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Ways to Improve Your Relationship

  • Work to reduce stress that might be straining your relationship.
  • Discuss life stresses and how to manage them together. Support each other in difficult times.
  • Try to make positive interactions outweigh the negative, by five to one. Show appreciation, gratitude and care.
  • Share your views, ideas and emotions. Try to express frustration, disappointment and anger openly and constructively.
  • Consider your partner’s view and try to empathise with their thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • Establish shared values, expectations and standards, and work to live by those important to you.
  • Remain respectful during conflict. Keep calm during any discussions. Ensure you both work to repair any hurt caused.
  • Appreciate each other’s roles, the goals that link you, and how each of you contributes to and influences each other.
  • Encourage your partner’s work, friendships and activities. Celebrate successes.
  • Keep your sense of playfulness, affection and positive humour.

Source: Australian Psychological Society, psychology.org.au

Is My Child OK?

Is your child going through normal adolescent ups and downs? Angelina Chisari shares some of the lessons she’s learnt and signs to look out for.

More than half the callers to Kids Helpline are 13 to 18 years old and about one in five callers are worried about mental health – their own, or a person close to them.

“Most of the time they are seeking support and strategies to manage an already diagnosed or established mental health condition, but we also get contacts from children who aren’t diagnosed and who are concerned about initial symptoms or some quite serious symptoms,” says Angelina Chisari. 

Most mental-health concerns involve depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. 

“At night, they can be left with their thoughts and have difficulties sleeping, and they call us because they can’t see their usual psychologist or counsellor then. They also call for crisis support if they have urges around suicide and self-harm – we build a safety net for young people,” says Ms Chisari.

She says it can be hard for parents to work out whether their teenager’s behaviour is normal, or whether it’s something to be concerned about. And she adds that it’s normal for parents to feel anxious and concerned about how to approach mental health concerns with their child. 

“We know teenagers tend to be a little more emotional than at other times in life. They are going through a lot of changes developmentally, socially, academically, physically and emotionally.

“The teenage brain is still developing, and this can leave young people feeling really tired, emotional and exhausted. Emotions like anger, sadness, stress and anxiety can be normal, but if
those emotions are excessive, consistent and prolonged over weeks to months, that needs to be explored further,” Ms Chisari says.

“We know teenagers tend to be a little more emotional than at other times in life.“

What is normal and what are the signs that a child may be struggling emotionally?

“Is your child retreating from family, friends or everyday activities? Or have you noticed other changes in their behaviour? Is your child avoiding school? Have they become more irritable or aggressive? Are they using drugs or alcohol? Usuallteenagers don’t want to spend as much time with their parents and their focus shifts to their friends. If you see a change in how much time your child is spending with their friends, that can be a sign that something is going on,” says Ms Chisari.

If your child shows persistent signs of hopelessness or pessimism, don’t minimise those feelings by trying to normalise them. “When you minimise their feelings, your child is less likely to talk to you again about those issues,” says Ms Chisari. “If the issue worsens and those feelings escalate from depression to self-harm. They’re not going to come back to you for help.”

Is your child showing increased sensitivity and heightened reactions to challenges, failure or rejection? Are they more self-critical than usual? Do they talk about feeling guilty or worthless? Your first reaction as a parent is important. “Be supportive and don’t try to convey that everything is in their head, that it’s normal teenage hormones and it will all get better,” says Ms Chisari. “Ask your child what is going on, how they are feeling, acknowledge and validate their feelings and involve them in options for support. Ask them if they want to speak to a counsellor or a doctor or to call an anonymous service like Kids Helpline so what they’re experiencing can be looked at further.”

Experts usually agree that if a condition is affecting a child’s ability to function day to day, or their ability to enjoy life, they may need professional help. 

It’s normal for parents to feel worried about how to talk to their kids about mental health. “As parents, we don’t always know what to do or say. It’s OK to feel this way and help is available,” says Ms Chisari. Parentline is a confidential telephone counselling service for parents and carers offering information, referrals and assistance on a range of parenting issues. 

Contact Parentline:  1300 30 1300

The Kids Helpline website has a dedicated section for parents that includes advice on how to start a conversation with a young person about their mental health. It also gives information on different forms of mental illness, signs, symptoms and support and treatment options.

Contact Kids Helpline: www.kidshelpline.com.au or 1800 55 1800


While anxiety is normal, it can develop into a disorder.

Most of us feel anxious at times. But for some people the anxiety is serious enough to negatively affect their enjoyment of life. Almost 7 per cent of Australian children and adolescents – or 278,000 – have an anxiety disorder. Most are considered mild.

Anxiety disorders generally include social phobia, separation anxiety, generalised anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A major Australian study* found that these affected 6.9 per cent of those aged four to 17. There was little difference in prevalence between girls and boys.

Young people in the most-disadvantaged socioeconomic group (10.4 per cent) were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than those in the least-disadvantaged group (5.3 per cent). 

Young people with an anxiety issue need support to cope with the challenges they face, such as doing well in year 12, taking on leadership roles at a younger age and pressure to feel accepted on social media. Parents must be alert for signs that they are not coping and seek professional help if needed.

Risk Factors

  • A family history of anxiety;
  • Having a perfectionistic personality;
  • Lack of confidence or self-esteem;
  • Family and relationship problems;
  • Having a controlling or over-protective parent, or parents who are often critical or negative in their parenting style;
  • Death or loss of a loved one;
  • A traumatic or negative life experience;
  • Verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma;
  • Serious physical illness; and
  • Girls, or women, are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

Social Phobia

Intense anxiety caused by social situations leading up to and during the event, such as going out with friends or giving a speech.

Separation Anxiety

An overwhelming fear of being parted from parents, carers or those to whom someone has a strong attachment.

Generalised Anxiety

Excessive anxiety and worry about common issues, such as family or friends, health, work, money or forgetting important appointments.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

An obsessive compulsion to do something, such as checking doors and windows to see if they are locked, or ensuring everything is orderly in cupboards and drawers.

Tips for Parents

  • Anxiety is normal. Excessive anxiety is not.
  • Young people with genuine anxiety disorders are not naughty or defiant.
  • Look for persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, tiredness as well
    as missing school and avoiding social activities.
  • If the anxiety relates to a mental-health disorder such as generalised anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, social anxiety and panic attacks, seek professional help.
  • Teaching and modelling resilience can help young people cope with anxiety.
  • Admit when you are anxious; no one is perfect.

Talking About Depression | Parent Tips

  • Choose a time when the young person is relaxed and unlikely to be distracted. 
  • Be natural and don’t overthink it. Start by sharing your concern. 
  • Be prepared for rejection. If they don’t want to talk, try again later. 
  • Check your emotions and be realistic, while telling them you care and want to help. 
  • Discuss what you have noticed and why you are concerned. 
  • Ask questions about how they feel. 
  • Let them guide the conversation.  
  • Tell them it is important to discuss their feelings. 
  • Try to understand their reaction and help them to feel at ease. Let them know that crying is OK.
  • Seek a balance between helping and encouraging their independence. 
  • Provide information about depression and the types of help available.
  • Respect their privacy but explain the benefits of telling trusted people. Let them know that professional help is confidential and easy to access.

Other Helpful Tips:


Guiding Families Through Coronavirus

Talking honestly with children about the current health crisis may help to reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing.

While the coronavirus pandemic threatens the physical health of people globally, it is also affecting our mental health.

This makes starting a conversation with children about the risks and possible consequences of COVID-19 without instilling panic a challenge.

The Australian Psychological Society says as the number of cases rises the level of anxiety within the community rises.

It advises families to keep things in perspective, limit related media exposure and seek facts from reliable sources such as the Australian Government’s health alert or the World Health Organization.


“Children will inevitably pick up on the concerns and anxiety of others, whether this be through listening and observing what is happening at home or at school,” the APS says.

“It is important that they can speak to you about their own concerns. Answer their questions. Do not be afraid to talk about the coronavirus with children.

“Providing opportunities to answer their questions in an honest and age-appropriate way can help reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing.”


The Australian Government’s Department of Health has developed a collection of resources for the general public, health professionals and industry about coronavirus (COVID-19), including translated resources.

See: http://bit.ly/39ZISDx

World Health Organization updates can be found here: https://bit.ly/3cQUwCw


  • Speak to them about coronavirus in a calm manner.
  • Ask them what they already know about the virus so you can clarify any misunderstandings they may have.
  • Let them know that it is normal to experience some anxiety when new and stressful situations arise.
  • Give them a sense of control by explaining what they can do to stay safe (e.g., wash their hands regularly, stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing).
  • Don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary information (e.g., death rates) as this can increase their anxiety.
  • Reassure them that coronavirus is less common and severe in children compared to adults.
  • Allow regular contact (e.g., by phone & video call) with people they may worry about, such as grandparents, to reassure them that they are ok.

Download this blog post as a free flyer here:


Jess Chooses Life

Jess Chooses Life – A Play About Overcoming Bullying and Mental Health

Parent Guides is very proud and excited to be involved in delivering the play ‘Jess Chooses Life’ – to be performed Wednesday 19 Feb 2020, at 7 pm, at McKinnon Secondary College, Melbourne. 

Admission is free, and the play will be accompanied by a meaningful discussion alongside mental health professionals.

Use the following link to book your FREE tickets: https://www.trybooking.com/BHQJH

Get FREE Tickets

Some words from Angus (Gus) Clelland, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Victoria:

“In 2018 there were 3,046 deaths by suicide, and 458 of these were young people under 25 years of age.

In the face of this national tragedy, both the Federal Government and the Victorian Government have made mental health and suicide prevention top priorities.

Community, family and friends are fundamentally important when it comes to suicide prevention.

With this in mind, Mental Health Victoria – the peak body for mental health organisations – is very pleased to commend the collaboration of Health Play, Parent Guides and PoPsy to produce Jess Chooses Life, a sensitive and thought-provoking play that examines the pressures faced by young people and how parents can broach challenging topics such as mental health and suicide.

The format of the production – which includes audience discussion supported by mental health professionals – is highly engaging and thought-provoking, while being sensitive and supportive to audience members who may have lived experience.”

View the video testimonials from the previous play: https://vimeo.com/327637872/a0f46a1fc9

Parent Guides and Health Play

Parent Guides & HealthPlay

Parent Guides are a proud supporter of HealthPlay, a contemporary theatre company based in Melbourne.

In 2019, Parent Guides partnered with Healthy Play to deliver a successful play about mental health and teenage bullying. You can read more about the successful event here.

With their unique and humorous approach to health issues, they are writing and performing plays to educate and entertain. You can learn more about their four mental health plays for 2020 and previous plays below, and visit their website for bookings.

Suicide – It’s Time We Talked

See the Play on the 29th of March. At Sacred Heart College, Retreat Road, Newtown – Geelong. Register and Get Your Free Tickets!


It’s time to talk about suicide:

A new and engaging production that combines a play about suicide with a panel of mental health experts will connect and bring people together in local communities.

Read more

Children Need to Experience Failure to Thrive

Helicopter parents take an overactive and excessive interest in their child’s life.

All parents want the best for their child but they can become over-involved, smothering, overbearing, interfering and over-controlling. I also call them tow-truck parents because they wait for an accident to happen and then steam in and clear up the mess.

They have clear opinions about who is the right teacher for their child, what sport they should play, they want their child to be in the popular group and they offer disproportionate assistance, rather than allowing their teenager space.

These parents don’t enjoy uncertainty, so they over-prepare and supervise intensely and interfere with their child’s opportunity to do something for themselves and to deal with the natural consequences of their actions. Read more

I Was Bullied My Whole Life

Keiah Smith endured years of bullying through primary school and high school. She became depressed and attempted suicide.

I was bullied my whole life but it got particularly bad when I was ten and revealed I’d been sexually abused. I told a friend and it spread around the school and I was called a ‘slut’. I was also overweight and picked on for that, too.

At high school, I was regularly bashed. Mum and Dad told the school it wasn’t acceptable but it continued. I was bashed walking to class, during lunch and when I retaliated, I was suspended. It was heartbreaking and it’s hard to put into words how I felt. Read more