Bringing mental health support to rural children
Anglicare is bringing specialised support to the Derwent Valley for children experiencing anxiety.
“Local schools had noticed more children presenting with anxiety,” said Brittany Howes, Anglicare’s Community Services Worker in the region. “These students were mostly too fearful to try new tasks for fear of failure. This was impacting on their learning.”
For many families in the rural community, the cost and time involved in travelling to the city for assistance was a barrier.
In response, Anglicare began delivering the Cool Kids program at New Norfolk, Ouse, Westerway and Glenora Primary Schools. The program is world renowned and was developed by Macquarie University in 1993.
The evidence-based program teaches children and their parents how to manage anxiety. Students meet in small groups for one hour each week over 10 weeks. Together they progress through a workbook. Topics include learning about feelings of anxiety (tummy aches, racing hearts, struggling to breathe, feeling hot, nausea), learning to think realistically, fighting fear by facing fear, and learning coping skills.
Children experience different kinds of anxiety. They may find it difficult to be away from parents, be extremely shy around others, worry excessively about what others think, avoid social and school activities, or worry about potential dangers and the future.
Anglicare offers a modified version of Cool Kids to children who find it difficult to cope with group situations.
“We provide tailored individual sessions to the needs of the particular child,” said Brittany. “For children with autism for example, we make sure sensory items are included. We have crunchy snacks on hand, soft toys, fidgety toys and stress balls. Things with audible sounds and different touch sensations help to keep these children calm and focused”.
Parents are also involved, meeting separately for two sessions timed at the start and then end of their child’s program. Parents are encouraged not to react to their child’s anxiety by doing things on their behalf or letting them avoid certain situations.
“We teach parents to encourage their children to face their fears and to offer them appropriate rewards. These rewards do not involve money or treats, rather one-on-one time together – going on family outings or attending activities the child enjoys,” explained Brittany.
“Praising children with specific compliments like: ‘I was really proud of you when your teacher told me you joined in with the new activity’ can also make a big difference”.
Anglicare delivers the Cool Kids program through My Safe & Strong Families, funded by Communities for Children and the Department of Social Services.
Find out how throughout Tasmania Anglicare provides Support for families and children