Conversations to keep children safe

There has been an onslaught of articles in the media in recent weeks that have left me feeling shaken, disturbed, and preoccupied. I’m talking about the coverage of George Pell and Michael Jackson, and then more recently – and closer to home – a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Mosman who “just looks like a normal kid” (a comment on facebook) and has been accused of sexually abusing two sisters aged only 8 and 6.

What each of these men have done is abhorrent, but this is not where I want to focus my energy. In hearing such stories, I have felt a powerful driving force to ensure my own children are protected from such horrifying scenarios. And I am certain that I am not alone in this. Safeguarding our children to stay safe and call out anything that makes them feel uncomfortable is something that all parents need to instil in their children. So how and when can we best do this?

When children are very little, they will start to learn about their body. No one is bashful in teaching their toddler where their ears, head, or tummy is…. but when it comes to “private parts” many parents may feel unsure about how to approach this. However using the correct terminology when children start to learn their body parts helps children to feel more confident and more comfortable with their sexuality. It also means that should they ever need to disclose any abuse, there will be no misunderstanding what they mean. This article actually gives 8 reasons why this is so important.

In addition to talking about body parts, talking generally about feelings is also important. Families often share times they feel happy, proud, or want to celebrate an achievement. It is also important to talk about times we feel fearful, uncertain, or sad. Helping children to recognise the physical signs that alert them when they are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe is another important element of these conversations. When children are aware of these signs, it means they are more able to recognise – and hopefully stop – something that they do feel uncomfortable with.

Throughout childhood parents can have conversations about who is allowed to see or touch different parts of a child’s body. A simple way to define these “private parts” is to teach your child that the parts of their body covered by a swimming costume are private. In addition, your mouth is also a private body part – no one should touch your mouth or put anything in it; it is therefore also private. I have had several variations of this conversation over time about who is allowed to see or touch your body with my own two children. I can recall one of them asking me, “Mummy, do you take Grannie to the doctor with you if the doctor needs to see your private parts?” The innocent question from my 5- or 6-year-old gave me a little smile and made me pleased she was taking it so seriously. There are some other good tips for things to teach your children here.

As children grow older, they will gradually show increased desire for privacy – so there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those of you whose toddlers won’t let you go to the toilet on your own! – and it is important to grant them this privacy. Along with this comes increased desire for independence and this is where the work in the early years is also important. Children will want to go on playdates, sleepovers, outings with friends, maybe even holidays away with other families. If you and your children are comfortable in talking about feelings and body parts and generally sharing what they do when they are away from you, they will be more likely to share with you any concerns or worries or times they may have felt uncomfortable. This is a great article that gives very clear examples of how to talk to your child when they have spent time away from you if you want to get meaningful feedback about how they felt when they were away.

Sometimes it may feel confronting or uncomfortable to have these kinds of conversations, but over time if it becomes ‘the norm’ it will protect your children and ensure they stay safe.


Erin’s bio

The number one Aussie TV show that promotes modern fatherhood

By Ruth Fordyce
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

The stories we tell, listen to, and enjoy together are so important. They reflect back to us a sense of who we are and our common humanity, but often also what we yearn for and who we hope to be. So often in our current age, these stories come to us in movies or TV shows.

There is a wonderful Australian made TV program that has shot to popularity, with many people taking to social media to gush about its wonderful writing, humour and oh so familiar Aussie references. A couple of months after launching in last October, it had become the top rating show on the ABC’s iView streaming platform.

It’s Bluey, a cartoon about a family of Blue Heeler dogs. Yes, it’s a children’s show screening on ABC Kids. But it is much, much more.

As a mum, I am delighted to have a program I will gladly watch with my kids. It is the first show our family has found in which we really feel our kind of Australian lifestyle and our experiences of parenting young children are reflected. We actually re-tell moments from the episodes which resonate with our own family life, usually involving a good giggle about how that is “so us”. If you’ve never seen Bluey, I highly recommend you pause reading at this moment, and go and watch an episode (if you want a starting point, ‘Takeaway’ is our favourite episode to date).

As a psychologist, I value not just the humour, but the significance of a program that conveys a vision of shared parenting more consistent with the realities of modern Australia. Bluey is receiving growing praise (see here for example) because the father character, Bandit, is extremely engaged with his two kids and is also depicted simply doing normal parenting activities like running errands with the kids in tow, and doing housework. I loved Lucy’s Battersby comment, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, about what a refreshing departure this is from the usual depiction of dads in children’s television as either absent, or more frequently, as bumbling and incompetent (for my generation, perhaps the standout example of this is Homer Simpson). I think this is powerful storytelling. It is clear that Bandit’s children adore him. What a wonderful way to affirm to a current generation of dads, trying to be more present and connected to their children, that their efforts are worthwhile.

I love that thousands of families are watching this show together, laughing and feeling affirmed in the mess and the joy of family life here and now in Australia. While so many parents are grateful to finally see a TV show in which a father genuinely shares the load, perhaps we should be even more excited that a generation of small children love watching it too. Perhaps to them, it will seem entirely normal that a dad in a TV show should be so involved in domestic life, and care so beautifully for his two kids.

Here’s to more stories like that.

Ruth Fordyce is a Registered Psychologist at The Resilience Centre in Sydney. Find out more about Ruth by clicking here.

Mental Health First Aid for Teens and Young Adults



Written by Ivette Moutzouris

We are living in a time which has many pressures for youth and young adults. In fact Australian statistics show that Anxiety and Depression and other related mental health conditions are at an all time high for this age group. The big question then is why is this the case especially considering that we are supposedly living in the safest time ever recorded in history.

A few theories that have been proposed relate to the changes in the way that we live, predominately the changes that have occurred because of technology. If you are an adult who grew up in the 80’s or prior you can appreciate the differences between life back then compared to now. For instance when I was a teenage I could go home after school and basically relax, be more engaged with family members and even had time for homework! When I wanted to switch off I could quite easily because I didn’t have a laptop or phone to constantly distract me and/or entertain me. I basically was able to leave school at school and work at work and didn’t feel the need to constantly socialise because there was only one phone in the house which was in a common area. The lack of privacy was definitely a deterrent!

Unfortunately youth and young adults don’t really know of life without technology and they have learnt to be connected or as I call it be ‘on call’ 24/7. This has undoubtedly affected many areas in a young person’s life and has changed simple and necessary activities that maybe we used to take for granted. A few areas where I believe we have seen significant change include Sleep, coping strategies, expectations, addictions, socialising, motivation, concentration/focus.

The outcome of a negative turn in all of these areas is that teenagers and young adults are struggling to keep up and cope with life’s challenges and unfortunately may also turn to unhealthy means to ease this stress.

I believe that we need to help our youth to develop healthy lifestyle habits that include understanding how constant busyness and high expectations affect our physical and mental health as well as developing boundaries to ensure that we have a better balance in how we live.

Some immediate and basic changes that we can include in this Mental Health First Aid include monitoring Sleep patterns, exercise routine, time spent on internet, how we socialise and expectations.

SLEEP    – Getting enough sleep is essential for your brain and for your mental health. When we sleep we enter into different phases of the sleep cycle and our deepest phase, which is called REM sleep has the important function of consolidating information from that day as well as processing emotional memories. This means that for us to feel alert and refreshed we need to have enough REM sleep. Studies also show that lack of sleep can make us more prone to feeling emotional because it directly impacts that emotional part of our brain, that is the AMYGDALA, and makes it essentially more reactive.

EXERCISE –   Exercise plays a very important role in mental health because regular active exercise releases important chemicals into your system such as endorphins, which helps you to feel good and calmer, and exercise also increases your Serotonin levels which we also need to prevent symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is essentially why people say that exercise acts as a natural antidepressant. Another function of exercise is that it releases muscle tension that builds up over time in your body. Releasing this tension helps you to feel more relaxed and less stressed/anxious. In fact you can feel the benefits of exercise for hours after exercising and with regularity it can reduce overall anxiety levels.

EATING HABITS – cutting down on high levels of sugary foods and caffeine is also important. Caffeine and sugar stimulates the brain and the body and if you are experiencing stress and anxiety you don’t need more stimulants in your system. Cutting this down can help you to feel calm and in control which also has a positive affect on concentration and focus.

INTERNET USE – it is really important to ask yourself how much leisure time do I spend on my phone or computer.  A Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey found 18- to 24-year-old Australians check their phones up to 56 times a day and some check it more than 200 times daily,” More than 80 per cent of Australians can’t last an hour after waking before checking their phones, according to the survey of 2,000 Australians aged between 18 and 75. And half of 18 to 24-year-olds check theirs within five minutes of waking.” Clearly we have a problem. We need to switch off from our phones more often so that we are more engaged with life. Living life through screens isn’t healthy on many levels including time wasted, changing our expectations so that we are learning to get things instantly as well as the social messages we get from social media. That is that our lives need to look a certain, polished way. Another issue is of course increased access and use of pornographic sites which can affect the way that you think about others and relate to them. Technology isn’t bad but it does need to be used wisely, appropriately and not continuously.

Taking care of ourselves is important so that we can feel good and when life isn’t perfect we have the capacity to cope and become resilient. If we make some of these changes and make them a priority it affects our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.



Ed. Dr Ramesh Manocha, 2017, Mental Wellbeing in The Digital Age: Nurturing Young Minds. Hachette Australia.

Ed. Dr Ramesh Manocha, 2017, Growing Happy, Healthy Young Minds. Hachette Australia

Resilience In The Invictus Games: A Deep Dive Into The Event That Made A Splash

The Invictus Games – held recently in Sydney – is an international multi-sport event, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports. A considerable proportion of the athletes had reported symptoms, if not the diagnosis, of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is characterized by feelings of panic and extreme fear following a traumatic event. While this is oftentimes accompanied by chronic and clinical levels of distress, comorbid emotional problems, and general interference to daily functioning, we cannot overlook the tenacity demonstrated by those with post-traumatic stress, which captures the essence of the Invictus spirit – “Unconquered, Invincible” in Latin – on or off the sporting field.

The women’s 50m freestyle event, in which 41 year old novice Sarah Robinson and 32 year old relative veteran Poppy Pawsey participated, epitomizes this spirit. Robinson was an army reservist sergeant who proclaimed to be the “top in my field – a feisty girl who feared nothing and no one”, however the onset of anxiety had led to a great struggle with basic functioning as she reportedly withdrew from relationships and into the confines of her home. And Pawsey, formerly part of the Royal Marines but later discharged because of musculoskeletal illness, had likewise reported experiences with emotional difficulties that had once debilitated her.

Pawsey touches the wall at 37.35 seconds, however the finish line was not the end for her; instead she swims back to where Robinson was, albeit fatigued, to accompany her mentee and drive her forward for the remaining 25 meters with incessant encouragement. As Robinson reaches the wall, a proud Pawsey is seen pointing at her comrade while exclaiming “You are awesome!”, words that Robinson then confidently echoed: “Yes, I suppose I was awesome and I am really proud of myself!”

Robinson states in a post-race interview: “That’s the whole thing about the Invictus Games. It doesn’t matter where you come. Yeah I came last, to be honest my goal was to just finish at all. Not be fished out of the pool, not panic. My teammate Poppy who swam back for me, she knows that because we’ve trained together for so long. So she knows my issues, she knows that I have a tendency to panic in the water. But everybody surrounds you, they don’t judge you, they’re there for you, they support you. It’s amazing. I honestly didn’t think I was going to finish.” Presenter and journalist Richard Glover affirms this, with the response that he has seen many events at the Sydney Olympic pool, however this was in his opinion “the best thing I have ever seen”.

In addition to witnessing the raw humanity and camaraderie between the competitors, I was also inspired by the ways in which resilience is exemplified.

Decades of research on resilience has culminated to this definition: An individual’s or group’s process of continual development of personal competence while negotiating available resources in the face of adversity (Worsley, 2010).

According to this model of resilience, the ‘resources’ component of the definition pertains to the 7 external factors of one’s life in which resilience can be developed, illustrated in the outer circle. The ‘competence’ component of the definition is conceptualized as the internal factors of one’s life – which comprises of awareness of one’s relationships (I Have), identity (I Am) and capacities (I Can) – illustrated in the tripartite inner circle of the model.

Applying this model to our ‘case study’:

  • Robinson connected to her strongest external factors (which thus far seem to include – but may not be exclusive to – Partner, Family & Identity, Friends, Community, Skill), even though anxiety had initially disrupted such connections.
  • Not only did she connect to her strong factors, but she combined these strengths in practical ways on a continual basis – for example making a 60 mile commute to train (Skill and Community factors) with her training partner/s including Pawsey (Friends factor), and with the support of her loved ones (Partner and Family & Identity factors).
  • Through connecting with the external factors of her life in meaningful ways, she became aware of, and had continued to develop understanding of the internal factors that drive her: who supports her (I Have), how she sees herself (I Am), and her confidence in her own abilities (I Can).
    “I want to get my identity back – the soldier, the professional, the competitor, the mother. I was someone who was top in her field, but I can’t seem to claw my way back. I need my fight back and make my partner Aaron and my daughters proud of me. Through sport and new challenges I know I can push myself to achieve and change my path for the better”.
  • She did not define success by the conventional means of being better than others with a leading time and rank, but rather with becoming a better version of herself, and in doing so leading others by example.
  • The interactions between the internal and external factors are bidirectional yet compounding: Robinson’s utilization of her strong factors had enhanced sense of self, which in turn allowed her to continue with connecting with her factors in more effective ways. As she connected and combined her factors in more effective ways, it further developed a healthy sense of self, which then had better equipped her to thrive through and beyond adversity.
  • She was realistic in acknowledging the adversity she had experienced, however she refused to be defined by it, instead effectively inoculating herself against it with a combination of her resources and competence, and intentionally using the Invictus Games as a platform to push through the barriers that had once confined her. And she was a success, not because of her adversity, but in spite of it.
  • Past research has focused on the link between the individual’s risk factors and negative life outcomes, and how such vulnerabilities are inversely correlated with resilience. There has been, however, an increasing shift in focus from such risk factors to protective factors and positive prognostic factors, in ways that honour the individual and his/ her agency.
  • Robinson may have finished with last place in her heat, as she openly states, however her resilience and optimistic spirit have surely secured a position in the hearts of many viewers as a good sport and a fit role model.

So in reconciling the underpinnings of resilience with the swimmingly strong example demonstrated by the competitors, here are some points for reflection:

  • What are your best hopes, the metaphorical finish line?
  • What are you already doing that is helpful in progressing towards your best hopes?
  • What does this reflect about your strengths, values and abilities?
  • What are your strongest life factors that will assist you with progressing towards your best hopes? Who is on your team? Who is cheering you on by the sidelines? (This may help you assess yourself on your strongest life factors)
  • How has past adversity enriched you, your life and/or your development? How can your current adversity further enrich you, your life and/or your development?

    Sarah Robinson Invictus Games 2018

    Sarah Robinson came last in the Women's 50m Freestyle. Despite this, her race was easily one of the most beautiful moments at the Invictus Games 2018!

    Posted by ABC Sydney on Thursday, October 25, 2018



Sleep, or the inability to sleep, or sleep well, is not just a physical problem but can also be a psychological issue. In this podcast, Registered psychologist Sarah Piper discusses with Leigh Hatcher, why sleep is important, the various cycles of sleep, tips for helping you get to sleep, sleep hygiene and whether there is any benefit in power naps.


Have you tried Mindfulness but it but found it too difficult? Or thought it didn’t work? Not sure what it’s all about? In this podcast Ruth Fordyce, a registered psychologist at The Resilience Centre, gives an easy to understand and very practical explanation of what Mindfulness is, how it helps and how to do it. She also provides some good advice for those who have given it a go, but didn’t get the results they were expecting.

Juggling Life

By Ivette Moutzouris

I recently came back from a holiday overseas and it amazed me how different the pace was there, even in a major city. It was noticeable different from Sydney where everyone seems to be in mad/manic rush to get somewhere and it appears that we are constantly packing more and more into our lives.

I often like to reflect on what I get out of a trip and what I can bring back with me and this realisation is something that is not new but that still took me by surprise. I believe that we are very goal oriented and future focused and that can be great because it allows us to achieve many things but it also comes with its negatives if we are always on the go, for instance;

  • the inability to slow down and enjoy the now which is a teaching of current streams of thought in Psychology such as Mindfulness.
  • the increased amount of energy and adrenaline that is constantly released in our bodies which can lead to health issues such as reflux, anxiety/stress, and insomnia to name a few.
  • the inability to know how to quieten down and be still and instead feeling the need to constantly be DOING something instead of just being. This can sometimes turn into addictive patterns of behaviour.
  • the ripple affect that this constant tension and activity has on others around us, especially our children, if we don’t learn how to function at a healthier pace. It seems that there is an increased amount of anxiety being experienced by children of all ages because of high expectations and constant busyness and not enough down and leisurely time.
  • the need to alternate from extreme busyness to extreme down time and not learning how to find a balance in between. When we are living at a manic pace we sometimes feel that we need to just switch off to recover and activities such as social media, watching You tube/ TV can be helpful but going from these two extremes isn’t really enjoying and embracing life.
  • The feeling and belief that you need to do more to achieve satisfaction, contentment and/or success in life. This comes at the expense of appreciating the simple everyday things as well as being grateful for the now. I recently heard a wise friend say that we have to learn to be happy with what we have not what we want. This really challenged me and I hope it challenges you too.

So in conclusion I guess I realised that ‘more’ isn’t necessarily ‘more in life’, is it? I have been reminded that I can’t change my world but I can change my attitude, my perspective and my priorities. I will strive to enjoy and appreciate the now more often before it becomes my past and I hope you will learn to slow down too and enjoy the benefits

How to assist meditation using a device called MUSE sensing headband?

Gabriel Wong
Clinical Psychologist

Do you have a Fitbit? I guess many people do.

People nowadays tend to use a fitbit to record how much they have achieved their goals in terms of physical tasks. Have you ever thought of a device that can track your brain activities but not as complicated as doctors use to measure your EEG? Here is the news for you – there is a brain sensing headband called MUSE that can measure your brain activities and guide you through meditation.

We are living in a busy world. We don’t just work for long hours, but we are all stressed up by our work, relationships and our family. We have thought of many forms of activities that can help us relax and relieve our pressure and stress such as drinking, karaoke, yoga, gambling, playing computer games, playing sports, listening to music, etc. Some of these so-called “relaxation activities” may help us just for the short–term, and it may make us feel more tired whether it is physiologically or psychologically after doing it. We all know that meditation does help us relax and feel calm, as well as building our attention span and sense of awareness, i.e. insight, but it is difficult for us to focus during mediation. We might keep ruminating and be distracted during meditation. Fortunately, there is a new form of device that can assist us during meditation and can bring a sense of tranquillity to us. This device is called MUSE – a sensing Headband that can pick up brain signals through the use of seven sensors along our pre-frontal lobe, and transforms the signals into sounds that we can choose to listen during meditation through downloading the free app.

Just connect the MUSE headband to your phone via Bluetooth, and then wear the headband along your pre-frontal lobe, and adjust it to the right gear. Open the app on your phone and close your eyes. Take a three-minute break and let the headband guide you in focusing attention. Next you will feel like you are on an open beach. The changes of the sound reflect the state of your brain. You can try to stabilize the sound to control your mental state and enter into the meditation world.

When it is over, you can look at the app on your phone, and you can notice changes in your brain waves and breathing throughout the entire process. This headband can work with the matching Calm App, which connects to iOS or Android devices via Bluetooth. Every time before using this App, you must first calibrate the MUSE headband. The calibration method allows the App to record the activity of the user’s brain: the user must close his eyes, wear a headband, and follow the audio guidance for brainstorming tasks within a minute or so. After the app completes the calibration, it will guide you through three-minute training. The purpose is to reduce your stress and anxiety and improve your concentration. The app will ask the user to try not to think about anything, counting from 1 to 10 and counting their own breathing to start from the beginning. Of course, we can do this training anytime and anywhere. Muse allows the users to see their performance on their app. The user will notice that the brain is easily distracted during this training. A little voice or thought will interrupt the task and have to refocus. This Calm App will provide immediate feedback based on your performance.

If our brain is calm and focused, it will emit soft, breezy sounds; and the more active the brain, the louder it will be. When we reach a long period of calm and concentration, it will make birdie singing voices. How wonderful it is to guide us during meditation!

According to Ariel Garten, president of InterAxon, said that it was normal for the first time to try it on. This is to provide a platform for us to make progress. As long as we continue to use it, the ability of the user’s brain to remain calm and focused will increase. Garten continues to demonstrate other functions of the Calm App, including providing feedback on training results, recording long-term performance of the user, setting up milestones, and rewarding levels, as well as providing advice to users on how to improve performance during training. Many users at the Wearable Technology Research Show said that after trying Muse, they feel more calm and clearer.

Watch this video to see how the MUSE works .

Research has been done by a neuroscientist Olav Krigolson and his team from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada using a Muse headband to measure the monks’ brain activity at rest, during meditation and while playing video games in the remote village of Namche, Nepal in May 2016. The data recorded through the MUSE headband indicated that the monks’ brains were still very active during meditation; however they found out that their brains were more relaxed, focused and in sync during meditation. They also noticed there was a carry-over effect that after meditation, their neurons were more responsive to visual stimuli when they were playing video games while still putting on the MUSE headband. Although it is still in the early stage, they suggested that meditation may “stave off” the effect of aging.

Another research project tried to test the accuracy of Muse, such as quietly reading a book, but it was found that brain wave calmness index was only 26%. Perhaps this was because the participants were thinking about the content of the book. After more trials, the participants were asked to take a deep breath while they were still reading the book. The results showed that it was close to the meditation test, and it obtained the highest score of 78%. This experience proved that Muse could indeed feel our brain wave changes.

The Muse Headband combines meditation relaxation with wearable technology to give users insight into their brain activity. In the same way that a heart monitor works, the external device can detect changes in the electric field in the human brain. Human brain signals can reflect their own stress levels.

How can Muse meditation headband improve our meditation sessions?
The Muse headband helps us become better at meditation and mindfulness. It assists us to improve our focus on breathing and make sure our mind does not wander off during the meditation. We can also do multiple sessions per day and analyse how our focus change between different times of the day. It was also observed during the research with a MUSE headband, that some people presented with a state of hyper excitation which in return leads to a longer meditation session.

Macquarie University Library also lends the MUSE sensing headband to their students to help their meditation in the library. The Department of Psychology has purchased a few of them and students can borrow it through the library borrowing system. The MUSE sensing headband has become a personal meditation assistant.

(I have to stress that I do not have any connection with the company who sells this devise MUSE. I have used it to help my mediation, and I would like to share with people who are interested in practising meditation.)

MUSE (2018). Retrieved from

Techcrunch (2018). MUSE brain sensing headband. Retrieved from

Navigating Gaming

Video games are much more pervasive today than many parents realise.. and while there are risks and dangers for our kids – they’re not all that bad. In this podcast on Resilience Radio, Adam Wright, a clinical psychologist at The Resilience Centre takes us into the amazing world of video games. He explains how boundaries can be sensibly set – and explores ways that parents can immerse themselves in these games with their kids!

Raising Children in a Digital Age

‘Raising’ versus ‘managing’ children? Parents are more and more crying out for help and wisdom when it comes to their kids and the digital world. Our Resilience Centre Director, Lyn Worsley has passed on very practical wisdom to many parents, both at the Centre and in presentations at schools. In this podcast Lyn offers the key to it all – how to ‘raise kids to be healthy and hope-filled’ – instead of ‘managing’ them!