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.

Call for research participants

The lived parental experience of child- to-parent abuse in Northern Ireland

Invitation

If you have completed the Parenting NI ‘walking on egg shells’ programme you are being invited to take  part in a research study which seeks to explore the experiences of parents and carers who have encountered child-to-parent abuse. Before you decide it is important for you to understand why the research is being undertaken and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish. Please ask if there is anything that is not clear or if you would like more information.

The study is being undertaken by Elizabeth Cowdean, an MSc Psychology student at Queens University Belfast and is being supervised by Dr. Katrina Mc Laughlin. This research study has been approved by the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Ethic Committee at Queen’s University Belfast.

What is the research about?

Child and adolescent abuse towards their parent/s or carer/s is a worldwide phenomenon and furthermore is increasing at an alarming rate.  However, to date very little research has been taken into this area (as opposed to other forms of family violence). Therefore, the main aim of this research is to understand this experience that is present within many homes and effects many families. We want to learn more about what parents and carers have to say about child-to-parent abuse and what can be done to prevent it. We also want to find out about the ‘Walking on eggshells’ programme and what it was like taking part in it.

What would I be asked to do if I took part?

The interview will be conducted by Elizabeth Cowdean, an Msc Psychology student from Queens University Belfast who will help you talk about your experiences by posing a few questions. This interview is an opportunity for you to tell your story.  Elizabeth will help you identify which aspects you most want to talk about and will be interested in hearing whatever you think is important about your experiences of child-to-parent abuse.

The interview will take approximately 60 minutes and will take place in the Parenting NI Belfast office, within a room where other people cannot hear what you are saying and in which you feel comfortable. This interview will be recorded so that there is an accurate record of what has been said. You can ask for the recording to be stopped at any time during the interview.

What about confidentiality?

After the interview, Elizabeth will listen to the recording and type up what was said, your interview will then be deleted from the audio recorder. All recording equipment and typed up interviews will be kept securely in a locked environment. Within any written transcripts or finished typed materials your name (and the names of any other identifiable people or places) will be changed to aid anonymity.

Everything you say in the interview is completely confidential and will be anonymised within the written dissertation. However, if someone who is being interviewed did say that they, or someone else, were at risk of harm or danger then Elizabeth would be obliged to inform another person about this.

What happens to the collected data?

When the interviews have finished Elizabeth will look at the interviews that have been conducted as she will want to use quotes from interviews in the written material she will produce from this research. Elizabeth will remove any information which could be used to identify you or anyone else you have mentioned during the interview. The written material will be used to help those who work in the area of child- to-parent abuse to better understand the perspectives of parents and carers affected by this form of abuse/violence.

What happens if I do not want to take part or change my mind?

You do not have to take part in the research if you do not want to. Feel free to ask Elizabeth any questions that you have about taking part and if you do decide to take part, you do not have to answer any questions you do not want to answer.

If you change your mind about being involved in the research you can stop the interview at any time without having to explain your reason for doing so.

If you wish to withdraw from the study after your interview has taken place you can do so and ask that any information you supplied (which will now be in the form of an audio recording or a typed transcript) be withdrawn or destroyed. Elizabeth must be contacted and informed of your decision no later than one week after the interview has been conducted.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Elizabeth. Please do so by emailing: ecowdean01@qub.ac.uk

What’s next? What to do if your child’s exam results aren’t what you hoped…

Exams are often stressful, but waiting on results and then dealing with the outcome can also be just as stressful for not only young people but parents too.

With that in mind, it is important to note that in the majority of instances children/ young people in Northern Ireland do pass their exams, so it is important not to be too concerned until you know the outcome. Last year, 81.1% of children doing GCSEs achieved A*-C grades. For A-Levels, 84.5% achieved at least a C grade.

It is important to take time to read the results document thoroughly. GCSE grades changed last year, and often the results papers are confusing. If you have any doubts about the results, ask a teacher or professional who is familiar with them to confirm.

If exams are considered quite important, how can parents prepare for results? How can they help their children if they do not get the results they want? Parents have the benefit of a wider depth of experience, parents can reassure a teenager who might struggle to see beyond the result itself and help them consider the many paths that might be an option e.g. return to school, college, apprenticeship, university, work etc.

Less positive results might mean that they are unable to continue on the path they had seen themselves on. They may no longer be able to attend the same school. They may be worried about losing touch with friends, falling behind or being seen as a “failure”. It is important that parents provide them with emotional comfort right away after getting results that they feel are disappointing.

Parents can be an important emotional support for a young person who is unsure of how to react to bad news. BBC Newsbeat suggests a number of ways to handle poor results for young people, many of which can be applied equally to parents:

Find someone to talk to. This may be you as a parent, but be open to the chance that they will want to talk to someone more “neutral”;

Ignore the “noise”. When you get your results, open them in private and do not immediately compare yourself to your friends. Remember that each teenager is an individual, and what is “good” or “bad” for them varies. As such, a happy or unhappy child did not necessarily do “better” or “worse” than your own;

“Move On” it is important for young people to understand that while exams feel very final, life does indeed go on;

Be careful sharing the news. Only do so with people you know will be supportive, as anyone else may impact your teenager’s mental health.

The best time to discuss the future is when you have both had reasonable time to digest the implications. Once that is the case, you can sit down with your teenager and whoever else you might find helpful to plan. Keep in mind that it may be useful for both you and your teenager to seek out advice about next steps. This might be together, and it may be better apart. There are a number of organisations or people who can provide support;

*        The Schools careers advisory service, if they are available;
*         The Careers Service (available here);
*         A trusted friend;
*         A community worker;
       The Apprenticeships service (available here);
       Your local regional college.

In conclusion, it is important for parents to:

*        Remain calm in the event of disappointing results;
*        Reassure young people as they process the meaning of their results;
*        Give context and perspective about what it means for the future;
*        Provide help and support in a new path.

You can listen to our podcast episode on this topic or download the full article below.

Read the full report

Click here to download the What's Next? Article and find out more about the research around young people and exam results. Our Support Line is also available on 0808 8010 722.

“I’m Bored!” – Parents’ Guide to Beating Summer Boredom

“I’m bored” – most parents will be well acquainted with this phrase, particularly over the summer months. Summer holidays can be stressful and even more so when you feel the need to come up with more activities to entertain the kids. This article will give tips, tricks and advice for dealing with summer boredom. You can also download the full article to find out more about the science of boredom and whether it can be a good thing for children.

Dealing with boredom

It’s good to offer children the chance for unstructured play and letting them figure out what they want to do, but it can also be good to assist them from time to time. We recently asked parents on our social media for ideas of what to do to tackle children’s summer boredom:

Rainy Day/Sunny Day Boxes

Nothing is more frustrating – and boring – for a child than an otherwise perfect day to play outside being ruined by poor weather. Unfortunately, in Northern Ireland we are well aware of how an unhelpful climate can put paid to best laid plans!

A “Rainy Day/Sunny Day” box is one way to beat the weather. Additionally, it is an opportunity for you and your child to spend time being creative together. Simply sit down together, and come up with a list of ideas of what do to on a:

  • Sunny day: Play outside, make a den/fort, go for a walk or cycle
  • Rainy day: Play a board game, scavenger hunts inside, baking/cooking together

Try to come up with as long a list as possible. These don’t have to be expensive – try to make use of whatever you already have. Then, when your child is bored, take out the list that corresponds to the day and let them choose something to do together.

Geocaching

If you and your family are the outdoorsy type, you might enjoy geocaching. Geocaches are small supplies that are hidden across the world, including here in Northern Ireland. Geocachers hide them, and then mark them websites or apps for others to find. Any device that can make use of GPS – including most smart phones – can be used to locate them.

When your intrepid little explorers find a cache, there will be a small logbook. They should write their names, the time and date when they found it in the book. They may also get a kick out of reading the rest of the book. Is this a cache that is well-known? Do they recognise any of the names? Are they the first to find this one? Some caches also include little containers that have toys or trinkets to take away with you. Make sure that you bring something to replace it – perhaps a pretty stone or seashell.

Geocaching sites are scattered across Northern Ireland –and you are unlikely to be too far away from one. Some of the more populated ones are Divis/Black Mountain, Castle Ward and Florence Court in Fermanagh.

“What’s on?”

Did you know that all 11 local councils in Northern Ireland put on events for families throughout the year? Many of these events are free and most don’t even require you to buy a ticket. These events range from family fun days, free play performances, musical performances and much more.

To find these, simply search your local council area and “What’s On”. Alternatively, click the links below:

Is being bored a bad thing? 

Being bored is a natural phenomenon as it would appear that it serves no purpose. However, there is some scientific evidence to suggest may not be all bad. If you are interested in finding out more about how boredom can be good for children have a read of the full article

You can also listen to our accompanying podcast episode now on Podbean, Apple Podcasts and Spotify

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.

 

 

Active Dads: Parents Article on Dads & Exercise

Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children. Children who have supportive, close and positive relationships with their fathers do better mentally, academically and physically in life. In addition, studies have shown that children whose fathers embrace being a parent confidently have lower levels of behavioural issues as teenagers. Despite this, many fathers struggle with practical actions that they can take to have a constructive impact on their children.

One key area that fathers have been shown to have a particular role to play is physical activity. Parental levels of activity in general and supportive attitudes are important indicators of how active a child is. The most important single factor, however, is paternal activity levels. In other words, having a physically active father makes kids more likely to be active too.

Research has found:

  • a consistent relationship between the child’s activity level and the father’s activity level
  • results were the same irrespective of age or weight
  • children are twice as likely to be active if their mother was, but three and a half times more likely if their father is
  • dad’s physical activity had a bigger impact on girls than boys
  • children who have one parent who is supportive of physical activity are more likely to continue being active, and even more likely if both parents are

How do I do it?

The easiest and potentially most rewarding way to encourage physical activity in your children as a father is to include them where possible in the activities you do. The NHS has a helpful guide for how much physical activity is suitable for children of various ages:

  • Babies should be encouraged to active throughout the day e.g. When they begin to crawl, stimulating play is good;
  • Toddlers who are able to walk unaided should be active for around 3 hours a day. Active play, such as at a play park, ball games or skipping is suitable;
  • As children get older, from age 5 until 18, it is recommended that they are active for at least 60 minutes a day. This should be moderate to vigorous activity such as sports, running or other exercise.

Click here to read the full report. 

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

World Children’s Day Celebration

On World Children’s Day – Wednesday 20th November – the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, will host a day of celebration at W5 Belfast to mark the 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

NICCY aims to bring 1,500 children and young people of ALL ages together for a CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S SUMMIT on this important day. It will be a mixture of child rights focussed activities and fun, with participants being able to explore the 250 interactive exhibits in W5’s four exhibition areas, including the:

  • Spacebase;
  • Climbit;
  • Go;
  • See/Do; and
  • MED-Lab exhibits.

For administrative and registration purposes, groups will be allocated an arrival time during the morning (from 9.30am) of 20th November and will be assigned specific times for specific activities.  Beyond these, groups are free to stay and experience W5 until closing time at 5pm. It is envisaged that each group could have a minimum stay of at least 4 hours at W5.

Entrance to the event is FREE!   NICCY also aim to make available a number travel bursaries.

Formal registration for the day will follow at later date along with further details on activities but please feel free to confirm an expression of interest by emailing participation@niccy.org with the following details:

  1. Group name:
  2. Group address:
  3. Contact name:
  4. Contact email address:
  5. Contact telephone number:
  6. Potential numbers and age group(s):

Confirming an expression of interest will ensure early notice of the formal registration process.