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Meet Judy Hunter, Child Mental Health Specialist: Childhood Matters NZ

Hi - I'm Judy Hunter, a Child Mental Health + Well-Being Specialist. 

I set up Childhood Matters NZ when my own child was young in order to continue my passion for working with children and their parents, as well as professionals involved in the children's workforce.

Having originally trained as a Child Psychotherapist in Wellington in the 1990s, I subsequently worked in a range of child mental health services both in New Zealand and the UK. 

By the time my own child was born in 2008, I had moved into a training and consultation role with a UK-wide children's charity based in London. I moved back to New Zealand with my husband and child the following year and settled in sunny Hawke's Bay.

Currently I work in a range of roles centered around child (and family) mental health and well-being - which includes training and consulting to the children's workforce. I deliver the Circle of Security® Parenting™ programme and general parenting support at the Hawke's Bay School for Teenage Parents where I have worked part time since 2011. I also write and deliver professional development on a range of topics as a freelance consultant. 

In 2012 I combined my existing professional knowledge with my own mindfulness practice and international information/research into mindfulness and began to apply this in educational settings using the MindUP™ curriculum. Since then I have has offered this 'Mindfulness for Kids' work to a growing number of Hawke's Bay preschoolers, school-aged children, adolescents and teaching staff. Click here to read more about this work.

In recent years I have become more and more invested and interested in what is called Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (or ECMHC). This is an emerging area of professional development and support for those working with young children, such as ECE settings, home visiting teams and social services. You can read more about it and the work I do in this area here.

My interests and specialities include:

  • parent/teacher education

  • using mindfulness as a tool for mental health + well-being

  • promoting secure attachment relationships

  • healthy brain development in the early years 

  • device-use and its effects on children

  • supporting professionals working with children.

I am a registered Circle of Security® Parenting™ Facilitator and a FAN: 'Facilitating Attuned Interactions' Trainer.

I am on the National Executive Committee of the Infant Mental Health Association Aotearoa New Zealand (IMHAANZ).

participate in regular professional and personal development opportunities to upskill and ensure up-to-date + best practice in my current roles.

Guiding Principles

Guiding Principles white

I believe our children are our future. 

Spending large amounts of time with children being responsible for their mental health and well-being - either as a parent, caregiver, educator or teacher - is hard. Amazing and rewarding, yes. But also hard.


Which is why I do the work I do and why I have a handful of guiding principles I use both in my role as a parent and in my professional life ...

Attachment relationships

As infants we learn how to be in relationships from the adults who care for us; these early relationships are the compass that guide us. Relationship security comes from sensitive, responsive, consistent parenting/caregiving. These early patterns of relating have a lasting impact on our health and well-being and largely predict how we will operate in relationships ourselves. Offering relationship security is one of those things that sounds easy to do but can be much harder in practice. Which is why everyone working with and raising children deserves help and support from time to time. Knowing our own story of early relationships is a necessary first step in providing security for our precious tamariki.

Neuroscience + the developing brain

Thanks to the rise of technology in neuroscience, the past few decades have seen enormous leaps in what we know about how children's brains grow, develop and change throughout childhood and adolescence. What is now very clear is that the experiences a child has in their early years (roughly 0-3 years or the first 1000 days) have a lasting impact on their lifelong heath and well-being. It's not that everything needs to be perfect - we are human after all - but that young children's brains are under such construction during this time, everyone involved in their lives should be supported to know and apply this science-based information each and every day.

Mindfulness for calm and change

Mindfulness may be a real buzz word right now but it's also an ancient principle at the heart of health, well-being and secure relationships. I came to mindfulness later in my life rather than earlier and it's fair to say it's been a game changer. Understanding the simple (yet sometimes tricky to apply) principles of being mindful and practicing daily can have profound effects on us as humans if we are prepared to be diligent and also kind to ourselves. For children and adults alike, knowing how our brains work - and how to calm ourselves at times of upset and overwhelm - is a source of strength and an agent for change. In a word: Mindfulness.

Humans are hardwired to connect

Research across the lifespan has now confirmed what people have guessed for centuries: no (wo)man is an island. Feeling socially connected is good for your health: mental and physical.​ One scientist has said, if we had a drug that did for our health what love does for our health, it would far outsell any other drug ever made.​ Relationships are so important, did you know our experience of pain is lessened by the presence of someone we love? And that babies come into the world ready for and actively seeking meaningful connection?​​ Understanding that we have specifically evolved to feel connected to others can help when it comes to the important work of supporting young children's development.

Hapaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu.

Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations.

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