Here is an interesting piece from the Independent on boosting our children’s immune systems before they go back to school. It is written by Brian Higgins who is a GP at Galway Primary Care. The original article can be downloaded here https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/how-to-boost-your-kids-immune-system-39432060.html
The Jigsaw website provides great well being and mental health support for young people and for their families. Sadly, some families are dealing with grief at the moment – because of Covid 19 or other causes – and it can cause added stress when we can’t come together to support each other as we would have done in the past. The article below is reproduced from the Jigsaw website and you can access the original here https://jigsawonline.ie/young-people/grief-and-loss-in-exceptional-times/
Grief and loss in exceptional times – Jigsaw Online
During the past few months so much has changed in our world. Certain things continue – people get sick, people die, people die suddenly. And sadly, many people have died of Covid-19.
But, everything feels quite different now, when the usual rituals and coming together are no longer available to us. There is no right way to feel, or to grieve the loss of someone we love. However, there might be some things we can do to ease the pain and strangeness a little. Of course, they will be different for everyone and it’s about finding your own way.
This can be especially difficult when someone we love is in hospital or a nursing home, and we are not allowed to visit. If they are well enough to talk on the phone or Facetime, then this can be a helpful way to connect.
You may prefer to remember the person as they were when they were well, and that’s OK too. Try writing a letter to express what you would like to say or what you didn’t get to say. This can feel supportive whether your loved one reads it or not.
Managing the funeral or service
Funerals and services are very different now; only attended by a few people. If you’re not able to go the service, then stay in touch with friends and family who are attending virtually. Remember, you are not alone.
When attending via live-stream, try to watch with friends and family. If this is not possible, connect with someone afterwards either on the phone or text.
It’s also OK not to watch, or to step away half way through if you prefer. You could think about setting up or attending a virtual family gathering afterwards. Come together to remember your loved one, exchange photos or play music that reminds you of them.
Other ways to remember
Some people find it helpful to create a memory box, either on your own or with family and friends. Gather photographs, objects, items that remind you of your loved one. Decorate your box.
If you have a garden space or even a pot on a windowsill, planting some flowers or a tree is a lovely way to honour of them. Many of the garden centres are opening up now, but you can also buy online, or ask neighbours or friends to help.
“It can help to gently name and acknowledge the feelings without judgement”
Allow your feelings
You are likely to feel a whole rush of different feelings at this time. These can include things like:
- feeling OK one moment and not the next
- moving from sad to confused to angry to happy in a few minutes
- feeling relief rather than grief
- loneliness, or preferring the privacy and quiet time you have just now
- physical feelings such as a heaviness in your chest or a churning in your stomach
- maybe you don’t feel that much at all.
It can sometimes help to gently name and acknowledge the feelings, without judgement and without moving too deeply into them. When names don’t come easily for a feeling, make up a word that works. Bleurgh, fuzzy, sparkly, numb – whatever word or nonsense word that works for you. Try and allow your experience, no matter what it is.
Use your senses
If you are experiencing strong feelings and struggling with grief, using your senses can help to ground you. Sometimes it can be helpful to ground through your hands and feet.
Walk in the back garden or in your bedroom in your bare feet. Steal some playdoh from your younger sibling and roll it in your hands.
Gather together a ‘soothe box’. Put in an item for each sense – something soft like a cosy blanket or jumper, a smell you like, a picture that calms you, and some music that you like. Take time for you. Wrap yourself up, with your favourite hot drink and listen to music.
>> Listen to Jigsaw clinician Leona talk through a grounding tool called ‘ACE’
Talk or don’t talk
Some days it might helpful to be connected in with others, and sometimes you might want to be alone. That’s OK. Just be careful of cutting yourself off completely. It can be good to find ways to connect with other people that don’t involve much talking. Watching movies or playing games together, either online or with people in your home.
Remember it’s OK to laugh and to have fun in moments, and that it’s actually quite healing. Talk to family and friends about your loved one who has died if that feels right. Writing down how you feel is good too, if you’re not ready to talk.
Take a look at ways to contact Jigsaw if you would prefer to talk to someone outside your network.
Do what helps
This is the time to do those things you enjoy and are able to do in your own home. For example:
- use a creative outlet that you find supportive, like playing an instrument
- play video games, or watch a favourite series or film
- do your best to eat well and rest well, even if you don’t feel like it
- being in nature can be very healing, so do try to get outside.
You might find comfort in returning to your study/work routine. Or perhaps concentration is difficult so give yourself permission to do nothing. Just let things settle as they are with no judgement.
>> Get some ideas from young people and Jigsaw clinicians about self-care during covid-19
There may be a lot of stress around at the moment – for parents and for children. Here Josephine Meehan from Springboard Family Support Project shares some fun relaxation games for families which can help us to unwind. This article is part of the “Parenting through Covid 19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy” which was produced by the staff of Springboard Family Support Project and Finn Valley Family Resource Centre.
When some people think of mindfulness they conjure up images of Buddhist monks sitting alone on a mountain chanting! However as a parent I have found mindful practices a valuable resource for my self-care toolbox. It is a great gift to instill in children which they can use in lots of different situations they may have to face in the future. It really is just about paying attention to the present moment. The best way to teach a child to be mindful is to practice mindfulness yourself. It is not always easy to stay calm and mindful, believe me I know!
Here is a simple technique for parents or caregivers who find themselves upset and out of touch with the present moment.
- Stop. Just take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
- Take a breath. Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
- Observe. Acknowledge what is happening, the good or bad, inside you or in the environment. Just note it.
- Proceed. Having briefly checked in with the present moment, continue with whatever it was you were doing.
There are lots of mindfulness videos, music and helpful resources and techniques available free online, but just remember not to get too bogged down in the science of it or whether you are doing it right or not. Mindfulness for children should be fun and help us as parents/carers to explore, reflect and learn about ourselves and our children. We are all on a learning journey.
Here are a few simple exercises that will encourage relaxation in a playful and
interactive way for parents and children.
Pretend you have a nice smelling flower in one hand and a slow burning candle in the other. Breathe in slowly through your nose as you smell the flower. Breathe out slowly through your mouth as you blow out the candle. Repeat a few times.
Imagine you can reach up to the tree and pick a lemon with each hand. Pretend you have a lemon in each hand. Squeeze the lemons hard to get all the juice out – squeeze, squeeze and squeeze. Throw the lemons on the floor and relax your hands. Then repeat, until you have enough juice for a glass of lemonade! After your last squeeze and throw, shake out your hands to relax.
Pretend you are a lazy cat that just woke up from a lovely, long nap. Have a big yawn and a meow. Now stretch out your arms, legs and back slowly like a cat and relax.
Pretend you are a feather floating through the air for ten seconds. Suddenly you freeze and transform into a statue. Don’t move! Then slowly relax as you
transform back into the floating feather again. Repeat as many times as you like making sure to finish as a floating feather in a relaxed state.
Pretend you are a turtle going for a slow, relaxed turtle walk. Oh no, it’s started to rain! Curl up tight under your shell for about ten seconds. The sun’s out again, so come out of your shell and return to your relaxing walk. Repeat a few times, making sure to finish with a walk so that your body is relaxed.
Our thanks to Josephine Meehan Family Support Worker, Springboard for these great ideas. You can find more helpful hints to keep home life happy here
It is perfectly normal to be finding life stressful at the moment. We are living in extraordinary times and so it is really important to look after ourselves. Here are some good tips from the HSE website https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/covid-19/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html about minding our mental health.
Minding your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Infectious disease pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.
How it might affect your mental health
The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus. Try to remember this when you feel worried.
Most people’s lives will change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.
You may notice some of the following:
- increased anxiety
- feeling stressed
- finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
- becoming irritable more easily
- feeling insecure or unsettled
- fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
- having trouble sleeping
- feeling helpless or a lack of control
- having irrational thoughts
If you are taking any prescription medications, make sure you have enough.
How to mind your mental health during this time
Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.
We also have guides on:
- Young people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
- Older people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.
Read up-to-date, factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here.
On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.
If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.
Keep up your healthy routines
Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.
It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.
For example, you could try to:
- exercise regularly, especially walking but keep within 5 kilometres of your home
- keep regular sleep routines
- maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- avoid excess alcohol
- practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises
- read a book
- search for online exercise or yoga classes, concerts, religious services or guided tours
- improve your mood by doing something creative
Stay connected to others
During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.
If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:
- social media
- video calls
- phone calls
- text messages
Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.
Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don’t have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.
Try to anticipate distress and support each other
It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.
Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.
Online and phone supports
Face-to-face services are limited at the moment because of the coronavirus outbreak. But some services are providing online and phone services.
Find mental health supports and services that can help during COVID-19 outbreak
If you are using mental health services for an existing mental health condition
If things get difficult, it can be helpful to have a plan to help you get through.
Things you can do:
- have a list of numbers of mental health service and relatives or friends you can call if you need support
- keep taking any medication and continue to fill your prescription with support from your GP or psychiatrist
- continue with any counselling or psychotherapy session you have
- limit your news intake and only use trusted sources of information
- practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
If your condition gets worse, contact your mental health team or GP.
If you have an intellectual disability
If you have an intellectual disability, you may feel more worried or sad because of coronavirus. Staying at home could be difficult for you. You could also be worried about your family or those close to you.
It is important to take care of yourself. Try to keep a routine, shower every day and eat healthy food
Follow the advice to stay at home. You can keep in touch with people you trust over the phone or the internet.
Read advice about supporting someone with special needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
For more advice on minding your mental health visit inclusionireland.ie
It is also important to prevent spreading the virus. For information on how to do this, read the HSE Coronavirus Easy-Read Information Booklet.
OCD and coronavirus
If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:
- catching coronavirus
- causing harm to others
- things not being in order
Fear of being infected by the virus may mean you become obsessed with:
- hand hygiene
- avoiding certain situations, such as using public transport
Washing your hands
The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.
Follow the advice above. Wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.
Read more about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, treatment and getting help.
One of the things we can do to help ourselves at the moment is to strengthen our immune system. In the article below Dr Mercey Livingston explores what the immune system is and how it works and suggests five ways in which we can strengthen our immune system.
- Nutrition – avoiding junk food and eating a healthy diet
- Supplements especially Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D
- Sleep – with an average of eight hours recommended and more for children and teenagers
- Moderate regular exercise – which also is a great stress reliever and mood booster
- Reducing stress – may be easier said than done but finding some activity which calms you, whether it is meditation, music, walking etc
Read the article in full at https://www.cnet.com/health/5-ways-to-strengthen-your-immunity-according-to-an-md/
Here is a lovely book for children who may feel they are the only ones who are worried.
You can download the book here https://en.calameo.com/read/000777721945cfe5bb9cc?authid=Xu9pcOzU3TQx
Remember if you have concerns that your children are not coping you can arrange to talk to a Family Support Worker by phoning the Donegal Parent Support line on FREEPHONE 1800 112277
This article from the journal.ie website https://www.thejournal.ie/ looks at how new and expectant mothers may find themselves struggling with mental health issues in the current pandemic situation. Remember if you are struggling with any issues you can contact Donegal Parent Support line on FREEPHONE 1800 112277.
You can also click the link to download Aware NI A guide to looking after the mental health of you and your baby
Some new and expectant mothers finding Covid-19 crisis ‘very challenging’
NEW AND EXPECTANT mothers should not hesitate to seek help for mental health issues, especially as they may worsen due to the pandemic, a consultant in the Rotunda Hospital has advised.
The hospital provides a specialist psychiatry service for women who are thinking of conceiving, those who are pregnant and for women up to a year after they give birth as part of its mental health hub.
Up to one in five women experience mental health difficulties in pregnancy or after birth, according to the HSE.
A consultant of perinatal psychiatry at the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Richard Duffy, said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on many peoples’ mental health so far.
Perinatal refers to any time from conception up to around a year after birth.
“A lot of the women who attend our service, some are in direct provision, homeless and some are in quite cramped accommodation and it’s very difficult for people in such circumstances to manage at a time like this after giving birth,” Duffy told TheJournal.ie.
“For people in those situations, it has definitely been very challenging.
“A lot of people are very reliant on their parents – the mothers and fathers are relying on their parents for support and when they’re deprived of seeing them it adds an extra pressure.”
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy, affecting about 10-15% of pregnant women.
The mental health hub in the Rotunda can help to treat a wide range of pre-existing and newly developed conditions including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and birth trauma.
Duffy said in the first few weeks of the pandemic, some new mothers found it a bit easier as there was no pressure to see a lot of people after the birth of their child.
However, he said overall this time has had a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of pregnant people and mothers with newborn babies.
“We are seeing women who may be in hospital for four or five days or potentially longer for their birth with no visitors… This can be stressful,” Duffy said.
For any new or expectant mothers experiencing mental health difficulties, Duffy recommends contacting a GP or the service directly sooner rather than later.
“For a lot of mental health services, people feel there are a lot of barriers. We try to remove as many of the barriers as possible for women,” he said.
I think a lot of people are afraid of attending our services. It’s in no way a reflection of somebody’s ability to parent if they are experiencing mental health issues, it’s really common and in most places it’s very treatable.
“For people who are pregnant, it’s really important they try and treat mental health difficulties while they are pregnant instead of waiting to see if it goes away when the baby is born,” Duffy said.
The mental health hub in the Rotunda also provides some specialist services to Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
This hub is comprised of consultants, non-consultant hospital doctors, mental health nurses, psychologists, social workers and administration staff members.
In terms of adjusting some services during the pandemic, a lot of consultations are done over the phone and some therapy is provided via video link.
A specialist clinic for birth trauma and tokophobia, which is the fear of birth, is also being developed in the Rotunda.
“Our midwives and our psychologist have really led the way with these clinics and it’s an emerging area,” Duffy said.
Remember if you need to talk to someone about any of these issue or other parenting challenges which are stressing you at the moment just FREEPHONE 1800 112277 for the Donegal Parent Support line.
Here is an interesting article from the University of Alberta in Canada
How families can cope with pandemic stress
We can’t control our negative thoughts and feelings, but we can choose how we respond to them, says U of A expert.
By BEV BETKOWSKI
How do families cope with the emotional upheaval caused by COVID-19 without falling apart?
It is possible to keep personal relationships from crumbling under stress by choosing how to react, said Adam Galovan, a University of Alberta expert in family dynamics.
“Many people are going to be upset or angry because of job losses or cutbacks and all that that might mean. Most social engagements are also being cancelled. Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear picture of when this will end, which can lead to a lot of anxiety. Because of this, it’s important for people to acknowledge how they feel, whether it’s angry, fearful or sad.
“They can’t control their negative feelings, but they can control how they respond to those feelings.”
That means working to avoid “ineffective coping” like eating a whole bucket of ice cream or an entire pizza, or snapping at the kids or each other, Galovan advised.
“If we can recognize and understand our feelings, we will likely be able to think of other, more healthy ways to cope.”
Galovan said that when we’re stressed, we tend to go to our baseline coping tendencies; some get agitated, others shut down.
And there’s often a pursuer-avoider pattern in relationships, he added.
“One person wants to address an issue and tackle it head-on, while the other partner wants to ignore it. During stressful times, this can become more pronounced.”
Pursuers should monitor their feelings and consider outlets for reducing their anxiety and tendency to seek control, like exercise or meditation, Galovan suggested.
Avoiders may need to ask themselves if they can be coping more effectively.
“It can be helpful to journal their feelings, and then talk with their partner about how they’re feeling.
“Often, just voicing our feelings, having that conversation, helps relieve the tension and helps us feel less stressed. It also opens up dialogue to get a better perspective on what’s going on with one another,” said Galovan.
And when partners can’t agree on how to handle something like a money issue, having some empathy for the other person is a good place to start to address the issue, Galovan said.
“It’s key to say it’s us against this problem, rather than me versus you. For instance, if one person wants to keep a cable TV subscription because they find it helps ease their stress, then maybe they can find another way to cut costs. If we can put ourselves in our partner’s shoes and have some empathy for what they’re experiencing, then we can talk through it and find another solution.”
Even though work and school have been upended by COVID-19 lockdowns, Galovan said establishing a routine at home eases stress.
“Get up at the normal hour you did before, eat meals at a set time. We are creatures of habit, especially kids, so if we can do some things consistently when other things are up in the air, it helps us all feel more grounded.”
Don’t forget about the kids
It’s important that parents not allow their own stress to spill over to their children.
Galovan said being aware of our own stress is also helpful so we don’t react to those feelings by treating our children in a harsher way. For example, he said, parents might have less patience and snap at their children, or spank them when we usually don’t.
Instead, parents can take a timeout.
“Most situations with a child don’t need to be handled right away, so take a break and calm down, then come back to it,” he said.
“And if you have responded more negatively than you should have, apologize. It might be helpful to explain some of your stresses. Kids are usually very understanding.”
It’s important to really listen to your kids and try to understand them, he added.
Children’s routines have been disrupted, and they are likely to experience higher stress as they adjust, Galovan said, adding that it’s key for parents to allow their children to share their feelings without being criticized.
“Some of the fears and worries kids have might seem trivial to adults, but their feelings are real. Simply acknowledging that something is difficult, frustrating, or scary can help a child feel heard and understood. That reduces the likelihood that they’ll react negatively to their feelings of stress,” said Galovan.
He suggested parents talk to their kids about how to deal with stress in healthy ways.
“It’s OK for a child to be angry, upset or frustrated, but it’s not OK for them to hit a sibling or break something. So parents can talk about what their kids can do when they feel that way. Maybe they need to hit a pillow. Maybe they need to go exercise or play a game.”
Hold on to hope; seek help
Galovan said it helps to recognize the big things in life like having good health and loved ones, and also focus on the small positive things that bring happiness into our lives, like listening to a favourite song, sharing a story with a child, appreciating a sunset or connecting with a family member over the phone.
“Recognizing these small enjoyments keeps us going and gives us more energy to tackle the big challenges,” he said.
And if you need to, get help from available community support resources like phone or online counselling, he advised.
“If you’re suffering, know that you are not alone and that there are people who are willing and waiting to help.”
People are resilient, he added.
“Change is hard, but we do have immense capacity to adapt.”
Here’s another very interesting piece from Dr Malie Coyne from NUI Galway. It was posted a while back on the RTÉ website but it remains very relevant today.
How to build a happy baby
This innate need for a meaningful relationship was described in John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory (1969), who believed that the primary caregiver acts as a prototype for future relationships via the internal working model, which is a framework for understanding the world, the self and others. Mary Ainsworth and colleagues further developed this theory in their observational studies of individual differences in attachment, including “secure” versus “insecure” attachment styles.
Put simply, a child-parent “secure” attachment refers to the availability of the caregiver to:
– Provide safety and security to the baby
– Attune to and respond to their needs
– Provide comfort when they are upset
– Share in joyful experiences
– Enable the child to feel special and begin to develop a positive sense of self.
Positive infant mental health is synonymous with a child’s ability to form secure relationships, to regulate their emotions, to explore their environment and to learn and develop cognitive capacities across the lifespan. Although it is a relatively new concept amongst many, it is “everyone’s business” and fast becoming an important public health issue, spurred on by a growing field of research and practice. It is the quality of the early relationship which builds the foundation for virtually every aspect of human development, including emotional, physical and intellectual.
Dr J Kevin Nugent, one of the world’s leading experts on early child development and director of the Brazelton Institute, referred to the revolution which has taken place in our scientific understanding of the capacity of babies and in the workings of their brains when addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in 2015. Research points to a critical window of opportunity that exists in the first three years of life, where the brain develops as much as 90 percent of its wiring, which is impacted significantly by the baby’s experience of everyday interactions with their caregiver.
It is this steadfast evidence for the critical importance of the early years which has sparked my passion for the area. My personal experience of primary care psychology in Ireland seldom focusing on children under three has driven my determination to change the status quo. I am not alone in this growing interest, as there are some worthy initiatives happening in Ireland, including the introduction of the internationally recognised Infant Mental Health Competency Guidelines by the Irish Association of Infant Mental Health (I-AIMH), the establishment of the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Special Interest Group (PIMHSIG), and the presence of localised inter-disciplinary Infant Mental Health Network Groups.
They highlight the message that nobody is looking for perfect; a baby just needs “good enough”.
A true highlight of my clinical psychology career to date has been my participation in the multi-agency Early Years Sub-Group of Galway C.Y.P.S.C (Children and Young People’s Services Committee), when we were given the task of creating a four-year plan for improving the health and well-being of new borns to three year olds in Galway city. Following an extensive consultation process carried out by H.S.E. Health Promotion and Galway City Partnership with parents, professionals and local community groups, we devised the Galway City Early Years Health and Wellbeing Plan 2016-2020, with a key target area being the promotion of infant mental health.
To this end, the Early Years Sub-Group will be joined by the H.S.E., Galway Healthy Cities and Galway Parent Network, to launch our “Building a Happy Baby” posters on March 7 in the Maternity Classroom at University College Hospital Galway.
Derived from Unicef and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Baby Friendly Initiative, our plan is to display posters in every facility parents attend in an effort to promote the child-parent attachment and to dispel common myths.
There are four posters in all, each containing simple evidence-based messages which feature multi-cultural babies and parents which we plan to translate into different languages. They are positively framed in emphasising humans’ innate abilities to look after their babies and highlighting the message that nobody is looking for perfect, a baby just needs “good enough”.
Here’s a breakdown of each poster. Please note that babies are referred to as “he”.
Poster 1: “New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved, like they matter in the world!”
Myth: Babies become spoilt and demanding if they are given too much attention.
Truth: When babies’ needs for love and comfort are met, they will be calmer and grow up to be more confident.
Evidence: Close skin-to-skin body contact, postnatally and beyond, significantly improves the physical and mental health and wellbeing for both mother and baby. When babies feel secure, they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happier and more confident as they grow older. Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also releases oxytocin in you which also has a soothing effect.
Poster 2: “Holding a baby when they cry helps them to grow into a confident and trusting toddler.”
Myth: You should leave babies alone so that they learn to be independent.
Truth: Babies left alone think they have been abandoned so become more clingy and insecure when you are around.
Evidence: Early separation from those we depend can be very frightening for a baby and raise cortisol levels in the baby’s brain, which shapes their developing nervous system and determines how stress is interpreted and responded to in the future. Babies who are held and soothed when in distress grow into more confident toddlers who are better able to deal with being away from their parents temporarily, rather than becoming clingy.
Poster 3: “Holding, smiling and talking to your baby releases a loving hormone in you and your baby. This makes you both feel calm and happier.”
Myth: Babies need lots of toys to keep them busy and help them learn.
Truth: Looking at your face is the best way for babies to learn. Talking, listening and smiling helps your baby’s brain to grow.
Evidence: Despite pressure to buy the latest gadget, what matters most to your baby and their sense of security is having quality time with YOU. In this “serve and return” interaction, babies naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expression and gestures and adults respond with similar vocalizing and gesturing. This process is fundamental to the wiring of their brains and marks the beginning of your baby feeling understood, building a firm foundation for self-esteem.
Poster 4. “Keep your baby close to you so that you can learn how to meet their needs and read their signals for hunger or comfort”.
Myth: It is important to get babies into a routine as that makes your life easier.
Truth: New babies are not capable of learning a routine. Responding to their needs makes them feel secure and cry less.
Evidence: Keep your baby close so that you can start to recognise the signals he makes to tell you he is hungry, tired or wants a cuddle. Responding to these signals will not only support brain development but make your baby feel safe and secure. A mother rocking her crying baby saying gently “you poor little thing have a hunger pain in your tummy and I’m just going to feed you now” is helping the baby to manage their emotions now and in the future.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ
Families are probably spending more time together during this pandemic than we ever have before. How do we make the best of that time together and build positive memories for ourselves and for our children? Chloe McGinty who is a Family Support Worker with Springboard Family Support Project offers some ideas in the booklet ‘Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy’ which is produced by the team at Springboard and Finn Valley FRC. You can download the booklet here https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf
Making the most of family time
Social distancing has provided us with an opportunity for more family time. While these restrictions have brought great disruption to our lives, we can use this time to keep our children safe, and provide them with support to maintain their happiness. It can allow us to further strengthen relationships with our children and families.
This gift of time is not about making comparisons to friends, family and
neighbours. While some will bake beautiful cakes, make a wooden play house or complete all their school work, some will simply watch a movie, draw a picture or read a book. This is your time and your family. This is not a competition about productivity or success. It’s likely that you are doing more as a family now without realising; maybe eating together for meals or simply being in each other’s company.
It is a time to get to know each other, our likes/dislikes, our hobbies and interests and what gets on our nerves. Ignore the detailed daily schedules and do what works best for you as a family. We have no control over the re-opening of schools, crèches or sports clubs. If you are cooking and cleaning a lot, you are not alone. A few months ago a large number of us parents could be heard moaning about the school lunches, school collections and Mum’s/Dad’s taxi to and from afterschool activities. We have more time to
teach our children how to help or to learn how to use a hoover or empty the bins. These are life skills that they can bring with them in to their adult life, even if they will never do it just the way we would.
We have a responsibility as parents to provide love, reassurance and security. Our children will display challenging behaviours that could very likely be a result of the worries and emotions that they cannot manage alone. Let’s not be hard on them or ourselves.
Why not involve your children in the daily plans. Take one day at a time. Ask your children what they would like to do and make a plan together.
Go back to basics, this time at home doesn’t summons you to learn a new language or invent a new gadget. Enjoy the sunshine, nature, family, music, dancing and imagination. Be careful of the time spent on social media as a parent. Be mindful of the conversations we are having in front of the children. Model the behaviour we want. Try to remain positive, despite the doubts and fears we face about life returning to “normal”. The more positive you can be; the more valuable the family time will be.
Take care of yourself; children are watching how you are coping. The simple but wonderful opportunity we have to play with our children can allow us to forget, for a moment the seriousness of the world around us.
You can get more handy hints to keep home life happy here