Parenting | Sharing Parenting and Keeping Your Children at the Centre of Planning this Christmas

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 Children and Parenting Services. Read more parenting tips here

Parenting | Enjoying Safe Halloween Fun

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 help make Halloween safe and fun this year:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 that’s fun for children to squelch their hands in. Click here for more games ideas.
  3. 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.
  4. Experiment with face paints. Let children practice on you too, they’ll really enjoy that. You might like to test a small area of your child’s skin for allergic reaction in advance, and always follow the instructions on the packet.
  5. Try making Halloween treats together: children enjoy supervised cooking. Making things together will support good quality relationships. Visit Bord Bia for Halloween recipes to make together.
  6. Carving pumpkins to create ‘jack-o-lanterns’ is lots of creative fun but never let a young child do the carving. If you are allowing an older child to pumpkin carve, give them age-appropriate tools only, follow a simple design, and supervise them carefully. And of course, never leave children unsupervised in a room or area with candles lighting.
  7. If you are going trick-or-treating, encourage children to learn ‘treats’ such as singing a song or reciting a poem. Performing a song or poem on the doorstep was traditional at Halloween in most parts of Ireland until recently. Children feel very proud of themselves when they actually do it.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Be conscious that some children may be anxious or scared at Halloween. It’s dark, there may be the loud noises of fireworks, there are lots of strange figures about.

Most of all, enjoy the celebrations. Happy Halloween!

Parenting Programmes Survey – Help Needed!

One Family is conducting a survey to analysis its Parenting Programmes. Currently running in various locations and online, this survey will help evaluate the programmes as they are and be informative in planning of future programmes.

Whether you have done a course with us before, are thinking about doing one or have not contemplated doing one we would love to hear from you. We will use this information to plan future courses and try and ensure we are offering what lone parents, parents sharing parenting, or separating need. Your help is valued and much appreciated.

Please forward this survey to anyone you think would be interested.

Click here to be re-directed to the survey

Parenting Tips | Creating Christmas memories

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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.

We wish you and your family a Happy Christmas and New Year from all at One Family.

For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.

Parenting Tips | Learn to self-care

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Everyone has bad days with children, days when we don’t handle situations well, days when we want to scream and run out the door. It is normal to a certain extent to feel this way. Parenting is the hardest job in the world at times, and the most unrecognised and unsupported. When doing it on your own it can be even more difficult as you don’t have someone who can take over when you feel you need a break.

The lead up to Christmas can pile on additional stress. Our heads can be full of so many issues that when the children start to act up, it can be the final straw. Usually the children are more challenging because they know and feel that you are not present for them. They have needs which are not being met and they don’t know how to tell you about how they feel. All they know is how to act it out.

It is important to put measures in place to help you recognise when you are starting to neglect your own care. We offer ’10 ways to’ care for yourself as a parent:

  1. Learn to recognise your levels of stress. Take time each day to reflect on how you are feeling.
  2. Try to identify things that went well each day, no matter how small they are.
  3. Try not to give all your energy to what is going wrong. Explore who can help you, what steps can you take.
  4. Make a list of the issues you need to resolve. Try to be less critical of yourself. Name the things you are good at, focus on these.
  5. Create time to think and plan – can children go on play dates to allow this happen for you?
  6. Talk with your children about what is going on and help them to form a plan with you. Hear what it is like for them.
  7. Don’t give up. Your children need you and no one can replace you. You need to believe that you are the right person to parent your children.
  8. Join a parenting group to get support from other parents and learn new skills and knowledge which will help you understand your children.
  9. Identify your needs. Where are the gaps? You will need to be creative in finding ways to meet these needs. By parenting yourself you will be able to parent your children.
  10. Seek professional support if you feel really low. Call theaskonefamily helpline to talk with someone. Talking can usually help you understand what is going wrong and what changes you can make. Seek support from your GP or contact your local social worker if you feel you need support around mental health, addiction or abuse.

Remember, there are people out there who can and want to support you to parent. Ask for the support if you can. It does not make you a poor parent if you need to get support from others. Nobody can parent on their own, being brave enough to ask for help and support is what makes you a great parent as you recognise that you and your children need help.

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 information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.

 

Parenting Tips | How to listen

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Listening is not the same as hearing.  To listen means to pay attention not just to what is being said but how it is being said, including paying attention to the types of words used, the tone of voice and body language.  The key to understanding is effective listening. In this week’s ’10 Ways to’ we look at how to improve listening in the home.

  1. Do I listen? Ask yourself what type of listener you are. Are you focused or distracted? Empathetic or impatient?
  2. Stop shouting: Children do not respond positively to shouting so try always to speak in a calm manner.
  3. Eye contact: When talking to your child, get down to their level and look them in the eye.
  4. Be clear: Do your children understand what you are saying to them? Clarify if needed.
  5. Family meetings: Talk as a family about what not listening to each other causes within the family – ask if everyone would like things to be better.
  6. Reward: Notice good listening and reward it.
  7. Remember: Put a note up somewhere, like on the fridge, to remind you as a parent to listen.
  8. Make time: Make time – at meals, when children come in from school, when parents come in from work – to talk to each other and listen to your children have to say.
  9. Active listening: Practice actively listening to what your children say. Down tools and stop what you’re doing to listen, or ask them to wait until you can give them 100% of your attention (but not too long).
  10. Building relationships: Listening to your child and other family members increases positive behaviour in the home and improves relationships.

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 support@onefamily.ie.

Parenting Tips | Helping children to cope with bumps and bruises

When it comes to minor scrapes and falls, some children brush them off easily. Other children stop and seek sympathy with every scratch and scrape. Children can often seek sympathy for attention. Most parents, no matter how busy they are, will stop whatever they are doing when a child cries out from an injury. Children learn very early that crying gets attention.

Another reason for tears after falls is that children enjoy the kindness of the care they receive: the nursing from a parent, the kiss and hug, the plasters. Most children see plasters as the crowning glory for their cut or scrape. The plaster can signal for a number of hours or days that an injury occurred gaining further attention that the child may need and enjoy. Some children have low pain thresholds and any bump or scrape could be of great sensitivity for them. Their coping skills could be very low around injuries or blood and they get upset. The upset could last anything from seconds to an hour or longer.

Most children have bumps and scrapes several times a day so how can you support your child to stay calm and react appropriately to the situation? Here, we offer ’10 ways’ to support your child through minor tumbles and scrapes:

  1. If you have a very young child who is just becoming mobile, try to stay calm when they tumble over. React slowly and check out what is happening as you approach them. Allow them time to assert themselves before you take over. They may recover without you grabbing them up and examining them all over. If they do get up by themselves, praise them by saying “You toppled over but look you managed to get up again, well done, let me check your head for bumps”. This is giving your child attention as required but also letting them know that they have coping skills.
  2. When children do have accidents, focus on what happened and try to console them without scolding them. There will be time later to talk to them about the dangers of what they were doing that led to the accident. When they are hurt is not the time. It is important that the child has not learned that there is more danger is seeking attention than what was inflicted from the injury.
  3. Remember that often the worry of what might have happened becomes bigger than what actually did happen. The fear creates a great level of anxiety for both the child and the parent.
  4. Acknowledge that they are hurt, praise them for bravery and treat the injury. This could be kisses, cuddles or plasters, or all three. Move on. Continue to talk about their bravery but continue to acknowledge the injury if they need that also. Don’t dwell on it. Focusing on other things such as how brave they were helps them to move on.
  5. When it comes to sports, coaches often say that more and more children are leaving the pitch in tears from injuries. Help children to know they will recover and that it wasn’t done in badness (by their opponent). In games tackles are hard but it is part of the game. Help them to understand the difference between intentional and accidental.
  6. Make sure you are giving your child lots of positive attention when they are playing well, helping you, or doing anything about the home and engaging with you. Help your child to see that they have your attention. They don’t need to be injured to gain your attention.
  7. Never withhold attention to an injury as you may miss an actual injury complication. Breaks and sprains are not always obvious in a child.
  8. Explore how you deal with injuries. Do you blame others for causing them? Do you look for sympathy or complain when you get none? We are our children’s role models so our children reflect our behaviour.
  9. Explore self soothing ways of dealing with injuries and feelings of sadness: a special blanket, a hot chocolate, a movie they like to watch. Self soothing is important for when they are older. Help them to find ways to support themselves and they will grown into resilient and strong adults.
  10. Point out to your child how well they cope at so many things in life: going to school, making friends, visiting the doctor and other everyday things. Then reinforce this when small injuries occur. Later you can give them the hug for coping so well when they relay the story of what happened.
  11. Remember, resilience is the key to good future mental health.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 ways to’ 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 support@onefamily.ie.

Parenting Tips | An Alternative Advent Calendar

Many children I know have advent calendars. They are in many shopsadvent-calendar-1780949_1920 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:

  1. Simply give hugs to each other more often.
  2. Help each other with tasks without being asked.
  3. Offer to help parents and grandparents.
  4. Put coins in the poor box at the shops.
  5. Gather toys and clothes that are no longer needed for a charity shop.
  6. Befriend a child at school who has no real friends.
  7. Help an elderly neighbour.
  8. Older children could prepare dinner once a week for the family.
  9. Older children could also play with a younger sibling that they don’t usually make enough time for.
  10. 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 support@onefamily.ie.

 

Parenting Tips | Enjoying quality time

cup-1031774_1920Many parents look forward to days-off so we can do activities with our children and perhaps take them to places such as the cinema, bowling, play centres etc. Without realising, we train our children into wanting to go places. They think the weekends are about being active and going out and about all the time. But children also like fun days at home with parents. They too may have had a busy week in school and may appreciate some time to relax. So slow down and keep it simple! Here are tips on spending quality, relaxed time with your children:

  1. Organise some arts and crafts. Children love sitting at the table for hours with glue and bits of paper, cutting and sticking. For older children, you could make it more elaborate and invest in some craft materials and really enjoy a day of make and do. Set yourself a challenge for the day.
  2. Why not visit plan a cooking session and help your child learn to cook a dish? This can be really great for children from the age of nine and upwards. For older teens it is so important that they learn to cook and understand the value of good nutrition. Enjoying a meal you prepared together is a lovely way to spend a few hours. Younger children might just enjoy making scones or fairy cakes; everyone can master something in the kitchen.
  3. Go for a walk near your home. There are lots of parks and, as we live in Ireland, plenty of fields. Children are learning all the time about nature so why not go and look at some in real life, as my young daughter would say. Bring a journal and note down what you see and what you find: leaves, birds, and insects, then Google what you found and make it into a great project.
  4. Simply just have a pyjama day. Play board games, computer games, watch old movies, play dolls and house or trial makeup. Watch your children play and engage with them. We are so busy all the time, running about and worrying. It is wonderful to have a day of connecting with your children.
  5. Invite some friends and their children over. We always intend on catching up with old friends but we are on-the-go all the time. So arrange a catch up on your day-off.
  6. Ask your child what they would like to do. We often plan so many things for our children that we think will be great and then we get annoyed when they don’t seem to value it. Often the simple pleasure of spending time with parents is more important to them.
  7. For parents sharing parenting, the weekend parent often gets a bad reputation for being the fun time parent as they have all weekend to entertain children. In my experience, they would much prefer to not feel this pressure and to do real parenting instead and keep the entertainment for special occasions.
  8. Parenting is about spending time with our children, getting to know them, having time to talk with them and time for them to talk with us. Making time and creating opportunities for talking is more possible when activities you introduce to them are simpler.
  9. In today’s world we need to help children understand that life is not about entertainment and being constantly on-the-go. It is about doing things that help us feel well and happy on the inside, that bring peace and balance to our lives and leave us ready for the next week. Many of the activities lead to moments of mindfulness where children learn to be happy in their own company in quiet ways.

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 support@onefamily.ie.

Parenting Tips | Managing behaviour without idle threats

thinkstockangrykid-300x200It’s just over 40 days to Christmas. Chances are Santa has already been mentioned in your house. But is this because you are using Santa as a tool, warning children that they must behave now or they won’t get any presents on Christmas morning? Threatening children that Santa won’t come is possibly the greatest idle threat used by parents. You should not revert to this idle threat now that we are in November. Likewise, you shouldn’t use a child’s upcoming birthday as a reason to bribe or threaten them, nor should other annual events like Easter or Halloween be used in this way. Implement the parenting tools you know and use them for all 12 months of the year.

Here are some tips on managing behaviour between now and Christmas, without using the threat of “Santa won’t come!”:

  1. Focus on what you know about your children. They like routines and consistency. The first lesson in parenting? Stick to the routine.
  2. When children start to misbehave, the first step in dealing with the issue is to check that their basic needs are being bet. Ensure they have been fed, that they are warm, comfortable and not in need of sleep or feeling unwell. Remember that when us adults are hungry, tired, cold or unwell, it is very difficult for us to manage our behaviour.
  3. Recognise how your child responds to your actions. Some children know by one look that they need to stop misbehaving. Others know that they will get numerous chances. Some children will hear the tone of voice change while others will hear the loud shout up the stairs. Others will know their parent means business when they take them by the hand and remove them from a situation. Every child knows what their parent will do in any given situation and they expect this to happen. When we are not consistent in our approach, children are left confused and they also learn they can push boundaries.
  4. At times we can just get tired. It may seem easier to make an idle threat than to follow through with action. Life is challenging and there is a lot that can leave us tired and distracted; having the energy to parent is not always forthcoming. We have to dig deep at times.
  5. The more you threaten, usually the more anxious children become and consequently behaviour decreases even further. Research has reported that children are showing more and more signs of anxiety and depression.
  6. This year, leave the threats aside and instead develop traditions of preparation for Christmas. Look forward to the time-off work and school that you can spend together. If we stop using occasions (like birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, or Easter) to threaten children then we could really embrace them and enjoy the excitement such times can bring. We could plan for occasions and prepare and develop traditions around them, making the occasion wholly positive for everyone.
  7. Remember that Santa is meant to be a fairytale of innocence and magic. We don’t need Santa to support us when it comes to managing behaviour but we can enjoy the magic he will create on Christmas and the memories that will be made.

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 support@onefamily.ie.