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Supporting your child when they are avoiding school
Supporting your child when they are avoiding schoolMay 2, 2024Homepage Display / Middle Childhood / TeenagersParents and carers can feel isolated and alone when they have a child that struggles to attend school. Parents say that they often feel judged, blamed, misunderstood and frustrated. You do not deserve to feel any of these feelings. You are not alone Going through issues around school-avoiding behaviour with your child is full of challenges and tensions. As a parent it is very challenging to have your child’s needs and well-being as your main concern, while at the same time experiencing pressures to get your child back into school. You may find yourself struggling with how to strike the right balance between how much  your child is capable of and how much you should challenge or push them. You may feel that the school is judging you and that the wider system is monitoring you. You may feel that your child is a problem to be managed rather than a person who needs care, love and understanding. You might find yourself feeling frustrated or angry at your child for not going to school. It might have an effect on your relationship with them or others in your family. It can be overwhelming juggling all this along with work and other family commitments. Know that if your child is avoiding school, it is not your fault. You are not alone in this. You, the parent, should be at the centre of the response schools and other services provide to support your child back to school. They need to do this to create a positive relationship with you. School-avoiding behaviour is often a signal that all is not well in your child’s world; it can be a symptom of a bigger difficulty. It is important to explore what is going on for your child and look for help if you need it. Generally, the earlier a parent does this, the better. Supporting your child to express their feelings It is helpful to encourage your child to express what they are feeling about school. However, children can often find it hard to respond to direct questions about what’s going on. They may not be able to identify exactly what their feelings are and why they are feeling them. When helping your child explore their thoughts and feelings about school try to create a relaxed atmosphere. Listen carefully and recognise that your child’s feelings are valid. Even if they may feel like small things to you, or not a reason why you yourself wouldn’t go to school, they may feel big to your child. Let your child know that you believe in them, you are there for them and you will figure this out together. You will feel your own stress as well as the distress of watching your child going through a time of difficulty. As best you can, try not to allow your normal and natural concerns for your child’s future to take over the present situation. Try to stay calm and reassure your child, even though you might be feeling stressed. Remember: Your child’s experience is an understandable reaction to a stressful time or environment. Try to remind yourself, and help your child to know, that the experiences you are going through now will pass. They won’t last forever. Perhaps you can describe the experiences to your child as a key learning opportunity where you and your child might learn important life lessons like how to manage stress, how to take care of emotional and physical well-being and who to get support from when needed. Invest in the relationship with your child First and most important, you help by investing in your relationships with your child. Parenting is the most important, but also the hardest, job you will ever have. We know from research that by far the most protective and influential factor in a child’s life is a safe, caring and supportive parent-child relationship. Within this safe, loving relationship, you can help your child develop the skills needed to adapt to the challenges life can bring. So, prioritise spending quality time together doing things that you both enjoy. Laugh and have fun together, show an interest in your child’s hobbies, and be available to listen, support and empathise. Trust in yourself As a parent or carer, you have a unique insight into your child’s history, relationships, behaviours and emotions. Don’t be afraid to advocate for what you believe your child needs. Your child’s school has a duty to respond to your concerns. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. If you need help, or guidance, there are supports available for parents. If you need help working through this or other documents, ask someone you trust to go through them with you. Make sure to look after yourself. School-avoiding behaviour can be incredibly stressful and exhausting. Reach out to trusted family and friends and say “Yes” to any offers of help. This article was drawn from Working with your child to address school avoidance: A resource for parents, a Limerick-developed resource launched at Limerick School Attendance Conference. You can download the resource at www.limerickservices.ie/resources.  [...]
Encouraging Positive Behaviour
Encouraging Positive BehaviourApril 18, 2024Homepage Display / Middle ChildhoodWe’ve all been there—it’s the end of a long day and we know that what everyone in the family needs is to be tucked up in bed. Getting there, however, can seem like the a never ending journey. There’s finding the right pair of pyjamas, ensuring the teeth are brushed, scrambling to find the lost tie and the stuffed animal that hasn’t been played with in two months but is suddenly essential, a final drink of water, stories, hugs, another final drink of water and then, as you settle onto the couch for the first time that evening, “Daaaad, I need you…” It’s at this stage that even the most patient among us is tempted to shout up the stairs, “JUST GO TO BED!!” The most patient and the less patient will realise, however, that this very rarely works. Getting our child to listen and to behave positively can be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. One of the best ways to change unwanted behaviour is to pay attention to and reward the behaviours you want. The most powerful re­ward is praise, which is a social reward. Another social reward is spending time with your child. Other effective rewards are privileges (like T.V. and gaming time, special outings, extra bedtime stories, time with friends) and material rewards such as money, toys, treats, or a Driver’s License. Below are some ideas on how to establish a reward system with your child. CHOOSE the behaviour you want your child to do and write it down. Begin with a behaviour that is not too hard to achieve. You can then tackle more difficult behaviours. (If you want your child to stop doing a negative behaviour, decide what its opposite is; that becomes the behaviour goal.) PRACTICE: Break down the new behaviour into small doable steps you can teach your child and have him or her practice the behaviour. Decide on the how the behaviour will be measured—how your child knows he or she has accomplished it. REWARD: Decide what reward your child likes and how it will be earned (number of points required, etc.). Have the rewards on hand. CHART: Let your child choose a tracking chart. Fill it out and be clear about what your child must do to earn a move on the chart and receive a reward. REWARD: Put the chart in a place where they will be easily seen. Be interested and enthusiastic when your child marks the chart. PRAISE: Praise your child every time you see him/her doing the new behaviour and have him/her note it on the chart. When choosing rewards, make sure children find the rewards enticing—let them help decide the reward. Some rewards can be small for smaller achievements and some can be larger for significant progress. Make sure the rewards are on-hand and easy to give. Chil­dren earn points to receive rewards by practicing the desired behaviour, setting up a tracking chart, and daily doing the behaviour. This article was adapted from the Strengthening Families Programme. [...]
Bullying/Cyberbullying and Your Child
Bullying/Cyberbullying and Your ChildApril 11, 2024Homepage Display / Middle ChildhoodBullying impacts the lives of many children and families in Ireland. Bullying is a common enough word these days – but what does it actually mean? Although it is very common and can happen anywhere, we don’t always see or identify bullying soon enough. Bullying is repeated, negative behaviour carried out by an individual or group against others. It can be physical (such as hitting, kicking) or psychological (such as name calling, isolating, harassing). Bullying is an unacceptable behaviour, and should never be overlooked or ignored. Bullying can happen in a variety of settings, and quite often occurs in situations where there is little or no adult supervision. While disagreements and challenges in interpersonal relationships are an inevitable part of life, instances of bullying can have a significant impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people. When people bully, they use their power to control or threaten others, this causes feelings of hurt, isolation and fear. Children and youth have access to more technology than ever before. Social networking sites, smart phones and gaming consoles allow them to connect with others on a larger scale and on a more frequent basis. Cyberbullying refers to bullying that is carried out through the internet, mobile phone, or other technological devices. It can include sending abusive or threatening messages; posting offensive statements or pictures online; and other actions that threaten or upset others using technology. Cyberbullying is often anonymous and hard to control, as the person being bullied may not know who is doing it and, unlike other forms of bullying, can happen in the child’s home or other environments at any time. As a parent, it is important to let your child know that anyone who bullies others is in the wrong. If a child experiences bullying, whether directly, as a bystander, or participates in bullying others, it is best to talk with a trusted adult. Should your child talk with you about bullying, it is a good idea to carefully explore their feelings about what happened. You may wish to contact their school about your concerns, so that teachers can help monitor the situation. The reasons as to why children bully can often be quite complex. This can include low self-esteem, acting out of frustration, poor communication skills, environmental factors, and media exposure. For some children, bullying may give some sense of control or power, when other aspects of their lives feel out of control. A child who bullies may have been previously bullied themselves, or have had other difficult life experiences. Despite their reasons for bullying, children and young people should be made aware that bullying is an unacceptable behaviour for which there are serious consequences. For those being bullied, many may hide their feelings, particularly if they are afraid to talk about what they are experiencing. Young people might be reluctant to tell others about being bullied because they fear that the bullying may become worse if they tell or they may fear that adults will take away some of the things they enjoy, such as their mobile phone, or internet access. It is important parents and caregivers be attentive and aware of what children and youth are exposed to and the experiences they are having across all environmental settings. Some signs that your child might be experiencing bullying can include a sudden fear of going to school; inability to concentrate; withdrawn behaviour; low mood; loss of confidence and self-esteem; bedwetting; dishevelled appearance; and repeated signs of bruising and injuries. Children who are being bullied and children who are bullying cannot tackle this problem alone and will require support and encouragement from the adults in their lives to resolve it. The first step is ensuring your child knows that you are there to listen and offer support. Top Tips Encourage Respect. During everyday life and on the internet, there are standards for how one should behave when interacting with other people. Speak with your child about the harm that can be caused by bullying and cyberbullying, ensuring that they understand the consequences for bullying. Encourage empathy and understanding of how it feels to be bullied (consider reading books, watching movies and open discussions). Teach and model kindness and respect for others.  Parent involvement in child’s technology use: Parents need to actively monitor their children’s technology use. Be aware of what media platforms they use and what they typically use it for. Ensure that what they are exposed to and engaging in is age-appropriate. Ensure parental controls are enabled. All social media apps have age restrictions and these should be adhered to. Manage your own emotions: Whether your child has been bullied or has been accused of bullying it is important to try to manage your own emotions and stay calm. For children accused of bullying, they often have difficulties with managing conflict, frustration or are struggling socially. For children who have been bullied, demonstrate understanding and empathy while listening to what they have to say. Assure them you are happy they came to you for support. Ensure your child does not feel “punished” for coming to you (for example losing access to their phone) and problem solve when everyone is calm.  Keep your child informed: Openly discuss with your child what will happen next. They may become worried now that things are out in the open and fear that the situation may get worse, therefore they will need regular reassurance that the situation will be managed. Liaise with school: Liaise with your child’s school to see if they have noticed any bullying there and share information with them. Work closely with the school to tackle the problem. Every school should have an anti-bullying policy to outline what steps will be taken in the event of bullying in school. Link with your GP: If the bullying is of a serious nature, your child may need professional help. Seek advice from your GP, who will be able to sign-post you to the most appropriate support. This article was written by Miranda Comar, Psychology Assistant with the Limerick Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service. [...]
Top Tips for Recycling Easter Goodies
Top Tips for Recycling Easter GoodiesApril 8, 2024Homepage DisplayLike selection box and gift-wrapping overload at Christmas, Easter can generate a lot of unnecessary waste. Now the hunts are over and the Easter Bunny has gone on his way, there are a few clever ways to deal with waste and leftovers. Some ‘make and do’ time is always time well spent with your child: Chocolate eggs don’t have to be eaten in their entirety. Enjoy some quality time in the kitchen with your children – melt down eggs to make chocolate buns or cakes. If the weather works out, enjoy those treats as part of an outdoor picnic. Re-purpose egg boxes before they hit the recycling bin. That cardboard box could make a great spaceship or bed for a tired Barbie! Easter hamper baskets could be used for some Spring planting. Recycle the straw, replace it with soil and seeds and watch your indoor herb garden grow. Bunting has become really popular and is easy to recycle. Paper or material triangles can be laid over bunny and chick motifs, complete with your child’s drawings. Happy Easter can become Happy Spring. Easter bonnets that were done as school projects can be returned to their original straw state and with the addition of some colourful ribbon, you have a new sun hat.   [...]
A Mother’s Thoughts on the Power of Neurodiversity and Positive Parenting
A Mother’s Thoughts on the Power of Neurodiversity and Positive ParentingApril 8, 2024Ability / Homepage DisplayWorld Autism Awareness Day, highlights the need to help improve the quality of life of those with Autism so that they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society. To mark Autism Awareness Day, children’s author Sivan Hong shares her thoughts on the power of neurodiversity and positive parenting. Language holds power. We see this every day on our social media feeds, whether it’s something going viral on twitter or a meme on IG that speaks to exactly what we are feeling in the moment. That is why I was so drawn to the term neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a science-based concept that says that brain/learning differences, like Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, etc. are biologically normal or mainstream. It frames the challenges that come with neurodiversity as differences instead of framing them as deficits. For me, this was a huge “ah-ha” moment. This one word told me that there was nothing “wrong” with my brain, it was just different – and that was okay. Different is normal, not wrong, not broken, not in need of fixing. I can work with different. As a mother of two neurodivergent kids, it was critical for my boys to grow up feeling that same sense of pride about their brain differences; it was not enough that I felt this way. After all, why should they think of themselves as broken, when they are not? Their brains can do incredible things. They see the world in a different way. There are so many strengths in brain differences, that I wanted them to see those strength within themselves and build on them. The challenge for me, as a mother, was how do to that. Like many parents, when I looked for ways to teach my kids, I turned to stories – I turned to books. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there were not a lot of picture books that showed neurodivergent characters. (To be clear, there are some incredible stories out there, but not nearly enough.) I wanted books that could mirror my children’s experiences wearing headphones, chewing gum, playing with fidget toys and their comfort in routine and schedules. I wanted to provide them these types of mirrors to normalize their experiences, so that they could see picture book characters being just like them. I wanted them to see that their experiences while different, were also normal. I never set out to be an author/illustrator, but I became one to fill a gap that I saw. I created the Super Fun Day Books series to show neurodivergent children facing challenges and overcoming them. My books are structured like social stories, which is a tool used in special education to help teach children about something that may be hard. The illustrations in the books are purposefully simple to help keep a focus on the story and the font is dyslexic friendly. All the books are available as audiobooks to make them accessible to all types of learners. (I happen to consume books best in audio format myself and am so thankful for that technology). There are days when my children are proud of their neurodiversity and there are days, like with all children, they just want to be like everyone else. I hope that my books help other parents, educators, and therapists, support children so that they more days when they feel proud of their brain differences. But it cannot just be about neurodivergent kids learning about themselves – neurodiversity should be understood by all children (and adults). Other children see the headphones, the gum chewing, the weighted vests, and wobble seats. Books are also windows into someone else’s life, and I love hearing about how my books help start conversations with neurotypical kids about the differences they may see with their neurodivergent peers. Afterall, as a mother, I can help change how my kids feel about themselves but the world around them has to share in that positive message. It will take all of us to make that kind of change. This article is by Sivan Hong, author of the Super Fun Days Books, a collection of best selling social stories about neurodiverse kids (www.sivanhong.com). Sivan shared her story on behalf of Parenting Limerick. [...]
Understanding and supporting your Child’s Anxiety
Understanding and supporting your Child’s AnxietyMarch 21, 2024Health & WelbeingAnxiety is our body’s way of letting us know that a threat to our safety is present and we may be in danger. This can be helpful as it allows us to keep ourselves safe and react how we need to in that moment. However anxiety becomes unhelpful when it is persistent over a long period of time, even when a threat is not present. Helpful anxiety activates our fight, flight, freeze response in the face of danger. This response gives us the best chance of escaping the source of danger or minimising the threat. Flight response encourages us to run from the threat. Fight encourages us to face and fight the threat. While freeze is our body’s response when we cannot fight or run so we freeze often mentally removing ourselves from the event. We feel these responses in our body physically and see them in our behaviour. Sometimes we might hit or kick out, sometimes we feel our heart race and breathing is shallow, and sometimes our body and muscles tense up. These are perfectly normal responses by our brain and body. Unhelpful anxiety however, causes all the same physical symptoms and our behaviour can look the same but there is no threat present. It also happens more often or more intensely than we need it to. This is unhelpful anxiety as it no longer serves the purpose of keeping us safe, it impacts on daily life, and it causes distress. We know our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all linked. Typically anxiety affects how we think, what we feel and in turn how we behave. Therefore, if we can change one of these, it will help elicit change in the others as well. When we are experiencing anxiety we typically focus on negative, unhelpful thoughts rather than positive helpful ones. These negative thoughts can include catastrophizing (focusing on the worst possible outcome or situation), jumping to conclusions (coming up with an outcome or result without proof) and dismissing the positives (they don’t count or that was just lucky) among others. These negative thoughts lead inevitably to increased negative feelings within us as a result. Negative feelings can include anxiety, low mood and even anger. Changing how we think about a situation (move from negative thinking to positive or balanced thinking) can result in less anxiety (feeling) and more helpful behaviours (less fight, flight and freeze). Challenging negative thoughts and recognising the anxiety it is causing both emotionally and physically can allow us to break the cycle and move away from anxiety. Top Tips for helping to reduce your Child/Teen’s Anxiety “Be with” your child’s emotions: this means sitting with your child when they experience a big emotion like anxiety. “Being with” an emotion does not mean talking through what has happened or fixing the problem. It is simply being with that child while they feel what they feel. Using phrases such as “I know you are worried” or “I know this is hard” can help them feel understood. Grounding skills: grounding skills help bring our attention into the moment and away from the anxiety. Some grounding skills include: 5,4,3,2,1: Identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Body scan: Mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing areas of tension and focusing on relaxing them. Breathing exercises: Help slow your breathing, removing your body from a state of fight, flight, or freeze mode to a more balance state. These techniques include -5 finger breathing: trace each finger up as you breathe in and trace each finger down as you breathe out, and snake breathing: take a deep breath in then hiss the breath back out like a snake. Sensory support –some find sensory activities can help to reduce anxiety, including jumping on a trampoline, running, squeezing a squishy ball, and using a weighted blanket. It can be useful for your child/adolescent to identify and recognise how anxiety feels for them physically then encourage use of a grounding skill or sensory support to help relieve these sensations Sometimes it can be easier to talk about anxiety and how it affects your child when connected to them through play (for younger children) or through an activity they enjoy (for teenagers). A relaxed, playful environment allows easier exploration of difficult feelings for the child/young person when the time is right for them. This article was written by Elisha Minihan, Psychology Assistant with the Limerick Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service.  [...]
“Beyond the Stork and Cabbage Patch”
“Beyond the Stork and Cabbage Patch”March 14, 2024Health & WelbeingChildren start to learn about their bodies as soon as they are born.  Babies learn about themselves through touch and by watching and imitating others so cuddles, hugs and kisses from their parents and family are essential. It is important that they see affectionate behaviour between family members as well. Babies begin exploring their bodies from an early age–busy fingers find toes, ears, hair, noses and genitalia. If you find watching your child discovering his penis or her vagina embarrassing,  gently direct those curious fingers to another area of the body or a favourite toy. Try not to show any signs of disapproval or disgust. If they get the message that this activity is wrong, they may feel guilty and try to hide it. Nature doesn’t stop the impulse of discovery just because we say it is unacceptable. At three to four years old, children become aware of the differences between boys and girls. They may like to peep under each other’s clothing, check out what pet’s body parts look like or play mummies and daddies. These behaviours are pure curiosity and have nothing to do with sexual behaviour. A negative reaction at this time can cause a dislike of their bodies, fear of their feelings, and feelings of guilt or shame. Again, if these behaviours embarrass you, distract positively into another game or activity. Now come the questions: “Where do babies come from?” “Can men have babies?” “How do babies get in?” Try to respond to these initially by asking the child the same question back to see they think. The  response can give you an indication of the information your child is seeking. Keep your answers simple. For example, “You were made in your Mummy’s tummy and grew in there until it was time to be born”. A calm matter of fact approach is essential; this encourages the child to feel safe and confident talking to you. There are many story books available for young children that introduce topics of reproduction, sex, love, babies etc. in an accessible way. Some favourites are Mommy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole and Where Willie Went by Nicholas Allen. www.sexualwellbeing.ie also have some useful age-appropriate stories for parents to read to their children. Check out your local library to see what they have available. The simple information can be a useful guide to keep our information simple and clear. Remember- before long your children will grow and their need for accurate, honest information will grow, too. This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. [...]
Caring for Unwell People, Big and Small
Caring for Unwell People, Big and SmallMarch 7, 2024Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayIt started at 5am on Monday with ‘I feel very hot’. The feverish 9 year-old was given Calpol, a hug and brought back to bed, while the toddler decided it was obviously getting up time. Fast forward a couple of very busy days in work and we end up in a late-night, walk-in clinic where the doctor informs me that the little guy has a strep throat and is ‘inevitably in a lot of pain’. Once he was dosed up and safely ensconced in bed, I spent the night berating myself for not paying enough attention, for being a working parent and for just about everything else I wasn’t doing as a parent. Somewhere around dawn, I had an epiphany – children get sick, it happens. The important thing is to nurse them and to mind ourselves as parents in the process. In a nutshell, less guilt and more self care. Being up over a few nights with a sick child can have the same affect as jet-lag, minus the cocktails and sunshine. Your heart goes out to them because you can’t make them feel instantly better with a hug and the regular household routine goes out the window. Who feels like cooking when appetites are dwindling so while the cooker is on strike, the washing machine is working over-time. Towels and bed clothes go on hot washes while you dream about throwing yourself into a hot shower. The thing is, all of those things can wait. Focus on yourself and your child and, I promise, the world won’t end. Your child is probably lethargic from being unwell so take every opportunity to just snuggle together – in bed, on the couch while watching movies, anywhere that works. They need the attention (because illness makes us all needy) and you need the down-time. Stock up on smoothies and frozen ice pops to soothe sore throats and ensure hydration. In between doses of medicine, they can also feel like a much-needed little treat. Whether your child is 2 or 12, being unwell can make them clingy and a little demanding but try to respond without smothering. Remember, even babies can pick up on parental stress so try to keep calm. While your inside voice may be screaming ‘yes love, I would love to run downstairs to get you ANOTHER glass of water’, the voice they hear needs to be soothing and reassuring. Remember, children get sick, it happens. This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. [...]
Getting Ready for Baby-Especially for Dads
Getting Ready for Baby-Especially for DadsMarch 7, 2024PregnancyWhile women take the main stage in actually having the baby, the role of fathers-to- be is essential. Below are some tips to consider before the big day. Listen. Before labour commences, have a conversation with your partner about what kind of support she wants. Some women may want lots back-stroking; others want a more hands off approach. Remember, a woman reserves the right to change her mind! Acknowledge and Express Your Own Feelings. Having a new baby is a life-changing event for both mothers and fathers, and you will have some big (sometimes scary!) feelings. Talk to your partner, a family member or friend about what you are feeling. Take Care of the Practical Bits. This could be anything from emergency food runs to manning the text messages after baby is born. Stay Calm. Step outside for a quick walk, practice some pregnancy breathing or ring a friend if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Your partner will need you to be calm before and during labour. Enjoy and Cuddle Your New Baby! Enjoy those amazing first moments and make sure you get lots of skin-to-skin cuddles—it will be the start of one of the most amazing relationships of your life.   [...]
Teaching Children About Consent
Teaching Children About ConsentFebruary 29, 2024Homepage Display / Middle Childhood / TeenagersTeaching Children About Consent Because No Means NO’: Numerous studies have shown the benefits of parents and children talking about consent throughout childhood and adolescence. For babies and young toddlers, consent can be grasped through body language. Think, for example, of how we expect babies to kiss friends and relatives. Even when the baby recoils we generally tend to persist, lean them in towards whoever is leaving and instruct ‘come on now, give Granny a big kiss’. While babies are usually tactile and open to big displays of affection, they are also able to let us know when they don’t want that affection. They can turn into us or turn their face away from Granny, which indicates to us that they don’t want to kiss her. What is important is how we react to that. Instead of persisting, try something along the lines of ‘that’s OK, let’s just give Granny a big wave goodbye instead’. What you are doing is acknowledging your baby’s wishes and respecting them. You are giving her a voice before she ever has one but also role modelling consent before she understands what it is. For older toddlers and young children, rough-housing and typical play can be used to explain consent. Older siblings, for example, often like to tickle smaller children. While this is initially met with fits of giggles, after a while you will generally observe the smaller child saying ‘stop it’, but still laughing. This presents a great teachable moment. If one child persists with tickling, intervene and come to their level: ‘Josh has asked you to stop tickling him so you need to stop pet. Of course you can tickle your brother but the second he says stop, you have to stop, ok?’ In a few short sentences you have used the word ‘stop’ repeatedly, which will help both children involved to learn about actions and reactions. With teenagers, the issue of consent should accompany any and all discussions around the facts of life. While we are teaching them about the biology of sex, we also need to teach them the psychology of it. We should instil in every adolescent boy and girl that consent is a conversation between two people. It isn’t something open to interpretation or something that changes when other factors (such as alcohol, peer influence etc.) are involved. By doing so, we are teaching them about personal responsibilities and boundaries. As your children get older, you don’t have the full view of their lives as you did when they were smaller. By continuously talking to them and letting them know that you are there for them, you are supporting them on their future paths. By keeping the topic of consent open and ongoing, you are putting safety rails on those paths. This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. [...]
Enjoying Longer Evenings
Enjoying Longer EveningsFebruary 29, 2024Homepage Display / Quality TimeThe much awaited ‘stretch in the evenings’ is slowly arriving so it’s time to top up those Vitamin D levels: Make going outside as much of a planned activity as any extracurricular activity. Whether it’s a walk around the neighbourhood, a cycle or a family effort at getting the garden back in shape, try to fit it in daily with your child For younger children in particular, they can now get outside before bed which makes it exciting. Capitalise on that excitement by setting up little treasure hunts or looking for small bugs. Puddle-jumping and leaf picking are toddler areas of expertise! Bear in mind the balance between directed and free play – follow your child’s lead. You may have to hold caterpillars or give names to cars but you’ll find a new appreciation for being outside when you see it through your child’s eyes Play nature ‘I spy’ while walking  and you’ll be amazed at how far you get Leave phones behind so that you can really enjoy each other’s company and connect with being outdoors Watching the sun going down or the moon rising  never loses its appeal and provides a great opportunity to talk about the solar system   [...]
Top tips for supporting a child who has experienced trauma:
Top tips for supporting a child who has experienced trauma:February 22, 2024Health & Welbeing / Homepage Display.Validate your child’s feelings, let them know that feeling scared / sad / angry is normal and ok · Create a routine for them, it can help to provide a sense of safety and security,  Stick to their normal routines as much as possible · Spend time with your child, encourage play and recreation · Encourage communication – allow them to talk about their experiences and feelings, listen to what they have to say and answer their questions honestly but in a way that is appropriate for their age and understanding. · Maintain your own calm!  Children look to adults for reassurance and guidance.  Don’t discuss your own fears and anxieties with the child. · Help your child to relax with breathing exercises.  Breathing becomes shallow when the child becomes anxious.  Encourage deep belly breaths.  Place a stuffed toy on their tummy when they lie down.  They can watch the toy rise and fall as they breathe in and out! · Promote resilience by helping your child to learn new things, practicing positive self-talk with them, and praising their efforts · Finally, take care of yourself!  You can best help your child when you are feeling ok yourself! [...]
Trauma: Supporting your Child
Trauma: Supporting your ChildFebruary 22, 2024Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayTrauma can occur when a child experiences an event or ongoing situation that is very distressing or frightening. ‘Big T’ traumas involve life-threatening events and include exposure to domestic violence or war, and experiences of neglect, abuse, or being bullied. ‘Little t’ traumas encompass traumatic events that are not life-threatening but create significant distress. Examples include exposure to frequent arguments in the home and ‘failing’ to live up to the standards of parents. A child’s age and stage of development, the nature and frequency of traumatic events, and the availability of caregiver support can affect how a child experiences and later copes with trauma. Understanding the brain-body connection is essential before attempting to offer support to children who have experienced trauma. The brain is composed of three main parts. The brainstem is responsible for vital bodily functions like breathing and heart rate.  The limbic system recognizes threats and automatically activates a trauma response to keep the child safe. These two parts make up the emotional brain. The cortical or thinking brain is the site of logic, reasoning, and control.  It shuts down when the emotional brain detects danger. The four main trauma responses are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. These responses are very helpful when a child is in danger (e.g., avoiding a threatening adult) but they are unhelpful in safe situations (e.g., withdrawing from a caregiver when there is no threat or danger). Children who have experienced trauma cannot control how they behave when their brain perceives danger. Behaviours such as crying, lashing out, or avoiding situations are a child’s way of communicating the need for physical and emotional safety. These behaviours are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and are triggered by big feelings ‘under the surface’ that children have not learned to manage. Trauma responses can impact children’s relationships as they might withdraw from, or lash out at, others. Children who have experienced trauma can experience sensory overload and might refuse physical touch or appear jumpy even when they are safe. They may have difficulty understanding, expressing and managing their feelings. Trauma can cause attention difficulties in school as the emotional brain is using all the available resources trying to keep the child safe. Unresolved trauma can also influence how a child sees themselves in the long term, as they come to believe their emotions are ‘too much’ or they are ‘not good enough’ for others. To support the development of children who have experienced trauma, it is important to create a safe environment, develop a trusting relationship, teach the child strategies for managing big emotions, and help them to build resilience. Caregivers often have questions about how to best support a child who has experienced trauma. This article was contributed by Shauna Hill from the Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service. The service is part of Parenting Limerick.  [...]
The Power of Praise
The Power of PraiseFebruary 15, 2024Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayThe basic building block in positive parenting is having a strong, nurturing relationship with your child. While this seems pretty simple, it can easily get lost amidst the morning rush to school, the growing mountains of laundry, the juggling of schedules and, of course, the constant pushing of boundaries. While we know that it is normal for children at each stage of development to push boundaries and challenge their parents (everything from a toddler insisting on wearing a swimsuit rather than a winter coat; a six year old telling lies; a teenager staying out past the agreed time to return home), it can often create stress and strain in the family. If allowed to build up, everyone in the family can start to resent each other and lose sight of the fact that they really love and value one another. One of the best ways to step back from the strain and reconnect with your child is to make sure that you praise them daily.  It is important that everyone in your family (including you!) knows that they are valued and loved and that they have a special, secure place in the family. There are a few practical ways to do this: Notice what is good about each member of your family Give specific compliments on this daily Encourage all members of the family to do this for each other Try to ignore annoying behavior and to constantly find fault (Try to pick your battles and let the little things go) Giving regular, specific compliments to your child will help them see themselves as valuable and will help you all appreciate each other as a family. Sometimes it can be difficult to find right the words to give compliments—You can try something like “Thanks for trying so hard on…” or “I appreciate you being  (so thoughtful, honest, persistent, kind, etc.) or “You’ve made real progress on…” Be as specific as possible. If you say something like, “Well done”; follow up with something concrete, like “I’m really pleased that you are trying so hard with your maths homework.” If you say, “Great Job”, follow up with “You showed a lot of creativity with the painting.” Remember: “Noticing and complimenting the good increases my appreciation for family members and helps them behave better.” Strengthening Families Programme Tips Sheet www.sfpcouncilireland.ie/strengthening-families/ [...]
Supporting Families Online: #TalkListenLearn
Supporting Families Online: #TalkListenLearnFebruary 1, 2024Home Life / Homepage DisplayNext Tuesday, 6th February, is Safer Internet Day 2024. The online world is an important part of life for children and young people. Having regular and open conversations with them about their lives online is vital to ensuring that they have a safe and positive experience. With Safer Internet Day coming up, it’s an ideal time to check in with your teen, but for many parents it can be difficult to know where to start or how to begin the conversation. Nobody understands the online world of children and teenagers better than their fellow young people! Based on their own online experiences, these Talking Points have been co-created by Irish teenagers to help parents approach the conversation in a way that will encourage your child or teen to open up about their life online! The conversation starters will help you to get a better understanding of what your child is doing online, why, and how you can support them. Talking to them about their life online, just as you would about their offline life, will make it more likely that they will feel comfortable coming to you if they encounter anything that bothers them online. Below are some talking points for parents created by Irish Teens to help you talk with confidence to your Teen about their life online: 1. Who is your favourite influencer on social media or what is your favourite online game?  Starting off with an easier question about what they like online will make your children or teenager feel comfortable and can be used as a springboard to a deeper conversation. What did you think of the recent story about [sports team/celebrity/influencer that your teenager is interested in] ? Talking about recent news events or trending topics online can be a natural way of easing into a conversation with your teenager and finding common ground. Can you show me how your favourite app/game works?  Showing an interest in what your child or teenager likes to do online will encourage them to be more open with you, and will help you learn and have a better understanding of what they like to do online. How do you stay connected with your friends online? The social aspect of being online is very important to young people. It allows them to stay connected with their friends, and also to connect with communities with shared interests right around the world. This will help you to understand the social element for your child, and to be able to support them to have a safe and positive experience. What rules do you think we should have in place about using the internet. It is helpful for families to have rules around internet use and guidelines around expected behaviour online. By allowing your teen to have a say in developing rules this can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of guidelines. It’s always helpful to revisit rules. #TalkListenLearn For Safer Internet Day 2024 Webwise is encouraging families to #TalkListenLearn. A great starting point is the Webwise Parents Hub (webwise.ie/parents) where you’ll find the new Parents Guide to a Better internet resource and lots more helpful tips and advice. Webwise are also encouraging families to have a chat using the topic generator – a helpful tool generator to begin open conversations free from judgement or criticism. Available here: https://talklistenlearn.webwise.ie Webwise Parents Online Safety Checklist GET INFORMED Get started by visiting webwise.ie/parents. You’ll find expert advice, how to guides, explainers and helpful talking points for parents. HAVE THE CHAT Have regular conversations with your child on the important things to look out for online and any potential risks. AGREE RULES Agree on a clear set of rules in your home about internet use and around screentime. Remember the importance of a healthy balance! ASK FOR HELP Reassure your child that they can always come talk to you about anything that comes up online. LEAD BY EXAMPLE Do as you say! Modelling behaviour is the most powerful way you can influence your child’s behaviour! JOIN IN! The internet is a great resource for children! Play your child’s favourite computer game and discover the online world together. Visit the Webwise.ie/Parents Hub for expert online safety advice, explainer guides, talking points and more. This article was contributed by Webwise on behalf of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. Webwise is the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre. Go to www.webwise.ie for more information. [...]
Grief – Supporting your Child
Grief – Supporting your ChildJanuary 25, 2024Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayLosing someone we love is a painful part of life. Helping our children deal with the tough feelings that come with it can be tricky. Grief is a natural response to loss in any form, not just a reaction to death. For children, grief can be felt over the death of a person or a pet, the loss of a friendship or relationship, parental separation, moving house or school, and so much more. Each child feels grief in their own way and it can change over time. Children are naturally curious. Even before experiencing the death of a loved one, they think about death. While adults might find it hard to talk about death, children are often ready to share their thoughts. Creating a safe space for these talks allows children to express their understanding and emotions, and helps them to trust their parent. Remember, it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. Just being there and listening is the most important thing. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. You might hear people talk about the ‘stages of grief’ or the ‘grief cycle.’ These are common feelings that people who are grieving might have, including feelings of shock, anger, sadness or gradual acceptance of living with the grief.  Like adults, for children, the experience of grief is unique to each person. Children can go through periods of many different emotions and these can come and go over time. Children can express grief in lots of different ways. This might depend on their age and understanding, their relationship with whom or what has been lost, the reactions of those around them, and their temperament or personality. Children might show an emotional response, such as feeling scared, worried, confused or sad. They might feel some physical things like being tired, having trouble sleeping or eating, and feeling pains for no reason. Sometimes, they might act differently, like having a hard time paying attention, not doing as well in school for a little while, forgetting things, or acting like they did when they were younger (like wetting the bed, wanting to sleep with their parent, or sucking their thumb). They might not want to be with friends or do things they used to enjoy. Be patient and allow them space to express their grief. Tips for Parents To Support Their Grieving Child Communicate in a clear and age-appropriate way It’s natural to want to protect our children from loss and upset, but a lack of clear communication can cause confusion. Using clear and age-appropriate language is important. Explaining simply what has happened and using clear language, such as ‘death’ or ‘dead’, helps prevent confusion and stops children from making up their own explanations or blaming themselves for the death. Emotional Support Children will often seek increased connection with their parents when going through a difficult time. Remember, there’s no right way to grieve. Let your child know that it is okay to feel lots of different things and create a safe space for them to share these feelings with you. Listen to them and provide comfort. Prepare your child for events and changes It’s important to prepare your child for any changes that will happen following a death. If children are going to be joining in rituals, such as funerals or celebrations of life, let them know what to expect and what will happen. Routines provide a sense of safety for children. Where possible, try to keep routines such as bedtime, mealtimes, and going to school. Support them to continue the activities they enjoy. Remember the loss Keep the memory of your child’s loved one alive through activities like writing letters, looking at photos, drawing pictures, or sharing memories. These activities help express grief and maintain a connection with the person who is no longer there. This article was contributed by the Primacy Care Child and Family Psychology Service, a member of Parenting Limerick. [...]
Top Tips for Cooking with Kids
Top Tips for Cooking with KidsJanuary 18, 2024Home Life / Homepage DisplayCooking offers children a variety of learning experiences. It’s a practical way to teach kids basic life skills. Time spent together in the kitchen also encourages interaction and communication between you and your child. Choose a time that suits you and your child. Over the weekend or during holidays usually works best. Be prepared; before you get started take time to read the recipe yourself and get all the necessary ingredients. Preparation is key. Save time by weighing/chopping ingredients in advance. Start small and keep it fun, children may lose interest quickly. Choose the right tasks for the right age group. For younger children start with basic recipes and manageable tasks. Allow mistakes and exercise patience. Prepare for a little extra mess. Praising children boosts their confidence. Emphasise positive, specific things they are doing. “You’re doing a great job stirring that sauce” “Wow you’re so good at measuring out the flour”. Offer guidance and help rather than taking over the task. “Would you like me to help you with this?” Even when the end results are not what you expected, praise their efforts and tuck in with gusto!   [...]
Separation and Divorce…Positive ways to reduce the impact on children
Separation and Divorce…Positive ways to reduce the impact on childrenJanuary 18, 2024Home LifeThe separation or divorce of parents may mean dramatic family changes for children. One parent may depart the family home; routines may be disrupted. It may mean moving house and having to adjust to a new school and new friends. Separation/divorce can also be a time of stress, uncertainty and conflict for parents. They may be feeling loss, grief, anger, depression and guilt. In addition to these negative emotions, there may be feelings of hope and relief if the relationship was difficult. We know from research that separation/divorce, when not full of conflict actually has a limited impact on children. It is in fact the conflict, rather than the separation, that causes the most harmful outcomes. Children often worry after a separation for themselves and their parents. Worries like ‘Will my mom and dad be ok?’ ‘Will I be able to see my mom/dad?’, ‘Will they be lonely?’, and ‘Was it my fault?’ Children may also feel anger, towards both parents… ‘Why did they let this happen?’ and perhaps at themselves, ‘Why could I not behave?’ ‘If I had behaved ‘better’ this wouldn’t have happened.’ Children often feel sad that their family is now changed forever. What children need Children thrive best in secure, affectionate environments. This means loving and attentive parents who put the needs of their child first, support the child through their feelings of sadness and anger and support their child to have a good relationship with the other parent.  What you can do Reassure your child…let them know they will always be loved by both parents and that it’s not their fault Keep life changes to a minimum…try to keep routines the same Talk and actively listen to your child…give them clear explanations that are appropriate for their age about what’s going on and listen to what they need to say Maintain your child’s support network…let them see family and friends as much as possible Try not to over compensate even if you feel guilty…children still need boundaries and consequences to feel safe. Instead of buying treats or toys, remember quality time with your child will provide far more reassurance Seek additional support. Let all significant adults (teachers, child minders, family members, trusted friends) know about the family changes so that they can be supportive for you and your child. Check if a peer support group, such as ‘Rainbows’ is available and make sure that you get support for yourself as well. [...]
A callout to dads!
A callout to dads!January 6, 2024Home Life / Homepage DisplayWhen looking at our family and working arrangements, my wife and I decided upon the ‘stay at home dad’ route with my wife as the primary earner.  Being at home with the children was a very rewarding time, whilst also being a very challenging one.  Caring for your children can be a rollercoaster of emotions.  I can see the nodding heads.  My understanding of my mother’s life also deepened. During this time at home, I discovered Parent and Toddler Groups and parenting programmes.  I attended the groups weekly; workshops as they arose; and parenting programmes when I could.  As a father, I found it challenging to enter into a space that was occupied, for the most part, by moms.  Despite the cultural changes regarding parenting, these spaces were predominately female. Yet they were welcoming and supportive spaces.  Having a place to go, where I could mix with other adults in between the cooking, cleaning, washing, changing nappies, dressing, playing, toilet training and feeding the kids, was a life changer. Parent and Toddler groups gave my children an opportunity to socialise with other children.  Significantly, it carved out time for me to play with them without the distractions of housework while also having adult conversations with other parents.  The parenting programmes gave me a space to discuss parenting in a supportive space.  I think there is a perception that a parenting programme is for when there is a behavioural problem. While programmes can, and do, address behavioural issues, they are, for the most part, about supporting parents to develop their parenting skills.  After all, no one is a ready-made parent; a lot of the learning is experiential, and parent programmes support that. Eleven years on, with the kids in school, I’m back at work as a Family Support Worker! It’s noticeable that it can still be challenging for fathers to attend the groups and programmes.  So, this is my attempt to call out to the Dads of Limerick.  Come to these parenting spaces.  I can personally, and professionally, vouch to their benefit for both parents and children.  Dads get to explore their own parenting in a supportive way.  In particular, parenting programmes support and benefit the parent/child relationship.  Also, children (both girls and boys) who experience men in traditionally female spaces benefit.  They are exposed to men and women in caring roles breaking down barriers for the Dads of the future and promoting gender equality for both sexes. If nothing else, you’ll have a cup of coffee, a scone and a chat! For more information on Parent and Toddler groups in Limerick, go to www.loveparenting.ie/baby-toddler-groups . This article was contributed Pat Fitzpatrick, Family Support Worker with Northside FRC on behalf of Parenting Limerick.   [...]
New Year, New Resolve
New Year, New ResolveDecember 27, 2023Home LifeParenting is a merry-go-round. There are days when you feel your heart might just burst with love for your children and there are days where you would give anything to just have them out of your hair for a few precious hours. You watch them while they sleep, all soft breaths and angelic faces. Then they wake up, refuse to have breakfast, and hold a mammoth melt-down until just the right time…..to make you late for work. The thing about parenting is that we can’t – nor should be feel obliged to pretend to be – all singing, all dancing, all of the time. It’s a job (without the lunch breaks or holidays!) and like all jobs, there are ups and downs. The secret is to accept that fact and embrace it, and life becomes much easier. Blogs, magazines and most advertising mediums sell parenting as this idyllic role. There’s the spotless house, the Pinterest playroom and the family who just love gathering around the fire for board games (wearing perfectly curated outfits, of course). Yes these things are real but for a moment in time – a fleeting moment that is captured and posted and then we use it as the stick to beat ourselves with. Oh, I should be crafting all of our holiday decorations, while  stuffing a Turkey Nigella-style and still finding time to help the kids to make cakes for a charity bake sale they want to have in the front garden. Really? No! I should be giving myself a break, a slap on the back for organising another lovely family Christmas. I want to start this New Year less stressed, so that the time I spend with my children – however limited it can sometimes be – is quality time. Goodbye to the parenting performance and hello to being present with my children. Being present is about taking a genuine interest in what your child is doing. It’s about surrendering to their world every now and then, whether you have to take your seat at (another) tea party with teddies or listen to your teenager’s latest Spotify list. Its’s about hearing what they say, rather than throwing in the token  ‘oh really’, while loading the washing machine and avoiding your mother-in-law’s calls. Children, regardless of their age, are incredibly perceptive. They recognise  when they have your full attention and respond accordingly. Make this the year of present parenting and you’ll be giving your child and yourself the most important gift. [...]
Holiday Temper tantrums
Holiday Temper tantrumsDecember 23, 2023Home Life / Homepage DisplayOver the holiday period cabin fever is inevitable. For our smallies, changes in routine, later bedtimes and a massive influx in sugar can led some massive temper tantrums. Keep how you react in a certain situation the same once you have found a positive system that works We all learn by repetition. You will have to repeat what you do many times before your child begins to understand this is how you react and how we should react generally Prevention is better than cure: Know your toddler. While it is important for each child to face challenges, know your child’s limits, look for and be aware of triggers Create diversions. Distraction is a parent’s most used tool! Choose your battles – Ignore minor issues Say No and mean it. Don’t reward the tantrum because you don’t like seeing your child upset Don’t worry about embarrassment – Know that any parent that sees you with a toddler having a tantrum will empathise because we have all been there! Finally, parents need to remember that we are not infallible. We will make mistakes, but we will learn from them too. And once we can display a positive reaction to any situation, our children will learn this skill too. [...]
Positive Parenting Over the Holidays
Positive Parenting Over the HolidaysDecember 23, 2023Home Life / Homepage DisplayWe can all appreciate the joys of Christmas, but we can also envision the stresses that come with this wonderful festival. During the Christmas holidays, it is easy to get caught up in the demands and expectations that our family can put on us as parents. We may maintain traditions from our own family, but it’s also nice to create new traditions and customs with our children with their input–perhaps a particular movie on Christmas Eve or the goodies that are left for the all-important visitor. It is important to remember that Christmas is a time to unwind not to get wound up. In the run up to Christmas and over the holidays it is important to bear in mind how we approach spending all this extra time with our loved ones. Christmas can be a time of year where we really practice our negotiation and reconciliation skills, but preparation is key. Remember to stay calm, “Press the Pause Button” when arguments brew between siblings and try pre-empting and defusing situations before they escalate. The television remote control can be a source of much arguing so perhaps set some ground rules around argument “hot spots” such as this. Budget and plan your holidays. Involve the whole family in planning family outings and check out christmas.limerick.ie for free/low cost family events. Look for support from your family and friends and plan visits and activities that could alleviate some of pressures and stresses of parenting over the holidays. While its lovely to have a duvet day and watch the Christmas classics back to back, try to get out-and-about for fresh air and long walks. Everyone will feel better for it! Parents unwind, children burn off some energy and everyone sleeps better. Offer choices to the children as to where they would like to go and how they would like to spend their afternoon outside. Christmas is always a time of indulgence but remember “everything in moderation” when it comes to our food and sugar intake, especially with our little ones. Tummy aches are not desirable by anyone!  Be sure to make yourself aware of the opening dates and times of your local GP and have the contact number for the out of hours services at hand over the festive period. It’s also good to know which chemist is open if you need medicines for family members. While is nice to leave the kids extend their bedtime, be mindful of the importance of keeping to household routines to insure they can be easily reintroduced when going back to school or creche. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” so above all, Enjoy Family Time. This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. [...]
A Stress Free Christmas?
A Stress Free Christmas?December 14, 2023Home Life / Homepage DisplayThe anticipation of Christmas is now at its peak—many of us are running around with the tick, tick, tick of to do lists in our head. We are swamped with advertising, and our children are starting to become overwhelmed by the excitement of it all. It is the season of giving, of hope, of drawing close to our nearest and dearest. In the run up to that, however, it can seem like the season of I want, I want, I want and for parents the season of I just can’t do enough. We want it to be perfect, to be magical, but that can create a huge amount of pressure that even the most accomplished of list tickers  can’t achieve. While every parent loves to see their child’s delight as they open the perfect gift, it’s important that we make sure we take some time to focus on the deeper meaning behind the holidays. This will help protect the family’s sanity (and bank balance) and give children the chance to develop important traits such as compassion and generosity. Manage Your Child’s Expectations from the Start Make sure that your child knows that a Santa list is a wish list—it doesn’t mean that Santa will bring them everything. Start a conversation about what your child really wants and why—this will help them figure out those things that are important to them. Involve Your Child in Choosing Gifts and Making Cards for Special People Creating something special or choosing a thoughtful gift gives children the chance to experience the real happiness that giving can bring. Talk to your child about what would please people in their lives and how much fun it will be to surprise them with something special. Let Your Child Give Something Back Whether this is giving money to charity, participating in a toy appeal, visiting neighbours or giving your time to support a good cause, let your child understand that they are part of a wider family and community and that they have important contributions to make. Create Traditions Together We all have an image in our head of what a perfect Christmas should be like—often, these images are very similar to the ones in the ads on television.  Try to develop some traditions that are special to you and your family, whether it’s an evening family walk to admire the lights, a special breakfast you must have every year or a silly game you all play after dinner. Let your child contribute to this and it will be all the more special. [...]
Help Your Child To Problem Solve – It’s a Life Skill!
Help Your Child To Problem Solve – It’s a Life Skill!December 7, 2023Home Life / Homepage DisplaySolving problems is such an important life skill and one that we are constantly striving to perfect throughout life. As parents, we can sometimes take this responsibility out of our children’s hands. Sometimes it seems easier to solve their problems for them. We can feel like it’s our job, our responsibility. It helps them and makes their lives easier and often our own lives are simpler if we just do it ourselves. But this is not always the best option for our children and it is important that they learn and practice problem solving skills from a young age so that they can become confident in their ability to solve problems throughout their lives. So how can parents help their children learn this vital life skill? Try to turn problem solving into a game and make it fun. Your children could become “detectives” trying to solve their problems. When your child has a problem help them to generate lots of ideas about what they could do so that they have a number of choices. Make it personal for them if you can. Ask them if they have ever had a problem like this before and what they did then or maybe their friend had a similar experience, what did they do? Allow them the time to explore each solution. For example they could act it out for you or draw pictures. It doesn’t have to be complicated – just ask them to show you. This process helps children to have an awareness of the possible consequences of each solution. When exploring possible solutions help your child to figure out which might be the best one by asking them is it fair? Is it safe? Does it lead to good feelings? Investigate the feelings that each solution generates with them. Naming feelings is important for children so that they can learn to self regulate and learn better responses. Prepare your children for the possibility that their solution might not work. Ask them what they will do next if it doesn’t. The best way to teach our children these skills is to model them. Talk through the process of solving some of your own problems aloud. Include the steps of generating ideas, exploring which one would be best, considering feelings and planning for the possibility that your first solution might not work. Use stories, puppets, drawing and role play so that children can learn this skill and practice it over and over, enabling them to refine and perfect their problem solving abilities. This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.  [...]
Supporting Your Child’s Self-Esteem Throughout Their Lifetime
Supporting Your Child’s Self-Esteem Throughout Their LifetimeNovember 30, 2023Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplaySelf-esteem is the way we think and feel about ourselves and our abilities. It is the opinion we have about ourselves – it is not related to other people’s view of us. A healthy level of self-esteem is beneficial in childhood and throughout life. It allows us to look at life positively, believe in ourselves, and feel proud of what we can do. If you have low self-esteem, you might not feel as confident, and you may think less positively about yourself. Babies are not born with self-esteem. It is something that develops throughout life, and is shaped by individual experience. Several things can influence self-esteem: genetics, relationships, friendships, personality traits, life changes, successes and failures, peer pressure, and school work. Self-esteem begins when an infant feels safe, accepted, and loved. It is crucial for infants to build a positive self-image and subsequent self-esteem.  It helps growth by promoting good relationships and boosting ambitions. Infants learn about self-esteem by observing how others react to them. As children grow older and go to school, they enter a time that impacts greatly how they feel about themselves. Things that can make children have lower self-esteem include not doing well in school, being treated badly by peers, and getting too much negative feedback. When children have low self-esteem; they might feel like they are not as good as others, be hard on themselves, lack confidence, talk negatively about themselves, and be more influenced by what their friends do. On the other hand, children with high self-esteem are usually more confident in social situations, know their strengths and weaknesses, and can bounce back from challenges. As children develop, so too does their self-esteem when they are involved in activities they enjoy, are making friends, learning in school, and reaching their goals. In early adolescence, self-esteem can be challenged due to numerous changes and transitions.  A drop in self-esteem during adolescence can be common and can be linked to feelings of worry, sadness, and not doing well in school.  Hormonal changes of puberty can also have an impact.   Supporting young people with their self-esteem during this period is important is important for their confidence, mental health and ongoing learning. The relationship between parents and children is crucial for building good self-esteem. As parents or caregivers, we aim to be a safe and welcoming place for our children.  We want them to feel accepted, share their thoughts openly, and find comfort through talking openly with us. When parents show love, accept their children, and listen to them, it makes children feel safe and valued. This helps children believe in themselves and feel more confident, and develop a good opinion of themselves. ‘Being with’ your child when they’re going through strong emotions helps them understand and express their feelings. Children learn about themselves and the world by watching and experiencing things, particularly how their caregivers act. When children see adults talking positively to themselves and about themselves, it helps them learn to do the same, have positive thoughts about themselves, and in turn develop their own levels of healthy self-esteem. This article was written Emily Higgins, Psychology Assistant with HSE Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service. The HSE Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service is a member of Parenting Limerick.   Tips to Develop Self-Esteem in Children & Adolescents Babies & Toddlers (0-2 years): Play and Explore Play with your baby and allow them explore safe areas – encourage their curiosity and build confidence. Let your baby explore and try things on their own (e.g. choosing their toy). It shows them they can do things by themselves and builds independence. Model Positive Behaviour Babies learn from caregivers. Smile, talk, and make eye contact with your baby to help them feel positive. Use words that make your baby feel good. Instead of saying “no,” try gently redirecting behaviour. Childhood (3-12 years): ‘Being With’: Co-Regulation ‘Being with’ is staying with your child in their feelings; not downplaying them. Naming emotions; for example, ‘I see you’re feeling upset…’ Soothe your child and help them calm down. Model Healthy Behaviour Children learn from how you treat yourself. Show your child that you talk positively to yourself and have a healthy attitude about yourself. Show your child you have compassion towards yourself and you can learn from mistakes. Social Media Demonstrate healthy, structured social media use to your child. Set internet guidelines and boundaries; for example, ‘no screentime after 8pm’. Open communication about internet use with active monitoring. Adolescence (13-18 years): Teach Resilience and Independence Help them learn from failures and develop resilience. Allow them to make age-appropriate decisions and take on responsibilities. Model Healthy Behaviour Encourage healthy habits, both physically and mentally. Teach them to set and respect personal boundaries. Encourage them to express themselves openly, and feel proud of who they are. Celebrate their individuality. [...]
Supporting Children Through Anxiety
Supporting Children Through AnxietyNovember 21, 2023Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayChildren express anxiety and stress in variety of ways, from behaviour changes to bed-wetting, tantrums to withdrawal. While their expression of anxiety can vary, your response to it needs to be consistent: Encourage expression: When you’re child says ‘I’m scared’ or ‘I’m worried’ try not to respond with ‘no you’re not, you’re a brave girl.’ Let them explain their fear/anxiety and then talk it through together. Encourage your child to face their fears: Let them know that you will be right there by their side. If it’s a fear of the dark, hold their hand as they enter a dark room. If its separation anxiety, give then something small of yours (a photo, a keyring or something similar) to keep with them until you’re back. They don’t always need you, they just need reassurance that you’re coming back. Teach them that perfection is a myth: Whether it’s colouring outside the lines or not doing too well in a game or test, always try to reiterate that everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that it’s ok to not be the best at everything is a really important life lesson for children and it builds resilience for adulthood. Show them how to take time out: An over-scheduled child can become an anxious child. Be a role model – take breaks from your work, leave your phone on silent for set periods of time and just hang out together. Down time helps the mind and body to relax but children have to be taught to value that rather than seeing it as ‘boring’. [...]
Celebrating Children’s Rights: Universal Children’s Day
Celebrating Children’s Rights: Universal Children’s DayNovember 20, 2023Health & Welbeing / Homepage DisplayUniversal Children’s Day is officially celebrated on Monday, November 20th, but people around the world have been holding events all this week.  Universal Children’s Day marks the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.  It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ireland ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. Why is this so important? It recognises, on a global scale, that children have special rights and that all children deserve to have their rights protected.  Everyone has a role in protecting the rights of children: governments, schools, communities, families and parents. Parents, as the first carers and protectors of children, have a special role to play. Below is a summary of some of the rights included in the Convention and ideas as to how parents can help protect those rights. Children have the right to care and to be part of a family. All children need love and affection—for babies, parents and carers show this my holding them close and responding quickly to their needs. As children grow older, they still need as much love and affection, although this may look different. Babies need to be held and cuddled often; teenagers need to know that you are still there to provide safety and a  warm hug even if they seem to be pulling away Children have the right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have their basic needs met. If, as a parent, you struggle to provide any of these things for your child, the government has a responsibility to support you and your child to meet their basic needs. Children have the right to an education. Education is essential so that all children can reach their full potential. In the early years, this means talking, reading and playing with your child. As they grow, this continues, but parents also have an important role in ensuring that their child attends school and advocating for their child if any issues arise Children have the right to play. This is how children learn, and all children should have access to open, safe spaces where they play, explore and spend time with their friends Children have the right to use their voice and to have it heard. Children, of all ages, have the right to express their views on what happens to them, and, as far as is possible, to have their views respected. Parents play a pivotal role in listening to their children and supporting them to express their views. This is just a taste of some of children’s rights. If you would like more information on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, please see www.itsyourright.ie  for a child-friendly explanation. Discussing this with your child can be a great way to explore your child’s understanding of their rights and the rights of all children. It can open up a discussion of how family and government should support the rights of children in Ireland and around the world.  If you are struggling as a parent in supporting the rights of your child, please go to www.loveparenting.ie for a range of services in Limerick that can help you. This article was contributed a member of Parenting Limerick.  [...]
Great rhymers, make great readers
Great rhymers, make great readersNovember 16, 2023Homepage Display / Learning to TalkThe importance of nursery rhymes for children: Great rhymers, make great readers; Songs and rhymes are a cornerstone of language development, positive interaction and early learning in childhood. Some of your earliest memories may be of a family member or friend singing with you to ‘Round and Round the Garden’ or ‘Two Little Dickie Birds’. This is because from before we are born, our ears tune in to the rhythms and sounds of language. The sound of your mother’s heartbeat was the first rhythm you knew. As young children hear and practice rhymes and songs, they tune in to the rhythm of language in sounds, words and phrases. They also hear and practice inflection, pitch and facial expression. Most importantly, this fundamental learning happens in a fun and positive way between children and adults. In early infancy, nursery rhymes and songs pave the way for language, learning and communication. When we sing songs and rhymes with young children we are letting them hear repetitive lines and listen to the sounds of language. Babies are learning to look at faces and interpret meaning in facial expression. They are also learning to listen and begin to anticipate sounds and actions. Babies will often move their arms and legs in enjoyment, look intently at us or make sounds while we sing rhymes and songs. These are their signals to us, letting us know they are happy and keen to get involved.  By Going slowly Using actions Getting face to face at a baby’s level you can help your child to get involved in songs and rhymes. As children grow, nursery rhymes continue to be a key source of interaction and learning between children and adults. Nursery rhymes have been proven to be hugely important from a variety of language development perspectives as they: Expose children to vocabulary they might not usually hear e.g. ‘fetching a pail of water’ Often tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. This teaches children that events happen in sequence, and they begin to learn how to understand and follow stories. They have familiar patterns and they help children to learn easy recall and memorisation. Toddlers and young children continue to benefit from and enjoy nursery rhymes as they get bigger. Nursery rhymes use patterns and repetitive structures, so children begin to learn simple maths skills as they recite them. Many rhymes also use numbers, counting, and other maths words that children need to learn, such as size and weight. Research has shown that awareness of rhyme and the ability to sing songs and rhymes positively supports children’s language development and early literacy and reading skills. The saying ‘great rhymers, make great readers’ holds true considering the range of essential communication and language skills children learn through rhymes and song. Article provided by: Speech and Language Therapist, Little Voices – ABC Start Right & HSE Mid-West Speech and Language Therapy Department. [...]
Self-regulation in Teens
Self-regulation in TeensNovember 9, 2023Homepage Display / TeenagersParent self-regulation Responding calmly helps us to model self-regulation, while also preventing escalation of emotions and behaviours. Take note of your own thoughts, feelings and reactions during stressful interactions with your adolescent. Use strategies to calm yourself, and to respond effectively and compassionately to others. Co-regulation Show your teen that you care by recognising and responding to their signals and needs. Provide care and love in times of distress, and show interest in their world. Model self-regulation, provide instruction, prompt reflective conversation and provide reinforcement. Don’t try to reason with your teen while they are experiencing a big emotion. Connect and regulate first, reason later! Structure the Environment Try to provide a buffer against environmental stressors and ensure a physically and emotionally safe environment for teenagers. Know and manage their technology and social media use. Get to Know your Teen’s Triggers It is important become aware of your teen’s mood fluctuations. Consider their mood changes, and try to notice if something may have triggered their emotional response. Validating Emotions Validating feelings means acknowledging feelings, and allowing your teenager to feel their emotions without trying to ‘fix it’ by offering advice or solutions. It also means not dismissing the feelings of our children. Sometimes it can feel harder to validate certain feelings, such as anger. In these cases, it is important to remember that we can validate the feeling, but not necessarily the action or behaviour. The Basics: Eat, sleep, exercise These seem like simple things but this does not take away from their importance and influence on your teen’s mood and self-regulation abilities. Therefore, it is important to consider whether your teenager is eating a nutritious diet, getting enough exercise and time outdoors, and sleeping well. [...]
You, Your Teen and Big Emotions
You, Your Teen and Big EmotionsNovember 9, 2023Homepage Display / TeenagersAdolescence is a time of great change where young people move from the simple, managed world of childhood into the more complex, unpredictable world of adulthood. Sullen and grumpy mood swings, along with the other normal, but sometimes frustrating, indications of being a teenager are signs that your child is experiencing complex emotions and working hard to understand and manage them. This is an important part of teenage development and you, as their parent, have a big part to play in helping them as they navigate through adolescence into adulthood. Although the brain has reached its full size by early adolescence, significant development, change and fine-tuning continues into early adulthood.  The front, decision-making part of the brain, responsible for planning, thinking about consequences of actions, solving problems and controlling impulses, is one of the last parts to develop, continuing until about 25 years of age. Because of this, teenagers often rely on another part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems. The amygdala is the emotional part of the brain and this helps us to understand why teenagers may act on impulse, take risks, and display aggressive or dysregulated behaviour. Many of the common teenage behaviours that parents find hard to deal with are an essential part of puberty and growing up. Surges of hormones, body changes, pressures from peers and a developing sense of independence, can lead to the teenage years being a particularly confusing time for your child. Teenagers are often observed to become detached, wanting more time alone or with friends, rejecting attempts to talk or show affection, and experiencing frequent mood swings. It can be helpful to remember that your child or young person may not have as much control over the way they react, feel or behave as you may think. However, they can be supported to understand, manage and regulate themselves. Parents act as ‘role models’ for their children, whereby children pick up what they need to know by watching and copying their parents. Therefore, teenagers are likely to have picked up ways of managing their emotions from their parents. It can be helpful to reflect and notice how you tend to respond to problems yourself – do you think issues through one step at a time or do you tend to get overwhelmed and act impulsively? Do you anger and become frustrated easily?  How do you manage yourself when you experience a big emotion? Our actions (whether we like it or not) model for our children how to process and respond to challenges and setbacks. When parents take the time and make an effort to understand how this all feels for teenagers, while modelling healthy coping strategies and self-regulation tools, they can help their child or young person to take ownership of challenging and overwhelming emotions, and move through adolescence as smoothly as possible. Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service are delivering an online parenting workshop on “You, Your Teen and Big Emotions” on 16th November, 10.00-11.30am. This workshop is for parents, caregivers or guardians of children aged 0 – 10. To attend contact Miranda (087-6776096) or Elisha (087-9734925). This article was written Miranda Comar, Psychology Assistant with HSE Primary Care Child and Family Psychology Service. The Child and Family Psychology Service are members of Parenting Limerick. [...]

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