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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

Training | Autumn Courses for Parents and Professionals Booking Now

One Family offers an exciting suite of training programmes for people who are parenting alone, or sharing parenting after separation, including a number of free courses; and also programmes for professionals who work with parents, children and families.

Whether returning to education or employment, building on skills to strengthen family life, or continuing professional development, Autumn is the perfect time of year to start working towards something that can bring rewards now and in the new year to come.

Our courses incorporate 45 years of experience in supporting parents. Your perfect training opportunity may be just a click away. Read on to find out more.

For Parents: Family Life

Being equipped with resilience and skills to deal with the range of issues that may arise in day-to-day family life, and in times of change, is important for all parents. Booking is open now for our Autumn courses for parents.

Family Communications: Coping with Family Life and Communication with Teenagers This course is valuable for parents of children of all ages but particularly those with teens. It teaches clear communication skills to strengthen family life including assertive parenting, and conflict reducing communication.
Starts: 3rd October 2017
Duration: 10am-12pm one morning per week for 8 weeks
Location: Rialto, Dublin 8
Cost: €40 unwaged / €60 waged

Self-care and Personal Growth When Parenting Alone Parenting alone means carrying all of the responsibility, all of the time. It can be easy to forget to look after ourselves too. This course supports lone parents to explore their self-worth and confidence through learning about the most important relationship of all: the relationship we have with ourselves.  The overall aim is to support parents to take time for self-care so that they can be there for their children.
Starts: 3rd October 2017
Duration: 10am-12pm one morning per week for 8 weeks
Location: Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Cost: €40 unwaged / €60 waged

Positive Parenting for Changing Families This practical and positive course for parents of 2-12 year olds builds on existing skills to support parents to manage behaviours and development well, with a focus on understanding the needs of children in order to understand behaviours.
Starts: 3rd October 2017
Duration: 10am-12pm one morning per week for 8 weeks
Location: Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Cost: €40 unwaged / €60 waged

Parenting When Separated To address the challenges of parenting when separated, Parents Plus developed this six week course for parents who are preparing for, going through, or have gone through a separation or divorce. It supports parents to work through shared parenting problems in a positive way that is focused on the needs of children.
Starts: 4th October 2017
Duration: 9am-11am one morning per week for 8 weeks
Location: Smithfield, Dublin 7
Cost: €40 unwaged / €60 waged

Parenting Through Stressful Times This course supports people who are parenting alone or sharing parenting in recognising and positively managing stress in themselves and in children. It gently explores the influence stress plays and how we manage daily challenges, and the many tools that can aid and support adults and children to cope with stress and maintain a healthy balance.
Starts: 8th November 2017
Duration: 12pm-2pm one afternoon per week for 8 weeks
Location: Smithfield, Dublin 7
Cost: €40 unwaged / €60 waged

Online Parenting Support Programmes We offer two facilitated online programmes, Positive Parenting and Family Communications, that run throughout the year. Eight weekly sessions are communicated via email and include reflective exercises and completion of a learning journal, all of which can be done in your own time at your own discretion. Optional individual support by email and mentoring around parenting topics from our Director of Children and Parenting Services, and assessment with issue of a Certificate of Completion, are also included.
Starts: Monthly
Duration: Approx. 2 hours per week
Location: Online
Cost: €9.99

Find out more about all of these courses, or book online, here or call us on 01 662 9212 if you’d like more information.

For Parents: Education & Career

Would you like to get back to education and/or work? It can be hard to know where or how to start. We have two upcoming programmes that may fit your needs. Both are free and offer accreditations recognised on the National Framework of Qualifications.

New Futures, starting in October 2017, is a free 24 week; part-time personal and professional development programme specifically designed for those parenting alone or sharing parenting. It is accredited at QQI Level 4.

Options, a full academic year program beginning later this month, is a part-time introductory programme specifically designed for those parenting alone or sharing parenting, and is run in partnership with Ballsbridge College of Further Education. It provides practical skills for progression into employment, self-employment, and/or college.

More information about New Futures and Options is here. If you are interested in one of these programmes but are unsure if it suits your needs at this time, please email us at programmes@onefamily.ie or call 01 662 9212.

For Professionals: Professional Development Programmes

If you work with parents and/or children; are a family support worker, social worker, youth worker, family therapist, educator, drugs project worker or counsellor, or deliver parenting/family support courses, One Family runs accredited programmes that will help you to build on your skills, knowledge and approach.

Programmes include Positive Parenting for Changing FamiliesFamily Communications: Coping with Family Life and Communication with Teenagers, and half-day Skills Acquisition Workshops. 

Booking is open now for:

Workshop: Supporting Families to Reduce Conflict in Communication

This solution-driven workshop explores how to practitioners can support parents in practising clear and direct communication in relation to common family dilemmas using a non-violent communication framework, identifying communications styles, understanding the connection between needs and choices of behaviour, exploring the benefits and disadvantages of conflict within relationships and families, and more. Workshop places will be limited to twenty people, as they will be facilitated in a participatory workshop style, which actively engages participants.
Date: 24th October 2017
Duration: 1pm-4.30pm
Location: ISPCC, 1st Floor Penrose Wharf, 4/5 Alfred Street, Cork
Cost: €50
Book here.

Workshop: Parenting Through Stressful Times

This intense workshop for professionals working with parents and families will explore how they can support parents in understanding the effects of stress on both parents and children, the importance of having support as a way to combat stress, how to identify stress in children and how it impacts on behaviour and wellbeing, and to develop strategies to develop a less stressful environment for children and parents.
Date: 23rd November 2017
Duration: 9.30am-1pm
Location: One Family, 8 Coke Lane, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Cost: €50
Book here.

Our next three-day Family Communications programme is also booking now for February 2018 in Dublin 7. One Family can also deliver workshops and programmes directly at your organisation with a minimum of ten participants.

Sign up to receive our Professional Development updates here to be among the first to hear about our new programmes and schedules.

If you would like to find out more about any of our training opportunities, call us on 01 662 9212 or email info@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 | 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 | 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.

Parenting | Talking to young children about death

loving-1207568_1920We want to protect our children from hurt and trauma in life but death is as much a part of life as living is. In order to prepare children for life we must prepare and support them to understand and feel comfortable with death. This week, we offer ’10 ways’ to approach the subject of death and ways to support your child when they experience loss:

  1. Dealing with the loss of a pet, such as a goldfish, can be a way to introduce coping mechanisms. Have a light-hearted ceremony of some kind to remember the happy smiles the goldfish brought to the family. Children will handle this in many different ways: some will be fascinated with the science attached to it while others could be in tears for a week.
  2. In the case of a family bereavement, remember that the child has also experienced a loss. They may realise, for the first time, that we do not have everything in our lives forever. They will need support to understand how they are feeling. They may have a very great sense of sadness and loneliness over the loss and it may be the first time they have had this feeling. It is important to reassure them that this is normal and that it will pass.
  3. It is important to nurture them and give them comfort and solace. They will have questions for a long time and this is natural. We all have questions when someone dies. With your support children can cope with death and understand what has happened
  4. It is really important to allow children to experience a family bereavement. They should be included in what is happening to the family. If you try to totally shield your child from the loss they will sense that something has happened and be left with a very worried, empty, anxious feeling. Hiding the truth or excluding your child can cause a break in trust between you and your child.
  5. Allow your child to see that you are upset too. Children will be more confused if you tell them that you are okay when they know that you are not. Remember, children observe everything. Tell them that you feel sad about what has happened. Reassure them that it is okay for everyone to be really sad and that in time things will change again.
  6. Allow your child see the person who has died if they were close to them. Arrange a time when it is quiet for them to come and view the body. This will help your child to understand the permanent nature of death. While they might be initially afraid of the stillness of the body, they will remember that they loved this person dearly. Reassure your child that they are not really there any longer so they won’t be lonely, scared and lost in the box, as some children imagine they are. Telling children that someone has gone to sleep or gone to the sky is almost impossible for a child to understand. You can talk with your child about the spirit of the person if you wish and if this is something you believe but you must be careful that they are able to understand the concept.
  7. The funeral can really support your child to say goodbye just like it allows others to say goodbye. You may also need to do more than this with your child depending on whom it is that died. You can then have a special day each year with them where they decide how best they want to celebrate this person’s memory.
  8. Encourage your child to talk openly about the person who has died. It may take at least six months to recover from the initial shock and up to three years to accept that life is now different but that life will, and does, go on. If you feel after six months that your child is not coping very well with the death then it may be time to seek professional support such as Rainbows Ireland.  They offer free bereavement support for children and young people throughout Ireland.
  9. It can be helpful to create a special book, with pictures and memories of your departed loved, to help your children to remember them.
  10. It is really important that you as a parent seek support if you need to. You won’t be able to support your child if you neglect your own needs. It is very hard to cope with grief so don’t be shy about asking for 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 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 | How to support your child when they struggle to fit in

left-out-624736_1280I often meet parents who tell me “My child really dislikes school because they feel that they don’t fit in”, or “My child wants to be part of this group of children in school but they have been left out.”

When children move into primary school the main aim they have is to make friends. We may think school is about education, and of course it is, but children also learn about relationships. Children who enjoy school usually name seeing their friends as their number one reason for liking school.

As adults we know we don’t have to follow the crowd, we can be our own person. But we also know “no man is an island” − we cannot live in isolation. We need to be part of relationships and part of groups. Here, we offer ’10 ways’ to support your child if they are finding it difficult to fit in:

  1. Unfortunately, the choices we make as parents can affect how well our children fit in. For example, when my daughter was about nine years old she asked me for a mobile phone. Initially I refused until she said to me “Mum, do you want me to be a geek or do you want me to have friends?” After that I did explore all the options around how I could facilitate her to have a phone rather than impose a blanket ban on phones. I realised it would be possible to manage as her main aim was to stay part of the group − she didn’t particularly care about the phone.
  2. Support your child to form friendships by connecting with other parents. For children, parents are very much responsible for choosing what groups they will be part of. Encourage your child to join an activity that children from school attend. This will give you an opportunity to meet parents and children. Once you start to meet the other parents you can form relationships and make play dates.
  3. Invite different children over for play dates. Do not get into a pattern of choosing the same child each time. (Read our top tips on play dates here.)
  4. Watch your child with other children and try to identify what they struggle with. For example, if you notice your child watches other children play but doesn’t join in, ask them what stopped them from joining in. Encourage them to participate by telling them how clever they are, how funny they are, and how much you enjoyed playing with them.
  5. Try to be honest in watching your child’s encounters with others. They are learning to socialise and they may have developed some behaviours that other children don’t like. It is better to recognise and name these behaviours and support your child with them as it will allow them to move on and form friendships in the future. You can still think your child is the most wonderful in the world but that doesn’t mean they have it all figured out.
  6. Help your child find their voice. If you think your child is shy, help them to find a way to interact with other children. They need to be able to approach other children and become involved in the game. Children can be very bossy and if your child is not familiar with someone telling them what to do they may shy away from this. Role play different scenarios and help them to find the words to engage with children in different situations.
  7. Your child doesn’t have to be friends with everyone but they should feel comfortable to engage with everyone in the class. Young children move around friends so don’t expect them to remain friends with one particular child. It is not that they are not loyal, it is because they are exploring and learning. They will have a range of needs that are met by different children and they will move in and out of these needs.
  8. All children are coming from different homes with siblings, younger and older or none. They all have different skill sets to bring with them to school so don’t let your child feel they have nothing to offer or that other children are better than them. Help them to see their talents and skills. Every child has an abundance of them. Be creative with your child in pointing them out and help them to name their own talents.
  9. Confidence can prevent children from joining in so support your child in this area. A few knock backs can greatly reduce confidence so don’t ignore it. Name what you see in your child and make time to talk with them about it. Work on it at home and talk with the school if you ever suspect bullying.
  10. Monitor your behaviour too. You can only bring your child’s confidence to the same level as your own. Exploring your own needs will also support your child on their journey.

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. You can read the full series here.

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 on 01 662 9212.