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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.

askonefamily | Holiday Season Opening Hours

tree-and-baublesThe Board and staff of One Family wish you and your family a peaceful and joyful festive season.

Our office and our askonefamily helpline close on Thursday 22 December 2016 and will reopen on Tuesday 3 January 2017.

We have gathered these numbers for other services that you may find useful if you need information or support over the holiday season:

Citizens Information Phone Services (CIPS): 0761 07 4000
Parentline: 1890 927 277
Childline: 1800 66 66 66
Teenline: 1800 833 634
Aware: 1890 303 302
Samaritans: 116 123

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 | 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 | How to answer the awkward questions?

kids-1508121_1280Children are inquisitive. They love information. They ask constant questions because their minds are continuously processing everything they see and hear. Children come to their parents all the time to clarify the things they don’t really understand. As parents, we want to help our children learn and understand yet sometimes when they ask an ‘awkward question’ it is tempting to gloss over it.

There are so many issues that parents can find difficult to discuss with their children. Depending on our own experiences and beliefs, how ‘awkward’ a question is for us as individuals can vary hugely. For many parents, those awkward questions may include: “Where do babies come from? What is sex? What does gay mean? Why does he have two mammies? Why don’t I have a mammy? Why don’t I have a daddy? Why are some people homeless?”.

This week we offer ’10 ways to’ support us in answering those awkward questions:

  1. Don’t try to fob a child off by changing the subject or saying they are too young. If they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to get some information. By not answering awkward questions and telling children they are ‘too young’ to know such things, we are making taboos of so many subjects that are normal in our society. Children will learn quickly not to ask us anymore, and they may find other, perhaps unreliable, sources to answer their questions. A question will not go away until your child is satisfied with the answer they find.
  2. Be honest in an age appropriate way. This does not mean you wait until they are teens to tell them details (when you may be even more embarrassed). Give children little bits of information to match what they can understand as they develop. Plant the seeds and build the tree over time with them.
  3. At times a question may upset you yet this is no reason to not answer it. You may have to explain to your child that this question makes you a little sad but that you will talk with them about it. A parent absent from your child’s life is often very difficult to talk about and many parents worry that their child will feel the rejection they themselves may have experienced. But remember that children have a different relationship with and perception of an absent person in their life. They will not feel the same as you. Here we explore ways to explain an absent parent.
  4. Be factual and try not to make the information about any subject into a fairy tale. Educate your child about families and all the diverse families in our society.
  5. Try to have an open relationship with your child from the first days. Once they start talking to you, start talking and sharing with them. Remember, even though it may seem a long time away now, you don’t know what choices your child will make as they grow up and you don’t want them to think that you may be unsupportive of them in the future.
  6. Just because you explain once, that probably won’t mean that you’re off the hook. Children take pieces from each and every conversation. Some bits they recall and other bits get left behind. They will ask you again so try to be patient and answer them again. Maybe you can add in additional age appropriate detail the next time.
  7. There are many excellent books out there to support parents in talking with children about almost every topic. Perhaps you can get some books in the library and introduce them during story time.
  8. If your child has wrong information or understanding then correct them from the first error. Try to keep the information clear. Be open and honest or you will only create more awkward situations in the future. Always try to build your relationship based on trust.
  9. At times your child’s other parent might object to you answering these awkward questions. Try to talk with them and help them to understand why it is important to answer your child’s questions honestly. Provided you are sharing age appropriate information then you need not worry.
  10. Seek support from service providers such as One Family if you would you like support in talking with your child about challenging situations. Once you start to talk openly with your child and believe that you are the right person to help them understand the very complex world we live in then it will become easier for you.

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.

Next week we talk about teen relationships and sexuality.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. 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 | Recognising and dealing with stress

people-1492052_1920Many parents would describe themselves as busy but do not recognise when they are stressed. Recently I have wondered if parents are more stressed than they realise. The logistics of keeping our children’s lives running smoothly is very stressful. Added stress can come with parenting alone or sharing parenting and being a working parenting can pile on even more stress. In these circumstances it would be impossible not to feel stressed.

In order to cope we often convince ourselves that we are just busy. Some of us can cope better with stress but others may hide it well. If you fail to address the issues causing you stress, problems can arise with your health, your relationships, your well-being, your friendships, your social life, or the most importantly of all, your relationship with our children.

Here are some tips to help us recognise and manage stress in today’s hectic world:

  1. Some leading psychologists such as Dr Tony Humphreys would believe that all illness makes sense. That every little illness from a sore eye to cancer is our body telling us something. If we ignore the early warning signs then illness can come as a way to make us stand up and notice. It usually stops us in our tracks and forces us to take time off. As parents we are very conscious of looking after our children’s health but what do we do when we are feeling unwell? We battle through it. It is important not to ignore even the most subtle symptoms and signals.
  2. Finding ways to take time out as a parent is very difficult especially when parenting alone. As a parent told me recently, the favours are all used up for childcare in order to go to work, so how do you get time off to just take a break? It is crucial to find ways to have time off even if this is one hour a week or an afternoon a month. Find support from other parents. All parents are feeling the same way. Use play dates to your advantage to get some space to yourself and when you do, do not clean the house. Sit down, relax, rest. The housework will always be there.
  3. Talking to someone is really helpful in managing stress. Talking with other parents can be really beneficial as you will find that they are experiencing similar stresses to you. Look in your community and see if there are any groups you can join. It doesn’t have to be parenting, it can be any group that allows you an opportunity to meet other adults and chat when the children aren’t around.
  4. Find time at home with your children to just relax. Children can be involved in so many activities after school and during the week, so take time to sit together as family. Watch a movie or play a game and just relax the old fashioned way. Children really enjoy having pyjama days with parents, just staying in, sitting on the sofa and talking with each other. So much good can come from a day like this. Why not have a pyjama day once a month?
  5. Treat yourself now and again. Finding ways to value what you need is really crucial to good self care. Poor self care can affect your confidence and once your confidence is affected your parenting will be affected. Be aware of how you are feeling. Check the emotional thermometer on a daily basis and respond to it. You deserve the same level of care as you give to your children. Let your children see that you deserve care and respect too.
  6. Ask yourself why you are doing so much. If your child is happy to spend more time with their other parent (and this is workable) explore this as an option. Can you accept or ask for more support? Maybe there are some practical things your child’s other parent can do to help out. If this is not an option, explore the lifestyle you have created for yourself and your child. Is it necessary to be so busy? Is there any way to cut some things out so you have more breathing space?
  7. If you feel you have reached a stage whereby you are worried you cannot cope any longer it is advisable to seek professional support. You can see a counsellor, a parent mentor or your GP for advice and support. You can also call One Family’s Helpline for support, askonefamily on 01 662 9212 or lo-call 1890 662212.

This article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly series of parenting tips. You can read more tips here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports.

Join the One Family Parenting Group online here

Parenting | How might your child react to parental separation?

breakup-908714_1280Whatever the circumstances, parental separation is hard on families and big changes must be made. Keeping children at the centre of parenting and responding to their thoughts, feelings and questions, will help you to help them during this difficult time.

Research shows that children normally experience one or more of the following reactions to the separation of their parents:

  1. Children often get caught in the middle; loyalty to one parent can cause conflict.
  2. “Does mum or dad love someone else?”. Although mum or dad might not love each other anymore, it is important to reassure your child that you both continue to love him/her.
  3. “I don’t want to come over today”. As children get older their interests change. They may not want to visit a parent and may just want to spend more time with their friends.
  4. “Is it my fault?”. Children may feel they are responsible for the separation. They may dream up plans to get you and your ex-partner to reconcile.
  5. “Why don’t you love each other anymore?”. It is not uncommon for children to ponder this question. Often children will blame the parent who they believe initiated the separation and view the other parent as a victim.
  6. When a child makes threats such as “If you do not come home, I will never speak to you again”, the purpose of this is to make the parent feel guilty so that they will return home.
  7. Children between the ages of 8-16 years can experience intense anger. They can often be most angry with the parent they blame for separation, but they may express anger only towards the parent they view as the ‘safest’, usually the resident parent.
  8. “What should I tell my friends?”. If you want your child to share the situation with others, you must be able to do the same. Encourage your child to be honest about the situation.
  9. “Why are you separating?”. Children are more likely to ask this if they have not been given a clear explanation for the separation.
  10. The child may worry about the future. This is more likely to occur where there is parental conflict around contact and maintenance. As parents, you need to listen to your child’s worries and talk honestly and openly with them about their concerns.

One Family are looking for responses to the first ever National Shared Parenting Survey from parents who have separated and are sharing parenting. The data gathered will finally give a voice to parents and their children who are sharing parenting, which can inform appropriate policies and services in the future. Please take ten minutes to complete this anonymous survey. Take the survey here.

If you need support, information or advice, contact our lo-call askonefamily helpline on 1890 66 22 12.

This week’s Parenting Tips is adapted by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, from our Family Communications training programme.

 

askonefamily | The Helpline for People Parenting Alone, Sharing Parenting or Separating

askonefamily_200px Logo_Small_LRaskonefamily is a helpline offering information and listening support for men and women who may be parenting alone, sharing parenting or separating. The helpline is also available to extended family, friends or professionals.

People call askonefamily for all kinds of reasons. They may have a question about their financial situation, maybe they are finding it difficult to communicate with their child’s other parent, or they may simply need a listening ear. Some other queries include:

  • Parenting
  • Family law issues
  • Talking to your child about their family situation
  • Social welfare benefits and entitlements
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Housing
  • Childcare
  • Return to education or employment

Call us on 1890 66 22 12  or 01 662 9212, from Monday to Friday between 10am-2pm. We also offer an email service for information.

The askonefamily helpline has been offered by One Family since 2004, supporting many thousands of parents by providing information, listening to their concerns, and letting them know about other available services both here in One Family and in their local community. When you call the helpline you will talk with one of the askonefamily team, either a staff member or a volunteer. This will be someone with training in non-directive listening and experience of parenting or working with families. We all need a listening ear at times or we might need information when we have a decision to make. When you call askonefamily you can expect to be listened to and given the right information that you need.

1890 66 22 12 is a lo-call number from land lines, but call rates to lo-call (1850/1890) numbers from mobile phones may vary. You should check specific details with your mobile service provider.

Parenting | Reading with your child

readingWith the chilly weather we find ourselves indoors more often and may have more time to spend reading with our children. Reading together is a great bonding exercise and important to make part of your daily life if possible.

As part of our ’10 Ways to …’ series which offers tips for parents on a variety of topics, here are our ‘10 Ways to Make Reading a Part of Family Life‘.

 

  1. Join the library. The whole family could take a trip to the local library and sign up. It’s free! Find out what’s happening in your local library as they run great events too and you can then plan your family trips to correspond with events.
  2. Read together. Plan a time each day, or at least three times a week, to read together. Let the children read to their parent or parents to child. When a child becomes familiar with a story they can tell it from the pictures or from their memory – encourage this!
  3. Start a library in your home. Go the second hand shops and get great books for very little cost.
  4. Switch off the TV. For one evening every week, switch on the story telling in the family instead of the telly.
  5. Start early. Introduce children to books from six months onwards; bath books, music books and picture books.
  6. Role model. Let children see you read books and use books to find out about things. Yes, there’s Google but let children know there are other ways too.
  7. Bring books. Wherever you go – when in the car, in a queue, on a bus trip going to Granny’s – bring a book with you. You can pass the time reading to your child or encourage them to read themselves if you are driving or talking with someone.
  8. Visit book shops. They can be great fun. Let children see all the books they can choose from. Talk to them about authors and check out when writers are signing in shops.
  9. Create your own book. Encourage older children (6+) to write their own stories and to create pictures about simple things they like in life. You could get them bound and keep them forever.
  10. The Benefits. Reading together creates quality time which results in improved relationships. It teaches children about the world and the people in it. It helps develop imagination, increases your child’s language and vocabulary which improves chances at school, and concentration levels grow as stories gets longer with age. At bed time, reading helps us relax and can enable children to fall asleep more quickly.

 

The ’10 Ways to …’ series is compiled by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.

You can find out about parenting programmes we run here.

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

Parenting | Parent Self-Care

parent self careThis week’s ’10 Ways’ offers tips about you looking after you. Especially at Christmas time, parents can become frazzled with all the organising and preparations. It is important to try and carve out even a small bit of time for yourself to recharge the batteries and ensure you enjoy Christmas time too. Read on for our ‘10 Ways to Parent Self-Care’.

  1. “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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Stay healthy: Do not neglect your health – value your own health and well being as much as you do your child’s.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Read other articles from our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Join Geraldine, our parenting expert, on Facebook on this and other parenting topics for a weekly Q&A live in our One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email us.