Category Archives: News

Parents struggling with the additional pressure lockdown is putting on families

Leading parenting support charity launch findings from Parenting in a Pandemic Survey

A survey carried out with 439 parents in Northern Ireland shows many families are finding the current circumstances incredibly difficult. 78% of parents either agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic had been difficult for them and their families. 74% agreed or strongly agreed it had been difficult for their children.

This crisis has presented a range of unique and challenging problems for families and parents. It has fundamentally altered society, and has forced many parents to adapt. Parents are particularly concerned about the stress and emotional impact and the loss of traditional routines, such as struggling to maintain bedtimes and structure during the day. 

Home schooling was another major cause of concern for parents. Half of parents felt that provision for their child's education had not be adequate during lockdown, with many describing feelings of guilt or anxiety about balancing home working and home schooling. Parents also suggested they were concerned about children falling behind as a result of lack of formal education. Parents are also unsure as to whether schools should be one of the first settings to return after lockdown, with 42% agreeing that schools should return and 58% feeling that they should not. 

A worryingly high number of parents suggested they were unaware of any support available to them. 63% of parents believe that the Northern Ireland government have not done enough to support and inform parents. 

Chief Executive at Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks, said,

"This is undoubtedly a very difficult experience for many families. Parents facing additional challenges such as lack of access to devices and poor internet provision, concerns about impact of isolation on mental health, and parents of children with additional needs have been hardest hit and in need of more support. It is therefore really concerning that many parents were unaware of support available to them. Parenting NI are suggesting that more should be done to make parents aware of existing help."

Interestingly, whilst parents are struggling there was a minority (just under 20%) who suggested that the crisis and associated lockdown had been, on the whole, a positive experience for their families. Some parents indicated that this unique period had offered them an unexpected opportunity to spend more time together and enjoyed strengthening their family bond. Reflecting on this Charlene said,

"I think in these most unusual times it has been encouraging to see families find the positives in this new way of life we have been adjusting to, spending more quality time together, sharing meals and generally bonding more as a family. At Parenting NI we would encourage families to consider if any of these positives can be made to maintained, even after the crisis is over. We hope that it might be an opportunity for employers, schools and families to work together to consider changes to working and education patterns and encourage a stronger value to be placed on parenting and families; which will have a positive impact on society as a whole."

Read the full report

Click to download the full report of the findings from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Summary

Take a look at the key statistics from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Parenting NI Statement on ‘Too Little, Too Late’ Report

Parenting NI welcomes the comprehensive review of the provision of SEN in mainstream schools completed by NICCY.

The key findings of the report mirror our own experiences of parents and caregivers struggling with a system that is under-resourced, opaque and slow. SEN needs were a major source of concern in our own research, such as the 2019 Big Parenting Survey.

We specifically welcome the recognition of the issues faced by parents in the report. In particular, the lack of communication with parents and caregivers involved in the SEN process and in SEN provision. This is an issue that parents and families raise with us on a regular basis with us. In addition, we recognise specific parental concerns such as parents feeling that children with dyslexia, or ASD are not being sufficiently supported . These are worries that are raised by parents contacting Parenting NI and will likely be familiar to any organisation supporting parents.

Parenting NI supports the call from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, for an urgent systemic review of SEN provision within mainstream schools. In addition, Parenting NI echoes calls for a clearer framework for communication with parents and caregivers as outlined in recommendation 32 in particular.

Parenting NI commends NICCY on it’s hard work in producing this essential report, and calls upon all relevant bodies to implement its recommendations as soon as possible.

You can read the full report on NICCY’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting NI Statement Regarding COVID-19

Update from Parenting NI 

We are living in unprecedented times and it is important that we all look after ourselves and each other in these challenging circumstances.

Parenting NI provides support to parents and families throughout Northern Ireland, and the health and well-being of our staff as well as those in the communities which we offer services is of the utmost importance. Therefore we have made the decision to temporarily suspend direct services, effective as of Friday 20th March. These services will include programmes, Families Together services such as walking groups and parenting cafes, focus groups, home visiting and the Dads Project services such as Dads Talk and programmes.

We will continue to provide support via our Support Line which can be contacted on freephone 0808 8010 722 during the usual opening times of 9:30am – 3:30pm Monday – Thursday and 9:30am – 12:30pm Friday.  Our website which has a wide range of tips and guidance will be updated regularly and our Parent Support App will also still all be available.

At this stage, direct services (such as programmes) due to start week commencing 20th April will proceed as planned. However, as the situation continues to change quickly, we will continue to follow the guidance and advice of the Public Health Agency. I would encourage parents to keep an eye on our website for the latest on Parenting NI services in the coming weeks and also follow our social media channels which will continue to share information and support for parents.

Rest assured that Parenting NI will continue to explore new ways that parents can access support during this period. At the moment our priority is to safeguard parents, families and staff. We appreciate your understanding as we take precautions in part of the wider public effort to reduce the impact of the virus.

Further information

In line with government guidelines, and to protect the wellbeing of families and our staff, Parenting NI Head Office  will close from 5pm on Monday 23rd March until further notice. Parents and families will continue to be supported by telephone/web chat and email. With the closure of schools and children being at home, where needed, staff flexibility will allow the needs of those parents who may wish this support to be outside our normal hours of working. This will be agreed between the staff member and the parent.

The teams will also provide families with resources on family activities, Top Tips, practical support and tips on emotional wellbeing as well as ongoing weekly support either via calls or email.

Feedback from parents on this provision has been hugely positive as the team continue to provide this valuable service.

All parents have been informed of the postponement of programmes and workshops and will be made aware of new dates of commencement when the time is right.

We are still available to take referrals based on this temporary means of providing support from all professionals across Northern Ireland. We would ask that all referrals are made via email to our help@parentingni.org address. Referral forms are available to download and further guidance offered here.

Take care,
Charlene Brooks
Parenting NI CEO

Talking to your children about COVID-19

Read Parenting NI's latest article with advice on talking to your children about Coronavirus, including videos on the importance of hand washing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents concerned about the effects of technology on their children, don’t feel they get enough support

Leading parenting support charity have launched the findings from the second Big Parenting Survey with a specific focus on technology’s impact on modern parenting

A survey carried out with 1,358 parents across Northern Ireland in the 2019 has found that parents remain concerned about their children’s future. 69% of parents are more worried than hopeful about parenting in the future – a 3% increase compared to 2018’s figures. 82% of survey participants said they do not feel parents get enough support, showing no improvement compared to last year at all.

Parents expressed deep concern about the role technology plays in their children’s lives. 75% felt is had a “significant” impact on their children’s wellbeing, 71% found it difficult to monitor and only 23% felt they get enough support on technology. Parents expressed particular concerns about smartphones and social media.

Jenny Smithson, a mother to 3 daughters, spoke of her parenting experiences,

“Smartphones and social media are incredibly concerning for parents. My girls are dabbling on the edges for now - going on YouTube, playing a few games, researching for school. However, I still wonder about how we equip them for this place full of great possibilities and knowledge, but where there are many dangers.

“I don’t want my girls to be caught in the trap of living out their social interactions online, of comparing their lives, relationships, and bodies with the fake world that these things celebrate. I know that the main responsibility for protection in this area (as in all areas) lies with us, the parents, and so I feel that any support that can be provided for parents is really valuable.”

Maria Rogan, Director for Training and Development at Parenting NI said,

“This year’s findings, mirroring last years, remain a deep cause for concern. Parents have made it very clear that on a range of issues – mental health, technology and childcare to name a few – not enough is being done. A pervasive feeling of worry has taken root in Northern Irish parents, and policy makers need to act urgently to address their concerns. The return of elected, locally accountable government offers a chance to improve things, and we call upon all parties to act swiftly.”

Read the full report

Click to download the full report of the findings from the Big Parenting Survey 2019. Published February 2020.

Executive Summary

Take a look at the key statistics from the Big Parenting Survey 2019. Published February 2020.

Parenting NI Support Line Win Brendan Bonner Award for Innovation at Helplines NI Awareness Day

The leading, local parenting support charity has been recognised for innovation in their Parenting Support Line with a special award from Helplines NI.

The Helplines Network NI held their annual NI Helplines Awareness Day at Parliament Buildings on Wednesday 5th February 2020. The Network, which was founded in 2013, is a member-led organisation of over 30 helplines operating across Northern Ireland brought together by the Public Health Agency (PHA) who recognise the value of helplines.

The Network members provide a variety of vital support services including information, advice, counselling, crisis intervention, a listening ear and befriending, covering a wide range of needs and issues.

The event celebrated the impact and value of helplines in Northern Ireland. Parenting NI were delighted to be the first recipients of the Helplines NI Brendan Bonner Award for Innovation, which was presented at the event in the Long Gallery at Stormont.

Parenting NI has provided information, support and guidance to thousands of parents primarily through its Helpline for 41 years. Despite losing funding to deliver the Regional Parenting Helpline in early 2019, the charity re-evaluated the delivery of the invaluable service and continues to provide a Freephone Support Line which acts as a portal into a range of Parenting NI services, as well as offer specialist support on more complex issues that parents share.

On receiving the award, Director for Family Support Services at Parenting NI, Muriel Bailey said

“We are over the moon to have received this award from Helplines NI and Public Health Agency. The Parenting NI team of staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated and committed to supporting parents and ensuring they have access to high quality services.

Our service has developed and diversified further to ensure it meets the changing needs of families across Northern Ireland, using technology and digital solutions, such as the first of its kind Parenting Support App, podcasts and online resources. Parenting NI are delighted to have been awarded this accolade and wish to thank those who support the charity’s work. Our vision of the future is one where parenting is highly valued and we will continue to provide support for parents in order to ensure this becomes a reality.”

 

 

 

 

Photo Exhibition Focuses on Fathers at Stormont


The Parenting NI Dads Project has an exhibition of photographs, ‘Men as Dads’ on display in The Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings. (Back left to right – Derek Doherty, Cahir Murray (Dads Project Coordinator), Kenneth Dunlop, Catherine Kelly MLA, Chris Eisenstadt (Parenting NI Policy and Research Officer). Front left to right – Mura McKinney (Men as Dads Photographer) and Paul McCorry. 

The ‘Men as Dads’ Exhibition is a collection of images which portrays positive images of fathers. Local charity Parenting NI and their Dads Project worked on the project with local photographer, Mura McKinney, to help celebrate dads as positive role models and the unique contribution they make to their children’s lives.

Photographer Mura McKinney who offered her skills and time to Parenting NI and the Dads Project to take on the ‘Men as Dads’ project.

The Parenting NI Dads Project is a National Lottery Community Fund NI funded initiative which supports dads in Northern Ireland, in particular dads who are separating or separated. The Dads Project promotes dads being engaged and involved in their children’s lives, helping dad’s to develop more confidence in their parenting ability and to build positive connections with other dads in a similar position within their community.  

Cahir Murray, the Dads Project Coordinator, said,
“This has been a fantastic way for us to creatively explore the positives of being a dad in Northern Ireland’s society. We wanted to help dads build up their understanding of their value and the important role they have as fathers.

It was great to have some of the dads who have been involved with the project in the pictures and giving them the opportunity to confidently highlight what they love about fatherhood.”

Dads Project Coordinator, Cahir Murray, looking at one of the images in the exhibition with dads Kenneth Dunlop and Paul McCorry

Catherine Kelly MLA launched the exhibition at Stormont this week and said,
“I’m delighted to be able to help launch ‘Men as Dads’ Exhibition here in the Long Gallery.  The photos of the dads and their children depict the special bond of a father and his child.  

I believe it important to support this project and commend Parenting NI on their work with the Dad’s Project and I encourage everyone to visit the Exhibition as it travels across the North this year.”

The exhibition will be on display in The Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings until 10th February 2020. Following its launch in the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry late last year, the exhibition will be touring around Northern Ireland throughout 2020.  

Celebrating Support for Working Parents

Parenting NI partnered with Allen & Overy to mark the annual Parenting Week with a business breakfast event focusing on support for parents in the workplace on Tuesday 22nd October.

It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have, but for a lot of parents it’s not their only job which can make striking a balance between work and family life difficult. More than half admit to feeling “burnt out” with work as the primary cause.

Local parenting support charity, Parenting NI, have been working with businesses across Northern Ireland to provide workplace support for parents and are delighted to be working with Allen & Overy in showcasing good practice in family friendly policies.

Director for Training and Development at Parenting NI, Maria Rogan said with the amount of different pressures on modern families it’s important that there’s a shift in workplace culture,

“Employers who support and respond to the needs of working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce. We are delighted to be working with Allen & Overy, who have been named in the top 30 Family Friendly Employers 2019, to highlight how supporting your parent employees is beneficial to business.”

Barry O’Donnell, IT Manager with Allen & Overy, was supported by his employer throughout his adoption process.

“Allen & Overy were on the journey with me from the beginning of the process right through to the end, which in our case was 41 months!” Barry explained, “I got great support from both my management team and HR. One to one support and flexible working helped to ease the pressure and allowed me to focus on the fostering and adoption process.

“They continually kept in touch to ensure I had everything I needed. They helped me access Shared Parental Leave and worked closely with my husband’s employer, making a complex process easier to navigate. They also ensured that the process was reviewed to support others who may follow the same path in the future.

“Upon returning to work I’m still supported by the company.  I have access to a programme of health and wellbeing initiatives and the Allen & Overy Family Network hosts regular seminars and events like this one to support parents. My employer’s support has been invaluable.”

It is hoped that the event helped open up a wider conversation about the importance of support and flexibility for working parents at every stage of their parenting journey. Further information about the support Parenting NI can offer employers can be found here.

Parenting NI’s Big Birthday Bash

High Sheriff of Belfast, Alderman Tommy Sandford and Parenting NI Ambassador, Pip Jaffa join the charity in celebrating 40 years of supporting parents in Northern Ireland, with Parenting NI staff Maeve Bouvier, Lauren Walls, Emma Lyttle and Elaine Hanna. 40th birthday cake created by students of North West Regional College.

Parenting NI were delighted to be joined by families at Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Acoustic Picnic on Saturday 12th October to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the charity.

Parenting NI was established in 1979 by a group of dedicated volunteers to support parents in Northern Ireland and has continued to grow ever since, delivering a range of high quality services which have been specifically developed and tailored to meet the needs of parents.

The charity say that the continued demand for services and the range of pressures on families highlights the need for support for parents is vital. Charlene Brooks, Chief Executive of Parenting NI said,

Research Parenting NI carried out last year found that 82% of survey participants said they do not feel parents get enough support. Parents’ answers indicated that they felt that society was not very supportive of those in a parenting role; so during the 40th year celebrations and upcoming Parenting Week, Parenting NI are focusing on the important role parents play in their children’s lives. This celebration event was all about giving parents the recognition they deserve for the amazing job they do every day, and highlighting that support is available when times are tough.”

Parenting NI Ambassador, Pip Jaffa, dedicated 37 years to the charity having been Chief Executive for many years before retiring in 2016. Speaking of the event and reflecting on the achievements of the charity Pip said, 

“It was wonderful to see so many parents and children enjoying themselves and marking this milestone for Parenting NI. The organisation has far surpassed all of my expectations from when I first got involved as a volunteer. I am incredibly proud to see Parenting NI continuing the mission of accessible services and support to meet the needs of those in a parenting role throughout Northern Ireland.” 

High Sheriff of Belfast, Alderman Tommy Sandford said: “I was delighted to join Parenting NI at their 40th Anniversary celebrations in the Oh Yeah centre. The work of Parenting NI has been invaluable in providing key support services to thousands of families. The dedication and hard work of the staff and volunteers in helping others can’t be underestimated and I want to congratulate everyone associated with the charity on reaching this amazing milestone.”

Parenting NI partnered with Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Acoustic Picnic in Belfast where families enjoyed live music, activities, games and crafts. Youth Engagement Assistant at Oh Yeah Music Centre, Caoimhe O’Connell, said it was a pleasure to host the Parenting NI birthday party,

“The Oh Yeah team are always striving to get young families involved with live music and the arts and Acoustic Picnic is an excellent way of doing just that. Coupling with Parenting NI this month meant that we had an wider pool of families to reach and as a result we had a packed event. It’s a great chance for parents to have a chat with each other over a cup of coffee and know that the kids are being entertained in a safe environment, they can also get involved by getting down to one of our large floor games or have a dance along to the hits provided by Over the Hill Collective. Not only is Acoustic Picnic a great way of keeping the kids busy, it is also a valuable resource for parents who can bring food into the event for the families and spend the day immersed in the arts, completely free of charge.”

Parenting NI will be celebrating Parenting Week from 21st – 25th October. You can find out more about the week and support services at www.parentingni.org

Parenting NI Launch Big Parenting Survey 2019

Last year Parenting NI launched their Big Parenting Survey, a first of it’s kind study into the realities of parenting in Northern Ireland.  The 2018 survey had over 1,000 responses from parents, providing valuable insights about the struggles, hopes and successes of parents from every end of the community. 

The charity have used the findings from the previous year to influence the focus of the 2019 survey, which will explore the role and influence of technology on parenting. Chris Eisenstadt, Policy and Research Officer at Parenting NI said,

“Parents told us in last year’s survey that technology was the biggest challenge they faced, with social media being the second. Parents also felt confused, left behind and worried about the impact of technology. We also heard stories of technology being a help and useful resource for parents, therefore for this year’s survey we wanted to take a closer look into parent’s views on technology in addition to their parenting experiences generally.” 

The 2019 Big Parenting Survey was launched today at Belfast City Hall by Alliance Belfast City Councillor and Parent Champion, Sian Mullholland. Sian encouraged parents to take part and highlighted how important it is for parents to share their views,

“I am delighted to help launch this year’s Big Parenting Survey. As a parent, I know firsthand that this a fantastic vehicle to have your voice and opinions heard on topics that really matter to parents and families. As someone who works in the field of youth work and child protection, I’m only too aware that technology and keeping children safe online is a huge worry and priority for parents.

The Big Parenting Survey will help to identify the needs of parents to ensure they’re kept as up to date as possible with tools and techniques to keep their children safe in a world of technology that is constantly changing and evolving.”

This year Parenting NI celebrate their 40th Anniversary, the charity has been supporting parents in Northern Ireland since 1979 and over the years has become the trusted voice of parents. An important part of advocating for parents is listening to their needs and concerns, therefore Parenting NI are encouraging as many parents as possible to take part in order to gain an understanding of a wide range of parenting experiences. Parents can participate in the survey online via this link: https://bps2019.questionpro.com.

 

 

Dads ‘Take the Time’ for Wellbeing at Derry Residential


A group of 21 dads attended the Dads Project residential, with speakers Conor McCafferty and Glenn Hinds. 

The Dads Project hosted a residential for separated fathers in St Columb’s Park House, Derry over the weekend.

A group of over 20 dads from across Northern Ireland attended a weekend of activities which focused on father’s wellbeing ahead of Men’s Health Week. Men’s Health Week runs from 10th June to 16th June with the theme ‘Make the Time. Take the Time.’

The Dads Project, which local charity Parenting NI lead with thanks to funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, organised the event to offer men an opportunity to not only access emotional support but also to get together and enjoy a range of talks and activities.

The dads were actively involved in planning and putting on activities across the weekend, with Cuthy Diamond leading some exercise between sessions and Gary Nash performing music in the evening.

Cahir Murray, the Dads Project Coordinator, said,

“It was wonderful to be able to gather together over the weekend and give the men space to explore the positives of being a dad in Northern Ireland’s society. We wanted to help dads build up their understanding of their value and the important role they have as fathers.

Over the course of the weekend we also took time to reflect on our wellbeing which many men struggle with. I hope that the dads have come away from the experience feeling better equipped to cope with the many challenges life throws at them whether they live with their children or not.”

In an effort to further highlight positive images of fathers, the Dads Project also have a photo exhibition titled ‘Men as Dads’ in the Verbal Arts Centre. Local photographer Mura McKinney took on the project to help celebrate dads as positive role models and the unique contribution they make to their children’s lives. The exhibition runs from Monday 10th June until Wednesday 19th June.

Parenting NI would like to thank People Plus and SDC Contractors for their support in making the weekend possible. To find out more about the Dads Project and how to get involved visit the webpage