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.  

Parent’s Guide: School Transitions

Starting a new school can be a challenging period for parents, children and teachers. The importance of a successful transition (both socially and academically) is significant. It can be a critical factor in the child’s future progress and development (Fabian, 2015). Transitions involve a complex arrangement of different environmental, social and educational factors. It is normal for a child to be worried or excited about starting “big school”. It is also very common for parents to have concerns about their child.

Parents usually have concerns around:

  • Academic adjustment: Will my child settle into new school work? Will they flourish or struggle with the curriculum?
  • Social adjustment: Will my child adjust well to new social interactions and expectations? Will they make friends and “fit in” well?

What research says…

Adjusting to a new environment is an important part of any transition. Parents and children may view these adjustments differently. In a study of Australian parents and children entering primary school, Docket and Perry (2004) found that adults saw adjustment in terms of settling in to a group or interacting positively with teachers. Children, on the other hand clearly identified the importance of rules (and knowing them) as part of starting school.

Children may also be more worried than they need to be. An International study of children progressing to secondary education found that only around half thought the transition would be positive, but after the first year almost 70% said the transition was either “easy” or “very easy” (Water et al. 2014).  

One aspect that teachers have raised that was overlooked by some parents is the importance of a child being well-rested and well-fed before arriving at school (Docket & Perry, 2004). It was not that parents did not feel that children needed good sleep and food before school, but that they may underestimate the degree to which an extra hour of sleep or not skipping breakfast helps children to settle into a new environment.

Communicating with the school…

Teachers and the school generally are allies in the efforts to improve a child’s transition. Teachers, like parents, want children to be happy and to adjust well. Children thrive most when parents, and teachers work in partnership.  Parents should make every attempt to engage with schools and teachers as much as possible, and take their views and expertise into account.  Likewise, schools need to ensure their environments are welcoming and engaging for parents to come into.  Teachers need to know and understand the importance of working in partnership with parents and learn how to work successfully together.

Engaging with schools and communicating with your child/young person can help to make the transition easier for everyone. Children noted they feared that they might lose contact with former friends, get very strict teachers, or be subjected to bullying (Strand, 2019) in a new school environment. In a number of studies children noted significant fears were:

  • Not knowing the new teacher(s)/attitude of the new teacher(s) (Rodrigues et al. 2018, Strand 2019, Docket & Perry 2004);
  • Friends (Fabian 2015, Van Rens et al. 2015, Docket & Perry 2004).

Parents can talk to their child regarding their concerns about teachers. Some of these fears may be exaggerated and can be easily dealt with by reassuring children. Others may benefit from getting the opportunity to speak to teachers before the transition at events like open nights. If your child demonstrates a particular concern about one or more teachers, it may be worth exploring options to speak to them. The vast majority of teachers, even when under immense time pressures want children to feel comfortable in their classes and for their students to have a smooth transition. Partnership working with the school and teachers is an essential element of getting ready for a new school.

Making Friends

When it comes friends, it is beneficial in many cases if a child can transition with a pre-existing friend. However, this is not always possible. If you are concerned about your child’s ability to make new friends or deal with unfamiliar social interactions, paediatric behavioural health specialist Kristen Eastman (2016) gives the following advice:

  • Observe how your child socialises. You may notice behaviours that are holding them back and can gently encourage behaviours that help;
  • Model positive behaviour yourself. Children learn how to socialise in part from watching their parents. Try being more social when your child is with you if possible;
  • Role-play at home. If your child is older, you can talk through how to start conversations and make friends and practice at home. If you struggle with this yourself consider asking a friend or family member;
  • Encourage your child to take part in activities that are social in nature, like sports or clubs;
  • Reinforce and praise positive examples of social activity;
  • Set up opportunities like play-dates if age appropriate;
  • Don’t compare them negatively to more social siblings or yourself.

Helping your child to have strong social skills can dramatically reduce levels of stress in children transitioning to new school environments.

Making the Transition

Parents should take advantage of all opportunities to get to know as much as they can about the school they are sending their child to. The more you know about the school your child will be attending, the less you are likely to stress. If your child sees you as being relaxed about the new school, it may help to reduce their own feelings of unease. Additionally, being able to answer your child’s questions can help to make the transition less difficult. NI Direct provides a range of information regarding schools in Northern Ireland including:

  • Inspection reports;
  • School transport information;
  • How to obtain a school prospectus;
  • Extended services.

It might be a good idea to go through this information with your child. By doing so, you can de-mystify the new school.  You may also want to trial the school journey, particularly if your child is going into a new town or city and travelling by unfamiliar means such as bus or train.  Travelling the route together in advance and considering the options for which paths/ routes to take will help set your child’s mind at rest and will help them have less to be worried about.

Your child (and you) may still feel a level of anxiety, even after taking these precautions. Do not worry, and remember that in addition to the school itself, many support organisations exist that can provide help and advice including Parenting NI.

Build a strong support network around yourself and do not hesitate to seek assistance if you suspect you may need it. Finally, remember that for most children, transition to “big school” is exciting. Embrace the change as best you can, and encourage your child to feel the same.

Parents Guide: Gift Giving

Christmas is for many families an exciting time of year. For children, it is often (along with birthdays) a particular highlight. In addition to being off school, eating particularly delicious meals and spending time with friends and family, there is the expectation of gifts.

Every family is different – and children’s experiences and expectations around festive gift giving can vary greatly. What one child might consider a fantastic haul might bitterly disappoint another. As parents, it can be challenging to finely balance this. Financial pressures, peer pressure and difficulty understanding which exact version of game, which model truck or which outfit for a doll that your child wants can increase the stress of parents. This article will give parents a few tips on how to avoid conflict and how to react if your child expresses jealousy, unhappiness or disappointment in gifts.

Talking about Advertisements

Advertising can influence expectations, and in particular young children can fail to understand that advertisements are trying to get them (or rather, their parents) to buy a product (Oates et al. 2002). In particular, children under the age of 8 struggle to understand the purpose of advertisements, and see them as entertainment, information or helping viewers (Pine, 2007). In addition to this, children may not understand that advertisements may not accurately reflect the size, abilities or functions of a toy. This may lead to inevitable disappointment when an action figure cannot fly, a doll cannot converse or the like. There are advertising standards, which have tightened since the 1990’s, but with the gradual fusing of advertising and entertainment (particularly on social media) it can be difficult for children to know where one stops and the other begins.

Therefore, parents of very young children may want to talk to their children about what ads are, and what they are trying to do. If a parent notices their child watching a TV show, or a YouTube video with ads for toys (or with toys in the content itself), they should consider taking the time to communicate with their child. Ask them if they can tell the difference between the entertainment part and the sales pitch. By working together, you can ensure that children know what to expect from the toys they unwrap on Christmas day.

Manage Expectations

Children – particularly young children – have little ability to understand the true cost of the items they desire. As their parent, it is up to you to set a reasonable level of expectation in terms of money spent on gifts. This applies as much to gifts from “Santa” as it does gifts from their parents. Dr Dan Peters, a psychologist gives the following suggestions for helping to avoid difficulties:

  • Model good behaviour. Your children get their views about getting or giving gifts from you. Be careful about the language you use regarding gifts. Try to talk more about giving gifts, particularly to those in need. Try to focus less on what your children are getting.
  • Be aware of what your child is being exposed to. As previously mentioned about advertisements, children hear about gifts from friends, in school and in public. Make sure to challenge any ideas about what is or is not appropriate as soon as you hear them, in a positive way.
  • Don’t focus on presents. This is easier said than done. We live in a society that is driven by consumption, but your family can focus on the other aspects of the holidays. Talk to your children about what else they are excited about: spending time with family, food, putting up decorations and the like.

Reacting to negative behaviour

It can be extremely frustrating to hear a child say “I didn’t want this”, “Why did he get the good one and I didn’t?” or “Is that it?” It is entirely natural to be upset, but do not forget in the heat of the moment that it is a child saying these things. Instead of reacting with anger or expressing that frustration, parents should take this as a teaching opportunity.

Firstly, remember that for children, dealing with disappointment can be good for their development. Taylor (2011) notes that children who experience disappointment but are helped to overcome it develop better emotional control, higher levels of confidence and are more motivated. It is normal for parents to want to protect children from disappointment, and few parents will want their child to be disappointed with gifts that they spent money on.

However, as with other aspects of gift giving, dealing with disappointment can be beneficial if parents take the time to communicate with their child. If your child seems unhappy, ask them:

  • Why are you unhappy? What were your expectations?
  • Do they understand what they have, and have they allowed a small amount of negativity hid a lot of joy?
  • Is there anything they can do to address this themselves? Can they ask someone else for help?

Remember that your children develop their coping skills from you. If you are careful not to overreact to disappointment and to calmly express your feelings, they will find it easier to do the same. There are three things a parent should be careful to do if their child is reacting very negatively to a gift;

  • Don’t feed into a tantrum. If a child is struggling to control their emotions, take them away to a quiet place and help them to calm down;
  • Be careful not to escalate the problem. You understand the full context – how much it cost, how long you waited in line, how far you had to go. Your child often does not. Do not respond to their behaviour by saying or doing anything likely to further upset them;
  • Help them to understand – once they have calmed down – why what they did was not ideal. Be patient, and do not try to shame them for their reaction.

Conclusion

There is no simple way to avoid all disappointment at Christmas. Instead of focussing on having a “perfect” holiday season, parents should try to focus on what is in their control. They should take the time to enjoy their family, and move the focus away from getting presents.  Most importantly is to enjoy your time together as a family and make the most of all opportunities e.g. get out for a walk in the fresh air, play a board game or watch a family movie.  It is likely that these little things will be what your children remember most about when Christmas has been and gone. 

Parents Article: Cyberbullying

What is Cyberbullying?

In Northern Ireland 39% of Year 6 pupils and 29% of Year 9 pupils reported being bullied (Department of Education NI, 2011). While some of this bullying is what is considered to be “traditional” – verbal abuse, physical threats or exclusion – around two thirds of bullying is spoken or written (NI Direct, 2019). Much of this takes now place online or via mobile phones, which falls under the definition of “cyberbullying”.

Slonje and Smith (2008) defined cyberbullying as:

“aggression which occurs through modern technological devices, and specifically mobile phones or the internet.”

Cyberbullying is a real issue in Northern Ireland, as well. A report from June 2019 found that 22% of children in NI had recently had a nasty or unpleasant experience online. It was also significantly higher for girls – 27% – than for boys – 17% (BBC, 2019).  This type of bullying often presents a serious challenge for parents. This is because, unlike physical bullying the discreet nature of children’s usage of technology means that is can be much more difficult for parents, teachers or other supportive adults to notice it is occurring. Teachers in Northern Ireland described feeling a level of frustration in their attempts to deal with the growing and very complex problem of cyberbullying (Purdy & McGuckin, 2015).

Why Does Cyberbullying Matter?

Some have argued that because of a lack of physical presence, cyberbullying is “less serious” than traditional bullying. The advice to “just turn off” devices, block or ignore bullies however is insufficient. 

The effects of cyberbullying are no less serious than those of traditional bullying, though the two often occur at the same time. Grossman and Rapp (2016) noted that victims of cyberbullying were more likely to be:

  • absent from school;
  • depressed;
  • suffer mental health issues;
  • and other negative effects.

These may lead to negative physical health outcomes such as self-harm and in the most serious cases, cyberbullying has been linked to a victim being almost twice as likely to have suicidal ideation, and a perpetrator being 1.5 times as likely (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).

One of the reasons that cyberbullying is particularly damaging psychologically is the fact that it is constantly in the child’s life. Unlike traditional bullying, where the home or other places might provide a “safe space”, with cyberbullying the victim may continue to receive text messages or emails wherever they are (Slonje & Smith, 2007).

Additionally, while children are usually very aware of who the perpetrator of traditional bullying is with cyberbullying, cyberbullies can remain “virtually” anonymous through the use of temporary/throwaway e-mail and instant messaging accounts, anonymisers and pseudonyms on social networking sites (Patchin & Hinduja, 2010). While children typically know (or suspect) who the perpetrator is, the layer of anonymity can make it challenging for parents or other authorities to identify them with certainty.

Another important distinction between cyberbullying and traditional bullying is the fact that the person carrying out the cyberbullying may be less aware of the consequences of their actions (Slonje & Smith, 2007). A report by Nottingham Trent University noted that cyberbullies are anonymous to the consequences of their actions online, which isn’t the case with face-to-face bullying. This may lower the barrier to entry into bullying behaviour, and explain why children that might never be involved in traditional bullying may take part in cyberbullying.

Importantly, the negative effects often harm the perpetrator of the cyberbullying as well. While the most serious harm is inflicted upon the victim, those taking part in cyberbullying also have negative outcomes. Nixon (2014) found that perpetrators of cyberbullying are more likely to report increased substance use, aggression, and delinquent behaviours. Therefore, it is important for parents to be aware not only if their child is being bullied online, but also if they might be taking part in it.

What Can I do as a Parent?

The PSNI give 5 tips – called Take 5 – to address cyberbullying. These are:

  1. Put down the mouse and step away from the computer….take 5 minutes to think!
  2. The internet and mobile technology are very powerful. But if misused, they can also be dangerous to yourself and others.
  3. When people act out of anger, frustration or fear things get out-of-hand quickly. Emotions create a situation where we click before thinking. We don’t think about how the person on the other end could misunderstand our message or our intentions.
  4. By not reacting and taking the time to calm down, we can avoid becoming a cyberbully ourselves. If you are the victim of bullying, speak to someone.
  5. What can we do for 5 minutes to help us calm down? Get some exercise, call to a friend’s house etc.

They also advise people to think very carefully about what they post online. Children should keep their online content private, but also be prepared for any images or messages they share to be viewed by the public. Talking to your child about the potential consequences of shared images or videos can be useful in preventing cyberbullying before it starts.

In addition to this, Family Lives, a UK family support charity suggests that parents look out for the following signs that your child might be being cyberbullied:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from family and spending a lot of time alone
  • Reluctance to let parents or other family members anywhere near their mobiles, laptops etc
  • Finding excuses to stay away from school or work including school refusal
  • Friends disappearing or being excluded from social events
  • Losing weight or changing appearance to try and fit in
  • Fresh marks on the skin that could indicate self-harm and dressing differently such as wearing long sleeved clothes in the summer to hide any marks
  • A change in personality i.e. anger, depression, crying, withdrawn

This is not an exhaustive list, but parents should keep an eye out for any sudden and unexplained changes in their child’s mood or behaviour. This is equally true if you worry or suspect your child is taking part in cyberbullying. In this case, it is important to talk to your child about the potential harm they may be causing. Children may lack the emotional intelligence or empathy to fully understand that the messages, images or videos they comment on, post or share have consequences. Your child may think that it is “just a bit of fun”. As a parent and an adult, you have the experience to explain the damage such behaviour can do.

If you discover that your child is the victim of cyberbullying, parents should:

  • Get their child to show them any distressing or messages, as well as any new messages that come;
  • Advise your child not to respond, and warn them that acting when angry can make things worse;
  • Tell them that the bullying usually ends when they seek help.
  • You should then see if the child knows (or suspects) who is bullying them, and contact the relevant adults. These might be teachers if it is a school colleague, a young group leader or other parents.

If you are concerned about your child and bullying, online or otherwise, you can contact Parenting NI for freephone on 0808 8010 722.

The full research article can be downloaded here. You can also listen to our accompanying podcast about bullying for some further information and guidance:

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 Celebrate 40th Anniversary in Strabane

John Crowe, Co-ordinator of the Professional Chef Diploma and Hospitality Lecturer at North West Regional College presents the 40th birthday cake created by students of the college to Cahir Murray and Muriel Bailey of Parenting NI.

Local parenting support charity celebrate special anniversary marking 40 years of supporting parents in Northern Ireland.

Forty years ago Parenting NI (formerly Parents Advice Centre) was established by a group of dedicated volunteers to support parents in Northern Ireland. The charity has continued to grow over the years, delivering a range of high quality services which have been specifically developed and tailored to meet the needs of parents.

Parenting NI continue to advocate for parents and the need for more support for families in order to ensure the best outcomes for children. The charity say that given the number of challenges many families are facing throughout Northern Ireland there is a continued demand for support services for parents.

Muriel Bailey, Director for Family Support Services, 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 our 40th year celebrations, and upcoming Parenting Week, we want to highlight the important role parents play in their children’s lives and celebrating the wonderful job parents do on a daily basis. Parenting isn’t always easy, and all too often we can focus on the times when things ‘go wrong’ so we want to focus on the positives and celebrate parenting.

We were delighted to hold a celebration event in The Parlor with Strabane Community Project on Friday 11th October with parents in the area. We are incredibly grateful to North West Regional College, who got their students involved in baking a birthday cake for us to enjoy with parents at the event.”

John Crowe, Co-ordinator of the Professional Chef’s Diploma at North West Regional College, said:

“Our Level 3 Hospitality students were honoured to be given the opportunity to create this cake and I have been extremely impressed with the hard work they have put in, to not only design the cake but also in creating it to such a high standard.

“The college is delighted to support Parenting NI as they mark this major milestone in their history.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle praised the work of Parenting NI in providing support and advice to parents. “As a parent myself I know how challenging it can be. I’m glad that this event offered parents the opportunity to not only find out about support services that are available, but also provided a chance to meet up with other parents, share experiences and celebrate all that is good about being a parent,” she said.

You can find out more information about Parenting NI and the services they offer at www.parentingni.org or call the Support Line for free on 0808 8010 722.

Parental Mental Health

In recent years, a great deal of work has been done both in Northern Ireland and more globally to combat the stigma associated with mental health issues. We now know that about one in five people will suffer a mental illness serious enough to require treatment throughout their lives (Mental Health Foundation, 2016). The exact causes of various mental illnesses are highly complicated – they are a complex mix of genetics, experiences in life and random chance.

Certain factors can make mental ill health more or less likely, or can increase or decrease the length of illness. One such factor is being a parent. Rates of clinical depression can be as high as 35% in mothers with young children (Smith, 2004). Being a parent is stressful, and when combined with other potential stresses like being a single parent, poverty or physical illness the likelihood of causing a drop in mental wellbeing, such as anxiety or depression is higher.

Being a person with mental ill-health is extremely challenging. There is an enormous stigma associated with being mentally unwell – despite concerted attempts to address it. Research has suggested that people with mental illnesses are among the most devalued of all people with disabilities (Lyons & Hayes, 1995). This is especially true of parents with mental illness. There is a perception that parents with mental illness are unfit or unable to parent their children (Bassett et al, 1999) in society. Such parents feel that the healthcare and social services systems treat them poorly.

Despite this, many people with mental illness have children. One study found that as many as 60% of people with serious, chronic mental illness had a child under the age of 16 (Smith, 2004). For those parents, there are a number of specific challenges, such as (from Bassett et al 1999):

* Their existence as parents was often ignored. Poor link ups between adult mental health and children’s services made it hard for treatment to acknowledge their parenthood;
* They feared losing custody of their children;
* If they were hospitalised, they were often traumatised by this;
* They are socially isolated;
* They worried about the care of their child if they became ill;
* They struggled to access help and support;
* They faced stigma.

For more information on the impacts and seeking support you can read the full report in the link below.

Read the full report

Click here to download the full article and find out more about the research around parental mental health. Our Support Line is also available on 0808 8010 722.

You can also have a listen to our latest podcast episode where we chat to Tinylife about their Positive Minds for Premature Parents project and talk to mums about their experiences with mental health after having a premature baby.