Supporting our teenagers to build healthy relationships

Healthy Relationships:-

Supporting your young person through Adolescence

Having healthy relationships is a key factor in our overall health and well-being.  Adolescence can be a very exciting time but for many it can also be a time of turmoil particularly when it comes to relationships.  Keeping the channels of communication open is very important for a young person so that they will feel that they can talk to you if they need your help or support.

In many communities across Donegal there are programmes available for young people that focus on relationships. For example, Foróige provide a personal development and sex education programme known as the “Real U”.  This is about equipping young people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop healthy relationships and delay the onset of early sexual activity. Informal sex education can be an important and effective way of enhancing young people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.

Topics covered with young people include puberty, body image, reproduction, sexuality, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, relationships, boundaries and emotional well-being. While the programme is designed to be used with young people aged 12-18 years in a group work setting there may be opportunities to provide this on an individual basis. The programme helps young people develop key skills in making positive decisions and communication to promote positive well-being and confidence in relationships.

If you feel that your son/daughter would benefit from becoming involved in the programme feel free to contact Susan McLoughlin 086 6064291


If your child has told you that they are LGBT then that shows their trust for you.  It is important to believe them, and to remember that being LGBT is not a lifestyle choice.  If you think your child may be LGBT it is not recommended to ask them directly, as they may not know themselves, or may not be ready to tell anybody yet.  It can be a difficult time for young people who are trying to come to terms with who they are, and worrying about being accepted.  Talking openly about LGBT issues indirectly may help them to feel more comfortable about opening up in the future.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual are sexual orientations, while transgender refers to having a different gender identity than the gender they were assigned at birth.

If you are a parent who is finding it hard to come to terms with your child’s sexuality or gender identity, or want to know how best to support them there are several great online Irish resources that can help.

BreakOUT is a Donegal Youth Service project for young LGBT people which provides one-to-one support, peer support, weekly drop-ins, training and more.  Contact Sinead Murray on 0861247968 for more information.

Loving Our Out Kids (formerly Parents’ Support) is a support service for parents of LGBT children.  They offer phone support, and also have many resources for parents about understanding LGBT and how to best support their child.

Belong To is an Irish service for young LGBT people who also provide information and resources for parents.

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence can happen in any relationship, gay or straight, to any gender and at any age. However young people aged 15-24, are more likely to experience abuse in a relationship than any other age group.  Most adults who experience domestic violence have already experienced intimate partner violence for the first time when they were younger.  “60% of people who have experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships experienced abuse for the first time under the age of 25” (National Crime Council & ESRI, 2005).  Intimate partner violence includes emotional, sexual and physical abuse.

If you are concerned about intimate partner violence in your young person’s relationship you can contact Donegal Youth Service who offer a listening ear support service, and information for both young men and young women who may be dealing with these issues in their relationship. They can offer guidance and support to other local services as well, as DYS strive to provide early intervention to limit the effects of intimate partner violence. This service is connected with Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service and Amen.  For more information contact Louise or Frankie on 074 91 29630




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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.

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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