What can I do?

Start early.

If you start brushing as soon as your child gets their first tooth, by the time they gets to the ‘no!’ stage tooth brushing should hopefully be a normal part of their routine.

Put on a show.

Let your child see you brushing your teeth. If you make it look really fun, they may want to do theirs too. Talk about what you’re doing as you clean, “flick flick, up the top, way at the back”. If you brush your teeth at the same time as them you’re showing them it’s what everybody does.

Make it into a game or song.

A tooth brushing game can distract them from what’s going on.
You can try:

  • Shark/dinosaur - get them to grin like a shark while you brush the front teeth then they roar like a dinosaur so you can get to the back.
  • What do I see? - make up things you can see in their mouth – “ Oooh, I can see spaghetti in there –let’s get that off! And there’s a pea – that’s been there since last week!"
  • Or make up a silly song just for them – "The brush in your mouth goes round and round…”

Play dentist.

If you pretend to be a dentist your child might be so distracted by being the patient they forget to resist. Put a chair in the bathroom, check their name with them and welcome them in, tuck a clean flannel or paper towel down their front etc. Talk about only needing a pea sized blob of toothpaste and show them the amount before you begin brushing. You could even include some flossing! (Hint some kids love this so much the dentist visit can take a while, so save it for nighttime brushing.) This can also help make their first visit to the dental nurse less scary.

Let them pick out their own toothbrush.

If they can let them choose the colour and style of the toothbrush, they’re much more likely to want to use it. The same goes with toothpaste, just make sure it’s designed for their age. Talk about only needing a pea sized blob of toothpaste (unlike the television ads) and show them the amount.

Give them choices (within reason).

You can’t let them choose not to brush but you can let them decide when: eg do you want to brush your teeth before or after you put your pajamas on? It’s even better if the choices are silly ones - shall we walk to the bathroom backwards or forwards?

Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.

Need back-up? Family members might be willing to help but not sure what to do. . Be specific – “could you please bath/feed change/dress baby”

Feeling like a bad parent? Look around and check is there anything that could be dangerous to the kids? If not, relax – you’re doing OK!

Feel like you’re always on the go? Your kids are the most important thing - and they’re only young once. Think about what absolutely must be done now and what can wait.

Worried what others think of your parenting? What your kids think of you is what really matters! If you focus on them, you’re already doing a great job.

Feeling down? Talking with someone you trust can be the first step to finding help. Working out whether your feelings are temporary or more lasting is important. Depressed? Writing down your feelings in a daily diary will help you monitor whether it’s getting better or worse. This will also help you explain better if you go to your doctor.

Sick of yelling? Try singing your frustration instead. If you hop or jump at the same time, everyone gets the giggles — another great tension buster!

Feeling yuk? If no-one else can help with the kids, grab a pillow and blanket - set up camp in your lounge until you start to feel better

Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?

Stress over unpaid bills? Have a banking setup that automatically takes money out for your main bills first. Then you know what you have left to survive on.

Determined to stay calm?

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Putting it all together

SKIP’s approach is based on six things which children need from parents to help them grow into happy, capable adults.

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  • Love & warmth

  • Talking & listening

  • Guidance & understanding

  • A structured & secure world

  • Consistency & consequences

  • Limits & boundaries