A group of primary school teachers Tara O’Sullivan, Kyna Rushe & Jana Lyons have raised over €5,000 for families in need. Through their efforts and the support of socially minded companies, charity One Family, was able to directly support vulnerable families with food, back to school hampers and children’s activity packs during the COVID lockdown and as schools reopened.
The story began in February, when One Family were contacted by Tara O’Sullivan who wanted to do something to help vulnerable children and families; Tara had seen how poverty was affecting young children in her school particularly those in one-parent families. With her colleagues, she came up with an idea to raise funds to make back-to-school hampers for families in need. The teachers started their efforts with a table quiz and raised over €4,000 for the packs. Then Covid hit; the decision was quickly made to use the funds straight away to help those most in need. Food poverty had quickly became an issue for many one-parent families as schools closed, children were at home full time and shops introduced restricted access for children so it was decided to use the funds raised to help families immediately with food coupons/toys and supports.
One Family had like most organisations moved their services on-line during lockdown but staff still braved the virus, while sticking to regulations, by providing outreach support to local families. One Family’s Parenting Team made calls to homes delivering practical support in the way of Lidl vouchers, shopping and a listening ear. Many parents were struggling to cope; the isolation and loneliness was extreme; dealing with the unknown and helping children manage anxiety with little or no support was overwhelming for many.
On top of the outreach work, One Family, with the support and generosity of Rothco, were able to support 50 children with summer activity packs. As lockdown was in place, families needed support to cope with the challenge of parenting 24/7 in often very small confined spaces, with little or no family support. The activity packs brought a lease of life with games for indoors for all the family followed later with summer packs. The packs included scooters, ball games, hula hoops, bubbles, tennis rackets, balls and so much more as we tried to support families to get on board with the government initiative of Play Day in early summer. Children at this stage needed to find safety in coming back out into the parks and playgrounds and the summer activity packs really helped this happen for so many families.
The funds the teachers had raised in February were going quite quickly on vouchers, so they decided to set up a GoFundMe page called ‘Feeding Children During Covid’. By the time the country began to emerge from lockdown, they had purchased ,€4,000 worth of Lidl vouchers for needy families. Then, One Family asked if they could go back to our original plan and make back-to-school hampers. The charity was anxious for us to make these hampers by July, as they were concerned that families would be worrying over the summer about how they could afford the back-to-school costs.
Tara, Kyna and Jana gained further support from companies; Lidl Ireland donated washing powder and school supply vouchers to the packs. Evans Educational donated pencils, jigsaws, erasers and zip folders, and ReCreate Ireland donated beautiful pencil cases to every hamper. Despite a shortage of stock, the store managers in Smiggle went to great lengths to source the bundles, which include a bag, lunch box and bottle, from their stores around the country. These were sold with a VIP discount and a generous donation of scented pencils. The fundraising efforts succeeded in providing 50 primary aged children with a Back to School Bundle, supporting them and their parent to have some of the essential items ready for the Autumn Winter Term of school ahead.
Geraldine Kelly, Director of Parenting at One Family said, “The families we work with are extremely grateful to Tara, Kyna and all the companies who donated funds and supplies such as Rothco. Thank you to all who supported the Go Fund Me appeal and other events Tara hosted throughout the year.
We hope to work with our Winter Appeal donors who have been very generous to us over the past twenty years to continue to support families this Christmas. If you wish to make a donation to One Family please do so through our website, your donation will help families directly provide for their children this coming autumn and winter.”
Parent Lee said, “ Thank you all for your dedicated work on the front lines and for all the work behind the scenes to ensure my family was safe and supported not only physically and emotionally, but also knowing I didn’t have to worry about where our next meal would come from or how I was going to give my son the back to school supplies he needed was frankly, such a relief.”
One Family’s tips on how to make blended families work was featured in an article by Sheila Wayman in the Irish Times on Wednesday 2 September. The article featured comment by One Family’s CEO Karen Kiernan on how to make blended families work – to read the article click: Irish Times article:
Meanwhile, our helpline staff have come up with a list of books that parents could find helpful when starting conversations with children about blended and shared families. Diverse families: https://onefamily.ie/booklist/diverse-families-booklist/ and Blended Families: https://onefamily.ie/booklist/blend
One Family’s tips on how to make blended families work:
- Never presume just because you as adults are in a good relationship that your children will be overjoyed to meet your new partner’s children;
- Ensure your couple relationship is strong and stable before subjecting children to a blended family. You will need to agree how you both play a role in parenting each other’s children, especially if they are young and you are left in charge at times;
- It must be made very clear to children that new partners are not replacing mum/dad. They should always call the new partner by their first name;
- Children usually choose who they become friends with, so being landed with someone else’s children all of a sudden is not easy and they may not get along. Yet they need to feel at home in each parent’s home;
- Children want to spend time with parents and not always with new blended families, unless you are very lucky. Sharing you may be a challenge;
- If you have no children but are moving in with your new partner and their children, you need to do it in stages. It is a bit like being an uncle/aunt. You need to support the children to have a good relationship with both biological parents and extended family – this comes before your family;
- Couple time is crucial. If you get caught up in childcare and parenting with no time as a couple, you will fall down. You must have a strong relationship, take time to talk and compromise, so you can parent children in the one home and meet their needs;
- Include children in the planning to become a blended family. Include the other parent(s) in this plan too;
- Explain family forms to children – do not presume they get it. Be factual and help them understand about whose mum/dad is whose biologically and otherwise, about step siblings and grandparents etc Help them explain their family form to others and to feel proud of the family form they belong to.
For more parenting tips click here:
Getting children back to school is not only a key priority for government now but for most parents too. Come September many children will have spent six months full time with parents, acting as teacher, childminder and Mum/Dad. Children mostly do want to get back out into the world, see their friends, get back to activities they love and get away a little from parents. There is of course anxiety around children going back to school, for parents, for children and for the government. Read our tips on how we can back to school and work this Autumn here.
Press release: 1 June 2020
A specialist helpline for one-parent families has recorded an 84% increase in calls when compared with the same period last year as parents struggle with life in lockdown. The askonefamily helpline run by charity, One Family, provides support for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and those separating. The increase comes as parents seek support on new and challenging issues that have arisen since restrictions began such as access to shops, access/contact arrangements for separated parents, payment of child maintenance, guardianship issues, queries on their social welfare payments and money worries following loss of employment due to Covid19.
One Family CEO Karen Kiernan said, “All our services have been extremely busy as demand from parents increased due to the lockdown. As soon as restrictions were announced, we moved all our parenting and counselling services to telephone and online. We rolled out new services such as parent & toddler groups and coffee mornings via Zoom to combat social isolation and provide practical support to parents. In response to demand, we also introduced specialist slots on our expanded helpline from our parenting, early years and play therapy staff to answer questions on changes to children’s behaviour and other parenting issues arising during lockdown.”
Helpline manager Sarah Devilly said, “We’re hearing more distress on calls as parents try to cope with an extended period of balancing childcare with work and/or managing a loss of income and changed family routines and reduced contact with other family members. Calls to the askonefamily helpline tend to vary greatly with some short focused calls as parents seek and find the information they need, while others can last up to an hour as parents seek listening support and an opportunity to talk about their particular problems.”
Karen Kiernan added, “The issues that are coming up on the helpline are reflected in results of a recent survey we did, with 42% of parents concerned about access issues during lockdown and 65% worried about what happens to their child if they were to get sick. We have been working to address these issues with guidance on how to manage access/contact arrangements in your family [link] and guidance on planning to look after your child if you were to get sick [link].
“We’ve also being working behind the scenes and in the media to raise awareness of the issue of children being banned in shops, with some success as responsible retailers adapted their policies and the Taoiseach’s office called for retailers to adopt a common sense approach [link]. Though there are still problems for some families as some retailers ignore advice from Government to protect vulnerable families.”
One Family want to assure parents that we are here to help and the askonefamily helpline is open to answer questions visit www.onefamily.ie
Telephone: lo-call: 1890 662 9212or from a mobile 01-662 9212
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services.
These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie. The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or 01-6629212.
All One Family’s services are open though operating with some restrictions during Covid-19 click here for a list of services
For further information visit: www.onefamily.ie
Available for Interview
Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 086 850 9191
Noel Sweeney, Communications and Events Manager | t: 085 7241294
For a parent the thought of telling your children that you and their other parent are separating is incredibly hard to imagine not alone do. It is however crucially important that parents talk with their children as soon as possible once a decision to separate has been made. Very young children from two years of age need parents to sit with them and help them to understand that the family form is about to change. They need support and to be told how much they are loved. and will try to ensure moving forward that they will remain central to every decision their parents make.
Telling children 2-4 years old
If you have decided to separate and you are still in the same home but living separately or one parent is about to move out it is time to tell your child. Children are very observant and as much as you might think they do not notice that things have changed, they do. Children will be the first to notice and feel that something is different and they need your support to understand what this change is so they are not left feeling worried, anxious, scared and upset trying to figure out a feeling or a sense they have that is beyond their capacity to understand in so many ways.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Sit with them as you play dolls or imaginative play and create two houses, two tents to play in. Introduce the concept of Mummy in one house and Daddy in the other house and then play a game of the child coming to spend time in each house. Help them to build the tent, what it looks like, what they would have in each tent to make it nice and safe, and a place they would like to be. What would Mummy need in her tent and Daddy in his tent? When the tents are built, talk with your child about what it would be like if there really were two tents, like two houses and that one parent was going to live in a new house, just like the tent and it would be safe and secure and the child would be part of that new house/tent. Hear what your child has to say. Gently explore what they come up with.
- Children will have many practical concerns at this age about living in two homes around toys, belongings etc. Remember children at this age are still very egocentric and life is all about them and their needs. Talk with them gently about how you might be able to meet those concerns for them.
- Allow the conversation to continue by using story books and art work. Draw images of family and home as you know it now and then again introduce two homes and what would they look like.
- Tell your child clearly that Mummy and Daddy are going to live in two separate houses and build on this depending on how much capacity your child has to understand. Start with the truth and go from there.
Helping your child have the space to explore the practical change that separation would bring is key at this age. The conversation will need to go on after it is initiated and the children encouraged to play the game over and over so they can process how this might all work for them. Playing this game with your young child will help you as a parent to understand what their needs are, what they are worried about and what you as their parent need to do in order to support them through this major family life change.
Telling your children aged 5- 9 years old
Children of this age are a little wiser to the world. They are in school and they understand more clearly that children all have parents or carers. They will at this stage have a long enough history of living with both of their parents to really value what that offers to them. Children of this age notice everything and are sensitive to change. In their own lives they are managing so much in school as they engage with the community there, with extracurricular activities and the larger community. Introducing a family change can be very hard for them as they feel it emotionally more so than their younger counter parts as they are starting to understand emotions and how they feel and they can in many ways express it more clearly to us as parents.
Some helpful tips:
- At this age group it is best for both parents to sit the children down together and tell them, for example, ‘Mummy and Daddy no longer want to live in the same house. You may have noticed we fight more than we should and we don’t think this is the best way for our family to be. We have decided that we are going to have two homes and live separately where you will live with us.’ It is really important to be clear with the children, do not leave them confused in the message you give to them.
- Be very clear and direct with this age group, do not tell them false truths and do not blame one parent for the separation. Children love parents equally regardless of what either of you might do, they are loyal to both parents, so do not ask them to take sides, as in the long run you will create emotional turmoil for them. The issues of why the separation happened are for you as parents to figure out; it is your intimate relationship. What is necessary is that you accept that you are both parents of your young children and you are both going to move forward allowing each other to take a very active role in parenting and continuing to parent your child.
- Allow your child to ask you questions. They may be shocked, as much as you might think they noticed something was changing, they will still be saddened to hear you say the change is going to actually happen.
- Talk with your child about how two homes is going to happen. Do not allow them to witness a situation where one parent packs and says goodbye, this is heartbreaking for children to see a parent walk out the door, the sense of abandonment and hurt can be felt for many years.
- Plan with your child, as much as you may not want to, around the next steps. Allow them be involved in making the changes as this will support them to understand it more clearly. By understanding what is happening they will develop the language to talk about it with you and with others.
- Support children to know the separation is not a secret. They can tell their close friends if they wish to and talk to relatives about it. As parents it is really important to tell the school. Schools will notice a change in your child and they need to understand the background. This will also allow the school to be more sensitive to the issue in class work and activities.
- Create plenty of opportunity for your child to talk about what is happening. Do not try to justify the changes or fix them. Just listen and tell your children you are happy they can talk about what worries them with you. As two parents separating you need to take this on board when arranging a shared parenting agreement, keeping your child central to the decisions you make going forward.
- On the day you share this news with your child, try to ensure both parents can be around for them for the remainder of the day. Do something nurturing with them, reading a story, bath time, art work. Allow them time to go away and play and to find you again for more questions or a cuddle. Children will need a lot of reassurance that both parents still love them and will be there for them.
Children aged 10- 14 years
Children of this age can be very mature and portray an image that they can cope with a lot more than their age would suggest. However when it comes to matters of the heart, they are still children and will need a lot of support to understand and cope with family separation. At this age children are at a critical stage of change in their own development so adding a family change can bring great turmoil for them. This age group are very concerned with what others think and know about them. They will fear bullying, whispering and others talking about their family.
Children of this age could be acutely aware that the parental relationship was not working well, that there was conflict or unhappiness; however they may also have no other experience of family life so accept this is family life. They may be relieved that the conflict will end with the separation if the parents can manage to agree how to share parenting and move forward, unfortunately many parents do not stop the conflict at separation. Children can become very confused as to the benefit of the separation for anyone.
Some helpful tips:
- Both parents sit down with your children and tell them very clearly that you have decided to separate and will no longer continue to live in the same home. Children may walk away when you tell them this, overwhelmed with emotion and unable to talk or ask questions. It is important for parents to be available to them for the remainder of the day.
- Allow your children to ask questions, many will be about their own needs and just hear this. Children will worry about change and who will notice the change. They will usually be well connected into the greater community at this age so will worry about getting to activities and the costs involved. They will worry about where everyone will live and how big the changes are going to be.
- At this stage it is important as two parents to reassure your children you are going to work with each other to find the best solutions to all of these worries as you both love your children and want the best for them. Try not to make promises at this time until you have both talked and agreed what the plan will be.
- Children of this age will want to have a clear voice in what happens after separation and it is vitally important to listen to this. If a partner is not a good partner they may be the best parent and remember your child only has two parents and loves you both equally. They do not need to know what happened or be involved in the intimacy of what happened in the relationship. The relationship they have with you as their parent is very separate to the one you have with their other parent. Children will however want to know their can be agreements reached and harmony.
- Plan with your children how the two homes will be created and how and when one parent will leave. Children will remember this event for life so try to ensure you are not adding to the grief they will feel by the way you carry this out. As much as you may resent the other parent, remember if you have decided to separate it is now about the business of sharing parenting and putting the children first.
For all parents regardless of child’s age:
- Always be honest with children in an age appropriate way. Build on the truth.
- Children are only interested in your relationship with them and how the separation will impact that.
- Do not tell children one parent is to blame for the separation. Two people form a relationship and at the time of separation a lot of support may be required by both parents to help them explore and understand what went wrong in their relationship. Children cannot be caught in the middle of this.
- Stop the conflict. If conflict formed a serious part of life leading up to the separation you need to seek professional support around how to learn to communicate more effectively with each other. Children do not suffer negatively because of family separation but they do with prolonged chronic parental conflict.
- Ensure there is no gap in your child seeing the other parent, the parent who leaves the family home. Children need constant reassurance at this stage that both parents are there for them and they need to see each parent to know they are okay.
- Look after yourself as you will need a vast amount of energy moving forward to build a positive parenting relationship with the other parent that will support your children moving forward positively.
- Be open to creating a shared parenting plan that works for your children. Try not to listen to what others have done or what you think the norm is. Every family is unique and therefore the shared parenting plan should be unique to your family, ensuring your child’s needs are met within it. All plans will need to be adjusted over time as children grow and life changes and this should be expected and supported.
The article was writing by our Director of Parenting Services Geraldine Kelly. If you need support on separation, parenting through separation and sharing parenting contact One Family parenting supports at 01-662 9212 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org For confidential information and listening support call the askonefamily helpline on lo-call: 1890 662 212
Christmas can be a wonderful time. It can be a time when we come together to celebrate the passing of another year and to look forward to beginning a new year full of potential and possibility. It can be a time of re-connecting with our family and friends and remembering those who are no longer with us. Yet for all that, it can be a time of enormous stress and for some people tremendous loneliness. Images of happy faces and perfect families in media ads may not match the sadness and pain we may be feeling inside.
For some one-parent families, Christmas can be particularly difficult. It can be a time when painful feelings are magnified. Financial strain, complicated access arrangements, and spending lots of time with relatives can further add to feelings of anxiety and distress.
Becoming aware of and acknowledging the immense pressure you may be feeling during the run up to Christmas is an important step in managing. Planning ahead is critical. Above all, remembering your own values and remembering what’s most important to you and your family is probably the ultimate stress buster for the season.
Some general points to consider
- Abandon perfectionism! There is no such thing as the perfect Christmas
- Plan Christmas as early as possible. You may find yourself resisting this idea, however, planning early means you can foresee any potential problems, organise your finances more effectively and ultimately lessen the stress. It may also mean that you have more time to find enjoyment in the season itself when it finally does come
- Keep things simple
- Negotiate and finalise access arrangements as early as possible. This will help avoid last minute confusion, stress and fighting
- Remember, Christmas is often not the time to challenge a person’s behaviour. Christmas is too emotionally charged. If a behaviour is tolerable and does not endanger another person’s wellbeing then it may be better to wait until the Christmas period is over
- Parents should avoid competing with each other through giving expensive presents. Expensive presents are a poor substitute for telling your child you love them and spending time with them
- Reassure your child that it is okay to talk about sad feelings at Christmas time. Acknowledging your own feelings without laying blame can be helpful to both your child and you. However, be careful not to use your child as a confidant or peer
- Try to reach out to those you trust for support
- If you’re finding it really tough try to find a little joy in each day and write it down in a journal or diary
For some members of one-parent families Christmas may be spent alone. Children may be spending their holidays with the other parent this year, or a parent may not have access to the children etc. For some people being on their own at Christmas is enjoyable and can be a time to do things that they wouldn’t normally get done. However for others, being alone at Christmas increases feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation.
If you know that you are spending Christmas alone and know that this will be difficult for you it is really important to devise a coping strategy as soon as possible. Don’t wait on the hope that someone will ask you over and don’t put off thinking about what you will do.
- Try to encourage yourself to make contact early with distanced family or friends and explore with them the possibility of sharing Christmas with them
- If you know other people spending Christmas alone, think about inviting them over for Christmas. “Pot Luck” dinners, where everyone brings a dish, can be an interesting way to break from tradition
- Tell yourself you are worth it and prepare a special meal for yourself
- Plan each day well in advance – try to know exactly what you will be doing. A structure can be really helpful during the holidays when you have a lot of time alone
- Some people find that volunteering or getting involved in local activities can help them re-connect with other people and put meaning back into the season
- Attending a religious service or communal celebration might also help to give a sense of re-connection with others
- Get out of the house and go for a walk. Many people go walking on Christmas day
- Try to avoid things that make you feel worse such as alcohol, recreational drugs, over eating
- Remind yourself that this is a difficult time and that it will pass
- Try to plan one outdoor activity each day
- Write down what you are feeling
- If you are feeling really lonely, depressed and cannot find a way to reach out to others think about contacting the services below
Coping with sad or painful memories
Christmas is a time when we can become painfully aware of the losses in our lives, the people who have gone from us through bereavement, family separation, past traumas etc. If you are trying to manage painful feelings at Christmas, here are some ideas that might help:
- Try not to hide your feelings. Try to find someone you can talk to over the holidays
- Reassure children and young people that it is okay to feel upset and encourage them to talk about how their feeling
- Identify one friend that you trust and know you can call on to talk over the holiday. Ask them to be your “listening ear” over the holiday
- Light a special candle for the person who is missing or for the painful secret or memory you’re trying to cope with. You don’t need to tell anyone the significance of the candle. Candles are an acceptable part of the Christmas décor
- Keep a diary over the holiday and really use it to write down how you are feeling
- Drink a toast to absent loved ones, name them
- It can be helpful for children to remember people who are no longer in their lives through making a special bauble for the Christmas Tree that represents them
Dealing with Conflict
Many of the worst arguments happen at Christmas. Bored children, being cooped up with relatives, the availability of alcohol, and a sense of claustrophobia can create an environment where tensions are high.
- Try to pre-empt possible arguments by planning access arrangements in advance
- Try to communicate in a direct, open and honest manner
- Don’t meet another person’s anger with your anger
- Respect yourself even if the other parent shows you none
- Get out for a walk with the children – tire them out
- Have a bath or take a nap to get away from everyone
- Be prepared to let some behaviours go over the Christmas period
- Be willing to compromise if necessary
- If your child complains about the other parent, try encouraging them to talk directly with that parent
- Keep adult communication directly between adults. Refuse to use your child as a go-between.
For help and advice
One Family askonefamily Lo-call Helpline | 1890 662 212 | email@example.com
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service | 0761 07 2000 | www.mabs.ie
Citizens Information Helpline | 0761 07 4000 | 9am to 8pm from Monday to Friday
The Samaritans | 1850 60 90 90 | 24 Hours service
Aware – Defeat Depression | 1890 303 302 | 10am – 10pm from Monday to Sunday
Christmas is about creating memories with our children. Regardless of what our parents did, or what our families and friends expect, it is about creating your own traditions.
If you are sharing parenting of your children and it is impossible for both parents to be with their children on the Christmas Day, why not spread Christmas out and make the most of the two weeks of Christmas. Children see the two weeks they are off school as Christmas. This gives us two weeks to create traditions with our children.
Here we offer tips for making the most out of Christmas:
- When it comes to planning, think simple, not extravagant.
- Try baking a cake to leave out for Santa. Children love baking and it can be a very relaxing activity. Or you could consider buying a good value ready-made cake that has not yet been decorated. You can allow your creativity to flow and decorate it together. Your children will be very excited to share it with Santa.
- Use some money that perhaps was allocated for present shopping for a day out at the Christmas panto. It shouldn’t break the budget. From local community halls to the big stage, children will enjoy them all. These are memories that will stay with your child for ever.
- Plan Christmas Eve in advance. Does it need to be so busy? Can part of the day be spent relaxing? There are lots of things you could do. Go for walk in the local park, enjoy the atmosphere. Visit the Christmas markets and enjoy the smells, sights and sounds. Have breakfast together as a family, think back over the year and look forward to the next.
- Try to avoid doing things because just others – whether family members or friends – expect you to. Do what suits your family and enjoy the time with them. Christmas will be over very fast and you will wonder what it was all about otherwise. Christmas is what you make it.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. There’s no need to stress if it does not work out exactly the way you envisaged and planned. Things go wrong sometimes. A sense of bonding between the family is still created.
This article is part of our weekly series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Trading as One Family, Cherish CLG is a company limited by guarantee not having a share capital, registered in Dublin, Ireland with registered office at 8 Coke Lane, Dublin 7 and registered Company Number 45364. One Family is also a charity (Charity Regulatory Authority No. 20012212 and Charity No. 6525).
Directors of One Family: Helen Hall, Sinéad Gibney, Jennifer Good, Nuala Haughey, John-Mark McCafferty, Eimear Fisher, Edel Fagan and Jack Eustace.