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.
Here is part two of our two-part Christmas Guide for One-Parent Families.
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
Financial Management at Christmas
It’s a really good idea to make a commitment to yourself that you will not over-spend this Christmas. The next step is to budget. The earlier you sit down and budget for the holiday the better. Here are some sample categories which might help:
|Category||Items listed in detail||Estimated cost||Total cost|
|Regular food shopping for 2 week period|
|Food and drink for specific days i.e. 25th, 26th, 1st|
|Decorations – Lights, Christmas tree etc|
|Gifts for children|
|Gifts for other family members and friends|
|Christmas cards and postage|
Be very realistic – Remember the presents are only the start. Making a realistic list of the expenditure will make it easier to see where you can economise.
Be honest – Can you really afford to fund such a sum? If the answer is no, you must cut back.
Be wary of credit – If you find that you need short-term credit to bridge the gap between normal income and abnormal expenditure at Christmas, decide how you will fund this. Your main options are credit cards, bank or credit union loans or authorised overdrafts. All have advantages as well as disadvantages. Whatever you decide, make sure you can afford to meet the costs of the credit, including interest, after Christmas. Avoid unauthorised lenders.
Dealing with Pressure from Children and Young People
Talk to them – It can be really helpful to talk to your children early on about Christmas and explain that you all have a tight budget to work with. If Santa is coming to your house explain to children that Santa has a lot of children throughout the world to visit on Christmas Eve and he has asked parents to tell children to list their top three presents but to expect only one of these, and to understand that he has a budget. It is better to explain to your child that you cannot afford very expensive presents rather than overstretching yourself and getting into debt.
Get them involved in planning – Planning the Christmas with children and young people can help them better understand the pressures of Christmas. It can also be fun working together and help children gain a sense of responsibility.
Self talk – Remind yourself that you are not letting your children down by not getting them exactly what presents they want. Value the love you give them every day of the year. In years to come it will be this they remember rather than how much you spent on them.
Expectations – Remember for many younger children it isn’t the cost of the item that interests them but what they can do with it. Children often find the box more exciting than the gift itself!
Don’t give in to pressure – Children and young people often make demands of their parents. Parents may fear that if they don’t give the child the present they want, then he or she won’t love them. Remind yourself the value of saying “no”. Saying no can help a child understand choices and disappointments. It is far worse for the child or young person to see you upset and anxious about financial difficulties.
Fun Things To Do with Children
Whether you’re with your children for all of the holiday period or have access at certain times, finding fun activities appropriate to the season that don’t cost a lot can be a challenge. Here are some ideas:
- Christmas carols
- Christmas lights – Take your child into your nearest town or city to see the lights at night or take a tour of your locality
- Decorate your tree together
- Feed the ducks or swans, or put out a bird feeder together. Animals can find it hard to get food this time of year
- Check out your local library for details of free activities held for children over December and January
- Bake a cake together
- Make homemade sweets and cookies to give out as presents
- Make a jig saw together
- Visit your local art gallery, most galleries have free activities and workshops for children with materials provided
- Go swimming
- Visit your local park, or the botanical gardens in Dublin to watch the squirrels
- Have books and DVDs ready to entertain
- The national concert hall in Dublin hold a range of events for children
- Visit museums – our national museums have free admission and offer many family-friendly tours and activities
- Wrap up well and get plenty of fresh air
- Winter picnics can be fun too – bring a flask and check out adventure playgrounds in your area
- Make Christmas decorations – it’s easy and fun to string together pop corn to hang on the tree, or paper chains
- Visit a pantomime – matinees are usually offered at a reduced cost
Part one of our Christmas Guide includes advice on Taking the Stress out of Christmas, Christmas Alone, and Coping with Sad or Painful Memories. Click here to read it.
For help and advice
One Family askonefamily Lo-call Helpline | 1890 662 212 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
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. For this week’s ’10 Ways to …’ post offering parenting tips, we look at how to improve listening in the home.
- Do I listen? Ask yourself firstly what type of listener you are. Are you focused or distracted? Empathetic or impatient?
- Stop shouting: Children do not respond positively to shouting so try always to speak in a calm manner.
- Eye contact: When talking to your child, get down to their level and look them in the eye.
- Be clear: Do your children understand what you are saying to them? Clarify if needed.
- 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.
- Reward: Notice good listening and reward it.
- Remember: Put a note up somewhere, like on the fridge, to remind you as a parent to listen.
- Make time: Make time – at meals, when children come in from school, when parents come in from work – to talk with each other and listen to what others have to say.
- 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).
- Building relationships: Listening to your child and other family members increases positive behaviour in the home and improves relationships.
This week’s ’10 Ways to …’ is compiled by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
Remember, if you need a friendly ‘listening ear’, our askonefamily lo-call helpline is available on 1890 662 212.
Homework is considered to be beneficial in helping children to learn how to manage time, planning and priorities, and to learn independently and take responsibility. These are all skills that will help them in the future in many ways. Homework also helps teachers to determine how well students are understanding their lessons. It is important as parents that we support our children in doing their homework. This keeps us in touch with what’s happening at school and how our children are managing, and will help children to achieve academically throughout their education. As part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, here are our 10 Ways to Manage Homework with Primary School Children.
- Homework belongs to the child not the parent. Teach your child from entry to school that they are responsible for homework being done. Your role is to support your child with homework, but not to do it.
- Create the necessary environment for your child to work in. They need a calm space with no TV or other distractions. Allow them time to relax when they come in from school and have a snack and change of clothes ready.
- Always demonstrate an interest in your child’s homework, support them, champion them and stand up for them. You know them best, so encourage and support yet know when it’s time to stop. Know your limits and theirs.
- Encourage your child if they feel it’s too hard. Acknowledge that it is hard but tell them you know they can do it. If you find yourself being negative with them, or saying something like, “Yes, you are no good at maths”, then it is advisable to look at your own issues with homework.
- Set a start and end time for homework. Sometimes you may feel your child has too much homework on a particular day. Let the teacher know it will be completed by the end of the week rather than pushing a very tired child to finish it that evening.
- The National Parents Council offers a guide to the amount of time each age group should spend on homework, stating that in general the following guidelines apply:
- Junior/Senior infants: No formal homework but perhaps some drawing, preliminary reading, matching shapes and pictures or listening to stories read by parents.
- First/Second class: 20-30 minutes.
- Third/Fourth class: 30-40 minutes.
- Fifth/Sixth class: 40-60 minutes.
- When you are tired and your child is tired, it’s usually time to stop. Your level of patience will be lower. Remember that your relationship with your child is more important than homework.
- Arguing late in the evening over homework leaves everyone unsettled and stressed which can lead to bedtime routines being disrupted.
- Talk with the school/your child’s teacher if you feel your child cannot get their homework done without your help. Children should be able to do their homework alone with parents nearby. Your role should involve encouragement, checking it’s done, and testing them on key things such as spelling.
- Sometimes children need time off too. Explore how many extra activities they have on and look at creating down time for them. Would you like to bring home work every day? A school day is long and it is important to acknowledge all the work they have already done that day. Try not to focus on the areas they’re less successful at as this will do nothing for self-esteem and achieve nothing. Appreciate that children have a lot on and need you to recognise the effort they are making in every task.
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.
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.
As summer winds down, it is time to start thinking about school again. For parents with young children, that means looking into preschools for your children. Sending your child to preschool for the first time is a big step in both you and your child’s life, and it is important to make sure both of you are prepared to take that step. There are many ways to see if your child is ready for preschool, and in this week’s edition of parenting tips, we look at 10 ways to prepare your child for preschool.
- Sit back and look at how much your child has grown in the past 3 years. Ask yourself if you are really supporting them to be more responsible, allowing them make choices and have more control over what they want and how they do things.
- Ensure your child is toilet trained and able to manage in the toilet unaided.
- Ensure your child can use a spoon to feed themselves, that they can recognise their belongings, get out their lunch and tidy away by themself.
- Support your child to learn the rules of friendship, taking turns, sharing, asking for what they want and being inclusive of all children.
- Play school with them at home. Help them act out their fears around school and through role play help them understand what will be expected of them in preschool.
- Explore with them how they need to behave in preschool and what will happen if they misbehave.
- Talk with them about the other children who will be there and how they will be very friendly with some and may not really like some children. Encourage them to have time for everyone and to aim to be friendly with all the children.
- Visit the preschool in advance. Understand the policies and procedures in advance as a parent and help your child know what their day will look like in preschool. There are great differences between many preschools.
- Keep preschool fresh in your child’s mind over the summer time. Help them be ready for school. Help them be confident by preparing them well and encouraging them to practice at home asking questions and resolving small disputes in a positive manner
- Don’t put any pressure on your child. It is not university, so relax about whether they know their colours and numbers. They will learn if they are happy and feel supported to do so.
This week’s ’10 Ways to’ is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: Pixabay
“Play date” or “playdate” is a US expression that has become popular in Ireland in recent years. Simply put, a play date is an arranged appointment between parents for their children to get together for a few hours at home. Play dates support children to form friendships, to practice their social and relationship building skills, and increase their confidence. Friendships are an important part of life, and start in the preschool years. As part of our weekly series of parenting tips, here are our tips to help create positive play date experiences for your children and you, their friends and their friends’ parents.
- Play dates start with parent and child dates. Parents need to make time to meet other parents. Extend an invitation. It could start with arranging to be at the playground in the park at the same time.
- Some parents are not in a position to invite your child over to play at their house. Don’t expect the invite. Play dates are for your child’s development and they don’t need to get invited to other homes all the time. They will be happy for it to happen in their own home.
- Parents need to actively engage in play dates. Children need support to play well with other children. Always remain in the room with young children and as your child gets older, continue to fully supervise and always remain within earshot with doors open.
- Talk with your child prior to a play date. Agree what games will be played, what toys they are willing to share and in what parts of the house they will play in.
- Help children engage well in the games, both your child and the visitor. Support them to solve problems rather than you making the decisions. You are responsible for the visiting child’s well-being so you must protect their feelings also.
- Make sure you have the contact numbers of the visiting child’s parent/s or guardian. Be aware if they have any special needs or dietary requirements.
- Play dates are about play so avoid sugary treats.
- Praise your child after the play date. Tell them how well they did; be specific about what went well. Later talk with them about what did not go well and plan what to do differently next time.
- Be aware of how you deal with behavioural issues with your child and others. Be assertive in how you communicate with children and ensure they experience positive interactions in your home.
- Talk with the other parent if things are really not going well. Both parents will need to work together to support young children to play well. Don’t make judgements on children; they are young and have so much to learn. Our job as parents is to help and support them, not judge or condemn them.
This week’s ’10 Ways to’ is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email email@example.com.
A family ritual, or tradition, is a practice within a family that has special meaning to family members. Family rituals provide a sense of belonging and continuity. They bring families closer together. It is often hard in our day and age to escape the pressures and daily stresses that make up our lives, but having rituals creates an opportunity for children to feel secure. Family routines and rituals not only improve family relationships, they also improve health and emotional well being, particularly for children.
As part of of our ‘10 Ways to‘ series of parenting tips, here are some ideas to help you in developing family rituals and traditions for your family.
- Think simple, not extravagant. An example of a simple and easy ritual is to eat together at least once every week.
- Set aside time each week. Create a time where you and your children can be together to play.
- Create your own special activity. For weekends, birthdays or celebrations, decide with the family how you really enjoy celebrating these occasions and go with that.
- Include your children in the planning.
- Create rituals that are meaningful to the whole family.
- Be different. Don’t be afraid to start a new or different kind of family tradition.
- Celebrate success. Acknowledge achievement within the family.
- 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 members involved is still created.
- Create a Family Event Jar. A family jar or box is a decorated jar used to save for the next big adventure. Decorate it with pictures and words of places you want to visit or have visited, or activities you enjoy. The jar becomes a daily visual reminder for all family members of something to look forward to.
- Rituals and traditions are something for all family member to enjoy together. Don’t fight your natural inclinations. You probably won’t stick with a tradition that isn’t working for all members of the family.
One Family offers a range of training options to help parents and guardians to build on their parenting skills which you can find out about here.
This week’s ’10 Ways to’ is adapted by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, from our Family Communications training programme.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on 1890 66 22 12.
Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net/arztsamui
For some parents the school holiday is a respite time with a more relaxed routine. However, it can be a nightmare for others for many reasons such as not being able to take time off work, lack of childcare options and tight budgets, and so requires a lot of planning and management. As parents we learn quickly that when raising children it is important to develop as many resources as we possibly can.
As part of our ’10 Ways to …’ series of parenting tips and in celebration of the upcoming school summer holidays here are some tips on how to make school breaks enjoyable for all members of the family so you won’t hear the infamous “I’m bored” – hopefully!
10 Ways to Make the Most of School Breaks
- Time off: If you work outside of the home, plan your leave in advance for school holidays. Get the list of days off from the school at the start of each term and use this to plan your time off. If this is not possible, try to finish early over a few days during the mid-term.
- Plans: Make plans with children prior to school breaks. Making plans in advance for the days off will ensure that children are clear about what will happen. They will cooperate more if they are involved in making the plans.
- Family: Engage the support of family as much as possible at school breaks. If you share parenting with your child’s other parent, agree a system for the school holidays in advance. Grandparents and other family members can love having the chance to have some extra quality time with the children, maybe even a sleepover. Make sure to involve children in any plans and give them the information they need in advance.
- Friends: Make plans with other parents for play dates. Maybe you can set up a shared rota?
- Fun: Even if you have to work, try to have fun with children during the break. Fun doesn’t have to mean expense. Activities such as cooking, arts and crafts or having a picnic at home are really enjoyable things to do in the comfort of your own home. Plan fun activities out such as going to the park, feeding the ducks, a walk on the beach or going swimming.
- Library: Libraries often hold events for children on school breaks and are also a great source of information about what is taking place locally, such as nature walks or music workshops.
- Clear Out: Children can really enjoy helping at home. Take the school break as an opportunity to do a spring clean. Get the children involved in planning what needs to be done, make a colourful chart together. Maybe they can clear out their wardrobes and bring some clothes, toys or books to the charity shops. You may find hidden treasures as you go along, to have a dress up day when you finish!
- Socialise: Take school breaks as an opportunity to meet other families. There are lots of websites supporting families to meet up and do activities together. If you are feeling isolated, check out the One Family Social Group for starters. It provides a supportive environment for parents to enjoy a day out with other parents in similar circumstances, and is great fun for the children. Email us or call us if you’d like more information.
- Routine: It’s important to try to keep the bed time and meal time routines in place while children are on short school breaks. This will ensure that they will not get over tired, and as they are still in their routine when school begins again, the transition will be easier for everyone.
- Enjoy: Most of all, enjoy the break from homework as this allows time for other things in the evenings – don’t dread the school breaks.
Next you might like to read more about establishing routines.
‘10 Ways’ parenting tips is written by Geraldine Kelly, One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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