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: email@example.com 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 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
Many children I know have advent calendars. They are in many shops ranging in price from one euro to about four euro. Children love the chocolate, perhaps eating it for breakfast every day in December, wild with the excitement of Santa.
A parent in our Facebook parenting group came up with a great idea for an alternative Advent calendar. For each day of the Advent calendar, your child and everyone in the house has to do a kind act or deed. This means that everyone has to do 24 kind deeds before Christmas Day.
It will support your children, and everyone in the home, to think of others at this time of the year. It is not just about giving, it is about trying to be kinder, more caring, more thoughtful and giving to each other in the days leading up to Christmas.
If you agree to carry out the Good Deed Advent Calendar why not write down all the good deeds and place them into a box each day. There could then be a special celebration on Christmas Eve.
Let us know if you try it and what changes it had on you and your family. Here are some suggestions for your children of kind acts they could do:
- Simply give hugs to each other more often.
- Help each other with tasks without being asked.
- Offer to help parents and grandparents.
- Put coins in the poor box at the shops.
- Gather toys and clothes that are no longer needed for a charity shop.
- Befriend a child at school who has no real friends.
- Help an elderly neighbour.
- Older children could prepare dinner once a week for the family.
- Older children could also play with a younger sibling that they don’t usually make enough time for.
- Think about others’ needs and not just their own.
This article is part of our weekly parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It may seem a bit early to talk about Christmas but when it comes to making a plan for sharing parenting at Christmas the earlier you talk about it the better. Sharing parenting can be a very positive experience for children when parents are able to do it well. However, as a well renowned Psychotherapist, Gary Neuman said, ‘Out of the countless studies conducted to measure children of divorce, from their academic performance to their self esteem, one truth emerges repeatedly: it is parental conflict, not divorce itself that places children at risk in virtually every area of their life.’
Now is the time to plan how you will share parenting this Christmas and to ensure your child is at the centre of your agreement. Communication is usually the cornerstone of effective shared parenting or any relationship we have in life. For many parents sharing parenting, communication can be the area that you have not been able to master since separation. However it is never too late.
Assertive communication, also known as clear and direct communication, will support you to build a parenting relationship with the other parent of your child, allowing you both parent your child and ensure positive outcomes for your child as they grow and develop.
There are four key steps to clear and direct communication.
- Say what you see happening with the other person’s behaviour. Do this in a factual and neutral way.
- Say how you feel underneath it all. It may take some time to check in with yourself and identify how you are feeling. If needed ask the person you are talking to for a pause or to discuss things later instead of getting into a discussion when you are not sure what you are feeling.
- State what need is behind you feeling the way you do.
- State what you would like to see happen in the other person’s behaviour. What is it you would like the other person to do to resolve the situation and address the underlying need?
When it comes to planning Christmas for your child, an example of clear and direct communication is, ‘I heard you tell Jack you would see him on Christmas Day. I feel annoyed when Jack is told things before we have talked about them. I need us to talk about the plan and then tell the children when we are clear what is happening.’
When you communicate in this assertive way, the hope is that it will support the other person to engage in a conversation with you. A conversation where you can over time find a compromise to an issue. If you communicated this message in a different way such as, ‘Why did you tell Jack you would see him Christmas day, you always do this? I am so sick of it.’ You can imagine what would happen. Most likely conflict, a breakdown in communication and finding a positive way forward would be hard as it would take time for both parties to recover from the upset of the communication that took place.
The following are some tips to support you to communicate more assertively going forward:
- Take time to figure out how you are feeling. Put a name on the feeling.
- You do not have to justify why you feel a certain way. Keep your response short and to the point.
- Be sure you know what change you want in the other person’s behaviour before you talk to them.
- Be willing to hear what the other person’s interpretation of events is and to the option of finding a change in behaviour that suits both of you that might be different from what you both had in mind.
- Say ‘I’ when talking about feelings and needs. In a confrontation it is tempting to say ‘you made me feel’ but others do not make you feel anything, you feel something in response to a situation.
- Do not talk about the person, talk about the behaviour.
- Be open to the idea that the other person may not be able to meet your request and that you may have to look elsewhere to meet the need.
The earlier you start to communicate and plan Christmas the more likely you will be to reach a compromise. There are many ways you can look at Christmas that might broaden you view on how that compromise can be reached.
- Remember as parents you are creating memories for your child. Children usually don’t just recall one day when they think of Christmas, it is normally the whole holiday period.
- This allows parents to take at least 10 days and work with that when sharing time with children over Christmas.
- Ask children to visualise what they would like Christmas to look like. Do not make promises; just tell them you want to hear what they have to say, so you, as parents can keep this in mind when agreeing a plan for them.
- Remember time with parents is a right of your child, not the right of the parent. (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).
- When children have a good relationship with both parents it is vital to find a way to support your child to spend valuable time with both of you over the holiday period.
- Explore, if you can, putting your feelings aside and step into the business of sharing parenting by sharing joint time at Christmas. Can you both visit Santa with your child? Can you both be in the one home on Christmas morning to open the gifts?
- Create your own traditions. It doesn’t matter what you did as a family at Christmas, this is your time now to create your traditions for your new family form. What would you like to create for your child? What memories do you want for your child? What would you like them to take forward in life with them from Christmas?
- Present your ideas in plenty of time to the other parent. Be open to their ideas. Negotiate and compromise. Ask yourself if you can live with the plan. You don’t have to love it, but can you live with it knowing your child’s needs are being met?
- Try to separate out your needs. A lot of the time when parents are trying to agree a parenting plan they confuse meeting a child’s needs in the plan with also trying to meet their own needs. The parenting plan is not the place to have your needs met. You need to find another way to meet your needs.
If you find it very challenging to communicate with the other parent seek the support of a Parent Mentor through the Irish Association of Relationship mentors (IARM) or Mediation. Finding your assertiveness will have a ripple effect on the other parent’s behaviour.
Written by Geraldine Kelly, One Family Director of Parenting. Read more parenting tips here
Halloween, having its roots in the Gaelic Samhain festival, is a wonderful time for family fun and games. As parents, we need to take precautions to ensure the safety of our children without taking away from the fun. Here we offer tips to make Halloween safe and fun this year:
- Consider having a party in your own home for your children and some friends. Trick-or-treating can start about 4pm and a little party from 6-8pm.
- Play some games at home such as biting the apple from a string or finding coins in green gunk (wall paper paste mixed with green food colouring makes excellent, low-cost goo). Click here for more games ideas.
- Try making costumes at home which can be great fun and cost effective. Use flame-resistant materials and if you plan to go out to trick-or-treat in the evening, you might want to attach reflective strips to dark-coloured costumes.
- Experiment with face paints until you get it right. Let children practice on you, they’ll really enjoy that. You might like to test a small area of your child’s skin for allergic reaction in advance, follow the instructions on the packet.
- Try making Halloween treats together – children enjoy supervised cooking. Making things together will support good quality relationships. Here are some good Halloween recipes to get you started.
- If you are going trick-or-treating, encourage children to learn ‘tricks’ such as singing a song or reciting a poem. People like to see children make an effort in order to get the treat. In fact, performing a song or poem on the doorstep was expected in most parts of Ireland until recently. Children feel very proud of themselves when they actually do it.
- Be vigilant and aware of safety at all times. Agree a route (for trick-or-treating) in advance and what doors they are allowed to knock on. If you are driving anywhere, remember to slow down and watch out for other excited little trick-or-treaters.
- Never allow children under 14-years-old out on their own. Children should never be allowed into the homes of strangers. Always be very close by, watching the engagement and ready to intervene, if necessary.
- Be conscious that young children may be anxious or scared at Halloween. It’s dark, there are lots of scary figures about.
- Finally, just have fun!
This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email email@example.com.
This week’s ’10 Ways to …’ feature is about you looking after you. Read on for our ‘10 Ways to Parent Self-Care’.
- “I’m not perfect, I’m good enough” (Winnicot): Recognise that you are one person and you are doing the best you can. Give yourself a pat on the back – don’t wait for someone else or your child to or it may never happen!
- Routine: Have a core routine for each day of the week and stick to it. Don’t try to get everything done every day, set days out for different chores. Make sure you have time in the routine to play and interact with your children. Parents usually feel better when they have had a quality connection with their child.
- Eat: Remember you must meet your own needs so you can meet those of your children. The basic need to eat is really important as when we are hungry we are less inclined to have patience and the energy to deal with everyday issues and challenges.
- Sleep: It is easy to say sleep but it is more important to do it. Try to get children to bed early so you can be in bed early too. Aim for at least 6 hours sleep per night. Those with infants will only achieve this in a number of sessions of sleep so it is really important to try and nap during the day if you can.
- Stay healthy: Do not neglect your health – value your own health and well being as much as you do your child’s. Healthy parents are happy parents.
- Exercise: This can release the happy hormones and allow you time to think, reflect and make plans, or just breathe in the fresh air and tell yourself it will all work out. You can also use the time to chat with your child. Simply playing in the park or back garden can be good exercise and fun with your child also.
- Take time out for yourself: If you struggle with this, begin with 10 minutes for yourself and as time goes on, increase it. Maybe once a week you can plan a couple of hours to yourself. Be creative in how you achieve this – it will be worth the effort.
- Socialise: Isolation is a key issue for those parenting alone. Challenge yourself to network with other parents, join clubs or courses. Your self-esteem and confidence and that of your child’s will be enhanced with socialising.
- Ask for help: Ask for help whenever you can from family or a friend. They will stop offering if you never take them up on it. Children enjoy being with other people. It is good for you both to have time apart and for children to know there are other people who can care for them.
- Be an adult: You are not just a parent so make time for you to be you. It’s good for children to see you as a person with many roles, not just as Mam or Dad.
The One Family parenting skills courses Positive Parenting and Family Communications are enrolling now. Click here for information.
Settling back into the school routine can be very challenging. When you are parenting school age children, the best way to make a plan is to do it together with your children, here are some tips to support you.
- Call a family meeting. If you have not tried this before, try not to be skeptical as it can be very effective. By bringing the whole family together, you are making a statement – this is our family and our issue to resolve together – which is a really good principle to parent by. If you need extra advice on how to do this, read our ’10 ways to’ run a family meeting.
- When you have all the family in one place, make your statement – school is back on, how can we ensure a good term ahead for everyone?
- Ask each person to say what they need in the next term. You should expect various responses, from ‘no nagging’, to ‘not wanting homework’, to needing ‘time out with friends’. This is normal, take note of all suggestions.
- Once you have a list of what everyone needs, then you can start to explore if and how these needs can be met.
- If you have older children, maybe they can offer to help meet the needs of younger children, such as supporting them with homework.
- Be sure to name your needs and be reasonable. Try to keep them very specific, e.g. “I need to know homework is done every day.” “I need everyone in bed at a reasonable time.” “I need everyone to take a level of responsibility around getting ready for school in the mornings.”
- Agree what each person can do for themselves. “Everyone has their own alarm clock.” “Everyone makes their own sandwiches” – once they are over about 7 years old. Your job is to provide the food, agree what needs to be available and to supervise the lunch making, but you do not have to be responsible for filling the boxes.
- Once you have agreed on the key principles of what everyone needs to do, allow some space and variation in how each person achieves them. If you have older children and teenagers, try not to schedule every minute for them. Allow them choose when homework will be done, within reason. It is, after all, their homework. Allow them some choice around free time after school before homework starts. Allow them to choose when they eat. You can prepare dinner, but is it reasonable to expect everyone to eat at the same time? You can also agree on family time and when you schedule some time together as a family.
- If we try to control everything our children do, we are just setting ourselves up for failure – along with exhaustion! As parents, it is important we remember that our role is to prepare children for life. Allowing them to make choices and have some control is part of this process. If your child is never allowed to plan their own time and make reasonable choices, how will they learn? How will you know what they are capable of?
- Look after yourself well. In order to parent our children effectively, we must learn to parent ourselves. Take time out for you. Be creative in how you can get this time. You will have thought of many of your own needs during this process and your children are not responsible for meeting them. You need to find ways to meet them yourself. In this way you will have the patience and energy to listen, understand and engage in positive ways with your children.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips.
For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212.
Many children will be looking forward to some special time with Dads, Stepdads and Granddads on Father’s Day, though it is also a day that can bring challenges. In One Family, children are at the centre of our work and we support parents to help children to have contact with both parents where possible, unless it is not safe for a child. It can, of course, often be challenging for separated parents to develop good communication in order to implement a shared parenting plan, but the positive outcomes for children are very much worth the effort that parents put in.
Successfully sharing parenting can seem difficult, especially if parents are experiencing hurt or anger. When two parents can be there for their child, we ask parents to allow each other the opportunity to parent. Children need so much love and time; they can never have too much. There is room in your child’s life for both of you. Developing a shared parenting plan may be challenging, but when you do figure it out and see how your child flourishes, you will know it is worth the effort.
For Dads parenting alone, there may not be anyone to help your child make a card or shop for a little gift. Or even to acknowledge the day at all. Why not acknowledge it for yourself? Own it for you. You don’t need someone else to tell you how great a parent you are. You do everything from braiding hair, to playing football, to helping with homework, to planning your family’s weekly meals. Acknowledge, embrace and celebrate your achievements, even through the tough times. Allow yourself a Father’s Day treat, and plan to celebrate the day with your child.
If your child’s Father has chosen not to be present in their life, or is otherwise absent, you may worry that your child is excluded from the celebrations. Or that your child may feel a little sad, and so might you. Acknowledge this for them; it is okay to feel this way. Maybe it is a day you can talk about it together with your child. Share memories, and talk with them about all the wonderful people that are in their life. Ask them what they would like to do if Dad was there, and then plan something fun to do together with your child on the day.
This year, whatever your circumstances, perhaps you can plan a day out with your child on Father’s Day? Plan for quality time together. Plan a picnic, pitch a tent in the garden, have a barbeque. Invite some friends over and have your own soccer tournament. Children just love being busy and having fun, it doesn’t have to cost much. Make some plans today to have fun and create memories, and if it is not possible to celebrate with your child this Father’s Day, perhaps you can plan to share it on a different day in the future.
Whatever you do this Father’s Day, it is a day that is about children. On Father’s Day, we encourage thought about what your child needs from you. What can you do now to support your child through life, whether this means being physically present in your child’s life on a regular basis, consideration of the financial support a child requires to help them to have what they need to grow, develop and succeed in life, or working to develop a shared parenting plan.
Father’s Day is about valuing children’s presence in our society, and looking at what we can offer them. So Dads, Mums, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Stepparents, Guardians, Friends – everyone is important in a child’s life and we all can help them to grow, to feel loved, and to know they are valued.
This article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
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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: Sinéad Gibney, Jennifer Good, Helen Hall, Nuala Haughey, John-Mark McCafferty, Oonagh Buckley and Grahame Toomey.