FIONA and Geoff Smith can't always anticipate the next move of their child — but now they know help is at hand.
The couple and their son Riley are just one of many families to be aided by an Eastern Health program teaching parents how to bond and connect with their children.
The program, Kool Kids Positive Parents, also helps children develop better social and emotional skills and reduces behavioural problems, while parents also learn different ways to handle their child's behaviour.
Riley recently 'graduated' from the course after being referred by a teacher because he was struggling socially and emotionally at school.
The eight-year-old attends Mooroolbark's St Peter Julian Eymard Parish Community School, which has a strong connection to the program.
His mother Fiona said the program had changed the way Riley interacts with other children — and adults, too.
"He seems a lot more in touch with his emotions and he can manage them better. He can also read other people's emotions and pick up on social cues."
She said it enabled Riley to be "the owner of his choices and decisions, and more importantly his emotions".
Mrs Smith said she and husband Geoff had learned new tactics to deal with Riley's behaviour. "We can now tune into his emotions and understand him. And we can also anticipate his feelings more."
She said the key message — and the most comforting — the couple learned was that they're not the only parents with issues.
Meg Wright, the wellbeing teacher at Riley's school, said children responded well to the program because it was so interactive.
There is a chart with the emotions angry, happy, sad and worried, and the children point out which one they are feeling and at what level.
"We talk about what happened to make them feel a particular way and then about what skills they can use to feel better."
Mrs Smith said the program had helped her son become confident and develop a solid group of friends. "We've seen a great change in Riley. It's given him the tools and skills to reflect and understand his behaviour."
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