Parenting NI call for More Support for Working Mums

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It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have; but for many parents it’s not their only job, and the challenge of trying to find a balance between work and family life can be difficult.

Mums are finding it harder to return to work after having a baby due to struggling to find flexible employment, a lack of affordable, available or suitable childcare, and feeling less confident. As Mother’s Day approaches Parenting NI is highlighting the challenges mums face in the workplace and is calling on employers to place a greater emphasis on supporting their employees who are parents.

Charlene Brooks, Interim CEO at Parenting NI said, “Pressures on families are ever increasing and the added stress that can come along with being a working parent means it can often take its toll on our health and wellbeing.

Mums who are working have told Parenting NI they feel guilty about going out to work and worry that not being around as much as they might like could have a negative impact on their children. Although this is an understandable concern, mums can take comfort in the fact that research tells us differently. Having a mother who works is beneficial for children, especially girls whose mother’s have careers in business or are professionals.”

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Working mum of two boys (aged 5 and 2) Leigh Osborne recently had to leave a job she loved when work life started spilling over into family life, “I found myself working over 40 hours a week and checking emails on my phone when I should have been playing with my kids. I knew something had to change; so I took a temporary pay cut and now work in a role that allows me to maintain a career in my field and also gives me a better work life balance.

Being a mum to two young boys and holding down a job certainly keeps me busy I often say being a working mum is the hardest job of all but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel the most important thing is to make sure you maintain a work life balance that is right for you.

I enjoy working, it’s part of my identity and of course I love being a mum and I feel by doing both roles I am setting a strong example to my kids that will teach them that to earn rewards in life you must work hard.”

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As part of a Mother’s Day celebration, Parenting NI have teamed up with Women in Business to host a special event for working mums to provide an opportunity for networking and discussion on what could be done to help support better work-life balance for families.

The leading parenting charity want to help working mums recognise that support is available and to show employers that supporting their parent employees can reap real rewards. In order to help employers gain these benefits, Parenting NI offer Employee Wellbeing workshops to businesses and organisations on a range of parenting issues.  Charlene explained, “The demands of work and family responsibilities can impact on parents’ happiness, and therefore ability to fully focus on work.  Employers who respond to the needs of those working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce. Workplace support for parents can make a positive impact on performance, job focus, attendance and can ultimately improve employee morale and overall productivity.”

Getting to Know our Interim CEO

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Back in July Charlene Brooks took up the post of Interim CEO at Parenting NI. Whilst Charlene as been with the organisation for many years, we asked her a few questions to help you get to know our Interim CEO.

How long have you been with Parenting NI?
I’ve been working with Parenting NI for almost 10 years in total, and in various different roles. I have been fortunate to be directly involved in overseeing the work of the Parents Helpline and Face to Face service for almost 7 years  as well as lead the Parenting Education Team for a number of years before most recently taking on the role of managing the Parental Participation and Engagement Work prior to being appointed as the Interim Chief Executive in July.

Have you always worked in Family Support?
My background is in community work and I have worked in the voluntary sector my entire working career. I have worked in a number of organisations delivering high quality services which aim to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Why do you think it’s important to support parents?
Parents are uniquely placed in that they are the single most important influence on a child’s life. However parenting is not straight forward – there is no rule book to follow and quite often there are no right or wrong answers. There will be many challenges that face parents as their child/children grow up and there will undoubtedly be some decisions taken along the way which are regretted. However, it is our mission in Parenting NI to support all parents. We provide a non judgmental service to enable parents look forward, consider the options and provide the skills, knowledge and resources needed to help parents to make more informed choices which will benefit them and their children.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I look forward to continuing to work with an excellent team of staff who are focused on helping parents feel more confident in their abilities and, as a result, enjoy better relationships with their children. As a parent of 3 young children myself I am well versed on the challenges of juggling the many tasks which modern day parenthood presents us with. But I feel so encouraged that with support from organisations such as Parenting NI that we parents know we are not alone and that there are many resources available to help us.

I am also delighted to have been shortlisted for the CO3 Leadership Awards 2017. I have been nominated for the Leading Forward on Health and Social Care Reform and will look forward to attending the ceremony on 23rd February.

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Parenting NI Welcome New Legislation Protecting Breastfeeding Mums

breastfeedingHealth Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced she intends to bring forward new legislation which will provide extra protection for breastfeeding women.

The new law would make it an offence to deliberately prevent a woman from breastfeeding a child aged under two in a public place or licensed premises.

Parenting NI have welcomed the move, the organisations Director of Family Support Services said, “As a society, we need to support all mothers equally to be able to either breast or bottle feed their babies in public places.

Breast feeding is the most natural act of feeding and comforting your baby and it should be encouraged and promoted.

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Women need to be given support to nurture their babies wherever and whenever possible and if possible all workplaces, public places, business and other amenities should encourage mums to make a choice that will not cause them to feel uncomfortable or shunned by society.

Northern Ireland would have the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the UK according to statistics from Dept of Health and particularly among young mums and this needs to change.”

Parenting Your Teen: A Parent’s Journey

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When we first started developing the Parenting Your Teen programme back in 2008 we realised that there was very little support available to help parents who were coping with the stresses of parenting teenagers. Based on what we were hearing from parents, we felt that a parenting programme specifically designed to support parents with the challenges of parenting teenagers was very much needed.

From this The Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen programme was born. ‘Odyssey’ was chosen as the overacrching title as ‘Odyssey’ means a journey of many changes which reflects the ups and downs of parenting.

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In 2009, the Institute of Childcare Research at Queen’s University Belfast commenced a three year evaluation of the programme. The results showed that relationships and communication between the parents and young person improved, stress levels decreased and there was greater family harmony. The Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen programme is considered to be one of the few programmes for parents of teenagers globally, which has been proven by research, to be extremely effective.

We are very proud to say that the programme has made a positive impact on many families across Northern Ireland and we are constantly blown away by the stories that you share with us. Your stories are very special and important not only to us, but to other parents who might need a bit of support and encouragement themselves and that reaching out for that help might not be as scary as they thought.

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After recently completing the Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen a parent took the time to send us a message and share their experience:

‘I would just like to thank your organisation for their help, I have utilised the helpline in times of difficulty even if I needed a bit of reassurance I was ‘doing the right thing’. Your call handlers are such a calming influence, giving an outside perspective to seemingly desperate situations, along with hope that change can happen.

I have also attended a Parenting your teen course, another wonderful advert for your services. The facilitator has been fantastic, I was slightly dreading attending the course as it felt I was somehow admitting to failure; however I have been shown that actually it’s a sign of strength to seek help and with your guidance, the relationship with my son has vastly improved. I am so grateful that this resource is available to parents struggling with modern day challenges; it has also shown me that our teens are crying out for help and guidance in a scary world.

Facilities are first class, the atmosphere is relaxed, where participation in discussion is optional, no judgments are made and when it’s studied in depth it all makes so much sense. Thank you Parenting NI for guiding us through troubled waters.’

It’s stories like this that reaffirm to us that support for parents is so vitally important and worthwhile. We want to encourage parents who may be struggling with any issue in their parenting regardless of the child/young person age to have a chat with us. We are here to listen and can help support you in a way which is suitable and comfortable for you and your family needs.

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The Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen programme will be running again in January 2017 in Belfast and Lisburn.

   Find out more about available programmes

If you are interested in telling us your story which we could share with our services users and media, get in touch by clicking the button below.

Drop us a line

Skills Northern Ireland

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Don’t miss the chance to find out about the career options available for your children, at Skills Northern Ireland – an extraordinary free careers and skills event!

Where and when?
8 & 9 November at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast
Daytime opening: 9.30am – 3pm
Evening opening: 5pm – 7pm (only the 8 November)

Skills Northern Ireland, sponsored by NIE Networks and supported by Ulster University,  offers young people the opportunity to discover careers in a unique and practical way, and with many exhibitors from colleges, universities and various industries, including: Energy & Research, Healthcare, Aviation, Hospitality & Catering, Engineering, the Arts and many others, there is no better place to explore what to do after leaving school and realise your full potential.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the event’s various features, including; the Showcase Stage that will host demonstrations from amazing talent like Paddy McGurgan, one of Northern Ireland’s leading make-up artists and Get Skilled stands offering activities in robotics, computing, automotive, theatrical make-up, IT, product design and much more. Amongst the features on offer is the Skills Showcase, an area within an uplit inflatable dome showcasing the incredible works of those who have produced creations for work or training, and is sponsored by Belfast Metropolitan College. Each stand promises to be more inspirational than the next with demonstrations ranging from the Army’s climbing wall to the NIE Networks DeLorean car making its appearance at the event. Attendees will also be able to view current job, work experience and apprenticeship vacancies featured on the Live Opportunities Board, sponsored by the event’s media partner, Belfast Telegraph and NI JobFinder.

Parents’ Week. What’s the Point?

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This week we’ve been celebrating Parents’ Week. This is an important week in the Parenting NI calendar every October as it gives us the opportunity to highlight the important roles parents play in their children’s lives.

The week also focuses on the need for support for parents. We know that when parents are supported, outcomes for children and young people improve. At a time when pressures and challenges for families are ever increasing, we feel it’s important to ensure parents know there is support available to them and that it is ok to ask for help.

As you all know, this year our focus for Parents’ Week has been ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’. The reason we chose this issue as our theme is because we have been hearing from parents that use of digital technology has posed unique challenges when it comes to parenting.

As part of the week we wanted to give you idea of the types of cases Parenting NI hear from parents regarding digital technology through our Helpline, Counselling and Parenting Programmes.

Sharing Images
A 15 year old girl sent a revealing photo of herself to her boyfriend, innocently thinking that this would be an image that would be kept between them. When the relationship broke down, as teenage romances often do, the boy decided to circulate the image round the classroom. The image then started appearing on various social media accounts, some accounts where even set up pretending to be the girl.

This caused the teenage girl great distress. Feeling alone and that her friends had even turned on her, she finally got the courage to tell her mum what had happened.

At this point mum contacted Parenting NI really concerned about the impact it was having on her daughter and their relationship. As the girl was under 18 the PSNI had to be contacted and the images were eventually removed and those involved were cautioned.

This is something which is happening regularly for young people and so it is important for us to remind our children that sharing images of children under 18, even if it’s you, is illegal and could have serious consequences.

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Mental Health
A dad contacted Parenting NI worried about how his 13 year old daughter had become depressed. He explained that any time he and his partner had tried to talk to her about what was wrong she became really withdrawn and didn’t want to talk about it, usually ending up with the daughter locking herself in her room.

After coming to some Face2Face sessions at Parenting NI with her dad, the young girl revealed that she had been supporting a friend online who was expressing mental health difficulties. This friend had been self harming, and using a pro-self harm social media page to post images of what she was doing. The 13 year old had not known where to turn, so decided she would do her best to encourage her friend not to harm herself. In her desire to try and support her friend this was having a knock on effect on the girls own mental health, causing her to be withdrawn from her family, friends and things she used to like doing.

The girl and her dad are now communicating better and her friend has been able to get the support she needs to get better.

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Grooming
The parents over a 14 year old boy were noticing that he was receiving post with random gifts which he was hiding in his bedroom. The gifts ranged from aftershave to video games, but when they found some designer underwear and other inappropriate gifts they became very suspicious and worried.

With some guidance from Parenting NI’s Helpline mum and dad sat their son down for a chat one evening to let him know they knew about the packages he was receiving. The boy eventually admitted that he had made a new “friend” on a gaming site he had been playing on in the evenings and that this friend had started sending him gifts because he had helped him complete some really difficult levels on the game and he wanted to say thank you. The boy’s parents were really concerned that he had given out their address to a stranger. After some further conversation, the boy revealed that his online friend started asking for pictures in return for the gifts, and wanted to video chat with him or maybe even meet in person.

Parenting NI was able to support the parents of the 14 year old boy to report the particular user that had been sending the gifts to their son and open up communication within the family.

These are all examples of scenarios which we help to support parents with through our services. The intention of sharing them with you isn’t to frighten you or cause you to disengage further from what your child is doing online, but rather to show that this is the reality. These are the sort of issues our young people are experiencing, and therefore the kinds of things we as parents, and as professionals working with families need to be aware of to be able to support them the best we can.

The message we want all parents to know is you are not alone, everyone struggles with parenting from time to time, support is available and it’s ok to reach out for help no matter what issue it is you may be facing.

Find out more about Parenting NI services:

Parents Helpline Face to Face Support Parenting Programmes Parental Participation Employee Wellbeing

You can also donate to Parenting NI to help us keep our services for parents going. Even a small amount can help us with providing counselling and parenting programmes across Northern Ireland which make a massive difference to families lives.

Donate Now

Professional Careers Support for Parents

As a parent or carer, you are likely to be the single biggest influence on your child’s thoughts and feelings about their future careers.

 In an ever changing economy, young people today face a number of challenges and decisions about their futures and it is more important than ever that they make their career choices wisely.

As a parent or carer there is plenty that you can do to support your child and help them make successful career choices.

Providing support and encouragement is immensely important, and the more you know about what Careers information, advice and guidance is available and where it can be accessed the better.

To assist parents, the Careers Service has made it easier than ever to access free, impartial, professional Careers Information advice and guidance. Using Careers Webchat, parents can now chat online with one of our professionally qualified careers advisers. Whether your child is at school, college, in training or looking for work, experts are on hand to help with their plans for the future.

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Careers Webchat is available Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm on the nidirect website.

The Careers Service also has a number of online resources available for parents including:

  • Career matching tools to help young people match their interests and abilities with suitable jobs;
  • A Careers A-Z database containing information on over 1,500 jobs; and
  • An online CV Builder tool.

A Guide for Parents

The Careers Service has also produced a guide for parents – “How to help your child with their future career plans” 

Download the guide

Parents’ Week Highlighting Challenges of Parenting in the Digital Age

Leading local parenting support charity, Parenting NI has launched its annual Parents’ Week campaign which this year focuses on the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

Parenting NI increasingly hear from parents concerned about their children’s use of technology, whether it’s how much time they spend on their devices or sexting and cyberbullying. The organisation is using the week to remind parents that they don’t need to be experts when it comes to the internet, just having open conversations and exploring the internet with your children can help keep them safe online.

Parents often feel that putting blocks and filters on devices and broadband is no longer enough to combat the risks posed online and don’t know who to turn to for help or advice. Parenting NI will be launching top tips as part of Parents’ Week and encouraging schools to get on board, promoting positive message of online safety to help parents manage the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

Charlene Brooks, Interim CEO at Parenting NI said, “The increasing reliance on digital technology and the rise in the use of the internet and social media, whilst important for sharing information and useful for communication, has brought unique challenges for parents.

Parenting NI recognise that it can seem like a daunting topic to tackle given the amount of information and horror stories we can often be bombarded with. However, it’s important to remember that there are also many benefits to the internet. Some of the key messages that will be promoted during the week will be to encourage parents to talk to their children about what they do online and setting some age appropriate, family boundaries when it comes to use of the internet and technology.”

A free event for parents will take place on Monday 24th October at the Hilton in Templepatrick with psychologist, Oxford fellow and author of Parents and Digital Technology: How to Raise the Connected Generation, Dr John Coleman. The evening will offer parents tips, strategies and techniques for navigating the digital world with their children.

Speaking on writing the book Dr John Coleman said, “Research for the book actually led to exploring impressive positives in using digital technology as well as the possible dangers. The approach is to explore the anxieties, explain the genuine worries and threats but then to look at the very real benefits. The trick, which we aim to help parents manage, is to balance the two and learn how to maximise the benefits while minimising the dangers.”

As part of the Parents’ Week campaign Parenting NI are also asking MLAs to get behind the online safety messages and to make a pledge for their support for parents. Kellie Armstrong, Alliance MLA is one of the politicians keen to back the move, “I am delighted to be supporting Parenting NI’s ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’ campaign as part of Parents’ Week. This campaign helps keep parents informed & as a local MLA and a parent I understand it is important to ensure we stay aware of best practice. All parents have an important role to play in ensuring their children stay safe online and we all have a responsibility to make sure the internet is a safe and enjoyable place.”

Call for More Support for Parents in the Workplace

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National Work Life Week runs this week from 3rd – 7th October. This campaign offers employers and employees an opportunity to focus on wellbeing at work and managing work life balance.

Local charity Parenting NI is calling on employers to use the week to think about how they support parents in the workplace. Research published by Working Families recently revealed that a third of employed parents in the UK reported being ‘burned out’ often or all the time and many will take annual or sick leave to cope.

Interim CEO of Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks says “The pressures on families are ever increasing, and adding work stress into the mix can take its toll on parents. As a parent of 3 young children myself I am very familiar with the challenges of juggling the many tasks modern day parenthood presents us with. It’s important that parents know that support is available, so this Work Life Week we are encouraging employers to consider what they can do to support their parent employees in the workplace.”

Growing research demonstrates the importance of parent employee’s health and wellbeing in relation to work performance and effectiveness. Workplace access to parenting support leads to reduced work-family and family-work spill over and improved worker morale and performance.

Charlene Brooks continued, “Whilst we are encouraged by the increase in the number of employers who are contacting Parenting NI about wanting to provide support for parents in the workplace; there is still a need for employers to recognise that a family friendly workplace will make for a more productive, more engaged and more motivated workforce. Absentee rates are also much more likely to reduce and employers are more likely to be successful at recruiting and retaining staff.”

The organisation are also encouraging employers to embrace ‘Go Home On Time Day’ on Wednesday 5th October, ensuring staff are not working late and get home in time to spend quality time with their families.

Parenting NI offer a range of workshops that are specifically tailored to help support parent employees. Get in touch or visit our Employee Wellbeing section of the website to find out more about the sessions.

Parents in Sport Week

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Parents in Sports Week is an NSPCC initiative which aims to recognise and reinforce the vital role parents play in supporting a child in sport, contributing to their enjoyment and success.

The NSPCC and Sport Northern Ireland have joined forces with more than 100 sports clubs and governing bodies in the UK and Ireland to promote Parents in Sport Week which runs from 3rd – 9th October.

Parenting NI is proud to be among the various organisations supporting the week. Interim CEO at Parenting NI Charlene Brooks said “Children and young people take greater enjoyment participating in sport when their parents are positively involved. Parents want the best for their children and like to see them succeeding at something they enjoy but it’s important that they are encouraging their children to do so in a supportive way.”

Parenting NI will be encouraging parents across the week to support their child’s participation in sport and to remember the role they play in helping their child reach their full potential.

5 Top Tips for Positively Supporting your Child in Sport

  • Support your child by focusing on the positives and giving feedback in a constructive way.
  • Try not to focus on winning but rather praise your child for their efforts regardless of the result.
  • Promote fair play and encourage your child to play by the rules.
  • Remain calm if you are watching from the sidelines. If you see something you are unhappy about have a quiet word with the coach after the game.
  • Be a good role model for both the children and other parents. You can do this, for example, by applauding good play and efforts made by both teams and showing respect for match officials and coaches.

Further information on Parents in Sport Week can be found on the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit’s website. For support with positive parenting and any other parenting issue please contact Parenting NI on freephone 0808 8010 722.