Tag Archives: families

Parental Experiences and Attitudes on Post-Primary Academic Selection during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented disruption to the education of children in Northern Ireland. While this has had a dramatic impact on all children, there has been a particular focus on those facing important exams. While sector-wide policies have been enforced for both GCSE and A-level results, this has not been the case for Northern Ireland’s unique third examination period – the post-primary transfer.

One key result of this lack of government mandated policy has been regional variation. While some schools have indicated that they intend to continue with selection without adjustment, several others have decided to either drop or amend selection methods for this year. This decentralised response to the crisis has left parents and children in a uniquely challenging situation, without precedent.

This paper sought to gather a snapshot of parental concerns and views regarding post-primary transfer in the pandemic period. The findings of this demonstrate a wide range of very strongly held views, and a lack of consensus on almost any aspect of post-primary transfer both in the pandemic and more generally. Parents were deeply divided on core issues such as:

• Whether the transfer test should go ahead this year;

• Whether the transfer test should exist at all;

• Whether academic selection by any means should be a component of Northern Ireland’s Education system.

Parents were often unambiguous and direct with their feedback. Those in favour of the transfer described it as “a necessary part of education” and said that altering it at this late stage was “deeply unfair”. However, some parents who opposed the tests described them as “almost a form of torture” and suggested that allowing the normal transfer process to take place in the shadow of COVID represented a “moral failing on behalf of the authorities”.

It is impossible to determine with such a small sample size how widely any of these beliefs are held. However, what is clear is that there are strong feelings regarding post-primary transfer that deserve to be examined in more detail.

To read & download the full report on Parental Experiences and Attitudes on Post-Primary Academic Selection during the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020, please click the button below. Published August 2020.

Read the report

Fathers and Families Programme

Duration: 6 weeks online via Zoom

The Fathers and Families Programme emphasises the important role fathers play in the lives of their children, encourage fathers to take an active role in their child’s upbringing, whether they live with their child or not. The programme will provide fathers with knowledge on how they can be an Authoritative father and develop a strong, positive relationship with their child regardless of their family structure.

Over the 6 weeks we explore:

  • The Important Role of the Father
  • Parenting Styles
  • Supporting Fathers
  • Effective Communication
  • Rules and Consequences
  • Quality Time

The programme is interactive, fun and offers dads an opportunity to build a support network.

This programme is offered as part of the Dads Project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund NI. 

Blended Families

Parents who no longer live together – because of separation, divorce or bereavement – often face distinct challenges. One of these is attempting to re-partner. It is natural for parents who are no longer in a relationship with the father or mother of their child to seek new companionship. Around a third of all marriages in England and Wales are remarriages for at least one party. Many of these will include children from either one or both partners, and these marriages will themselves often produce further children. This creates what has been called a “step” or “blended family”. The definition of these families in academic literature is: 

“families in which at least one of the adults has a child or children from a previous relationship”

It is difficult to determine exactly how many blended families exist in Northern Ireland. The statistics for remarriages are not collected in the way they are in England or Wales, and the growth of co-habiting families without formal marriage means that even if we did have a more accurate number it would not tell the whole picture. We know that in the UK, they represent between 11% and 15% of families with dependent children. Regardless of the exact number, it is reasonable to say that they are a significant proportion of families in Northern Ireland. 

This article will seek to identify the key challenges faced by blended families, and give advice on how to address them.  

Challenges for Blended Families

Every blended family will face a unique challenge. Partially, this is because both families who are attempting to come together do so with different ideas, routines and backgrounds. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry noted that “the members may have no shared family histories or shared ways of doing things, and they may have very different belief systems which may include a different ethnic or educational background, or religion”. As a parent, you should be aware of the differences between your family and the family you are attempting to blend with. These can be very stark – for example, views on the role of faith or responses to teenage risk-taking behaviours – or relatively minor, like expectations regarding chores or pocket money. Keep in mind that your children will look to you for guidance and may resist that guidance from their step-parent 

Our advice in this situation is to attempt to prepare for these conflicts by talking to your partner, and if possible, your ex-partner. What you should seek to avoid is a feeling of unfairness which when added to the strain of adjusting to the new family dynamic can exacerbate conflict. This is particularly important if your family includes half-siblings. 

Areas of difficulty often include: 

Discipline

This has been identified as the number one issue faced in blended families. Stepparents should resist the urge to “establish” themselves right away. Instead, work with your partner to set up a baseline of boundaries that cannot be ignored. Beyond this, have a staged approach and a plan. Agree with your partner who will handle discipline, and how it will be implemented. Introduce stepchild disciplining gradually and ensure that as parents you are as united with your partner as is possible. Talk to the children and let them know the rules and consequences in this new family set up and how discipline will be handled.  

Step-siblings/Half-siblings

This is a highly complex area. For some children, they will have new siblings. These may vary greatly in age, gender and levels of contact. Nonetheless, it is a common concern among parents that they will fight or not get along. Children who acquire stepsiblings often feel jealous or left out. Their place in the family may also have changed from being oldest or youngest. Parents should understand that unlike their relationship with their own new partner, their child did not choose to have new siblings or step siblings. It is natural for them to take some time to get used to it, and they may never be as close to each other as you would like. Each parent should instead ensure that their own children understand the basic rules/boundaries. Beyond that, the most important thing a parent can do is spend time with your own children and talk to them about how they feel. There is good reason to be hopeful as well. Some research has suggested that siblings who share only one parent are as close (and in some cases closer) than full siblings. No matter how hurtful or difficult their initial reactions may be, understand that as a parent it is your role to help them adjust. Listen to their issues, and agree to reasonable action to address them. Be reasonable about language as well. Terms like step or half sibling may be a legal or biological term but may not be right in your home. Talk with all your children within your new blended family to determine what way they would all prefer to be referred too that will best suit everyone in your family. 

Roles

Beyond discipline, often stepparents will struggle with defining their own roles within the new family. If children already have an active mother and father figure in their life, a stepparent may have feelings of ambiguity in their role. This can lead to dissatisfaction, difficulties in the inter-parental relationship and other negative outcomes. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers regarding the role of stepparents. In some families, stepparents will have very clear and defined roles, while in others they will be more flexible. Successful blended families are those that develop structures, roles, norms, and interaction styles that are appropriate for each individual family situation. 

In conclusion, it would be encouraged that adults who wish to take the decision to move in with other adults talk to their children before hand and ensure that their needs are the priority before the decision is reached. Once the change has happened then parents should try to be understanding with children who are struggling with adjusting to the new family reality they face. Additionally, it is important that they are not too hard on themselves. Experts suggest it can take between two and five years for a blended family to fully settle. Do not be too hard on yourself if progress is slow, or if you are struggling. The three key elements for parents to remember are: 

  • Take your time. Don’t try to force a new dynamic. 
  • Decide what your roles will be, and communicate this with your children. 
  • Listen, and understand. Take your children’s concerns seriously and take steps to address them as best you can. 

If you are struggling with blending a family, you can always seek support from Parenting NI or other similar organisations. Parenting NI’s support line remains open on 0808 8010 722. 

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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Newtownabbey

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Newtownabbey 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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Portadown

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Portadown from 29th January 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Wednesday from the 29th 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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Newry

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Newry 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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Ballymoney

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Ballymoney from 28th January 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Tuesday from the 28th January for 2 hours each evening
Aim: To improve the parent/adolescent relationship£0

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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Belfast

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Belfast from 27th January 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Monday from the 27th 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.

Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Omagh

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Omagh from 22nd January 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Wednesday from the 22nd 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.