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Having a mentor made all the difference for sporty but competitive Matt*

Matt* is seven years old and in year two at school. He’s a funny, energetic, and sporty kid who loves playing footy and all sorts of card and board games.

He’s also really competitive, a trait that his Western Sydney Rise mentor quickly identified as an area they could work on together to support him in regulating his emotions and getting more joy out of games.

A tough year

Matt’s had a difficult year. His dad is in custody, and although they have regular visits, Dad’s absence in his day-to-day life has caused him emotional distress.

Like all children his age, Matt is still learning to regulate and express his emotions in healthy ways.

The extra stress his family has been under contributed to regular outbursts at school, and his behavioural dysregulation issues were serious enough to have led to suspensions.

His school was also only able to have him attend on a partial-day schedule due to his high need for intervention to help him remain calm.

The more school Matt missed, the more behind in class he fell, and the more he would struggle when he found something difficult, setting about a troubling cycle.

The help Matt needed

Luckily, however, this cycle has been broken, and Matt is, in his mentor’s words, “completely transformed”.

From day one, Matt’s mentor set about activities and tasks to help him understand his emotions and learn healthier ways to express them.

They focussed on channelling his competitiveness into determination instead, practising playing games for fun and not just to win.

When he lost a game, they looked at ways to manage disappointment that weren’t his previous ways of becoming angry or withdrawn.

It’s incredible how much impact this one-on-one time, really focusing on Matt’s specific needs, has had.

After only a few months of mentoring, Matt has learnt not only how to not get angry, but to actually be happy and excited for the other players when they win!

“When we were playing a memory card game, I correctly matched a few pairs of cards, and he responded by smiling and clapping each time I guessed a pair correctly,” said his mentor.

“He also said words of encouragement like ‘good job’ and ‘that’s awesome’.

“It’s so great to see him learning to be a good friend and peer and watch this kind and supportive part of his personality have space to grow.”

Today, he’s much better adjusted at school and home, is regulating his emotions like a pro, and the explosive energy of the past is gone.

While there’s still work to be done, his school is very pleased with his progress and has allowed him to return for full days, which is the absolute best-case scenario for him, his family, and his future.

Although he still wants to win games, like everyone, he has learnt that trying his best is the real way to win.

And we couldn’t be more proud. Good job Matt!

*Names and images changed

Thank you to the Waratah Foundation and FICAP for supporting Rise in Western Sydney. 

We need your help to reach children like Matt! Please donate today. Every bit counts. 



Having a mentor made all the difference for sporty but competitive Matt*

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