You asked the questions, child psychologist Dr Aaron Frost gives you the answers. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What is the best way to emotionally prepare my child for Prep next year? Are there tactics I should be practising over the school holidays? I’m already getting nervous myself!
A. You hit the nail on the head with your final comment – you are getting nervous. The biggest thing that shapes children’s expectations is us. They are like little emotional mirrors and when they see that we are worried, they become worried. So actually the first thing I would say is to manage your own emotion. See positivity and excitement about this big transition and that will do more to prepare your child than any course you can sign up for. Remember, on day one they just need to know that you are proud of them, you are confident of them and you are there for them to celebrate their triumphs and to comfort them in their failures.
Q. I’ve been secretly monitoring some direct messages between my tween and her friends at school on her Musical.ly app. The messages are innocent but the bigger issue is that my husband thinks I shouldn’t be “snooping” around. I totally disagree. While he sees my point of view sometimes, he also has me feeling a little guilty. Tell me who is right?
A. You are both wrong, but for different reasons. You absolutely should not be reading the messages of your daughter. It is important that she has the ability to communicate with her friends and develop her personality for herself as well as her public persona without censoring herself. Imagine if everything you had said to your friends when you were 11 had to be screened through your parents’ common-sense filter? Having said that, I believe that more than ever, parents need to know every app that is installed on their children’s devices, what do they do, and how do they do it? Any app that connects kids to the wider world with other users needs to be monitored by parents. If you can’t control who talks to them, then delete the app. Children’s multi-user environments have become paedophile buffets and it doesn’t matter how innocent the app looks, you have to assume there is a very creepy person in there somewhere who has bad intentions.
Q. How do I encourage my kids to keep their rooms clean? I’m not wanting their rooms to be like immaculate furniture showrooms, but none of my kids (aged 6, 8 and 10) picks up after themselves and their rooms are forever in a state of disarray. I want them to grow up to be organised and responsible adults but their rooms will tell you otherwise.
A. This one is all about simple reward and punishment. If this is an important issue for you, then put some structures in place to support it. Firstly, provide rewards for doing the right thing, and punishment for not. In terms of punishment I would be thinking something along the lines of removal of privileges until the room is tidy. If you are consistent with this, you should see good results within a month or two.
Dr Aaron Frost is a clinical psychologist and director of Benchmark Psychology at Mount Gravatt.