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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 Parenting. Read more parenting tips here

News | Holiday Opening Hours

One Family offices and askonefamily helpline close for the holiday season on Thursday 21 December 2017, re-opening on Tuesday 2 January 2018.

We wish a joyful and peaceful Christmas and New Year to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links to some external services and supports that may be of interest can be found here.

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 | 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.

Events | Annual Toy Appeal

christmaschild Join our annual toy appeal and make a real difference this Christmas. By organising a collection of toys in your workplace you can help us make Christmas a little bit easier for the families we work with. As we all know, Christmas can be a time of stress and worry for many parents but in particular for families who are on a strict budget that doesn’t allow for presents.

In December One Family host a winter party for the children and each child receives a gift from Santa. We rely on generous donations from people like you to make this party a magical and memorable time for the children.

It’s easy for your company to take part. Just contact Geraldine to register your interest and we can provide you with everything you need to make your toy appeal run smoothly in your workplace.

One Family Client Christmas Party at Dublin Castle

What did you get? Santa along with his helper arrive early for Minister of State John Curran TD Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Karen Kiernan (Director of One Family). They celebrated with May McCann from Antrim and Zach Brady from Dublin and other One Family clients at their Christmas Party in Dublin Castle.

What did you get? Santa along with his helper arrive early for Minister of State John Curran TD Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Karen Kiernan (Director of One Family). They celebrated with May
McCann from Antrim and Zach Brady from Dublin and other One Family clients at their Christmas Party in Dublin Castle.