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Parenting | Ten Ways to Make the Most of School Breaks

School's outFor 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Friends: Make plans with other parents for play dates. Maybe you can set up a shared rota?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 support@onefamily.ie.

10 Ways to Parent Through Stressful Times

Parenting can bring many challenges and when you are stressed these challenges can seem even more difficult to face. Here are some tips on how you can manage your stress levels and teach your children that while it may be unpleasant, stress is a part of everyday life. However, it is also important to show them how to manage stressful situations and to help them develop their emotional strength in order to cope with life’s challenges.

  1. It is vital that parents learn to manage their stress and to develop strategies for dealing with difficult life and relationship issues.
  2. When parents cannot manage their stress this rubs off on children and they can become stressed or depressed.
  3. Learning the importance of support and the strength inherent in being able to ask for help is a skill that will take parents a long way.
  4. Children can also become stressed in their own right so parents can model good stress management for their children.
  5. In order to feel good about ourselves we need others to care about and care for.
  6.  Knowing what help is out there in times of stress can bring a real sense of relief.
  7. Each of us needs a support system and this can come in many forms. Family members and even just one close friend can make all the difference to our emotional well being.
  8. Parents with children of similar ages can provide excellent support for each other through the mutual sharing of experiences.
  9. In order to parent well you need to be a good parent to yourself. Minding yourself is the key to keeping your stress levels down.
  10. Keeping a focus on your child’s well being can also have a diminishing effect on your own stress levels.

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.

10 Ways to Survive Sleepless Nights

With a young child, one of the most trying times can be night time.  We all expect to be awake with babies and infants, but what if your child is 3 years of age and still waking you at night? Parents and children need their rest after a long day of work, school, or play, although sleep is often interrupted by a cry for help from another room.  As parents, it’s impossible to ignore our children, yet we all need a good night’s sleep and we want the same for our children as well.  Not getting enough sleep can affect how we parent and many other aspects of our lives. We explore 10 Ways to Survive Sleepless Nights.

  1. If you know to expect that your child might call you during the night, it’s best to just accept it rather than dread it, as children will pick up on your anxiety.
  2. Try to get to bed yourself very early at least 3 nights a week – even if you don’t really feel like it – so you can get hopefully 4-5 hours of continuous sleep before the first call from your child.
  3. Stay calm during the night. Remember that it’s okay to forget the rules at times. If they will sleep well in your bed take them in, or get into bed with them if you can. A double bed for young children can be great if you have the space; at least you’ll have room then!
  4. Talk with your child during the day about sleeping. Praise them if they sleep well and try to encourage them to call you when it starts to get bright, not when it is dark. Encourage self-soothing such as cuddling up with favourite teddy bears. Be extra generous with praise for any attempt they make to sleep better in their own bed without calling you. Talk to them about how sleep fills them up with energy for the next day and how they need it for the busy day ahead of them. Help them to understand and like the idea of sleeping, and talk with them about why parents need sleep too.
  5. Try to ensure that during the day (not at bedtime), that you talk over things that are happening with them too. All kinds of things can play on your child’s mind that you might not be aware of: new home, new baby, getting in trouble, starting school etc. Dreams can wake them with anxiety.
  6. If you live with another adult take turns to get up to the child – take every second night – then at least you are both getting a good sleep a few nights every week.
  7. What if you have two children waking in the night? If safe to do so, and you have a big bed and side rails – and you have not been drinking alcohol or are impaired in any way –  it can be good to take them on a sleepover into your bed on occasion. This could mean you all get to sleep till morning, or at least the early hours.
  8. Try not to focus on how little sleep you get. Remember that a lot of parents are in the same situation. Think about how you might be able to incorporate opportunities for sleep into your own routine. If you travel on public transport, perhaps take a nap on the bus or train; or have one in the morning at home if your child is at creche or school. Explore if anyone can mind your child once a week for a few hours during which you can look forward to some sleep; for example, arranging rotating play dates with another parent.
  9. Build some positives into your day. For example, look forward to some nice breakfast to give yourself a boost to get going. Something like fruit and yoghurt doesn’t have to cost much or take a lot of time to prepare. When we are really tired, we can feel somewhat low, especially if we’re parenting alone without many opportunities to plan for some sleep for ourselves; so it’s very important to actively build in these little positives to our routine.
  10. Support your child to sleep well by following a bedtime routine and providing them with a restful space. What is the room like that they sleep in? Do they like it? Do they have cuddly teddies they have a good bond with during the day? Have they a night light? Is it a calm, secure, peaceful area?

Along with this post, you might like to also read ‘10 Ways to Establish a Bedtime Routine.’

’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 support@onefamily.ie. Find out more about our parenting programmes here.

Image credit: Pixabay

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10 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

Talking about Death250x250When someone in the family or community dies, children are at times kept away from it. Death is a very normal part of life and children, like adults, need to know and understand what is happening, at an age appropriate level of course. They also need closure and support to deal with the loss.

Many children’s first experience of death is that of a pet; it can be great for this to be a first experience as no matter how upsetting the loss is, it will not be as great as that of a family member.

When talking with children about death:

  1. Tell them the truth, someone has died, they will not be able to come back. Talk with them about where you believe they go to after death.
  2. Allow children to ask questions, although you may be very upset at this time, children need information to cope with the death. The more details they have the easier it can be for them. They will want to know how they died and why. You may not have all the answers and tell them if you don’t.
  3. Allow children be part of the funeral and days leading up to the funeral. Allow them time to look in the coffin when it is quiet. Allow them to examine the dead person and put things into the coffin with them, if they wish to.
  4. Bring them at a quiet time, not the first time you visit the coffin, allow yourself some space to grieve and then allow your child time with you.
  5. It is okay for children to see you upset. Sadness and grief are part of our human emotions. Children need to know we have them and your role is to support them to cope with these feelings.
  6. Always tell anyone working closely with your child about the death so they too can support the child in the weeks and months ahead.
  7. Children will continue to ask questions for what seems like forever.  Be patient with them and give them permission to talk and share memories of the dead person.
  8. Start your own traditions around how you will remember the dead person. Will you visit the grave, let off a balloon every so often, look at photos and talk about the good memories. Children don’t want to forget, so even though this may be hard for you to cope with at times when you need to get on with things, tell them it is okay to talk and remember, even if it does make you sad.
  9. If a child loses a sibling or an unborn sibling, share this with them. Create memories for them. It is very important that you can talk with them about this. They will know something has changed in the family, in you. It is important that as a child they know what has changed. We often want to protect children from terrible things that happen, but keeping them as part of the unit, close to you and helping them understand, is much more beneficial for them long term. Finding out as an adult about such things can be more heart breaking.
  10. Children will go through the stages of grief just as adults do. Support them and if at any stage you feel they need more support than you can offer, seek professional support for them through programmes such as Rainbows, Seasons of Growth, Play and Art Therapy and many other services.

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.

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 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 for Halloween fun

halloween-519445_1920Halloween, having its roots in the Gaelic Samhain festival, is a wonderful time for family fun and games. As parents, we need to take precautions to ensure the safety of our children without taking away from the fun. Here we offer tips to make Halloween safe and fun this year:

  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). 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 until you get it right. Let children practice on you, they’ll really enjoy that. You might like to test a small area of your child’s skin for allergic reaction in advance, follow the instructions on the packet.
  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. If you are going trick-or-treating, encourage children to learn ‘tricks’ such as singing a song or reciting a poem. People like to see children make an effort in order to get the treat. In fact, performing a song or poem on the doorstep was expected in most parts of Ireland until recently. Children feel very proud of themselves when they actually do it.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Be conscious that young children may be anxious or scared at Halloween. It’s dark, there are lots of scary figures about.
  10. Finally, just have fun!

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.

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