Safer Internet Day: A Better Internet Starts With You

Safer Internet Day aims to not only create a safer internet but also a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

Safer Internet Day aims to reach out to children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and social workers, as well as industry, decision makers and politicians, to encourage everyone to play their part in creating a better internet.

By celebrating the positive power of the internet, the 2018 Safer Internet Day theme of “Create, Connect and Share Respect: a better internet starts with you” encourages everyone to join the global movement, to participate, to make the most of the internet’s potential to bring people together.

Digital Parenting - Safer Internet Day 2018 film for parents and carers from UK Safer Internet Centre on Vimeo.

Parents and carers play a crucial role in empowering and supporting children to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively, whether it is by ensuring an open dialogue with their children, educating them to use technology safely and positively, or by acting as digital role models.

The UK Safer Internet Centre have created some fantastic resources we wanted to share with you that are worth discussing with your young people. 

For more information you can visit the UK Safer Internet Website for lots of free resources.

Separation a Major Concern for Parents in NI

The impact of separation on children and young people is a major concern for parents in Northern Ireland. Local parenting support charity say separation issues are the single most common cause for calls to the Regional Parenting Helpline.

Hundreds of parents contact Parenting NI every year seeking support with separation, last year calls about separation and contact issues accounted for around 22% of all calls to the charity.

Parental separation and divorce is an increasingly common experience for adults and children. In 2016 Northern Ireland had 2,572 divorces which involved 1,935 children and young people aged 0-15. This is an increase on statistics from 2015 and does not account for a large number of parental separations where the parents never married.

Parenting NI are highlighting the need for parenting support to help parents manage separation effectively to reduce the impact on children and young people. Charlene Brooks, Chief Executive at Parenting NI, explains,

“Parenting NI understand that parents separate for many reasons and that it is one of the most high stress and difficult situations families experience. Despite the large number of children and young people affected, and the considerable impact on families and the state, there is a clear lack of policy to help support parents in order for them to be able to put their children and young people’s needs first.”

Charlene suggests there is an urgent need for policy makers to keep pace with the realities of this issue to ensure better outcomes for children and their families in Northern Ireland. In the consultation for the as-yet unpublished Children and Young People Strategy 2017-2027, family breakdown and parental separation is mentioned as an issue but gives minimal indication as to how to support parents to minimize its impact. Parenting NI say this is not good enough,

“Research is very clear that a poorly managed, high conflict separation is decidedly damaging for children and young people, therefore support for parents in managing this tense and difficult time needs to be high on the agenda.

The child’s voice is often lost amongst legal proceedings and whilst The Review of Family Justice by Lord Justice Gillen last year was heartening, it is disappointing that we are still in political deadlock hindering its implementation for the benefit of families across Northern Ireland.”

Parenting NI has a Parenting Apart programme specifically designed and proven to successfully support parents who have separated or are separating. Given the amount of calls the Regional Parenting Helpline receives in relation to this issue this is a programme which is in high demand. However, due to a lack of funding the programme has not been readily available to parents.

In order to meet the demand, the charity will be delivering a free Parenting Apart workshop for parents in Belfast on Wednesday 7th March from 6 to 8pm. The workshop will explore the challenges of parental separation, consider the factors that affect a child’s ability to adjust to the circumstances and offers tips to help parents manage their separation and adapt to their changing role as a parent.

Read the report

The Impacts of a Poorly Managed Separation: Parenting NI Research Note on Parental Separation and Divorce

Information/Interview Requests

Please email Emma Lyttle, Communications Officer or call 028 9031 0891.

Parents Guide: Children, Sugar and Snacking

Having a small snack between meals is a regular occurrence for children. But do you know how much sugar content is in the snacks you give your children?

The issue of children's sugar intake is one that is well publicised. This year has already seen many calls for reducing the amount of sugar children consume in the media; including a campaign from celebrity chef and father of five, Jamie Oliver, on banning sales of energy drinks to children. 

In this special feature, we explore the state of snacking and the challenges parents face in providing healthy snacks for their children.

A staggering 25% of children aged 2-15 are classified as overweight or obese. This is a serious and growing problem, which the World Health Organisation notes is a "double burden" due to health issues and obesity in childhood increasing the same risks in adulthood.

However it can be difficult to provide children, particularly young children, with snacks between meals that are both palatable and healthy.  A recent study by Public Health England found that primary-aged children have up to 3 sugary snacks per day.

It goes without saying, that most parents are aware of the risks that being overweight or obese give their children. No parent seeks to let their children become overweight or are apathetic to it. The difficulty for parents lies in finding healthy alternatives to snacks, particularly for younger children or fussy eaters.

"Snacks are important for young children since they can only eat small amounts of food at a time, and can’t wait many hours between meals."

The problem is not with snacking itself but rather with the content of those snacks. Fat and sugar content of foods consumed at snack times are a serious cause of concern for children and parents.

The State of Snacking

Current World Health Organisation advice suggests that around 5% of our daily calories should come from sugars. For a boy aged 10, that works out to about 100 calories a day and slightly less for a girl of the same age. 1g of sugar has about 4 calories, so children of this age should have no more than 25g of sugar per day. One can of Coca-Cola has about 10.6g/42kCal (sugar calories only), or almost half the total a child should have per day. When you add in a fun-size Mars bar at 8.g/32kCal you are rapidly approaching the daily total with just a small snack.

Additionally, many children start their day off with a sharp intake of sugar from popular breakfast cereals.

- Frosties (11g/44kCal per bowl from sugar only)
- Coco Pops (10.5g/42kCal from sugar only)
- Cheerios (6.2g/24.8kCal from sugar only)

This takes up a significant chunk of a child’s daily sugar amount. It quickly adds up when combined with a mid-morning and after school snack. That's without including any sugars in their lunch of dinner. It is easy to see how parents can accidentally allow children to go over their daily limits in this way.

The most deceptive are those snacks that seem to be marketed as healthy. Such as yogurts, fruit juices and cereal bars. At first glance seem like easy and healthy alternatives to candy or fizzy drinks. In reality, these snacks can be just as full of sugar.

- One pot of Original Strawberry flavour Yoplait, contains 18g of sugar (72kCal)
- A 156g Tracker Peanut bar, there is 7.3g (29.2kCal)
- A 200ml carton of Apple Juice has 20.7g (82.8kCal)

Ironically, this can mean that a well-intentioned parent could swap their child’s Coke and Mars bar with a yogurt and apple juice and increase their sugar intake.

These figures are not as simple as they initially seem. There are many types of sugar, broadly categorised into Brown, White and Liquid. There is also a difference between naturally occurring sugars (such as Fructose in fruit) and added sugar. Additionally, there is a massive range of words, phrases and terms associated with sugar in food. Even the most conscientious and health-conscious parents can struggle telling dextrose for lactose, or simple and complex carbohydrates.

Different types of sugar affect bodies differently. For example, glucose is the most basic form of sugar, is essential for energy in the body. All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by the body to provide energy to cells. It is therefore the epitome of “simple” sugars. Beyond this, there are natural sugars and added sugars. While too much of either can bring problems, the primary concern for parents should be the amount of added sugars, such as sucrose.

“Check for ingredients ending in "ose" — that's the chemical name for many types of sugar, such as fructose, glucose, maltose and dextrose.”

The good news is that levels of sugar consumption per capita in the UK are falling.  In 2014 the Institute of Economic Affairs noted that per capita consumption had fallen by 16% between 1992 and 2014. Additionally, some companies have begun to reduce the total amount of sugars they add to their products. For example Kellogg’s announced in November of 2017 that it would cut the sugar added to Coco Pops, Rice Krispies, and Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes by up to 40%.

Despite this, levels of obesity and childhood obesity have been rising. Dealing with weight issues in children is not a one-step solution – it involves increasing exercise, education and diet. Parents can help their children by choosing healthy and less sugary snacks for them. Snacks are not necessarily getting more sugary, but increasingly parents feel unable to determine what foods have “the right amount” of sugar.

"Our child just doesn't like healthy food."
"We're tired of fighting with the kids at meal times about eating their vegetables."
"I want to make sure they eat something!"
"Just let them have sweets, you have to let them enjoy their childhood."
"I like making my children happy with treats."
"I've tried to try and get my child to eat fruit and veg, I don't know what else to do."

Whilst somewhat flippant, these are some common reasons why parents give their children snacks. It is not that parents think they are healthier; it is that they struggle to find a compromise solution that works for them. It isn’t that they think it is good to give children excessive amount of sugary snacks; it is that some snacks that are marketed as “healthy” contain excessive sugars.

Research conducted on behalf of Yazoo in 2017 found that while 77% of parents felt guilty about the amount of sugary snacks they provided to their children, British parents give their children unhealthy snacks 21 times a week on average. So-called “pester power”, or children asking for such items can have a dramatic impact on parents. This is particularly true for parents who are stressed or time-limited in other ways, such as long working hours or during times of emotional distress such as parental separation.

Other factors include parents having less time to prepare or cook healthy snacks. In addition, the range of snacks available and children's desire for them creates an attractive solution. It can also be difficult for parents to seek support with healthy alternatives due to being fearful of being judged for the food choices they make.

31% of parents underestimate their child's weight

In a 2008 study, 75% of parents underestimated the size of an overweight child, while 50% underestimated the size of an obese child. Even more surprising is that a similar study found that healthcare professionals had nearly the same difficulty. Parents therefore should not feel shame for not recognising the issue sooner; instead, they should be more aware that of the issue, its causes and most crucially of support that is available to counteract it.


What to do

The issue of helping your children to snack healthier, and to reduce sugar intake can be confronting. However, there are a few suggestions that parents can implement in order to make a start towards improving the quality of the snacks they provide.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that parents simply do not keep unhealthy snacks in the house. Children as less likely to ask for such items if they are not freely available – and via this solution, snacks and desserts that are unhealthy become special treats rather than daily food.

The NHS’s Change4life campaign notes that sugary drinks are often the biggest individual source of added sugars to children’s diets. As such, they suggest a swap to diet versions, no added-sugars versions (such as dilutes), low-fat milk or water.

New South Wales in Australia’s government makes the suggestion that parents ought to set limits on the number of sugary snacks for children. They also state that parents should explain why these limits are being imposed, and Parenting NI always suggests communication is important.

Any changes, particularly if they are significant or if your children are older should involve the children. Such strategies, where the parent involves the child and explains the reasons why they are doing what they are doing are more likely to succeed.

It is never too early or too late to improve the nutritional value of the snacks provided to your children. If you need help or support, or want further information regarding how to improve, reach out to one of the many organisations below who can assist you.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Parent’s Guide: Children & Video Games

Is Santa bringing a new games console this Christmas? Or do you have some video games wrapped under the tree for your children?

With Christmas now fast approaching we explore some of parents concerns when it comes to their children gaming. In this special feature, we look at the research and offer some guidance on things to be aware of when it comes to your children’s gaming.

Playing video games has been a popular form of entertainment since the 1970’s. However, has technology has developed and advanced so too has the impact and influence of video games.

Video games can address and explore a wide range of issues just as other forms of media like books, television and films do. But parents are rightly concerned when the content of games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto include theft, terrorism and murder. Additionally, there are new and emergent problems such as simulated and real gambling and online gaming with strangers.

“Do video games have a negative impact and should I stop my child from playing them?”

There have been a wide range of studies on video game content, however as technology moves at breakneck speed it is easy to get left behind when it comes to advice and guidance. This puts parents in a difficult situation when weighing up protecting their children from potentially harmful content or inhibiting on their children’s social life. 

The Facts… 

Violence
There is no absolute consensus regarding the impact of video games on children’s health and development. Some studies suggest that children who are exposed to violence in media may become numb to it and show more aggressive behaviour. They also say that younger children and those with emotional, behavioural or learning difficulties may be more influenced by violent images.

On the other hand, many researchers dispute this idea that there is a link between violence in video games and violent behaviour in children. Instead, they suggest that the link between violent content and aggressive behaviour is reliant upon the child’s character. Author and clinical psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore noted:

“People with a personality constellation of being 1) easily upset (high neuroticism), 2) showing little concern for other people’s feelings (low agreeableness), and 3) having a tendency to break rules or act without thinking (low conscientiousness) are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of violent video games”

Additionally, a 2017 study in the Netherlands found that:

“Exposure to ‘violent’ video games at age 9 was not predictive of aggression or reduced prosocial behaviors one year later. Overall gaming, likewise, was unrelated to most mental health issues including attention problems or reduced social functioning, or total mental health difficulties”

It is difficult for parents who are not gamers or have little understanding of it to know whether the games their children ask for are age appropriate from the titles alone. With names that only make sens in context, such as “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle”, it is unreasonable to expect parents to know if the content contained in these titles would be suitable for a 7, 10 or 15 year old child. Additionally, every child is different which therefore makes it even more challenging to decide on suitability. Just as with films, what one 12 year old might find exciting or funny may make another anxious or frightened. Truthfully, with regards to violent content in video games only the parent themselves knows their child well enough to make a choice.

Spending

While the majority of concern regarding video games relates to violent imagery, as games have matured the problems they present have developed as well. Recently, there has been a great deal of concern regarding the use of real money in video games to simulate gambling. The most recent example of this was exhibited in “Star Wars Battlefront II”, while Star Wars has a PEGI rating of 16, the use of Star Wars characters makes it popular and much desired by very young children. While the content of the game is fairly tame (mild fantasy violence), worries have been raised regarding “lootboxes” in game.

The concept of “lootboxes”, or extra paid content in games is a difficult subject for parents to understand, even when they have some experience of video games themselves. Lootboxes are a form of “Downloadable Content”, or “DLC”. DLC can take the form of major changes or additions to games, or minor cosmetic upgrades, and is released separately from the core game. It must be paid for separately, and is designed to prolong the life cycle of the game.

The issue with DLC like lootboxes is the manner in which it simulates gambling, in particular slot machines. A player pays real-money for a lootbox (in the case of children, this is typically parents money) and receives a number of randomised items. The issue is that the item which the player wishes to get – a character or weapon, for example – is not guaranteed to be in the box. An example is shown below:

The problems with this system can be seen for adults, but the effect of promoting such pseudo-gambling behaviour to children is potentially dangerous. The addition of popular children’s characters such as Luke Skywalker or Yoda to the mix only increases the issue. The game’s publisher, Electronic Arts has vigorously denied that these mechanics are gambling, stating:

“Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront 2 are not gambling”

However, this has been contested by a number of jurisdictions. In Belgium, The Netherlands and the US State of Hawaii, formal investigations have opened into whether these mechanics are gambling.

Regardless of the exact legal nature of specific mechanics, the simple existence of the potential to spend vast sums of money (Star Wars Battlefront II, for example, could potential cost a whopping £1,600 to unlock every aspect of the game) is deeply worrying for parents. Whereas in the 80’s and 90’s, a child might at worst ask for a £60 or £70 game, today’s children potentially could end up spending much larger sums. This concern is particularly acute for children or young people who have their own money (such as teenagers).

Strangers

Much like the internet at large, video games which are played online offer a number of exciting opportunities. Children could benefit from playing with friends, especially when they are far away geographically. Team-building and co-working can help to foster good behaviours and strategies in children. A report by RMIT University in Australia found that children who played online games every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science.

Nonetheless, there is danger of so-called “grooming” by adults of children playing online games. This process operates similar to groom on social media platforms. Children are connected to strangers and adults online via video games, and this allows a potential for abuse. In January 2017, Adam Isaac was convicted of a range of criminal activities involving children he met through popular online game “Minecraft”.

The Good News…

Despite the concerns regarding video games, it is important for parents to recognise that there are distinct and unique benefits for children of playing video games. These are especially pronounced in games that have an educational aspect to them. Research professor Peter Gray Ph.D wrote that:

“Repeated experiments have shown that playing fast-paced action video games can quite markedly increase players’ scores on tests of visuospatial ability, including tests that are used as components of standard IQ tests. Other studies suggest that, depending on the type of game, video games can also increase scores on measures of working memory (the ability to hold several items of information in mind at once), critical thinking, and problem solving. In addition, there is growing evidence that kids who previously showed little interest in reading and writing are now acquiring advanced literacy skills through the text-based communication in on-line video games.”

The American Psychological Association published an extensive report in 2013 which identified a litany of potential benefits for children associated with the playing of video games. Video games were linked to improvements in spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception in children.

Additionally, video games can help children socially, as up to 70% of gamers play with friends in the same room and this co-play activity helps to improve prosocial activities that help with social development. In an increasingly isolated and anti-social environment that children operate in, video gaming often provides an outlet for social play.

Help is at hand

Ratings
Thankfully, parents are not alone in this. In addition to voluntary services (such as the Parenting NI helpline), video games in Europe are rated by PEGI. This rating, which must be listed on the box of a game, or on the store page if the game is listed online, gives an idea of what sort of content is included. The criteria are listed below:


PEGI 3: The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard.

PEGI 7: Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category.

PEGI 12: Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

PEGI 16: This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16.

PEGI 18: The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since it can be very subjective in many cases, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

PEGI also lists a number of reasons for their rating, including drug use, discrimination or violence. Reading and understanding the ratings for the games your children are playing is highly recommended. PEGI is a legal mechanism, which is backed up by the government. This means that retailers must make every attempt to prevent children under the suggested age from buying the games – however, it is not illegal for children to play a game they are underage for.

Parental Settings
In addition to regulation and ratings, many game companies and publishers have installed parental settings and controls built into games consoles or games themselves. The best example recently is the parental control on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has a sophisticated array of controls, including:

  • Control of total play times;
  • Deciding which games to allow, and which are blocked entirely;
  • Which online features are allowed

You can control this via an app installed on a tablet or phone. While Nintendo has been particularly proactive in this regard, most games consoles have at least some level of parental controls.

However, these features are almost never on by default. As such, it is essential that parents seek advice and familiarise themselves with parental controls before giving the console to the child.

Talk
As with almost every parenting issue, the single most effective tool to combat the negatives of video games is good parent to child communication. Particularly with older children, it is important that parents take the time to talk about the games their children are playing. Talking to your child about games can help you understand more about their content and voicing your concerns ensures that your child understands the risks. 

It is important that your child feels that they can come to you if something happens that worries or frightens them. They are less likely to do so if they think that you will not “get it”. By chatting about what they are doing before something happens a parent can build their child’s resilience and ensure that they talk to you when things go wrong.

In conclusion, there is no settled opinion regarding the risks versus benefits of children playing games. There are certainly issues, relating to the appropriateness of content for children, potential spending of money and online activity. However, there are equal and opposite suggestions that playing of video games can be highly beneficial for children.

Like many parenting problems, there is no simple one-size fits all solution to video games. The best and only manner in which parents can take a level of control is by taking a proactive interest in the games that their children play. While the world of video games can be particularly opaque and difficult for parents to access, particularly if they are not tech-savvy themselves, taking a level of interest is the best way to protect children.

Managing Christmas Stress

 

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year filled with lots of celebrations and fun for families, but it can also be very stressful for many parents. Parents can feel the pressure of managing their children’s expectations alongside managing the financial stresses that the time of year brings.

Local parenting support charity Parenting NI say that the pressures of meeting children’s expectations, managing children’s behaviour and dealing with separation make this time of year really difficult for a lot of families in Northern Ireland. The charity is encouraging parents to seek support if they are finding they are struggling to cope over the festive period.

Chief Executive at Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks said,

“There are a number of things Parenting NI would encourage parents to do to try and limit the stresses and expense of the holiday period. Expectations around Christmas are often high with so many putting an emphasis on the ‘perfect’ family Christmas. We would suggest to parents, as difficult as this can be, to not to get drawn into what others are spending or doing and do what is right for your family. Try to plan by writing a list of everything you need and setting a budget, most importantly, try and stick to your budget.

“Talk to your children about the value of things and explain that it’s not all about getting presents, that Christmas time is a good time to spend together and make memories. Good communication is so important within a family, if you are feeling the pressure don’t be afraid to ask for help. The less stressed you are as a parent, the less stressed your children will feel.

Separation is another big issue for a lot of families Parenting NI support, for parents who don’t have access to their children over the festive period it is particularly distressing and isolating. Parents who are struggling in general and / or want support with managing separation over Christmas please get in touch with Parenting NI on freephone 0808 8010 722.”


Separation at Christmas

Family breakdown is never easy, but for parents who are separated or separating Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. It can also be a very sad and frustrating time for parents who may not have access to their children. 

Communication is key when it comes to managing separation at any time but particularly at Christmas, and hopefully you will or have been able to come to an informal arrangement with your ex partner to enable you to see your children and spend time with them over the holidays.

Parenting NI understand that it can cause parents a lot of distress, so here are a few tips on coping with separation at Christmas:

Try not to worry about the “Perfect Family Christmas”
At Christmas we are bombarded with imagery which depicts what media portrays to be the ideal Christmas. It helps to remind yourself that there isn’t a perfect way to celebrate Christmas and try not to put any unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Make the most of the time you do have together
Any time that you do spend with your children over the holidays is special. Christmas shouldn’t be a competition between you and your ex where you try to outdo each other with presents for the children. Of course you will want to give your children gifts at Christmas but spending quality time together and having fun is just as important. This doesn’t have to mean expensive trips out either, doing crafts or playing games together at home is also great fun.

Put your children first
Regardless of your feelings towards your ex, try to think of what is best for your children. Research from family law organisation Resolution, found that 88% of children said it was important to them that their parents did not make them feel like they had to choose between their mum and dad. Whilst it is heartbreaking to not be seeing your child on Christmas Day try not to criticise the other parent too much in front of the children, no matter how angry you feel.

Don’t bottle up your feelings
Although it is important to remain positive for your children it is important for your own emotional wellbeing to have someone to talk to. If you are feeling upset and alone try talking to a family member or friend about how you feel. The Parents Regional Helpline will be available for periods during the holidays as well so if you would like a bit of support you can give us a call or chat to us on Web Chat. Details of opening hours can be found here.

If you don’t have access to your children over Christmas…
Make arrangements with your family or friends.  If anyone close to you is in the same situation, why not organise to see them; volunteer or invite them round for lunch so that you will not be by yourself. 

Parenting NI One of Belfast Lord Mayor’s Charities of the Year

Rt Hon Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, supports Parenting NI Parents’ Week Campaign – Every Child is a Star.

Local parenting support charity, Parenting NI, launched Parents’ Week yesterday with an event in Belfast City Hall focusing on how parents can be support to help nurture the child’s mental health and resilience. 

Parenting NI are delighted to have the Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister’s support for the Week. Chief Executive of Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks said,

“We are delighted that Parenting NI has been chosen as one of the Lord Mayor of Belfast’s Charities of the Year. Parents’ Week is our biggest campaign in the year and this one is particularly significant as we know how concerned parents are about their children’s mental health. 

“It can often be difficult for parents to reach out for help and the more public support we have for valuing parenting will help reduce this stigma. That’s why it is fantastic to have Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister’s support which has been a great addition to awareness of the campaign and also to the charities ongoing work with parents.”

Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister said,

“I am delighted to have Parenting NI as one of my charities of the year and to support them with the Parents’ Week campaign. Any support which we can give to improve children’s resilience and mental health is vital. Parenting NI is providing an invaluable service to all parents by highlighting ways in which we can support our children and each other.”

Develop Your Child’s ‘Star’ Potential

Local Parenting Charity Encourages Parents To Develop Children’s ‘Star’ Potential

Parenting NI have launched their annual Parents’ Week campaign, which this year focuses on children’s emotional wellbeing and building their resilience.

Northern Ireland has an overall higher prevalence of mental ill health than the rest of the UK. This is a significant concern for parents, as if children and young people are experiencing poor mental health it makes it difficult for them to develop resilience which enables them to cope with the challenges life presents. Parenting NI has received 64 calls from concerned parents about mental health within their family in the past month alone.

The local charity’s campaign aims to highlight the importance of resilience to children’s emotional wellbeing, through the ‘Every Child is a Star’ campaign. All children have the potential to be resilient, however these skills need to be nurtured and strengthened. Parents play a vital role in promoting and supporting the building of resilience in their children.

As the Chief Executive of Parenting NI explained, “Resilience increases children’s ability to cope with the increasing pressures and stresses of modern life. We hear every day from parents of the challenges their children and young people are experiencing, for example bullying, parental separation, exam stress, pressures from social media and mental health concerns.

Research tells us that children with strong, supportive parental relationships are more likely to be more resilient. When you take this into consideration along with the pressures on mental health services, there is a clear need for parental support to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people.”

This year Parenting NI was chosen as one of the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nuala McAllister’s charities of the year. The organisation is delighted to be able to host an event in Belfast City Hall to launch the week on Monday 23rd October. The Risk to Resilience event will see guest speaker Robin Balbernie, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, who will share his extensive knowledge and expertise on the topic with professionals working with families throughout Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the importance of acting early to improve outcomes for children, Guest speaker Robin Balbernie said, “Children who are treated with kindliness and thoughtfulness grow up to be adults who are kind and thoughtful towards others, and anything that gets in the way of that very simple process needs to be addressed. This is especially important during the first 1001 critical days, from conception to age two.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister said, "I am delighted to offer Parenting NI my support and the use of City Hall for this event.

All of us, but particularly parents, are becoming more aware of the importance of mental health not just for children but adults too.

"Any support which we can give to improve resilience and mental health is vital. Parenting NI is providing an invaluable service to all parents by highlighting ways in which we can support our children and each other."

Parenting NI will host two large family events during the week, with activities for parents and their children exploring emotional wellbeing and information on family support. The organisation has also provided schools throughout Northern Ireland with resources to enable them to engage with parents and children on talking about emotions and building resilience. An online campaign will run throughout the week giving parents tips and information on improving communication, managing emotions and raising self-esteem to help them build resilience in their children.

Media Enquiries

Contact Emma Lyttle, Communications Officer at Parenting NI on 028 9031 0891 or email.

Parenting NI Welcome Scotland Ensuring Equal Protection for Children

Local parenting support charity Parenting NI has welcomed the news that Scottish government has backed proposals to give children equal protection from assault as adults under the law.

Charlene Brooks, CEO of Parenting NI said,

“We are delighted to hear the announcement that Scotland will be bringing about the legal change necessary to provide children with equal protection from assault.

Whilst it is fantastic news, it is also disappointing that children in the rest of the UK are not afforded the same protection. Parenting NI would be calling on local government to follow suit for children in Northern Ireland. Support for parents is imperative to ensuring the best outcomes for children and therefore this also needs to be high on the agenda alongside legal reform.

Parenting NI encourage parents to consider their options and use a positive parenting approach. Parents can contact our freephone helpline for support with managing challenging behaviour on 0808 8010 722 and access positive parenting tips via our website.”

Working Dads Talk Tactics

Leading local parenting organisation, Parenting NI, hosted its first ever 'working dads' networking event at Kingspan Stadium on Thursday 12th October.

The 'Talking Tactics' event held exclusively for dads was held in partnership with Kingsbridge Private Hospital (part of the 3fivetwo Group) and Bank of Ireland UK. Special guests included Ibe Sesay from Q Radio, Ireland and Ulster Rugby Captain and father of three, Rory Best and Ulster Rugby Operations Director and father of two, Bryn Cunningham.

Over 40 local businessmen had the opportunity to network with other professional working dads during the unique event, before sitting down to a delicious full Irish breakfast.

A Parenting Education Consultant also delivered information and advice including top tips on understanding children's behaviour, promoting self-esteem and tactics to achieve the balance between being a 'hands on' dad and holding down a stressful job.

As part of the interactive session, delegates got the opportunity to question a panel made-up of Rory Best, Mark Regan, CEO Kingsbridge Private Hospital and William Thompson, Head of Consumer Banking, Bank of Ireland UK, on their experiences of juggling fatherhood with work commitments and how they make precious time with their children and families count.

Event Organiser, Lucy McCusker said, "Evidence shows that many dads are striving to be more involved in their children's childcare and activities but can sometimes find it hard to make this goal a reality.

"For some working fathers, their employers are unsupportive of their goals to achieve a better work-life balance. This unique 'Talking Tactics' event allowed best practice to be shared amongst peers and showcased some positive approaches from employers and individual experiences. I really hope all dads leave the session feeling better able to achieve a healthy balance between fatherhood and career aspirations and demands."

Panellist Mark Regan, CEO at Kingsbridge Private Hospital, part of the 3fivetwo Group emphasised that giving staff flexibility is key. He said,

"I'm a firm believer of 'give and take'. If one of my team needs to take a few hours off for a school play or if their child is unwell and they need to work from home, I know I get this time back and more", said Mark.

William Thompson, Head of Consumer Banking, Bank of Ireland UK, said:

"Bank of Ireland is proud to be working in partnership with Parenting NI on a number of initiatives including this 'Working Dads' session.

Being a father of four, I completely understand the challenges facing dads and families today. A session like this provides an ideal opportunity for peers to come together to acknowledge and talk about common work life balance challenges and hopefully go home with some practical tips that we can all apply in our own lives."

Following on from the success of a previous event for working mums, this event exclusively organised for working dads, is the first of its kind.

Media Enquiries

Contact Emma Lyttle, Communications Officer at Parenting NI on 028 9031 0891 or email.

Parenting NI Support YMCA and NHS “#IamWhole” Campaign for Mental Health

Parenting NI supports YMCA and the NHS in their “I am whole” campaign, aimed to highlight the importance of World Mental Health day.

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

“Every single day we deal with parents who are suffering mental ill health, or whose children are suffering.

“Depression, anxiety and other serious issues affect thousands of families every single day. Therefore, we were excited to support the YMCA and the NHS in the “I am Whole” campaign. This campaign to lift the stigma relating to mental health is so important.

“There is still a stigma about accessing help when you are suffering a mental health issue. We are glad to help to fight that stigma by saying that it is okay to not feel ok.

“If you are a parent, or anyone in a parenting role, and you are concerned about your or someone you care for’s mental health, please don’t be afraid to call us on 0808 8010 722.”

Media Enquiries

Contact Emma Lyttle, Communications Officer at Parenting NI on 028 9031 0891 or email.