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What’s best in a world full of parenting advice?

Dr Kirsty Ross will draw on two decades of experience in clinical psychology and working with youth and families to share her top parenting tips.

Parenting can seem like a minefield with such an abundance of advice out there – much of it contradictory. Massey University child psychologist Dr Kirsty Ross hopes to reduce the stress many parents feel by sharing her top tips based on 20 years of experience working with youth.

Her free public lecture titled: A recipe for parenting: fostering resilience and enhancing connections with your child is on tomorrow at the Palmerston North City Library. In it, she will focus on how basic concepts can help amid modern life challenges that can cause distress for young people, and leave families and whānau feeling disconnected. And she means literally disconnected, as a result of addictive digital devices and social media that present one of the greatest challenges for parents today.

Dr Ross, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology and acting director of the Psychology Clinic at Massey’s Manawatū campus, says parents need to claim their role back, and not be afraid of asserting their authority when it comes to setting boundaries or rules – even though she acknowledges that the word “authority” can sound a bit old school. 

“Parents often tend to feel anxious about doing the right thing,” she says. And this can result in a muddled approach that leads to further tensions and lack of clarity for children. 

“Successful parenting, she feels, comes back to having a set of basic principles – such as the importance of teaching a child to be kind and respectful towards others. Central to this is the need for parents to decide on what their core values are as a guide or framework for the decisions they make. 

“While it is natural as parents to want a child to succeed,” Dr Ross suggests taking time to consider what “success” might mean for an individual child ­– not just in terms of developing their particular interests and talents or scholarly success, but evolving as a whole person with the self-esteem, strengths, skills and confidence to deal with life and interact well with others.

She recommends parents ease up on anxiety about providing endless stimulation and life-enhancing opportunities through after-school activities. Being constantly busy can create unnecessary pressure and stress for parents and children, she says. “Kids need time to rest, daydream and imagine.”

What about limiting screen time? Dr Ross, who is a mum to two teenagers, says navigating a child’s online and screen time is a tricky new realm for this generation of parents. Having clear etiquette around the use of digital devices (not at meal times, or before bed, for example) is key.

Parents, she feels, need to be reassured that it is OK to say “no” to a child. Refraining from this to avoid a negative reaction does not help a child develop resilience, she says. And a lack of boundaries is an oversight she has often observed in her professional work with families. “I tell parents that what you are showing is that you care enough to put boundaries in place.”

She will discuss the best strategies for managing emotions (mood, anxiety, anger) and peer relationships, as well as how to foster happiness and enhance communication with your children.

Dr Ross’s lecture is part of the Our Changing World monthly public lecture series run by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences across Massey’s three campuses. The next lecture in Palmerston North on August 8 is by Shakespeare specialist Dr Bill Angus and is titled: Shakespeare and human obsolesence in the 21st century.

For more information and to register for this week’s lecture, click here.

Event details:

A recipe for parenting: fostering resilience and enhancing connections with your child – Dr Kirsty Ross

Time: Doors open at 6pm. Lecture runs 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

Date: Thursday, 11 July.

Location: Ground Floor, Palmerston North City Library.

Light refreshments included.

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