Parenting can be challenging and this article from the Toddlers Den website looks at what some of those challenges are in the 21st century. Find the link to the original article below
Your baby’s temperament usually becomes clear fairly early on and it can be challenging to realise that you are parenting a little person whose temperament may be different to your own. Here are some great tips from the Playgroup NSW website about different temperaments and how to parent them.
Here is another excellent piece from “Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep family life happy” produced by the team at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project. This time they have called upon the expertise of Wendy McCarry, manager of The Bluestack Foundation who is herself mum to a child with additional needs.
Parenting a child with additional needs through Covid 19
Make Self Care a Priority
On an aeroplane, the air hostess tells you; that if the pressure falls in the cabin, to put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to your child’s mask. The key message here is that if you are not ok, you will not be able to help your own child.
We DO have a bigger load
As parents of children with additional needs we know how very much more attending to their needs can take from us as carers, than that of non-disabled children. So, you are not being selfish, or self-obsessed by practicing strict SELF-CARE routines. Be kind and generous with yourself remembering you are doing the best you can within the circumstances. You don’t have to do everything by the book, you just have to survive. When you get the first inkling that you are not managing or not in a positive headspace, seek help. Help is out there.
You are not alone
Try to Stay connected with yours and your child’s network. Check in with their
therapists, doctors, teachers, social worker, and any social networks they are in. While the traditional ways of staying in contact like face to face meetings are no longer possible, most organisations are offering virtual connections through whatsapp, zoom, and other social media platforms.
Address the Elephant in the room
While many of our children with additional needs may have compromised expressive communication skills their receptive skills can be excellent. They may be overhearing and exposed to lots of new information on COVID 19, talk of people getting sick and dying and may be afraid and confused. So, while it is important to stay up-todate with what is happening, it is important that a balance is gained between discussing the issues around COVID – 19 and not becoming over obsessed with social media and too much information.
Expect increased Anxiety
Anxiety often comes from a place of loss: our children have lost their routines, their traditional connections and the familiar, stable faces they are used to. An increase in anxiety can often lead to an increase in behaviours that challenge; meltdowns and shutdowns. You are the one consistent feature they have now. Try to be consistent in your approaches/responses. You are their anchor for stability. Your strength is paramount.
Embrace the opportunity
In the greater scheme of things, we have a choice to see this as a huge burden, which is justifiable or see this as a unique opportunity for creating deeper and stronger bonds with our children. We have fewer external distractions, an opportunity to really focus on our families, on being present, on creating an environment that can really strengthen our familial relationships. Play the games, dance to the music, sing the songs, plant the flowers, bake the cakes, take the time to embrace and enjoy the unique interests, gifts and abilities of our children with additional needs.
This too shall pass.
Wendy McCarry. Manager, Bluestack Special Needs Foundation
You can read more of the articles about Parenting through Covid19 here
Having everyone at home full-time could be challenging for our introverted children. Here is a good piece from the Center for Parenting Education which helps us understand what it is to be introverted and how we can connect with our introverted child.
Two Different Ways of Being
Sarah and John, seven year old twins, are just home from a school trip. Sarah, excited to tell her mother about her adventure, rattles off the details of her day and enthusiastically exclaims that she had “the best day ever!”
John, on the other hand, stands in the background, does not share anything about the outing, and quietly goes into the kitchen to get a snack.
This scenario may be all too common in some households. What is happening here? Did John not enjoy the trip or is something else going on?
Part of the answer might lie in understanding the differences between introversion and extroversion.
- Introverts get their energy by focusing inside themselves and need alone time to recharge themselves.
- Extroverts, on the flip side, seek stimulation outside themselves and prefer to be with others to get their energy.
John, being more of an introvert, may have preferred some time to regroup before sharing the highlights or lowlights of his day.
The Research and How to Help
Research has shown that 75% of individuals are categorized as extroverts. More often than not, their qualities are valued more than those of introverts. Consequently, extroverts like Sarah receive more positive reinforcement from those around them.
Introverts like John may often feel out of place, and as a result may need to develop extra coping skills to help them feel good about who they are.
Parents and educators can play an important role in helping children embrace their inner selves. Since introverts tend to need time to process their experiences and do not readily talk about what they are thinking, the adults in their lives may need to reach beyond the surface to discover their many hidden gifts.
Research indicates that there is a strong biological basis for where people fall on the introversion – extroversion continuum. So while you may find ways to neutralize the more extreme positions on either end of the spectrum, you will not be able to change your child from an introvert to an extrovert or vice versa. It is hard-wired.
Introversion vs. Extroversion
There are significant behavioral differences that distinguish how introverts versus extroverts respond to the world.
- Introverts prefer internal thinking as a way to cope with the world. Extroverts focus on their social connections and actions as an approach to dealing with life.
- Introverts can be overwhelmed by sights and sounds and tend to narrow their experiences, but go deeply into those areas they have chosen to focus on. Extroverts tend to be less sensitive and can take in a broader range of input.
Introverted children typically:
- Communicate best one-on-one
- Are strong listeners
- Seek solitude for renewal
- Need time to ponder questions before answering
- Often prefer not to share their emotions
- Have high self-awareness
- Learn well through observation
- Are quiet in large social settings
- Prefer to watch a game or activity before joining
- Concentrate deeply
- See inner reflection as very important
- Select activities carefully and thoughtfully
Introverted Children, Play and the Art of Creativity
Reaching introverted children can be as simple as adding opportunities for creative expression throughout the day. This is a great way to encourage and build on their area of natural strength: being innovative. It can be an incredibly positive experience when children are exposed to many forms of art, music, science, literature, and various physical activities.
However, since introverted children are very sensitive to people, places, and things around them, it is important to not exceed their threshold for outside stimulation. Provide time for them to process each experience before moving on to the next one.
Creative people in many fields are introverts because they are comfortable spending time alone; solitude is a crucial ingredient for innovation. Embrace creativity and reach for the stars.
Daily activities to enhance your children’s imagination
- Suggest they read something new and unfamiliar, such as a book on a new topic or new genre.
- Ask the question “what else?” often.
- Have them come up with five new uses for familiar objects.
- Play creative word games and puzzles.
- Fill creation box with everyday items to use as art supplies.
- Instead of buying a new game, have them make one.
Success at Home with Introverted Children
Supporting introverted children at home may be challenging at times, especially if you are an extrovert.
- Typically, they see their room as a safe haven. Allowing a private space for them should be at the top of the list.
- Build quiet time into their day so they can recharge their batteries, especially if your household is loud and filled with many activities.
- Share with your children your own personality needs as a parent. It can be that you are an extrovert parenting an introverted child. Share the uniqueness and positive attributes of both approaches.
Courage in the Face of Adversity
Introverted children may be a little more on the sensitive side and not always open to sharing their struggles.
- You can help your child realize that hardship and bumps in the road are part of life.
- Practice patience and understanding when your child does not make the best choice.
- You can face the music together. Introverted children make good use of “me too” or “I’ve been there” stories, if they are told with a “we’re in this together” attitude.
Introverts typically experience more intimate connections and tend to have fewer close friends than extroverts.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, introverts are not always shy. They do not necessarily experience social anxiety as some shy children do. Usually, they have good social skills and enjoy people – just in smaller doses and smaller groups, such as one or two people.
Introverted children need their parents to accept their preferences and communicate to them that there are different types of people – some who enjoy being in large crowds and some who do not. Either way, it is okay.
Parents can gently encourage introverted children to go a little beyond their comfort zone in social matters. For example,
by teaching them how to manage crowds and other highly-stimulating situations.
by carefully selecting the number of activities you do, limiting the length of your stay, and building in down time between events.
Introverts may benefit from assistance in recognizing when they need a break. For example,
You can help them find words they can use to excuse themselves from a group, find a quiet spot in the midst of a busy mall to decompress, and develop strategies to re-enter without generating undo attention.
Delight in a Slow Pace
For the sake of your introverted children, and for your own good, slow down. Children can’t think or talk unless they feel they can enter a pressure-free zone. A relaxed, patient pace is just one wonderful goal to have when raising introverts. A rushed and tense atmosphere will drain the oxygen right out of them.
Slowing down will allow your children to bring more of their world to you. Since they are so attuned to their perceptions, they can come up with astonishing insights and perspectives that are really humorous and creative. Let their more observant nature teach you to “stop and smell the roses.”
Awareness and support can be half the battle in educating and protecting introverted children. Parents can help their children accept themselves by talking to them about how they react to the world. Let them know that there is incredible value in being an introvert, as well as in being an extrovert.
Finding empathy and understanding in one’s family, developing useful strategies for making it through a full day, and gaining knowledge of why individuals do what they do will help your introverted child be more comfortable in an extroverted world.
By Nina Gallegos, Certified Parenting Educator
You can find more articles and resources from the Center for Parenting Education here https://centerforparentingeducation.org/
The Cycle of Anger
For most, these strong emotions do not match the image they had formed prior to becoming parents.
In addition, when children are frustrated and irritated, their parents are often the target of those feelings. A common reaction to their children’s rage is that parents become angry in return.
Rather than lessening children’s anger, parental upset creates a spiraling cycle in which increasingly intense anger ensues.
Tips to Manage Your Anger
The good news is that there are “techniques” that parents can use to help dissipate the anger. The first involves learning to remain calm during the “storms.”
Although not always easy to do, being calm will allow you to maintain control over your reactions and help you to think clearly, so you can decide what to do.
“Staying cool in the heat of the moment” also encourages children to become calm, rather than having their parent’s anger further fuel their fire. Calm often leads to calm.
Fake Calm Even if you don’t feel calm, you can “fake” it by speaking and moving slowly and deliberately, and by using a firm but soft voice. Other things you can do to help yourself be calm include:
- Breathing slowly and counting to ten are two more ways parents can help themselves to stay focused and to think clearly.
- You can also repeat a soothing mantra to yourself, such as: “I can handle this without losing my cool,” or “My children are not out to get me.”
Tips to Manage Children’s Anger
Listen to Them
When children are upset, one of the best ways to diminish the intensity of their feelings is to use a communication tool called Active Listening, which involves appreciating their words, acknowledging their feelings, and letting them know they have been heard.
Sometimes it can take great restraint and conscious effort to remain calm enough to listen so as not to get “sucked in” to children’s angry moods. Often this kind of listening is enough to deflate the rage or the upset feelings.
When Listening is Not Enough
However, there are times when the intensity of the children’s frustration is beyond their ability to cope in a mature way and other techniques besides listening, such as enforcement of the rules, have to be used.
An example would be if you told your child that he needed to get off the computer and do his homework. Even though you have acknowledged his feelings of anger and disappointment, he continues to be frustrated and furious, and does not accept the fact that he cannot have what he wants.
- You can take a few deep breaths to give yourself time to decide what to do.
- You can use repetition of the rule, “The rule is that you need to have your homework complete before you play computer games.”
- You can get down at the child’s level so you can establish eye contact and make physical contact by putting a hand on the child’s shoulder.
- You can continue to show understanding of the frustration through Active Listening: “I understand that you want . . . “
- You can state your expectations clearly and calmly: “I expect you to turn off the computer and complete your homework.”
These kinds of brief explanations, while respectful, also send a message that the parent is not going to plead, debate or become upset, and that although the child may not like the rule, the expectation is that it will be followed.
Sometimes Anger is Beneficial
Of course, it is not always possible to remain calm. In fact, it can be helpful for children to learn that anger is a natural and normal part of life and is not necessarily bad.
The manner in which the anger is expressed and the ability of the parent to remain in control of his choices, decisions, and emotions are determining factors that define whether the anger is helpful, ineffective or even destructive.
Anger managed in non-hurtful ways can actually strengthen your connection with your children. When you express your true feelings, even the angry ones, in a clear, direct and respectful manner, you are sharing a part of yourself and this builds honesty and trust in the relationship. Your resentment does not build as you guide your children to treat you with respect even when they are angry.
If you “Lose It”
If you find that you have “lost it” and said or done some things that you regret, it is important to reassure your children that you love them and that your love for them is stronger than the anger you may have felt.
It is also important to apologize if you were unable to stay calm. This helps to model for your children that people do not have to be perfect and that even adults make mistakes.
The Good News
Without a partner to escalate the intensity, children often are able to move past the tantrums and anger more quickly and begin to focus on next steps and solutions. When parents model assertiveness and calmness, children can learn how to manage their own angry feelings in a constructive and helpful way.
With an attitude of acceptance toward the inevitability of anger, with some techniques in mind, and with conscious effort on your part to stay cool, you can help your children learn to manage, in a healthy way, the anger that is an expected and normal part of the human experience.
Family life can feel very intense at the moment with all the family at home all the time. Little niggles could become big irritations. So it might be good to start having family meetings – not to tackle any major problems but just to improve communication within the family and help everyone to be positive and solution focused. Here are some tips from the Centre for Parenting Education on holding family meetings.
What is a Family Meeting?
You may have heard people talk about holding family meetings and wondered what they were or why families would schedule formal times to meet and talk. At first glance, it may appear to be unnecessary.
However, after considering the fast-paced and hectic lives that many families lead, the benefits of being more intentional about finding time to connect becomes evident.
Family meetings are discussions that involve all family members who are concerned about or affected by a particular issue. Often the topic relates to a problem that the family is experiencing, although family meetings can also be used to plan time together or to try to prevent problems from occurring.
These meetings provide a time that members can focus on being a family.
The Benefits/Purpose of Family Meetings
- Because family meetings give everyone a voice, they build children’s self-esteem. The children are treated like valued members of the family whose ideas are listened to and considered.
- Children learn that family members are interdependent, that they are all connected, and what each person does can have an effect on everyone else.
- The skills children learn in family meetings, such as compromise, openness to other’s ideas and cooperation, will help them to deal effectively with problems they encounter in other situations and social settings.
- The family becomes more cohesive and family closeness increases because children are then more likely to identify with the family. By involvement in family decision-making and solving family problems, children see themselves as having responsibility for making a good family life.
- By participating in family meetings, children learn to take the perspective of the whole group and to think of what is good for the family as a whole, not just themselves.
- Family meetings counterbalance the hectic lives that today’s parents and children lead; the technological distractions of the computer and video games, the extra-curricular activities, school and work pressures all pull family members in different directions.
Family meetings serve as a centrifugal force that grounds families and encourages connections and identity. They can send a message that family time is important and is a priority in your family.
- Family meetings provide a platform for conflicts to be addressed and for problems to be resolved in a way that feels fair to everyone. You as the parent will set the limits of what is acceptable, but everyone has input.
Children learn to examine situations, propose solutions, evaluate results with guidance, support and demonstrations from you and their older siblings. They begin to see themselves as capable of finding solutions to problems.
- Family meetings provide the opportunity for information to be shared equally with everyone
Forms of Family Meetings
Family meetings can take the form of one-time events or they may be held on a more regular basis. If your family meets regularly, your role initially will be to provide nonjudgmental leadership. Over time you may decide to rotate leadership. Invite everyone in the family who is concerned about or affected by a particular issue to participate.
Setting a Positive Tone
- plan weekly schedules/calendars so everyone knows what each person will need to do and what commitments have been made.
- share information that will effect family members.
- have fun together.
- make family decisions about vacations, recreation or other activities.
To add to a constructive atmosphere, you can:
- include refreshments.
- include an opening activity that highlights positive family events or achievements or affirms individual family members. Example – best thing I did today, trait I like about myself, (or about someone else in family)
- set an agenda so that everyone knows what will be discussed.
- establish ground rules, such as:
- no interruptions
- no put downs
- everyone is listened to
- respect each other’s opinions
- everyone has a chance to contribute/
How To’s of Family Meetings
You may want to have a more formal arrangement to your family meetings no matter what the focus. If the purpose of the meeting is to discuss a specific problem, it is helpful to use the following prescribed steps:
- Decide who is involved.
Tell them which issue you would like to discuss and why.
- Each person states his perspective and viewpoint about the problem.
This is done without interruption and without judgment. By going around the table, each person is given the opportunity to speak and the parents are prevented from doing all the talking.
- Ask each person for suggestions to solve the problem, again with no interruptions.
- Write down the suggestions.
Discuss the proposals and consider their feasibility until all agree on solutions that seem fair to everyone.
- Develop a plan of action.
Make a list of who will do what and when. You can even have everyone sign the agreement to give a sense of importance to the process. You can post this agreement as a reminder.
- At the end of the session, set a time for a follow up meeting to evaluate how your plan is working.
- Have a follow up meeting.
During this meeting, you can create a positive perspective by recognizing progress even if adjustments need to be made.
Some Additional Tips for Success
- Value everyone’s input.
- Treat all members as equals.
- Listen to everyone and encourage each other.
- Avoid letting one person dominate who might think he has more rights than other members.
- Keep the family meeting short – with young children, the meeting should be no longer than 15 minutes.
Over time, as your children see that they are respected and listened to, they will begin to appreciate the value of family meetings. You may even find them requesting family meetings when they have issues they want the family to address.
You can find more tips and resources from the Center for Parenting Education here https://centerforparentingeducation.org/
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, together with the World Health Organisation have produced some resources for parents. Here is the first one on creating some one-on-one time with each of your children whatever age they are. Click on the image to see it clearly or click the link to download it Covid19 Parenting One-on-one time
If the situation arises where your family has to go and be tested for Covid19 this comic strip explanation of what happens at a drive-in testing centre may be useful to use with young children.
Here is a link to the same information in a PDF format
Parents/Guardians in Ballyshannon are being offered lots of opportunities to enrich their parenting skills this autumn. Parent Hub Donegal is delighted to announce that three of the Parents Plus programmes are going to be offered. Parents Plus programmes are evidence based programmes developed in Ireland to support positive parenting and help parents develop strong, nurturing and effective relationships with their children – from toddlers to teens.
The Parents Plus Children’s programme is for parents of children aged 5 – 11 and will run on Thursday mornings 10 – 12:30 for six weeks beginning on 12th September in the parish centre at Kilbarron parish in the town. The programme supports parents to communicate positively with children, encourage good social skills and build self-esteem and cofidence while also offering skills to deal with misbehaviour.This programme is being supported by Donegal ETB Community Education Fund. The facilitators for this programme will be Fionnuala Carr from LifeStart and Fintan Gallager from the Bluestack Foundation. To book your place click the link and complete the form https://forms.gle/RghfGcZ3QmD2R7raA
The Parents Plus Adolescent programme is for parents of teenagers 11 – 16 years. This programme is being funded by the HSE Staff Wellbeing programme and is open to any parent/guardian in the community. It will run in An Clochar, the HSE building in Ballyshannon, beginning on Wednesday evening 2nd October 7-9pm and running till Wednesday 20th November with a break over half term. This programme helps parents build effective communication with their teenager, develop conflict resolution and problem solving skills with the aim of helping their teens grow into responsible young adults. The facilitators for this course will be Celine Bradley and Sally Mooney from Springboard/Finn Valley Family Resource Centre. To book your place just click the link and complete the form https://forms.gle/RghfGcZ3QmD2R7raA
Alongside the Adolescent parenting programme we will be running the ‘Working Things Out’ programme for adolescents themselves. This programme helps teenagers to develop good cognitive behavioural therapy based skills to deal with the challenges they encounter in life. The programme is supported by the HSE Staff Wellbeing programme and is open to any adolescents within the community. Parents can discuss this opportunity with their teenagers and a place on the programme can be booked by clicking the link https://forms.gle/a4kmZ38kHPBg6YmH8 and completing the short form. The facilitators on this programme will be Claire O’Kane and Chloe McGinty from Springboard/Finn Valley FRC.
If you have any questions please contact Bairbre on 087 1736667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Nobody ever said that parenting would be easy. Being a good parent is even more difficult! Here are five guidelines to help you put into practice some principles of good parenting that you probably already know but for which you may need an occasional reminder:
1. Be consistent in your enforcement of rules.
Be certain that your rules have these characteristics: They must be clearly defined, reasonable and enforceable. Rules in the home help children feel more secure and comfortable when they are faced later in life with rules in school and community.
A seven-year study done by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that self-confident children who succeeded in their undertakings usually came from homes in which there were rules that were reasonable, consistent, and enforced with affection.
2. Permit children to make mistakes and even fail sometimes.
Children learn by doing. rather than by passively absorbing the experiences of others. Making mistakes is one basis for future independence, self-direction, and intelligent decisionmaking.
When children know that they can anticipate consequences, they are being helped to develop an understanding of cause-effect relationships.
3. Resist the temptation to over-organise.
Don’t over-structure a child’s whole day with lessons, sports, and other activities. Children
need time to be leisurely and to enjoy unstructured play.
4. Maintain a sense of humour.
When something interferes with the daily routine, try to see a funny side of the situation.
For example, when there are toys, clothes, or other things left about randomly, gather them into a locked box and charge a “fee” (such as a kiss on your cheek) for later retrieval of an item.
If the bathroom becomes a mess, then draw a sad face on the mirror. Ah, but when things look improved, don’t forget to reinforce with a happy smile!
5. Take care of yourself.
It’s important for parents to take care of their own health and psychological needs. A parent who is over-worked or over-stressed will less likely be able to implement these recommendations. Thus, taking care of oneself— with adequate rest, leisure time, and proper nutrition—is also an important
part of being a good parent.
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GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
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2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site: www.lifestartfoundation.org