Shaping Ourselves and Our Children

“Shaping Ourselves and Our Children”

SOOC is an exciting new course for parents to have fun and learn about how their children develop their emotional and social skills at home.  Parents will learn how to support their children to develop these skills and how these will benefit their children later at school, in their community and throughout their lives.

Shaping ourselves and our children will help us as parents explore:

  • Hopes and fears we have for our children and their future
  • How home shapes our children for the world outside
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • Communication skills – what parents say and what children hear
  • Learning through Play
  • Respect for diversity and our changing communities.

Each course runs for 4 hours X 4 days under the guidance of warm and supportive tutors, lunch is provided and there is a childcare allowance for parents who need childcare.  On day four of the course parents and children come together for an interactive play session.

To enrol on the next course please give details to your family visitor, nearest Lifestart office or phone Mary at 048 71 365 363


A project supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Digital assistants – what parents need to know

Have you got a digital assistant in your home – whether it is a Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Home? Have you any concerns about it, particularly if you have young children at home who may want to use it too? Here is a good piece from Zeeko which you might find useful:-

Promoting positive behaviour in strong-minded toddlers

Promoting Positive Behaviour in toddlers and young children 

  1. Be aware that challenging behaviour is perfectly normal and healthy in your child during the second year.
  2. Try to understand the reason for the behaviour, namely, that your child is probably “testing the limits” in her search for her own individuality and independence.
  3. Be aware that if your only technique for dealing with negative behaviour is “head-on” confrontation, you are actually offering yourself to the child as a role model for more negative behaviour.
  4. Directing your child’s atten­tion to some positive activity will be more effective than scolding.
  5. Realise the consequences of either extreme. Always giving in will create a spoiled child, while always putting your toddler down will result in a poor self-concept – and a crushed ego.
  6. Giving-in occasionally to your child does not mean giving up your control. Sometimes it’s a responsible choice in the interest of the self-concept and sense of individuality of your child.
  7. Parents who remain calm but firm are not only best for the child but it is also in the best interest of the parent’s own mental well-being.

Promoting Positive Behaviour – Ages and Stages

Infant – under 1 year

Normal behaviour:- cries to make needs known, gets into everything. Learns by touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.

What parents can do:- Let your baby learn to self-soothe. Comforting your baby when he is sick, hurt or upset – rather than ignoring or brushing off the feeling – will help him learn how to do this. Say ‘no’ when your baby does something you don’t want him to, like biting you. Don’t use techniques such as time-out or consequences.

Young toddler 1-2 years

Normal behaviour:- Is starting to test limits as she explores her independence. May be fearful when separating from you. Will learn to say ‘no’. Curious and wants to explore. Too young to remember rules.

What parents can do:- Create a safe environment that your child can explore. Give your child attention when she is being good. Use redirection, with a brief explanation (‘No – hot’)

Older toddler 2 – 3 years

Normal behaviour:- Is becoming more independent. Becomes frustrated when you set limits, and will show it. Becomes very possessive, doesn’t understand the concept of “mine” versus “someone else’s”. Is easily distracted.

What parents can do:- Some frustration is good because it helps your child to start to learn how to problem-solve. But, remember, there are situations your child won’t be able to handle. Give choices when you can. Explain briefly why a behaviour is unacceptable.

Preschooler 3 – 5 years

Normal behaviour:- Should be able to accept better limits, but won’t always make good decisions. Tries to please and wants to feel important. Can follow simple instructions. Can make choices. Asks a lot of questions. Independent. Tries to tell other children what to do. May tell on others.

What parents can do:- Need to provide clear and consistent rules. Set an example through your own actions. Small and appropriate consequences also work. Approval and praise will encourage your child to do good things. Long lectures do not work.

©Lifestart Foundation 2018

Promoting positive behaviour through constructive criticism

Promoting Positive Behaviour through constructive criticism

Unless children are doing something that poses a high risk of disastrous results, sometimes it’s best to let them figure things out on their own and learn through the experience rather than telling them step-by-step what they should or shouldn’t have done or could have done better. Experience is sometimes the best teacher. “Constructive criticism” should be encouraging, helpful, and timely – not negative. When offering children constructive criticism about their work, behaviors, or attempts at doing things on their own, think about the following:

  1. Even though a parent may be frustrated with a child’s behaviour, they should not use belittling language, an angry or frustrated tone of voice, or making fun of a child’s honest mistakes.
  2. When there is a need to critique, be ready to teach. A parent should have a child’s undivided attention before voicing their concerns. Direct constructive criticisms toward the behaviour or mistake, not the child. Parents should set the example of what they want their children to learn by taking the time to show them. Ask “May I tell/show you what usually works for me?” “Let me show you what helps me…” Offer the child an opportunity to correct his/ her mistake whether it’s repeating a chore that wasn’t done properly or correcting an inappropriate or incorrect behavior.
  3. Never make one-sided, hurtful comments; be ready to address specific actions or behaviors with a lesson or helpful and thoughtful suggestion. Using positive words yields positive results. “You really do __________ well. Next time, you might also try…” “This way helped me a lot when I was learning to…”
  4. Never use name-calling or label, even in jest, as it is really hurtful for a child and will affect their self-esteem. Never openly criticize children in front of others. It’s hard enough to accept criticism, even constructive criticism, when there is an audience present.
  5. Take advantage of teachable moments by offering help and constructive criticism – unless it really just isn’t the time or place to do so. Timing is everything; a parent should not wait until the child has forgotten the incident or mistake. A parent needs to make it clear to a child that they are offering suggestions and constructive criticism so he/she can do better next time. Don’t dwell on a child’s past mistakes. Constructive criticism is for the future, not the past.
  6. Parents should use a voice that has the tone of a helpful attitude. A knee-jerk reaction of screaming and yelling or using other derogatory remarks deflates self-esteem and falls on deaf ears. If a child hears an angry voice, that’s all he/she will hear. Our goal as parents is to give constructive criticism as painlessly and tactfully as possible so the child will receive it properly and learn from it.
  7. Remember, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. When children realize their own mistakes, they are less likely to repeat them. There is nothing to gain by pointing out and dwelling on their mistakes when it’s obvious they learned something from them.

©Lifestart Foundation 2018

Encouraging good self-esteem in our children

What is self-esteem?

The term “self-esteem” refers to the feelings a person has about his/her own value or worth. There are two main components of a person’s self-esteem, how much they feel loved and valued, and how capable they feel. A child with good self-esteem feels loved and important in life whereas a child with low self-esteem may feel not so important or feel they are likely to fail when met with a new task.

Self-esteem is something that is learned, not something we are born with. A young child’s self-concept is determined mostly by the “messages” a child receives from others, particularly their parents. These messages can be deliberate or unconscious, verbal and non-verbal. Sometimes the messages a child receives is not what parents really intend. Lastly, the seeds of a child’s self-esteem are sown in the home during the important early, pre-school years.

Why is Self-Esteem important?

Parents want their child to grow up to be happy and confident individuals. When children with high self-esteem are compared to children with low self-esteem, they are usually found to be more self-confident, perform better in school, have more friends, and view their relationship with their parents more positively. Research supports that children with high self-esteem are more resilient in response to life’s challenges and less likely to succumb to peer pressure.

Fostering good self-esteem requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, and self-control. This effort, however, is well worthwhile in promoting a child’s psychological well-being. 

Self-Esteem: The Building Blocks

  • A warm and loving environment
  • Encouraging independence
  • Providing challenges for your child
  • Good discipline
A warm and loving environment

The development of self-esteem starts at the infant stage, when a child develops strong attachments to the adults who are caring for them and who are responsible for their safety and basic needs. This is also when a child begins to formulate a sense of trust for those around them. When a parent provides a child with what they need, a healthy attachment is formed and this acts as the foundation for the child feeling secure and understanding that he or she can count on adults to provide them with what they need in life.

As children grow and develop their individuality, they need to feel loved just for being themselves. It is important for a child to know that their parents love them through the use of affectionate words as well as hugs and kisses. Warmth from parents should not be dependent on behaviour, ability, or a child’s personal traits.

It is also important that parents set aside a special time of the day to spend uninterrupted time with their child. This is a time to allow a child to make a choice in what they want to play, express themselves to their parents and know they have a captive audience which helps build their language skills as well as self-esteem.

Encouraging independence

Children need a sense of competence, a sense of being able to do things. Helping children develop self-help skills gives them feelings of independence which enhances their self-esteem. Even from the early baby and toddler stage, parents can encourage a child to do simple things like feeding themselves finger foods or getting a ball that has rolled into an awkward place. Look out for the things a child is able to do and allow them a chance to do them.

If there is a task that is more challenging like getting dressed, try to simplify the task by breaking it into steps so that a child may experience success in doing even a part of it under their parents guidance.

Encouraging these self-help skills like undressing and dressing, washing their hands and face, eating with a knife and fork and keeping their things tidy are some goals that will give them a sense of achievement.

Providing challenges for a child

In order to build self-esteem, a child needs to have challenging experiences which are appropriate to their stage of development. This might be a physical challenge, like playing on a climbing frame at the park or a more mental task like playing with a jigsaw. Activities that are developmentally appropriate provide a child with a sense of challenge leading to success.

By experiencing such growth and achievement, children learn to take pride in their accomplishments and in themselves.

Good Discipline (Think and Link – Behaviour Management – Positive Parenting)

A firm and loving approach to parenting will help foster a child’s self-esteem. Age appropriate rules, boundaries and structures will provide a sense of security from these clear expectations. If a child receives positive feedback and attention for good behaviour while ignoring minor misbehaviours, this creates an atmosphere of warmth and understanding.

On the subject of discipline, it is important to know that there is a big difference between expressing disapproval of misbehavior and expressing general disapproval of a child. This is a very important distinction to make and a distinction a child needs to understand. Along with discipline should come praise whenever a child listens or does something well. Such positive discipline helps build self-esteem and confidence. Good discipline means focussing objectively on a child’s behaviour rather than the child’s self and will therefore not damage their self-esteem. For example the statement, “I love you, but I don’t like what you have just done” helps a child know that their parent loves them even though they may be critical of the child’s actions. Lastly, if there is conflict between parent and child, then involving the child in solving the problem can sometimes be managed and makes the child feel important.

It is important a child feels they have their parents’ unconditional love and that any discipline is aimed at their behavior and not them.

Ten Ways You Can Build High Self-Esteem in your Child
  1. Plan activities for positive parent-child interactions
  2. Be spontaneous and make the most of opportunities to interact with your child
  3. Pay attention to what your child is telling you – not just what you want to hear or what you want to say to your child
  4. Encourage your child to tell more about the things they do
  5. Do not be judgemental about what your child has told you
  6. Become more aware of what you say to your child, when you say it and how you say it
  7. Show affection for your child not just in actions but also in words
  8. Pay attention to and reward your child’s good behaviour
  9. Give your child some real age-appropriate responsibility which you know your child can do
  10. Make a deliberate decision to help build your child’s self-esteem

©Lifestart Foundation 2018

On-line gaming: Fortnite – what parents need to know

One of the biggest areas of concern for parents as we found out in a recent survey, is keeping children safe on line. Here is a piece from Zeeko –  a Dublin based internet safety company based in UCD – about the game that all the kids are talking about – Fortnite

Just click the link:- 

You will find lots of good information and support on their website to help you help your child to stay safe online.

Jigsaw Donegal offers 5 simple ways to support your mental health

Are you looking for simple ways to support your mental health? Have a look at the Jigsaw Donegal video on this link – MyWee5 – five simple ways to support your mental health every day. Just click the link:-

If you want to find out more about Jigsaw just click this link:-

What is Jigsaw Donegal?

Jigsaw Donegal

provides a free and confidential support service for young people aged 15 – 25, with our centre based at Pearse Road in Letterkenny. Just click the link to find out more: –

Jigsaw Donegal aims to make sure that young people’s voices are heard, and that they get the right support, where and when they need it. Jigsaw Donegal is a partnership between HSE and The Alcohol Forum.

How can Jigsaw Donegal help? if I’m a young person…

Jigsaw offers a one-to-one support service for young people aged between 15 and 25. We can assess your mental health and help you to understand what is going on for you. We will work with you to set goals around what you would like to be different in your life. Then we will support you to reach those goals, through talking things out, problem solving, learning new skills and / or hooking you up with other services that might be able to help (e.g. education & training; youth services etc).

Jigsaw helps young people through the current hurdles, learning skills along the way that will help them overcome the next challenge that comes their way. Jigsaw is a free and confidential service that is built on really listening to you and your experience and working with you to make things better.

Just ring in or call in during our drop in hours.

 If I am worried about someone…

We can advise you on the best service for the young person based on the information you provide.

As a parent we can inform you of how to support a young person yourself or how to help them access Jigsaw or other supports that they might need.

Opening hours (Letterkenny only):

Monday 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 6pm

Tuesday 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 6pm

Wednesday 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 6pm

Thursday 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 8pm

Friday 9am – 1pm

Drop-in hours (Letterkenny only):

Monday   2pm – 3pm

Tuesday  2pm – 3pm

Wednesday 2pm – 3pm

Thursday 3pm – 5pm

Closed: The Monday of Bank Holidays

Find us on Facebook
 Follow us on Twitter

Jigsaw Donegal is not a 24 hour or Emergency service. Our phone and email services are NOT checked outside of drop-in hours. If you need help outside of these hours, click the link:-

Jigsaw Outreach

Jigsaw Donegal also provides outreach services to other parts of the county to make it more accessible for young people to get the help they need where and when they need it.

We operate in the following areas one day a week strictly for appointments only, there is no drop in facility in any outreach centre.

Inishowen Development Partnership, Buncrana

Community Hospital, Killybegs

Ballyshannon Health Campus, Ballyshannon

Parentstop, Carndonagh

If you would like to find out more about any outreach area or how to go about making a referral please contact us on 074 9726920. Or click the link:-