Speaking

Karen is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker and is able to engage with a wide audience on a diverse range of topics. She is available to deliver talks to school, parent and professional groups. These dynamic presentations offer key insights and practical strategies for understanding and strengthening children and adolescents. Presentations can be delivered as professional development seminars, staff in-services, keynotes, or presentations to parents, and/or students. All presentations will be tailored to suit the individual needs of your audience

Here are some popular topics, or if you have another idea you would like to discuss, Karen can discuss this with you to create a presentation that will be engaging and relevant for your audience.

To talk more about your needs and inquire about availability, please email Karen at .

  • Incredible, amazing. Karen spoke clearly and made a lot of information interesting, down to earth, realistic and practical.

    Early Childhood Teacher
    – Brisbane, Australia

  • I found her amazing. I found it relatable and accessible. There were lots of good practical strategies and I acquired a much deeper understanding. It gave me tools, tips and hope.

    Teacher/Counsellor
    -Perth, Australia

  • Great session! So much information and knowledge. I could listen to Karen all day.

    Counsellor
    – Perth, Australia

  • Fantastic, no fluff – it was from start to finish really useful information, theory and practical skills/tools to use. Love Karen’s passion for seeing the best in people.

    Social Worker
    – Brisbane, Australia

  • Great! I love the deep and wise understanding of what can be an elusive concept, and then Karen’s ability to make that understanding ‘come alive’ with her storytelling. I appreciate the tangible sense of deep understanding and care for children with practical, loving help – also extended to their parents. Warm, authentic, wise, and practical.

    Guidance Officer
    Brisbane, Australia

  • I thought it was so informative, engaging and empowering. Karen is so easy to listen to and her stories along the way to explain concepts really consolidated my understanding.

    Primary Teacher
    – Brisbane, Australia

  • Karen is an excellent presenter with a wealth of knowledge. Her presentation was informative with solid information and applications to further strengthen my role as a school counsellor who is working with kids on a daily basis who struggle with anxiety! I would recommend this seminar for both professionals and parents.

    School Counsellor
    – Brisbane, Australia

  • Amazing workshop. Karen is very passionate and knowledgeable. Her ability to share her knowledge and experience in understandable terms is a gift.

    Occupational Therapist
    – Brisbane, Australia

  • I found this seminar practical and very informative. Karen is able to describe a range of strategies to use with anxious children and teens, but understands and acknowledges that one size does not fit all.

    Speech Pathologist
    – Melbourne, Australia

  • Karen was a very engaging speaker. The information was current and informative. As a mother of two young children, both who have anxiety, this information is invaluable.

    Paediatric Nurse
    – Melbourne, Australia

  • Fantastic training. Karen has fantastic tools for working with children and families who are impacted by anxiety. Families require explanations, much the same as children, about why something is happening, how to change it, and why it is important to. This training gave me many tips and tools about how to do this in a meaningful way. As a mum dealing with anxiety in herself and children in her home, you helped give me hope.

    Social Worker
    – New Zealand

  • I feel empowered with knowledge and I now feel so much more confident to work with and guide my students. This has been a very worthwhile, informative seminar.

    School Guidance Counsellor
    – New Zealand


FOR PARENTS

  • Strengthening Children and Teens Against Anxiety

    Anxiety is a very normal part of being human, but for as many as one in five children, it can reach intrusive levels, interfering with family life, friendships, and school performance. This transformational session will provide parents and carers with the essential information and powerful, practical strategies to help their children and teens thrive through anxiety, whether it’s everyday levels of anxiety or more intrusive.

  • Anxiety During Adolescence – Strengthening Teens Against Anxiety

    Anxiety can be tough for anyone, but add in the whirlwind of changes that come with adolescence, and anxiety can intrude on young lives more than it deserves to. If left unmanaged, anxiety can limit their reach into the world and their discovery of their very important place in it. It can also leave the adults in their lives who care about them feeling helpless – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Anxiety is manageable, and our teens have a profound capacity to shift anxiety out of their way and move forward with strength. In this presentation, we will focus on anxiety during adolescence. We will discuss how the changes in the adolescent brain can make teens more vulnerable to anxiety, and powerful ways to engage and strengthen all young people against anxiety through adolescence and beyond.

  • Building Courage and Resilience in Children

    Courage and resilience are vital qualities that help children adapt in the face of adversity and challenge, and give them the confidence move towards life-giving opportunities. We will discuss why resilience is so important and how to nurture these essential qualities in our children.

  • Building Self-Control and Emotional Regulation in Children

    Self-control is a vital skill that is instrumental in helping our children develop into healthy, happy adults. It will take time to take shape – nobody was born knowing how to manage big feelings and delay immediate wants in favour of a longer-term goal, but parents have enormous power to provide children with the experiences that will build this vital skill in their children. This seminar will explore the powerful ways parents can, quite literally, influence the strengthening of the brain in ways that will build self-control, emotional regulation, and resilience in their children for life. We will look at the importance of relationship in nurturing self-control, and how parents can strengthen their connection and influence with their children during childhood and beyond.

  • The Neuronurtured Child – Bringing Neuroscience (and Loads of Heart) to Parenting

    Childhood is a time of immense development. Most of the time, this will be a source of pure, full-bodied joy. But as magical as it can be, it can also be tough at times, when feelings and behaviour swell big enough to own a room. Thankfully, huge advances in neuroscience have shone a bright light on why children do what they do, and what their growing brains need to thrive. This has helped to make sense of behaviour that often makes no sense at all and given us glowing signposts for how to respond to big behaviour and big feelings in ways that strengthen the foundations for healthy development. This presentation brings neuroscience (and loads of heart) to parenting and caring for children. It will be ideal for anyone who lives or works with young children – parents, carers, educators.

  • Let’s Talk

    Your questions answered – a heartfelt Q & A about common parenting challenges of childhood and adolescence. Parenting can be the toughest and the best all in the same ten minutes. As isolating as it can feel at times, there is not a challenge we will ever face as parents that many others have not also faced. When we tap into our common humanity and talk about our shared experiences, there will be wisdom and comfort waiting there. This presentation will be shaped by collected or commonly asked questions. It can be adapted for parents of very young children, primary school children, and/or adolescents. It can also be tailored to cover different topics that are relevant to all ages of children.


FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

For teachers, therapists, educators, or any professional who works with children and adolescents.

Each of these topics can be delivered as keynotes or professional development workshops. Topics will be tailored specifically to meet the individual needs of your audience, and presentations can be designed to run from 1.5 hours to a full day.

  • Working With Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

    Anxiety is a very normal human response but for as many as 1 in 5 young people, the symptoms become so intrusive, they significantly interfere with day to day living.

    The effects can ripple from children, to their families, to the classroom, and into friendships. Anxiety can potentially undermine the way children see themselves, the world and their important place in it – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Anxiety is very manageable and all children can be strengthened against the intrusive effects of anxiety. This dynamic workshop will offer a range of practical, powerful interventions to assist participants to respond effectively within their own professional context.

  • Anxiety in the Classroom – Helping Children Thrive Through Anxiety at School

    Anxiety loves anything unfamiliar or any situation that comes with any potential for embarrassment, failure, humiliation, shame, or separation from a loved one – and school is ripe for all of them. Anxiety can significantly affect friendships, confidence, and school performance, but it doesn’t have to be this way. All children and teens need the right support to thrive, and even the smallest considerations can go a long way to helping children with anxiety find the very best version of themselves. Participants will learn practical, powerful, proven ways to effectively respond to children with anxiety, as well as ways to capture the powerful buffering role school can play in strengthening all young people against anxiety at school and beyond.  

  • Anxiety in Early Childhood

    As much as the early learning environment can nurture and nourish all children, the very nature of it means that it can also hold many anxiety triggers, including unfamiliar people and situations, and separation from a loved one. As some of the most important adults in the day to day lives of young children, early childhood educators have a profound capacity to strengthen all young children against anxiety. This workshop will support participants in further developing the capacity to effectively respond to anxiety in young children. It will also explore ways to capture the powerful role the early learning environment can play in strengthening all children against anxiety.  

  • Neurodevelopment from Infancy to Adolescence – Understanding the developing brain to support whole-child development.

    Recent developments in neuroscience have expanded our capacity to be more effective in all areas of practice in child development. We now have remarkable insight into what the growing brain needs to thrive from infancy through adolescence and beyond. Drawing on neuroscientific insights, we can ‘neuro-nurture’ the developing child and dramatically influence the growth and development of the young brain to provide the foundations for a happy, successful life. As the need for neuroscientific knowledge amongst practitioners increases, its convergence with key approaches to attachment, trauma, and learning have seen watershed changes in how we understand and support optimal development, behaviour and social-emotional wellbeing. This opens the way for us to take a more compassionate, targeted and effective response when working with children and adolescents in any capacity. This dynamic workshop will translate neuroscience into powerful insights and practical strategies to support the holistic development of children and adolescents. 

  • The Impact of Trauma on the Developing Brain, and How to Support Children Towards Healing

    The effects of trauma on the developing brain can be profound, impacting neural, physiological, behavioural, relational and emotional development. The greater our capacity to understand the effects and various manifestations of trauma, the greater our capacity to respond to children and adolescents in ways that will support healing and minimise the risk of long-term harm. Any caring, stable, responsive adult in the life of a child has an enormous capacity to provide a buffering from the effects of trauma, and strengthen that child towards healing and growth. This workshop is for anyone who works with children or adolescents. 
  • Brain to Brain – The Neuroscience of Calm, Connection and Regulation

    For anyone who works with children or adolescents, the profound truth is that the brain state and emotional temperature of adults will directly impact the brain state and emotional temperature of the young people in their presence, for better or worse. Ultimately, this will potentially influence a young person’s behaviour, capacity to learn, relationships, and brain architecture. As important as self-regulation is, it can be difficult to achieve at times. We are beautifully human, and along with our great strength and power to heal, calm, and connect, we also have our limits. We can’t help but be impacted by everyday stressors from our own lives, as well as the demands of co-regulating the young people in our care, supporting them through their own pain-based responses, establishing boundaries and responding to challenging behaviour. In this workshop, we will discuss the neuroscience of self-regulation and co-regulation. We will also discuss practical, science-backed ways to gently collect ourselves and the young people in our care to a greater place of calm in challenging, stressful times.

  • Supporting Children Through Separation and Divorce

    Despite the best happily-ever-after intentions, many relationships are ending in divorce or separation. Children can come through the other side of a separation safely and soundly, but so much of this will depend on how the ending of the relationship is managed. In any divorce or separation, there are things that will make navigating to the other side easier for all children. This workshop is for parents, or anybody who works with parents and families, who are going through the ending of a relationship.

    FOR CHILDREN (PRIMARY SCHOOL)

    • ‘Who Doesn’t Get Anxiety!’ – Discovering Your ‘Brave’.

      Children are powerful when we empower them. This presentation will focus on providing children with the information and strategies they need to strengthen themselves against anxiety and build their capacity for calm, courage, and resilience. It will provide them with the strategies and information to help them move through anxiety and extend their reach towards brave behaviour.

    • Your Amazing Brain! And how to be the boss of it. Building social and emotional IQ in children.

      If you could teach one set of skills to every child in the world, what would it be? What if it could be something that would bring intelligence and compassion to decision-making, reduce (violence, embed within humanity a drive towards kindness and relationships that heal, nurture and flourish those who are in them? Social-emotional intelligence lies at the heart of this, and neuroscience can provide the scaffold to build these vital qualities. In this fun, child-friendly introduction to neuroscience, children will learn about the workings of the brain, and how to use this information to build strong, healthy behaviours.


    FOR ADOLESCENTS (SECONDARY SCHOOL)

    • Anxiety During Adolescence – How to Strengthen Against Anxiety

      Everyone experiences anxiety at some point, but add in the whirlwind of changes that come with adolescence, and anxiety can feel bigger than it deserves to. This presentation will provide adolescents with powerful information and strategies to navigate through challenges, expand their self-belief, discover their remarkable capacity for courage and resilience, and engage with the world with confidence, courage and strength – because the world can’t be brilliant without them.

    • Thriving Through Adolescence – Making Sense of the Changes and Challenges by Understanding Your Changing (and Amazing) Brain

      During adolescence, the brain goes through the most remarkable changes. This is to provide adolescents with the neural power to learn new skills, experiment with the world and their place in it and stretch beyond the familiar as they make the transition from dependent children to independent, healthy, happy adults. The adolescent brain is wired to drive them through this transition, but there will be challenges along the way. Information is power, and with the right information, adolescents will have an expanded capacity to navigate through the challenges, and see the changes they are going through as positive and dynamic.


      ‘BRAVELY’ – A CLASS-BASED PROGRAM FOR ALL STUDENTS

      ‘Bravely’ has been developed in response to the growing demand from schools to find ways to strengthen children and adolescents against anxiety. Bravely is a science-backed, class-based program to support all children and adolescents with the information, strategies, and inner resources to build courage and resilience, and feel bigger in the presence of anxiety. The program can be adapted for primary or high school students. It includes a series of modules, which draw on neuroscience, and which are delivered in a way that is engaging, interactive, and fun, in order to provide students with life-long skills and strengthening. Each module is based around specific learning objectives, with practical, targeted exercises to consolidate the learning. Bravely can be delivered as an 8 module program or a 6 module program. 

      Please email Karen at for more information.

      Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

      For way too long, there’s been an idea that discipline has to make kids feel bad if it’s going to steer them away from bad choices. But my gosh we’ve been so wrong. 

The idea is a hangover from behaviourism, which built its ideas on studies done with animals. When they made animals scared of something, the animal stopped being drawn to that thing. It’s where the idea of punishment comes from - if we punish kids, they’ll feel scared or bad, and they’ll stop doing that thing. Sounds reasonable - except children aren’t animals. 

The big difference is that children have a frontal cortex (thinking brain) which animals and other mammals don’t have. 

All mammals have a feeling brain so they, like us, feel sad, scared, happy - but unlike us, they don’t feel shame. The reason animals stop doing things that make them feel bad is because on a primitive, instinctive level, that thing becomes associated with pain - so they stay away. There’s no deliberate decision making there. It’s raw instinct. 

With a thinking brain though, comes incredibly sophisticated capacities for complex emotions (shame), thinking about the past (learning, regret, guilt), the future (planning, anxiety), and developing theories about why things happen. When children are shamed, their theories can too easily build around ‘I get into trouble because I’m bad.’ 

Children don’t need to feel bad to do better. They do better when they know better, and when they feel calm and safe enough in their bodies to access their thinking brain. 

For this, they need our influence, but we won’t have that if they are in deep shame. Shame drives an internal collapse - a withdrawal from themselves, the world and us. For sure it might look like compliance, which is why the heady seduction with its powers - but we lose influence. We can’t teach them ways to do better when they are thinking the thing that has to change is who they are. They can change what they do - they can’t change who they are. 

Teaching (‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘How can you put this right?’) and modelling rather than punishing or shaming, is the best way to grow beautiful little humans into beautiful big ones.

#parenting
      Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
      When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
      Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
      How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting

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