The expert advice for managing children’s meltdowns

Five takeaways from this year’s first Luminaries webinar

Tears, tantrums, school refusal and emotional turmoil can often accompany the start of the school year. Parents need the tools to help their child manage change, communicate effectively, find positive routines and practice emotional regulation. 

Launching the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) 2024 Luminaries webinar series, “From meltdowns and mayhem to calm and connection” delved into the challenges parents face today, with practical tips, emerging research and expert advice on topics including screen time, movement, sleep, mental wellbeing, gut health and learning. 
Hosted by Josef English, Manager of the UOW Early Start Discovery Space, the webinar panel combined the expertise of

This Luminaries webinar demonstrates the University of Wollongong's commitment to United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG 4 (quality education). 



Offering practical and research-based advice, the free lunchtime session equipped parents and carers with strategies for the myriad issues encountered by parents today. Just in case you missed the live webinar, here are five key takeaways from the compelling conversation.

The numbers behind children's health

Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely highlighted the importance of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children's health and wellbeing.

He recommended following the Australian 24-hour movement guidelines, which include at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, no more than two hours of recreational screen time, and nine to 11 hours of sleep for children aged five to 13 years.

Go deeper on the topic of screen time

Professor Lisa Kervin suggested that boundaries or ‘rules’ for screen time need to make sense for the child within their home. Professor Kervin encouraged screen time alongside other forms of play, with a clear message that not all screen use is “bad”.

“It is not just a matter of focusing on time when we think about screens, we need to also really think about what constitutes quality within that time - the quality of the experience and what it might or may not offer.” Professor Kervin encourages parents and carers to know what children are doing on their screens – everything from their go-to apps and YouTube channel subscriptions.

Equip yourself for a multitude of emotions

Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett explained how children's learning and relationship building are influenced by their emotions, motivation and self-regulation.

She emphasised the role of parents in providing a supportive and responsive environment that fosters children's curiosity, confidence and resilience. To help children in times of stress and anxiety, Professor Neilsen-Hewett also provided expertise on strategies including mindfulness, breathing exercises and positive affirmations. 

Manage meltdowns with understanding

Nicki Pittorino, a parenting expert and founder of Whole Picture Parenting, offered practical solutions to help parents manage meltdowns and challenging behaviour.

Her advice was to understand the underlying causes of their children's emotions and needs, and to respond with empathy and compassion. Pittorino advocated positive discipline techniques that promote cooperation, respect and problem-solving skills.  

The proactive approach to picky eating

Drawing on her extensive expertise ranging from psychology to nutrition and gut health, Pittorino also emphasised the significant role of nutrition in influencing children's behaviour. Addressing the issue of fussy or picky eating habits, Pittorino advised parents to thoroughly explore potential underlying causes.

“Low levels of certain nutrients can actually trigger picky eating,” Pittorino explained. “Other factors may include sensory preferences, food intolerances, and imbalances in the gut microbiome. It's crucial to understand the root cause and find ways to expand your picky child's diet to ensure they receive essential nutritional elements.”

Don’t miss our next Luminaries webinar, “The global race to eliminate Hep C”. 
See the complete 2024 Luminaries line up and stream past webinars in full.