Avoiding the hyper-parenting trap

As we enter the home run for 2020 and start to gear up for Christmas – spare a thought for your pre-schooler’s mental health.

It is saddening to know that 1 in 7 primary school children in Australia struggle with poor mental health*. It’s a very fast-paced adult world we live in – and children don’t thrive when the expectations are high and unscheduled time with loved ones is low.

If you ask any early childhood educator, they will admit that most children’s behaviour towards the end of year gets a little ratty. Lets face-it – we all get a bit ratty and unravelled when we’re feeling under pressure. There are wind-up events and Christmas concerts, end of year assessments, the last sports game, the last report, the last hurrah before the extended family start debating whose turn it is to host Christmas dinner…are we passing this angst and frazzle forward?

Added to the usual end-of-year wind-up spare a thought for the year that has been. We are in the lucky State where we have held COVID-19 at bay and no longer are we in home isolation. But have we forgotten the abrupt halt of shared community life in March, widespread work and income insecurity and a long winter holding the very real fear of losing a loved one? Looking ahead there is a still a lot of uncertainty on the horizon, but this is something we adults need to contain and seek support to manage, while still leaving room to play and delight in our children.

To support you and your family as we head into the summer festive season, here are three tips.

Limit Scheduled Activities

Think long and hard before you sign up to another event or activity. Enriching opportunities are great. But taking a reluctant or tired child to a high brow learning experience is likely to end in tears and frustration. One of the most nourishing experiences (that they will remember for a lifetime) is the undivided attention of their loved-one.

Be Present

Put down the phone. Find yourself a comfy spot in the playroom and just press pause. In Mother-Baby Nurture group we have a weekly 5-minute ritual where we invite mothers to sit quietly and watch.

What might you discover if you choose to look at your child with fresh eyes of curiosity? What do you notice? If you find your mind races to the next task OR notices your child’s performance and you start rating it ok/not ok – take a breath and bring your mind back to the child that is before you. Be curious. Watch them with wonder. Ask yourself: “I wonder what they are experiencing right now? I wonder what they enjoy about x?”  The word curiosity in Irish Gaelic means “To Watch with Wonder”.  What a gift for a child to experience.


Lets remind ourselves – family is not about achievement – and parenting is not about the tasks – it’s about connection. It’s a big, wide world out there and our children need to know we have their back. They are not alone with whatever feeling and experience might come their way. We as parents are there for them – a safe base to cheer them on when they attempt a new challenge and also when the wheels fall-off and they need a safe haven and support to make sense of their big emotions.


Upon reflection, us adults need this stuff just as much as our children do. If you feel parched or a little begrudging as you read the above, perhaps you are tuning in to your need for some self-kindness. So don’t forget to take the time out for yourself too. A wise grandmother once said, “you can’t pour from an empty jug!”


1 https://youngmindsmatter.telethonkids.org.au/siteassets/media-docs—young-minds-matter/summarybookletweb.pdf