two of you make it safe for you to say that on this occasion it didn’t work but you’re going to try again next time. Find another way to find closeness in the meantime.

 

We hope that these steps help you to find the close, connected and sexually satisfying relationship that we are all seeking.  However, if you need more assistance then you can see a couples therapist who has experience in sexual issues.  Here at Benchmark Psychology we have two psychologists who have a passion for working with couples - Dr Jennifer Wilson and Rebecca Frost.

 

Five keys to a satisfying sex life for parents2019-03-15T14:03:21+10:00

10 Signs That It’s Time For A Digital Detox

Do you find yourself constantly tethered to your devices? Compared to one or two decades ago, you’ve probably noticed that a large portion of your waking life is now spent connected to technology and the Internet. Whether you’re sifting tirelessly through work emails, Googling energetically for an assignment, slaying giant dragons in an online game, or endlessly scrolling through social media on the commute home, you feel continually connected.

The digital revolution has been incredibly beneficial for us; there is more entertainment, more ways to connect, more information and more ways to share it. However, for a growing number of people, use of this technology is becoming difficult to control - and you might be one of them. You might have told yourself “I can stop anytime I want”, or “it’s just something for me to do when I’m bored – at least I’m not drinking or taking drugs”, but then time after time find yourself absorbed in online activities for far longer than you intended.Turn off the internet

Having said that, the amount of time you spend online, in and of itself, does not always indicate whether you have a problem or not. In fact, it can be quite difficult to determine whether your Internet use is problematic, given that so much of your daily life is likely dependent on the Internet; most of your work activities probably require email and Internet access; you might regularly do banking, insurance and other errands online; and social media and instant messaging are often the quickest ways to communicate with your family and friends. For most of us, ‘switching off’ completely would be simply impossible. With so much Internet use being ‘necessary’, how do you know when it’s time to make a focused effort to cut back? When is it time for a ‘digital detox’?

The most important warning sign that something needs to change is when your internet, technology or gaming use starts to interfere with your relationships, work or daily life; in short, when you start to experience negative consequences. Below are 10 signs that indicate that your use might be turning into a problem you can no longer control:

1.     You often find yourself thinking about going online.

Whether you’re waking up in the morning, commuting home, watching TV, or at dinner with friends, you find your mind constantly switches to what you could be doing online. ‘What’s happening on Facebook?’ ‘Has that blog been updated yet?’ ‘What could I post next?’ ‘I wonder if any of my friends will be online to run that dungeon when I get home.’ Online activities start to take up all of your head space.

2.     You find yourself spending longer and longer periods of time online.

A few years ago, you might have sat online or games for 30 minutes to 1 hour before you felt satisfied enough to do something else. Now, 3 hours seem to go by without you even noticing, and you still crave more. You might also notice impatience with Internet speed – anything even slightly slower than what you’re used to causes you the utmost frustration. Think of it in a similar way to the rewarding feeling of substances – if you were a smoker dependent on that instant ‘hit’ from your cigarette, you’d get pretty frustrated if it occasionally took ten times as long to kick in.

3.     You go online to lift your mood or escape your problems.

You probably have a range of ‘coping strategies’ for when you’re feeling low or going through a tough time. However, if you find that you’re constantly turning to the Internet as your primary source of comfort, this may be a sign that you’re becoming reliant on it. Again, think of it in a similar way to substance use – you might pour yourself a stiff drink if you’ve had a pretty trying day, but if you find yourself having a drink every time you feel low, this might be a sign of dependence.

4.     You feel cranky, sad, annoyed or irritable when you’re not online.

Try resisting the urge to go online or game for a day (or even a few hours!) and see how you feel. If you find yourself struggling with any of the emotions above, AND if going back online gets rid of those feelings, it might be a sign that your use is becoming a problem.

5.     You’ve lost interest in activities and hobbies that you used to like.

What things did you used to do before you spent so much time on the Internet or gaming? How much do they feature in your life now? Has the Internet become your sole focus? If you were a bookworm who hasn’t read a book in a year, an avid guitar-player whose guitar is gathering dust, or a budding cook who now relies on microwave meals, this might mean that the Internet has slowly begun to take over.

6.     You neglect your health and sleep because of your Internet or gaming use.

Unlike alcohol or other substance use, Internet and gaming use frequently involve extended sedentary sessions sitting down, often with poor posture. If you find yourself continuing to go online despite being sleep deprived, skipping meals, or suffering back, neck or other physical problems, this strongly suggests it’s time for you to cut back.

7.     You’ve lost or jeopardised your relationship, job or studies because of your Internet or gaming use.

Whether you were given an ultimatum by your partner, you were fired or given a warning at work, or your university or school marks have dropped significantly, putting any of these important domains in your life at risk is a strong sign that it’s time to make some changes to your use.

8.     You’ve covered up or lied about your Internet or gaming use.

You can’t bear the thought of disappointing your friends or family yet again, so you find yourself ‘minimising’ or flat-out deceiving them about how much you’re actually online. For example, you might come home and complain wretchedly about your busy day at work, when you know you spent most of the time browsing websites and YouTube clips. Or, you might say you only stayed up till 1am gaming the previous night, when you know full well you only finally crawled to bed at 4am.

9.     You continue going online or gaming despite it causing problems in your relationships.

Your husband might have complained that he hardly sees you in the evenings anymore; your kids might constantly nag you for attention; or your friends might be fed up that you always turn down their social invitations; yet you still find yourself choosing to go online time and time again. You might find yourself constantly making excuses for your behaviour, e.g. “I’ll be down soon!”, “Everyone should be allowed time to themselves”, or “I’ll say yes next time”.

10.     You desperately want to cut back your use, or you’ve already tried (and failed).

If you’re already at the point where you’ve tried (or frequently thought about) cutting back, this can be a pretty clear sign that your use is becoming difficult for you to control.

Similar to gambling and alcohol use, overuse of Internet, technology and gaming starts to become a serious issue when it interferes with other areas of your life. Whilst Internet use is simply a ‘hobby’ or 'interest' for many of us, a prominent researcher in the field once put it very succinctly saying:

"Hobbies add to your life, and addictions Internet Addictiontake away."

If you feel that your Internet, technology or gaming use is becoming (or already is) the latter, it’s important to seek help. Behaviour change can be difficult on your own, and a qualified psychologist can help you to build your motivation and give you practical strategies to change.

10 Signs That It’s Time For A Digital Detox2019-05-14T11:20:40+10:00

Evidence Based Dating Strategies

Dating advice is everywhere, but most of it is based on opinion and folklore (or even creepy pick-up artists). New research from the University of Queensland uncovers the truth about how to attract a date.

 

When you’re trying to attract the attention of a potential partner you have a choice: make yourself stand out from the crowd, or show how well you fit in with others. Standing out suggests that you’ve got individuality and flair, while fitting in with others shows you’re friendly and agreeable. Both are attractive to potential partners, but which strategy is more successful?

 

If you asked your grandparents what to do they’d say that women are attracted to men who stand out from the crowd, whereas men are attracted to women who know how to fit in with others.

 

These ideas might sound old-fashioned, but a study from 2006 showed that when university students were thinking about dating, the female students tended to change their opinions to fit in with others, while men were more likely to change their opinions to stand out from the crowd. But are these strategies effective?

 

New research from the University of Queensland (co-authored by Dr Richard Wellauer of Benchmark Psychology) shows that men are actually more attracted to women who don’t conform to the group - those who stand out from the crowd.

 

Dating advice for women

 

Whether it’s evaluating dating profiles, rating the attractiveness of other people in small group interactions, or thinking about how much they’ve enjoyed recent dating experiences, men consistently reported that women who stood out from the crowd were more attractive, even though most women think that men prefer conformist women.

 

Dating advice for men

 

Women also reported that they preferred men who stood out from the crowd, but only up to a point - being too independent can be unattractive. If anything, men who are good at both standing out and fitting in with others are more successful in relationships.

 

So when you’re updating your online dating profile or going out with a bunch of new people, don’t let other people’s ideas about what’s attractive change how you act. Women don’t need to be afraid of standing out and showing off their individuality. Men don’t need to worry about acting the tough guy. Express your own opinions and flair, but make sure you also show that you’re able to be flexible and go along with the group.

 

This research is about dating, but it may as well be about job interviews, meeting new friends, or chatting to people while waiting for your morning coffee. We often spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to present ourselves in a way that stands out the least - instead, we should be making sure that we’re not living by other people’s standards. It’s okay to stand out from the crowd and it’s okay to fit in with others, but a mix of both is best of all.

Evidence Based Dating Strategies2019-03-15T14:17:53+10:00

How much screen time is too much ?

Dr Aaron Frost gives some advice not only on how much screen time children should have access to, but also on what type of screen time causes the most problems.

 

How much screen time is too much ?

 

I get asked this question at least half a dozen times per week. Parents are worried about the amount of time their kids want to spend sitting in front of the TV, iPad, DS, PlayStation, Xbox and various other consoles and hand held devices.  They often tell me things like, “my kids are absolutely feral after they spend a big chunk of time playing games”.

 

When I ask, "why don't you just remove the screens?", I get one or both of the following replies:

 

“I need the time, and leaving them on a computer to play games gives me a chance to catch up”,

 

“All my kids' friends are online, and this is how they communicate with each other, I don’t want him/her missing out”.

 

There are some real potential benefits of having technology in children’s lives, but it can often come at a cost.  The challenge for todays’ parent is to figure out how to get the greatest benefits for the lowest costs.

 

Before I say anything further, it is worth highlighting that the American Academy of Paediatrics has released well researched guidelines clearly stating that two hours per day of screen time is the upper limit for a child.  This is really helpful advice, and sets a good limit.  But what I want to talk about in this article in what type of screen time rather than how much.

 

In my observations both as a parent and a child psychologist, there are three basic types of screen-based activities that a child engages in, and each appear to have different consequences.

 

The first is mindless screen time. This includes games such as candy crush, Plants vs Zombies, binge watching ABC for Kids, and most console games.  Children spending large chunks of time engaged in mindless screen time will often seem most ‘feral’ immediately afterward.  There are a two main reasons for this.  Firstly, children engaged in mindless screen time are less likely to eat, drink and go to the toilet; emotions and behaviour in kids are driven by basic biology far more than most of us realise. Secondly, research conducted by Dr Grant Devilly and his colleagues found one of the main problems with mindless video games is that they don’t have a clear end point.  When a child is reading a book, it is easy to put it down at the end of a page, however, when a child is killing zombies, or lining up shiny jewels there is no clear end.  When they are finally forced off the game by their parents, children then experience high levels of anger and resentment. This is often where the “feral” mood sets in.

 

Mindless screen time should be avoided as much as possible, and it is up to parents to limit children’s exposure to this.  Mindless video games are designed by their manufacturers to be compulsive, which is how they become best sellers.  They are the junk food of screen time; a bit is ok every now and then, but too much too often is going to cause problems.

 

The second type of screen-based activity is engaged, and actualy involves the child’s brain being active.  Some of these screen activities are educational, most are not, but the key point here is that the child is mentally stimulated and fully engaged.  Please note that I am not a games reviewer, and do not endorse or have not been paid by any of these companies, but here are some examples to give you an idea of what to look for when shopping for games.

 

Reading Eggs  

 

This game is aimed at younger children learning to read.  It is engaging and educational, and designed to have small chunks of learning which matches the attention span of the children it is aimed at.  There are lots of natural breaks, and it is easy to say to a child “come off the computer when this level is finished”.

 

Tiny Bang Story

 

This has been a recent discovery for our family.  It involves a beautifully hand drawn world that has experienced a tiny explosion that has jumbled up all of the technology.  The task of the child is to find all of the pieces and to put the world back together, one level at a time.  It involves lots of lateral thinking, creative problem solving, and again there are many natural breaks for the child to step away form the screen.

 

 

Crayon Physics

 

This game involves a series of deceptively simple puzzles.  In each puzzle, the child has to move a ball from its start point to an end point by drawing things.  Everything they draw has real properties in physics. For example, if you draw a square in the air, gravity will make it drop the ground. If the square hits another object on the way down, this will cause the object it hits to move relative to the length of the drop and the size of the object.  Children have to figure out how to solve each puzzle using the properties of the objects they draw.  Once again, their brain is engaged, and there are lots of natural breaks incorporated.

 

 

This type of active screen time appears to be far less unhealthy for children (up to the time limits above).  They are less likely to have huge tantrums when finishing, and the compulsive nature to their play is greatly reduced.  These games are also excellent as they offer great opportunities for you and your child to do something together.  You would be amazed at how quickly the entire family will get involved in trying to figure out how to push a tiny red ball up a hill.

 

The final type of screen time is creative, and involves children using their imagination to create things using a computer.  Examples include Crayola DigiTools, iMovie, Photoshop, Lego Island and even a game like Minecraft.  The key element to all of these games is that the child uses their imagination and is creating things.  When a child is using one of these applications, their behaviour afterward appears to be no worse than if they had spent an hour drawing pictures or painting.  Obviously, it is important that computer based creativity doesn’t replace real world creativity, but these types of screen based activity should be looked at more in the light of a modern version of arts and craft.

 

However, even these type of activities don’t always get a completely clean bill of health.  Some of these activities have a multiplayer component which can be just as addictive as any mindless computer game.  While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with multiplayer games, the social element draws some children (especially those who are less socially successful in real life) into spending far more time on these games than they had intended, and this can lead to them becoming very compulsive.

 

They key point here is that as parents it is important for us to learn about what our kids are playing.  What they are playing is at least as important as how long they are playing.  It is worth spending the time getting to understand the games they are interested in and what it is about these games that is attractive.  Think about the mix of mindless games, vs creative and engaged games, and notice how your child reacts to both long and short periods of playing these games.  Who knows, you might find a game you both enjoy, which can become a real relationship building activity for you.

 

Please note:  Aaron has not received any kind of payment for his opinions regarding these particular products.

How much screen time is too much ?2019-03-26T20:10:35+10:00