Be alcohol aware this Christmas – and here’s how.

Donna Butler is the Manager of the Strengthening Families Programme run by the Alcohol Forum. As you will see, their work with families makes the Alcohol Forum a vital member of Parent Hub Donegal. Here Donna tells us a little about that work and also gives us a link to the Alcohol Forum’s  Festive Guide

Here at the Alcohol Forum, our vision is an Ireland where every child, family and community is free from the harmful effects of alcohol.  We aim to achieve this by creating and inspiring change through our work with individuals, families and communities.

As a national charity, we believe real change will only happen by working with communities to address the causes of alcohol harm in Ireland.  Our work provides the support, resources and expertise needed to reduce and prevent the harmful effects of alcohol on individuals, families and communities.  Our approach is shaped by evidence and is informed by the expressed needs of the people and communities we work with across Ireland.

Our Families Matter Service is providing a ‘whole family’ response through two programmes, Strengthening Families Programme (SFP), and Moving Parents and Children Together (M-PACT).  Both programmes provide children and families, experiencing significant challenges, with the support and practical skills needed to build stronger family relationships that reduce conflict and increase their capacity to manage challenges as individuals and a family unit.  They have proven to be effective across a wide range of issues including increasing coping and communication strategies, building family resilience, reducing aggressiveness, increasing parenting skills, preventing drug and alcohol misuse and supporting mental health.

We are grateful for the support of all the organisations and individuals involved in our programmes in Donegal as volunteer facilitators or referral agencies for families.  Whilst SFP does not exclusively support families where alcohol is an identified issue, 1 in 11 children in Ireland have said parental alcohol use has impacted them negatively.  In 2015, we partnered with Action on Addiction UK to bring the M-PACT programme to Ireland for the first time.  This programme supports children aged 8-17 who experience the impact of parental substance misuse using a ‘whole family approach’.  We are currently accepting referrals for our next programme.

Tips for planning a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

More people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at other times of the year.  Remember that it is important that our drinking doesn’t cause harm to others, especially children.  We have developed a Festive Guide full of information and suggestions that can help which is available on our website. But if you can only remember 3 things, make it these:

One:  It is a good idea to make sure at least one safe non-drinking person who is known and trusted by you and your children is supervising children at gatherings where alcohol is being consumed.  It can be upsetting for children when those closest to them change their behaviour as they drink.

Two:  Plan some activities for your family that don’t involve alcohol. This helps children see that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Three: Plan how you will get home. Never drink and drive or take a lift from someone you think has been drinking or taking drugs. Arrange a lift or book a taxi.

Your checklist for Christmas entertainment:

  • It is a good idea to have at least one safe, trusted, non-drinking adult supervising children at gatherings where alcohol is being served.
  • Know your standard measures (perhaps buy an alcohol measure), avoid ‘topping up’ and keep track of your drinks.
  • Eat before, and while, you are drinking.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Look out for people – don’t pressure others or be pressured to take a drink.
  • Drink slowly and try drinks with lower alcohol content and soft drinks.
  • Please don’t bring a child into your bed if you have consumed alcohol.
  • Plan some alcohol-free days – your body will be glad of a break.






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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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