7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school


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Mandie Shean, Edith Cowan University

As COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted, some children may experience social anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.

People with social anxiety may fear embarrassment or the expectation to perform in social situations, or worry exceedingly about people judging you poorly.

In certain situations, people with anxiety may find their heart beats quicker as adrenalin is released into their blood stream, more oxygen flows to the blood and brain, and even digestion may slow down.




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These are helpful responses if you need to run away or fight danger. But social situations are generally not life threatening, and these physical symptoms can interfere with socialising.

People with social anxiety may fear looking silly, being judged, laughed at or being the focus of attention. For anyone, such experiences might be unwelcome but for those with social anxiety they pose an unacceptable threat.

Social anxiety in Australian children

One Australian report found that about 6.9% of children and adolescents surveyed have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, 4.3% experience separation anxiety and 2.3% a social phobia.

Social phobia (social anxiety) is more common in adolescents, whereas separation anxiety (intense anxiety over leaving caregivers, such as parents) is more prevalent in children.

These figures only account for those who have a diagnosis of anxiety. They do not include undiagnosed young people who experience high stress in social situations.

Not all children will be happy to be back in school.
Tom Wang/Shutterstock

Any recent prolonged absence from school may have increased social anxiety, as avoiding what you fear can make your fear become greater.

This is because you do not get to learn that the thing you fear is actually safe. Your beliefs about the threat go unchallenged.

Anxiety can also increase through what pyschologists call reduced tolerance. The more children withdraw from the situations that cause them fear, the less tolerance they have for those situations.

Anxiety can affect education

The educational cost for students with anxiety is considerable.

The research shows students with poor mental health can be between seven to 11 months behind in Year 3, and 1.5 – 2.8 years behind by Year 9.




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That’s because these students experience more absences from school, poorer connection to school, lower levels of belonging and less engagement with schoolwork.

7 strategies to help overcome social anxiety

So what can children do to overcome anxiety as they return to school? Here are some useful tips.

  1. deal with some of the physical symptoms. It is hard to think if your body is stressed. Use calming strategies like mindfulness or breathing exercises. Slowing your breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion. Useful apps to help you control your breathing include Smiling Mind (iOS and Android) or Breathing Bubbles (Android only).

  2. anxiety increases while using avoidance techniques such as avoiding eye contact, not raising your hand to answer a question, or not attending school. So the most effective way to deal with social anxiety might be to face it. Allow your child to have small experiences of social success – give their opinion to one person, start a conversation with someone they know – so they can learn to feel safe in these social situations.

  3. fear and anxiety are normal and benefit us by helping us to respond efficiently to danger. Rather than read your body as under threat, think about the changes as helpful. Your body is preparing you for action.

  4. while avoiding your fears is not the answer, being fully exposed to them is not the answer either. Providing overwhelming social experiences may lead to overwhelming fear and failure, and may make anxiety sufferers less likely to try again – or at all. Start small and build their courage.

  5. supportive listening and counselling are less effective than facing your fears because these approaches can accommodate the fears. While you want to support your child by providing them with comfort and encouragement – ensure you also encourage them to face the fears that cause the anxiety.

  6. you cannot promise negative things won’t happen. It is possible you will be embarrassed or be judged. Rather than try to avoid these events, try reframing them. Remember that that we all experience negative social feedback, and this does not make you silly or of less value. It makes you normal. Or, rather than see it as embarrassing, maybe it can be funny.

  7. remember it is the “perception” that something is a threat – not the reality. Reasoning with your child to help them see your perspective may not change theirs. This reality only changes with positive real experiences.

Breathing Bubbles in action.

What we think is truth is often revealed as untrue when we face our fears. There is joy in social situations. Keep turning up to them.




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The Conversation


Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Students less focused, empathetic and active than before – technology may be to blame



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Pasi Sahlberg, UNSW and Adrian Piccoli, UNSW

Teachers say most students have lost the ability to focus, are less empathetic and spend less time on physical activity.

These are some of the results from our Growing Up Digital Australia study, in which we surveyed almost 2,000 teachers and school leaders across Australia.

We asked them how students from primary school to year 12 have changed in the last five years, and what might explain these changes.

Nearly four out of five teachers said they saw a decrease in students’ ability to focus on learning tasks, 80% saw a decline in students’ empathy and 60% observed students spending less time on physical activity.




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These downward trends could be caused by many factors. But a good starting point is to look at the undeniably biggest change in children’s lives in the last decade – screen technology.

Growing up digital

Educational technologies have opened new opportunities for teaching and learning.

Teachers use technology to make complicated content more understandable, students learn how to communicate their knowledge across digital platforms like podcasts, and schools use technology to report students’ performance.

But a 24/7 connection to the internet comes with possible downsides too. Researchers and health experts around the world have expressed concerns about the possible consequences of heavy screen use on children.

The steady increase in depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health issues among young people has been well reported. And researchers have debated whether screens may be a possible reason for young people’s declining mental health.




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It is hard to prove a direct causal link between worsening health outcomes and extended time spent on digital devices. But we can learn much about these complex relationships by exploring views and experiences of teachers, parents and young people themselves.

So, what do we know?

According to a recent poll by the Royal Children’s Hospital, 95% of high-school students, two-thirds of primary school children and one-third of preschoolers own a screen-based digital device.

In an earlier study we found 92% of Australian parents think smartphones and social media have reduced time children have for physical activity and outdoor play.

Most children in Australia own a digital device.
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Four out of five parents said social media was a distraction in their child’s life, that impacted negatively on their well-being and family relations.

Another survey showed young people spend one-third of their time awake staring at screens.

In the Growing Up Digital in Australia study, 84% of teachers said digital technologies were a growing distraction in the learning environment.

One teacher told us:

The numbers of students with cognitive, social and behavioural difficulties has increased noticeably. Students appear to have more difficulty concentrating, making connections, learning with enthusiasm and increasing boredom in school.

Similar results were found in a study in Alberta, Canada in 2015.

Our data tells us more than 90% of teachers think the number of children with these kinds of challenges has increased over the last five years. Anxiety among students was also a common concern.

What parents can do

As most Australian children are studying from home this term, and perhaps next, parents will most likely make similar observations of their children – both positive and negative – as the teachers in our study.

Parents might see how fluently children use technologies to learn new concepts. They may also notice how hard or easy it is for their children to concentrate and stay away from the distracting parts of their digital devices.

If a child can’t get through all the tasks their teacher assigns them, it’s important for parents to know this doesn’t mean they are a poor learner or failing student.

Parents can try to understand how children feel about learning – what makes it interesting, what makes it boring and what makes it challenging. A student could be finding it difficult to get a task done due to distractions. The best help in that case is to support the child to stay away from the causes of distraction, which may be their smartphones.

Teachers should also, as much as possible, design learning activities with elements that don’t require any technology. For example, projects that include building, drawing or communicating with others at home can be easily done without devices.




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Parents and teachers can work together to find smart ways to teach children safe and responsible use of media and digital technologies. Learning to regulate our own screen behaviours as adults and modelling this behaviour to our children can be a much more effective strategy than simply banning devices.

Studying from home can also be a good opportunity to help children learn to cook, play music or engage in other home-based activities we may wish we had time for but tend to void in our busy daily schedules.

Spending more time with children – with technology and without it – is now more important than ever.

Perhaps the best way to improve the quality of Australian education is to change how we do things. We should understand children are not who they used to be and better learning requires changing the ways both adults and children live with digital devices.The Conversation

Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education Policy, UNSW and Adrian Piccoli, Professor of Practice, School of Education, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

5 reasons it’s safe for kids to go back to school



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Asha Bowen, Telethon Kids Institute; Christopher Blyth, University of Western Australia, and Kirsty Short, The University of Queensland

In mid March, cases of COVID-19 – the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 – dramatically increased in Australia and the government responded with an effective public health strategy. People who could, shifted to working from home, social distancing measures were applied and Australians experienced life in isolation.

Somewhere in the mix, kids stopped attending school. While the federal government has consistently maintained it is safe for schools to remain open, other states like Victoria and NSW told parents to keep their children at home if they could.

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We are now in a different phase of the pandemic in Australia. With cases dropping, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced students would be making a staggered approach back to classrooms from the third week of the second term – initially for one day a week, then for more time on campus as the term progresses. Schools in Western Australia reopen on Wednesday April, 29.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the same social distancing rules as in the community did not apply in the classroom. He said:

The 1.5m in classrooms and the four square metre rule is not a requirement of the expert medical advice for students in classrooms.

Closure of schools has meant kids not seeing their friends and a disruption to their usual education routine.

For some children fears of violence, hunger and lack of safety, that are usually modified through school attendance, have become more real. Inequality and mental health needs have likely become more apparent for some children.




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The federal and state governments who say it is safe for children to return to school are working off the latest evidence. Here are five reasons we know it’s safe.

1. Kids get infected with coronavirus at much lower rates than adults

This is the case in Australia and throughout the world. There are no clear explanations for this yet, but it is a consistent finding across the pandemic.

Although SARS-CoV-2 can cause COVID-19 in school-aged children, it rarely does and children with the disease have mild symptoms.

Fewer than 150 children below 15 years have been infected with SARS-COV-2 in Australia since the pandemic began. This is compared to the 6,695 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia at 25 April, 2020.

2. Children rarely get severely ill from COVID-19

Data from around the world and Australia have confirmed children very rarely require hospitalisation, and generally only experience mild symptoms, when infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Deaths in children due to COVID-19 are incredibly rare. Very few children globally have been confirmed to have died from the virus (around 20 by our calculations), in comparison to more than 200,000 overall deaths.

Many parents have worried their kids’ friends could be infected with the virus without showing symptoms. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. A study in Iceland showed children without symptoms were not detected to have COVID-19. No child below ten years of age without symptoms was found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 in this study.

3. Children don’t spread COVID-19 disease like adults

During the yearly flu season, children spread the flu to friends and grandparents alike. But COVID-19 behaves differently. In household clusters in China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Iran, fewer than 10% of children were the primary spreader – meaning the virus goes from adult to adult much more effectively than from children to other children, or even children to adults. The same has been found in new studies in The Netherlands.

We still don’t know why this is. It takes us all by surprise as kids with snotty noses are always blamed (and probably responsible) for driving the annual round of winter coughs and colds.

4. School children in Australia with COVID-19 haven’t spread it to others

Schools where cases have been diagnosed in Australia have not seen any evidence of secondary spread.

This means even with kids sitting right next to each other in the classroom, they are very unlikely to infect their friends.

5. There is no evidence closing schools will control transmission

Modelling shows only a small incremental public health benefit to closing schools in the case of usual respiratory viruses such as influenza. But COVID-19 is quite different to flu, so any of the benefits seen for influenza are likely to be even less in the case of COVID-19.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, school transmission was not found to be a significant contributor to the outbreak and school closures did not influence the control of transmission.

Back to school doesn’t mean back to normal

Schools reopening does not mean a return to education as it was before. Other measures may also be put in place, like staggering lunch breaks, limiting face to face contact between staff and parents and regular hand-washing breaks.

Kids with a cold or other symptoms must stay home from school. And older teachers or those with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of complications if infected with SARS-CoV-2 will have altered responsibilities.

It is important parents and the public differentiate between schools reopening from all the other important strategies used to reduce transmission still in place. These include social distancing, travel restrictions, case isolation and quarantine, and banning of large gatherings.




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But returning to schools is safe. Our leaders are advised on this issue by some of the best infectious diseases, public health and microbiology physicians in Australia, who have repeatedly said that schools can safely remain open.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has provided sensible advice for schools to reopen. It makes sense to get our kids back to doing what they do best.


Correction: the article originally stated children in NSW would start returning to schools in term one.The Conversation

Asha Bowen, Head, Skin Health, Telethon Kids Institute; Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist, University of Western Australia, and Kirsty Short, Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Should I let my kid climb trees? We asked five experts



Falls are the main reason for childhood injuries, but kids usually recover.
from shutterstock.com

Sasha Petrova, The Conversation

We often remember childhood as a time when life seemed infinite and adventures in our backyard felt expansive, as if we were exploring other worlds.

Climbing a tree was its own adventure. You could discover what you were capable of, while also getting the chance to see the world from a different vantage point.

Of course, sometimes you’d fall. But that’s to be expected – there’s a risk in every journey of discovery.

Parents want their children to enjoy the same joys of childhood they look back on fondly, but many struggle with getting the balance right – how much freedom can you give while also making sure your child is safe?

We asked five experts – including a paediatric surgeon who operates on children who’ve fallen out of a tree – if it’s OK to let kids climb trees.

Five out of five experts said yes

Although, in every case, it’s a yes, but…

Here are their detailed responses:


If you have a “yes or no” education question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: sasha.petrova@theconversation.edu.au


Disclosures: Shelby Laird is a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education as well as its local affiliate, Environmental Educators of North Carolina.The Conversation

Sasha Petrova, Section Editor: Education, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How other countries get parents to vaccinate their kids (and what Australia can learn)



Different countries take different approaches to get parents to vaccinate their children. But saying which one works best is difficult.
from www.shutterstock.com

Katie Attwell, University of Western Australia and Mark Navin, Oakland University

Countries around the world, including Australia, are using different ways to get parents to vaccinate their children.

Our new research, published this week in the journal Milbank Quarterly, looks at diverse mandatory vaccination policies across the world. We explore whether different countries mandate many vaccines, or just a few; if there are sanctions for not vaccinating, such as fines; and how easy it is for parents to get out of vaccinating.

This is part of ongoing research to see what Australia could learn from other countries’ attempts to increase childhood vaccination rates.




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The shift from voluntary vaccination

Until recently, many governments preferred vaccination to be voluntary. They relied on persuasion and encouragement to try to overcome parents’ hesitancy or refusal to vaccinate their children.

However, recent measles outbreaks have made those methods less politically tenable. The rise of pro-vaccination activism and the polarisation of public debate about immunisation policy has motivated governments to take a more hard-line approach.




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Early evidence from Italy, France, California and Australia indicates this has led to higher vaccination rates. But different countries have pursued very different policies.

Australia’s federal “No Jab, No Pay” policy removes entitlements and childcare subsidies from unvaccinated families. Four Australian states also have “No Jab, No Play” policies to limit vaccine refusers’ access to childcare.




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California bans unvaccinated children from school, and Italy fines their parents. France classifies vaccine refusal as “child endangerment” and can impose hefty fines.

Some governments can use more than one method at once, like Australia’s mix of state and federal policies. Italy’s new policy uses a combination of excluding unvaccinated children from daycare and fines for parents.

Making it hard to refuse

Australia, Italy, France and California make it difficult for parents to refuse vaccines by only permitting medical exemptions to their mandatory policies.

However, other jurisdictions ultimately allow parents to refuse vaccines, albeit using different methods. For example, Germany and the state of Washington require parents to be counselled by medical professionals before they obtain an exemption to vaccinating their child. In Michigan, public health staff provide a mandatory education course for parents seeking non-medical exemptions.

Which policy leads parents to vaccinate?

We can assess a policy to get parents to vaccinate using a notion called “salience”. Put simply, will a vaccination policy actually make parents vaccinate?

For example, Australia’s federal vaccine mandate has become more salient since parents can no longer obtain conscientious objections and risk losing benefits for not vaccinating.

But there are other factors to consider, such as whether a policy promotes timely vaccination.

Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” policy applies to children from birth, so it motivates parents to vaccinate on time. But the United States has state-level policies that prompt parents to have their children up-to-date with their vaccinations when they start daycare or primary school.

Who doesn’t have to vaccinate?

Another important question is who gets to duck away from the hand of government. Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” policy leaves wealthy vaccine refusers untouched as they are ineligible for the means-tested benefits docked from unvaccinated families.

And Australian states’ policies to exclude vaccine refusers’ children from daycare doesn’t affect families who don’t use daycare.

Since France and California exclude unvaccinated children from school, these countries have the capacity to reach parents more equitably (almost everyone wants to send their kids to school so more people are incentivised to vaccinate). In both places, you can homeschool if you really don’t want to vaccinate.

Addressing the many reasons for not vaccinating

Mandatory vaccination policies also need to recognise the two types of parent whose child might be unvaccinated. Much airtime focuses on vaccine refusers. However, at least half the children who are not up-to-date with their vaccines face barriers to accessing vaccination, such as social disadvantage or logistical problems getting to a clinic. They are the children of underprivileged parents, not vaccine refusers.

When it comes to the vaccination status of disadvantaged children entering daycare, Australian states have chosen a “light touch” as part of the “No Jab, No Play” policy. Existing state policies provide grace periods or exemptions for these families.

But the federal “No Jab, No Pay” hits all parents where it hurts, and offers no exemptions or grace periods to disadvantaged families. Likewise, California’s school entry mandate makes no such exceptions. Italy and France have daycare exclusions similar to “No Jab, No Play” in their policies, but we have not found any evidence they make exceptions for disadvantaged families.




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Finally, mandatory vaccination policies vary on how much they cost for governments to deliver. Oversight of parents, such as inspections or implementing fines, can drain government resources. And educational programs for parents seeking exemptions are expensive to run.

Governments can outsource some of these costs to parents (for instance, parents may have to pay a fee to see a doctor for an exemption).

Governments can also hand over the tasks to medical professionals, but then they have less control over what these professionals do. For instance, California is now seeking tighter regulation of doctors who say children are eligible for medical exemptions. This monitoring will cost the state, but will allow greater oversight. Victoria also had problems with doctors who accommodated vaccine refusers.

So where does this leave us?

Our work investigating international strategies to get parents to vaccinate their children is ongoing. Australians seem strongly attached to our vaccine mandates. But both state and federal policies have undergone tweaks since their inception.

Any future adjustments should ensure all parents are targeted, that disadvantaged families are not further disadvantaged, and that we make it very easy for everybody to access vaccines in their communities and on time.

Globally, as more jurisdictions move away from voluntary child vaccination to mandatory policies, we need to get a clearer picture of how these policies work for families, government and the policy enforcers, including school staff and health professionals.The Conversation

Katie Attwell, Senior Lecturer, University of Western Australia and Mark Navin, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Oakland University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Electronic games: how much is too much for kids?



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When played in moderation, electronic games can be beneficial for children’s learning and development.
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Sue Walker, Queensland University of Technology and Susan Danby, Queensland University of Technology

Most parents view their children’s playing of electronic games as potentially problematic – or even dangerous. Yet many children are engaging with electronic games more frequently than ever.

Concerns about electronic gaming do not stack up against the research. So, how much gaming is too much for young children?

Electronic games (also called computer or digital games) are found in 90% of households in Australia. 65% of households have three or more game devices. Given this prevalence, it’s timely to look more closely at electronic game playing and what it really means for children’s development and learning.

A study of more than 3,000 children participating in the Growing Up in Australia: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children explored children’s electronic gaming. This national sample was broadly representative of the Australian population.

The study had two phases:

  • parents reported on their children’s use of electronic games when their children were eight or nine years of age; and

  • teachers reported two years later on these children’s social and emotional development and academic achievement, when the children were 10 or 11.

How much time do kids spend gaming?

As the table below shows, there was wide variation in the number of hours per week the children spent playing electronic games.

Most children (52%) played electronic games for four or fewer hours per week. But nearly one-year of the children (24%) were reported as playing electronic games for more than seven hours per week.

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How much time should kids spend gaming?

Taking into account family background and parental education, the good news is that low-to-moderate use of electronic games (between two and four hours per week) had a positive effect on children’s later academic achievement.

However, over-use of electronic games (more than seven hours per week) had a negative effect on children’s social and emotional development.

Children whose parents reported they played electronic games for two-to-four hours per week were identified by their teachers as showing better literacy and mathematical skills.

Surprisingly, children who were reported as playing electronic games infrequently or not at all (less than two hours per week) did not appear to benefit in terms of literacy or mathematics achievement.

However, children whose parents reported that they played electronic games for more than one hour per day were identified two years later by their teachers as having poor attention span, less ability to stay on task, and displaying more emotional difficulties.

As the graphs below show, moderate game playing was associated with the most benefits both academically and emotionally.

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Are some games better than others?

It is likely that the relationship between the use of electronic games and children’s academic and developmental outcomes is far from straightforward. The quality of electronic games and the family context play important roles.

Electronic games known as sandbox games are recognised as offering opportunities for collaboration with others while engaging in creative and problem solving activities. One of the well-known examples of a sandbox game is Minecraft.

Social interactions are important in supporting children’s engagement in electronic games. A closer examination of children’s experiences at home may be beneficial in understanding the context of gaming in everyday life.

Often viewed as a leisure activity, studies show that when parents and siblings participate in the game playing, they offer opportunities to negotiate with each other, and engage in conversations and literacy practices. All of these potentially contribute to the child’s language, literacy and social development.

It is important to note that while we know the amount of time children spent playing electronic games, we do not know the detail of the kinds of games that were being played, with whom they were being played, or even the device on which they were played.

The ConversationThis contextual information is clearly relevant for consideration in any further research that explores the relationship across children’s electronic game playing, learning, and wellbeing.

Sue Walker, Professor, School of Early Childhood, Queensland University of Technology and Susan Danby, Professor of Education, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How we can help refugee kids to thrive in Australia


Karen Zwi, UNSW

When we think about refugee children’s health, we tend to assume bad news. But refugee children are highly resilient. This means they can thrive, mature and develop despite poor circumstances, and can adapt despite severe and long-term hardship.

Our newly published research is the first of its kind to track the long-term health of newly arrived refugee children in Australia.

We showed which children tend to do well in the community, and the factors that predict this. We also give evidence for what Australia can do to help all refugee children thrive in the longer term.

Who are these refugee children and their families?

Between May 2009 and April 2013, a total of 228 refugee children under 15 years, who were granted refugee status under Australia’s humanitarian program, arrived in our study area. We followed 61 of these children for three years. None of them had been detained for any length of time, as they had been granted refugee status overseas and flown to Australia.

The children were on average six years old, with equal numbers of boys and girls. They came from south-east Asia (46%), Africa (33%) and the eastern Mediterranean (21%) regions (as defined by the World Health Organisation).

When they arrived, 30% of children were living in a family with one parent absent (almost always the father).

Many parents had high levels of education (20% had university or trade qualifications) and had been employed before coming to Australia; only 6% had no education and 20% reported unemployment in their home countries.

What physical and mental health issues did we see?

We checked the children’s physical health when they arrived and their development and social-emotional well-being over the next two and three years after settling in Australia.

Refugee children have well known physical, mental and developmental health issues, and our research supported this.

Iron and vitamin D deficiency were the most common conditions we saw. Only a few children had infectious conditions needing treatment.

After two and three years in Australia, most parents said their child had good access to primary health care and visited their GP every one to four months. About half the children had visited a dentist.

About a quarter of young children had developmental delay (mostly delayed speech and language) at the start, but all had caught up by their third year in Australia.

However, children’s social and emotional wellbeing was most strikingly affected by their refugee experiences. After two years of being in Australia, over 20% of children were experiencing emotional symptoms (such as sadness or fear) and/or peer problems (like difficulties making friends).

But by year three, these problems had decreased to below 10%, no different to the general Australian population, illustrating their resilience.

Which children do well and not so well?

Many studies have highlighted factors that make it more likely for refugee children to have poor health and well-being. These include economic and social conditions related to where people come from and where they settle.

We cannot change certain factors before children arrive, like pre-migration violence. But we can change factors once they’re here. In fact, research suggests post-arrival factors have a bigger impact than pre-arrival factors on refugee well-being.

Post-arrival factors that lead to poor outcomes include: time in immigration detention, exposure to violence post-migration, family separation, poor mental health of carers, negative school and peer experiences, perceived discrimination, parental unemployment, fall in socio-economic status and financial stress.

The most common stressful life events children and families experienced in our study were changes in the child’s school and home, parental unemployment, marital separation and financial stress.

For instance, single parent families became more common (38%) three years after settlement, largely due to marital breakdown; almost all families were receiving government financial benefits and living in rented accommodation two and three years after settling; half of the families had a weekly income under A$800, about 30% below the average weekly income in Australia; and unemployment was high (by year three, only 12% of parents were employed, mainly in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs).

Refugee children with stable accommodation tend to do better than those forced to move home multiple times.
from shutterstock,com

Researchers have also identified factors linked with better outcomes and resilience, and that increase the chance of good health and well-being.

These include living close to the family’s own ethnic community and having external support from the general community.

In our study, most families (more than 80%) knew someone in Australia before immigrating and felt supported by either their own ethnic (more than 73%) or the general community (more than 63%). Most parents said Australians displayed tolerance towards people of other religions, cultures and nationalities (more than 78%), although several volunteered anecdotes of their perception of discrimination related to property rental.

What can we do to make a lasting difference?

By addressing the factors that predict poor health and enhancing those that predict a good outcome, we can make a significant difference to refugee children’s lives.

Our research and others’ shows what policymakers and governments can do to help refugee children thrive in Australia. We need to:

  • integrate children and families into host communities
  • support families to stay intact
  • provide stable settlement with minimal relocations
  • support children’s education
  • support parents’ employment
  • ensure access to health, social and economic resources
  • reduce post-migration exposure to violence and threat, including detention, racism and bullying.

The ConversationIf these recommendations are implemented, it is very likely refugee children can realise the resilience they bring with them to Australia.

Karen Zwi, Paediatrician and Associate Professor, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.