Coaches can bring out the best of us in life and sport but they can also be influential voices on the home front.

Co-parent coaches are increasingly being sought by couples as they grapple with the challenge of shared parenting after separation and divorce.

Ceri Bruce is a Senior Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner at Centacare and supports parents to overcome factors that impede their ability to work together while living apart.

“Co-parent coaching does not involve delving into past behaviours or individual issues but rather assists parents to identify what it is that is blocking the co-parent alliance,’’ Ceri said.

“We assist them to try out new ways with specific behaviour strategies, or to change flawed thinking that is preventing them from reaching their family goals.’’

Parents accessing Centacare’s Family Dispute Resolution service can be referred to Co-Parenting Coaching and are coached over one-hour sessions, with a focus on respectful decision-making in the best interests of their child.

“The intention is always for children to get the best possible version of separation from both families in both households,’’ Ceri said.

“Sometimes it’s just about helping the parents communicate when they might not want to or think that they don’t need to.

“Our role is to help them separate themselves from their own needs and intent, in order to focus on what’s best for the child.’’

Together, parents are encouraged to set clear and consistent boundaries and practices that work in both homes, creating a sense of stability, security and safety for their children.

“Children benefit because they develop meaningful attachment with both parents as well as significant family members, which is crucial for their overall wellbeing,’’ Ceri said.

“Parents also learn strategies for self-care, and we see them grow in confidence from that.’’

ABS data shows there were 49,404 divorces granted nationally in 2018 – nearly half involved children. Of those divorces, the median duration of marriage was 12.3 years.

In family law cases, separating couples must make a genuine effort to resolve parenting and financial issues through dispute resolution before they can apply to the courts for orders.

In addition to co-parent coaching, Centacare offers child inclusive family dispute resolution, where appropriate, to ensure the voice of the child is heard in a safe and supported manner during parenting negotiations.

Ceri said family dispute resolution is an often quicker, more collaborative and more affordable option for resolving parenting disputes and reaching agreements about how property is divided.

Case Study

A couple, aged in their early 30s, experience a difficult separation. Communication continues to be a significant stumbling block, as it was throughout their relationship.

They attempt Family Dispute Resolution but find it difficult to reach and maintain effective agreements around parenting.

Through the service, they are referred to a Co-Parent Coach who supports them to identify the areas that are contributing to breakdowns in their communication.

They embrace new strategies to better manage their individual emotional reactions.

The parents report improved interactions with the other. Their children comment that they feel more at ease now when both parents are present as there is less tension and more amicable communication between the two.

The parents continue to seek the support of their coach until they are satisfied they have significantly strengthened their co-parenting alliance.

For more information about Centacare’s Family Dispute Resolution service, including Co-Parent Coaching, please contact Centacare on 8215 6700 or Centacare South East on 8303 6630 or email Explore our range of Family Dispute Resolution services and locations including Mount Gambier HERE.

Asking a child what they want for breakfast can be all that it takes.

They react as if the world is over, throwing themselves to the floor and sparking mutual fury – all in a split second.

Whether you’re a parent of a toddler or teen, you know the feeling.

So how do you control your own reaction in order to defuse the behaviour that set you off?

‘What to do When Kids Push Your Buttons’ is a workshop for parents experiencing separation who find it difficult to stay calm when confronted by particular behaviours.

The child might refuse to go to bed or eat their dinner. Perhaps they throw a tantrum when asked to pick up a toy, turn off their device, or hop in the car.

“It’s all age groups and not just really young children; teens often push our buttons too,’’ said Clare Bowyer, Educator and Counsellor at Centacare.

Based on the work of parenting specialist Bonnie Harris, the workshop supports parents to probe their own buttons, where they come from and how we can step back and respond rather than react.

“A child might swear at you,’’ said Clare, “but if you react to that and say `how dare you?’ the situation is likely to escalate.

“If you look at it from another perspective, and don’t take their comment personally, you will likely see they are having a problem, not being a problem.

“Usually the child is angry about something. It’s about looking for the root of the behaviour rather than just what we see on the surface.’’

Parents learn how to respond calmly and effectively by looking at their own beliefs, expectations and assumptions, and adjusting them accordingly to regain their child’s cooperation and respect.

For more information about this course, please phone Centacare on 8215 6700.

National Families Week begins today. To celebrate the vital role that families play in the community, we will be highlighting some of the many ways Centacare supports families to thrive. Today we look at our Children’s Services Unit which celebrates the diversity in community and believes in providing families with opportunities.


Each year, Centacare’s Children’s Services Unit (CSU) provides support to about 340 families and 600 children across metropolitan Adelaide, the Murraylands, Mount Gambier, and the Riverland.

We aim to build parenting capacity that is sustained long-term through the provision of family supports, therapeutic interventions, the development of parenting and relationship skills and connection to community resources.

We work with families to identify and harness their strengths, build confidence and address challenges. These may include drug and alcohol misuse, mental health, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and abuse and neglect.

Our multidisciplinary teams consist of social workers, nurses, counsellors, therapists, administration, management and leadership.

“We work with vulnerable families to create sustained change; even the most marginal family deserves supports,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager.

“The rewards are invaluable when families can stay together in a safe and supported environment.’’

We offer a number of programs for families, children and young people, from parenting groups, to home visiting programs, family support services, targeted intervention, specialist dad support, family preservation, reunification programs and specialist foster care services.

Staff work with the families to identify risks and target support to mitigate challenges impacting their capacity to parent.

“Therapy is provided alongside in-home supports to families,’’ Leanne says. “This is a crucial element that can lead to sustained change. The therapy addresses the underlying factors that often cause the at-risk behaviours.’’

How we can support you

Click on the links to explore our CSU programs and services

The impact of drug use is felt across generations – many young and older people using methamphetamine are parents too.

Centacare’s Kids in Focus (KIF) service supports parents and carergivers who are misusing alcohol and/or other drugs. The team has made this video to illustrate how children can be affected by their parents’ lifestyle.


My world from Centacare on Vimeo.


Based in the northern suburbs, KIF is a home visiting service and uses child-focused interventions to increase parenting capacity, build healthy relationships between parents and their children, and provide safe family environments.

Parents and caregivers may be more susceptible to substance misuse if they have experienced intergenerational and multiple complex trauma, including mental health, family violence and homelessness.

Children in these families are vulnerable and at risk of accumulative chronic childhood neglect and abuse, leading to long-term behaviour and developmental issues and concerns.

Many parents have never known a nurturing, stable environment and, often, do not allow themselves to see the impact of their drug use on their children.

This includes a lack of play and educational opportunities, unrealistic expectations of the child – including the responsibility for caring for other siblings – developmental delays and mental health.

When parents and caregivers use methamphetamine, children often do not have basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter, and they frequently lack adequate supervision and medical care.

Our KIF team works in partnership with families to strengthen relationships, address drug addiction and assist parents to maintain a clear focus on the well-being of children.




Going back to school is not just daunting for little ones – older students can feel anxious too. Our parenting educators have put together some tips for parents of young people starting high school this year.


Many young people find starting secondary school a time of mixed emotions.

While they may feel excitement, fear, confusion and have a sense of curiosity and adventure, most will admit that starting a new school experience can be a bit scary.

They may feel lost and confused, miss their primary school friends and worry about fitting in.

Adjusting to these differences and their new learning environment can be challenging.

Secondary schools are much bigger, anonymous places than primary school where everyone knows your name. New school routines and unfamiliar classrooms and teachers add an extra dynamic.

Friendship circles change and even established bonds can be challenged in high school, as students tackle one of the primary developmental tasks of establishing identity.

Signs your child is not coping may include:

  • Irritability
  • A short-temper
  • Being disagreeable or rebellious
  • Withdrawing from family
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Articulating stress through tummy pains and headaches

While children may exhibit some of these behaviours regardless of the onset of a new school year, if these signs persist after the first few weeks of term, it’s time to speak to the school to help address the source of stress.

It is equally important that parents look after their own well being too. Remember, this can be a stressful and confusing time for you also, as you juggle work, family and other commitments, and try and figure out how much support to offer your child.

Here are some favourite pieces of parental advice drawn from our parenting groups over the years:

  • Remember that despite their emerging sophistication, students still need to hear you say you love, approve of and support them
  • Provide reassurance by normalising some of the confused and unsure feelings and perhaps share your own high school experience
  • Celebrate their strengths: they need to be reminded of what they do well while they tackle challenges
  • Be a supportive listener and don’t give advice too quickly: help them problem-solve and encourage thinking for themselves
  • Be patient while your student tackles the challenges of first year high school and remember that being organised is usually a learned skill
  • Get to know the school community – other parents can be your best resource.


What is your happiest childhood memory?

Centacare parenting educator Kay Buckley recalls the freedom of growing up in the ‘50s – and crossing one of the nation’s busiest thoroughfares on her 2km walk to school each day.

“I lived in Sydney and I’d cross the Hume Highway – without traffic lights, on my own, at six! That was normal back then.

“In the 1980s when I was bringing up my own kids, we lived on a fruit block and they’d be gone from morning ’til night. Now most parents are reluctant to let their kids walk to the end of the street.’’

As parents become increasingly confused about what children can and cannot do, young people’s resilience – and their freedom to learn and grow – is gradually being eroded and replaced with fear, Kay says.

Our fears are often unlikely but our fears are likely to become more likely if we don’t skill our kids up
Kay Buckley, parenting educator


In response, Centacare is encouraging parents to use practices that build competence, optimism and capability. Allowing children to take some risks also helps to nurture resilience and persistence, Kay says.

“Our fears are often unlikely but our fears are likely to become more likely if we don’t skill our kids up.

“Children have always been able to take risks and if we don’t let them take little ones incrementally, with some scaffolding and support around them, then there’s a certain inevitability about what they may do as adolescents.

“We complain that our children can’t do anything or won’t do anything, but we don’t give them life skills and freedom because we do everything for them. We don’t coach them anymore; we stand there clapping on the sidelines. We should be giving them instruction.’’

Kay’s 12 ingredients of competence:
  • Offer opportunities for initiative and autonomy at an early age
  • Help build confidence by partialising challenges
  • Stop lecturing, testing and drilling
  • Reinforce your child’s excitement about achievements
  • Recognise effort rather than outcome
  • Create an environment where mistakes are accepted
  • Stop rescuing your child
  • Teach the language of optimism and persistence
  • Model positive self-talk
  • Help children manage strong emotions
  • Affirm your child’s ability to impact their world
  • Encourage responsibility, good judgement and persistence
To nurture resilience in children, Kay recommends:
  • Exposure to healthy role models
  • Discover a sense of spirituality
  • Support them to develop life skills
  • Recognise islands of competence
  • Promote positive self-talk




New Netflix feature film To The Bone premieres today amid concern it glamorises anorexia nervosa.

At Centacare, we are mindful this may act as a trigger for vulnerable young people living with, or at risk of, an eating disorder.

However, we acknowledge it also may reduce stigma and raise awareness of eating disorders, and the importance of seeking help.

Our friends at headspace and the Butterfly Foundation have issued some useful resources to support people who may find the film’s content distressing, and for parents who are concerned about their children.

Centacare’s PACE service is also here to help.

Through our peer workers who have a lived experience of eating disorders, we offer one-on-one, group and referral support.

PACE Manager Nigel Wyatt is encouraging parents to engage in conversation with young people around the film which follows the journey of a 20-year-old woman living with anorexia.

To The Bone is based on writer and director Marti Noxon’s personal struggle with eating disorders.

Noxon has said she hopes the film will start conversation around an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconception.

“One way or another, it is going to bring to the forefront of people’s thinking a significant and very dangerous issue,’’ PACE Manager Nigel Wyatt said.

“We hope it will help to reduce stigma and promote an attitude of seeking help but are mindful people living with an eating disorder may struggle to view the content objectively.

“Eating disorders are quite often incredibly competitive illnesses and comparison to others can be a problem.

“We encourage people and families living with some of the complexities raised in the film to seek support.’’

For more information about the services we offer to support people living with an eating disorder, please phone our PACE team on 8159 1400.

There is a lot for children to absorb at the start of a school year.

From changing friendship groups to new teachers and classrooms, many of your child’s experiences will be different to last year.

Some children will adapt quickly to change but others may lack confidence and optimism.

New teacher styles

New teacher styles can be a sticking point for some children. Just as we all learn in different ways, each teacher will take a different approach in the classroom.

Some children will not notice this difference but, for many, it can be overwhelming and a cause of anxiety. This may be apparent instantly or over time.

If change is bothering your child, what can you do?

  • Listen to your child! Try not to disregard the little things which can be big issues for them. Encourage them to express their worries and how they think you can help.
  • Ask them about the good things at school, such as the best part of their day or a fun fact they learned. This will help them focus on the positives.
  • Children do best at school when parents and teachers work together. Open and effective communication is critical. Work with your child’s teacher and let them know about any problems or concerns your child has.
  • Encourage your child to talk to their teacher. This will help build trust and your child’s sense of security in the classroom.
  • Always reassure young people they are not alone and that problems can be worked out.

Friendship groups

Group dynamics often change at school and during the holidays. Friends may play together at recess and lunch but move in different social circles outside of school.

As a parent, watching your child grapple with friendships is very difficult – and hard to fix!

It is confusing and often painful for children if they are omitted from weekend playdates or groups at school one moment and then included the next.

Be understanding and try and give them some advice without saying too much. This is a normal developmental stage so reassure them it is ok to be sad and that it will get better with time as friendships evolve.

A changing group dynamic is different to bullying, which is repeated verbal, emotional or physical abuse intended to hurt, frighten or threaten another.

Tips for kids on forming friendships:

  • Always try and be pleasant and well mannered, even to people you may not hang out with.
  • Talk to others and be interested in what they do! You might find you share interests and hobbies, play the same sports and like similar music.
  • Listen to what others say and join in the conversation.
  • Be helpful and friendly – doing things for others and lending a helping hand goes a long way!
  • Be mindful of others’ feelings. Don’t talk about them behind their back. Every person is different!
  • Avoid arguments with people if they don’t agree with you on certain things. Try and understand their point of view and be honest about your own feelings.
  • Be a good listener and encourage them to make positive choices.
  • Understand that close friendships take time to develop and, while it’s good to have a best friend, you can have lots of other friends too.
  • Have fun together!

For more information, visit:

*If you need extra support, Centacare provides counselling to parents, families and children, and primary and secondary school students. Other support is provided through the National School Chaplaincy Program. For more information, please phone 8215 6700.


This week we are sharing tips and links to help you support your #children to manage their wellbeing and learning.

While the focus is traditionally on the first day of school, families are urged to look out for their children in the coming weeks, as they adjust to new experiences, friendship groups and the demands of learning.

Today we look at separation anxiety.

*If you need extra support, Centacare provides counselling to parents, families and children, and primary and secondary school students. Other support is provided through the National School Chaplaincy Program. For more information, please phone 8215 6700.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is often experienced by parents and children at the start of the new school year.

It is most common in early childhood but may be exacerbated after extensive family time in the holidays, and if your child is apprehensive about their new classroom routine and environment.

They may become upset before school knowing you will soon leave them for the day, and again at drop-off time when the separation occurs.

Most children will bounce back and be relaxed and happy at school but may become upset again at pick-up time when their parent or carer returns and they are reminded of the separation.

Mothers and fathers, too, can feel a sense of loss at leaving their little ones at school.

What can you do for yourself and your children?

  • Teachers are fantastic and usually highly experienced at working through separation anxiety. If your child is finding it hard to leave you, talk to their teacher and see what is possible in terms of supporting your child.
  • Always say goodbye! While it is often tempting to sneak out of the classroom when your child is upset, this will not build trust. Even if your child is upset, reassure them they will be ok and say goodbye. Indicate when you will return. In time, they will learn they are safe and that their carer will always come back.
  • If you are struggling with separation anxiety as a parent, talk to a friend! The school community offers a range of opportunities to connect with other mums, dads and carers. You can also alleviate some anxiety by getting involved with your child’s learning for small periods each week, such as helping at student reading time.
  • Keep a relaxed and happy look on your face when you’re leaving. Even if you are sad, give your child confidence by putting on a happy demeanour.
  • Once at home at night, try not to be negative about what may have occurred that morning. Instead, build your child’s confidence and resilience through positive reassurance.

For more tips and links, visit:

Repairing relationships between mothers and children who experience intergenerational trauma, neglect and abuse is the focus of a new approach to child protection.

In a state-first for non-government organisations, Centacare has appointed child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Jackie Amos to train and support staff in aspects of Parallel Parent and Child Therapy (P-PACT).

The therapy is used to work with mothers, and children aged 3 to 12, caught in cycles of dysfunction and distress.

P-PACT combines attachment-focussed interventions and trauma-based therapy in a single framework to individually support the mother and child, as well as their relationship.

The therapy offers new hope in the prevention of child abuse and neglect arising from a mother’s personal trauma and its impact on her mental health and parenting.

“The mother might be struggling because she’s unwell due to her own trauma history while her child has emotional and behavioural problems at home and at school,’’ Dr Amos said.

“As a result, the mother and child become severely troubled by their relationship.

“Through P-PACT, we work to repair this relationship by supporting the parent and child in parallel to change their beliefs about themselves and one another.’’


Dr Amos will work with Centacare’s Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care team, Kids in Focus program, Targeted Intervention Service and family preservation and reunification teams.

Her partnership with Centacare will inform her research around how different principles of P-PACT might be useful in diverse settings.

Dr Amos is currently a PhD candidate with the University of South Australia health economics and social policy group.



Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700

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