Tag Archives: parenting

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.

Understanding

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.

Parents struggling with the additional pressure lockdown is putting on families

Leading parenting support charity launch findings from Parenting in a Pandemic Survey

A survey carried out with 439 parents in Northern Ireland shows many families are finding the current circumstances incredibly difficult. 78% of parents either agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic had been difficult for them and their families. 74% agreed or strongly agreed it had been difficult for their children.

This crisis has presented a range of unique and challenging problems for families and parents. It has fundamentally altered society, and has forced many parents to adapt. Parents are particularly concerned about the stress and emotional impact and the loss of traditional routines, such as struggling to maintain bedtimes and structure during the day. 

Home schooling was another major cause of concern for parents. Half of parents felt that provision for their child's education had not be adequate during lockdown, with many describing feelings of guilt or anxiety about balancing home working and home schooling. Parents also suggested they were concerned about children falling behind as a result of lack of formal education. Parents are also unsure as to whether schools should be one of the first settings to return after lockdown, with 42% agreeing that schools should return and 58% feeling that they should not. 

A worryingly high number of parents suggested they were unaware of any support available to them. 63% of parents believe that the Northern Ireland government have not done enough to support and inform parents. 

Chief Executive at Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks, said,

"This is undoubtedly a very difficult experience for many families. Parents facing additional challenges such as lack of access to devices and poor internet provision, concerns about impact of isolation on mental health, and parents of children with additional needs have been hardest hit and in need of more support. It is therefore really concerning that many parents were unaware of support available to them. Parenting NI are suggesting that more should be done to make parents aware of existing help."

Interestingly, whilst parents are struggling there was a minority (just under 20%) who suggested that the crisis and associated lockdown had been, on the whole, a positive experience for their families. Some parents indicated that this unique period had offered them an unexpected opportunity to spend more time together and enjoyed strengthening their family bond. Reflecting on this Charlene said,

"I think in these most unusual times it has been encouraging to see families find the positives in this new way of life we have been adjusting to, spending more quality time together, sharing meals and generally bonding more as a family. At Parenting NI we would encourage families to consider if any of these positives can be made to maintained, even after the crisis is over. We hope that it might be an opportunity for employers, schools and families to work together to consider changes to working and education patterns and encourage a stronger value to be placed on parenting and families; which will have a positive impact on society as a whole."

Read the full report

Click to download the full report of the findings from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Summary

Take a look at the key statistics from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Parenting Apart Belfast (Dads Only)

This programme is being delivered as part of the Dads Project and therefore is open to men only. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund NI this is free for dads to attend.

Start date: Monday 20th April 2020
Duration: Every Monday for 6 weeks

The Parenting Apart programme is aimed at parents who have separated, are separating, divorced or thinking of divorce.

The programme will provide practical advice and guidance about what children need to know, and what parents can do to meet their children’s need. Although parents are immersed in their own difficulties, this programme can help parents focus on the child’s needs with the aim of minimising the impact of the separation.

The programme explores:

  • Emotional impact
  • Parenting roles
  • Changes in relationships
  • Legalities
  • Financial impact
  • Moving on

To register call us on freephone 0808 8010 722.

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

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. 

Consistency

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. 

Promoting Good Sibling Relationships

Having more than one child can be complicated. While there is a huge amount of joy associated with siblings throughout life, there are also natural challenges. Nonetheless, during this time of isolation and social distancing, for many children their brothers or sisters are their only real peers. This article will look at some of the positive benefits of having siblings, and how parents can support good sibling relationships. 

It is important to note that while siblings can bring advantages to families no parent should feel concerned if they have only one child. Siblings are by no means “mandatory”, and many of the benefits can be replicated by friends and family. 

What does research say?

Firstly, there are studies that have found that having siblings has a beneficial effect on the mental and physical health of children. Swedish researcher Therese Wallin found that siblings are less likely to suffer allergies, be obese or have depression. Siblings can start to influence each other right from birth. When a new baby enters the household, the older sibling begins to gain social skills by interacting with their younger sibling. The younger sibling will gain cognitively from copying their older sibling, using their behaviour as a model. There is even evidence that the mental benefits of having siblings can last into adulthood, because people with siblings are statistically happier than those without. 

Sisters – older or younger – have been found to improve their siblings mental health. A study into the impact of sisters on their siblings found that the presence of a loving sister can reduce feelings of guilt, sadness and isolation. Sibling relationships are important and different from parent-child relationships and provide unique benefits. Brothers and sisters both improve the charitableness and general kindness of their siblings. In households where there was a strained or difficult parent-child relationship affection from siblings acted as a shield from some of the negative effects. 

Interestingly, each child makes gains depending on where they come in the birth order. While youngest siblings have been found to be more adventurous and open to new experiences. They have to find their own “niche” in the family and this promotes outgoingness and a desire to experience new things. Older siblings on the other hand tend to be more responsible and dependable than they would otherwise be. Finally, middle children develop particularly astute conflict resolution skills. As you can see, siblings have a unique and positive effect on each other. No two families are alike, so having siblings doesn’t mean child must be a certain way. Instead, it offers parents opportunities to promote positive characteristics in their children. 

Promoting good relationships 

There is a lot of advice on supporting siblings and preventing sibling rivalry in our article here. However, here are a few tips for helping your children get along: 

  • Give your children tasks to do together. For example, have the older sibling help the younger with their homework; 
  • If you have the space in a garden, have sports “competitions” between siblings. This can involve running, body-weight exercises like push-ups or just kicking a ball around. Keep it light-hearted to ensure minimal conflict; 
  • Encourage creative co-operational activities. Make a den or fort out of pillows, blankets or carboard. 

It is also important to talk to your children and encourage them to see their siblings as their teammates. Competition and rivalry is common and normal under regular circumstances. During the challenge presented by the pandemic where everyone is stuck inside arguments are almost certainly going be more common. Therefore, parents can help to address this by being proactive. When you talk to your children, emphasise the fact that they are all in this together. That as a family, you will need to help and support each other. Ask them how they could be there for each other when they are needed. 

There is no sure-fire way to ensure consistent positive sibling relationships all of the time. Even if it was, remember that children do learn from some level of conflict. Parents shouldn’t necessarily attempt to prevent it entirely. During the crisis, try to focus on doing the best that you can to ensure that your children are kind to each other and have a positive relationship most of the time. More importantly, be realistic with what you can achieve. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself, and remember that every family is struggling right now. Do the best that you can, and ask for help if you need it. 

If you are struggling with sibling rivalry or any other aspect of parenting during the pandemic, don’t forget that Parenting NI’s support line is operational. Simply call 0808 8010 722 and we can provide support, help and advice on how best to get through this extraordinary time. 

Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour Workshop Belfast

Location: Currie Primary School

Tickets on sale: https://pccbbelfast.eventbrite.co.uk

This workshop aims to support parents to identify the behaviours they find most challenging and gain techniques to manage those behaviours effectively leading to a calmer home.

The workshop will:

  • Consider the feelings behind the behaviour
  • Explore how to use the Authoritative Parenting Style which research shows to be the most effective
  • Discuss the difference between children’s needs and wants
  • Emphasise the importance of clear communication
  • Introduce the Stress model and its purpose in managing challenging behaviour
  • Give Top Tips for managing behaviour and positive parenting.

Tickets

Understanding Teen Behaviour Workshop Portadown

Location: Portadown Town Hall

Tickets on sale: https://utbportadown.eventbrite.co.uk

This workshop aims to support parents to understand the changes teenagers experience and how this can impact on behaviour.

The teenage years can be particularly challenging for parents to navigate. This workshop will:

  • Explore your role as a parent of a teenager
  • Understand the changes that teenagers experience
  • Explore typical teen behaviour
  • Understand how to handle challenging situations

Tickets

Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour Workshop Limavady

Location: Limavady Central Primary School

Tickets on sale: https://pccblimavady.eventbrite.co.uk

This workshop aims to support parents to identify the behaviours they find most challenging and gain techniques to manage those behaviours effectively leading to a calmer home.

The workshop will:

  • Consider the feelings behind the behaviour
  • Explore how to use the Authoritative Parenting Style which research shows to be the most effective
  • Discuss the difference between children’s needs and wants
  • Emphasise the importance of clear communication
  • Introduce the Stress model and its purpose in managing challenging behaviour
  • Give Top Tips for managing behaviour and positive parenting.

Tickets

Families Together Parenting Apart Programme Antrim

Duration: Every Thursday for 6 weeks

The Parenting Apart programme is aimed at parents who have separated, are separating, divorced or thinking of divorce.

The programme explores:

  • Emotional impact
  • Parenting roles
  • Changes in relationships
  • Legalities
  • Financial impact
  • Moving on

The programme will provide practical advice and guidance about what children need to know, and what parents can do to meet their children’s need. Although parents are immersed in their own difficulties, this programme can help parents focus on the child’s needs with the aim of minimising the impact of the separation.

To register call us on freephone 0808 8010 722.

This programme is being delivered as part of our Families Together Project, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.

 

Dad Matters Belfast

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Understanding the unique and valuable role dad’s play in their children’s lives

Come along to this relaxed Dad Matters workshop to meet other dads and explore a range of topics such as:

  • The challenges of fatherhood
  • How dad’s influence their child’s development and outcomes
  • Understanding how to be an active dad

The workshop will be held on a Tuesday evening in South Belfast. You can register by calling freephone 0808 8010 722.

Freephone number is currently available Monday – Thursday 9:30 am – 3:30 pm and Friday 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Daddy Matters workshop for dads exploring the unique and valuable role dad’s play in their children’s lives. Call freephone 0808 8010 722 to register.Daddy Matters workshop for dads exploring the unique and valuable role dad’s play in their children’s lives. Call freephone 0808 8010 722 to register.