September 15, 20200

The term emotional resilience is used alot these days, particularly in a world of COVID-19, but what does it actually mean?  In this 5 part blog series “Emotional resilience: how do we get there? we talk to Child Psychologist & Neuroscientist Kathryn Berkitt.

In this first blog,  we look at how stress can impact our behaviour and thinking.

In this series we want to share some neuroscientific knowledge that may help you and those around you when it comes to dealing with stress, anxiety, anger and other emotive activations. Increasing your emotional resilience is the key to returning to a state of calm when we feel these emotions.

Many people believe those who are resilient don’t cry and bounce back immediately, so they can appear hard, cold, impenetrable. However, this is not the definition of resilience we are working towards. Yes, resilience is about ‘bouncing back’, and in the case of emotional resilience, it means to return to a state of calm, ensuring your emotions do not create a major interference to life in general. What needs to be explicitly stated though is resilient people still feel. Resilience is about allowing the feeling, validating that we are all emotional human beings, and that being emotionally vulnerable is an important part of connection, reflection and existence. Resilience is the bungee cord at the end of the feeling that becomes strong enough to pull us back.
This series aims to help you understand and support the development of emotional resilience, for ourselves and those we support because if we are resilient, we can be more authentic human beings.

What is emotional resilience?

ENGAGE is an on organisation that trains nationally and internationally around the impact environmental trauma can have on the developing brain. The definition ENGAGE uses to guide the development of emotional resilience is: “multiple moments of tolerable stress, in the presence of a close, meaningful relationship”.

The first element of this definition – ‘multiple moments’ – highlights the importance of our everyday relationships. So if you are someone who experiences multiple moments with the child, adolescent or adult you want to develop resilience for, then you are important. We will explain how it is the small, everyday experiences that build resilience, and this will help you see the importance of your role in this journey.

As you read through this series, you’ll learn things that you already recognise in yourself, and areas you can work on. Remember to always be kind to yourself and simply see this as an opportunity to reflect, learn and consider whether you need to make any changes.

Red brain vs green brain

The second important element in ENGAGE’s definition of emotional resilience is ‘tolerable stress’. You may wonder, what the difference is between tolerable and intolerable stress. This will be explained in later sessions, because of the importance of distinguishing between the two. In this session, we will just look at stress in general. To help us understand stress activation, we use the concept of the red brain and the green brain. The red brain is the lower areas of the brain and the green brain, the upper pre-frontal cortex area. Note, this is a simplified explanation of our highly complex brain, for the purpose of explaining the impact of stress.

The red brain refers to the lower parts of the brain that control survival, co-ordination, language and emotions. This part of the brain is the most essential for keeping us alive. We need it to pump our hearts, operate our bodily functions, communicate and a host of other vital functions . The other part, the upper green brain refers to the prefrontal cortex; the area of our brain that helps us to be logical, rational and empathic. The green brain helps us to be rational, to manage our time, to think about our past and future, plus so many more functions. The green brain feels like it is the most important, and indeed it is incredibly important for learning and for living a connected, full life. However, heartbeat (red brain) trumps empathy (green brain), so when it comes to survival, the red brain will receive the most attention, and the most energy when it requests it.


What happens when you’re stressed

Something you are doing right now, and what we are all doing almost all of the time, is Neuroception. Neurosception is mostly controlled by our red brain, and it is the action of scanning the environment for clues about danger. If the scan comes back clear – no danger in the environment – then our red brain concludes we’re safe, and therefore it requires very little energy. However, if the scan comes back having identified danger (a stressor), it signals to the red brain that there is danger and survival is at risk. This then activates a shift in energy to the red brain. As we have limited energy it must come from somewhere else, so we take it from the green brain.

Consider this scenario: One minute ago, you were calmly walking around the house ready to go out and meet your friends at a café for coffee. Then you reach for your keys to leave. Oh oh! They’re not there. Your neuroception has just scanned and identified a stressor. Your red brain has now essentially computed that your safety is at risk. The red brain now takes a large chunk of energy from the green brain. Lack of energy in the green brain means you are now unable to go back to yesterday to think where you left them. You are also unable to consider the impact you may have on others, so you might just be rude to someone who asks you “where did you see them last?”, or you might just activate the fight/flight response, or the freeze response and physically lash out or shut down. If you have ever lost the plot because you can’t find keys, or forgot your password, or someone asked you what was for dinner after a long day at work…. you will know that when survival red brain requires energy, the logical, empathic green brain is under-resourced. Hence, our change from calm, kind, considered person, to the Incredible Hulk.

Developing awareness and building resilience

We mentioned a stressor indicates to the red brain that there is a threat to our survival. The essential element to remember about stressors, is that they do not have to be life threatening to activate the life preserving activation of the fight/flight, or the freeze response. Any stressor activates our stress response. Losing keys is not likely to result in loss of life, but it activates the same physiological system as we would if we saw a lion approaching. Your child is trying to find their favourite t-shirt but can’t – not a loss of life situation, but they are likely acting like it is. The fact that we respond to any stressor as if it is life-threatening is very important to remember as we continue through this series. This is how we will understand the behaviour of ourselves and those around us, when it feels very different from their usual personality and actions.

The first step is understanding more about this shift in energy to the red brain and how we can start to take back some control. It’s also worth noting, the red brain is essentially two years old, so this explains a lot of the behaviour we exhibit when neuroception identifies a stressor. When you’re stressed, the red brain is activated. This movement of energy in the brain is the reason we can act less empathically, seem more selfish, and not ‘care’ about what we do or say to someone, even if that person is someone we care about. This is difficult enough, but there is more. If we activate the fight/flight response, there is an increased supply of energy to the areas of the body that can help us survive. These energy changes in the body can also result in changes in behaviour. If the freeze response is activated, the body essentially shuts down, meaning we ‘play dead’ to protect ourselves from the stressor we have detected. So when you feel stressed, it is much wiser to walk away, calm down, and come back when you have a bit more of the green brain available.

In other blogs in this series we will unpack why some of us get to that space quicker than others, we will talk about the impact on our body, on health and on our sleep when we are in red brain for too long, and we will look at how to build resilience in yourself and in those around you. Essentially this means staying calm when faced with a difficult situation, so you can move from red brain back to green brain, because in the green brain we can be empathic, we can learn, we can reflect and we can connect. Lets learn more about how to stay in our green brain. We’re glad you can join us for this journey.




August 21, 20200

Could sKids be your new Buzz?

“There’s no better time to get involved in this highly resilient and rewarding industry”, says CEO Dawn Engelbrecht.

The global pandemic has caused financial struggle for many families, resulting in reduced hours and redundancies. While the effects of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for some time, it has also created new opportunities. If you’ve been affected by Covid-19 or are looking for a new direction and you love working with children, sKids could be the exciting next step in your career.

About us

Safe Kids in Daily Supervision (sKids) is a before and after school programme for children aged 5-13. It also offers holiday programmes and a range of innovative programmes including music, sport, and cooking. There are 70 sKids franchises operating 170 centres at schools around New Zealand.

No better time

During lockdown all franchisees went the extra mile to support their clients and families, as well as using the time to upskill staff, said sKids CEO Dawn Engelbrecht. As a result of their dedication, every franchisee has kept their business running and has come back better than ever.
There’s no better time to get involved in this highly resilient and rewarding industry, says Engelbrecht. You’ll be able to take control of your future by being your own boss, with franchise opportunities in a number of parts of the country. “As New Zealand gets back on its feet after Covid-19 and people get back to work, the demand for sKids out-of-school care will grow even more.”

Make a difference

People from the tourism or hospitality sectors, and people who enjoy working with children, make great sKids franchisees. If you love working with people and children, and you’re ready to make a difference within your community, then sKids offers a fantastic opportunity from as little as $35,000.  The company’s aim is to provide programmes and activities that parents can clearly see will be of benefit to their children’s education, health and wellbeing. “These give expanded opportunities to our franchisees, and present parents with something of value rather than just an ordinary after-school care service,” says Engelbrecht.

A proven business model

This has gained sKids an international following based on its innovative programmes and determination to have a positive impact upon children’s lives. It’s also a business model that has stood the test of time, having been in operation since 1996 and is recognised by the Ministry of Social Development as providing an essential service.
If you’re looking for a great business opportunity with low fixed costs in a growing industry, which brings joy to children and their families, sKids could be for you.


July 3, 20200

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein knew the value of reading. It’s true that much of a child’s learning is done through books, but the benefits span far wider than this. Reading transports children to other worlds, develops their imagination and a sense of empathy, helps them process their world, and is essential for clear communication skills. 

So as we approach the school holidays, what could be better than curling up with a great book? To give you some inspiration, co-owner of Wardini Books in Hawke’s Bay, Louise Ward, has come up with her list of best reads. Among these current titles you’ll find something for every age and interest, along with adventure, fun, humour, and surprise. 

Let’s get reading!


  1. Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Reading age 4+

At school Selina is teased and called mophead for her frizzy hair. One day, celebrated NZ poet Sam Hunt visits her school and Selina sees herself in his mad hair and love of words. As a result, she decides to let her hair out and embrace her differences. A finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards, this is a story about being labelled, finding out who you’re supposed to be and celebrating diversity.


  1. The Bomb by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan

Reading age 5

Winner of New Zealand’s Book of the Year in 2019, this quintessential lKiwi summer story follows the journey of a young boy who dreams of pulling off the perfect bomb into the water. While everyone has an opinion about how it should be done, he discovers his own way to do his perfect bomb. 

A great book to share as a family when children aren’t quite reading yet.

  1. Rabbit & Bear by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Reading age 6+

Bear wakes during hibernation to find her store of food has been stolen. As she sets out to find it she meets a grumpy rabbit and tries to get him to help her.

Humorous, fun and educational. 


  1. Hattie by Frida Nilsson and Stina Wirsen

Reading age 7-8

Hattie lives in the middle of nowhere and is desperate to start school so she has someone to play with. At school she meets a little girl who becomes her best friend and the story follows all of the mischievous things they get up to. 


  1. Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

Reading age 9+

If your child is a quiet introvert, this is the book for them. Ware is meant to stay with his grandma for the summer but after she has an accident he is instead sent to a summer programme, where his parents hope he will have meaningful social interaction.  Ware instead meets tough, secretive Jolene at the churchyard next door and the two develop a close friendship. 

A book about finding out exactly who you are and being comfortable with that.

  1. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Reading age 9-12.

Set during the Great Depression in America in the 1930s, Ellie’s family have lost everything and moved to Echo Mountain. Ellie navigates their new life on the mountain’s tough terrain, while getting to know the people around her and going through personal challenges.

Dark, full of adventure, danger and children making moral decisions.


  1. The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Reading age 9-12

Vita is in New York to visit her beloved grandfather who is widowed and has lost his house to a fraudster. When Vita sees the sparkle has gone from her grandfather she decides to get it back. To help her she recruits a crew of kids who all have specialist skills, and who work together to pull off her ambitious plan. 

A story about children being in charge and making decisions that force the adults around them to see who they are. 

  1. Spearo by Mary-Anne Scott

Reading age 10-14

Sean has emigrated to New Zealand from Zimbabwe with his mother after the death of his father. He finds it hard to fit in a school until he meets a boy in his class, Mason, and gets to know his family who are mad about spearfishing. Despite having no experience of the water Sean gets swept up in the family’s interest, and is thrust into a spear fishing competition.

An outdoor adventure full of action and drama. 


  1. The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward

Reading age 12+

Set in Victorian Oxford, young orphan Sin is a petty thief when he is offered the chance to join a covert operations group and become a spy to stop the next Great War. 

Full of gadgets, spies and secrets.

  1. If Only by Adele Broadbent

Reading age 13+

When Kayla tells a lie to go to a party with her friend, it ends up spiralling into a disaster. She

meets a boy involved with project Jonah, an organisation that refloats stranded whales, learns the truth and must make some hard choices. 

Themes of romance, pushing boundaries and the protection of whales.

Louise and Gareth Ward opened independent bookstore Wardini Books eight years ago in the heart of Havelock North village. They chose the name ‘Wardini’ because of Gareth’s background (children’s entertainer, magician and hypnotist) and to reflect the warm, magical environment they have created. Inside you’ll find a fantastic selection of books, and a passionate team of voracious readers who are always happy to help you find the perfect book. 

For more information go to https://wardini.co.nz

Co-owner of Wardini Books, Louise Ward




June 5, 20200

Gnudi is a variation of gnocchi with no or very little flour. Often served with butter and sage, I like baking them in homemade tomato sauce instead because it’s lower in fat.
This recipe is healthy, gluten free, simple to make, and absolutely delicious!  You need to use firm ricotta otherwise the mixture tends to be a bit soft. Otherwise you can add breadcrumbs or flour to the mixture to make it firmer, but of course then it won’t be gluten free any more.

Serves 4


500gm firm ricotta
200gm spinach
50gm Parmesan, grated
2 eggs
pinch nutmeg
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 x 400gm tin crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper


  1. In a hot pan, wilt the spinach with a few tablespoons of water and transfer to a tray to cool.
  2. Once it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze out all excess moisture with your hands and chop the spinach finely.
  3. Mix together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and nutmeg and salt and pepper until well combined.
  4. Roll heaped dessertspoon amounts of the mixture into balls.
  5. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the tinned tomatoes, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour the sauce into a greased ovenproof dish and space the ricotta balls evenly on top.
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 180°C.
  9. Serve with a simple green salad and crunchy bread.

Print Recipe HERE >>

More about Matt HERE >>



June 4, 20200

sKids has been teaching kids to cook healthy meals since 2016, so we are already sold on the massive benefits learning to cook can have for life long health and wellbeing.  Celebrity Chef Matt Golinski shares his story on how ‘Cooking’ helped him through tragedy.

When the worst imaginable life event happened to Matt Golinski, it was cooking that helped him navigate his way through it. In 2011, the celebrity Australian chef lost his wife Rachel and three daughters in a fire at their home. Matt suffered severe burns in the blaze, and spent the next four months recovering in hospital.

When he got out and started the long journey of trying to put the pieces of his life back together, Matt turned to his lifelong love of cooking. He found getting into the kitchen to create a simple meal helped bring a sense of normality back into his life at a time when things felt completely out of control. In this blog, Matt explains the role cooking has played throughout his life, and the positive impact mental health it can have on anyone. He also shares one of his favourite family recipes for you to try at home.

What role has cooking played in your life?

I decided I wanted to be a chef from a very early age, and 40 years later I still love every day I spend in the kitchen. When you’re lucky enough to choose a profession that you love doing it never feels like work. Through cooking I’ve made hundreds of great friends, travelled all over the world, and had the opportunity to make thousands of people happy by filling their bellies.

How did cooking help you through the traumatic experience of losing your family?

In a time when I was feeling so helpless and most things were out of my control, I was still able to do the thing I loved and that helped a lot. After four months in hospital, the first thing I did was pick up a knife and make dinner so I could at least have that tiny bit of normality back in my life.

What are some benefits of children learning to cook at home and school?

Cooking involves organisation, timing, science, patience and fine motor skills which can all be transferred to other aspects of life, but most importantly it’s an opportunity to be creative and have fun. And the best part is that the end product is something you can eat!

Any tips for parents wanting to get their children more involved in the kitchen?

Always keep things simple and fun. Choose things to cook that don’t make piles of mess or take a long time. Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.

More about Matt HERE >>