Nurturing kindness

This piece on nurturing kindness in our children comes originally from the Growing Together Newsletter which is produced in Lafayette Indiana – as you might figure out from the opening paragraph. The newsletter is distributed here by The Lifestart Foundation. We may not be dealing with the level of challenges facing America at the moment but nurturing kindness is always a good idea and could even make family life easier.

If you can’t say something nice …..

No matter where your opinions fall on the political spectrum, most of us are agreed that recently we have witnessed extraordinary instances of behaviour in adults that would have been enough to get you sent straight to time-out in the typical preschool. We could start with name-calling and go straight downhill from there. Assuming the adults involved are not about to change their life-habits, I think our only hope is to concentrate on what we can do to instill behaviours of kindness in the children we are raising now.

Becoming a kind person is definitely a key to the path towards happiness. For one thing, the habit
of kindness extends to ourselves; it is hard to be happy if you’re being unkind to yourself. Establishing clear guidelines for behaviours that demonstrate being a caring community member is a far more certain predictor of future success than are the good grades that seem so important to so many parents.

So how do we nurture the attributes of kindness and caring in our

First and foremost, parents must walk the walk. You know as well as I do that children learn more by  example than by any other way. Your kids love you and want to be like you. They need to see that you are a kind person. They need to see you address others respectfully, whether family,
friends or strangers, and no matter how your patience is tried.

There is no way that you can teach kindness when you are making angry gestures at someone, yelling at the representative on the phone, or treating servers rudely. The best side effect of walking the kindness walk for your kids is that you will yourself become a happier, nicer person as well, carrying far less stress in your daily encounters.

And then, talk the talk. When you are talking with teachers in your children’s presence, don’t ask only about school work, but inquire whether your kids are good community members. Not only does this demonstrate your value system to the teacher, but it also impresses the children about the importance of kindness to their family. Who knows what the ripple effect of this would be, as the teacher reflects on how the classroom supports developing prosocial skills.

Make it part of your family dialogue to discuss individuals’ actions and their motivations. As children
consider cause and effect, they come to understand the effects of caring and kindness in their interactions with others, as well as on their positive sense of self. A child who sees herself as kind
will modify her behaviours accordingly.

Expand your circle of concern.

As parents model community service, children become aware that their caring community can expand. Gently, parents help children move out of their comfort zone and learn empathy,
understanding that others may have vastly different experiences and needs.

Appreciate and pay attention to instances of kindness both small and large demonstrated by your kids, whether within your household or beyond. Such attention acts as positive reinforcement, strengthening prosocial tendencies. When we pay attention to acts of kindness, we are likely to
see them increase.

As with everything, this is a process of teaching over time, not just something we can pencil in on
the calendar for next Monday. But think of the impact if every parent concentrated on teaching kindness!





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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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