Expert shares the biggest issues parents are coming to him with during the coronavirus pandemic


A parenting expert and father-of-six has shared the three biggest issues parents are coming to him with during the coronavirus pandemic – and how you can identify kids’ mood swings with a simple ‘HALTS’ acronym.

Dr Justin Coulson, from Sydney, said he has had hundreds of mums and dads send him emails and messages on Facebook over the past few weeks, as parents grapple with how to look after, parent and teach their kids.

The first issue Justin said parents are struggling with is how to teach their young children from home.

A parenting expert and father-of-six has shared the three biggest issues parents are coming to him with during the coronavirus pandemic (Dr Justin Coulson pictured)

1. How can I teach my kids from home? 

‘The consistent biggest thing parents are asking is how can they teach their kids and how can they help them get it done,’ Justin said in a Facebook video. 

But, he added, if they are in primary school, they don’t actually need to do as much work as you – or the school – might think.

‘If your children are in primary school, take the pressure off,’ he said.

‘You don’t have to do six hours of study each day if they’re young. School goes slowly because teachers are trying to cater for 25-30 kinds in one room.

‘If there were just one or two, an hour or two of work would be plenty.’

Justin recommends you set aside a couple of hours for your primary-school-aged children to help them keep on top of the curriculum, and leave the rest of the day to focus on other things like mental well-being and activity.

‘And remember, you’re not a teacher, you’re a parent,’ he said.

‘Your kids need you to be a parent.’

If your kids are in primary school, Justin said you need to 'take the pressure off' as they do not need to be doing six to eight hours of school each day (stock image)

If your kids are in primary school, Justin said you need to ‘take the pressure off’ as they do not need to be doing six to eight hours of school each day (stock image)

2. How can I understand my little kids?

What is the ‘HALTS’ approach and how can you understand your kids’ triggers?

* Kids will lash out and get triggered when they are one of five things:

– Hungry

– Angry

– Lonely

– Tired

– Stressed 

The second question Justin said he has been asked countless times is how, as a parent, you can understand your little children and what they need on any given day.

‘This is about understanding their development trajectory,’ the expert said.

‘When you’ve got bigger children, say aged 12 and above, they can actually get through each day in a reasonably adaptive and effective way.

‘But for younger kids, they require so much more attention and supervision.’ 

Justin said you absolutely have to be aware of this and remember that if they are a toddler, pre-schooler or even in the first year of school, there will be some important developmental milestones they haven’t reached yet.

‘They won’t have language capability,’ he said.

‘This means that while they can talk, the more emotional and wound up they get, the harder it is for them to get their point across.’

They will also be lacking in emotional regulation and behavioural regulation – two things children don’t get until they are eight or nine years old.

‘We want them to keep their emotions in check, but this means we need to keep our emotions in check,’ Justin said.

‘Children will catch your cranky, but they will also catch your calm.’

Justin said you can understand kids' moods via the 'HALTS' acronym which means they will be triggered if they are hungry, angry, lonely, tired and stressed (stock image)

Justin said you can understand kids’ moods via the ‘HALTS’ acronym which means they will be triggered if they are hungry, angry, lonely, tired and stressed (stock image)

Justin said the easiest way to understand little kids is to subscribe to and follow the ‘HALTS’ acronym and analogy.

‘Kids will be triggered and will lash out when they are one of five things: hungry, angry, lonely, tired and stressed,’ he said.

‘Hence the HALTS acronym.’

Justin recommends you keep the possibility of any of these to a minimum to ensure you have a happy and calm child.

Justin (pictured) recommends all parents do five things each day to boost and protect their children's mental well-being

Justin (pictured) recommends all parents do five things each day to boost and protect their children’s mental well-being

3. What should I do about their well-being?

What does Justin recommend parents do every day for kids’ well-being?

1. Connections: Make sure they are speaking to people and a variety of people, even on FaceTime.

2. Activity: It’s easy to be sedentary, but they need to remain active.

3. Pause: Make sure there is at least one or two hours in the day when there is no agenda.

4. Learning: Kids absolutely need to learn something new every day.

5. Making a difference: Find a way that they can make a difference in someone else’s life, whether it’s writing a letter or helping to make the dinner. 

The parenting expert said he is also being inundated with calls and messages about how we can boost our children’s well-being at this time, when they are unable to see their friends and interact with other children in a way they normally would at school.

‘For this question, I’m recommending five things that we need to try and work into our kids’ days every single day,’ Justin said.

‘I know it’s not possible all the time, but parents need to try and get them happening.’

The five things are connections with other people (these can be phone conversations on FaceTime), activity, pauses during their day, learning and finding a way to make a difference in someone else’s life.

‘That last one is really important,’ Justin said.

‘Maybe it’s writing letters to someone or helping to make the dinner, but they need to be making a difference.’ 

To find out more about Dr Justin Coulson, please visit his website here

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