Tag Archives: communication

Promoting Teen Resilience – Fully Booked

Building our teenager’s resilience will help to prepare them for the challenges they may face throughout their lives. This free session supports parents to understand the importance of developing their teenager’s resilience & helps parents to support their teenager to develop self-control, build self-regulation & develop thinking skills.

Book now!

Supporting Teens Positive Body Image – Fully Booked

With altered images in the media & the pressure to look good, it can have an impact on our teenager’s body image. Through the teenage years, it’s important to help raise our teenager’s self-esteem & for them to be more self-accepting. This session helps parents to support their teenager to develop a positive self-image and be more self-accepting.

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Positive Approaches to Discipline Western Trust Workshop

As part of our STOP campaign in supporting parents with alternatives to physical punishment we are delighted to be providing FREE online Positive Approaches to Discipline workshops for parents in the Western Trust area.

Why do children misbehave?

This workshop will explore:

  • Attitudes to the use of physical punishment on children and young people
  • Current legislation in Northern Ireland
  • Positive approaches to discipline and positive parenting strategies

Call us to register on freephone 0808 8010 722.

The freephone number is currently available Mon – Thurs 9:30 am – 3:30 pm & Fri 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.

Delivery of this programme has been made possible thanks to funding from Assets Recovery Community Scheme.

Talking to Children about Race, Racism and Diversity

Recently, international incidents have brought issues relating to race and racism into sharp focus. All around the world, people have been talking about these issues and what they mean for society. If your children are old enough to hear and understand news and current events it is highly likely that they will have at least heard about some of these. They may know about protests, have heard slogans or seen images on the internet or on television. Race and racism, as well as diversity can be tricky subjects to explain to children. They trigger strong emotions and reactions and some families may prefer to avoid difficult or uncomfortable conversations. However, it is not necessarily in the best interests of your child to avoid the topic entirely.

Local context

While Northern Ireland remains a fairly racially homogenous place – the exact figures for ethnic minorities will be updated by the 2021 census, but the most recent data from the 2011 census suggested 98% of the Northern Irish population was white. This will have increased since then, but it is still accurate to say that white children from Northern Ireland will have fewer encounters with non-white children than their counterparts in England. 

This means that children here may be less familiar with people from a different ethnic or racial background. A study in 2014 found that living in ethnically diverse communities tended to reduce racism because it creates what was called “passive tolerance”. People had or witnessed positive interactions in and ethnically diverse group and were generally more positive about them. This can be challenging in Northern Ireland – particularly if you live outside of Belfast or an area which is more ethnically mixed.

What can I do?

As parents, it is important that you encourage and promote anti-racist views in your children. In addition to being a good set of values to promote, it also helps to counter any false or racist information that they may become exposed to outside your home. As parents, you should try to be aware of what sort of information your children are accessing, and help them to get a balanced and accurate view of the world. As with most issues relating to parenting and children – the best approach is usually clear, safe and open communication between parent and child. Taking the time to discuss racism and diversity with your child can help safeguard them from harm.


Still – this can present its own challenges. The language of race and diversity can be complex, and the issues even more so. How should parents begin to discuss this with children who might seem too young to understand?

The first step is to not underestimate your child’s ability to understand issues relating to race. Caryn Park, a professor at Antioch University in Seattle noted that children as young as three are aware of race or skin colour and will often ask questions. Parents should respond in a way that makes it clear to children that it is okay for them to ask questions and talk about race. Children will probably become aware of events either locally or internationally and may have strong emotions. It is good to talk about those emotions and explore how events make you children feel.

Have the conversation

Another important step is making sure you, as the parent are in the right place to talk about these issues. It is possible that you are feeling fear, frustration or anger as a result of recent events. It is important that when you speak to your child about race you are able to be a calm, rational voice. This doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of anger or frustration – simply organising it in a way that helps you to communicate with your child. Parents should try to be role models in this. Your child will look to you in order to determine how to behave around people of different ethnicities and racial backgrounds.

Challenge stereotypes

When they are young, children will often comment on everything – including race. Parents should be careful not to link statements about race with a positive or negative. If a child notices a person’s skin colour do not try to prevent them from talking about it. Simply agree and move on. However, if a child makes a negative association with race, it is important that a parent talk about it. If a child says something disparaging or wrong about a race or ethnicity, try asking:

“Why do you think that?”

“Where did you learn that?”

Address incorrect stereotypes without getting angry. Remember that children often get information for a wide range of sources, but may not fully understand the context of what the learn. When your children are old enough (primary school age, for example) it can be useful as a parent to point out any negative stereotypes you notice and talk about why they are wrong. An example might be:

 “That joke was a little mean, making fun of the way someone talks. How does it make you feel?”

Occasionally, your children might ask questions that you don’t know the answers to. An important part of talking to children about any serious topic like race and racism is reflecting on your own knowledge and admitting to not having all the answers. Carrying out research together to better understand issues is a great way to strengthen your child’s understanding as well as your own.

Positive actions

As your child gets older, they will often have a better understanding of race and diversity. They will also have developed their own ideas, views and concerns. Experts suggest that parents can help by empowering teenagers who are upset or seeking to act by steering them to be positive agents of change.  You should encourage teenagers to helpful and positive messages on social media, for example and stay away from negative or destructive actions.

If you are worried about talking to your child about this, or if your child has expressed opinions that concern you, Parenting NI is here to help. You can talk to us about this or any parenting related issue on our support line 0808 8010 722.

Grandparenting during the Pandemic

Being a grandparent is normally a joyful experience, even if it provides challenges as well. Under normal circumstances, grandparents see themselves as a key pillar of support for families.

In our research, Parenting NI found that around 40% of grandparents specifically name support as their role in modern society.

This support comes in many forms, emotional, financial and practical. Despite this, many grandparents already felt isolated or lonely. While the pandemic is an extra difficult time for all families, it can also provide an opportunity to make a special effort with grandparents to ensure that they feel more connected. 

During this crisis many grandparents have found their lives turned upside down. Those who had particularly close relations with grandchildren may be unable to see them at all. Grandparents who provided childcare are no longer able to do so. This can be an extremely stressful addition to an already difficult time for them. It can also be highly stressful for children. Many children get important social and emotional support from grandparents. Being cut off from this, as well as worrying about the health of their grandparents adds to the worries they are already experiencing. 

In this short article, Parenting NI will provide advice and support for parents to ensure that grandparents and their grandchildren remain connected. Despite the physical distancing, there are many things families can do to support continued relationships.

What is grandparent’s role? 

The first step to supporting grandparents in this pandemic is establishing what they view their role as during normal circumstances. Are they providers of care? Do they support emotionally? Do they give practical help by cooking, household chores or DIY? Once parents understand what grandparents usually do, they can come up with inventive solutions.


If they normally provide childcare, it might be a good idea for a regular telephone call/video call to be established. This is no substitute for real quality time, but it can still help children and grandparents. They get to see and/or hear each other and this can offer reassurance that they are okay. 

Baking and cooking

If they normally do other physical activities, there may be innovative ways to facilitate this. For example, dropping off or picking up baked goods along with a delivery of food is a nice way to stay connected. Children may feel more relaxed or excited about having cookies or traybakes made by their grandparents. Their grandparents may feel better about having to miss out on playdates. If your child is enjoying anything they made for them – remember to snap a photo to send to let them know! 

Video call activities

Alternatively, set up a video-call where grandparents can talk a child through planting seeds, starting knitting or other activities This can help children learn and allows grandparents to feel like they are giving help and support. An added bonus of this may be keeping children busy while parents are working, and in that way grandparents can continue to feel as though they are providing help for families. 

Writing letters

Writing letters is a good way for children and grandparents to keep in touch. This has a number of additional benefits. For example, it helps children work on their writing skills and spelling. It also provides a physical memory of this time, to be looked back on during happier times. Parents should encourage children to write about their day and feelings. Including drawings and artwork for younger children is another way to improve connectedness. 

During this difficult time, the best thing to do is talk. Talk to the grandparents, and see what they might like to try or do. Similarly, talk to children about what they would like to do to help their grandparents. Parents should be creative and supportive of ideas, and be patient with grandparents attempting to overcome technological hurdles. When the pandemic ends, parents will be glad that they made efforts to ensure that children and grandparents remained connected. It will help support their mental health, and may even result in a closer and more loving relationship. 

If parents are struggling with maintaining relationships, communication or any other related issue they can reach out to Parenting NI for help. Our support line remains active on 0808 8010 722. 


Improving Communication with your Child

Parenting NI understands that these are difficult and uniquely challenging times. We hope the advice and information in this article will be useful to your family during this challenging time. Even when this pandemic has passed these strategies should help to improve communication and reduce conflict in your home. 

Living in relatively confined circumstances can be challenging for anyone. If you and your partner are newly working from home and your children are no longer at school your home may feel very busy. Families, particularly children – often miscommunicate, unintentionally under the best of circumstances. This article will contain some information and advice on how best to maintain good communication during this crisis. 

Age appropriate

Obviously, there are different strategies that work for younger or older children. However, some things are universal. In their report for UNICEF, Kolucki and Lemish stratify children into three sub-sets – early years, middle years and early adolescent years. They outline four principles regarding how you approach communication with children, it should be:

  • Age-appropriate and child friendly
  • Address the child as a whole – and bear in mind their own personality
  • Positive and strengths-based
  • Talk about everyone’s needs, including those who are disadvantaged

Taking the current crisis as an example, children may not understand words like “pandemic”. They may struggle with concepts like “self-isolation. This lack of understanding may lead to a child or young person being frightened or confused. In older children, this might lead to them taking unnecessary risks or ignoring official advice. 

Parents know their children best – when attempting to explain a complicated idea to a child, use examples they are familiar with. Equally, if you find yourself struggling to explain, take this as an opportunity to learn together. Do not guess, instead look up answers together. Ask your child what they understand already and be sure to correct any disinformation. The UN recommends a strategy they call ‘Child-Friendly Honesty’ when talking about the coronavirus, for example. This means using language they understand, watching their reactions and being sensitive to their anxiety levels. 

Remember that children – particularly those who have access to the internet – may have read more than you expect. However, they may lack the critical thinking skills to determine fact from fiction effectively. There are plenty of reputable websites that can help dispel errors or misinformation like the BBC or the Government’s own websites. 

Everyday Communication

While it is important that children understand the current situation (to an extent), it is also important that the lines of communication remain open in a busy household. 

Family Lives, a UK-based family support organisation outlines three types of communication between parents and children. These are: 

  • Organisation of an event or activity, or to check arrangements; 
  • Bonding – genuinely sharing and learning about each other; 
  • Chatting – idle conversation about unimportant issues. 

All three sorts of communication will be important in the coming weeks. It is important that parents and children are aware of the types of communication and when they are appropriate. For example, it is okay for a child to interrupt a workday for an important conversation. It may not appropriate for them to attempt to chat, but that will take time to get used to so it is important you learn to work together.  Perhaps you could agree a signal that indicates you are on an important call or put a note out to explain that you are not available (unless of course in emergencies) for 10 or 15 minutes.  But most of all, understand that you are all adjusting  and that it is going to take time to find your new family ‘normal’.   

If you find for example, that your children continues to regularly attempt to talk during times when you have to focus, it is worth speaking to them during a calm moment. Attempting to explain while you are stressed is likely to have negative outcomes. Discuss with your child what your strategies are and how you are going to make it clear when you are unavailable, agree with your child what is reasonable and what is not, and be mindful that you follow your own guidelines. It is unfair for a child who is working on home-schooling to be interrupted with idle conversation, and then be told off for doing the same to you during work. 

What does good communication look like?

Good communication is the result of setting out a number of basic elements. Parents should remember that communication is a two-way process, and make sure to listen as well as talk. According to the Australian Department of Social Services, this will help to encourage children and young people to do the same. Listening is an active behaviour – pay attention not only to what is being said, but also how it is said. Look at body language and be positive and encouraging. It can be difficult to listen under stressful circumstances, but that makes it more important. 

Be clear with your intent

It is natural to be polite, or to seek to avoid conflict by your words, but if you have certain expectations of children it is important that they understand this. This is especially relevant for parents of adolescents. When talking to a teenager, remember that they are going through complex physical and social changes. When you add in the complications associated with the need for self-isolation this can become overwhelming. Nonetheless, experts have been clear that teenagers in particular are not following the advice regarding avoiding social gatherings6. While it might be easy to react angrily if you learn that your teenage child has been to a party or been seeing friends, this is not necessarily the best way to react if you want them to listen. 

Rebelliousness is a natural part of teenage life

In fact, brains develop during the teenage years to specifically be more likely to take risks. This does not mean that they cannot understand risk, that they do not care or that they cannot be persuaded to behave differently. Communication, based on listening and respect are a parent’s best tool to getting a teenager to avoid a behaviour. In the context of the coronavirus, explain in reasonable terms why you need them to socially distance themselves. Listen to their concerns and worries about the effect of this, and do your best to mitigate them. Stress that this is not a ‘normal’ circumstance, like staying late at a party or using alcohol.  

This won’t be forever

Remind them that this is temporary, and if practical offer them a reasonable incentive if they comply. This is not a ‘bribe’, but a mutually agreed reward for them to focus on when the temptation to socialise during lockdown is particularly strong. This does not have to be money – let them propose what they might like or offer family-based incentives like getting to choose a film, more screen time or having time when they are allowed to be alone to chat to friends digitally. 


When communicating with children remember to be reasonable but consistent. If you explain the consequences of an action, and the children do not comply, you should follow through with any disciplining. This applies for any positive consequences too – do not let the unique circumstances reduce the fun or family time that you normally enjoy. It is just as important to fulfil the promise to make pancakes for breakfast as it would be to instil discipline. 

Having your own space

Time alone is important in maintaining communication as well. It is hard to keep your own composure if your family are constantly around, making noise and disrupting your already disrupted schedule. It is a good idea to plan time for each member to have time spent away – in another room, in the garden or the like. This gives them time to collect their own thoughts, and should help with communication later on. 

Finally, it is important always to not be too hard on yourself as a parent. These are uncertain times, and while it is good to aim for perfect communication, you must have a reasonable expectation of your own capacity. Do not judge yourself for mistakes, instead simply aim to improve from that point. If you feel overwhelmed, you can continue to contact Parenting NI on 0808 8010 722. 

Talking to your child about COVID-19

The current situation regarding the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 and Coronavirus is a deeply concerning time for everyone. No one is sure what is going to come next, or how families or indeed communities will cope. We do know that the majority of people who are infected with the disease are going to make a full recovery. Nonetheless, world leaders have made it clear that the virus will mean significant changes to our lives, at least in the short term. These will almost certainly include “social distancing” measures such as:

  • The closure of schools, childcare and universities
  • Cancellation of large events
  • Restrictions on travel or other activities

Inevitably, children and young people will hear rumours about these actions. Children, who are often less capable of critical thinking than adults may be more likely to believe hearsay or false information. This applies to information about the virus itself and the measures that will be taken to combat it.

What can parents do to address their children’s concerns?

Even after the current pandemic, it is important that parents can talk to their children and young people about major crises like this in the future. This article will give advice to parents about how to reassure children, even when you do not have all the answers yourself.

The World Health Organisation has put out the following advice for parents:

  • Respond to your child’s concerns in a supportive way. This is a time when they will need more love, reassurance and attention
  • Maximise time for children to play and relax
  • Keep your children close to you physically if you can (but do not break quarantine or self-isolation)
  • If you cannot be physically present with children, use technology like video calls and phones to stay in regular contact
  • Keep a regular routine, even if your “normal” is disrupted
  • Be honest with your children regarding information. Focus on age-appropriate information about what they can do to reduce risk


At Parenting NI, we regularly advise parents that the best way to help your children, your families and yourself is communication. Fear often stems from a lack of understanding and knowledge, and talking is the best way to address this. All communication with children and young people should be age appropriate, but our advice for parents during this pandemic and future public health emergencies is to:

  • Talk to your child. Find out what, specifically, they are concerned with. Are they worried about themselves? About you? Perhaps they understand certain people (like grandparents) are more at risk
  • Once you understand what they are worried about, you can better reassure them. There is no need to lie or pretend that there is no risk whatsoever. Instead, calmly explain the facts – that most people will be okay – and that the people in charge are doing their best
  • Focus on what they can control. Speak to them about hand washing, coughing into elbows and avoiding unneeded physical contact (but don’t refuse cuddles unless one of you in unwell)

Young children may not fully understand why certain actions are important. Some resources might be useful depending on the age and stage of your child. These address the pandemic in a fun or at least less frightening way. These include:

A very catchy song (in Vietnamese) which has spread widely about washing your hands

The British Red Cross has put out a handwashing video on TikTok

@britishredcross🖐🤚 + 💧+ 🎂🎵 @who ##coronavirus ##foryou ##foryoupage ##fyp♬ Happy Birthday (Samba Version) – Karaoke – Best Instrumentals

Our Parenting Champion, Alliance Belfast City Councillor Sian Mulholland has tweeted a fun experiment with her son to show how soap and washing our hands protects us from germs

While the exact measures taken in every country will be different, some advice is applicable no matter where you are. The Irish Department of Health has provided a useful and easy to read guide on talking to children about the pandemic, which is available here. One of the key points in this advice is ensuring that children can differentiate between baseless scaremongering rumour and genuine advice. It may be helpful to review our article on fighting ‘fake news’ if this is something you are worried about!

Time at home

Inevitably, children will have to spend more time at home as a result of this pandemic. Schools may be closed, and normal activities such as sport and youth groups will be cancelled. This might result in concerns among parents. Some schools will provide online/take home work, and depending on your area they may have digital classrooms. Remember to liaise with your school, talk to the teachers and the principal to find out what their current plans are, but be aware that these may change at a rapid pace.

If parents are concerned about children spending a significant amount of time at home, try to establish a routine. Reading books, perhaps rented from local libraries if they are still open, or downloaded if possible can be a useful substitute for normal educational behaviour in the event of an emergency. Playing board games, getting outdoors as often as you can and spending family time together is also important.

Looking after yourself

Equally however, parents must remember that these are very unusual circumstances. Normal rules do not necessarily need to apply. Do not be too harsh on yourself if children spend more time on screens than usual. In fact many useful resources may be found online which may be helpful for them during this time. Do not over worry about educational outcomes at the moment, and understand that every child will be in the same boat. Parents and families will already be under immense stress, and it’s important to look after your own emotional health and well-being.

Remember to take care of yourself as a parent, as well as of your children. There is no reason to panic unduly, and remember that how you react is likely to have a direct impact on how your children will react. If you remain calm, but take reasonable precautions, your children are less likely to feel anxious or concerned.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Newtownards

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Newtownards from 30th January 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Thursday from the 30th January for 2 hours each evening
Aim: To improve the parent/adolescent relationship

The teenage years can be notoriously challenging but this programme can help you navigate your way through the reality of parenting teenagers.

The programme covers a range of topics and promotes the Authoritative Parenting style, which has been proven to be most effective. Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen is an evidence based programme and has been found to improve outcomes for parents, children and the while family. 

Odyssey Parenting Your Teen Topics

Call us now on 0808 8010 722 to register.

Freephone number currently available Monday – Thursday 9:30 am – 3:30 pm and Friday 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. 

This programme is being delivered free to parents thanks to funding from the Public Health Agency.