Category Archives: Blog

The Importance of Spending Time Together

The fast pace of modern day family life can make it easy to forget that simply just spending time with our children is really important. Our time is one of the greatest things we can give them. Summer time offers lots of opportunities to spend time together and some good old family bonding! Here’s why you should make quality time a priority:

It builds children’s self-esteem

Children who spend time with their parents participating in activities together build a positive sense of self-worth. When children feel that they are valued by their parents, they feel more positive about themselves. Family activities don’t have to be expensive trips out to be meaningful, the important part is just being together. You could go for a bike ride or play a game together.

It strengthens family bonds

Families who share everyday activities together form strong, emotional ties. Studies have found that families who enjoy group activities together share a stronger emotional bond as well as an ability to adapt well to situations as a family. Share your favorite hobbies, sports, books, movies or other favorite activities.

It develops positive behaviours

Children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behaviour. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.

Children who frequently eat with their families also usually have improved dietary intake compared to those who don’t eat as often with family members.

It encourages communication

When you spend time with your children you are fostering an environment for open communication. Good communication is important for your children to feel comfortable with talking to about anything. Simply asking your child how their day ask gone can make a big difference.

It can help your child’s academic performance

Spending time helping your children with schoolwork or reading together, especially in their early years, will foster an environment that values academics. If your child feels comfortable coming to you with schoolwork, they are more likely to perform better academically.

It can help your children be a good friend

Children learn by example. If you are setting a good example for them by spending quality time together, they are more likely to adopt those behaviours in other relationships in their lives. Simple things like playing games together will help them understand more about interacting with others as well as teach them things like sharing and kindness.

Most importantly, family time means you can just have fun and enjoy each others company! You’ve still got a little bit of time left before the children go back to school so make the most of it this weekend and do something together.

Book Lovers Day: The Benefits of Reading with Your Child

The 9th August is National Book Lovers Day and bibliophiles all over the world are sharing their adoration online for all things books.

So, to mark the occasion we thought it might be a nice time to remind you all of the benefits of reading with your child.

It is never too early to start reading to your child.  Even very young babies enjoy the sound of their parents / carers voice when being spoken to, sang to or read to. Talking to, singing / nursery rhymes and reading to your child are all important factors in helping children become more aware of sounds and words than in learning to read.

Did you know?

Reading to your child can help them develop:

  • good language skills
  • a love of books
  • skills to communicate
  • listening skills
  • imagination
  • curiosity

Reading and sharing books with your child:

  • enhances relationships and bonding between parent and child.
  • promotes interaction and special time between parent and child.
  • establishes a good foundation for your child in learning to read and write.

Tips while reading to your child:

  • Be familiar with the story
  • Sit comfortably so both can see the book
  • Make it sound interesting
  • Encourage child to turn the pages
  • Point and Talk about the pictures
  • Use this time for a cuddle
  • Use props
  • Children love to hear and look at books over and over again

Remember, you’re your child’s favourite story teller! Reading together is fun so let your child pick the book and enjoy a bedtime story together tonight.

It’s National Play Day!

Playday is the national day for play in the UK. The campaign is a celebration of children’s right to play and highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.

Over the summer months there is loads of opportunities for children which allows children to have fun and is important for enjoyment of childhood.

Play is also very important for children’s development, as well as you an opportunity to bond and connect with your children. Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life. Recent research suggests that children’s access to good play provision can:

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • improve and maintain their physical and mental health
  • give them the opportunity to mix with other children
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
  • provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

Although play is important for children of all ages it is especially meaningful and important for young children. Children don’t have to be taught how to play but you should make time to engage in it with your child, as interaction is critical for learning. Research shows that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. This process helps with the development of fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are actions such as being able to hold a crayon or pencil. Gross motor skills are actions such as jumping or running.

As well as helping children to develop motor skills and cognitive thinking, play is key to helping children develop social skills. Playing with children will teach them how to get along with others, communicate emotions, be creative, solve problems and introduces concepts such as sharing and kindness.

Types of Play

As your child grows and develops, play evolves. Certain types of play are associated with, but not restricted to, specific age groups.

Associative Play

When your children are around three to four years of age, they become more interested in other children than the toys. Your child has started to socialize with other children. This play is sometimes referred to as “loosely organized play.” Associative play helps your preschooler learn the do’s and don’ts of getting along with others. Associative play teaches the art of sharing, encourages language development, problem-solving skills and cooperation. In associative play, groups of children have similar goals. They do not set rules, although they all want to be playing with the same types of toys and may even trade toys. There is no formal organization.

Social Play

Children around the age of three are beginning to socialize with other children. By interacting with other children in play settings, your child learns social rules such as give and take and cooperation. Children are able to share toys and ideas. They are beginning to learn to use moral reasoning to develop a sense of values. To be prepared to function in the adult world, children need to experience a variety of social situations.

Motor – Physical Play

When children run, jump, and play games such as hide and seek and tag they engage in physical play. Physical play offers a chance for children to exercise and develop muscle strength. Physically playing with your child teaches social skills while enjoying exercise. Your child will learn to take turns and to accept winning or losing.

Constructive Play

In this type of play, children create things. Constructive play starts in infancy and becomes more complex as your child grows. This type of play starts with your baby putting things in his/her mouth to see how they feel and taste. As a toddler, children begin building with blocks, playing in sand, water and drawing. Constructive play allows children to explore objects and discover patterns to find what works and what does not work. Children gain pride when accomplishing a task during constructive play. Children who gain confidence manipulating objects become good at creating ideas and working with numbers and concepts.

Expressive Play

Some types of play help children learn to express feelings. Parents can use many different materials. Materials may include paints, crayons, coloured pencils and markers for drawing pictures or writing. It can also include such items as clay, water, and sponges to experience different textures. Beanbags, pounding benches, and rhythm instruments are other sources of toys for expressive play. You can take an active role in expressive play by using the materials alongside your child.

Fantasy Play

Children learn to try new roles and situations, experiment with languages and emotions with fantasy play. Children learn to think and create beyond their world. They assume adult roles and learn to think in abstract methods. Children stretch their imaginations and use new words and numbers to express concepts, dreams and history.

Cooperative Play

Cooperative play begins in the late preschool period. The play is organized by group goals. There is at least one leader, and children are definitely in or out of the group. When children move from a self-centred world to an understanding of the importance of social contracts and rules, they begin to play games with rules. Part of this development occurs when they learn games such as Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and team sports. Games with rules teach children the concept that life has rules that everyone must follow.

 

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.

co3 awards 2017 shortlist Health & Social Care Reform

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 2018 in Belfast, Coleraine, Derry~Londonderry and Maghera.

   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

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

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.

Coping With Exam Results Stress

Exam Results

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Exam results day is upon us! It is normal to want the very best for your child’s future and to therefore feel a little anxious about their exam results.

Stress is normal but it’s not good for you or your child to be worrying. In this blog we’re going to give you some top tips on how you can ease your own stress and help your young person on results day.

1. Get a good nights sleep
We can often find it difficult to sleep if we have worries playing on our mind but a nice sleep the night before will put you in a good frame of mind for what lies ahead. Sticking to a normal routine will also help to keep things as worry free as possible.  If you are well rested emotions are less likely to boil over due to tiredness.

2. Be prepared for ‘Plan B’
If the results don’t go the way you’re hoping for or aren’t what you expected, encourage your young person to think about other options, for example looking at different courses/universities through Clearing.

3. Keep calm and don’t panic
Try to remain calm and encourage your child to stay calm and not to worry if they don’t get the results they need or would have liked. Encourage them to take deep breaths and to relax as it will make it easier to process everything and think through their next steps.

4. Remember to reassure
Try to promote the positives regardless of the results. Your young person will probably worry about letting you down so reassure them that they won’t be letting anyone down and that you will be there for them to work through the next steps.

5. Take your time
Encourage your child not to make decisions too quickly. Sit with them to discuss what they want to do next and weigh up the options. Clearing opens in the afternoon and so gives you time to prepare and reassess the situation before starting the process.

What can my child do to reduce exam results stress?
Below are a few things you can do to make you and your child feel more at ease before results day. Worrying won't change the result to try and make sure everyone in the house feels relaxed.
walk Go for a walk to take their mind of things.

friends Spend time with good friends.

reward Enjoy a treat to reward them for their hard work regardless of results.

read Read a good book.

social media Encourage your young person to stay off social media. Others posting about their anxiety might make them feel worse.

movie Have a family movie night or watch their favourite TV show.

meal Have a nice, healthy meal together.

If you are feeling anxious or your young person is anxious and feeling disappointed with their exam results there is help and support available. Parents you can give us a call on 0808 8010 722 or have a chat with us on Web Chat between 10 am and 2 pm. Your child may find the links below useful.

NI Direct Results   CCEA Results Information UCAS Results Helpline   BBC Advice