Building resilience and wellbeing in the early years: Coping strategies for parents and children from CALD backgrounds

Content type
Event date

27 February 2019, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Erica Frydenberg, Janice Deans




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This webinar was held on 27 February 2019.

Parenting in the early years can be a challenging time for parents as they navigate a range of issues relating to their child’s development. Parenting programs aim to address these challenges by building parenting skills and capacity in order to help support parents in their role.

This time can be particularly challenging for parents from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds as tensions between mainstream Australian norms and cultural practices arise and recently arrived migrants commonly experience social isolation as a result of moving to a new country. There are barriers that prevent CALD parents from accessing the culturally appropriate support they need.

This webinar discussed an approach to productive parenting in early childhood that incorporates principles of positive psychology and productive coping skills for families with young children. This approach was illustrated using a case example of an innovative early years productive parenting program adapted for parents from CALD backgrounds attending a playgroup in Melbourne, Australia. Research findings which indicate that parents benefit from being introduced to culturally sensitive parenting skills and that highlight the efficacy of practical resources to support communication between parents and children were also discussed.

Audio transcript (edited)


Hi everyone and welcome to today's webinar, "Building resilience in the early years; coping strategies for parents and children from culturally and linguistically diverse or CALD backgrounds." My name is Alissar El-Murr and I'm a senior research officer here at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we are meeting. In Melbourne the traditional custodians are the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past and present. 
I would also like to acknowledge Elders from other communities who may be listening and any future leaders who might be joining us today. Today's webinar will discuss an approach to productive parenting in early childhood that incorporates principles of positive psychology and productive coping skills for families with young children. This approach will be illustrated using a case example of an innovative early years productive parenting program adapted for parents from CALD backgrounds attending a playgroup in Melbourne.

I am joined here today at AIFS by our presenters, Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg and Dr Janice Deans. Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg is an educational, clinical and conversational psychologist who has practised extensively in the Australian educational setting. She is a Principal Research Fellow and Associate Professor of Psychology at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, and as an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. Dr Janice Deans is the Director of the Early Learning Centre based at the University of Melbourne. She is a long-time advocate for teaching and learning through the arts and has worked locally and internationally in early childhood, primary, tertiary and special education settings.

We encourage you to send through your questions via the chat box at any time during the webinar. We will compile them for the presenters to answer at the end of their presentations. Please let us know if you do not want your question published on the online forum following the presentation. You can do this just by making a note in the text box. Please remember that all our webinars are recorded and that we make available the audio transcript and slides on our website and YouTube channel. Now to the main event. Please join me in giving our presenters Erica and Janice a very warm virtual welcome.


Thank you everyone. It is indeed a pleasure and where Erica and I are very happy that you have joined us today and we're looking forward to sharing our work with you. As an advanced organiser I think it's important for you to just get a sense of what's going to follow in this seminar. To begin with we're going to introduce you to the principles behind positive psychology and how they impact on positive parenting. We're going to look at what we mean by coping and introduce you to the notion of productive and non-productive coping. We're going to give you some takeaway, one in particular the Early Years Coping Cards which are readily available for use in diverse settings.

We're going to introduce you to the families coping manual that has been developed by Erica and can be used by parents, educators or therapists. And we're going to introduce you to the case study from practical perspective of working with culturally and linguistically diverse parents. The can-do parenting tips are also included. So the main aim is for both of us to leave you with some really concrete tools that you can enjoy working in your various areas. So I will introduce you to Erica who will just take away the pillars of positive psychology.


Good afternoon participants, and as Jan pointed out, this is our journey adapting the work that we have done in areas of parenting for a particular population. So we want to share that journey with you and really give you the message that resources are available and the generic principles of good parenting can be adapted to a CALD population. And in fact to any community, because when we talk about a CALD population, and that will become evident as we go through the presentation, we are really talking about parents from diverse backgrounds. But the group that participated in our program, some of them were from Australia, some from New Zealand and some from various communities, the new immigrant groups. So it is really a diverse population.

But what underpins our work is positive psychology that I am having trouble getting to the next slide. But I've been working in the field of coping for a long time and coping are the skills and resources that are underpinned by positive psychology. And positive psychology is really about positive emotions and experience and here we talk about satisfaction, pleasure and hope which are important for individuals. They're important in the parenting context. Positive characteristics like strengths, virtues and abilities and we really want people to identify their own strengths as parents and their own strengths within the communities and the strength of their children. And positive institution, communities that are going to be helpful in fostering happiness. There is a reference there, Martin Seligman, who is really the father of positive psychology, and he's written multiple popular books that are available for you to follow through. Characteristics, satisfaction, pleasure and hope as mentioned, and this is just reinforcement, strengths, virtues and abilities, and institutions like communities. But we are focusing on a health and well-being model. So you will hear well-being throughout the presentation.

So this is just an expansion of the positive psychology pillars, about virtue, finding meaning, really finding meaning, satisfaction, purpose are important. Resilience is really - for me resilience is an outcome, coping is the process by which people become resilient, they can bounce back through adversity. So in order to build resilience I'm always talking about the coping process. Helpful coping and unhelpful coping. And well-being as I mentioned, it's really about the positive aspects of human life and endeavour. So part of all this positive psychology of course is relationship building, parenting is about relationships, living in a community is about relationships. So we're looking at building positive helpful relationships. Looking at strength and building strengths and resilience or good coping resources. And we want to actually have a shared language of coping because we often talk about kids coping better or parents coping better, that's pretty much like saying be good. Until you articulate what coping is, what is helpful and what is unhelpful, it's not really something you can adopt.

So we really also want to look at the importance of social emotional learning which is the space that coping fits into. Simply speaking, coping is about your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. So we're endeavouring to get people become aware of their thoughts, their feelings and their actions and how they can change or develop skills in those areas. And really coping is about how individuals deal with the world, with the events that confront them in everyday life, with the problems they encounter and how they can deal with it. Coping is also about how an individual sees a situation. Do they see a situation as one of stress, harm, loss or challenge. If we see a situation as one of challenge, we're likely to have a more positive attitude about bringing on board resources to deal with this challenging situation rather than feeling overwhelmed and stressed. So really coping is amassing your resources, your good resources, allowing yourself to feel prepared, to have a resource pool that you can draw on. Thoughts, feelings and actions. There are quite a lot of repetitions here to reinforce the key points. And that's how we deal with our world, how we see situations and how we prepare ourselves if it's possible. But feeling confident that you have good coping resources.

The other important feature of coping, and we're going to identify the way we've operationalised coping, but what is really important is that on the whole, not always, but on the whole there are helpful coping strategies and there are unhelpful coping strategies. The situation of course determines what is helpful but it is really important to start amassing helpful coping strategies, things that have worked in a previous situation, and reducing unhelpful coping strategies. And these are the unhelpful coping strategies which we spell out a little bit more because you will identify those as things that often, not always, get you into a bit of trouble. Worry is one of them. An excessive worry is problematic. But if sometimes you do have to have a little bit of worry about a situation so you become planned and prepared. Keeping things to oneself, especially when you have a problem, sharing a problem is often reducing or minimising the problem. So one of the reasons we often have groups like the parenting group and the CALD group that we ran is to create opportunities and environments where people can share their problems.

And the next one is really most probably the most unhelpful coping strategy, blaming oneself. We often find as parents or as workers or in relationships we often go mad at ourselves. And if you find yourself going mad at yourself you really have to stop because really when you've coped in a particular way, the thing to do is to say, what happened, what's the strategy I used, how can I do it differently next time. So self-blame is really what gets us into trouble. It gives us angst, it gives us grief, and we become self punitive. Sigmund Freud a long, long time ago really called self-blame guilt, and that's not really helpful in any situation. Ignoring a problem, sometimes it's okay to turn the other cheek, to ignore something that's not so important that's not going to affect your life in the long term. But sometimes you really need to confront a problem and say how can I deal with it.

Tension reduction is important because we all use different strategies for reducing tension. Some of those strategies are good like going for a walk or whatever. But other strategies like the ones listed here are often the ones that are used to excess and lead to unhealthy behaviour. And protection of self, over emphasising how we look and how we feel. But a lot of these non-productive strategies are problematic when they're used at the wrong time in the wrong place and too much and for too long. So here we have a artistic representation of these strategies, and here are the helpful ones and those that seem okay.

Protecting self is okay in the sense that I looked in the mirror today to see how I was dressed so that my clothes were put on right, but if I was excessively worrying about how I looked rather than focusing on what I had to prepare for today, it would've been an unhelpful strategy. Improving relationships and working hard. Working hard is an important one because for children, especially young children that we're talking about often we're talking about four to six year olds and sometimes three year olds, playing is their labour, their hard work. Sharing, seeking social support. When it comes to the parenting situation, seeking help. The cartoonist or artist there put a tightrope there but it's really asking for help when you need it. Social action, joining with other people, and parents often do that to solve problems. And seeking professional help, and that could be the teacher, the professional, the doctor, the nurse, whoever has got information that you can draw on as a parent. Optimism, staying relaxed, focusing on the positive, and for a lot of people spiritual supports is helpful. Having a belief.

And here are the non-productive coping strategies. So I guess just look at those images and see what they say. I'll point out the one that's there, wishful thinking. Sometimes wishful thinking can be helpful, and I often say if I was a novelist, if I could daydream and have images and imaginary thoughts it could be very helpful for my career. But if I had to just wishful think about how the problems will be solved, whether it's preparing for a presentation or going for a job interview, or getting the children ready for school, it's not going to happen. So then it's a non-productive coping strategy.

Tension reduction, screaming, and we often hear from children that they hear a lot of parental screaming, even if it's not to them as children, between the adults. So tension reduction that is unhelpful and we saw on previous slides about drugs, drink alcohol, but here the image is of screaming. And self-blame, flogging yourself. So those are the unhelpful coping strategies. But as I pointed out, the worst one is to blame yourself. Going mad at yourself does not ever solve the problem. What can I learn if things have gone wrong. What can I do differently next time.

And the most helpful coping strategy is building a social support network. So when we run parenting programs and we ran these with general population of parents, it's in our parenting book. But it's also one that you can do to yourselves now, is who are your supports. I can do this in terms of my workplace, I can do that in terms of my parenting. Looking at a problem and saying for that problem who's going to be the most helpful person. Sometimes it's not even drawing on that help but knowing that there are people that you can call on is very secure making. And feeling secure is important.


Okay so thanks Erica, that's a fantastic introduction and we'd like to just sort of relax the presentation style a little bit now because it's important that you get a bit of a sense of where all this work has come from, the research that has gone into it, and what we've discovered through the research especially in relation to how young people are thinking about coping. So Erica and I have been working together now for a number of years. Erica's career started out with working in the coping area with adults and adolescents and when Erica and I first met we were talking about young children and it really hadn't entered the domain of the research to our knowledge at that time that we would be working with children aged three to six years. So we actually began the research with educational psychology master students and we have been undertaking that research every year since its inception.

The first phase of the research was to actually go to children and ask them which situations created stress for them. And they came up with the most amazing list of situations. So we'll share some of those with you. How interesting, being told off by the teacher. Well three to six year olds, even the three year old in an early childhood setting sees the teacher as a very authoritative figure. And the children find it quite stressful if they get into trouble. But as Erica said a little bit earlier on, a little bit of stress is no so bad and a little bit of trouble is not so bad. It's just that you would be avoiding any teachers who are taking a punitive or negative approach to working with children. Another stress for children was choosing a group and joining in. They found it really hard to actually choose between friends and found the playground and the actual process of making friends very challenging. They identified that teasing or siblings not playing fair, someone teasing them, was also very stressful. And change or choice was also another stressor.

Clearly saying goodbye to parents or family members was one of the major stresses, and we know that from just our own experience of working with young children, parents know that, leaving their children with babysitters, even with grandma or grandpa. But certainly going to an early childhood setting it can be a very stressful situation in the beginning. Scared of the dark. Well we all know that one because we've all experienced it. And in fact we've probably all experienced all of these. Children are very frightened with the lights go out and they like to know that someone is close by or they have a nightlight so that they're imaginary world of fear doesn't take over. And then the final one was joining in. And that was how do I get into a group, you know, I know choosing a group is one thing but actually what do I have to do to be a friend with someone. And parents often report of children going home from preschool and saying, "I don't have anyone to play with," and that's because that child at that point isn't finding the entry into the social arena particularly easeful.

So then, not only could the children identify those major areas of stress, and there were others but we've clustered them, so these that you've just seen are the major stresses. They were able to identify the difference between coping and non-coping strategies. So there's ones that Erica has just introduced to you, the productive on one side, and the non-productive on the other. So some children identified running away and I remember that because my sister used to do that. She used to pack her trike with her little globalite suitcase and disappear down the hills and no one would know where she was going. Crying, you know children understand they cry when they get upset. Blaming themselves, so the self-blame that adults can participate in, children also become involved in. They also blame others quite frequently. It wasn't my fault, it was so-and-so's fault, and that's a way of trying to manage a situation but clearly managing it in a non-productive way and picking out the non-productive first you can see.

Falling apart, ignoring, worrying, crying, and here's a big one, complaining of pain. One of my daughters actually complained of a stomach pain for about three years from the ages of two to five. Multiple tests but basically what it was, was an anxious tummy at the end of the day. But then they were also – and hiding, I've had a granddaughter who used to hide under the bed. So I've got lots of family stories. Hiding under the bed or hiding behind the curtain is a way of just trying to get away from your fears and managing your own emotions silently. But then on the other side of the coin the children did identify strategies that they could use that were more productive and hugging their toy. Certainly talking to an adult, and as Erica has already pointed out, working hard. Being able to get into a task, whether it's pushing some big stones in a trolley, or whether it's digging in the garden, or whether it's moving things from one place to the other.

In fact I heard a teacher the other day say about a three year old who was having his first preschool experience, "Great day for Matty, he worked really hard today and he was able to actually manage himself in the preschool environment". Also children really could grasp the idea and came up with the idea of thinking happy thoughts, that this was a way, if I think of a garden or if I see a love heart in my mind, or if I see a rainbow or a unicorn or a fairy or whatever it might be, I'll feel much, much better. So you can see really from the children themselves at a very young age, they were number one, tuned into stresses in their lives. They could identify those stresses, they knew what made them feel unhappy, they were able to talk about it, and they could also identify different ways of coping. They knew that there were the everyday ways of the non-productive but they also came up with the productive. And as Erica has already mentioned, our main aim is to develop a shared language of coping.

So using this language with children is very accessible and very natural. These Early Years Coping Cards have been published by ACER and they're available for purchase, and the way we've been working with them is as you can see on the slide, the person whether it's mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, therapist or teacher, what do you see in this picture. And once again the visual acuity of young children they surprise you at times. They can really, really identify the situation very clearly. Has this ever happened to you? Yes that's happened to me many times. It happened the other day. How did it make you feel? And what did you do to make yourself better when you experienced this?


So really the shared language of coping is really taking those coping constructs, initially I shared those coping constructs which we'd been using with adolescents and with adults, and developed them as Jan has just pointed out, to be relevant and age appropriate with young children. But also to be a sort of almost universal set of visual tools that can be used in classroom practice, in parenting. But then the question came up why write another book about parenting. And really for a lot of years, since the mid 80s I've been working with the coping construct which has been very useful, and we've adapted it to young children. But also I have run parenting programs and used the resources that were available. But we wanted to put all this together and put together principles of good parenting. And the principles are based on positive psychology as I mentioned in the introduction, and focusing on relationship building. A lot of the parenting programs are about relationships between parents and children, but we also wanted to focus on relationships between parents and parents. In a lot of our programs we actually invite and are quite successful when both parents come and join in a program.

We're focusing on key principles of communication skills, and if I had to summarise the key principles they are about listening, being assertive, and that's important in terms of appropriate assertiveness for parenting, and problem solving. So we've reduced communication skills to those three core elements. We then talk about parents coping. So the coping skills for parents themselves because when adults cope, that really often determines how children cope. So parent coping becomes important. Recognising what the stresses of children. Parents often know what their own stresses are, getting to work, juggling dual careers and so on. But really what are the stresses of children and you saw that in the Early Years Coping Cards. The coping skills for children, but being mindful that a lot of the language we're using is similar for both parents and for children. We also focus on the strengths of the children which comes from positive psychology, and we've added to this what is really important, the relaxation but the mindfulness which is so much part of early childhood education, and professional practice these days. So really bringing that together.

This is just a snippet of what we've got in our parenting program, and when we adapted this parenting program in very straight forward language, it's still using the same principles. Getting parents to think about their well-being and segmenting that well-being, your physical well-being, your emotional well-being and your social well-being. So we give them exercises looking at well-being in those three domains because a parent who has good well-being is likely to be able to cope a lot better in terms of the parenting practice. And then we talk about focusing on children's strengths. We do get parents to identify their own strengths, often they don't think about it. But when we talk about catching a child doing something good and showing approval, they often aren't seeing the multiple domains in which you can think in terms of children's strengths. And on that particular slide you can see that in terms of bravery, creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, fairness, humour, kindness, sociability. So we're really trying to get parents to become acutely aware of their children's strengths and start reinforcing children's strengths.

Then we also go to the coping strategies and as I mentioned we get parents to look at their own coping strategies. And similarly then to look at children's coping strategies. And the important thing is for them to identify productive coping strategies, and you might want to think about how in the last half hour you've thought about what's a good productive coping strategy that you've used, that you'd like to keep using and the non-productive coping strategy.


Last week a young child started at the Early Learning Centre and was finding separation from mother very difficult. And I became involved and I used the word courage, and Erica has just shown you that on the previous slide about being brave. And I reminded the child about the lion in the Wizard of Oz and his mother was just so taken by the notion of helping him to understand what courage might look like and how sometimes you have to dig deep to be courageous. And she reported to me a couple of days later that she went home just with that word "courage" and used it with her son and you know quite miraculously in the next couple of drop offs he just said, "I'm going to find my courage." So sometimes it's just a matter of finding that positive way of coping and actually using the words and actually living out the emotion.


And gratitude is a very important feature of positive psychology and well-being. We often encourage people before they go to bed at night not to really look at their iPhones and start thinking of all the multiple things they have to do the next day. But rather to think about things that they can appreciate about what's happened during the day. And so we're also teaching children through example but also in the early learning setting to think about gratitude in various domains, whether it's about nature or whether it's about things or whether it's about people. So really focusing on the positive, good things that have happened, and how we can actually recognise those and show some gratitude.


So we've given you a fairly brief but succinct overview of how this work has been developed, the theoretical frameworks that actually support the work. And now we want to introduce you to how this work was presented with a group of culturally and linguistically diverse parents who were in the City of Yarra. Fortunately Erica and I were funded for this project through the Forrest Hill Association and we were able to work with the families over multiple sessions, get to know them and to actually trial some of the ideas that we've presented to you. So we worked with – it was part of the Housing Commission in Hoddle Street in Richmond. Seventeen families participated and they had children aged between two and five years, seven months being the youngest and there was a teenager who actually occasionally visited the playgroup. The universal set of principle that we've spoken about were offered and in each session parents gathered together informally as you can see here in a small room underneath the Housing Commission. And the core messages were introduced and reinforced over five sessions.

You can see by this set of photographs that we had a very diverse group and some of the families were new arrivals to Australia and were just grappling with the English language. And they were also grappling with the notion of how we do it here in Australia. They didn't quite know what to expect or really what we were going to say or they were not familiar with many of the principles that we were introducing to them. So in the beginning you can see on the top right-hand corner there, there was quite a bit of onlooker learning going on, just a little bit of distance, babe in arms, just viewing the situation, feeling comfortable. And just having a chance to actually find their own way into the group process. Of course the children were the mediators which was absolutely wonderful and there were toys available and there were conversations going on between those mothers who knew each other outside of the playgroup setting.

There was food at a certain point, that's the bottom right-hand slide, and that was a really wonderful opportunity too. I think wherever there's food, food helps bring people together in shared conversation and it relaxes everyone. So you can see we had fathers and we had mothers as well and we had various age groups of children. Firstly we entered with the notion of trying to facilitate discussions about parenting. And you could see on one of those earlier slides, that was sort of sitting around on small sofas and just informally introducing the ideas. Parents were really interested and as the weeks – by the third week we definitely had everyone coming because we were offering at the end of each session a tip sheet which the parents could actually think about during the week.

And these were all produced fairly informally, and not professionally – well as professionally as my computer would allow, with images being very obvious because language with many of these families is quite challenging. During the sessions the parents were encouraged to share their personal stories and to learn from each other. So with the family where English was the first language that family sort of became a lead family in a way. They were New Zealanders, mixed Maori and European background. And they sort of really shared very personally their ideas of what was – well the events that were happening in their family and their ideas about parenting. And as I noted, we offered the parenting tip booklet which was the take home for them, and we were fortunate enough to have additional staff by the City of Yarra who helped us facilitate the whole program.

I would have to say you expect it to be reasonably demanding on an interpersonal level because the families are very needy, they're very sensitive and we had to take everything very slowly. But over time we gauged that there was very deep interest in the issues that were being raised. So we've listed here seeing parenting as you know, a shared experience, and this is some comments that families came up with. "My partner does it one way and I do it another." So you can see a little bit of tension straight away. "I tried to ask my husband to take my child to swim but he said he's tired so I have to keep my promise".

So we noticed that there was a little bit of gender – there was a gender difference between how the father's may be embracing parenting and the responsibilities that mothers tended to take over and above. "I want to go out alone but my husband wants to come along." I think the mother's quite often felt that they were isolated and they found that parenting was a lonely job and that they wanted to go out but for some of these families from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, the husbands were not happy for the wives to go out into the community alone. So the playgroup in a way and even the parenting program at least offered those families an opportunity to meet others as Erica said and share some of their stories.


I just wanted to add because these are some of the issues that were raised. There were several parents whose English was very poor and one of the parents acted as a helpful interpreter. So you might have picked it up on the images where one parent is helping another. There was also a visiting staffer there who was also able to interpret. But one of the things that shone through and it's not on this slide in terms of issues raised, was that some of the newly arrived parents were really quite appreciative in this very safe environment, small group environment to hear of some of the expectations of parenting in an Australian context. So it wasn't a demand of parenting but really for them to get a sense of what was considered to be helpful parenting in an Australian context. So those things did stand out for me in the sessions.


And you can see that these responses are not culturally specific by any stretch of the imagination, all parents experience similar responses to parenting, or speak about these same issues, sibling rivalry, handling emotions and challenging behaviour, what do we do with crying, screaming, hitting, biting. How do we settle and enforce our family rules and limits, and most of the families were extremely interested around Erica's notion of assertiveness in the family. Feeling strong enough to say no or feeling strong enough to set limits. And Erica's idea about finding time for yourself and not blaming yourself if things go wrong. We also actually were talking quite a lot about enjoying time with your children, finding time to listen and just be with your children. And balancing your time and the attention you give to your children. So the balancing time for yourself and time with your children. So this slide shows you the type of summary parenting tip sheet that we sort of produced each week. So we had one for each of these.

Supporting health and well-being in the family context with young children. Listening to children and understanding behaviour. Talking to your child, reading to your child, playing with your child. I was also interested at this time in Joe Sparling's work around Abecedarian 3A where he talks about enriched conversations. So I was bringing some of those ideas into this group and helping families to recognise the importance of having plenty of conversations. Mindfulness in the family, what that really means when you set up your family dynamic. And being cognisant of actually creating calm and establishing routines for quiet activity. And dealing with the difficult situations. I think it was quite a revelation about using a soft voice for discipline and some of the families went away after we introduced that concept and came back the next week and said they were totally surprised at what a difference it made. Instead of using a harsh voice and a loud voice for discipline, just using a quiet tone. Using kind words with each other, being grateful that we have a family, and being respectful of each other. And collaborative problem solving with young children including the children in contacting, around setting the family rules, setting clear limits and enforcing those rules consistently. Which we know it doesn't happen overnight and it needs constant reinforcement for you to eventually reach the point where you've got a functioning calm family.

So the can-do parenting tips as we've noted. Enforcing rules, setting rules, playing with your child, talking with your child, encouraging your child and reading with your child to name just a few. Setting clear limits, rewarding good behaviour. Having family time, positive quality family time, albeit just a short time, it's best to go to the park for 15 minutes than not go to the park at all. Hugging your child, reinforcing the rules, if you've said we're going to clean up the room before we go out, you need to follow through with cleaning up the room. Supporting the group, and just being part of the whole process.

So there were practical considerations I think it's worthwhile sharing with you if you were thinking of working with families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. I think it's important to have a quiet setting for a ten minute introduction if it can be managed. So a small informal space where just a small group of people to gather can gather. Helpful - it is helpful to have an additional person for one on one and follow up and really being able to just have those important conversations and to form relationships as Erica noted right at the beginning of this presentation. Audio visual resources were definitely helpful, less words and many more illustrations. We used some YouTube, even a beautiful dad reading story to baby which you can get on YouTube, a book for baby which is quite a revelation for families just to see a dad sitting down with a three month old baby reading a story. The take home visual handouts for parents we found were totally necessary to enable the parents to revisit and reinforce the concepts and ideas at home.

And bring them back for the beginning of the next session to talk through how they went. So each session always had revisiting the previous concepts and talking through how they went in practical terms. I think also knowledge of early childhood services and support groups like what schools we found ourselves, helping families with some information about just what it might mean to go to the maternal and child health or to enrol your child in a kindergarten and then in the school. And how those institutions as Erica pointed out earlier, are very important for maintaining family health and well-being. And some familiarisation with the range of cultural practices that you might be greeting with your group of families prior to commencement. So we're coming to the end of the presentation and we feel that we've got these takeaway messages for you.

Firstly the Early Years Coping Cards which have been described. Secondly the Families Coping Manual which enables families to work through the ideas behind parenting and coping and well-being. This case study which brief though it was, it was very powerful for us and we learnt a great deal from it and the families who were engaged in the program were extremely satisfied with the outcomes. And the parenting tips and using the visuals in the way that helps those families to come to terms with understanding concepts without the language component.


And most probably just to add, those parenting tips we had them prepared but also they were developed each session and when parents had contributed ideas, we actually included them in the parenting tips. The soft voice for discipline was something that we learnt from the parents. And what's important is you saw some very young children in that CALD group and there was an adolescent. But there were also siblings. And the particular – one set of parents had many, many children and had them ranging from that early childhood stage 'til a 20 year old. So they were sharing a lot of their experiences, so it was important to demonstrate that we actually had knowledge, had ideas and we brought information, but we were also learning from the group and they were learning from each other. And we were able to adapt those tip sheets, week by week.

Okay, our final slide there is maybe important for some of you, but really it's there to be helpful. There are two key resources that we have – or we want to share with you and that are available from the Australian Council for Educational Research. The families coping program, which we have tried to demonstrate or illustrate, can be adapted. In our parenting groups that Jan and I run, at the Early Learning Centre, we distribute that book as part of the parenting program. For the CALD community, we use the ideas from that book and developed and used those ideas as part of the program of instruction and incorporated some of the ideas into the tip sheets. So the families coping program is readily available for people and the other one is the early years coping cards, which Jan has demonstrated, could be used in an educational setting, it can be used in a clinical counselling setting or we've used it in a parent setting. And what we've found with the CALD population and with the general population, that if we give parents a chance to take those cards home, they will play with them, trial them, use them and give feedback.

But one of the things I always point out is that those cards really are idea, they're conceptual words that you can actually create your own resources that are similar to those cards. They won't be visually the same as the commercial cards that have now been published, but you can actually create resources and have them available. I think having concrete resources is very important, because it's not just about words, it's really things that people can handle, can keep, can return to. And then there are the publications that we've published and we published looking at when two parents attend a program and when only one parent attends, both have been found to be valuable. I think though when there are two parents, they often – tell us that they use the session, the use the follow-up from the session where they talk together about what's occurred. So the resources are available, we've just put a collection of published resources for you.


So I think it's time to conclude the seminar today, so thank you very much for tuning in and its question time.


Thank you both for that really interesting presentation. You've - received quite a few questions, so let's just jump right in. All right, our first question is you mentioned the importance of food as an icebreaker in getting these trial sessions going with CALD families, what are some other supporting factors that can encourage participation and a relaxed environment for parents?


Well we can both have a go. But if you go back to the images that we've tried to show you from the sessions, there was small group work, there was one image there with Jan and I sitting with a small number of parents. So the group in itself wasn't large, but we did breakaway into small groups. If there was information gathering, we often worked one on one with parents. So creating the climate where parents feel comfortable, I think was very important.


Yes I agree Erica and I think the atmosphere – creating the atmosphere is – very important. So we would spend time before the parents arrived setting the scene. I even think that it's really nice to have some music playing and that can be a selection of music that is known to the families who are – participating. Even simple things, it might sound a little bit twee but aromatherapy is very nice. You could just set the scene with a bunch of flowers even. I'm all for just making certain that the environment looks inviting and comfortable and has its own beauty about it. Because we are talking about a really wonderful opportunity that humans have to be parents and we really should celebrate it and create atmospheres where it is celebratory, rather than feeling like this is everyday business.


Thank you for that. All right, we have another question for you, do you feel that iPads or similar devices are good coping strategies for children?


Well that's a good question isn't it? Now, iPads have definitely a part to play in helping children to learn. I think it's very interesting that the State Government this year has introduced the ALA language learning program. So I think – everyone believes that the iPad gives the opportunity for a young child to focus attention on particular learning. We know that engaging in iPad learning for language, you will get results. That's why the government has done this. But we also know, that long-term use of iPads insights that are inappropriate is harmful. So the parent needs and anyone working with young children knows there has to be a balance.

I think introducing – you know, Dad reading story to baby and using that from the YouTube on an iPad in a parenting program is a fantastic help. And it's fantastic for the mothers, it's fantastic for the fathers and it can even be fantastic for a child to see a baby sitting on the lap of a father, actually listening to a story. So I think it's just a matter of being very practical about this and being sensible.


And just to add to that, often iPads are used to help parents when they want to occupy their children. So one of the important things to think about in terms of parenting, is how much you resort to those sorts of activities to meet your own needs, because you haven't thought of other ways to occupy children. So it's a constant questioning of your parenting behaviour can end. I suppose it's like the non-productive coping. If you feel you're using it to excess, how can you reduce the use and like all things we don't want to reduce things cold turkey to access, so gradual withdrawal or reduction, or thinking of other things you might do. But one of the things that we do with - in parenting, is suggest to parents they get into conversations with children. And it's amazing how children will give you ideas of what else they could do. So if the goal is to reduce the use of those technologies, then engage the children in giving you some good ideas.


And we must remember that we are human beings and the centrality of our lives is based on forming relationships. Now it's a bit disturbing if we think our relationship is with our iPad, so we would like to think that there's just a balance with the use of technologies for young children and families.


Okay, just one more today. This question says, "How did you create that ten minute quiet session? What and how – how did you get I assume it means, did the children engage? So how did you get the children to engage in that?" The question says, "We run supported playgroups, but we're not sure how we'd fit in that time?"


Yes, okay. We were unsure of how we were going to achieve that also, because the first time we walked in it seemed like it was a busy crowded space, there were babies crying, there were toys being thrown all around and this is where that extra person came in very handy. Because they're – in one section of the room there was a large blanket with a lot of toys for sitting babies and lying babies and those babies were actually occupied by our extra staff person, just as a sort of – in a managerial sort of way, that enable the mothers to move about two metres away to the little couch area that was setup.

So we setup two little two-seater sofas and two chairs at each end, so it was – it was really a setting for eight, but it took up a very small area of the room. And in that space, we have our focused conversation with the understanding from all the mothers, we're going to have get this done very quickly. You know, this is our focus time. This is our concept for today, this is what we want to talk about, we're going to direct our attention to this now and look surprisingly it worked. I don't know whether Erica would like to make any further comment on that, but we were able to achieve it and I think it was about the demarcation of the space. And when you first setup the space, set it up with that view in mind.


Yes I think sometimes we're very ambitious in terms of running parenting programs. The parenting programs that Jan and I run for non-CALD but for the general population, it's usually a one and a half to two hour session, because we feel that that's the time attention span in that context. But in this particular CALD context, we really were prepared to adapt according to what the facilities were available, what the attention span was and really our funding went to that extra person.

Jan and I did this as part of our work extension, but we had an extra person to assist. And she was often the one on one or sitting on the floor or whatever. And I think thinking ahead as to what is possible, but I also would imagine and I did say at the outset you want to adapt this to your own context, most probably after the first session, you'd get a good idea of what sort of adaptations you might need to make.


Well thank you so much Erica and Janice, that's actually all we have time for today. But again, any unanswered questions may be published along with your first name on the CFCA website for a response from the presenters after the Webinar. Please let us know if you don't want your question or first name to be published on the website. Big thank you to everyone for tuning in. Please follow the link on your screen to our website to continue the conversation. As you leave the Webinar a short survey will open in a new window and we would really appreciate your feedback, see you next time.



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The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

Slide outline

1. Building resilience and wellbeing in the early years: Coping strategies for parents and children from CALD backgrounds

Presenters: Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg and Dr Jan Deans 
CFCA Webinar 27 February 2019

2. Program Overview

Introduction to:

  • Positive psychology/positive parenting
  • What do we mean by coping: productive & non-productive coping 
  • Early Years Coping Cards (ACER, 2011)
  • Families Coping (4-6 year old children – ACER 2106)
  • The adaptation of Families Coping for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) parents
  • Can do parenting tip sheets

3. Pillars of Positive Psychology

  • Positive emotion and experience, such as satisfaction, pleasure and hope
  • Positive characteristics, such as strengths, virtues and abilities
  • Positive institutions, such as supportive communities and mental health models that move beyond diagnosing illness to fostering happiness
  • Ref: Seligman, 2002

4. Pillars of Positive Psychology..cont

i.e. satisfaction, pleasure and hope

Emotion & experience 
i.e. strengths, virtues and abilities

i.e. supportive communities, mental health model 

Ref: Seligman, 2002

5. Virtue, Meaning, Resilience & Wellbeing

  • Virtue: focusing on the common good; that is compassion for others, often reflected in empathy, giving & sharing
  • Meaning: found in a number of sources: positive emotion, achievement, relationship, intimacy, religion/spirituality, self-transcendence, self-acceptance, fairness/social justice
  • Resilience: being able to bounce back despite adversity or setbacks
  • Wellbeing: the absence of ill health and disappointment, experiencing positive emotions, savouring the moment, experiencing a sense of satisfaction
  • Ref: Wong, 2012

6. Positive Psychology & Parenting

  • Building positive relationships
  • Consideration given to the strengths of children and building resilience 
  • Developing a shared language of coping and building a repertoire of coping strategies
  • Developing an awareness of the importance of social & emotional learning
7. What do we mean by coping?
  • Coping is all about thoughts, feelings and actions
  • Coping refers to the way individuals deal with their world, the events that take place and the problems that are encountered
  • Coping is about how an individual views a situation and responds to it
  • Coping includes the idea of dealing with stress before it occurs, being prepared, planning and constructing a path of action

8. What do we mean by coping? Thoughts, feelings , actions

Thoughts, feelings , actions

  • the way individuals deal with their world, the events that take place and the problems that are encountered
  • how an individual views a situation and responds to it
  • the idea of dealing with stress before it occurs, being prepared, planning and constructing a path of action

9. Productive Coping

  • Productive Coping is a coping style that encompasses working hard and solving problems while maintaining a social dimension, characterised by relaxing and enjoying humorous diversions and physical recreation as well as attempting to improve significant relationships in one’s life. It also includes techniques that support the development and maintenance of self esteem.
  • Ref: Frydenberg, 2015

10. Non-Productive Coping

Non-Productive Coping consists of a range of strategies such as:

  • worry: concern about the future in general terms, concern about happiness in the future. Worrying about what is happening
  • keeping to one’s self: withdrawal from others and a desire to keep others from knowing about personal concerns
  • self-blame: individuals being critical of and blaming self
  • ignoring the problem: conscious blocking out of the problem, putting the problem out of the mind
  • tension reduction: making self feel better, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs
  • protection of self: over emphasis on self-image

Ref: Frydenberg, 2015

11. Productive Coping..cont

  • Focus on solving the problem
  • Humor
  • Protect self
  • Improve relationship
  • Work hard

12. Productive Coping - Sharing

  • Seeking social support
  • Social action
  • Seeking professional help

13. Productive Coping - Optimism

  • Relax
  • Focus on the positives
  • Spiritual support

14. Non-productive Coping

  • Keep to self
  • Not cope
  • Self blame
  • Wishful thinking
  • Tension reduction

15. LEAST helpful coping

Self blame

16. MOST helpful coping

Buliding a support network

  • Who are your supports?
  • Identify a problem at home or in the workplace.
  • Who are you able to call on for help? Name a person on each finger.

17. Take Away Message 1

Early Years Coping Cards – Situation & Coping Cards for parents, teachers, therapists to use with children aged 4-8 years.

The aim is to build a shared language of coping.

ACER 2011

Alt text: Cover of "Early Years Coping Cards: User Guide by Erica Frydenberg and Jan Deans

18. Situation Cards: Australian Council for Educational Research 2011

  • Being told off by the teacher
  • Choosing a group/joining in
  • Sibling not playing fair
  • Change
  • Saying goodbye
  • Scared of the dark
  • Joining in

19. Coping Cards: Australian Council for Educational Research 2011

  • Runaway
  • Blame others
  • Help others
  • Hide
  • Talk to an adult
  • Cry
  • Blame self
  • Hug a toy
  • Work hard
  • Blame self
  • Helping others/playing
  • Think happy thoughts
  • Keep feelings to self
  • Complain of pain
  • Play
  • Fall apart/ignore
  • Worry

20. Coping cards: Example

  • What do you see in this picture?
  • Has this happened to you?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What did you do to make yourself feel better?

21. Resilience in Parents

  • Principles of positive psychology
  • Focusing on relationship building and communication as a family
  • Communication skills (listening, assertiveness, problem solving)
  • Coping skills for parents
  • Stresses of children
  • Coping skills for children
  • Focusing on the strengths of children & building virtues
  • Relaxation/Mindfulness/Resilience

22. Exercise 1: Examine your own wellbeing

Wellbeing diary

Consider what makes you happy in each of the following areas of wellbeing. 

Set achievable goals & celebrate your success.

Alt text:

  • Physical wellbeing: Diet, Exercise, Sleep
  • Mental wellbeing: Time for self, ways of thinking, managing stress
  • Social wellbeing: Role models, support network, home, community, environment.

23. Exercise 2: Catch a child doing something good
Different areas of strengths

Text description: This is an exercise to list three things that show the child is using each of the following strengths.

Bravery: Show courage to take on challenges & deal with difficult situations

Creativity: Think of new ways to do things

Curiosity: Like exploring & asking questions Take an interest in experiences

Enthusiasm: Approaching things with excitement & energy

Fairness: Treating others with a sense of equality & justice

Humour: Like to laugh & joke & bring smiles to other people

Kindness: Doing things that make others happy

Sociability: Being able to engage with others

24. Exercise 3: Coping Strategies of Children

Top three productive coping strategies used by my child

Non-productive coping strategies used by my child.

25. Exercise 4: Gratitude Journal

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can help ease anxiety and frustration as one works towards goals and changes. As we connect with gratitude, our focus shifts to what resources we have and helps keep things in perspective. You can do this activity with children to cultivate gratitude in the simple things in everyday life.

26. Take Away Message 3

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse ADAPTATION

  • Working with Culturally & Linguistically diverse families: A Case Study
  • 17 families – with children of age 2 -5 years plus younger (7mths old) and older siblings (teenager) occasionally
  • Universal set of principles offered
  • Each session parents gathered together informally
  • core messages introduced and reinforced over 5 sessions

27. Photos from parenting group 1

28. Photos from parenting group 2

29. Summary of parenting group session

  • Facilitated discussions on parenting
  • Parents → session summary tip sheet each week and to comment on the following week
  • Parents → encouraged to share personal stories & learn from each other
  • Parents received a Can Do Parenting Tips booklet
  • Centre staff supported the program enables facilitators to have more in-depth conversations with parents & work in a culturally-appropriate way.

30. Some of the parenting issues raised

  • Working as a team
    • My partner does it one way and I do it another way…
    • I tried to ask my husband to take my child to swim but he said he’s tired – so I have to keep my promise…
    • I want to go out alone but my husband wants to come along…
  • Taking charge as a parent/setting boundaries
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Handling emotions & challenging behaviour – crying, screaming, hitting, biting
  • Setting and enforcing family rules/limits
  • Time
    • Finding time for oneself
    • Finding time to listen and just ‘be’ with children
    • Balancing time & attention between children

31. Summary Tip Sheet

I. Supporting Health & Wellbeing in a family context with young children

  • Catch child doing something good
  • Praise effort
  • Celebrate good behaviour
  • Build a support network
  • Use distraction strategies when needed

II. Parents dealing with difficult situations

  • Use soft voice for discipline & loud voice for having fun
  • Use kind words with each other in the family
  • Teach child “Don’t go for a Yes when you already have a no.”

III. Listening to children & understanding behaviour

  • Talk to my child
  • Read to my child
  • Play with my child
  • Plan against boredom

TIPS for Parents: Ideas for improving wellbeing of yourself and your child

IV. Collaborative Problem Solving with young children

  • Set simple family rules
  • Have clear limits
  • Enforce family rules consistently

V. Mindfulness in family

  • Keep calm
  • Establish opportunities for quiet activity

32. Can Do Parenting Tips I

  • Enforce rules
  • Set rules
  • Play with your child
  • Talk to . your child
  • Encourage your child
  • Read to your child

33. Can Do Parenting Tips II

  • Set clear limits
  • Reward good behaviour
  • Family time
  • Hug your child
  • Reinforce rules
  • Support group

34. Practical Considerations

  • Important to have a quiet setting for a 10-minute introduction
  • Helpful to have an additional person for 1:1 and follow-up
  • Audio /visual resources helpful: less words more illustration
  • Acknowledgement of onlooker learning is essential
  • Take home visual handouts for parents are necessary to enable parents to revisit/reinforce concepts/ideas at home and at at the beginning of the next session
  • Knowledge of early childhood services, schools, Maternal & Child Health etc is necessary to provide guidance as required
  • Familiarization with a range of cultural practices is helpful prior to commencement

35. Summary

  • Take away message 1: Early Years Coping Cards
  • Take Away Message 2: Families Coping
  • Take away Message 3: Working with CALD Families
  • Take Away Message 4: Can do parenting tips

36. References

Deans, J., Klarin, S., Liang, R., & Frydenberg, E. (2017). All children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves and for the nation. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 42(4).

Deans, J., Liang, R. & Frydenberg, E. (2016). Giving voices and providing skills to families in culturally and linguistically diverse communities through a productive parenting program.  Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. Volume 41 Number 1 March 2016 p13—1616

Frydenberg, E. (2015). Families Coping. Effective Strategies for you and your child. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER Press.

Frydenberg, E. & Deans, J. (2011). The Early Years Coping Cards. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research

Frydenberg, E., Deans, J. & Liang, R. (2017). Parents and Children’s Coping: Building Resilience and Wellbeing in the Early Years. Social Indicators Research.

Frydenberg, E. & Lewis, R. (2011). Adolescent Coping Scale-2. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research. Pp. 52.

Frydenberg. E., & Lewis, R. (2014). Coping Scale for Adults CSA-2). Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Pang, I., Frydenberg, E. & Deans, E. (2015). The relationship between anxiety and coping in preschoolers. In Moore, K., Howard, S. & Buchenwald, P. Stress Anxiety: Applications to Schools, Well-Being

Pang., D., Frydenberg, E., Liang, R., Deans, J., & Su., L. (2018). Improving coping skills & promoting social and emotional competence in pre-schoolers: A 5-week COPE-R programme. Journal of Early Childhood Education Research. 7(2).

Thompson, S., Frydenberg, E., Deans, J., & Liang, R. P. T. (2015). Increasing Wellbeing through a Parenting Program: Role of Gender and Partnered Attendance. Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 32(2), 120-141.

Related resources

Related resources


Erica is an educational, clinical and organisational psychologist who has practiced extensively in the Australian educational setting. She is a Principal Research Fellow and Associate Professor in psychology at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society.

Erica has authored/co-authored over 150 academic journal articles and chapters in the field of coping and 25 books on a range of topics relating to childhood, adolescence and parenting. She has also developed psychological instruments to measure coping. She has consulted for various organisations, including the National Health and Medical Research Council, Department of Education, Catholic Education Authority and Victorian Assessment and Curriculum Authority.

Erica is the recipient of several awards in recognition of her achievements, including the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group Stress and Coping in Education, the University of Melbourne Medal for Research Excellence Faculty of Education Award, the University of Melbourne Knowledge Transfer Award and the Life-time Career Award of the Stress Anxiety Research Society.

Janice is the Director of the Early Learning Centre based at the University of Melbourne; which is the University of Melbourne’s research and demonstration preschool. She is a long-time advocate for teaching and learning through the arts and has worked locally and internationally in early childhood, primary, tertiary and special education settings.


She has broad expertise relating to early childhood education and service delivery, and her research interests include learning through dance, social emotional learning and education for sustainable development. In 1997, she established Boorai: The Children’s Art Gallery to present the voices of young children as expressed through their art and narratives. Boorai collaborates with educational and community organisations locally, nationally and internationally.