Tag Archives: support for parents

Families Together Project in Antrim and Strabane draws to a close after five highly successful years in local schools.

The Families Together Project is a 5-year transformative project deployed in schools within Antrim and Strabane. The project was headed by Parenting NI in partnership with Action Mental Health New Life and with financial support from the National Lottery Community Fund. The project was initially deployed in six schools within Antrim and Strabane which included Sion Mills Primary School, Ballycraigy Primary School, Six Mile Integrated Primary School, Parkhall Primary School, St Catherine’s Primary School & St Mary’s Primary School. The project was able to provide support for an additional 4 schools across the two areas however unfortunately ends this November after five incredible years working within local schools.

A principal remarks on the project;

“It’s hard to imagine the school without them – they’re part of the school now and an important part of our annual pastoral action plan.”

Parenting NI has been providing parenting services across Northern Ireland since 1979 in the belief that effective parenting is the cornerstone of strong families, and that parents should be supported to enable them to provide children with a positive upbringing. Parents are a primary influence on their children and that influence can either be negative or positive depending on the quality of the parenting (Campbell, 1995). The Families Together project was designed around these principles in order to holistically strengthen these relationships. Strabane and Antrim were selected as the two areas for the project because of the high level of disadvantage. Primary schools within the most disadvantaged parts of Strabane and Antrim were invited to become partner schools with Parenting NI to form the Families Together Project.

Once a year, the Families Together Project would host a Family Fun Day in Antrim and Strabane with a variety of local agencies joining in to provide fun activities for families as well as information on local support services. The project hosted a large number of activities, parenting classes, parent & child workshops and counselling sessions for parents and their children within each school. These included the ‘Time for Parents’ Support and Counselling service and ‘Time for Me’ informal listening and signposting sessions and Time Together for the parents and their children. Families Together ran a variety of free parenting workshops for participating schools. These topics ranged from subjects such as Relaxation, Handling Children’s Behaviours and Healthy Choices. The programme ran numerous child workshops, a Parenting Café for parents to informally meet one another and a highly successful Walking Group.

One of the school principals remarks on the programme;

“I am struck by the diversity of needs and parents being engaged – not just those who are always targeted because of high needs, but also fathers and people of different social backgrounds. This is de-stigmatising.”

Over the 5-year duration of the project, the engagement of the schools and families involved in the programme has grown significantly. This has been particularly noticeable with families who lacked confidence in their parenting ability and self-esteem. Parenting NI and the Families Together Project are delighted to celebrate all the great work and engagement the parents, families, children and the teachers in each school have brought to the project over the past five years.

One parent remarked on the programme:

“It’s like a wee lifeline. A good experience – brilliant and highly recommended. I’m definitely more confident as a parent and I have a better support system.”

Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour Ballyclare

Duration: Every Thursday for 6 weeks
Aim: To help parents understand and manage their children’s challenging behaviours

The Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour programme will:

  • Help parents understand children’s behaviours
  • Recognise the triggers to their child’s behaviour
  • Give practical tips on how to reinforce positive behaviour

The programme promotes the Authoritative Parenting style which research shows to be the most effective.

The programme is particularly suited to those parenting children aged 2-10 years old. The programme will be delivered free online to parents in the Ballyclare area.

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.

Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour Lisburn

Duration: Every Wednesday for 6 weeks
Aim: To help parents understand and manage their children’s challenging behaviours

The Parenting Children’s Challenging Behaviour programme will:

  • Help parents understand children’s behaviours
  • Recognise the triggers to their child’s behaviour
  • Give practical tips on how to reinforce positive behaviour

The programme promotes the Authoritative Parenting style which research shows to be the most effective.

The programme is particularly suited to those parenting children aged 2-10 years old. The programme will be delivered free online to parents in the Lisburn area.

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.

Odyssey Parenting Your Teen Portadown

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Portadown from Wednesday 7th October 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Wednesday from the 7th October for an hour and a half 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 whole family. 

The programme will be delivered online and these sessions will be available to parents living in the Portadown area. 

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 Downpatrick

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Downpatrick from Wednesday 30th September 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Wednesday from the 30th September for an hour and a half 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 whole family. 

The programme will be delivered online and these sessions will be available to parents living in the Downpatrick area. 

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 Magherafelt

Sound familiar? We can help!

The FREE Odyssey, Parenting Your Teen Programme will be running in Magherafelt from Tuesday 29th September 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Tuesday from the 29th September for an hour and a half 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 whole family. 

The programme will be delivered online and these sessions will be available to parents living in the Magherafelt area. 

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 Monday 28th September 2020!

Duration: 8 week programme – every Monday from the 28th September for an hour and a half 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 whole family. 

The programme will be delivered online and these sessions will be available to parents living in the Belfast area. 

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.

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.

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.