Category Archives: News

Local Parenting Charity say it’s time to STOP Physical Punishment of Children

Parenting NI has launched the STOP campaign this week to encourage parents to stop and think again when it comes to physically punishing children. The campaign aims to highlight a positive parenting approach and to provide parents with support and information on options when it comes to discipline.

Muriel Bailey, Director for Family Support Services at Parenting NI said,

“Parents have a hugely important but at times a difficult job. Every day we support parents who are dealing with complex family issues and when children’s behaviour becomes challenging, parents stress levels can rise and at times this means that the situation may not always be managed in the best way. Reactive action can lead to physical punishment being used instead of a measured and thought out positive parenting style and techniques which would result in a more positive outcome.

STOP is an acronym for Stop, Think, Options, and Positive Parenting; we want to encourage parents to stop and think of other ways to deal with the stressful situation before they act. Parenting NI will provide support and information on Positive Parenting strategies and alternatives to physical punishment to empower parents to make different choices.”

Alongside information and support for parents, Parenting NI will also be holding training workshops for professionals in Enniskillen, Omagh and Derry~Londonderry. Muriel explained,

“Professionals working with children can be a prime influence on the attitude of parents in managing their children’s behaviour. Therefore, it’s imperative that these practitioners have the skills and resources to support and challenge parents with their approach.

The aim is to stop children from being hit by adults as a form of discipline by providing training to professionals with an understanding and awareness of children’s rights, guidance and knowledge of best practice methods in dealing with children’s behaviour, and enhance their ability and confidence in sharing that information with parents.”

The project has been made possible through funding from Western Area Outcomes Group under the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership.

Kieran Downey, Director of Women & Children’s Services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust said,

“The Western Trust fully endorses and supports the STOP campaign to encourage parents to stop and think again when it comes to physically punishing children.  The focus should be on positive parenting and this programme does provide an insight into how any given situation or challenge can be managed in a different way”.

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, congratulated Parenting NI and WHSCT for launching this initiative.  NICCY recently released research about attitudes to ‘Physical Punishment’ in Northern Ireland, she said,

“It’s vitally important that professionals working with families have clarity when they advise parents how to teach their children boundaries.

“Our survey shows that the majority of adults in Northern Ireland think physical punishment is unacceptable, it is not as effective as positive parenting and that the law should be changed to protect children in the same way it protects adults from all forms of assault, hitting and smacking.

“But more than this, we know from international evidence that it can cause real harm to children’s health and development and does not help parents to manage difficult behaviour.

“Updating our laws and providing parents with practical support would help them to deal with challenging situations more effectively.”

Speaking on how Parenting NI helps support parents who may be struggling to deal with discipline Muriel Bailey added, “Positive Parenting is an approach which emphasises that children should be treated with respect and guided by those around them to find a sense of self worth, respect for themselves and others. In order to promote this style of parenting we would be encouraging parents to communicate and listen to their child, use positive reinforcement, praise and to set clear, consistent rules and boundaries.

Parenting NI offer a freephone Helpline which parents can call for confidential support with any issue. Throughout the coming week we will be running a social media campaign which parents will find tips on ‘Positive Parenting’ each day.”

Parenting NI support reforming the law in Northern Ireland to remove the defense of reasonable punishment and ensure children are fully protected from all forms of violence, including physical punishment. It is hoped that the STOP campaign will further influence public opinion that discipline doesn’t mean physical punishment and highlight the need for equal protection against assault for children and adults.

Challenge Parents Face Protecting Children from Terror Fear

The devastating news of the terror attack in Manchester last night is spreading throughout the media today.

With so many young people affected and the attack being at a pop concert attended by lots of families and young people, parents will be finding it difficult this morning to explain this tragedy to their children.

In this digital era, graphic details and images of tragic events can spread fast, making it hard for parents to protect their children from distressing content.

Charlene Brooks, Chief Executive of Parenting NI said, “No parent wants their child to be upset or frightened by tragic events like what has happened in Manchester. Parents want to know how to reassure their children in these circumstances but it can be difficult to find the words.”

Parenting NI are encouraging parents to be interested in what media their children are accessing, to try and take an age appropriate response in terms of how much information to allow their children to have access to and how they talk to their child about what happened.

Charlene Brooks explained “It is better for children to hear about distressing news from a trusted adult, in an age appropriate way. A conversation with your young person will allow them to talk about their feelings and give you the opportunity to give reassurance and support.

Children will often link these kinds of events to their own lives and worry that something similar might happen to them or one of their family members, so it’s important for parents to reassure children that they are safe. You might want to tell them that these events are very rare and most people will never experience it. Highlight the reasons why it is unlikely to happen with positives like emergency services working to prevent it.”

Parenting NI are encouraging parents who are concerned about the impact that the attack in Manchester has had on their child or would like support on how to have difficult conversations to contact the charities freephone helpline on 0808 8010 722.


Top Tips for Talking to your Children about Frightening World News

Finding a balance
Going out of your way to shield children from the news can be unhelpful. Changing the channel or closing your news app when they are in the room can sometimes peak their interest and they may try and find out more or read about it themselves.

At the same time you don’t want to over expose your child to the news so they don’t become fixated on a particular news story. Encourage them to talk to you about any news they see or read about that worries them.

Give children the facts
Children like reassurance from their parents, if you provide the with a clear, unbiased explanation of what is happening they will feel more confident in approaching scary subjects with you. Try reading or watching a reputable news source together to allow time for any questions they may have. 

Let them know they are safe
All children want to know that their parents can keep them safe. Try not to dismiss their feelings by saying everything is fine, but instead go through all of the reasons that mean they are in a safe place such as these being very rare events and that there are people working to prevent them or help if they do happen, like the emergency services.

Let them know it’s okay to be worried
Let children know that is normal to be concerned about these type of things. Again you can reassure them that you don’t need to be worried all the time because although bad things do happen, they don’t happen very often.

Have age appropriate conversations
Children’s ability to understand the news and how they react to it will depend on their age. Tailor what you say to your child about world events depending on their age, needs and level of understanding.

Allow them to ask questions
It is common for children to misunderstand traumatic events, as they can imagine something which is worse than the reality. Encourage them to ask you questions about any news they are worried about and this will allow you the space to explain and reassure them.

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.”

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.”

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.

Parenting Support Goes Online This August

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Earlier this year, leading local parenting support charity Parenting NI launched a new online service for parents. The introduction of a web chat feature on the organisations website was a great development for Parenting NI, allowing support to be even more accessible for parents in Northern Ireland.

“We were really excited to introduce a web chat feature for parents in February this year.” explains Gillian Allen, Helpline Supervisor at Parenting NI. “We feel it’s important for parents to be able to contact us by whatever means they feel most comfortable and it also enables them to access the same type of support online as they would receive on the Parenting NI Helpline. This has been a very welcome big step forward for the organisation.”

Parenting NI will be extending the availability of the online support service throughout August by offering 4 hours of web chat daily. With children being off school the summer months can often be the most challenging for parents so the parenting support organisation thought it was appropriate to make the service available for longer during this time.

“We’re really pleased that parents who may not have contacted us before now feel they can do so via web chat.” Gillian continued:  “For example, we’ve seen that it is a really useful tool for parents who have hearing or verbal communication difficulties to engage with services and seek support.”

“Some parents will struggle with plucking up the courage to call the helpline, whereas dropping us an instant message online may seem a little less intimidating. In any instance, for whatever reason a parent may not be able to contact us by phone, it’s important that parents feel able to reach out for support and that the support is accessible for all.”

The web chat service is available on the Parenting NI website from 10 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday for the month of August.

New Service Families Together in Local Schools

Pupils in Antrim and Strabane are celebrating the initial phase of an innovative new project being completed in their schools, which aims to improve outcomes for children and relationships in families.

The Families Together Project is a partnership between Parenting NI and New Life Counselling. The project has been awarded five years funding under the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out Supporting Families Programme.

The Families Together project has been designed to help support and improve family lives by strengthening family cohesion by encouraging more open and effective communication between parents and their children. The project includes a number of programmes for parents and children which will provide them with a better understanding of each other’s needs and the skills to manage family relationship difficulties a different way in the future.

Pip Jaffa, CEO at Parenting NI said: “We are delighted to have received funding from the Big Lottery Fund to enable us to deliver the Families Together project with our partners New Life Counselling.” This project will work towards improving outcomes for children in these areas as well as encourage families to actively get involved in the school life.

“The project gives us an opportunity to work alongside the schools in providing additional support to local families. Programmes for parents are available in schools in Antrim and Strabane which will help them with issues such as managing stress, building resilience and confidence in their parenting skills and managing situations like separation and communication breakdown. We also hope that parents will become more involved in school life with informal events and activities throughout the academic year.”

Karen Collins, CEO at New Life Counselling said: “New Life Counselling is delighted to be working with Parenting NI in the delivery of this Lottery funded project. From our experience in working with schools we know how much the support provided will be welcomed. We aim to support young children and parents to develop emotional resilience skills and improve their emotional wellbeing.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Thomas Hogg commented, “Families Together is a fantastic project that provides an important and much needed service to families who want to improve relationships with their loved ones.  I am delighted to see this support available at three of our local primary schools in Antrim and trust that this will be a beneficial service to those who need it most.”

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Elisha McCallion says she is delighted Big Lottery funding has been secured to provide Families Together Project services in Strabane. “I am fully supportive of any initiative that  gives help, assistance and advice to families and that works to bring families closer together and help them develop better relationships. As a mother of three young boys myself I know how important it is to engage regularly with children and to listen to their views, their worries and their thoughts on all issues so that we can build on our relationship and learn to communicate better. This is a fantastic programme that offers something for both parents and children that will hopefully enhance and enrich the lives of families across the Strabane area.”

Throughout the week pupils from Ballycraigy Primary School, Parkhall Primary School, Six Mile Integrated Primary School, Sion Mills Primary School, St Catherine’s Primary School and St Mary’s Primary have enjoyed fun activities to mark the projects first year in their school.

It is hoped that as the project develops it will be possible to open it out to more schools to further benefit families in each area.

For media enquiries contact:
Emma Lyttle
Communications Officer at Parenting NI
T: 028 9031 0891
E: emmal@parentingni.org

Coping with Exam Stress

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We have officially entered exam season which can be a very challenging time for both children and parents/carers. The pressure to revise and to perform well can be very stressful for young people. Revision is all the more challenging with the lovely weather we’ve been having!

Parents and carers want the best for their young people and therefore exam pressure is also very concerning for them.

Last month the BBC reported that education staff had told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers that children as young as six are stressed about exams and tests. Yesterday, Childline released stats to say they have conducted over 3,000 counselling session with young people about exam stress in the past year, a 9% increase on 2014/15.

Parenting NI are very aware of the pressures on young people when it comes to exam time and hear from parents and carers calling the Parents Helpline of concerns around the effects this stress has on their young people and the family as a whole.

Here are some tips for coping with the stresses of exams:

  • Try not to places pressures on the young person for obtaining the top grades to avoid them fearing failure.
  • Reassure your child that there are always other options and ways to move forward regardless of exam performance.
  • Remind your child to take regular, short revision breaks away from the books or the computer and get some fresh air or physical exercise, preferably with another person.
  •  Encourage them to eat well and have snacks whilst revising.
  • Give them space and time to study but let your child know you are available and will make time to help them with revision if they want or need it.
  • Be relaxed about chores, untidiness or moods during revision and exams.
  • Encourage good sleep to maintain their energy.
  • Be supportive when it comes to any worries your young person may have.

If you have concerns about exams and the stress your child is under please give us a call on 0808 8010 722. You can also have a chat with us online using web chat between 10:30 am and 11:30 am and 1 pm and 2 pm Monday to Friday.