Parenting NI Welcomes Lord Justice Gillen’s Review of Family Justice

Parenting NI responds to Lord Justice Gillen’s review of civil and family justice, delivered at the Royal Court in Belfast.

Charlene Brooks, CEO of Parenting NI said,

“Parenting NI wholeheartedly welcomes the Lord Justice’s timely review of family justice. Obviously, this was a wide-ranging and detailed review but what is clear is the desperate need for reform of family justice.

The encouragement of mediation for separated parents as well as the general desire to avoid confrontational legal battles is to be welcomed. Parents have told us every day about the devastating effects such difficult proceedings have on themselves and on their children.

The recognition by the Lord Justice that the best way to ensure the safety and best interests of children are met is by supporting parents is heartening.

Regardless of the current political deadlock, I am calling on those in places of power to ensure this review does not sit collecting dust on a shelf. It needs to be implemented as soon as is practical to make an immediate impact on the lives of families.”

Media Enquiries

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

More Needs to be done to Support Parents in Meeting School Costs

Parenting NI responds to the NICCY consultation outlining the costs to parents of sending children to school.

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

“The results of this consultation are worrying – but are sadly not surprising to Parenting NI. The issue of cost has come up time and time again in our own consultations with parents. When asked what the single biggest issue with Northern Ireland’s education system, more than 1 in 10 parents singled out cost.

The fact that most parents are required to pay over £1000, per child per year puts enormous stress on families in Northern Ireland. This is particularly worrying when this is considered in the context of the recently announced cuts to the per-pupil payment to schools, as well as the recent proposed cut to the uniform grant that was narrowly avoided.

In addition to this, the regional differences, where parents in the west are expected to effectively pay a £184 premium compared to parents in Belfast highlights a need for an urgent, balanced and reason-based solution.

There is increasing pressure on parents and on schools to provide the basic necessities needed to attend school. Given the fact that education is meant to be free to access, more simply must be done to support parents who are struggling.

It is self-evident that the simplest and most effective solution would be a locally-elected and locally accountable education minister. Every day of delay simply postpones necessary change. It is for that reason that Parenting NI, speaking on behalf of parents across Northern Ireland, is asking that all political parties come together to address this as a matter of urgency.”

Media Enquiries

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

The Importance of Spending Time Together

The fast pace of modern day family life can make it easy to forget that simply just spending time with our children is really important. Our time is one of the greatest things we can give them. Summer time offers lots of opportunities to spend time together and some good old family bonding! Here’s why you should make quality time a priority:

It builds children’s self-esteem

Children who spend time with their parents participating in activities together build a positive sense of self-worth. When children feel that they are valued by their parents, they feel more positive about themselves. Family activities don’t have to be expensive trips out to be meaningful, the important part is just being together. You could go for a bike ride or play a game together.

It strengthens family bonds

Families who share everyday activities together form strong, emotional ties. Studies have found that families who enjoy group activities together share a stronger emotional bond as well as an ability to adapt well to situations as a family. Share your favorite hobbies, sports, books, movies or other favorite activities.

It develops positive behaviours

Children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behaviour. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.

Children who frequently eat with their families also usually have improved dietary intake compared to those who don’t eat as often with family members.

It encourages communication

When you spend time with your children you are fostering an environment for open communication. Good communication is important for your children to feel comfortable with talking to about anything. Simply asking your child how their day ask gone can make a big difference.

It can help your child’s academic performance

Spending time helping your children with schoolwork or reading together, especially in their early years, will foster an environment that values academics. If your child feels comfortable coming to you with schoolwork, they are more likely to perform better academically.

It can help your children be a good friend

Children learn by example. If you are setting a good example for them by spending quality time together, they are more likely to adopt those behaviours in other relationships in their lives. Simple things like playing games together will help them understand more about interacting with others as well as teach them things like sharing and kindness.

Most importantly, family time means you can just have fun and enjoy each others company! You’ve still got a little bit of time left before the children go back to school so make the most of it this weekend and do something together.

Book Lovers Day: The Benefits of Reading with Your Child

The 9th August is National Book Lovers Day and bibliophiles all over the world are sharing their adoration online for all things books.

So, to mark the occasion we thought it might be a nice time to remind you all of the benefits of reading with your child.

It is never too early to start reading to your child.  Even very young babies enjoy the sound of their parents / carers voice when being spoken to, sang to or read to. Talking to, singing / nursery rhymes and reading to your child are all important factors in helping children become more aware of sounds and words than in learning to read.

Did you know?

Reading to your child can help them develop:

  • good language skills
  • a love of books
  • skills to communicate
  • listening skills
  • imagination
  • curiosity

Reading and sharing books with your child:

  • enhances relationships and bonding between parent and child.
  • promotes interaction and special time between parent and child.
  • establishes a good foundation for your child in learning to read and write.

Tips while reading to your child:

  • Be familiar with the story
  • Sit comfortably so both can see the book
  • Make it sound interesting
  • Encourage child to turn the pages
  • Point and Talk about the pictures
  • Use this time for a cuddle
  • Use props
  • Children love to hear and look at books over and over again

Remember, you’re your child’s favourite story teller! Reading together is fun so let your child pick the book and enjoy a bedtime story together tonight.

It’s National Play Day!

Playday is the national day for play in the UK. The campaign is a celebration of children’s right to play and highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.

Over the summer months there is loads of opportunities for children which allows children to have fun and is important for enjoyment of childhood.

Play is also very important for children’s development, as well as you an opportunity to bond and connect with your children. Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life. Recent research suggests that children’s access to good play provision can:

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • improve and maintain their physical and mental health
  • give them the opportunity to mix with other children
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
  • provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

Although play is important for children of all ages it is especially meaningful and important for young children. Children don’t have to be taught how to play but you should make time to engage in it with your child, as interaction is critical for learning. Research shows that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. This process helps with the development of fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are actions such as being able to hold a crayon or pencil. Gross motor skills are actions such as jumping or running.

As well as helping children to develop motor skills and cognitive thinking, play is key to helping children develop social skills. Playing with children will teach them how to get along with others, communicate emotions, be creative, solve problems and introduces concepts such as sharing and kindness.

Types of Play

As your child grows and develops, play evolves. Certain types of play are associated with, but not restricted to, specific age groups.

Associative Play

When your children are around three to four years of age, they become more interested in other children than the toys. Your child has started to socialize with other children. This play is sometimes referred to as “loosely organized play.” Associative play helps your preschooler learn the do’s and don’ts of getting along with others. Associative play teaches the art of sharing, encourages language development, problem-solving skills and cooperation. In associative play, groups of children have similar goals. They do not set rules, although they all want to be playing with the same types of toys and may even trade toys. There is no formal organization.

Social Play

Children around the age of three are beginning to socialize with other children. By interacting with other children in play settings, your child learns social rules such as give and take and cooperation. Children are able to share toys and ideas. They are beginning to learn to use moral reasoning to develop a sense of values. To be prepared to function in the adult world, children need to experience a variety of social situations.

Motor – Physical Play

When children run, jump, and play games such as hide and seek and tag they engage in physical play. Physical play offers a chance for children to exercise and develop muscle strength. Physically playing with your child teaches social skills while enjoying exercise. Your child will learn to take turns and to accept winning or losing.

Constructive Play

In this type of play, children create things. Constructive play starts in infancy and becomes more complex as your child grows. This type of play starts with your baby putting things in his/her mouth to see how they feel and taste. As a toddler, children begin building with blocks, playing in sand, water and drawing. Constructive play allows children to explore objects and discover patterns to find what works and what does not work. Children gain pride when accomplishing a task during constructive play. Children who gain confidence manipulating objects become good at creating ideas and working with numbers and concepts.

Expressive Play

Some types of play help children learn to express feelings. Parents can use many different materials. Materials may include paints, crayons, coloured pencils and markers for drawing pictures or writing. It can also include such items as clay, water, and sponges to experience different textures. Beanbags, pounding benches, and rhythm instruments are other sources of toys for expressive play. You can take an active role in expressive play by using the materials alongside your child.

Fantasy Play

Children learn to try new roles and situations, experiment with languages and emotions with fantasy play. Children learn to think and create beyond their world. They assume adult roles and learn to think in abstract methods. Children stretch their imaginations and use new words and numbers to express concepts, dreams and history.

Cooperative Play

Cooperative play begins in the late preschool period. The play is organized by group goals. There is at least one leader, and children are definitely in or out of the group. When children move from a self-centred world to an understanding of the importance of social contracts and rules, they begin to play games with rules. Part of this development occurs when they learn games such as Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and team sports. Games with rules teach children the concept that life has rules that everyone must follow.

 

Want to Know More about Career Options for your Children?

Don’t miss the chance to find out about the career options available for your children, at Skills Northern Ireland – an extraordinary free careers and skills event!

Where and when?
18 & 19 October 2017 at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast
Daytime opening: 9.30am – 3pm
Evening opening: 5pm – 7pm (only on the 18 October)

Skills Northern Ireland, sponsored by NIE Networks and supported by Barclays and NI Water, offers young people the opportunity to discover careers in a unique and practical way. With many exhibitors from colleges, universities and various industries, there is no better place to realise your full potential and explore what to do after leaving school.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the event’s various features, including:

  • The Skills Theatre that showcases local talent and can include dance, drama, music, cookery, hair dressing and floristry
  • Get Skilled stand offering activities in robotics, computing, automotive, theatrical make-up, IT, product design and much more
  • The Skills Showcase, sponsored by Belfast Met, our inflatable dome showcasing the incredible works of those who have produced creations for their work or training

The event promises to be even more inspirational and interactive than last year’s inaugural event, with over 50 exhibitors already signed up to provide exciting and hands-on activities for your children to experience the world of work.

Attendees will also be able to view current jobs, work experience and apprenticeship vacancies featured on our Live Opportunities Board, sponsored by the event’s media partner, Belfast Telegraph and NI JobFinder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge Parents Face Protecting Children from Terror Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Top Tips for Talking to your Children about Frightening World News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting NI call for More Support for Working Mums

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It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have; but for many parents it’s not their only job, and the challenge of trying to find a balance between work and family life can be difficult.

Mums are finding it harder to return to work after having a baby due to struggling to find flexible employment, a lack of affordable, available or suitable childcare, and feeling less confident. As Mother’s Day approaches Parenting NI is highlighting the challenges mums face in the workplace and is calling on employers to place a greater emphasis on supporting their employees who are parents.

Charlene Brooks, Interim CEO at Parenting NI said, “Pressures on families are ever increasing and the added stress that can come along with being a working parent means it can often take its toll on our health and wellbeing.

Mums who are working have told Parenting NI they feel guilty about going out to work and worry that not being around as much as they might like could have a negative impact on their children. Although this is an understandable concern, mums can take comfort in the fact that research tells us differently. Having a mother who works is beneficial for children, especially girls whose mother’s have careers in business or are professionals.”

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Working mum of two boys (aged 5 and 2) Leigh Osborne recently had to leave a job she loved when work life started spilling over into family life, “I found myself working over 40 hours a week and checking emails on my phone when I should have been playing with my kids. I knew something had to change; so I took a temporary pay cut and now work in a role that allows me to maintain a career in my field and also gives me a better work life balance.

Being a mum to two young boys and holding down a job certainly keeps me busy I often say being a working mum is the hardest job of all but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel the most important thing is to make sure you maintain a work life balance that is right for you.

I enjoy working, it’s part of my identity and of course I love being a mum and I feel by doing both roles I am setting a strong example to my kids that will teach them that to earn rewards in life you must work hard.”

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As part of a Mother’s Day celebration, Parenting NI have teamed up with Women in Business to host a special event for working mums to provide an opportunity for networking and discussion on what could be done to help support better work-life balance for families.

The leading parenting charity want to help working mums recognise that support is available and to show employers that supporting their parent employees can reap real rewards. In order to help employers gain these benefits, Parenting NI offer Employee Wellbeing workshops to businesses and organisations on a range of parenting issues.  Charlene explained, “The demands of work and family responsibilities can impact on parents’ happiness, and therefore ability to fully focus on work.  Employers who respond to the needs of those working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce. Workplace support for parents can make a positive impact on performance, job focus, attendance and can ultimately improve employee morale and overall productivity.”

Getting to Know our Interim CEO

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Back in July Charlene Brooks took up the post of Interim CEO at Parenting NI. Whilst Charlene as been with the organisation for many years, we asked her a few questions to help you get to know our Interim CEO.

How long have you been with Parenting NI?
I’ve been working with Parenting NI for almost 10 years in total, and in various different roles. I have been fortunate to be directly involved in overseeing the work of the Parents Helpline and Face to Face service for almost 7 years  as well as lead the Parenting Education Team for a number of years before most recently taking on the role of managing the Parental Participation and Engagement Work prior to being appointed as the Interim Chief Executive in July.

Have you always worked in Family Support?
My background is in community work and I have worked in the voluntary sector my entire working career. I have worked in a number of organisations delivering high quality services which aim to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Why do you think it’s important to support parents?
Parents are uniquely placed in that they are the single most important influence on a child’s life. However parenting is not straight forward – there is no rule book to follow and quite often there are no right or wrong answers. There will be many challenges that face parents as their child/children grow up and there will undoubtedly be some decisions taken along the way which are regretted. However, it is our mission in Parenting NI to support all parents. We provide a non judgmental service to enable parents look forward, consider the options and provide the skills, knowledge and resources needed to help parents to make more informed choices which will benefit them and their children.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I look forward to continuing to work with an excellent team of staff who are focused on helping parents feel more confident in their abilities and, as a result, enjoy better relationships with their children. As a parent of 3 young children myself I am well versed on the challenges of juggling the many tasks which modern day parenthood presents us with. But I feel so encouraged that with support from organisations such as Parenting NI that we parents know we are not alone and that there are many resources available to help us.

I am also delighted to have been shortlisted for the CO3 Leadership Awards 2017. I have been nominated for the Leading Forward on Health and Social Care Reform and will look forward to attending the ceremony on 23rd February.

co3 awards 2017 shortlist Health & Social Care Reform